Make the Most of Every Opportunity

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!

With gratitude,

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. 🙂

18 Responses to Make the Most of Every Opportunity
  1. Thanks for the encouraging thoughts! Happy birthday Margie.

    • The Campbell Crew says:

      You are welcome and thank you! It’s been a great birthday…even cleaning up toddler poo in a restaurant high chair!!

  2. Happy Birthday Margie! Loved reading your blog and loved feeling your contentment with life and family! I love having a big family. Your memories made me think of my grandma, who also taught me so much!

    • The Campbell Crew says:

      Cooking, baking, gardening, sewing, quilting, crafting, child-rearing, upholstery refurbishing or just plain ole common sense? Just curious…did those ALL come from your grandma? I bet it was accounting! You are more capable than anyone I know. 😊 I left out refinishing woodwork and restoring antiques. I think your grandkids will be able to say the same about their grandma.

  3. Rita Dowling says:

    Thanks for the memories of my mom and her garden. She would get home from working in the factory and tend the garden. I don’t know how she did that. But I know we never went hungry. While I helped in the garden as a child, I’ve never had the joy of having my own garden. It’s awesome that your kids are learning those skills. It’s also great they are learning to eat well and appreciating where their food comes from.
    Blessings to all,
    Aunt Rita

    • The Campbell Crew says:

      Time to think about some container gardening at the new house for this new baby GRANDMA!! Congratulations! Grandma Margie would love all of these babies. She was an amazing woman.

  4. Karen Quinn says:

    Happy Birthday Margie!
    Thank you for the encourageing words. It was so well written that it brought tears to my eyes. I could hardly read it out loud to Rob. It brought back sweet memories of our Grandmothers. That’s where I learned so much too!
    It also was affirmation for the devotional I will present next week at Pleasant Valley to MOP’s . It’s also about enjoying every precious moment with our kiddos because it could be the very last time & you won’t even know it , until it never happens again. Yes I’m still working with young Moms. Thank you for the start, I’ve loved this ministry, & our Jenny is also serving as a table leader.
    We miss you all & cherish the memories we made with your family.
    Love you!

    • The Campbell Crew says:

      Hello Karen!! Thank you so much for the sweet note and the beautiful Christmas card. We all got a kick out of your Branson photo. So cute! The church we attend here in PA started a MOPS group in 2015 and it has been a huge blessing. I think God laid it on all our hearts so many years ago because the nursery of our nation is the future of our country…and it’s in the hands of these sweet, young mamas. Many prayers this month as you prepare to speak to Jenny’s group. Hugs!!

  5. Missie Harville says:

    These words of “seasons” are such an impact and words from God during this time reflection. I am trying so hard to focus on God’s encouragement in Psalm 138:3…and then like magic (God’s handiwork, of course) your email arrives…or should i say i actually checked my inbox this morning after devotion… thank you from the depths of my heart is all I’m able to say for now through pouring tears! Love y’all and miss everyone dearly.

    • The Campbell Crew says:

      We love and miss you all too, Miss! I went through pictures this week (literally thousands) on the laptop organizing and deleting and backing them up. It was nostalgic to see how young the kids were. One of my favs was Maddie and Sissy dressed up for the American Girl party at the library in Vicksburg, MI. So sweet!

  6. Zabka Clan says:

    How exciting! We are so blessed to have you as friends and I wish we were closer. Prayers from MO! AS well as a Happy Birthday Margie!

    • The Campbell Crew says:

      Thank you! We miss you all too and appreciate the prayers. We loved your Christmas card and we’re wondering last night if the new baby was a boy or a girl. Praying for good health!

  7. Dennis and Verna Murphy says:

    So glad I found this site. Your blog rushed back a flood of memories of my mother and my grandmother. Their teachings of life and gardening remain with me still today.

    We miss you guys so much. Hope your birthday was fabulous, Margie. I also hope Clint’s was joyful as well.

    Love you all. Many blessings in 2016.

    • The Campbell Crew says:

      Thank you! We did enjoy our birthdays. I read through my journal some last night and there were some entries when Grandma Lucille was living with you and sick. It made me think of all the conversations we had with Michael about canning and what he learned from her. It looks like you had a great time in FL being Grandma! Trip of a lifetime. Glad you’re home safe. Miss you all too.

  8. Chasity Ferguson says:

    Thank you for this post! It was so nice to read and a great reminder of the influence we have on others, especially the little ones we are raising. Love you all!

    • The Campbell Crew says:

      Thanks, Chas! I hope you had a nice Christmas with your Grandma and all your littles. Our New Year’s Eve didn’t have any exploding cakes. The Ferg’s were missed!

  9. Oh how I miss you, sweet friend! I can’t type very well through my tears. I have so many wonderful memories of being with you in your gardens or picking apples and making pies. My girls, especially Elizabeth, always wants to have a garden. It makes me sad that many of the places we have lived that is not an option. Thank you for encouraging me to make the most of the seasons with my kids. It is going way to quickly!! I am praying you and your family have a blessed new year. Love, Val

    • The Campbell Crew says:

      Thank you for all the memories! We did have fun, didn’t we? Whether going to Waverly to get apples or trying to keep track of little in between corn stalks we were ALWAYS busy. We think of and pray for the Colliers often. Traveling is hard but has its own joys. Thank you for your service as a military family. Love and miss you all!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *