Strong willed woman

IMG_6358 enjoying my work over the years.


I wouldn’t say I know myself very well, but I do know a few things about my self that are positively true. One of those things is that I have lived my life, succeeded in many things, out of sheer willpower.  I’m not so blind as to think that I did this on my own. No, I know Christ was guiding me all the way and I firmly and always will believe his hand is on everything going on in and around my world, but he used my very obsessive, strong willed personality to get me places. Even as a child I got straight A’s most of the the time, had many friends, did moderately well in the activities I participated in, had some success with writing and art and singing etc etc. It’s not false modesty to say that I’m not some uber smart person. I’m not naturally talented at a lot of things. People definitely get annoyed with me.  I hang on for dear life, I put countless hours into things, and when I determine something to be important I will not let go. I focus in on things and it’s very hard for me to look away.  I couldn’t tell you how many hours I spent studying or on projects, but if it took 10 hours to get a B+ and 30 hours to get an A, you can bet I spent 30 hours or more doing it.  Sure my parents instilled “doing my best” in me, but I was the one determining what that was, no one else was, and I wouldn’t settle for anything but perfection. I love art, always have.  I found that with practice I could get better, but I wasn’t one of those people who could put their pencil down and easily whip up a masterpiece…but I wanted to be one.  Whenever I set out to make something beautiful I would redo the project 20 times until I deemed it “good enough”.  I didn’t just draw a line, i drew it, erased it, measured, drew it again, erased half, took dimensions, drew it again.  Art drains me. I take hours to complete projects because I am so meticulous and obsessed with getting it correct. Rarely am I fully satisfied with my work, but I power through until i’m at least mostly satisfied.  I was in a long distance relationship for over three years with my now husband, living anywhere from 100 to 7,000 miles apart from him. Was it hard? Did we really not like each other sometimes? Yes! But I decided in my heart to love him…yes I said DECIDED to love him…like forever.   I knew he was too amazing to give up on even if in one moment things weren’t so awesome.  I never allowed our fights to go to the point of breakup because I hung on to that relationship for dear life. Now we have been married 2 3/4 years and that time seems like a distant memory and I can say we are both quite in love.  Now onto horticulture. I decided a long time ago I loved plants and nature. I didn’t throw around different degrees etc, I chose horticulture, picked the best local school for it, got in, got a job doing it right away, and never wavered from my plan.  Willpower. Classes were much harder than expected sometimes (how much is there to know about photosynthesis!? Organic chemistry seriously!?) I studied relentlessly. I didn’t go out and have fun many times. My fun was going to a coffee shop studying 10 hours getting a delicious muffin. I wanted to graduate in the top of my class and nothing was going to stop me. Fast forward to  my first real horticulture job: The interview starts and they tell me there is a plant ID test at the end. WHAT!? I didn’t study for this, i wasn’t ready. Willpower did nothing for me that day. By the grace of God I got hired, at a lower pay and position than I interviewed for, and it was a HUGE smack in the face. Maybe willpower got me this far, but God brought me to my knees and humbled my obsessive self and reminded me that my willpower has very little to do with any of it. “Pay attention Sara, pay attention to the life i’m creating for you, where i’m leading you and you’ll live into why. Stop zeroing in, open your eyes.”  I did open my eyes and I may have learned more that first year about plants and life (being a newly wed and moving to Chicago as well!) than I had all of my educational career prior. The willpower didn’t go away. I studied all year long. Every time I saw a new plant/tree I had to know the name…i looked at the tag and repeated it to myself over and over all day, made flashcards, tested myself constantly. By the time the next year rolled around I passed their ID test and far more than they expected. What is a specific ID aspect of Forsythia: “chambered piths of course”, How can you tell a Fraxinus pennsylvanica from a  Fraxinus americana? “the budscar on the americana curves around the bud like a smile and the pennsylvanica is straight across.” Easy…hit me again!

IMG_6653one of MANY pictures of tags I have :)


I was on fire. I got raised 2 positions instead of one to my surprise. The Lord blessed me in spite of my willpower, and I was way more thankful for my position that day then I would have been if I had been hired at that position initially. Not just because I worked really hard to prove myself, but because I knew He could give and take away as he pleased and I had little to do with it, and that lesson was most important. He made me thankful for the willpower HE instilled in me to succeed. Thankfulness begets Joy. I loved my job. I loved knowing the names and identities of the plants around me even more after that year.  Thankyou, Jesus for the drive you put in me, and may I always recognize it’s here for you, because my life is about magnifying Your glory.


IMG_1128happy to be outside, even on a cold December day. Lovely Picea omorika behind me :)

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3 comments on “Strong willed woman

  1. Katrina Chipman on said:

    Great post, Sara! One of the three Picea omorika in the back of the garden by the service gate got Rhizosphaera needle cast and is now dead. In the spring we have to treat all of them along with the white pine and hemlock! Not fun!

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