There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
It’s July in Minnesota and that means that for a few precious weeks we can enjoy summer! Although I’m not a fan of such a short summer, it does indeed help me to really treasure the sunshine and warmth…and the raspberries. My Grandpa Bud planted the original raspberry bushes in the early 60’s and they are still going strong. He had other vegetables, but we’re not really good farmers…so we stick with what we do best…a 20’ x 30’ raised bed of large, luscious, labor-intensive anti-oxidant rich red berries!
My husband and I picked over 3 gallons yesterday but this morning I realized I needed to get out there again! I began picking by myself and at the first bush I started praying. Prayers of wonder and thanks for these berries. When we first moved to Minnesota in 2000 neither of us had a job and this Mama got very creative to feed our four little man-cubs. Now the berries are a luxury, but no less appreciated. Those prayers of thanks for the berries and the sunshine and the butterflies turned to prayers for my boys and my husband and my marriage and as I picked I realized how, once again, God was showing me His work in nature, just like our lives.
I know that some of you are smiling right now because 1) you think I’ve been in the sun too long, or 2) you already know where I’m going with this. The summer harvest is just the culmination of our berry tending, it really begins at the end of fall when the weather is getting bitterly cold. We have to wait until this summer’s stalks die. We go into the prickly bushes and trim out all the dead branches, and then we tie up the new growth (which will produce next summer’s berries) with garden twine to the stakes in the middle of the ever-expanding bush. It’s a painful process which leaves us scraped and itching! But the fun comes at the end of the day when we have a massive bon fire of all the dead branches. So even in the not-so-fun pruning there are bright moments.
Over the winter the patch is warm and cozy under a blanket of thick snow. From what I’ve heard (remember, I am not a garden-gal) we have such great raspberries here because of that hibernation and intense cold. My sister in California told someone at a nursery that she wanted “raspberries like my sister in Minnesota” and was told it wasn’t even a possibility. A blessing under the cold, harsh, LLLLLOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNGGGGGGG winter!
In the spring the new growth from the last summer begins to grow anew, and there is also new-new growth that, once again, needs to be tied up. One thing that always amazes me is that the weeds never really die under the snow…they are the first green things to start their happy growth in the spring. This spring the weeds and grass almost over-took the berry plants; but that actually began last summer and fall. We were so over-whelmed with our life – read between the lines things like poor choices and dire consequences for our adolescent boys – last summer that we didn’t keep up with the weeding…we didn’t tend the garden like we should have and the stuff we didn’t want to grow went crazy! But my most-awesome husband decided to use some of his pent up frustration to rip out those unwanted weeds and grass…cathartic and helpful!
Then we patiently wait for the berries. It seems like it takes forever to be honest. The plants are so green and lush…the little buds appear…and for a long time it seems like nothing is going to happen. There is no red, juicy fruit…just these bland looking grey lumps. If we haven’t tied the plants adequately, when the rain and wind come they’ll just break off…and those grey lumps will remain just that, grey lumps of never-ripened fruit. But the plants need the rain, and lots of it.
Back to today’s picking and God’s hand in my raspberry patch. As I’m praying for each of my boys…first recognizing God’s majesty in creating them to be just who they are, acknowledging those character traits that make them unique and at times challenging, His masterpiece given to me to “tend” for a short while. Thanking God for all He is doing in them and through them (whether they chose to recognize and acknowledge that or not), asking for His protection and guidance and the “whatever it takes” to bring them to where God’s purpose and plan is for them. Asking the Lord to help me see those “bright moments” in these not-so-fun times.
As I prayed I thought about the fruit I was picking. The delicious fruit that would not be there but for the pain of tending them through the fall and winter and spring. The pain that’s caused in the pruning and tying. The dormant time during winter when it’s cold and there is nothing to do to help the plants and little hope of anything growing again. Then finally spring with its anticipation and new growth, the dangers and possibility of failure. But the miracle comes, eventually. God has created and God is sovereign, and God’s timing is perfect.
Hope flourished in my soul this afternoon while picking raspberries. God reminded me that there is a season for everything under earth and just because this season isn’t bearing fruit there is every reason to believe that after the pain, and the barrenness, and the weeds, there will be fruit…wonderful, bountiful, overwhelmingly sweet fruit!
Father please forgive my lack of faith. My tendency to control and hold on to things I really have no business controlling. Just like the raspberries, you see everything and know just what it will take to bring those berries to perfection. Thank you Jesus for holding me in your arms when the pain is too much to bear alone. Thank you Holy Spirit for the truth and encouragement and hope you whisper to my heart that keeps me going…waiting for the harvest. In Your Precious Name, Amen!