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Posts Tagged ‘a time for everything’

IMG_20191007_105632077This spring, I decided to plant a tomato seedling in a pot on our balcony. I hoped it would grow into a nice, rounded little bush and, in time, bear at least a few little cherry tomatoes. But, to my surprise, it has continued to shoot up, sprouting more and more leaves and yellow flowers, daily growing ever higher! Yet it was not its size that captured my attention this week, but rather the pungent scent of its leaves as I touched them gently. Immediately, I was wafted back many, many years to those lush tomato bushes my father took delight in growing in our backyard in Brisbane, where I grew up.

As a little girl, I often liked to join my father while he gardened. One day, I decided I would help him, so I gathered up my skirt to form a soft kind of pouch and made my way along our rows of tomato bushes, picking whatever fruit I saw there.

Once finished, I joyfully showed my stash to my father. But alas—he took one look, then chased me up our steep backyard, roaring with rage, as those tomatoes scattered everywhere! You see, they were all still green—my father had been patiently waiting until just the right time to harvest them. But I did not know that—and I had picked them far too early to be of use to anyone.

Perhaps one could say I was scarred for life, since I still remember this event so vividly! Yet, as someone who has also enjoyed gardening, I can well understand how devastated my father must have felt at losing his precious tomato crop—or a good portion of it at least. Besides, this whole childhood experience taught me a good lesson which, even now as a writer, I need to put into practice. Stories ripen too, like those tomatoes. A whole novel needs time to grow and develop, perhaps even to change shape from what I as the author originally envisaged. It needs gentle nurturing—and often much pruning—in order to be palatable to any future readers. So the whole process cannot be rushed, if my precious story is ever truly going to provide enjoyment and nourishment and blessing to others as God intended.

Recently, I heard two excellent sermons both based on Ecclesiastes 3, which begins:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot … (3:1-2)

What a good reminder to hear—twice over—just when I was feeling frustrated that my current novel would not be ready in time to pitch it to a potential publisher at an upcoming writers’ conference! As a result, I decided to relax about it all and to keep on faithfully writing and fine-tuning my story, trusting God for the eventual outcome and for the Spirit’s enabling throughout.

I remembered those green tomatoes. I remembered there is a time for everything. I remembered my times are in God’s hands and that those hands are so trustworthy—and I pray you will too.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands …’ Psalm 31:14-15

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I wonder how you choose to spend your spare time. For many of us, it can be a bit of an unknown quantity—and that’s why I recently questioned the wisdom of spending a whole day at a retreat, focusing on what God is doing in my life. It is also the reason I almost thought twice before offering to care for our grandson for the day this past weekend because our daughter was unwell. After all, I had deadlines to meet and a book launch and other events to plan.

As it turned out, my day spent with God was invaluable—I am still reflecting on how it rescued me from becoming far too inward-looking and anxious about my writing to facing the future with much more thankfulness and joy. And as for my day with my ‘little man’—well, yet again he managed to wrap himself around my heart with those beautiful, big smiles of his. I watched him crawl for the first time and also saw how his face lit up when his father arrived home—precious, irreplaceable moments now etched in my memory.

It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? What’s really important in our lives, when all is said and done, and what will turn out to be something that in the end isn’t doesn’t mean very much?

A short while ago, I was chatting with my sister. She and her husband currently have their son, daughter-in-law and three lively, young boys living with them while their own home undergoes a ‘makeover’. Already the family has been there for several months and will be for a while to come. Now my sister is doing lots more washing and cooking that she ever dreamed she would be in their retirement, yet she is happy to help out. She knows how significant this is for their little family—and I’m sure those three boys will long remember the months they spent living with Nanna and Grandpa and the special things they did together.

‘What’s a year in the big scheme of things, when all is said and done?’, we both agreed readily enough. You see, I have learnt this well in my writing journey, where it can take many months and even years to complete a book, only for significant parts to be thrown out during the editing stage—or worse still, for the entire manuscript to be rejected by a publisher. Yet, if we are doing exactly what God wants us to do in those days or weeks or months or years, isn’t that what matters?

I have come to the conclusion that our God, who is eternal, sees time just a little differently from me. And God also knows what things are worth pouring those days and weeks and months into—and what are not. So these days, I’m trying to listen more and recalibrate my life according to God’s agenda rather than my own—our God who declares, ‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven … (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

So how is your recalibrating going? It’s a lifelong learning project, isn’t it? But let’s not give up trying to ‘number our days aright’ as Psalm 90:12 puts it. One day we will see as God sees.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

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