Seeds of Encouragement for Parents

When both of my sons were young, they loved gardening. In fact, my youngest still loves it. I vividly recall each of them bringing home bean seeds wrapped in damp paper towels, only to reveal upon opening the tiniest sprouts peeking out of them. Or the Mother’s Day gifts of small flowerpots or dixie cups with sunflower seedlings sprouting out of a handful of dirt. We all just loved taking care of them and watching them grow; the anticipation of the progress each day was priceless! Oh, if I could bottle up that pure joy!

Little did I appreciate at the time the lessons we were receiving on patience: waiting to see the sprout grow just a bit taller. To discover the small leaves popping open. It would take days…. Weeks even to see more leaves. And if we wanted to witness a bloom – for a sunflower it would take at least a couple of months! But imagine – it can take up to eight years for something as large as an apple tree to bear fruit, requiring an incredible amount of patience for those of us who are incredibly impatient – child or adult.

Actually, I have been thinking a lot about seeds since we launched our oldest off to college. Pre-launch, I was obsessed worrying about whether I planted enough seeds as a parent – did I cover all the bases? Tell him all the things? Equip him in all the ways? I felt like a frantic gardener much of his senior year… looking for fruit I expected to see by now, planting varieties I wasn’t sure were planted yet, and working feverishly to water, prune, and pick. In essence, I was forgetting who the Master Gardener is! (The One who drops me frequent reminders all along the way if I pause long enough to see them.) Even when I wrote about sending him off to college, I was taking inventory of the seeds planted.

But now that he’s launched, I reflect back and realize that I’ve been reminded in the sweetest ways over the years that sometimes it can take years and years to see fruit from the seeds we plant in our young ones – just like the apple tree. Sometimes we see it quicker – like the sunflower. As our children grow older, we can witness growth and fruit when we least expect it. And with that child-like joy of seeing that first leaf sprout, we enjoy witnessing it, because it is oh so sweet and worth the wait! One such example of this happened with my oldest just this week. He is pledging a fraternity and was sharing how great it’s been to get to know many of the guys and connect with believers in the group, but he’s looking forward to ministering to the guys who don’t necessarily know the Lord. Seeds of discipleship planted – perhaps sprouting from our deposits over time, or perhaps from his Young Life leaders or Christian teachers who encouraged him along the way. Regardless, it assures me his soil has been fertile for many seeds, and they don’t all have to come from us. And the fruit – it’s truly a gift from God.

I do still find myself trying to deposit them here and there with my oldest. (Here are some examples… reminding him of the importance of finding a church while at school, to keep His Bible close, make good choices, okay, the list actually goes on and on…). I think of these as those seeds being buried in the handful of dirt in the dixie cup. I can’t make him do all the things, but I can plant the seeds, pray for him regularly, and when conditions are right, I can water the growth I see by encouraging him in his good choices and successes.

Let this be an encouragement, especially to young parents. Plant the seeds with an abundance of patience and trust in the Lord. Seeds you and others are planting now may take years and years to bear fruit like that apple tree. But how great is the fruit that took so long to be borne! We need to trust that as seeds are planted, with a good soil foundation (Matthew 13:3-9) and with trust in God’s will and grace, they will indeed grow, bloom, and even bear the sweetest of fruit. The key is trusting God’s will and grace. It is not up to us to bear the actual fruit. That’s God’s job. When we tend to the garden and abide in Him, He comes alongside us and in the right conditions, we see a bloom.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15: 1-5

This seed-planting analogy has taken root in me (pun intended) over the years as I have learned it is our job as parents to plant many seeds, and tend to the garden, trusting that in His time, growth and fruit will come to bear fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (“fruits of the spirit” from Galatians 5:22-23) and also gratitude, discipline, service, and responsibility.

The more freedom our children have as they grow older, the more opportunities they have to show their growth and bear fruit. And then we must take note of it – just like I did this week! I was thrilled to hear my son has a heart to share the gospel with some college guys. Encourage them. Share joy with a friend because it is a joyous thing! I used to think that as a parent, I needed to strive to raise a near perfect child, with as few mistakes myself as possible. But friends, we as parents are far from perfect and our children, also far from perfect, are not immune to challenges and also need growth. After all, this is a time in their lives when they are growing a LOT and FAST. And us adults, having been around the block a few times, know that growth can be painful (pruning, anyone?). While it is hard to watch our children go through hard things, it is best that some of the necessary pruning happen under our own roofs where they can safely work through it with guidance. So as I always encourage friends with younger children, embrace the struggle. Let the Lord do His work. If you’re anything like me, sometimes it is very hard to trust that the Lord loves and cares for our kids more than we do. And just while it is hard for me to let go and trust His ways for my own life, how much harder is it to do that for our children? But they are the Lord’s. He has entrusted us to care for them and plant seeds within them that He can grow and use to bear His fruit.

I know that for some children, childhood is incredibly painful – either physically, mentally, or both. I can’t answer why it’s harder for some than others, but I do know that walking through valleys without the Lord is exponentially harder than with Him. And the Lord will never leave or forsake you or your child(ren) (Deuteronomy 31:8). And because He works all things for His good (Romans 8:28), there WILL ALWAYS be victory (1 John 5:4) whether on this side of Heaven or in Heaven.

As I wrap up, I am reminded that I have a tomato plant on my back patio that has been quite pitiful in blooming and bearing fruit this season. Small cherry tomatoes have popped up one at a time – only 8 or 10 of them – and it has taken much patience for my youngest son and me to wait for the fruit. But I will say that as small and as few as this large plant has offered, what has been borne has been deliciously sweet. We have savored each one as we have taken turns eating them! Praise Jesus for the fruit when it comes. It is truly His gift to us.

Lord, thank You that You are the great Gardener (verse). Praise You that You care for us, Your children, more than we could ever fathom. I pray that as our journey through parenting continues, You guide us in planting seeds for Your harvest. Help us to be steadfast in planting seeds that are honoring to You. May You be glorified as we witness and enjoy even the smallest of blooms or tiniest of fruit! In Jesus’ powerful name I pray, Amen.

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