My garden burned in hell.
That caught your attention, right? Me too!
Because when I first thought it, I sat back on my heels and thought, “Oh, man. That’s bad.”
The day began like any other. I got up and took care of kids and animals and then we all went out to work in the garden. I just love to get my nails in the dirt. It was a lovely Montana spring day. Not melt-in-your-clothes hot, but comfortably warm with a slight breeze.
I had transplanted my tomatoes and pepper plants the previous day and they looked quite happy in their new homes. With only a three-month growing season, I started my seeds inside sometime in March and every year I nurture them until they get their very own spot in the garden. I rarely can get a green pepper to full size before the first frost of the season hits in early September. This year was going to be different!
“Mom, what’s that, mom? What doing mom? Let me mom!” My three-year old had accompanied me to the garden and was helping, and his baby sister babbled on the blanket beside us.
Ah, there is nothing like a beautiful day in Montana.
I had decided to do my garden differently this year. I was implementing my first year of “no-till gardening” and even though we had tilled it earlier, it would be the last year. I was working through digging up my entire garden with a shovel and taking out piece by piece each thread of quack grass-roots. I have successfully grown a whole garden of 5 foot tall grass in previous years. And again, this year was going to be different! No more quack grass; weeds be gone!
The only plants above ground were the ones I had started inside, weeks and months in advance: tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and my vine plants. Ah, it looked good.
Because I was digging up my.whole.stinkin’.garden, I had been spending A LOT of time out there. Working hard, yes, but loving every minute. Sometimes my kiddos accompanied me and sometimes I would go out after their bedtime and soak up the beautiful sunset and the cool evenings, where the breeze barely sighs and the birds sing goodnight. It is lovely and I savor my evenings in the garden.
But that day. That one day. Golly, things can change so quickly, can’t they? We meandered to the house in the heat of the day to find some lunch and after I laid down each of my beautiful babies, I sat down at the computer to write. It was peaceful inside as well. The quiet-after-the-storm-of-kids quiet. Through the slit in the curtains on the window facing east, I could see the leaves blowing slightly.
And then the sound of rain hit the windows on the west side of the house.
I got up and went to our bedroom window and saw that the sky where the storms are made, was black and angry. The sun was making its last heroic effort to shine through the darkness.
I went out the front door and felt the cool blast of air hit my arms. Goosebumps.
“Oh, Jesus, protect us from hail and destructive wind. Put your wings over Central Montana like a hen covers her young.”
That’s what you pray in the Montana springtime. The warm mornings and days bring the afternoon thunderstorms. And this year, the wild storms were wrecking havoc. Several tornadoes and palm sized hail have run a muck.
I closed the door and heard it begin: the “fwap, fwap” of ice hitting glass. I raced to the window. The sound of a small train slowly filled the house as hail rained down, hitting and bouncing wildly.
“Oh, Jesus, please stop it. Protect us and the animals out in this. Protect my garden. Please.”
By this time Hadassah was wailing and I knew that Josiah was probably awake and trying to figure out what this unknown-to-him noise was. So with both kids in arm, we peered out the windows with our noses flattened on the glass. My heart sunk with each hail that dropped and each minute that passed. The water was rushing down the driveway, making a stream of its own.
Slowly the roar softened and the rain was velvety soft again. I could see the puddles in the sidewalk bouncing and rippling with each drop. In dismay, I watched the black clouds run towards the east and the mountains beyond and then I faced the sun once again and headed out to my garden.
Oh…my strawberries, ripped to shreds. And my tomatoes, broken and battered. My peppers stood as proudly as any plant can, with only the stem remaining.
It was in that moment that the thought enveloped my mind. The words raced through my head, pulling fire across my garden as it came.
My garden burned in haaail.
I had a distinct feeling that this is what it would feel like to stand before the King on judgment day, because fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.
So much work, worthless. So many hours, fruitless. So many days, pointless. It was defeating.
I stood there with my arms limp and shoulders drooped. What is the point of it all? What can I do, a mom who loves staying home with her kids and gardening and working on her “homestead”? What can any of those things do for the Kingdom?
OK, I know that my kids and their hearts and lives, molded into the image of Jesus, is the Kingdom, brought right down to this earth.
But what about the rest?
Seriously, what about when I’m gardening? Or milking my goats? Or *sigh* cleaning up poop in the chicken coop?
And doing dishes, sweeping and making bread?
Most of life is spent doing the things that don’t seem to count.
I don’t live on a “mission” field, I don’t go visiting people on a regular basis at the nursing home and I don’t have the wayward teenager hanging out whom I impart lasting wisdom to.
Right now, life is cleaning, cooking and centered around my kiddos.
The reality is that life isn’t living on an official, continual mission trip. Life is about keeping the grid going, the house clean and we all go to work, in whatever form that takes.
But none of us want our lives, even the monotonous, daily tasks, to go unnoticed or to be meaningless, to become the tendrils of smoke revealing nothing in the judgement day fire.
So what does it look like for every part of life to mean something?
I can turn to three specific verses that precisely give the answer:
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. Colossians 3:23
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Ephesians 6:7
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Much of life is spent doing. Our hands and feet are busy. But in the world of technology and ability, there are many ways to fill the spiritual void during the times of work.
When hands are busy soaking in the dish water, digging in the dirt, sweeping the floors, cleaning the bathroom or doing the chores, don’t forget about filling your mind. This is a great time to open up your Bible reading plan in YouVersion and let the Word wash over you with the volume up or the ear buds in.
Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Take an hour to write out scripture verses on cards, large enough to read from a distance, and put them in the window sill to read while doing dishes or whatever the task is at the moment. Say the verses out loud and meditate.
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.
For me, prayer is something that I have to continually remind my mind and heart to do. It is a habit not formed unless it is practiced over and over. Prayer is an avenue of touching people’s lives in a way that never would be possible otherwise. It’s God’s way of connecting us to all of humanity, if we would but stop and pray, go and pray, do and pray, be and pray, life would be overflowing with meaning.
Pray without ceasing.
It was an alarming moment to stand in the wake of an uncontrollable force and see its devastation. And this was merely a small “poof” of destruction compared to the sizable storms that wreck havoc.
But coming away from my garden I knew I needed to put in place some protective measures to ensure that my crops and produce would not be ruined, fruitless on the day I would go out to pick and fill my buckets.
I realized also that it is no different in my own personal life. I must put up protective measures to ensure that my fruit, even those in the shade of all the daily, mundane tasks, are not found fruitless on the day of fire, judgment day.
Because “well done, my good and faithful servant”will be words that will send light and life right through my existence and on into eternity.
As for me, I choose for my garden not to burn in hell, because I will make every moment, and every task valuable in the sight of my God.
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