A Year of Spring

14. Grow something new from seed

image1But the sower

going forth to sow sets foot

into time to come, the seeds falling

on his own place. He has prepared a way

for his life to come to him, if it will.

Like a tree, he has given roots

to the earth, and stands free.

(Wendell Berry)

There are moments in every season where we have the opportunity to sow seeds for the future. It could be seeds of friendship, seeds of finance, seeds of faithfulness, seeds of faith, seeds of grace.

Whatever fruit we desire to see spring up in our lives originates from a seed somewhere. If we desire deep relationships with people, we must sow seeds of connection and love. Some people are natural savers who continually and regularly plant seeds of finance for a prosperous future.

One thing that God set out at the beginning of time was seedtime and harvest. The thing is, there isn’t just one seedtime a year. There are times in every season we can sow. This time of year is preparation for spring. I spent the weekend planting bulbs for a spring harvest. It takes faith to sow something in one season not knowing when or how it will spring up.

There are seeds of faithfulness sown during seasons of working a job or doing something that’s difficult that do more in our hearts and character. Longterm diligence and perseverance produce a beautiful harvest in its due season.

Terry Virgo describes grace using a plant metaphor: “like a modern weedkiller grace can go to the root and destroy it’s power. But you must deliberately obtain grace. You must make a specific choice to refuse bitterness, not once but many times. Bitterness will repeatedly knock at your door and you must always send grace to answer it.”

Whatever we seek to see in our lives originates from a seed, and we always have the choice and right to sow whatever types of seeds we want. We should not be surprised by the fruit and flowers when they bloom because we were aware of the future life we were planting in a previous season.

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10 on 10 Photography Project

#13. Unplug from something and do nothing

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Dylan Thomas once wrote, ‘The summer talked itself away,’ and I am a little bit afraid of having to say some months from now, ‘The fall emailed itself away.’” (Katie Roiphe)

Figuring out how to use technology in an empowering and connected way rather than working for technology and feeling fomo whenever our phones aren’t in our pockets is a uniquely contemporary conundrum. A couple weeks ago, I went on vacation with my family and didn’t check any social media or email for four days. It was the most amount of unplugging and doing nothing that I’ve done since getting my first smartphone in 2011.

There is so much research out there proving the benefits of unplugging and doing nothing. A year ago, I read an article titled I Quit Liking Things on Facebook and began to think more about how and why I engaged on social media. Did I want it to be a mindless activity used when bored or tired? Was is something I used for a narcissistic need for constant affirmation? The power and potential in social media is astounding. It connects friends and family spread across the country and world. It brings messages and stories to public spaces that may never see the light of day.

The thing is, we were never taught how to use social media. I have spent most of my adult life embracing and taking on new technology without ever asking myself, “What’s the best way to use this?” I’m neither a luddite nor a cynic. I love technology for all its potential and productivity and ability to connect people, but over the past year I’ve begun to think about it more and engage in new ways.

Rather than emailing the fall away, I want to take notice of the small changes and create margin and space to embrace the season. Instead of scrolling through a feed, I want to look outside the first fall mornings to see tiny spiderwebs that dot the entire yard making a sparkly patchwork of white on the green of the grass. Rather than catching up on the latest trends, I want to take fashion notes from my two year old who decided September is a month for tutus and rain boots. It’s about pausing to see that everything green is turning gold and brown, once lush corn fields transform overnight with the leaves.

E. O. Wilson writes about biophilia, an inborn craving for wilderness and green. He talks about how we are built for nature and how spending time in green spaces improves our immune system and emotional health. It is vital and essential to our well being.

The smartest, most creative people know when to let the mind wander and when to knuckle down to work hard. In other words, when to be slow and when to be fast.” (Carl Honoré)

I find it personally challenging to make room for letting the mind wander. Some people naturally lean towards slowness while others speed. I have always loved work and found movement and speed satisfying. Here are a few things that have helped me become more intentional with technology as well as making space to slow down:

  • When at home, keep the phone plugged in at one location
  • When out with friends, put the phone away and out of sight
  • Go on social media when there is time to comment and give thoughtful reactions to posts
  • Check email at predetermined times during the day
  • Turn off every notification besides text messages (something about not seeing red dots is incredibly freeing)
  • Take one day a week to rest from social media (a sabbath of sorts where no apps are opened and the laptop stays shut)

Sometimes we need still small moments to pause from the buzz and activity of technology. Sometimes we need to be fully present with technology to engage in meaningful ways through this medium that we’re still learning and navigating as it grows right alongside us.

Here’s a little peak into some of the four unplugged days away soaking in the moments big and small.

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A Year of Spring

#11. Create something visually beautiful

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The only unique contribution that we will make in this world will be born of creativity. (Brené Brown)

Making moments to do something creative is the most restorative thing to the soul. Painting, playing music, building, gardening, drawing, dancing, writing, creating something from an idea whether anyone else sees it or not produces such joy and peace in life.

We were born to create. We were born to make and produce and do something to turn something intangible from our heart and soul into something tangible. Doing something creative is terrifying. It’s scary because it makes us feel vulnerable and the idea we had is suddenly out in the world for all to see, and perhaps criticize.

For the longest time, I genuinely believed there were two camps of people: creative and noncreative. I was in the latter group, a noncreative who loved art, music, literature, and all things beautiful. Over the past few years a slow paradigm shift occurred leaving me with the belief that every person has creative potential and expressing it produces peace and rest in our souls.

In This Is Where You Belong, Melody Warnick interviewed Nancy Barton, an artist from Plattsville New York. Barton makes this startling statement, “to categorize people as creative or noncreative is flawed from the beginning, whether it’s repairing a tractor or making it part of a sculpture. It’s the same thing.”

Creative work is so much bigger than the arts. And that shift in thinking is so freeing.

Today, make space for some creative expression. It will be a breath of fresh air that will energize your soul in a new way. Put some music on and lean into the fear that so often stifles our creative expression; you won’t regret it.

Having an imaginative, creative kid forces me to do art and think artistically in ways I never thought I would. Instead of shying away from it due to lack of ability, I decided to dive in fully without the pressure of perfection or talent or validation.

Here’s an hour’s worth of painting. Both kids painted their own visually beautiful creations. And I, being a novice painter, dipped my paintbrush into my coffee once instead of water. Every amateur makes her mistakes. The fear of failure was real for the first 5 minutes, but I just went for it and just painted for fun with colors I love.

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I think the pan holding the paints was the prettiest thing produced at the end of the hour.

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Taking an hour to do something creative with music on in the background was the best use of an hour all week. I didn’t produce a masterpiece. I did drank a sip of coffee with a few drips of watercolor paint in it. Doing this created space for my soul to breathe and it was worth every moment despite all the busyness of doing it with two kids.

Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give what you’ve got. (Steven Pressfield)