Life in General,  On Writing

Why Rear View Mirrors are Better Than Windshields

“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,

Shining ever brighter till the full light of day.”

Proverbs 4:18

When I began this year, God gave me a word–“adjust.” Last year I spent time ‘abiding’, year before that it was ‘dwell’ (very similar) and the year before that, my word was ‘fit’–how does what I’m doing in my walk with Jesus fit with what He says?

When I heard the Holy Spirit say “adjust,” I had the sense that I’d be moving in a particular direction–writing a book this year–but as I was moving God would have to make some course corrections.

About the same time, our pastor’s New Year’s message was from the book of Nehemiah about the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. The rebuilding task was overwhelming, but Nehemiah was undeterred. As a result of that word, “start small, start now” became my mantra. I couldn’t make overnight changes in any of the areas I wanted to see growth or movement–my health, my writing, my spiritual walk–none of it. But I could see change over time.

At the end of each day, I document what little steps have been taken in those areas on my “foursquare.” Some days I write one or two things down, some days it’s blank. The areas of growth have changed over time as well, now one of the square says “heart & soul”, one says “body”, one says, “writing” and one says, “spirit.” It’s not a journal so much as it’s a recorder.


Little by little, there’s progress.


I’ve also been documenting the progress of the perennial flowerbed out in our yard—one photo a month since January, on the 20th day of the month.

I had the idea because, come June, no one would ever believe that the explosion of greenery and color that is my flowerbed was once an empty spot of soggy, blank dirt. I would like to encourage myself along the way that one, something beautiful WILL grow out of that unsightly rectangle and two, it will take some time.


This first photo makes it glaringly clear just what a ‘winter view’ is in my Seattle suburb—with no foliage on shrubs and trees, you can see miles away. Of course, the shades of gray, brown and silver bark in front of me leave me with an impatient ache. They’re hard on the eyes; I long for them to bloom.

But I need to wait a good six months.

The next month, February, I chose a different angle, illustrating the size of the bed, and giving one the impression with my rake propped against the bird feeder, that I was actually working out in the mud. Smile. There are a few suggestions of greenery against the dirt, but they are only suggestions, an ounce of earth being displaced by life.


You’ll notice the Yellowtwig Dogwood shows up nicely against the monochrome background of the greenbelt. There is hope in the color of those bare branches, a bit of golden against the sky when we’re desperate for something to keep us going.

A few days ago I took Month Number Three’s photo—March.


Can you see the gradual growth, the mini fireworks sprouting from the dirt? When I stand back and look from this perspective I can see a difference from last month’s photo-something is happening! Look at all the yellow–forsythia! And, if you were able to get up close, you’d see new leaves curling out in the asters and clematis at the base of that dried up piece of driftwood by the gazebo bird feeder.

You have to look closely, though.


I am always learning lessons from my garden—long, slow lessons about life.

Right now I’m preoccupied with writing a book. I told you about that last week and God’s gentle (not) way of getting my attention in the process so I could readjust my expectations.

I am reminded again that anything difficult, beautiful or creative requires three things—work, attention and time.

I cannot expect to be finished with the process unless I put in the time and attend to God’s words to me along the way. And I need to remember that although I am bounded by the constraints of the rising and setting of the sun each day, God is not. He sees the end from the beginning all at once. He knows where we’ll be….maybe we need to pay attention to the getting there rather than the being there.

Maybe you’re working through something like that now—a challenge or promise or project that is taking a frustratingly much longer amount of time to bring any progress.

May I encourage you? Rather than looking at the emptiness outside your window every day (figuratively speaking) check once a week or once a month or once a quarter and ask God, “How are things going now? How about now?” Or, “God, please give me patience for this process.”

You may find when you look back at the end that whatever was preoccupying your thoughts or worrying you went more quickly than expected. And some day you’ll look out your kitchen window at the vines and shoots and branches spilling all over the back patch of dirt and wonder, “Wow, how did those flowers come up?”

A lot of work, paying attention, and giving things time. God’s time.


For what are you waiting on God? Share in the comments.


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  • Amy

    I’m feeling discouraged at the slow (maybe even lack) of growth in different areas of my life. It can be so discouraging. Hopefully, I can look back soon and see some progress 🙂

  • smudge

    Jody, this post is inspiring! I’ve been trying to write a book (or 4!) for the past five years, to no avail! All in God’s time – I know… “Start small; start today” – that’s brilliant! I’ll have to give that a try!
    And congrats on your garden! (I’m trying to figure out from the pictures what hill you’re perched on 🙄 – I’m in the “greater Seattle” area too)

    • Jody Lee Collins

      So glad I could inspire….that phrase, “start small, start now” has been a real encouragement to me, too. Which hill? the edge of my backyard in Renton (we live right above a greenbelt). So glad we’re in the same ‘neighborhood.’ Thanks for reading!

      • smudge

        Ah! I am north of you (I work near the Northgate Mall, and live Everett-ish). But in the grand scheme of it all, we are neighbors! (When I first moved up to the PacNW, I lived in Burien…)

  • Nancy Ruegg

    First, I noticed a large patch of forsythia on our way to church yesterday, and thought of you! 🙂 Second, one of my goals for 2017 is to self-publish that Bible study on worship. Here it is, March already, and about all I’ve done is skim-read about the process on Create Space. However! I wouldn’t trade my time with our two granddaughters (age four and two months) for anything. I do indeed have to give this project time.

    • Jody Lee Collins

      Nancy, being able to invest in the lives of your grandgirls is irreplaceable–I wish my son’s family was closer to I could do more of that!
      I’m going the CreateSpace route myself with the whole book publishing thing, come October. I will share my vast wisdom with you (and the name of the guy that’s helping me!) for YOUR project.
      Thank you for your constant support, Nancy.

      • Nancy Ruegg

        And thank you, Jody, for your grace, encouragement, and generosity!

  • Natalie

    Your garden seems to be for you what the wilderness is for me–a little lab which magnifies the truth and allows me to see close ups and big pictures of what God is doing in my life and in the world around me, a place abundant with hope. Well woven, Jody. I appreciate being pointed back to the significance of work, attention, and time.

    • Jody Lee Collins

      Oh, I like that idea, Natalie, of the garden as a ‘lab’ of sorts. Indeed! Full of experiments–‘will it grow?’ and risk– ‘is this God?’
      I’m thankful for a likeminded outdoorsy friend to encourage me/us.

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