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Garden Work

garden

Each summer I volunteer some of my time at a local farm, pulling weeds, harvesting vegetables, mulching, filling CSA bags with goodies, whatever needs to be done. And if you’ve spent any time on a farm, you know that there is ALWAYS work to do.

My daughter had heard about this non-profit farm and years ago we visited it to see how we could help, over the years I keep returning. It requires a beautiful drive in the country to get there, and while I’m enjoying the scenery, I usually pray that God will use me at the garden, placing me with someone who needs a listening ear or encouragement, and He never fails to answer. I’ve had some wonderful conversations while working alongside interns, other volunteers and the farm family over the years.

Last week I drove out to the farm on a beautiful day, praying en route that I could be used to minister to whomever needed it most that day. I arrived and heard voices in a remote area of the farm, I followed the voices to find one intern (there are usually several) weeding a large area with a group of mentally challenged adults and a man who led the group. I quickly jumped in and began cleaning out the area alongside, making conversation as we worked. I was delighted to meet this group of young people who were willing to do hard work, and the intern kept complimenting and encouraging them. Before long, the group announced they were leaving the farm as their time was up, and the Intern said she had plenty to do elsewhere, would I be willing to continue weeding the area I had been working? Of course.

I started the lone task and before long became bored and hot. I kept looking around for someone to come and join me but there was no one to be found. This is unheard of, usually there are people all over, looking for ways to help each other. I found myself talking out loud to God: Lord, I feel like I’m missing something, I come here to help and I asked you to provide someone who needed ministering and I’m out here  alon…….oh. Suddenly I realized I was out in His creation, with no phone or distractions, open and available to hear from Him about how best to help someone. I was the one who needed it most that day.

For the next hour, I opened my heart to hear about the places that God wanted to work in me, about the sins I needed to confess and the weak areas that needed to be strengthened. I have often said that I feel closest to God when my hands are in the dirt, and this day was a gift just for me, as I pulled the weeds and dead layers from around leeks, onions and chard, God was doing the same in me. After all that was removed, it looked like not much was left, but what remained was strong and healthy, much like my own heart. I walked away from the area when my work was complete, never seeing another person at the farm that day.

As I was  driving home, I thought about my part in this; I was open and available, without distractions, doing work and asking God to show up. These are all things I should be doing regularly, because God is always willing to do His part. What seemed wrong and out of the norm was exactly what I needed that day. God has surprised me so many times in my life by allowing me to be used by Him in ministering to others in creative ways, and He did all over again. Just for me.

If you’re interested in a local non-profit farm or looking for a place to volunteer, I can certainly vouch for this this one: http://www.keipos.org/

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Come With Me

comeSeveral years ago our oldest daughter read about creating a homeless box, filling a shoe box sized plastic container with items that could help the less fortunate. We packed socks, water bottle, snacks, and hygiene items into containers, placed one in each car and made the agreement that whenever we saw someone in need, we would put any cash we had into the container and share it. Great idea, right? The funny thing was that she went through the trouble of making them up and handing them out to us, and left for college. With no car and no homeless box. So the rest of our family had the job of handing out the boxes and telling her about it later.

This summer our daughter told me about a local farm she had heard about; it’s a sustainable farm run by a couple who allows people to come and tour the place, would I be interested in learning more? We have a small garden each year, and she knows I love to learn about growing new things, so we planned to take a tour. My girl and I ended up spending a morning with the farming couple, helping to harvest the week’s produce for their CSA (community supported agriculture) program, and connecting with them on a deeper level than I would have ever anticipated. At the end of our time together I found myself volunteering to harvest with them on a regular basis. A few days later our daughter left for school, not to return to our state for at least four months.

It’s amusing to me how our girl can draw us in to the very things she is passionate about, then walk away and keep the rest of us in it. Today I look forward to my day each week at the farm, building a relationship with the farm couple and their family and friends and learning so much about how to live on this land better. It has been a good distraction for me as I miss our first born, and feel physically closest to her when I am in the garden. I think God wants us to be enthusiastic about something – anything really, and put our time and energy behind it, find ways to help others with it, recruit friends into it with us and continue growing and changing to become passionate about even more. 

As I was cleaning I noticed a couple of homeless boxes in our laundry room yesterday, I think I will replenish our cars with them, and maybe I will find someone in need on the way to the farm this week!

Want to join me at the farm? http://www.negoods.com/

Lessons in the Garden

greenthumbEvery summer I try my hand at gardening. Some years it’s four tomato plants in the side yard that result only in enough to feed us dinner, and other years it’s a full blown plot of land filled with herbs, peppers, tomatoes, lettuces and squashes. This year we are going big, we rented a garden spot a mile away and now I have a good excuse to walk the dogs each day, to monitor the progress and water and fiddle around, and go back home with satisfied pets. I never know what will result of my time and effort, I don’t make big plans and I am rarely disappointed. Give me a handful of produce that came from my own work and I am quite pleased.

You see, for me it’s all about the growing. I love having my hands in dirt, and feel closest to God when I am planting seeds and plants. As I drop each seed into the little square at the beginning of the season, I am ridiculously optimistic, believing that something big and wonderful will grow from there, and I wonder if God doesn’t feel the same way about each of us? When I place the plants into the tilled land I am reminded of the importance of cultivating our environment, keeping it diverse and fresh. When I show up each day to water I am reminded that good things take time to grow and require patience, and when the water is provided by God so much more growth occurs than when it’s been provided by me. Every single time.  When I am pulling away the parts that are starting to decline, in order to make room for new growth, I am reminded of the importance for us to do the same in our lives even if it looks like there is still some good stuff left. And at the end of the season as I am closing up the garden, this magical place where food has developed from the ground, I am reminded that we all have seasons of growth and rest, and that’s what allows us to continue each year.

If you have the time and inclination, I would be happy to walk you around my little garden, it may not look like much to most people, but to me it’s a pretty special place.

 

Slow Growth

greenthumbThis year I have been growing tomatoes from seed. What this means is that I am experimenting with going from placing a tiny seed in the dirt all the way to pulling a red, ripe tomato off the vine at just the right time. Simple enough, right?  At least, that’s what I thought.

Turns out there’s a good bit of time and patience that goes into making tomatoes. And sunshine and rain. And luck and a lack of bugs.

I’m not sure why, but I love working on something while it grows. The act of placing seeds, then eventually plants, into dirt and watering them daily helps me to feel peaceful.  Searching for any new tomatoes as they start to grow always excites me, way more than even the act of finally picking the fruit and enjoying it. Over time I have noticed that there seems to be many spiritual truths in gardening:

Only with time and daily attention does real growth occur.

Plants wedged deep into the earth with layers of dirt to protect their roots produce more than those planted in shallow soil.

It is important to cut away dead areas because the plant will send all its resources to the weakest place in an effort to keep it going, and sometimes this pruning can mean cutting out something that still appears to be beautiful and life-giving.

No matter how well I water them, all my plants seem to do better when God sends a good soaking from the sky.

Practical application? For me, these guys remind me that I need to spend time in God’s word daily to experience real growth and depth, which is important when the winds come. I need to be noticing how I spend my time, and cut out anything that is not leading to growth in me or in others, and I should always be grateful for the good gifts that God gives me, so much better than what I can provide for myself.

Happy gardening to you all!

Optimistic

greenthumbLast year I started my tomato plants from seed. It was this time of year but much sunnier and warmer than now, and I was very optimistic. I placed a lot of seeds into those little squares of dirt and willed them to grow. I cheered them on as they broke through the soil and stretched themselves out. I followed all the directions, this was my first time to plant from seed, and eventually placed them into the garden and watered them faithfully.

Not much happened.

I think we ended up with about twelve tomatoes at the table that came from seed. We had plenty of tomatoes last year, but only because I also planted full plants that someone else had started, and those were more successful. Maybe I’m not cut out to garden this way.

And yet, yesterday I found myself carefully placing tiny seeds into those little squares of dirt all over again. I’m already looking for signs of change and can’t wait to see the first bit of green. Sometimes I can be ridiculously optimistic.

I wonder if God is the same way with you and me. He went to a lot of trouble to create this place and these people. So much care was given to set apart His chosen people, but most didn’t appreciate it. He sent his son to pay for our sins, and we didn’t deserve it. He knew that I would disappoint Him and not represent Him well, but he made me anyway.

I’m so thankful our God is ridiculously optimistic about His garden.

The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:11

Why Do I Bother?

greenthumbThis year I have been growing tomatoes from seed. What this means is that I am experimenting with going from placing a tiny seed in the dirt all the way to pulling a red, ripe tomato off the vine at just the right time. Simple enough, right?  At least, that’s what I thought.

Turns out there’s a good bit of time and patience that goes into making tomatoes. And sunshine and rain. And luck and a lack of bugs.

I’m not sure why, but I love working on something while it grows. The act of placing seeds, then eventually plants, into dirt and watering them daily helps me to feel peaceful.  Searching for any new tomatoes as they start to grow always excites me, way more than even the act of finally picking the fruit and enjoying it. Over time I have noticed that there seems to be many spiritual truths in gardening:

Only with time and daily attention does real growth occur.

Plants wedged deep into the earth with layers of dirt to protect their roots produce more than those planted in shallow soil.

It is important to cut away dead areas because the plant will send all its resources to the weakest place in an effort to keep it going, and sometimes this pruning can mean cutting out something that still appears to be beautiful and life-giving.

No matter how well I water them, all my plants seem to do better when God sends a good soaking from the sky.

Practical application? For me, these guys remind me that I need to spend time in God’s word daily to experience real growth and depth, which is important when the winds come. I need to be noticing how I spend my time, and cut out anything that is not leading to growth in me or in others, and I should always be grateful for the good gifts that God gives me, so much better than what I can provide for myself.

Happy gardening to you all!

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