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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Squashed!

Entry written in July 2008

I am, as Kert lovingly calls me, a “country bumpkin.” I grew up on a farm in beautiful, small town east Texas where my parents still reside. A forest of tall, green pine trees flanks the left side of our house. We (my brother, sister, and I) spent hours playing house, cops and robbers, and hide ‘n seek in those “woods”. Surrounding the rest of the house are acres and acres of pasture, which my family (aka my dad) cultivated to bale and sell hay to the local dairymen. We have a large front yard with a slight grade to it. We spent many cool evenings spinning in circles as fast as we could and then running down the slope in a “straight” line. We also enjoyed seeing how many lightning bugs we could capture in a jar and inevitably murdering as we attempted to take their lights.

We also had a BIG backyard. My mom always had the biggest, most beautiful blue hydrangeas lining the back of the house. In addition to that, she had flowerbeds of rose bushes of every color blooming around the patio. Stepping off the patio to the left was where my dad designed and built the most amazing fort in the world! It stood about 12 feet tall. It had a big, railed platform up high, a sandbox underneath, complete with 2 swings and a steep slide. Oh the days of playing restaurant up there or cops and robbers with a shootout. I broke my arm trying to run down the slide; my mom broke her tailbone sliding down the slide; and I’m sure we had cats sacrificed off the side of the slide (good thing they could land on their feet!). Across from the good ol’ “fort” was our thriving pecan tree with the wooden bench swing underneath. My parents used a good amount of time talkin’ under that tree.

All of these memories are special and fun to recall. However, right now the recollection that means so much to me begins just past the pecan tree with the swing, past the two clothes lines filled with dangling towels and clean underwear, and through the shade of the two sweet-gum trees. I am talking about our garden. We always had a garden. I can’t remember not having a garden. My grandparents also always had a garden. With Daddy tilling the sandy east Texas soil to create rows, Momma giving us kids the seeds and the plan, and us kids dropping the seeds into the ground, the garden continuously brought our family into close quarters of hard work. We would all wait with great anticipation for the first fruits of our labor to appear. I remember anxiously watching the tomato plants. I would see a small green raisin-of-a-tomato pop up and I absolutely could not wait for it to have a hiiiiint of red so that I had an excuse to pick one! I also remember feeling like a grown-up when I was entrusted with a knife to cut okra off the stem. I recall memories of my brother, sister, and I picking good ol’ Kentucky Wonder green beans, delicious cucumbers, peas (and tons more!). I remember digging up potatoes (what a surprise!) and I remember running over tall rows of corn with our recreation vehicle (a golf-cart—ha!) because we wanted to drive “blind”. But I also have memories of sitting in lawn chairs with my family, grandparents, aunts, and uncles shelling purple-hull peas, beans, and shucking corn. I loved hulling purple hulls because my fingers would turn purple, and for some reason I enjoyed pulling all the little hairs out of the corn. While the kiddos did those tedious tasks, the women usually were cleaning, cooking, bagging, and also canning the goodies, and the men were—hmmm....doing something! I think they were helping us kids. Talk about a sweet time. We always had literally freezers full of vegetables, and we were generous in giving to our friends and neighbors.

All that to say, I love having a garden. There is something nostalgic about it. On top of the nostalgia, though, is the ability to provide our own food and use it to provide for our neighbors. Kert and I knew we wanted to plant a small garden at our house. As a result, last year I had composted all year long to build up some good fertilizer/soil to spread in the garden. Boy was I totally bewildered when it came time to till up the soil. It was almost solid rock and clay!!!! I had never seen dirt like this before. I grew up with sandy soil! It was heart-wrenching! I seriously thought, “There is no way anything good will come of this God-forsaken dirt!” Yet Kert and I did not give up. I did some research and off we went. We dumped and tilled bags of sand into our garden to break it up and then we tilled in our rich, sweet smellin’ compost. Once Kert got our rows into place, we began planting. As we planted, Kert and I prayed our hearts out that the Lord would use the garden to establish relationships with the neighbors around us. It was definitely going to be the Lord to make anything grow in that dirt and we wanted to use it for Him! Well, that garden was A-mazing! We had mostly squash and zucchini coming out of our eyeballs! I made an incalculable amount of zucchini bread and handed that off. We literally gave vegetables to our neighbors every week. With the Lord’s help, in Kert’s words, we “hooked them up fat” with vegetables. We made great connections with our neighbors and other people in our neighborhood. Hallelujah! That was this time last year.

Well, March 2008 came along and we began planning our garden for this year. We had some fairly good compost and we were ready to go. We planted our garden in early April (a hair later than we had hoped) and again prayed that the Lord would bless it so that we could again use it to bless our neighbors. Everything was growing well until I guess 2 or 3 weeks ago. All of sudden everything started getting droopy. Our natural response was to water everything more; however, that didn’t make a difference. I noticed a family of ants moved in around our corn and were partaking in its sweetness and then I noticed a few bugs around our squash. One other thing that is of note: we have tons of okra. Kert and I don’t like okra. We planted one row, which we call “Richardson row” because Tim and Kara like okra. For some reason, we have okra plants popping up EVERYWHERE!!!! We planted eggplant—no eggplants.....okra has overtaken that row. We planted some herbs on one row—no herbs......okra has overtaken that row. We planted cucumbers—3 cuke plants.....and the rest—you guessed it! MORE OKRA!!!

So that has baffled us and bummed us! Sorry back to the story.....
A few weeks ago we started having drooping issues with our squash. As I mentioned earlier, I noticed a few bugs crawling on its stems. No big deal, just a couple of bugs. We sprayed some safe pest control on them one time. Let me tell you.....those bugs have greatly and quickly multiplied. This morning I went out to the garden to water and was heartbroken to find that the oval-shaped creepy, crawly bugs had overtaken our squash and zucchini plants. They are everywhere and have literally sucked the life from the plants. My spirit was absolutely crushed. Why did these bug-invested plants hit me so hard? I am serious when I say that my spirit was greatly troubled all morning by this experience. As a result of the way I was feeling, I pursued the Lord in His Word. What I heard the Lord saying was that I was that squash plant. There were just a couple of pests in the beginning—no big deal. I just let them go. Yet in no time, their number became great and the life of the plant began to dissipate. In the same way, I have had a couple of “small” sins pop up—no big deal. I just let them go. But in no time at all, I look at the mirror of my heart and I see aggravation, apathy, hardness of heart, and many other ridiculous sins staring back at me. Yes I sprayed them a little with the sin control (God’s Word), but I did not regularly meet with the Lord to keep the pest of sin under control.

So now the plant is dead.....

What is next for the consumed squash plants in my garden? I have to pull them out of the ground and throw them in the trash. Since squash is still in season and has a couple more months of growth left, I can start over. After I dispose of the dead squash plants and treat the soil, I still have enough of the season left to plant new seed and grow more squash.
What does that explain about me? Because I am afflicted with sin, am I ripped out and tossed away? By no means! I praise God for my living, loving Savior Jesus Christ, who has set me free from sin and death (Romans 8). Because of Jesus, I am a new creation, a new plant. I was once overtaken by sin and destined for death, but Jesus stepped in and took my sin and shame; he tossed out the bugs. And the Lord planted a new seed, I became a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). I could totally have been given over to my evil desires, but I have Jesus (Eph. 4:17-24). I must put off—throw away my old self and put on my new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

I also cannot neglect the gentle reminder that John provides me in John 15 where Jesus says,

“ I (Jesus) am the vine and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

Oh Lord, may my heart be softened to seek, listen, and abide in You. Protect me; prune me. May I consistently cultivate a heart that produces good fruit that is a sweet aroma to You!

1 comments:

Katharine E. said...

I don't remember which one of us was driving the golf cart that day...but I do remember us panicking trying to get the corn to stand up again. haha. Oh the good ol days. lol.