The dog days of summer. It is at this point, every year where the bounty of the harvest begins and keeps going: tomatoes, zucchini, raspberries, hydrangeas. Nature has a way of producing so so much.
My father always planted a vegetable garden. From his small patch of turned over dirt, he could produce a fairly big yield. One vegetable that he grew in vast quantities were tomatoes. Every year he would buy extra tomato plants. “Just in case some don’t live”. The thing is, I do not remember ever a time when a plant died. They always all lived. Consequently, around this time in August, there would be tomatoes galore. My mother and my grandmother (who lived nearby) would have marathon canning days. I remember the sounds of those days: the hissing of the pressure cooker, the wiggling of the inverted jars in the big roasting “sanitizing” pans, the boiling rumble of tops and rubber gaskets. It seemed that the smell of cooked tomatoes would permeate the house for days afterwards.
Because Dad planted so many tomatoes, those not eaten by family and friends nor canned by Mom and Grandma were sold at a table stand at the end of our street. It seemed to me that I was always the one stuck sitting behind the table, selling to neighbors and passers-by. Paper bags, pad of paper and pencils, kitchen scale and formerly-cigar-now-cash box were my tools of the trade. (Plus a library book to keep me company). Lined up with stem side down, the various sized tomatoes were grouped in pristine rows (no stacking for fear of soft spots). The tomatoes were sold by weight. Much as I hated the selling process it was a good exercise in math: learning to weigh the tomatoes and then multiply the weight by price per pound. I also had to learn to give change. I still remember the older boys who lived around the corner. For some reason they reminded me of the Beach Boys. (Probably just an association at that specific time: my brother was listening to the Beach Boys and these neighbors looked like surfers.) They would walk across the street, buy tomatoes and then eat them like an apple. Never seen that before or since.
Alas, due to our tree-lined yard I do not have the ability to have the vegetable garden like my dad’s. I may not been able to enjoy my own home grown tomatoes, but I do have tons of hydrangeas.
I have found that with nature, you cannot out give it. It is always producing and giving its produce to you. The more your cut and take away, the more it gives. It seems if I cut the hydrangeas to give away, I end up with more blooms on that bush. Same with our raspberries. I pick the branch and there seems to be more produced.
Makes me think of God and His generosity. The physical world through nature is his expression of His personality and character. He is good and generous. One cannot out give God. He loves to lavish on His children. And, there is always more from Him. He doesn’t run out of goodness. There isn’t a fund or ledger of limited amounts of goodness: “don’t ask for too much or you will use it up.” On the contrary Jesus tells us to “ask and it shall be given to you.” (Matthew 7: 7)
He just gives and gives and gives.
Not only does He give but we are called to join him in generosity. “Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands--all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you." (Luke 6: 38)
What about you? Have you ever experienced the abundance of nature? What is your experience with God’s abundance? Do you ever feel that there is a limit to what you are given? Talent? Monetary objects? Time? Are you afraid that once given away, you won’t receive more? Do you wait to get from God first before you give or do you just give freely?
For me, sometimes I forget that I need to pick the raspberries in order to have more. It is if the bush is willing me, pushing me to take and give. To share what I have with others in order for me to have room for more. Just like the raspberries, that process of having more is a sign of growth and development.
Same applies with all the blessings that I have- to give in order to receive. After all, only empty and open hands can be filled.