I just came back from a wonderful weekend conference, EMACW (East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers) Conference. I had the privilege of being on staff with a great group of faculty, several of whom I already knew and several who have become new friends. One of those I enjoyed getting to know was Sally (Sarah) Hamer, novelist and writing coach.
Sally gave the opening keynote, and I found myself comforted and challenged as I listened to her speak. One of the illustrations she used was about a series of attempts to grow tomatoes. As I listened to her recount her struggles and failed attempts, I was drawn back to one summer when I decided to try my hand at gardening.
Our boys were young, and we had decided—for some unremembered reason—planting a vegetable garden would be a great idea. Although looking back, I can’t imagine when either my husband or I would have had the time or energy, after keeping up with three active young boys, to really take care of it. Oh the optimism of young parents.
One of the vegetables I was most looking forward to eating fresh out of the garden was carrots.
So we used a tiller, plowed up a small bit of ground, and planted a variety of seeds. When it came time to plant the carrots, I was amazed at how tiny the dark seeds were in the palm of my hand. I remembered the man at the garden center warning us to plant the seeds sparingly, but the seeds were so small, and I really wanted a large crop of carrots, so I sprinkled them thickly on the ground. After all, I figured, if a few were good, more would be better.
Those of you who are expert gardeners are probably beginning to grin, because you already know what happened. I think every single one of those tiny seeds took root and sprouted. As they grew, in a few short weeks they became a tangled mess, fighting for nutrients and space. Then, after lifting a couple of inches of green toward the sun, every single one of those carrots withered and died. I was left with only the bitter taste of disappointment and discouragement.
As this memory resurfaced, I found myself asking God why it had come to mind. Sally’s keynote was on creativity, and I heard God warning me, once again, that my life was becoming crowded by saying yes to too many things. He was warning me to plant fewer seeds and take time to nurture them. Otherwise I’d find myself with an empty garden, with nothing but withered endeavors from pouring too many good things into my life.