That garden of his has also done well by us. I do not know how we would have survived without it. Others with teenage boys spent nearly twice as much as we did on groceries and we ate as well or better than they, especially in the middle of summer. For weeks the table was loaded with platters of fresh corn and tomatoes, and bowls of whatever beans or peas were producing at the time, with other extras added in as they ripened—fried okra, cucumber salads, cherry tomato salads, and homemade pickles, fried, or scalloped or “parmagiana-ed” eggplant, peppers stuffed with ground beef, rice, onions, and herbs and baked in a homemade tomato sauce, squash stir-fried or layered in casseroles with cheese sauce and cracker crumbs, homemade biscuits slathered with blueberry jam, muscadine, scuppernong, and blackberry jellies, and anything else I could come up with to use up all the bounty and fill up all the men.
They say there are holidays between May and September. Really? I suppose there are days when Keith does not go to work, but those just mean more work in the garden. We spend Memorial Day snapping green beans and shelling peas, and putting the first of those in the freezer along with the last of the blueberries, and canning blueberry jam. July 4th means corn shucking time--usually the second patch is in by then--and an assembly line in the kitchen putting up a couple dozen quarts. The rest of the summer “break” we spend with yet more “putting up” of pickles, limas, black-eyes, and zipper peas, tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, chili powder, herb vinegars, and finally, the muscadine jelly in August. Labor Day means catching up on all the things we had to let go when the fruits and vegetables came in, plus tilling the now spent and bedraggled garden under to help prepare the ground for next year.
We often missed outings, barbecues, and other summer events because of the garden work. Why? Because without that garden we would not have made it. What may be a hobby for some was a necessity for us. Times have been rough and it was the only way to feed our family well for the money we had. I did not buy a jar of tomatoes, tomato sauce, jelly, jam, salsa, or pickles for twenty years. You want to hear some stories? I can tell you how to make one chicken feed your family for four days.
Some of us want to treat our service to God like a hobby, like a garden we don’t really need, we just go out and putter around in it when the notion suits us. We fail to realize that it is necessary to our survival. We have mistaken the fact that we have enough in this life to mean that we have enough for the next too, without all that commitment, service, and labor nonsense. So we go out once or twice a week and pull a weed, thinking that is all that is necessary, that God will supply the water and fertilizer for us and give us a bumper crop, which He will reap and can for us to enjoy some time in the future. Why, isn’t that what grace is?
As long as Christianity is nothing more than a pleasant little pastime, and the church a nice little social club, we are more than happy to take up some time with it. But we will never reap any rewards until we treat it as a career necessary to keep us and our families alive.
Many of us are willing to throw money at practically any cause. It makes us feel good. What God demands is our time and our labor, things we Americans are often loath to give to anyone but ourselves. There are no holidays for Christians, not until you understand that the blessings a Christian receives make every day a holiday from the curse of sin and the chains of Satan.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. 1 Cor 15:58.