I remember my last visit with my Grandma Houseworth as if it were yesterday. It was the end of August and we were sitting in her yard snapping green beans. She had insisted on tea towels in our laps to catch the stems and we shared a bucket on the ground for the broken beans. Her namesake, Mary Caroline, was helping us snap in between playing cowboys with her brothers in the sunshine. The boys loved Grandma’s collection of cap pistols. Six shooters they called them. It was a blessed afternoon. I know that now. At the time, it was just a normal run-of-the-mill afternoon for my eldest four children, their mama and their sweet great – grandma. A week later, on Labor Day evening, when my mother found her peaceful body resting where her spirit had left it when she went to heaven, the memory of that day became much more. It was a gift from a precious God who is not some far away and distant Being but my Father, my Daddy, who loves me in a very personal and precious way.
I learned gardening from my grandma. Both of my grandmothers actually. And in a special way I learned gardening from Clint’s grandma through him. As a young married couple Clint and I shared a love for gardening. On the land of our first home we planted acres of garden. Acres! We tilled and planted and nurtured and harvested and preserved. And sold. We gathered our produce and sold it at local farmer’s markets. It was one of the first building projects we encountered together; laying out the gardens, watching entire fields get washed away in flash floods, debating how and what to water during a dry spell, and figuring costs for our little side business. We didn’t see our garden as a discipling tool at the time but God was using it to teach us skills we would use for years to come navigating career moves, building a house and most importantly raising children. Lots of children.
We have moved many, many times but the one constant has been having and “putting up” a garden or purchasing produce from the farmer’s markets and orchards wherever we were living and preserving it. Our kiddos have worked their little tails off in the process. When we lived in IA, Dalton shucked cornhusks into the creek as a toddler. Later in Lathrop, MO Luke and Mary Caroline literally got green thumbs shelling peas in the living room floor while watching Davey and Goliath and Larry Boy. As they’ve grown and more children have been added I think the oldest ones have been thrilled to delegate the more menial chores to the little ones. In the process, they have been promoted to building tomato cages, sorting tomatoes for different recipes and running the kitchen.
The most important rule of gardening we have all learned the hard way is, “Seasons come and seasons go”. It is literal with gardening! You see, gardening is a season; but within it, each individual fruit or vegetable has its’ own season as well. When the produce is ready, it has to be picked. And once it has been picked or purchased, something has to be done with it. Almost immediately. It doesn’t matter whose birthday it is, whether there’s a baseball game, or if we get invited to go swimming. Juicy ripe strawberries, plump heirloom tomatoes and crisp Jonathon apples will rot a few at a time and ruin everything if they’re not preserved quickly. In addition, if they’re not preserved correctly they will turn bad and possibly make you sick or kill you.
As a young bride, I spent many hours on the phone with both of my grandmothers asking questions about gardening and canning and then listening and writing. Clint spent days and weeks and sometimes months growing up on the same farm as his beloved Grandma Margie and grew very close to her. (Yes, when he married me, the family got a “new” Margie Campbell.) They filled our minds and hearts with a love for growing things. Especially children! It takes a lot of food to feed a family as large as ours and we are eternally grateful that God placed our grandmothers’ love of gardening and canning and children in our hearts long before He placed all of the children at our table!
On a freezing cold February night, a common scene from our home (wherever it may be) is Daddy walking in the door and shutting it quickly to keep out the brutal wind. He shivers as he begins to peel off the heavy gloves, work boots, over coat, coveralls, and hooded sweatshirt with the little girls’ help. He gratefully says, “Mmmmm, what smells so good?” as he takes in the warmth of a home where the stove and oven are both hot. One of his favorite meals is vegetable beef soup with potatoes, tomatoes, corn, green beans, peas, and onions all preserved from the garden. If the girls tell him it’s vegetable soup he’ll ask, “Oh wow. Is there French bread?” And sometimes, depending on the busyness of the day, Mama or Bub or Sissy will have found the time to make Grandma Mary’s beloved loaves. We all crowd around my grandparents old dining room table Walton style and hold hands while Daddy asks the blessing. And then we laugh and tell stories about the day and enjoy the dinnertime routine that was passed down from our grandparents to our parents. And we make the most of the moment. Of the opportunity. Of the season. Afterward, Daddy will grab his phone and read the Scriptures to us and share his thoughts. Then he prays again before he sends us off to the next thing.
Our newest Bible study is available on our website today. It is based on Ephesians 5:15, “Make the most of every opportunity you have for doing good” from our CD Compose New Songs of Praise. God is gracious to give us the gift of time. We all woke up to welcome a new year, 2016. How are you spending the time you have with the children in your life? During the spring of their life it really does matter what you plant. During the summer of their life it matters how you water and tend to what has been planted. When you wake up down the road and the seasons have changed it will be autumn in their lives and winter in yours. What will the harvest be like?
During the last days of my Grandma Houseworth’s life she was still investing in her family; talking to me about raising children, teaching Sissy about green beans, loving my boys by appreciating their rowdiness. It was spring for my children, autumn for me and the deepest part of winter for her. She had planted, tended, harvested and preserved well. Not only in the garden but in her family. We pray with all our hearts that when our winter season arrives it will not be dark and cold but instead feel warm like an evening filled with homemade soup and fresh bread. Eternity is at stake in every choice we make. Choose wisely friends!
P.S. Today is my 39th birthday! Thank you mom and dad for the gift of life and family. We will host a special drawing this week for anyone who comments below. The winner will receive a copy of our cd, our new Bible study, and a $10 gift card to Panera. Whoo – hoo! Thanks for your birthday wishes in advance. 🙂