I’ve a treat for you today! Bette Dickinson is an artist, writer, and speaker who invites audiences to connect with God through visual parables of the spiritual journey. She serves with Danielle Strickland’s Team Boundess as an Artist in Residence and with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as the Assistant National Director of Spiritual Formation. I’ve appreciated Bette’s painting and words since our paths first crossed several years ago. She has written the following reflection and accompanying prayer guide for those of us who are weary with the long journey and need a little help reaping hope in these days. I’ve been encouraged by her words. I pray you will be too. —Carolyn
When we moved into our house in Kalamazoo, my mother-in-law gave us a little potted plant. Impatiens plants are appropriately named. They are impatient for water and will wilt if not watered frequently. In the stress of our move, I neglected the plant for weeks. The flowers fell off and it turned completely brown. It looked dead. I almost threw it away, but thought,
“What could it hurt to water it and just see what happens?”
To my surprise, it turned green again, growing new stems and sprouting leaves. I was so astonished and proud of this little plant that I put it on the windowsill above my sink. Until one day during a gathering I was hosting, some unsuspecting college student knocked it off the windowsill while he was washing the dishes. It fell over the sink and it lost two limbs, leaving only one frail stalk. It was ugly. And pitiful. I almost threw it away—again.
But I thought if it survived weeks of drought, maybe it can survive losing its limbs, too. Soon it began to sprout flowers and bloom again – something it had not done before I almost killed it. It grew more beautiful after it was nearly destroyed. It came back more vibrant and full, more alive than ever.
Before long it outgrew its pot, turning almost bush-like. I started trimming the stems and transplanting them into other pots. This one little impatiens plant has multiplied to at least ten other pots.
If you didn’t catch it in that first image, there is a word inscribed on the side of the pot it came in: Hope. Resilient, foolish, scandalous hope. That is what we reap when we endure seasons of darkness. A hope that lasts.
God taught me through this little plant that hope can go through incredible amounts of neglect and trauma. It can weather dry seasons, get knocked over and lose half its limbs. But give it a little water and a little time, and it will grow into something more beautiful and more resilient than it ever was. And that kind of hope multiplies in abundance.
If you need a little help going through the journey from sowing in tears to reaping with hope, I made a brief 4 day prayer guide for you here.
I preached a sermon about hope in 2015, just when I had all but given up on getting pregnant again after two miscarriages and trying to get pregnant for a year. It felt like God was utilizing my body as a parable for what we were also experiencing in ministry at the same time—losses, grief, and waiting for growth. God had taught me a lot about hope during this period and I felt like he was saying, “Bette, I want you to be the embodiment of hope as you give this message.”
You can watch this message I gave here:
In this talk, I proclaimed that hope is like a seed in the soil that we cannot see with our eyes, but that God grows in the dark, unseen places over time. And unbeknownst to me, I was pregnant with a little hope literally growing inside unseen while I gave that message.
For nine months, as Isaiah grew in me (now 5 years old), I reflected on this long journey of planting, waiting, and trusting God for the harvest.
For two years, I spent a lot of time praying and hoping for things I’d sown to spring above the soil so I could see them: praying for God to transform my students, praying for faith for the people I loved most, praying to get pregnant. I have reaped with joy as God has answered some of these prayers; others I’m still waiting on.
When our hopes are fulfilled, we find that at the end of the journey, the harvest is reaped not just in the soil of our circumstances, but in what grows in our hearts along the journey.
When we reach out for God in the midst of the painful dry seasons, our roots grow deeper in search of water and our stems grow up towards the sky in search of light. And as we stretch out towards God, not only do we find him, but we also find that we have grown too. Our roots have deepened and the journey has strengthened us in a way that can weather any future storm.
Often we wait and wonder when the seeds we planted are going to sprout their little green leaves above ground. But it’s under the soil that the growth is happening.
It’s what grows when you persist in faithfulness, regardless of the outcome. It’s what that takes root when you continue in obedience to God, even when everything around you is screaming that it’s not worth the sacrifice. It’s what is cultivated in the soil when you have waited and prayed and hoped for God to come through: perseverance, character, patience, long-suffering, and even joy. You won’t realize it until later, when the harvest finally does come, that you’re a little stronger, a little more resilient, and a little more patient for the journey ahead.
Seeds of Hope
Isaiah’s Maternity Pictures, 2015
I believe there are little seeds of hope in each of us, little possibilities scattered in the soil of our souls. They are formed out of our dreams and grow with the ever-changing seasons of life. They take shape and take root through costly sacrifice, of dying to self so something new might grow and multiply into many seeds for the Kingdom of God. I believe that even when we feel like giving up after many months of darkness and drought, hope comes to show us that there is still life in the darkness. We just have to be willing to give it a chance to grow.
We may feel the aches and pains of growth now, and when that day of birth or harvest comes, we may go through excruciating labor to deliver something unique into the world. But on that day, may we be like mothers who forget the pain of labor at the sight of their baby. May we be left breathless, with tears of joy, as we behold what God forms in us through pain and waiting and longing for more.
May our lives ever be given over to the dreams that are costly with trust and hope that the One who makes everything grow will turn them in due time into lovely plants and children and ministries that fascinate and bewilder us as we behold them.
And may we have the joy of witnessing beautiful transformation not only in these things, but also in us. May we be surprised to find that when we reap, the harvest isn’t always “out there” but is in us, growing with songs of life and new birth greater than we ever could have anticipated at the outset.
- Where have have you or are you currently “reaping with songs of joy?” Is there any way you have seen breakthrough in the things you have prayed for?
- What may be some early signs of life? Even a day that you are able to get out of bed and live counts.
- What about internal growth? What are some signs that you are growing and changing in the midst of this past season of pain?
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.” – Psalm 126:1-3
So you don’t have to scroll back through if you’d like to receive Bette’s 4 day prayer guide, Seeds of Hope, here’s that link again.