By Katie Mulder: Texan by birth, Michigander by marriage, farmer by Divine humor.
My counters are covered in tomatoes. Tomato skins, tomato juice, tomato seeds. I’ve grown these fruits myself, though I claim no credit other than putting them in the ground. They survived 50° temperature swings, children driving over them with wagons, and even a few stealth chicken sieges… and they did it all on their own. They are a brilliant red now… the sign that says it’s time for harvest. I am less than thrilled to bring the beauties inside.
I remember this from last year and the year before that… I don’t enjoy the harvest. I’m always so excited to start, and every year I’m disappointed by the reality of so much effort for so little gain. Thirty pounds of tomatoes barely fills five jars once blanched and cored and squeezed. The counters are sticky. There’s a pot for the lids, a pan for the jars, a kettle for the hot water bath, a funnel, three spatulas, three cutting boards, four bowls holding tomatoes in various stages of processing, and zero clear counter space. My family won’t even see these tomatoes being used… they’ll just slide into the next soup, the next stew, the next sauce without ceremony. I’m not saving money, I’m making a huge mess, and my kitchen is hot and dangerous. Have you seen me wield a knife? It’s not pretty.
Thank goodness the Father does not cast me aside so easily.
My praise is often in silence… who heard me worship Him today?
My effort is haphazard… starting and stopping without warning.
My joy is conditional, my fruit a poor bounty.
And, yet, He loves me. He favors me. He plants with precision. So much effort for so little gain, but He celebrates every inch of growth.
The seasons are changing here on the farm. You can hear fall easing in. A leaf lost off the front tree, a darker dinner, an ever-so-slight chill to the evening once the sun is gone. God was so subtle, so brilliant, to work through a garden and the changing seasons to teach us about life! As we approach fall, the lesson is preparation. Winter, with its required rest and reflection, is coming. Now is the time to stock the shelves and ready ourselves for quieter months. A physical harvest is more than a subtle metaphor… it’s hands-on learning in the disciplines of patience and preparedness.
I am a terrible student of preparation. I love the stress and fire that comes with working at the midnight hour. But autumn is a gentle reminder that effort is necessary in order to be able to survive, even enjoy, the approaching cold. I will appreciate the simple tomato stock ready on my shelves… a reminder of warmer days past and to come. Those jars will be used sparingly and with great pride, thanks to the physical effort it took to reap such a small harvest.
May it be a reminder to all of us to begin storing away… prayers and letters and time and joy… for the colder months ahead. Make the effort, take the time – whatever the mess – to prepare for the coming season. He will bless your time, and multiply your harvest.
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.