Producers and Consumers

For the last few months, I have been thinking about my life in terms of being a producer and a consumer. Let me explain.

Politically, Donald Trump made this idea (without using this exact language) front and center in minds and hearts. He emphasizes American businesses that produce, that manufacture new products, as he seeks to undo systems that aid those some see as consumers, those who only use resources while being unable, often physically, from producing.

Locally, I live on a farm with a lot of producers. The farm here epitomizes the concept of production. The farmer plants a seed in the ground, and it grows into a tall stalk of corn, producing food for livestock that then ends up in our grocery stores and restaurants, or a peanut plant, which ends up in the peanut butter on our grocery store shelf. Folks here drive out in their pick up trucks at 7:30 am, work a hard day tending the ground, and come back in the evenings to turn off equipment and settle in for the night. They consume resources, but they produce much more than they consume. Nations can’t survive without producers. Our government subsidizes farms in particular because, in time of war, we can not be solely dependent on a foreign nation for our food. If nothing else, in World War 3, the United States will still have some cotton to make clothes, peanuts to make peanut butter, and corn to feed the cows, in part due to the labor of folks around me at Oak Lane Farm.

I don’t know if others experiencing long term illness think about this, but I have become consumed with the producers around me as I sit on my couch into week 3 of recovery from surgery, now contemplating another 6 months of chemotherapy, which will include a lot more sitting on my couch watching the rest of the world go by. I consume resources, particularly the time of others who already have busy lives. But right now, I don’t produce anything.

In times past as a stay at home mom, I had a few things that, along with parenting my children, helped me feel … well … productive. I taught Bible studies, I wrote books, and I taught part time at the community college. If nothing else, I produced some income for my home, and that helped me feel like I was a contributing member of society (another political phrase I think about).

Being a non-producing consumer for this season has raised my awareness of others struggling with long term disability. I have one friend in particular confined to a wheel chair with multiple physical issues who still struggles to produce. He writes. He creates art. His God-given desire to create remains in his heart though his physical and financial resources are slim. He is often thwarted in his attempts to get something to market, and yet the creative, productive urge remains, and he never quits trying.

I got the news yesterday that I would have six months of chemo, with all the ins and outs that usually accompany that. I have a good prognosis long term, for which I thank God, but I wept in the doctor’s office as I contemplated six more months consumed with doctors appointments and physical struggle, six more months of being a consumer unable to produce. Despite all of the down time, I can’t even write very well. My brain remains slow and fuzzy and overwhelmed. And chemo brain is a real thing I hear. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised, but I have low expectations for productivity the next six months (other than the occasional blog article).

I am tired of consuming resources. I simply want to produce.

I want to show up with resources to help my son’s public school marching band. I want to put together a women’s Bible study for our local new PCA church plant. I want to take my dad to doctor’s appointments. I want to write another book. I want to teach at the community college. I want to learn to manage the farm.

Yesterday, after returning from my appointment with my oncologist, I sat down with the Lord to read the next passage in my Bible, John 15:1-8. I am reading from the new Christian Standard Bible. Verse 2 struck me loud and clear.

2 Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit.

I noted the word produce, because that is the language that has been rattling around in my head for weeks. I want to produce more and consume less. I want to help more and need help less. But God spoke clearly to me. If I am going to produce more fruit, I have to submit to more pruning. There was something sweet and kind, though also pointed and confrontational, as God used the language in my head to remind me of this truth from Scripture. I have felt that God was far away from me at multiple points in this journey, but He again showed me that He is right here, well acquainted with my suffering and mental struggle, and indwelling me to aid me through it. He is aware of the battles in my head and spoke to me clearly to confront them. My Counselor. My Comforter. My Helper.

I got the message, Lord, and I thank You for it. I will buck it up, by God’s help, and do this thing. I will submit to more pruning, because it is necessary for producing more fruit, fruit that remains. That’s the best kind of producing and the best kind of fruit. I want it for my life, and I submit to Your process to do it. Apart from You, I can do nothing.

Is this the fruit of the Spirit? I trust I will grow in love, joy, peace, and longsuffering. I need it. Is this the fruit of discipleship? I hope I can help more women grow in a knowledge of Jesus that leads to their flourishing in His kingdom. Whatever form the fruit takes, I know that pruning is the path to it, hand in hand with the One who prunes.

If you are struggling today, I encourage you to sit down with a short passage of Scripture wherever your Bible reading has taken you. Read it slowly several times, asking God to open your eyes to behold wonderful things in His word (Psalm 119:18). Slow down, remove distractions, and give Him time to speak to you clearly through His words. Hear Him, and be comforted.

24 Responses to Producers and Consumers

  1. Angela October 10, 2017 at 8:10 am #

    Hi Wendy,
    After almost 25 years in a wheelchair and now building health issues, I often feel that I don’t produce anything. I am often comforted by the reminder that the work if God is to believe in the one who he sent (John 6:29). That I can do, even in my weakest moments. Praying for you as you begin your chemo.

    • Wendy October 10, 2017 at 8:16 am #

      Oh, that’s good, Angela! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Teresa October 10, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    Hi Wendy. I’m a Facebook follower and secret lurker here and I wanted to say that I’m praying for you and I nodded to myself when I read these lines “There was something sweet and kind, though also pointed and confrontational, as God used the language in my head to remind me of this truth from Scripture. I have felt that God was far away from me at multiple points in this journey, but He again showed me that He is right here, well acquainted with my suffering and mental struggle, and indwelling me to aid me through it.” Oh boy does that resonate with me. After several years of illness I eventually learned to lean into the pruning. By nature I’m pretty hard headed and I was a great girl scout, always busy, always helping and living my life on the couch was so painful, in so many ways. I just wanted to reach out and encourage you and send you a virtual hug and thank you for your blog. It’s been a great source of encouragement and learning for me.

    • Wendy October 10, 2017 at 8:51 am #

      Thank you, Teresa!

  3. Ivy October 10, 2017 at 9:29 am #

    I prayed for you after reading your last post, and will continue to over the next six months.

    This is a great post! I’m certain many can relate and find comfort in what you’ve shared. [Insert heart here.]

    • Wendy October 10, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

      Thank you, Ivy. <3

  4. Jo October 10, 2017 at 10:37 am #

    I’m sorry you’re going through chemo. Producing/consuming is something I’ve thought about a lot as someone with a lifelong serious illness. Our culture really idolises productivity and frequently conflates it with personal value. I think when we are in a “consuming” season for a long time we eventually have to learn to find our identity apart from what we can do and contribute, and ideally we find it instead in the God who delights in us as his precious children. We learn to value “being” more than “doing” and realise more deeply that our productivity, while often good, adds absolutely nothing to our worth. To me, this is a big part of the work God is doing in us in those times, and what he ‘produces’ in us when we are empty and vulnerable and seem to be contributing nothing, is to grow our understanding and experience of our (and everybody’s) innate worth in his eyes and his infinite love for us even when we have nothing seemingly impressive to offer.

    I have many more thoughts but I’ll leave it there! Hope you recover quickly and it’s as easy as it can be.

    • Wendy October 10, 2017 at 2:53 pm #

      That’s it, Jo — learning the value of being over doing. I thought I was better at that than this illness has revealed in my soul.

  5. Anita October 10, 2017 at 11:10 am #

    Yes! I have struggled with this very thing. I often feel like I do not produce anything. No real career to contribute financially, no children to parent and contribute to society, no place for me in the organized church, what good am I to anyone? It was through a season of severe insomnia that I also learned to rest in God and let his hand tend the garden of my heart in the hope of some eternal fruit.

    It is so easy to get caught up in the world’s view of producing, which even infiltrates the church to produce Bible studies, focus groups, etc. God is more interested in our eternal state and how our hearts will be a place where he can produce his fruit.

    Praying for your rest, recovery, and growth in Him! “Take heart. I (Jesus) have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

    • Wendy October 10, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

      That’s a good verse. Thank you for sharing that, Anita!

  6. Bethany Kirk October 10, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

    This is beautiful. Thanking for taking the time to write and share it.

  7. Mary October 10, 2017 at 3:24 pm #

    This is relatively minor in comparison to your surgery recovery and future treatments, but I am having surgery at the beginning of December that will force me to take a break from work and other responsibilities for longer than any instance previously. I have been thinking a lot about my identity in relation to my ability to get things done and what it will be like to not be able to do anything. I am encouraged by this analogy, by viewing it as pruning.

    I know that the quantity of things you produce is diminished and will remain so for the foreseeable future, but I want to thank you for sharing your story. It is a gift to your readers.

    • Wendy October 10, 2017 at 3:46 pm #

      Thank you, Mary. I hope your procedure goes well.

  8. Ms. K October 11, 2017 at 7:20 am #

    Thank you for your posts. Your words and life do indeed continue to ‘produce’ whether you feel it or not. They have certainly touched me, another woman in a vastly different culture and time zone, halfway across the world. I come here often to look for an uplifting word and have been so blessed by your testimonies and thoughts on the great Loving God we serve. Have been praying for you. Keep pressing on!

  9. Karen Schaeffer October 11, 2017 at 2:13 pm #

    Your work “product” since your diagnosis has been small, but mighty–words that are authentic, deeply touching and full of wisdom. Some of the best stuff you have written so far in your life has come out of this trial, Wendy. I rejoice to see what else the Lord will produce in you, He who promised you that His Word would uphold you through this whole ordeal. I think of that two-edged sword that He revealed would be your strength throughout and see that He is using it masterfully to prune you for His purposes. Much love to you, in Jesus.

  10. Sandy FOX October 12, 2017 at 8:54 am #

    I think God is calling you into a time of deep rest and deep trust.”In quietness and trust shall be your strength. ” Isaiah 30:15.
    I’m not a farmer, but a gardener, and I know that seeds must go into the quiet ground in order to become what they are designed to be. This morning I read from Mark 4: 26-29 26 He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

    Your harvest will come again. Trust tge Farmer!

  11. Rachael October 13, 2017 at 9:05 pm #

    I know how you feel. I was born with brain damage and have struggled my entire life. I often feel useless and sometimes ashamed (like whenever I have to ask my husband to tie my shoes- something I’ve never been able to do). It’s hard to remember that my worth isn’t tied to what I produce or not, that I am valuable because just existing.

    • Wendy October 13, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

      Thank you for sharing that, Rachael! You get it.

  12. Curious Thinker October 14, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

    I’m too sorry about what you’re going through. I will continue to pray for you and wish you the best . God Bless

  13. Jen October 17, 2017 at 10:47 pm #

    So I got pregnant at 36 and had worked full-time since graduating from college. Planned to work up until my due date, take maternity leave, then go back to work part-time. Instead, at 25w3d, I went into preterm labor and was sent to the hospital, where I would be on bedrest for nine weeks. God ripped away my life and gave me a new one where I was only allowed to walk from the bed to the bathroom. And I never would go back to my old life–health concerns after my son’s birth wouldn’t even allow me to work part-time. I say all this not so you’ll feel sorry for me but to let you know that I’VE BEEN THERE. And it is harder than anyone knows!!

  14. Stacia October 30, 2017 at 5:56 am #

    Prayers and blessings to you in this time. Your post and current season of life brought to mind my mother’s experience during chemo a little over 10 years ago.

    She was in the middle of chemo, and I was a recent college grad looking for a job. We spend many hours rocking in front of the window, sometimes in silence or chatting about the works of God and the comings and goings of life. (Btw, she has been cancer-free since that time.)

    Indeed, despite feeling as if the world is going by and you are simply sitting around, God performs mighty acts during these times. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Wendy October 31, 2017 at 1:38 pm #

      Thanks for sharing that, Stacia.

  15. Ann-Marie November 3, 2017 at 9:48 pm #

    Hi Wendy,
    I have been thinking about these very concepts this week. I am on bed rest with my fourth child. Between my four pregnancies I have spent over a year and a half on bed rest. Unable to work. Unable to care for my house. Unable to care for my other children. Other people having to fill all the roles I can’t. Its is such a mental struggle. Between the feeling of alienation and then how much time I have to spend alone…its a mental and spiritual battle. Thank you for sharing your struggles. God has met me in the similar ways through scripture this week and now through your blog post.

    I can’t imagine how scary cancer must be. I hope and pray your treatments go as smoothly as possible and you go into remission quickly.

    • Wendy November 6, 2017 at 9:37 am #

      Yes! You understand, Ann-Marie. I hope you feel better quickly and have a healthy little one when it’s all done.