February of this year (2020), I had in my heart this pressing that the COVID we were hearing about was going to be something bigger than anyone could imagine. It was also pressed on my heart that people would be needing food more than previous years. As I started my garden planning, I made plans to expand the in-ground bed at the community garden and to put in more produce.
As we worked through late frosts and re-planting of bedding plants, I kept praying that God would provide abundance of produce. I had a goal / dream to be able to can up produce to use for Wednesday night meals, can up plenty of produce for our family, and then to give away produce to as many people as we could.
The goal was for 40 quarts of pasta sauce and 40 quarts of green beans. I had never attempted anything as adventurous as that before and knew it would be hard work. I prayed that if God provided abundance that I would put in the work to make sure that none of it went to waste.
It was a hot, dry summer. We went nearly three months with only five days of rain in them. There were hours upon hours of watering, mowing, weeding, staking up, and fighting pests from the produce. The work and the wait were hard, but then the abundant harvest hit.
Can I be honest here? The harvest hit and the work was overwhelming at times. Even though the harvest was at an abundance I haven’t experienced in my adult life, I found myself more overwhelmed than I have ever felt before. Not overwhelmed as I should be, “praise God” He has provided abundance. Overwhelmed more like this, “Where is everyone else? This is hard work and no one else cares. If I stopped working would anyone care? Will anyone care anyway?”
I kept working, but not in the mindset of worship as I needed to be at the time. I kept working, because I am a “Martha”. I knew that if I didn’t do the work, food would be wasted and I was raised too poor to let food go to waste. Yes, I was happy at times, but more often, I was just exhausted. I felt alone, abandoned, forgotten, and invisible.
In the midst of the abundance I prayed for, how could I not be praising God? Because working through abundance is hard when you feel alone. The harvest was plentiful and the workers were not just few, it was just me. The harvest field was hot. Canning was a hot job and it took hours of dedicated time without the guarantee that it would all work out well when I was finished.
Yet, it wasn’t all bad. There were many days when the hours of watering were hours spent in silence, able to pray for people as God placed them on my heart. I saw how amazing the plants were at producing. I praised God that He placed that kind of growth into the seed of the plant. I marveled at how you can see the creative genius of God in watching a plant grow and produce fruit.
I was amazed again and again at how, even though earth was cursed by God at the fall, that God still loves us enough to have the same cursed earth provide us with food. I thought back to the provision of God, that no matter what happens in a growing season, that something will still be abundant even if other crops fail.
I caught myself tearing up at the goodness of God driving past pastures filled with wildflowers. How God still cares about putting in beauty in places where no one would might even see it. I am sure God could have made pollinators without making butterflies. I am sure he could have provided food for insects without doing it in all of the colors of the rainbow. Yet, God loves us enough to provide beauty. How could you not see a creator when you spend time in His creation? How could we say that God doesn’t love us or think that God has abandoned us when He shows off his creativity every morning and evening with a new sunrise and sunset daily?
Because even when you are in the middle of the abundance, it just looks like hot sweaty work. I lost sight of what it looks like to really worship, no matter what the situation looks like. I was also grieving on so many different levels and grief is real. It is hard to think about worshiping when you are in the middle of what you are grieving.
In ancient cultures, when someone was grieving, they tore their clothes. When the grieving season was over, part of the healing process was sewing back the clothes or robes. Every time you saw that new seam, you would be reminded of the grief you faced, like a scar on your skin. They didn’t rush for things to get back to normal, they took their time and went back to life mended.
It reminded me of the study that we are working through in our Sunday school class. We are going through Job and at the start of that book of the Bible, we read in the first chapter about Job’s character and about his loss. Job was very wealthy, had a big family (10 adult children), and was respected by his community. In an afternoon he lost everything. He even lost his health, but responded with “… The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: may the name of the Lord be blessed” (Job 1:21). Job worshiped God in the middle of the worst pain of his entire life.
What then does worship look like? So often we see worship as a feeling or a service at church, but what does worship look like in pain, or in confusion, or in repentance? True worship isn’t just a time in a church service to sing. It is a time when a humble heart is fully understanding God.
True worship brings you to the arms of God – when He alone is the one who will understand.
Maybe I don’t fully understand worship, because if I have too many idols in my life. What is taking my time, my attention, and my money? Where is the focus of my life? If I truly understood worship as time with God, worship as confessing my sin, worship as the focus of my time and energy, it would move past a Sunday morning service and be the true focus of my heart. Serving others would be worship. Reading my Bible would be worship. Seeing and praying for the needs of others would be worship. Seeing and confessing my sins would be worship. Going through pain and loss would lead to worship, because my heart would already know the love of God – even when my heart was hurting.
So why did I need to write about abundance today? I needed to re-focus my heart on worship. As I finished up the tomato canning for my family today, I took the time to organize and catalog all of what I have done this summer. I was overwhelmed by how much God provided even when my heart wasn’t where it needed to be.
Here is how God provided for our family this summer:
Chili base: 3 quarts and 3 pints
Pizza sauce: 13 pints
Pasta sauce: 4 quarts and 30 pints
Tomato sauce: 2 quarts and 16 pints
Green beans: 1 quart and 25 pints
Apple butter: 10 half pints
How God has provided for our Church’s pantry:
Pasta sauce canned: 40 quarts
Green beans canned: 35 quarts (I plan to finish out 30 more pints once I harvest more beans)
Pasta sauce frozen: 12 quarts
Chili base frozen: 12 quarts
Apple Pie filling frozen: 12 quarts
(More of each of these frozen as I finish out the season)
How God has provided for the community:
Potatoes: 600lbs given away
Onions: about 70 given away
Green Beans: about 30 gallons given away so far
Praise be to God that He provides for us in abundance. Praise be to God that he allows me to struggle and find my way back to worship.