The Corn Stalk

Tales from my garden abound! The harvest is good, both with fruit and vegetables and with valuable life lessons! The season is winding down and I’m canning my little heart out. The weeds are starting to creep in and my perfect dirt is starting to show signs of an unkept garden. But the truth is, at this point, harvesting is more important than weeding so the fruit does not go to waste. I hate how it looks, but I love the bounty I drag in each day. 
I’m exhausted, but the canning process is full-on! It’s a frantic feeling trying to get it all done before a sudden cold night changes it all. From spaghetti sauce to salsa to plain old tomatoes, from peaches to apple sauce and pear butter, from pickles to sauerkraut, every day is overwhelming. I’ve never run out of jars before but today I had to go buy more jars to accommodate. The kitchen has never been in such constant disarray. But each time I stand over the stove filling my jars I am taken back to my childhood.  

Every year my grandparents would can our family’s favorite chili sauce. We put this slow cooked sauce over meatloaf and ring Bologna and meatballs or on my grandma’s lost recipe of yummy lamb patties. My grandpa would grind the onions and peppers with the hand grinder and I’d listen to it “swish, whir, swish, whir” till it was ground enough to add to the brown sugar and apple cider vinegar, sweet and sour goodness. I think of my uncle’s frozen applesauce and how much I liked it over the jarred sauce. Harvest time brings back so many great memories for me. And even though the process is hard, I love the year-long goodness it provides. Long after the garden is covered by snow, the fruit of the ground will bless our family!  

Just before the snow flies, we will turn under all the stems and foliage, the leftover unripened fruit and even the weeds, tilling it under to nourish the ground for years to come. One of the unripened fruits this year will include a lone corn stalk in the middle of my garden. I didn’t plant corn. I wanted to but ran out of space. It’s beautiful really. Tall. Green. Sturdy. But it won’t be ripe before the frost and it is the only stalk. At first I wondered where it came from. And then I realized that the ground corn I feed the chickens must’ve had a single unground kernel spread to the garden…but just one seed. We all marveled when we saw it. We’d never grown corn. It obviously doesn’t belong there. The lone stalk between the pickling cukes and the watermelons. We could call it “God’s plan” and pretend “it was mean to be!” But it isn’t. It’ll never produce fruit in time, and one or two ears would never serve the purpose of feeding our family anyway. 

Sometimes we are just like that stalk of corn. We are someplace we were never supposed to be. We walked in a direction in life that we wanted to go and then called it God’s plan. But it doesn’t produce fruit and it would not meet anyone in a way to make a difference. It’s the very reason we need to follow ONLY after Jesus and let Him do the directing in our lives. He won’t send us where we can’t make a difference. He never calls us to nothing, which is exactly what my lone stalk of corn will accomplish all by itself this late in the season. Following Jesus with every part of our being will always land us where we produce fruit.  

There’s nowhere you NEED to go in life, (emotionally, monetarily, physically, spiritually), that you won’t get to by following God’s plan for your life. Just follow Him and you’ll end up every place you’re supposed to be, exactly when you’re supposed to be there. If you find yourself in the middle of the wrong field, maybe you didn’t NEED to be there in the first place!  

If you’re in the wrong field, get out! Plant yourself in the knowledge and will of Jesus Christ where you can produce some fruit! In the wrong field, you might be wasting an entire season and the harvest, which needs to be picked quickly before the frost, will be left, wasted on the ground. In the wrong field, you might have planted a seed in vain. 

Pray, seek, and listen your way to the field God wants you in. Produce some fruit! 

Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

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Tomatoes!

I love gardening. I love hoeing in the dirt so everything is in tidy, picture-perfect rows. I stand and admire the fluffy weedless dirt around the growing plants and declare it good. This year I spent a ton of time really working it. The plants were lush and green. During one week in June, my tomatoes had grown tremendously and I marveled at these amazing green bushes. I had to add stakes for support they grew so big. The number of tomatoes on the bushes was fantastic. And then, seemingly overnight, they over-grew. I could no longer even walk between them. They were up to my chest and bigger around than my arms could encircle. One night a wind driven storm pushed them in one direction with their heavy stalks and fruit. I struggled to get them all back upright without breaking them from their own weight. I suddenly realized my pride in their size was misplaced. An “expert” reminded me, “don’t grow foliage, grow fruit.” So much energy had gone into these massive bushes, can you imagine how much better if it went just into the fruit? And so the pruning began. I snipped and clipped till much of the green pretty stuff was gone and what was left didn’t look that gorgeous. In fact, it might seem kind of ugly. I made big piles of unwanted foliage. But the fruit was unburied, and the sun could now get in to ripen them. In days, the tomatoes got bigger and more plentiful, even though the garden itself wasn’t as pretty. Every day now I bring in half a bushel of goodness and put it away for winter. I liked the way it looked before a lot better. I like my life that way too. Neat and pretty, everything presentable. The peacemaker in me loves order and kindness and goodness, beautiful and full. How easy it is for me to forget that pruning isn’t always pretty. That sometimes I have to let the pruning happen, in spite of how it looks, in spite of how It makes me feel. I’m not good at that. I want the world to get along, feel and look good. I like to order how the leaves fall, instead of looking at a heap that comes from pruning. Today, I am reminded that God wants me to grow fruit and not foliage in my home, in my kids, in my marriage, in my ministries. Big and lush and green may be pretty, but strong, and sturdy and fruitful is better. It’s stalky, lenky, and more bare than I like. But the fruit is bigger and more abundant. Putting peace and order before straight-up Godliness can come at the cost of the fruit that pruning produces. The peace will come not from how it all looks or feels, but as a result of being bare before God, letting the light shine in on our deeds and motives, being fruitful, if even a gawky looking,  “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2
The pruning is good, if not a little ugly, and even if I don’t like how it feels. But the fruit…..