Thursday, October 22, 2015

Lessons from the Garden

“The pay is great,” my friend explained. “You’ll receive some of the harvest.”  

She’d recently presented an opportunity to work in a garden that supplied a local Farmer’s Market. It sounded good to me since this year we decided not to plant our own shared garden.  And, this would allow me to get outside and get some exercise.  How difficult could it be?  I committed to two hours a week to start out, not knowing my pay would far exceed fresh, tasty veggies.

I called the “Garden Lady” and introduced myself.  A very pleasant, friendly woman briefly explained how it worked and invited me to come and visit her farm. I was well on my way to what would be an amazing experience.  The tour included visiting two greenhouses and a “huge,” young garden. Most of the produce had just been planted.

“Garden Lady” introduced herself as Cathy.  I quickly knew in my heart we would become friends and was grateful when she began sharing her faith.  She had a love for Christ that flowed freely, in not only her words, but in her actions.  My first clue came through her thankful heart for her garden, and how she loved providing for others.  She spoke often of how the garden is a great place to pray and talk to God and we began to share that experience together. Of course, we have become friends and I am so thankful God directed me right to her garden.

Which are the Weeds?

On my first day I was asked to weed.  Sounded easy enough as I have had a lot of experience with weeds.  But immediately I discovered that I needed help in distinguishing between weeds and plants.  You see, many weeds are very pretty, healthy looking, and some even have pretty yellow or white flowers.

Most of my experience with produce comes from the grocery store where there’s no hint of the plants that generate the harvest. Very patiently, Cathy pointed out this is what a green bean plant looks like or this is what a beet plant looks like.  (I must admit I don’t eat beets, let alone pretend to know what the beet plant looks like.)

In some cases the weeds looked healthier and more mature than the plant.  In my defense, none of these new plants had produce on them, so how was I to know the difference?  Cathy and my co-worker even knew the names of the weeds and bugs that would destroy the crop if left unattended.  You will be proud of me for recognizing the tomato plants and the lettuce right away.

Humor me for a moment while I share what I learned this summer.  When weeding, it is very important to support the plant. If I wasn’t careful when I pulled the weed, the plant would come up too.  An example is a small, fragile carrot where a healthy, tough weed has decided to grow right next to it.  In those cases, it was important for me to put my fingers around the carrot, close to the good soil in support, while gently pulling that weed so its entire root came up.  At times, I asked my co-worker to place her hands around the base of the larger plant, press down on the soil to keep it secure while I wiggled the weed free from the fragile plant. I am pretty sure I heard that young plant sigh, “Thank you! Now I can breathe, drink the water, and bask in the sunshine so I can grow strong.”  My mentor told me - - an exposed root of a weed makes for a dead weed. 

Once the fruit came on, it became easier for me to distinguish between plants and weeds because I recognized the yummy fruit and veggies.  When the plants bear abundant produce, it’s a beautiful sight.  And as I picked items for the farmers market, it was exciting to know that many people would benefit from eating them.

God's Bounty

I enjoyed my time in God’s creation listening to the birds, watching a frog hop away when I scared him (and he scared me), seeing a half-eaten watermelon that was evidently dessert for a turkey. The bunnies hopped through the produce looking for something yummy to snack on. Even the mosquitoes and grasshoppers were created by our Lord.  The cows stood across the road mooing a morning song under a blue sky with white clouds. The air was crisp and refreshing.  Sometimes I was all alone on my knees - a great position to talk with my Lord and be still while He talks to me.  Some days I had the opportunity to work with other women who love God and delight in the perfect setting for sharing and praying.

The pay, indeed, was great:  spending time among God’s creation, receiving gifts of the harvest, and tasting new things. How many jobs have fresh blueberries or cherry tomatoes in four different varieties to be taste tested?  And the view from “my office” was spectacular.  The intangible pay came through the lessons that the Lord allowed me to see.

The Harvest in our Hearts

A garden is a perfect picture of our hearts.  How are our hearts prepped for what God wants to plant in them?  Is God’s word written on my heart that I may not sin against Him?  (Psalm 119:11)

How about your heart?  Are there roots of bitterness, anger, hate, jealousy and shame that will take hold like those weeds?  Is it almost impossible to see the plants of the spiritual fruits - - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control because of those weeds?  If so, those plants cannot produce fruits of the spirit because the weeds will overtake them.

Just as I spent many hours weeding rows and rows of tomatoes, peppers, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, watermelons, cantaloupes, onions, garlic - - I must continue to weed out those roots of bitterness, anger, hate, jealousy and shame from my heart.  

God’s word is always reminding me that an exposed root is a dead root.  And, it is very important that I surround myself with others who love God who are willing to hold my heart secure while I am uprooting those ugly weeds.  At times, my husband is that helper, sometimes my biological sisters; however, more often, it is a spiritual sister who is helping me so my heart gets the eternal nourishment it needs.  Then I am able to share my “produce” with others, just as “Garden Lady” shares her beautiful harvest.

One particular day as I picked produce in preparation for the Farmer’s Market, the sun was shining on red, yellow, and purple cherry tomatoes. Each shone with the light of the sun.  Similarly, I can shine with the light of the Son, Jesus, and my fruit will go on to bless others.   John 15:8 says, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

Next time you enjoy a juicy red tomato, a yummy watermelon, or a tart pickle, remember the labor of love that someone gave to keep destructive weeds away from the plant, allowing it to grow strong and produce.

Similarly, remain diligent in exposing the roots of bitterness, anger, hate, jealousy and shame in your heart.  Using the word of God, intentionally pull them out - root and all.  And if a sister needs you to hold her heart secure while those “weeds” are plucked from her heart, agree to be available. You’ll both reap a harvest.

Blog Contributor, Debbie Andrews

Debbie Andrews and her husband, Charlie own and operate a quaint hotel in the small town of Wallace, Nebraska.  Their 4 children chose wonderful mates who have blessed them with 8 fun grandchildren.  Her heart is full of love for the Lord and the family He has given her.  Teaching, scrapbooking, canning and sewing are talents God has given to Debbie to share with others.