I looked at my watch as the pastor closed his sermon. I couldn’t wait to stand and stretch my stiff legs. With the last “amen,” I maneuvered my way out of the pew and over to Shelly and her mother.
“Hey there,” Shelley, my childhood friend, greeted me.
“Hi. How’s the job hunt going, Shelley?”
She rolled her eyes. “Not very well, but I’m hoping to get something soon.”
I glanced at Shelley’s mom, Phyllis. Her eyes were red, and she dabbed at them with a delicate lace hankie. As she saw me watching her, she laughed gently. “Oh, don’t mind me. I was just thinking about Pastor’s sermon.”
“It was a good one,” I responded a bit guiltily. I hadn’t focused on it as much as Phyllis had, obviously.
“Yes.” She grew quiet. Shelley looked at me and shrugged. We both knew something was going on with her mom, but we didn’t pry.
Finally, Phyllis looked at me with an embarrassed smile and said, “I guess I got to thinking about what he said. You know…the part about how many people we’ve led to the Lord in our lifetime.” She paused and glanced at her twisted hankie. “I’ve taught Sunday school here my whole life, been on the ladies’ committees, and attended revivals and services faithfully, but I don’t think I can say that I have ever led anyone to Christ.”
Of all the things I expected from Phyllis, that was the last thing I thought I would hear. “But, Phyllis! Think of all the seeds you’ve planted,” I was quick to reassure her.
She shook her head. “No. Somehow, that isn’t what I’m thinking about today. I mean, I know about seeds, but what about fruit? Where’s the fruit of those seeds and the fruit of my life?” Her eyes refilled with tears. “I think I’ve failed God somehow.”
I glanced at Shelly and saw quick tears form in response to her mom’s confession. “Aww, Mom,” Shelley patted her mother’s hand. “We all have days when we wonder if we’ve really made a difference or if we’ve ever planted a seed that will grow.” She shrugged. “Somehow, we just have to have faith that God is nurturing those seeds. He’s watering and weeding those tender plants.” Phyllis nodded, but I sensed that she was not content with the answer.
She smiled. “Well, it does no good to stew over it, I suppose. Now, what have you girls got planned for this sunny summer day?” Our conversation moved on, but Phyllis’s question stayed in my heart for many, many years. I often asked myself the same questions she had: where was the fruit? Would I ever know what became of the seeds?
One day, I got a phone call from Shelley. Phyllis had slipped into eternity. We cried together, and Shelley asked me if I would read a Scripture at her mom’s funeral. We went on to plan the next few days and I choose the Scripture I would read
The day of Phyllis’s funeral came. One by one, family members and friends stood to recall Phyllis’s influence in their lives.
“She was the best sister I could have ever had. Many times, I was lonely and she came and got me and took me to lunch. We laughed and laughed…I will never forget her.”
“Aunt Phyllis always had time to talk to me. If I needed her to pray, she did. She told me over and over again how much I was loved by God. I thought of that, and knew that if Aunt Phyllis said it, it must be true.”
“Grandma Phyllis never condemned me or turned me away when I had questions. She loved me unconditionally.”
“She prayed with me over the phone, and later, I thought of her smile and her tenderness and I decided to give my heart to the Lord. As a friend, she was patient and kind.”
My turn came to read the scripture. “Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like…? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.’”
I closed my Bible and looked around. “You are Phyllis’s seeds. You are Phyllis’s garden. Today, I know God has welcomed His faithful sower with open arms.”
In loving memory of Phyllis Swaisgood, who planted many seeds and now knows what became of them.
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