I was three going on four years old when my family moved into our home in one of the Los Angeles’ suburbs. Our backyard was beautiful, a place to escape and run around freely. When my paternal grandmother came for her visit (six months is a Naija-style visit), she brought along a stick of bitter leaf. At the time, I remember that I hated bitter leaf because my mom would make me wash the leaves whenever she brought some home, and it would make my fingers taste bitter and smell funny. I also didn’t like the bitter soup she would make and force me to eat with fufu.
One day, my grandmother took me to the backyard and asked me to help her plant a stick of it. I didn’t understand how planting a stick in the ground would yield anything. It wasn’t a seed, so it didn’t make sense to me. But we went, stuck it in the ground, watered it and left it alone.
It has been twenty years since that stick of bitter leaf was planted in the ground. It has flourished beyond my greatest imagination. Every time I came home this last year, it would catch my attention as I walked past the kitchen window. A few words came to mind. Purpose. Intention. Faith.
My grandmother planted that branch with a purpose. She wanted to bring something from Home for us to have and use. She wanted to grow food for her children and her children’s children to eat from long after she was gone. Planted with purpose.
The tree reminded me of how God has been working in my life. He has used my efforts and watered them, and even though, somethings took years and years to grow and bear fruit, the growth was happening each and everyday. Even the things that looked like a misstep, were actually another branch on my own tree preparing to provide someone else with the shade they needed to recover and keep on pushing on their own journey. I watched as that tree cast shade over the ground for my dogs to escape the midday heat, and I was moved to do a shoot to capture the story.
My friend Tatiana was visiting so I could shoot her maternity session, and when we got back to my house after shooting all morning, I saw the tree swaying lightly in the breeze through the kitchen window. There are very few things in this world as purposeful and intentional as a pregnant woman. What better muse could I find?
Pregnant [ preg-nuh nt ] adj: full of meaning; highly significant; of great importance or potential; momentous.
Imagining how God was molding and forming a new life in her womb with such intention as only the Creator can, still gives me chills. I grabbed my grandmother’s old wrappah* (naija pronunciation needed), tied it around my friend as she would have, and began to shoot and direct as I felt led for no more than ten minutes.
What are you planting this season? Whatever it is, do not give up. It may look like nothing is happening on the surface, but something is taking root and sprouting beneath. Keep moving with intention and pursuing the purpose you have been given. You have been planted with purpose. Bloom where you are planted.
In loving memory of my dearest friend, my grandmother Rosaline Oboh.