tangled mess and grace

Rows of yellow tubes containing dainty plants stood protected within their wire cage. The seedlings were frail now, but soon they would be beets and chard and squash and even some lettuces. All of this growth would be under the careful care of my dad, or “Papa” as my children call him. Papa composts beautiful soil out of things that I’d sooner throw in the trash: empty eggshells, coffee grounds, watermelon rinds—even drier sheets. He makes his rounds to the brewery to pick up used hops, feeds his bins of worms, and then uses their castings for fertilizer. In a word, he is committed.

I want to be a committed gardener. I live in a place where vegetables can be grown year round. But, I forget to water on a hot day; I don’t weed properly; I plant too close together, and the plants die.

Finally, this summer, Papa gave me the best advice for my adventure with tomatoes. I had arranged too many plants too close together, didn’t put the stakes up in time, and was watching them grow into a tangled mass. I had even given them too much water and some of the bottom plants were beginning to get a little mushy. As Papa and I stood and surveyed my mess, I was embarrassed and discouraged. Papa told me to leave them alone and they would get what they needed. Sure enough, within a couple of weeks we began harvesting varying shapes and sizes of luscious ripe vine tomatoes. For me, after all of my failed attempts, these tomatoes were a gift.

God’s spiritual gift of grace is like my beautiful summer tomatoes. While I can’t work my way to have better fruit in my life, God gives it to me anyway, through His Spirit. In the midst of my tangled attempts, God alone produces beautiful fruit in my marriage, with my children and in the many wonderful friendships that I enjoy. God gives grace in abundance even when I haven’t been able to earn it.

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pie-crust promises

“But you promised I could have a sleepover!” my son wailed as I tucked him into bed. “You said that I could have Max sleepover and you broke your promise!” Daily the litany continues of promises made and broken, according to my children’s interpretation. Forget the fact that other people change their minds, get sick, or my plans simply change for one reason or another. Even my twelve year old expects me to corral the universe so that every plan we make stays set like concrete. Try as I might to explain the complicated schedules that people keep and the number of things that change on a daily basis, I am personally held responsible if the words out of my mouth do not assure that our plans come to pass with the utmost accuracy.

Children are famous for bombarding their parents with petitions for play dates and privileges. In rapid-fire self-preservation, my maternal ammunition is often to shoot them a parental “maybe. Instead of committing to a play date or an activity, I throw the word “maybe” around like breadcrumbs to hungry birds. They gobble up my “maybes” and hope for the best.

God is not this kind of parent. God’s promises are sure. When God sent Jesus to the world, everything that God promised would happen, happened. A gift to my children would be to live with the awareness that my words have the potential to become promises fulfilled. If my yes is consistently yes, and my no is always no, then my children will learn to depend on my words and see me as reliable. Learning to believe in my promises allows my children to see into the very nature of God.