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Twenty-one years ago, my husband Troy and I welcomed our first son into the world. Two years later, I gave birth to another boy. And again two years later, and again two years after that. A fifth boy joined our family another two years later, and a final son was born 11 years after we began our parenting journey. If you were counting, you’re not mistaken—that’s six sons in just over a decade. We were overjoyed and more than a little exhausted.

I remember feeling frustrated with the limitations of the little years with young children when I was a young mom. I regularly felt limited in capacity, time, and mental and emotional bandwidth.

I felt inspired to lead, create, write, express, build, and make things with my hands. I dreamed of running a boutique, making custom stationery, and being an entrepreneur. I loved to counsel and disciple younger women and imagined how fun it’d be to lead workshops, run conferences, and connect with women from all over the country. But those years weren’t the right season to see everything I hoped for in full bloom.

I felt as if I was looking over at my neighbor’s garden, wondering why mine couldn’t be as full of blooms as hers was. I envisioned, as I looked over the proverbial fence line, her garden bursting with color and award-winning blossoms while mine limped along with mostly weeds that had overtaken the beds. I desperately wanted to be in a blooming season, and my mundane everyday life was definitely not characterized by anything that felt like a bloom.

I was doing the dishes, making dinner for an elderly neighbor, and picking up the LEGOs all over my kids’ bedroom floor (again). I would’ve rather been creating and selling beautiful works of art or having interesting conversations with someone other than a toddler. In my mind, I imagined how blossomy it would be to wear pretty clothes and drive into a pretty office, carrying my Starbucks coffee and succeeding at big goals. That vision held my imagination like hot pink dahlias in September: big and glorious blooms.

But I had been given so much to be faithful with right where I was. There’s no formula, flowchart, or foolproof way to know exactly how you should spend your days in any season, but I knew in that particular time in my life that God was not giving me the green light to make things happen my way. I needed to embrace my limitations.

Limitations come in different forms. You may deal with chronic pain and physical limitations that keep you from doing everything you might desire to attempt. Or perhaps you are caring for an aging parent, and your availability and capabilities are limited by another’s need for your attention. Or maybe you know the tediousness of a daily commute—the planning and time it takes to arrive at an in-person or hybrid job where not all your teammates are even present, just to sit at a desk alone, attend meetings on Zoom, and fight traffic again at the end of the day for a late-night takeout dinner, just to do it all over again.

You can’t help but ask yourself as you wrap up another day of the same tasks, same stressors, and same rigamarole, What if I’m supposed to do more with my life? No matter the cause of your limitations, for many of us, every day feels the same, and nothing appears fruitful under the daily grind, as if you’re always running and never arriving.

How do you know when you need to embrace your limitations instead of charting a new course? Here are some of my tried-and-true lines of self-questioning:

  1. Am I running away from what God has already given me to do?
  2. Do I see an opportunity or favor that doesn’t require maneuvering and forcing?
  3. Will I sacrifice faithfulness in the areas God has already given me to steward if I pursue more?

Of course, these questions are not comprehensive in their scope of self-assessment, but they help me see more clearly whether I’m forcing fruit or waiting on fruit.

During that same season of waiting and wanting, I started collecting houseplants, which did more than add life to my home; it taught me an unexpected lesson. When you care for houseplants, you inevitably pay attention, slow down to observe growth, and learn a thing or two about growing seasons. During one of my routine plant-care days, I noticed how much my potted indoor Meyer lemon tree had grown. It suddenly had all sorts of new, tender branches, and little fresh green leaves peppered the plant throughout. There weren’t any blooms yet, but I knew that soon fragrant blossoms would form, and fruit would be on the way.

I jotted down the words that took shape in my head as I watered and marveled: You don’t have to be blooming to be growing. It was so simple but remains true and encouraging for me to remember even now: God is still at work in us, even in the seasons when we don’t see the blooms we long for.

So let’s not waste our unwanted or seemingly bloomless seasons, friend. To echo the writer of Hebrews, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (10:22–23). We can draw near, stay rooted, hold fast, and press in because he who promised is faithful.

Taken from Now and Not Yet by Ruth Chou Simons. Copyright © 2024 by Ruth Chou Simons. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com.

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Ruth Chou Simons

Ruth Chou Simons is a Wall Street Journal bestselling and award-winning author of several books, including her newest book When Strivings Cease. She is an artist, entrepreneur, and speaker, using each of these platforms to spiritually sow the Word of God into people’s hearts. Through her online shoppe at GraceLaced.com and her social media community, Simons shares her journey of God’s grace intersecting daily life with word and art. Ruth and her husband, Troy, are grateful parents to six boys—their greatest adventure.

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