Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a story of life-change from Sarah and her shamrock!
My grandmother gave me a shamrock plant. She took sprouts from my great grandmother’s plant, re-potted them, and gave the plant to me a couple birthdays ago. She took care nurturing it so that when it was given to me, there were tons of thick stemmed sprouts that were tall and had deep green, healthy leaves. There were always little white flower blossoms where new sprouts were forming.
Shamrocks need the right amount of light and appropriate temperature; they need to be rotated every so often to ensure the whole plant is receiving an efficient amount of sun exposure; withered stems need to be plucked, and sometimes stems need to be untangled; and the plant should not be over- or under-watered. Oddly enough though, the plant is resilient. It could be nearing its death and final sprout, but be brought back to full health in a few weeks.
The plant was doing well under my care for quite some time until it started to slowly wither. Instead of a plethora of new sprouts and blossoms at a time, I would maybe have one new sprout that would grow a third of the height of a full, healthy stature and then turn pink and deteriorate. The plant looked awful and I kept trying to change up my care for it, but nothing was working. I asked my grandmother for her advice and she told me to do three things: add potting soil to it so that the roots had room to grow deeper and strengthen the stems, steep a tea bag and spread the grounds from the bag on the soil, and move it away from the window so it wouldn’t be chilled. I had every intention to do as she had told me, but out of laziness and the tolerance of the plant’s condition (it wasn’t completely dead!), I did not. I didn’t move it away from the window because it would be in the way in the middle of my kitchen table. I did not buy tea or soil, items that were never on my grocery list. Several months of neglect passed and the plant maintained its unhealthy condition.
Then one day things came together. My father brought me a small bag of potting soil. I was given a couple tea pouches in a grab bag from a house party. So I steeped the teabag and spread the herbs from the bag in the plant, added soil on top, adjusted my table arrangement in order to move the plant away from the window to the center of the table, and added a little water. I did nothing except obey the orders given to me and have faith that it would work.
In just a matter of a day or two, I had multiple sprouts and blossoms on the plant. Over time the stems that grew were thicker and more durable and did not bend as much or at all. The sprouts grew tall and the leaves did not turn pink-just a deep, healthy green. I was so pleased to see the plant doing well!
I wanted to show my grandmother how well the plant was doing. I went to go visit her and something very special happened. Now, I don’t know who reading this believes in the gift of speaking in tongues, but my grandmother has this gift. She is a prayer warrior and intercessor. I was talking to her about my family members and other chit chat and all of a sudden remembered my plant. The only words I got out were “Oh, grandma, I wanted to show you…” and she finishes my sentence… “your plant?” In that instant, the Holy Spirit came on her very strongly and she began to speak in tongues. I could only sit there, close my eyes, and soak it in. I sat there in amazement of how she knew what I was going to say and how powerfuly the presence in the room just shifted from light conversation. Towards the end, she just stated that there are things that are going to happen in God’s timing and not how I expect them to.
I am always blown away at how God meets us where we are/where our mind is. He used this plant to mirror my faith. For so long, years, I was spiritually starving. I have grown up with my faith and accepted Christ as my Savior when I was a child, but over the past several years, I have not been nurturing my spirit and so I was not growing or moving forward. I was surviving, but felt stagnant. I had attended Browncroft for several years, but had made no connections outside the friends who had originally invited me to the church. I wanted to do more and feel more and be filled and serve something greater than myself, but I was living in fear. I was afraid of committing to giving of myself past what I felt was comfortable. Fear of giving up control and experiencing full submission. Fear of committing to one thing and a certain lifestyle, that I would have to miss out on other things and different lifestyles. Fear of not wanting the life God had planned for me. Fear of letting go of things I wanted and not seeing God’s promises occur in my life. The most ironic piece, though, is that doing what I wanted resulted in a lot of pain. Fear of isolation and ending up alone because of my beliefs. Fear of being alone if I embraced my true self and that my true self was not worth the love of others. Fear of showing weakness. Fear of failure. Fear of God punishing me for making mistakes. Living in fear so intensely was absolutely exhausting.
The exhaustion and frustration of feeling stagnant led me to baby steps and meeting one person through another that eventually lead me to committing to be a senior high small group leader. It was not how I imagined I would be serving and connecting to others at Browncroft. I felt that God led me to it, though, and I made a decision to be obedient. From the time I committed to leading, I cannot count the number of blossoms. From no effort of my own, God began to heal a number of relationships damaged by years of pain. I have a renewed satisfaction of purpose and meaning. I have adapted better financial habits even. I have a new found security and freedom in embracing who God created me to be, which has resulted in connecting to others on a deeper level. I have a strengthened understanding of God’s goodness and refreshed faith in his promises. I have met a number of people who pour into me and encourage me—I do not feel alone. The only thing I did was be obedient. Showing up to youth group was a choice, and one I had to make every week for quite some time. I was out of my comfort zone. After a while of just choosing to show up, I eventually looked forward to going. I missed seeing my students throughout the week. I love spending time with them and respect the beautiful young women I have connected with.
Prior to leading, I was desperate for change. The changes I wanted were tangible. I wanted to be in love and be married and have a family and a house and financial freedom and the perfect career. These things were my goals in order to find happiness. None of these things were bad, but I had started to make them idols. The most amazing piece of all of this and submitting to God’s will is that I have new life through no effort of my own. I have experienced change, but not from anything listed above. God changed my heart and my perspective. I have a new-found, exhilarating joy without any major circumstantial changes. I have a refreshed strength that does not allow pain and circumstances to ruin my day and dent my faith with doubt. Instead I have come to learn how to find comfort from my Savior. I don’t want to even have to be comforted. I just want to be used to show others how possible, accessible, powerful and amazing complete transformation through Christ is. God is GOOD and faithful and there is no reason for us to be afraid.
Romans 12:1-2 has been somewhat of an anthem to me over the past year:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
As Sarah knows, life-change happens as we give our lives in obedience to God. Are you ready for a fresh start this spring? Let’s pray together about where you can express your desire to follow Jesus at Browncroft. Contact me here.