I probably will have to turn in my Kansas farm wife title, but here's a confession: I'm not much of a gardener. I am an indoor girl and always have been.
While my little sister had a worm collection, I had a collection of Trixie Belden mysteries. Give me a choice between curling up with a good book and getting covered with sweat and dirt? I'll choose the book every time.
But that's not to say I don't love fresh garden produce. There is nothing like fresh tomatoes lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper ... unless it's the perfectly ripened cantaloupe ... or a raw cucumber sliced into a sweetened vinegar mixture. It's the very taste of summertime! Is your mouth watering yet?
Yes, I love the garden produce. I just don't want to do the work.
Isn't that true of most everything in life? I want to lose a few pounds, but I'd sure like to be able to do it without giving up anything I love to eat or adding something different to my hour-a-day exercise routine.
I want to declutter my house, but I can't ever seem to move it off the TO-do list and actually DO it. (Check out Suzanne's blog Home Matters here on the Vine Press. She has lots of practical advice for doing this. Just click on the red words, and it will take you right there - after you're reading this, of course!!)
I want closer friendships. But do I call someone up and invite them over for coffee or supper? Do I make a date to go for an out-of-town window shopping excursion? Or do I instead log into Facebook or send someone an email? There's nothing wrong with cyberspace friendships, and it's been a great way to reconnect with people. But do those "relationships" take the place of true, face-to-face connections?
I say I want to grow in my Christian walk. I want to be a "lovely branch of righteousness." But do I really invest the time I should? Do I do more than read my daily email devotional? Do I commit time and effort to Bible study? Do I spend time in prayer? When I say I'll pray for someone, do I do more than just "throw" a prayer upwards and call it good?
Just like gardening, all these things require work. They require an investment of time and effort. They may require us to get a little sweaty and dirty.
"Their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law, they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper." Psalm 1: 2-3
It takes time, commitment and "weeding" for our garden to grow, whether we're talking about a summertime plot in the backyard, housekeeping, a friendship or Bible study. We can't expect to grow "fruit" overnight or without water, nourishment and cultivation.
Fruit grows when we spend time doing the hard work, getting out in the hot sun and hoeing the weeds, watering the plants, tying up tomato vines so they can grow.
It also takes some work to build friendships with others. I think it's more than "commenting" on someone's Facebook status.
It takes effort to truly grow on this Christian journey. Fruit grows as we spend time in Bible study, prayer, devotional reading, worship and fellowship with other Christians. It grows as we work at living our faith in service to others, becoming the hands and the feet of Jesus.
And it's OK that I'm not a gardener, despite the stereotypical image of the farm wife bringing bushel baskets of fruit and vegetables to the kitchen for canning. We all bring our special God-given talents and gifts to the table.
I love the imagery of I Corinthians 12.
"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men." I Corinthians 12: 4-6.
It illustrates the different gifts given by comparing the body of Christ to our human body, something we are all intimately familiar with.
"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ." I Corinthians 12: 12
(I encourage you to click on the link above to Bible Gateway and read the whole chapter. This is just a "taste.")
Yes, to be a gardener I have to do the work. To be a friend, I have to do the work. To have a clean house, I have to do the work. To be a Christian growing in my faith, I have to do the work.
Find the work you are called to do. And then do it well and abundantly.
And you can always enjoy the fruit of the other laborers in God's world. I didn't grow all the vegetables I used in the illustration at the top of this post (I do have a few tomatoes this year, but that is the extent of my gardening.)
But I do enjoy visiting farmers' markets when I have a chance or even choosing from the array of produce in the grocery store this time of year.
And, despite the joke about avoiding your gardening friends this time of year when they are pawning off sacks of zucchini "gone wild," I never turn down fresh produce from my green-thumb-blessed friends (hint, hint!)
I asked one of those friends for some recipes she and her family enjoy as they celebrate the bounty of their large garden. Of course, fresh garden produce is wonderful prepared simply as well - in a fresh salad or cooked crisp-tender in a nonstick skillet (with or without a little olive oil!)
But if you're looking for a little variety, here are some favorite ways Kim Volker and her family enjoy their abundance of squash at this time of year. I tried them all, and they are yummy! Enjoy!
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup sour cream
1 8-oz. pkg. seasoned stuffing mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine
Cook squash and onion in salt water for 3 minutes. Drain. Combine chicken soup and sour cream. Stir in shredded carrots, squash and onions. Mix well and add salt to taste.
Combine stuffing mix with butter. Spread half of stuffing in bottom of 12- by 7-inch baking dish. Spoon vegetable mixture on top. Then put rest of stuffing on top of vegetable mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Serves 6 (generously!)
1 tbsp. water
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 cup dry bread crumbs or cracker crumbs
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
4 tbsp. olive oil, divided
5 medium zucchini, sliced
4 medium tomatoes, sliced
1cup (4 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2 tsp. fresh minced basil
In shallow bowl, beat egg, water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Set aside 2 tablespoons of bread or cracker crumbs. Place the remaining crumbs in a large resealable plastic bag. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then place in bag and shake to coat.
In a skillet, cook chicken in 2 tablespoons of oil for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown; remove and set aside. In the same skillet, saute zucchini in remaining oil until crisp-tender; drain. Transfer to a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved bread crumbs over the zucchini. Top with tomato slices; sprinkle with 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese, basil and remaining salt. Top with chicken.
Cover and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.
1/2 cup applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
In large bowl, combine the cake mix, applesauce, oil and egg for 30 seconds. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in zucchini, raisins and pecans.
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
Yield: About 16 muffins (I got 18).