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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

While living in the verdant Northwest, I often reflected on how my garden design was determined by what the garden wanted itself to be. I would study the exposed massive fir tree root to discern where the white rocks that had traveled in our pockets from the shores of Deception Pass should be placed. Perhaps the moss was better served here. Perhaps the trailing vine desired a hillside view.

Water was ever present, and sun in short supply, so adopting plants and placing them in nooks and crannies that best seemed to “suit their personalities” was an easy task. Nearly every plant label said, “partial shade” and “moderate water needs”.

Not so the desert, where water is scarce and sun is plentiful. It has taken a full year of watching the sun’s travels across the yard and noting the length of shadows through the day before I have dared to start planting.

Because of the harsh desert conditions, I have become a student of planting instructions hoping to give these new garden additions their best chance of success in this often unforgiving landscape. How much water? How much sun? How long before they grow and produce fruit and flowers? When do they need to be pruned?

This morning, as I studied how water trickled over stone so as to determine the direction of the flow and the best place to plant, I wondered if we might not be a kinder, gentler world if we all took time to read each other’s planting instructions. To take the time to learn what would help each of us not just grow, but thrive, especially when it comes to our spiritual lives.

As a victim of not having people read my “spiritual planting instructions” until I was 46 years old, I was led to believe there was an “us” (the saved who walked with God) and a “them” (the “lost” who did not walk with God).

The problem is, it’s incomplete theology.

I say this to the those well intentioned “found” who tried to “save me” in the course of my life but only kept me from embracing my One True Love:

I was never lost.

God knew exactly where I was. And He never left my side, even in my darkest hours. Even when I doubted Him and pushed Him away. He knew my planting instructions because he created them, unique to me. He knew what I needed and gave me time to grow until my heart was ready for more.

To suggest that any of us might not be walking with God seems to defy the nature and character of God. None of us can ever be out of sight of our Creator. None of us can ever free ourselves of his relentless love. Even if we tried to get lost, He would drop everything just to bring us close to His side again.

Before my heart was ready for the full faith story, I experienced our Creator deeply in nature. In creation, I experienced the grandeur, the creative orderliness, and the deep love of the Creator revealed in the song of every brook, the whisper of every breeze, and the haunting notes of every bird of the forest..

But while God was patiently revealing himself to me, the humans around me engaged in “ambush evangelism” on on street corners, in school hallways, and in the every corner of my daily life. And that cacophony was a stumbling block for decades, drowning out the still, small voice of a loving Creator. Only in creation could I hear my maker’s voice above the noise.

Perhaps hearing. “the good news” shouted out of context in our already noisy, complex world does not sound like good news to some of us. Perhaps assuming there is somewhere God is not is the worst of all misassumptions. Perhaps it is “the found” who could benefit from a long fast from words while sitting in the Holy deafening silence of a God soaked world in which the human voice is not needed.

Everyone of us is seeking to be placed in an environment that suits our nature…one where we can grow at our own speed supported lovingly by the careful Gardener who tills the soil to ready our hearts for a more complete story.

It is a transformation that will unfold on a time table set by the Gardener’s hands and one that will not be rushed by the intrusion of human desire, no matter how well intentioned.

In the sacred waiting, His song over my life, was sung in the wind’s whispers through clattering aspen, through every sunrise and every sunset, through the love songs from the mouths of birds wrapping themselves around our hearts singing,

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

It is a song the Creator sings over all of us, every day, preparing the soil of our hearts like the tender gardener He is. Let His work be done according to His will, and then be released from that burden so as to follow the one instruction common to us all, whether “lost” or “found”.

It is simply this:

To love our Creator.

To love others.

And to love our neighbor at least as much as we love ourselves. Perhaps even more,

In that soil, all of us will flourish, growing ever closer to our own embrace of the Master Gardener as we are called to Everlasting Love.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

It is a small thing. His father had asked his middle aged son months ago if he would care for mom should anything happen to him. His son says yes without question, knowing his dad will be around for a long while.

A few months later, his father dies, and his son moves into his mother’s home in Arizona to care for her in this time of transition. We would not have met, but he now walks his mother’s dog to the corner house each night at 6:15 where his mother’s friends gather with their puppies and have a time of connection.

It is a corner past which we also walk our dog each night, not stopping as the group is boisterous, and our dog is not. But today, they are late, and we are able to meet and hear his story. I ask him how long he thinks he will be here.

For the rest of my life.

He has moved, lock, stock and barrel, to this desert place, leaving behind his life in Oregon to keep his promise to his father and honor his mother. He will remain until she passes, and then, he imagines, this will be his home now…

And it is another small thing. The young man stocking shelves in the early morning moves his carts to make room for me in the frozen food aisle.

“You didn’t need to do that…I can walk around you.”

It is the least I can do, he says.

As it is 6 am, I feel a need to explain that the ice cream is for my husband and that since they replaced his main artery that was hardened into concrete, he probably has a few more happy years of ice cream for breakfast.

My mother had heart surgery too, he says.

And then he goes on to explain about her childhood struggles with rheumatic fever and her knee surgery and how much he loves his familia. Life has not been an easy journey. He worries his mother is not getting the best care. But at some point, he fixes his gaze on me, kisses the cross around his neck, points skyward and says,

God has watched over us. We are blessed.

We pass each other later on near the donut aisle, because, well, what goes better with ice cream than a maple bar? Our gazes meet, and I stop him to say how much I enjoyed our conversation. He points skyward again.

May God bless you, he says…

And it is another small thing. The man who is replacing my pavers keeps coming to me to ask my opinion about design. Every time my answer is the same.

“Jose, I know nothing about pavers. You can do what you think is best.”

He continues to ask, and I continue to decline. At one point he says he believes large rocks would be a good anchor for the patio design.

“Jose, I know nothing about pavers. You can do what you think is best.”

I watch as he meticulously cuts around these beautiful, hand selected stones. It adds hours to his work. When he is done, I ask him the new estimate, since these stones have added to his cost for materials, time, and labor. He says the stones cost $300. and he would add that to the bill.

“How much is the added labor?”

Nothing, he says.

We are, of course, unsatisfied with that answer and calculate on our own, as we have watched him labor each day in the heat. One day he apologizes for leaving “early” and only putting in an eight hour day instead of his normal 10-12 because he is needed for an event with his familia.

Through the heat, through the back breaking work, through a broken hand just now healing, he labors each day not for what he can gain, though of course that is important. He labors, I think, because of his love for creating careful beauty in the lives of others. It is a legacy he leaves behind with every nuanced cut of stone.

Small things.

Each moment has been a glimpse through a window of a life marked by love. Not the kind of “love” that screams from street corners or demands headlines. Not the kind of “love” that has entrance requirements.

No, this is love as a small thing. A love that is expressed in daily moments… a son’s promise to his father in a quiet conversation…a young man’s loving concern for his familia…a workman’s love of art expressed through humble service to his craft.

These small things,

done with great love,

marked by sacrifice

and soaked in blessing.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Almost exactly one year ago, we honored our desert calling and arrived in our new home. With a deep desire for small town living, we chose a city unknown to us and sought out a home to fulfill a small wish list: no stairs, open, filled with light, and affordable.

We joked a train nearby to remind Tim of the soundscape of his childhood Edmonds home would be a plus, and I secretly wondered if I would miss the mountains. But we knew that clearly this was to be our next destination and moved forward in faith.

Still, it was a nerve wracking process to do online. But we were blessed with a Zen-like real estate agent who through it all assured us with what has become a new life mantra:

What’s meant for you is waiting for you.

When we drove into the city for the first time hauling our two cats, two guitars and some golf clubs, we prayed we would like this new place and pledged to be open to whatever God had waiting for us here. We knew we were done with traffic, big cities and with music, but we turned over the driving and the destination to a Creator who knew what was on the road ahead while we were driving blind.

Thus, we decided to live a year of “yes” to any opportunity God put in our path.

As we drove up to our new home for the first time, some fear accompanied our excitement. Having bought it online, we knew there was much that could go wrong, but reassured ourselves that it completed the wish list, and that would be enough.

Opening the front door, we were greeted with picture windows that revealed an expansive view of the Santa Rita Mountains, where everyday for the next year we would watch the sun rise, the sun set, and the summer monsoon rains develop and disappear. And the next morning, when the rumble of an approaching train appeared and an engine whistle blew, we realized there was a train across the street that would fill the air twice a day, just like in Edmonds.

What’s meant for you is waiting for you.

Settling in, we knew nothing of what would be our new directions here, but I knew personally that music would not be part of it. Years of caregiving had made even the two or three concerts a year an exhausting process, and the “business” of music was soul draining, so we joked that if God wanted us to do music, He would have to make it happen. It was time to rest.

The only thing we did was go to a summer open mic mostly to meet people. That was it. But a small tsunami happened, and by the end of this year, we will have played over thirty gigs in some of the best venues we have ever played. And more than that, this Tucson area has introduced us to an amazingly kind and gracious community of songwriters, fellow musicians and audience members who have received us like family.

What’s meant for you is waiting for you.

But as we enter our second year here, a new calling has been whispering to me, a Thoreauvian whisper to once again pull away…not from this geographical area, but from the busyness that has crept in and begun to establish a tyrannical reign once again in my soul.

Because of the busyness, there are songs that clamor for a voice and no space in which they can come alive and give voice to another human story. An unfinished novel or two or three are struggling to find space to write themselves to completion.

But the deepest whisper of all calls me to a stillness that allows the small things to breathe.

Because in this busyness, there are beautiful, small moments I am almost missing, and, unlike the T-shirt saying, I do, in fact, sweat the small things.

The Desert Willow blossoms appeared almost overnight and I almost missed their splendor and flexibility in the desert winds.

Watering the new plant from Africa, I almost missed the tiniest of pink star shaped flowers appearing amidst the succulent leaves.

And as I stood at midday in the midst of the patio pavers yesterday staring at the Santa Rita Mountains, a hummingbird flew straight up to me and hovered in front of my face staring right into my eyes, my life…my very soul.

What’s meant for you is waiting for you.

I am seventy years old. I think I should have a better grasp of who I am by now. I think that I should not have this immense longing for a home I cannot describe or seem to find. I think I should be “done” trying to figure it all out.

But at 3:30 am, like clockwork, the Spirit who whispers, “Write this,” has a different plan, I guess, and I come to sit in the dark before the dawn in the silence.

I think this new year, perhaps, will be a year of “living the questions”. I think this will require a new level of solitude and intense self-examination… a pulling away from activities and groups that distract me from my own path.

And I think it will be a year to shine a light in the dark corners of my own soul to seek truth, real truth, and not the easy lie that silences the inner voices clamoring for home.

In myriad ways, the desert has been trying to speak to me of this, and I have been too busy to listen.


As the pace has now been slowing in the departure of winter visitors and the arrival of torrid heat, a part of me recognizes that like the snakes who will work their way out of hibernation and leave exoskeletons of their previous lives along the trail, I, too, have an old skin that needs to be shed in the heat of summer.

The new skin I hope to find may well feel raw and vulnerable, but this old one no longer fits what longs to emerge. So I am willing to endure what I know will be a long, slow process of this next year’s journey because, well,

What’s meant for you is waiting for you.

And, as with all good things, I believe it will be worth waiting for.

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