One of my favorite summer memories as a child is a tradition of sorts. Upon arriving at my grandparents, we would be ushered into my grandfather’s vegetable garden to see the progress of all his hard work. He planted lots of things, including carrots just so he could watch my brother and I pluck the little suckers out of the ground. But, to the best of my memory he always sowed green beans, radishes and, my personal favorite, TOMATOES.
With or without a salt shaker in hand, I still love taking a plump, red-ripe tomato off the vine and biting into it like an apple. No store-bought specimen can compare to a home-grown, juicy and sun-warmed tomato.
Over my adult years, I have planted my own vines from time to time. Some years the planting season is just too over committed with things that are of higher priority – recitals, end-of-school awards ceremonies, soccer games, etc. During those years I would beg some beauties off of friends or try to stock up at our local farmers’ market, but it isn’t the same when you don’t put in the work to have your own. Somehow the taste is different, not quite as yummy.
This year, with all those good activities either postponed or cancelled, I had the time to plant my tomato garden. Three plants, along with a jalapeño pepper, were planted one morning during quarantine. Now, in mid-July, I have three HUGE plants being held up by tomato cages and boasting too many green gems to easily count.
I am so excited. I can hardly wait…
My Father-in-love always planted his vines with the hope of a harvest by the 4th. That was in the back of my mind as the holiday came, thinking maybe I could sink my teeth into MY first fruit in celebration of our nation’s independence. Alas, the holiday went and another week or so and I am still waiting.
My vines are healthier and happier this year than any other year I’ve grown my own tomatoes. Perhaps due to the additional sunlight they are soaking up. An early spring storm took out a tree that really opened up my garden to the afternoon sun. Maybe, because of all my “extra” time this season, it is due to the consistent feeding of fertilizer that I have been able to apply. It could be from the good amount of rain our Lord sent this way this spring too. Or it is most likely a combination of all these things.
As I have watched my beauties grow, I have dreamt about homemade salsas and sauces. I have thought about frying some green guys and wondered if this was the year that I would consider canning or freezing a few. I have wondered when I might see the first hints of orange start to creep over their flesh to let me know that my watching, thinking, wondering and waiting was almost over.
After reading a friend’s Instagram post this morning, I realized that God probably had a lesson or so for me to learn from my little tomato garden.
As I let the dogs out the back door this morning to do their morning business, I surveyed our yard and began to pray as the sun was slowly rising over the neighbors’ rooftops. I thanked Him that His mercies were new like this day. I acknowledged that He was sovereign, reigning and ruling over all I could see and all I could not. Then my gaze fell to my tomatoes…
Those vines are not the only things I find myself watching over, thinking about, wondering how and waiting for. Yet, just as I am powerless to speed up the ripening of my tomatoes, I am also just as helpless to speed up the resolution of any other circumstance I am facing.
What is happening in the world is bigger than what is happening in my life. Everyone has issues and others are struggling more than me. It is an election year and there seems to be so much at stake. However, my God is the One over all of it. He is doing things I cannot see or even begin to comprehend if I could. I may be weak and powerless, but He is strong and powerful. He is active, carrying out and completing His plan.
I may be the one watering, weeding and tending to these plants, but God is the One who has brought about all the growth. He has provided my means and abilities to cultivate growth, yet He is the source of life that has grown each stem and produced each bloom and developed each ripening fruit. I can look at the way each plant has grown and can see where God has been working to bring about fruit in His time.
As I look at my ministry at work, at church and at home, I have to acknowledge that God is the One in charge and in control over it all. I may think I am the one carrying the load, but when I am honest, on my best days He is the One directing my steps and producing fruit. Every aspect of my life, when surrendered to His capable hands, is where it needs to be. He is doing what He is doing – and not only is what He is doing good, it is the best.
He sent the storm that knocked down the tree, that has provided the additional afternoon sunlight. He provided for the garden before I knew I would plant it. He is protecting the young plants from our populous, domesticated deer herds. (These guys roam the neighborhood like gangs in the cities!) He is actively taking care of it in ways I cannot. He knows the exact number of tomatoes that these three vines will yield. He will be the one to ultimately bring forth the harvest, completing the purpose of the work He began.
Knowing that God is before and in ALL things, I can wait in peace. I am assured that through Christ that my salvation is secure and my destination is determined. In “My Present Tense,” I can use this time to spiritually grow with fully knowing that God is intentionally using these “storms” to aid in my development. And, my faith is sure in the eternity that I hope for. I am certain that God will finish what He has begun on this earth and with me.
I will most likely eat all the tomatoes out of my little garden, before this season of COVID is over. The waiting for things in this world to resolve and for us to see how it’s going to be, most likely will require more time to pass than the life span of my three vines. But during this time, I will remain on the Vine allowing the Master to prune and preen, feed and fertilize, coddle and coax to bring about the good He has promised me.
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