Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Our Harvest

This summer we planted a garden. Our first attempt at growing something. The planting was hap-hazard and late, but we figured it was worth trying. 

My sister gave us handfuls of seeds, bags for each of the kids to plant. Which I dutifully kept in plain sight on a pantry shelf. But it wasn't until the end of June that I finally dropped the expectation of soft, tilled dirt. Of fertilizer and a fully-cleared plot. 

Ivy grew rampant over old stumps. Weeds were thriving. The ground needed nutrients and a good turning. But we had these seeds, all this kinetic potential stagnating in ziploc bags. So I gathered the kids and said, Get your gloves! We're planting a garden! 

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I didn't expect much, didn't do much. Hoed out the weeds and shallowly turned the soil, just enough to loosen the ground.

Then dozens of little fingers grabbed seeds and pressed them into random holes. I tried to direct the traffic, make sure they weren't too close, tried to remember what seeds were dropping where. But before I knew it, they were all in and covered.

Within a week tiny shoots of green came up. Not weeds. They were thicker, with deliberate, oval-shaped leaves. So we pulled out the tiny weeds crowding their space, watered diligently, and tended to our small plot Eliza had enclosed with rocks. Each stone the size of a football.

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A month later, those little sprouts took over the entire backyard garden. We adjusted our stone fence again and again, pushed it back further and further, until it was no longer needed.

Pumpkin, gourd, watermelon, and cucumber vines. All of them stretched their tendrils down the length of our lawn, over the top of each other, and in and out of the ivy. One pumpkin vine even climbed up the red leaf and onto the other side of the wall.

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It was utterly fascinating. For all of us. Those seeds had become leaves the size of serving platters that stood taller than the boys. The kids would peer into the canopied garden, lift those scratchy, velcro-like leaves to see what was growing.

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We noticed the pumpkins first.

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Then one night Doug came into the kitchen while I was scrubbing dishes to announce, Did you know there are cucumbers out there? 

Really!? we all chimed together, and out went the girls with a lantern to see what they could see.

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Sure enough there were eight cucumbers of perfect size, ready to be brought in. For the rest of the summer, we didn't buy a single cucumber. We ate from our garden, and they were the best we'd ever had.

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In September, the peaches began to ripen. I had thinned the tree in an effort to keep certain branches from breaking, but despite the attempt, we lost two significant branches and a number of peaches.

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When they were ready to pick the boys helped me fill two bowls. That was our yield. But we were able to make three peach cobblers, and they were delicious!

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Then finally... finally, the pumpkins were ready to be cut.

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Hoops and Yoyo, my side-kicks at home, pitched in again. Wielded the big clippers. They snipped stems and hauled the pumpkins out of the dying vines.

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Seven gorgeous Cinderella pumpkins. A family of sorts. Just like ours. Grown out of infertile soil, unexpected. Prolific in their small space.

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Gordon sprayed off the dirt.

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And this pumpkin, he called, the candy corn pumpkin. All those tangled vines made for less sunlight in certain areas and some interesting color.

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Then the boys tried to help me carry the pumpkins. We needed a wagon. They slipped and teetered, and rolled away. A comedy of errors with every pumpkin. But eventually we got them to the front porch.

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When Eliza came home, she tackled the gourds. A few dozen of them. She clipped and filled baskets. Then carried them up. 

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After losing a few out of the tilting basket, she came back for the extras and tucked them into the apron of her shirt.

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Every bit of harvest offering on our font porch this year was grown in our back yard! And the satisfaction of it, of growing something like this, was surprising to me. I had no idea how exciting it would be, how rewarding, how deeply this journey from seed to fruit would represent life.

So why tell you all this? Why document the story of our first garden? Of this late, imperfect planting into hardened ground.

Because it is the story of how God tends to us, how he works with our tiny plots of spoiled earth. 

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When something as large as God touches our life, we are changed. When we leave the growing to him and turn over the cold, hard pieces of our existence, the ones we don't know what to do with, the ones we keep neglecting or grappling with. When we bend ourselves to the work with him, pray over those pieces and let go of the self-absorbed idea we can do it alone, that's when he steps in and makes our garden flourish.

All this abundance, when I thought initially there might be nothing. It was overwhelming. 

We have to believe something good will come out of the ground. Even when we come late to the planting. We have to believe he can take the most trying of circumstances and make them fruitful, worthwhile. He promises all things will work for our good. The eternal laws of Christ's atonement, his healing, his ability to grow beauty where we can't foresee it is miraculous. It is God's way.

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When I look at our harvest, I think how merciful God is with me. How much he blesses my imperfect efforts. How he helps me reap more than I sow. More than I deserve. 

"Yea, [we] shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; neither shall [we] be harrowed up by the whirlwinds... behold, [we] are in the hands of the Lord of harvest, and [we] are his." (Alma 26:6-7)

The winner of the Audio Book is "The Gearys." Monica, send me an email and I'll respond with directions on how to download the book. Congrats! xo


  1. I love this post! Not only can I relate to growing a garden and being in awe of what grew, despite my skill and effort, but I hope that the Lord will make up where I fall short and hep me to create a beautiful harvest. Because heaven knows I need all the help I can get! I love your perspective...it is so refreshing! XO

  2. cheryl - you're a dear to comment. thanks for reading.

    deb - you are the reason i can write this post. you are the giver of so many good gifts in my life, including this garden. thanks for passing along the seeds. your example of faith and commitment to god in the face of great opposition amazes me. he loves you and i have no doubt your harvest will be more than you hoped for. i love you too! xo

  3. Gorgeous writing, Cath, it touched me. I've been trying to keep alive a tiny little parsley plant after my move, but I keep forgetting about it and it's all neglected and wimpy on my kitchen sink. It doesn't make me a failure, but - oh the ground is hard and dry sometimes.

    Thank you for the wonder and gratitude in this post, and the reminder I am in the Lord's harvest, too. <3 you!

    1. Oh Kel, you could never be a failure. You are absolutely one of those for whom the Lord's harvest will be abundant and overflowing. Eyes have not seen, nor hear heard, how great things the Lord has for them that love him. That is you. Devoted, durable, and claimed by Him. Been thinking of you and praying for you in recent days. Email me so I know if you're well. xo

  4. Beautifully written. I was especially touched by the analogy of the seven pumpkins that grew in "infertile" soil. I am going through IVF right now (just did my shots before reading this post!), so that really touched me. You're so right that God always gives us "beauty for ashes." Thank you for the reminder!

    1. Rachel, my heart leapt out to you when I read your comment. Hoping IVF is successful for you. The analogy of growing a garden for those who struggle with infertility is tangible. We know the surprise of it working, as well as the disappointment of following all the laws to the letter and having it not work. Ah. No matter what happens, I trust your life is in God's hands. And He will make it beautiful, abundant, and blessed. Sending love your way.

  5. I love this, Catherine! Beautiful on every level and pure truth. Thank you. Wishing you every blessing during your IVF round, Rachel. One of the greatest I received through our two tries was a faith in God like nothing I had ever experienced before.


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