God crafts us to become the people he created us to be. Every experience and life lesson is a tool in his hands. I’m bringing all the pieces of my story together, so my readers will be better acquainted with me. What made me into a writer? How did you come to be the person you are? This post first appeared in August 2012.

Introducing Melinda: Blog #7

My Dutch grandfather was a philosopher, writer, and poet. A high school science teacher by trade, he lived the life of a Renaissance man, absorbing Khalil Gibran while puffing cigars, cultivating two greenhouses and an entire backyard full of plants, reading classical literature, and never missing Masterpiece Theatre.

He made his own wine. He ate Limburger cheese. He bathed on the European schedule.

A patient and brilliant man, he was a quiet instructor, a man who could explain things. His mind was always busy, and he was articulate. He loved to teach. One summer our family built a log cabin. He allowed me to work out the geometry for the rafters, demonstrating how my math applied to the project. Under his tutelage, I learned many lessons. All are valuable. I am grateful.

His non-conformity gave me permission to be myself. The man was unique. Quirky brains run in the family. He modeled how to pursue one’s passions. In addition to his intellectual and literary interests, his scientific bent inspired countless hours in the greenhouse and in the fishing boat.

As God was crafting and equipping me to be myself, my grandfather was one of his tools.

The Christian life is all about fishing, sowing, planting, and reaping. We are fishers of men. We plant our roots deeply into Christ. We plant churches. We sow the seeds of the gospel. We harvest souls. We reap what we sow. Time in the garden and in the boat with my grandfather taught me valuable life lessons about these spiritual analogies.

Early in the morning, before the heat, we waded through small creeks using a handmade seine to rake in crawdads and small fish for bait. We floated through dark, muddied Kansas tributaries to set our trotlines, placing them right where catfish like to hide—in the shade under tree roots. Patiently, we let the bait do its work. Then later, we returned to haul in enormous white-bellied fish.

So it is with fishing for souls. Go where the fish are. Use inviting bait. Employ it wisely. Be patient. Wait. Wait some more. Haul in the catch.

In the backyard garden and the hothouses, he instructed me in horticulture. Root growth, the unseen part, determines plant vitality. Compost and aeration are essential. Plants require tender care while being transplanted—roots must be protected, covered in soil, watered immediately. Each plant requires varying degrees of sun, shade, and water. Even the most delicate plants, such as the orchids and African violets he labored over, can flourish when cared for properly. The perfect degree of warmth causes plants to flourish.

So, too, people require individual attention. The sinking of roots into Christ determines growth and vitality. Spiritual roots must be nurtured. Every person grows at their own pace, nourished in different ways, the correct amount of trial and blessing added by the Creator as fertilizer. God’s Word and his Spirit are air, light, and water, engendering and fostering growth. People require delicate care. All of us need warmth and tenderness.

I draw from my grandfather’s toolbox of instruction intuitively now, decades down the road. But I learned his methods while a callow girl, unaware of the necessity of his life lessons. I didn’t know then that I would require this wisdom for future trials. Naïve and inexperienced, I didn’t comprehend that God would use me to teach others, or that he would give me lives to nurture.

God uses every piece of the puzzle of my life to make me who he wants me to be. Before I was even aware of his intentions, he was busy at work, using my family, my life experiences, my failures, my successes, my quiet days with my grandfather in a boat, my leaning with him over flora in the greenhouse, inhaling the rich dark soil, handling delicate roots, learning to discern the texture, the scent, and the color of humus for good plantings.

Piece by piece, God assembles the puzzle, causing my life to take the shape he designed before he began time. He works all things together for my good. He uses me in his plans.

Just as God crafts my life, he crafts yours. Where do you see his hands?

Click here to find the final two posts in my introductory series.