Seeds of Dreaming and Doing

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On Ugandan gardens + Honduran dreams. 

By Stephanie Motz Skinner | Twitter: @stephmotz

December always seems to be a month of reflection for me. It’s a time infused with a steady air of change; of new beginnings. It’s always a time I appreciate the family I am surrounded with, and pine for the others who are far away and scattered, like the leaves of autumn, whose colours I can almost remember from my time in Montreal some years back. And, as the year turns, my thoughts inevitably shift inwards as I analyse my life over the last 12 months. It’s hard now, to imagine those bleak Canadian winterscapes, and as I draw them out from my memory there is almost a brief nostalgia, a distant and twisted kind of longing for that lifeless air that freezes you from the inside as you step outside and draw into your lungs that icy chill.

Uganda is instead a warm and living garden that never suffers frostbite. And my life, too, is like a garden. When I reflect on the journey that my life has taken, I can see a modest, but blossoming landscape. It seems that different areas of my life grow at their own pace. I notice I need to weed out some stubbornness and pride that seem to overgrow and stifle the development of my character. I see how my marriage is flourishing and the relationship with my family is strong like the Mvule tree, the guardian of Uganda’s forests. Some dreams seem stifled by a fear that cuts them back. And out in the distance I see a flowering field of love that is in bloom.

There’s always work to be done in a garden and mine is not yet lush or fully mature. There’s still a lot of pruning, clearing and shaping to do. And as the end of the year approaches, I can’t help but notice the empty spaces, the ones that belong to certain dreams I haven’t yet planted. Even though this year felt like a season of growth, I still hold in my hand many seeds that have been collected throughout my life and, for a moment, it seems as if I didn’t do enough to move forward in planting them.

These seeds of purpose come in all different shapes and sizes. Some of them are dreams I believe God has placed in my heart for me to plant, nurture and grow. Others are areas of my life I want to improve on, things I’m passionate about and personal goals I want to accomplish. As I sketch out the year, it can feel a bit overwhelming to realize how many of them remain unplanted. I begin to wonder about my excuses for not planting them – if I had any. Or I begin to ask myself if perhaps I allowed my fears to stop me. What were my reasons? Why wasn’t this the year? Self-doubt has a way of creeping in and planting its own poisonous seeds. What if my seeds never germinate, or if my plant produces toxic fruit? And then sometimes I just get too busy.

Honduras

One of my seeds–something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time–is to start a program for Honduran youth who are at social risk. I often dream of creating an organization that empowers teenagers who don’t have parents looking after them, or who make their daily living by begging on the streets. Often they are enticed into destructive lives, resorting to drugs and joining violent gangs in a desperate attempt to find a place to belong. I believe that the future of my country is in the hands of the youth and we need to offer them an alternative–a choice. I feel a sense of responsibility as a Honduran towards these teenagers and I want to be one of the people who helps them realize their potential.

This year I learned a few things about gardening by observing and helping my husband with his vegetable garden. I learned that before planting, we needed to first collect the seeds and then research the plant we wanted to grow. We had to learn what the best conditions for the seed were, when was the best time of year to plant it, and whether it grows in sun or shade.

We then had to plan the layout of our seedbed, create it and till the ground. It took us a while before we were ready to plant. We had to first prepare the ground where the seeds would grow and plough the soil where they would take root.
In the same way, I realize even though I haven’t yet planted many of the seeds in my hand, I have been preparing the soil for them.

Living  in Uganda, working alongside NGOs who are empowering people, has confirmed my desire to do something in my own country. I’m observing, absorbing and learning about the complexity of running any form of organization. I’ve also learned the value of humble beginnings and placing our faith in God.

Surrounding myself with others who share a passion for justice and listening to the stories of people who have overcome many adversities in their lives, has stretched my heart and broadened my mind.

This year my heart has been stirred by causes I’m passionate about, and awakened to the pain and injustice others face in this world. I’ve been challenged, strengthened, inspired and encouraged by my family and friends.

This community of sisters who are doers and dreamers has inflamed my passion for justice and strengthened my desire to not just applaud those who are at the frontline in the fight against injustice, but to join them.

Preparing the soil for my seeds meant doing a lot of thinking, praying, researching, planning, reading, writing, and even cheering others in their journeys. It might seem like a small step, but it’s an important step. In gardening it sets the stage for planting. It loosens the top layer of soil to facilitate the planting of the seed.

As I prepare myself for that next step, it reinforces my commitment to these dreams I hold close to my heart. It builds my capacity to fulfill them and develops the character I need to nurture them and help them grow. It strengthens my belief that they should be planted. And it increases the suspense and my excitement for these dreams, because I believe when the time comes to plant them, my heart will be prepared.

I wonder:

  • When you reflect on the last year, what comes to mind?
  • How do you feel about the seeds in your hand?

Dear SheLoves sisters I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Here’s to hoping the next year is full of ploughing, sowing, growing and harvesting for all of us.

With love,

Stephanie.

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About Stephanie:
Stephanie is a humanitarian and portrait photographer for fakeleft.com where she shares stories of hope and dignity. She blogs at fakeleft.com/blog and tweets at @stephmotz

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