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Grumbling in the Garden

When we moved back to Alabama from Louisiana, my husband and I were excited at the prospect of buying our first house. As I began to think about a checklist for our new house, several criteria came to mind. One item was to have a plot for a garden.

Parky had grown up with a garden. He helped his dad prepare the soil, plant, weed, and harvest. His mother often prepared vegetables for the dinner table: fried okra, sliced vine-ripe tomatoes, cucumber slices floating in vinegar, squash casserole, and creamed corn.  Needless to say, I was excited about the possibility of us having our own garden and a vegetable hodgepodge on our table.

Parky’s Dad passed down all of the accouterments he would need for a successful garden – tiller, pick, wheeled hoe, rake, and shovel. After moving into our new house, we set out to cultivate the soil for our first garden. We discovered the soil would require much more attention than anticipated. We spent days removing rocks and chunks of red clay. Finally, it was time to plant seeds.

We watched expectantly as the bean sprouts began to peep out of the ground. Being new to gardening, Parky showed me how to thin the growth and later thread the vines onto the fence stakes. Our garden grew into a healthy assortment of pole beans, tomatoes, bell peppers, okra, squash, cucumbers, and purple hull peas. It was exciting!

Each year our garden got bigger and bigger as Parky added another row of beans or mound of squash or more tomatoes. He also decided to add one experimental fruit or vegetable like cantaloupe, watermelon, or lima beans.

A New Role, A New Problem

The church Parky and I joined was re-establishing itself in a new location. The idea of a Boy Scout troop surfaced. Parky was well-acquainted with Scouts as he had earned the rank of Eagle Scout in his younger days. He agreed to serve as Assistant Scoutmaster. The newly-formed Troop 367 took shape enrolling boys in the church and the local community. The Scoutmaster decided early on to have monthly weekend outings. This was a great idea except for one drawback . . . our garden.

Planting is one thing, but tending and harvesting are another. Weeds grow fast and can choke out plant growth; vegetables grow even faster at the height of the season. Daily attention becomes essential for good garden maintenance.

When Parky was out of town on weekend scout trips, my harvesting and weeding began to turn into a grumble-fest. Itchy weeds, annoying bugs, and prickly plants gave me plenty of reasons to complain. While gathering my fourth basket of beans and okra in the hot sun and stifling humidity one day, I heard myself mumble. Why didn’t Parky at least pick the tomatoes before he left? When was the last time he weeded? What am I going to do with all these squash and cucumbers? When does he think I have time to string beans, shell peas, and freeze them? I work, too! How the heck did this small garden for two get so dang huge?

The “grumble button” reset every month until one day God did a little weeding in my heart reminding me to “do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure . . .” (Phil. 2:14-15a). As I contemplated the situation with sweat beads collecting on my forehead, it occurred to me that I played a crucial role in my husband’s ministry efforts. I had accepted the fact that Parky’s scouting experience was an important influence in the life of teachable young men, but I had never once considered that my gardening could be a ministry in its own rite. By my tending the garden, it enabled Parky to “tend” to those young men. I stopped throwing blame at my defenseless husband. My grumbling ceased, and my perspective changed.

Our garden took on a ministry of its own. It not only produced fresh vegetables for us, but there was enough to share with family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

The Pay Off

Years later, at the Scoutmaster’s funeral, Parky and I reconnected with some of the former scouts. Most were now married, some with children of their own. Our hearts were warmed with their expressions of genuine appreciation for how much scouting, specifically those weekend trips, had impacted their lives, developed their character, and shaped their spirituality. We were surprised how many of those former scouts maintained their friendships with one another.

One former scout sent a note saying that what Parky had done changed his life. (He was from a broken home.) Boy Scouts had taught him valuable lessons about life and about himself. He realized how Parky had given up time at home with me, and he was grateful. Tears filled my eyes. My husband had done well . . . and so had I.     

Karen Allen

14 Comments

  1. Sharon Atwood on June 2, 2022 at 12:40 pm

    Brought to mind good memories of shucking corn and shelling peas at my grandparent’s farm, while the cultivating was sometimes hard work the plate of fresh vegetables was worth the hard work.

    • Karen Allen on June 6, 2022 at 4:14 pm

      Shelling peas was my favorite garden task, I think. Definitely worth the work.

    • Eddie Burchfield on June 8, 2022 at 10:46 am

      Wow. I love this sis. How great to note, how God can use the smallest of things to give the greatest blessing. Love you my sister.

      • Karen Allen on June 8, 2022 at 1:47 pm

        Gotta love how God cares about the details of our lives. He just keeps on blessing and I manage to keep on sinning!

  2. Kathy on June 6, 2022 at 10:33 am

    This is beautiful! So glad I found Ewe!

    • Karen Allen on June 6, 2022 at 4:13 pm

      Awwww, thank you, roomie. I’m glad God brought ewe into my life, too.

    • Dawn on June 6, 2022 at 7:30 pm

      What a wonderful reminder of scripture. I too have grumbled as I work to put away our fresh veggies. May I continue to serve my Lord and my family without grumbling but always thankful for His bountiful blessings in my life.

      • Karen Allen on June 7, 2022 at 11:14 am

        Gardening is hard but so rewarding, isn’t it? I discovered that looking beyond hardships can be an exercise of faith and trust. We’re human, we grumble, but God still blesses us. Hallelujah! Thanks for your comments.

  3. J.D. Wininger on June 6, 2022 at 11:44 am

    I still struggle with that “not grumbling” part, but when I see the smile of someone we’ve helped with our meager vegetable garden, it makes it all worth it. Thanks Ms. Karen.

    • Karen Allen on June 6, 2022 at 4:12 pm

      Nothing better than homegrown veggies especially when they come from YOUR garden. I loved sharing our harvest with others. The toil of it does indeed tend to melt away, as you say. I miss having a garden these days. Got some good tomatoes you can pass my way? 🙂

  4. Susan on June 6, 2022 at 11:18 pm

    I will admit that I too “grumble” much more than I should so this is also a great reminder to me. Beautiful story. So glad that God allowed our paths to meet in Germany.

    • Karen Allen on June 7, 2022 at 11:08 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog, Susan. You have been a good influence on me, and I love how God brought our paths together through a mutual love of music and mission.

  5. David E Luellen on June 7, 2022 at 5:31 pm

    My maternal Grampa raised a huge garden. Planted it every Spring, but never tended it much; he was too busy with chores on his 200-acre farm. We had to hunt for cucumbers and tomatoes among the weeds when Gramma set to canning but the corn grew tall enough that we could easily find the ears.

    My Father also raised a huge garden. If he didn’t have a couple acres under cultivation, it had been a poor summer. But Daddy’s garden was totally weed-free. By fiat! He kept his two sons busy all summer. [I can’t say that I didn’t grumble a bit when I’d rather be swimming in Lake Erie!] Of course, Daddy weeded, too.

    While their gardening style was vastly different, both gentlemen received great joy in sharing vegetables with anyone with open hands. Thanks, Karen, for reminding me of these two gardeners with different styles, but big hearts.

    • Karen Allen on June 8, 2022 at 1:46 pm

      Yes, definitely two different gardening approaches. I despise working in an unweeded garden. But I love gardeners who share their harvest wealth. Thanks for commenting, Dr. Luellen.

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