God in the Compost Pile

In my new little adventure of “wannabe homesteader” I have discovered a magical thing called compost.  Do you know it?  You cannot read an article about gardening without reading all about compost.  It’s everywhere you look if growing something is on your radar.  Compost.  I am certainly no expert but I have put on my muckiest boots, held my nose and waded into the world of compost.  First and foremost, I had to get a container to hold said magical compost So…

Look at this adorable little compost bucket…  It is so cute and clean on the outside with its neat lettering and sealed lid.  It even sits out on the counter in my kitchen, in plain view, because it is so presh.

compost

By the looks of it you would never know what is inside.  So what is inside, you might ask. What is compost?  Compost is all the stuff I used to throw away in the kitchen.  Now, I place it in my cute little bucket.  Cut the tops off the strawberries for the kids’ lunch?  Throw it in.  Coffee grounds from yesterday’s life-giving pot?  Toss it in.  Egg shells from the pancake batter on Sunday?  Yep. In.  Potato skins, banana peels, the salad that got gross before you could use it all, the apple core, the smushy pear no one will eat, the ends of the carrots…. All in.  And once a day or so, I take my cute little bucket out to a hole by the garden and toss it in.. You know what else?  Pull some weeds …Add them to the pile.  Clean out the chicken coop…. Throw it in.  Sweep up the bunny courtyard…. gather it up because it goes in the compost pile too.  Have some hay that got moldy and wet?  Perfect!  Compost.  Now, I know there is a science to all of this that I am not completely aware of.  There are PH balances and acid levels and such that I know nothing about.  I know that I don’t know exactly.  What I do know is that you can throw all of this smelly, stinky waste into a hole in the yard and you end up with magic…  Slimy, gross, rank  USEFUL magic.

All of this composting got me thinking about a couple of things in my own life.  First of all, aren’t I like that cute little green bucket sometimes?  I can be all put together on the outside, clean and shiny, fit for any countertop.  I can have a lid so securely fitted on that no one can catch a wiff of what is rotting on the inside.  Maybe it is sin that no one sees.  My words and my smile might be covering up the stink of my attitude.  My thoughts may be far from lovely but my outside is picture-perfect Sunday school ready.  Jesus addressed this in Matthew 23:27-28 when he said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  Maybe the lid is not covering our sin, but it is covering our hurt, our insecurities, our confusion, our pain.  We can tidy it all up for the outside world, but we know that inside we are a miry mess.  But, I have learned that the shiny bucket can just hold so much waste before the lid will no longer neatly fit on and the smell is evident to all who come near.

So what do we do with our mess?  What is the point of all of this compost?  Where is the magic in the mire?   Well, compost is indeed the magic ingredient in growing good things.  After all of this waste has been piled up, a good gardener knows how to work it.   He knows to add green waste on food waste and to keep it moist.  He knows how to turn it over and over until it is ready to use.  When it has all broken down and decomposed from it’s orginal form of apple core or egg shell, those nutrients are added to the soil around it and trash has truly become gardening treasure.  A scoop of this compound can feed plants for months  Who need pricey nursery fertilizer when I have all of these kids and animal producing all this waste?

God is called many things in the Bible.  He is our Heavenly Father, the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Great I Am, and so many others.  But, I think one of my favorite roles that God plays in the Bible is that of Farmer.  Psalm 65:9-11 paints this beautiful picture: “You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile.  The rivers of God will not run dry; they provide a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.  You drench the plowed ground with rain, melting the clods and leveling the ridges.  You soften the earth with showers and bless its abundant crops. You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.”  In Matthew 13 we find the parable of the sower where Jesus tells of a farmer who sows seed onto different soil with different results.  We know that the Farmer is God the Father and the seed is His Word.  In John 15 we read about Jesus being the true Vine and we are the branches that must abide in Him to produce any fruit in our lives.  God is a Farmer, the original gardener, grower of good things, author of life.

What would happen if we were brave enough to give all of our mess and junk to this good Farmer?  What if we opened up the lid on our sin and let Him use it?  I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  He will not only forgive, but he will grow something new from it.           2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; The old has gone, the new is here!”   What if we gave Him the shame and dirtiness of our pasts?  Handed Him those bad decisions from high school?  Gave Him our regrets over that girl we were in college.  What if we were to toss Him those years of marriage where we were a hot mess?  What about the days we couldn’t get it together and we yelled at small children who in no way deserved it?  What about those places where our needs have never been met, our insecurities paralyze us, our ugliness is rotten?  It can all go in the compost pile.  We can trust God the Farmer to know how to work our mess so that it can be turned into a life-giving sustenance.  What if He feeds an entire generation with the seeds grown in our compost?  He will produce a harvest and He can use our muck and mire to grow something beautiful.   You see, we can try to keep a lid on all of it and make sure nothing leaks out of the sides.  We can clean it up for awhile. In the bucket it is just a smelly heap of waste.  But in the hands of the great gardener it can produce life for ourselves and others for the glory of God.  Be of good courage, tell your story, fess up to your mess, look for seedlings to fertilize in the Kingdom.  Trust Him with your smushy pears and rotten lettuce…. and watch the beautiful harvest that is coming.

 

Driveway Confessions

Here it is, my Driveway Confession… I totaled my car in my driveway. TOTALED. In my DRIVEWAY.  I don’t even know what to say.  I needed to take a pair of shoes I bought for my daughter back to Target, I had the 5 year old in the back seat, I WAS NOT ON MY PHONE (Babe, I promise) and I totaled my car.  The gate to the Ranchito had been acting up so I was watching to see if it would open for me as I drove up.  It did, and I proceeded to drive out and smash into a Volvo coming very unexpectedly down our not-very-often-traveled street.  I was going a grand total of 3 miles an hour.  The poor man I hit jumped out of his car and started yelling, “This car is only 2 weeks old.”  I had no words.  I just put my crumpled car in reverse and backed back inside the gate.  When the police showed up, all I could say was, “Would anyone like some coffee or pumpkin cookies?” because, you know, I WAS AT MY HOUSE!  The story gets worse, or funnier, depending on if you are you or me, but the final blow came when the insurance company pronounced my pretty red SUV totaled. At 3 miles an hour.  In my driveway.

This lovely little experience got me thinking about a few things… I think I’ve totaled my car in the driveway lots of times.  I bet you have too.  When I am (as infrequent as it may be) driving on a large interstate, or some big city overpass I am fully engaged, very careful, even nervous.  You better believe that my hands are on the wheel and my eyes are on the road.  Everyone is buckled and rebuckled.  But, in my own driveway, pulling out of my little gate on my little road?  I am less engaged, less careful, more distracted.  Here’s the thing, when I am out in the world- maybe at church or my kids’ school- guess what I am?  I am smiling, and clean, and engaged, and witty.  When I throw a party and have people over to my house I am gracious, and kind, and servant-hearted.  When I am leading a group of women I am prayerful and encouraging and fully open.  In my own driveway, in my own home with my little bunch, in my role of mom and wife, not always so much. CRASH!

We certainly let our guards down in our own homes, don’t we?  In those relationships that rub on each other every single day we are less shiny and thoughtful.  Unfortunately, I am not always as “all there,” servant-hearted, or gracious to the four children I am stewarding as I am to the receptionist at the salon, or my friend at the store.  I am often less engaged with my husband as I am with the (hilarious and vital BTW) group texts with my girlfriends.   I would never be as annoyed with a request from a friend for help as I am with my kid’s constant wantings.  I would never get as sharp tongued with you as I become with the hubs.  So here I go, slowly really, 3 miles an hour, totaling my car in my very own driveway.  Hopefully I don’t total the relationship… They all still love and need me.  I adore them all.  But I sure can total our day.  I can total a conversation.  I can total the entire mood of my home.  I can total the opportunity to speak life and pour into those people for the rest of the night.  CRASH!

So, here are the two things I want to say about this little Driveway Confession that I hope will be encouraging as you may be looking at a smashed car right now… First, we all do it.  Grace upon grace to us all.  I see it with my own children as well.  They would NEVER speak to their teachers, or grandparents, or even dad the way they sometimes speak to me.  We are close.  They have no fear of losing this relationship.  We are also together.  A LOT.  So we rub on each other and we forget to give the same respect to those we love the most as we would to someone on the outside.  I see it when they play together.  With their friends it is all giggles, and “sure you can have a turn,” and “Dude” (you know, depending on the kid), but with each other it can be, ummmmm how should I say it….. less that!  I know how much they love and need each other even if they don’t yet.  They are not trying to impress each other, they are completely known and safe within these walls.  Guards are down.  Grace upon grace.   My hubby and I do it all the time with each other.  Why do we choose Sports Center or Downton rather than choosing to engage in meaningful conversation?  (Ok, I mean it is the last season… shed a tear with me for the love of Anna and  Bates).  How can we fuss all the way to church or a dinner party and step out of the car charming and agreeable?  Well, we do it because we know the other isn’t going anywhere and as much as we desire to (and believe me do) live in authentic relationships with those in our circle, no one knows our junk like each other.  So, grace upon grace to all of us with bumpers hanging and a taillight out.

But… there will come a time when all of those 3 mile an hour crashes that totaled a night, or a conversation, or the atmosphere in your home will total the whole thing if we are not careful.  Eventually our kids will catch on and believe they are not as important as the friend on the phone or the Instagram post.  Eventually we won’t be able to find our way to meaningful conversations with our spouses in our beat up jalopies.  We may feel safe and secure in our driveways, in our homes, in these daily relationships, but they deserve the protection of some kindness and attention as well.  Yes, grace upon grace but let’s pay a little more heed on this well-worn little road.

After the completely  mortifying ordeal of that day, with my car broken and undrivable in the garage, my sweet friend came by with a bottle of wine that was called “Help Is Here.”

driveway-confessions

My sweet hubby had tons of grace and never yelled or berated me for my stupidity, though he really could have.  Although no one took me up on the coffee or pumpkin cookies, all the police officers, and even the poor man whose 2 week old Volvo I smashed, ended up being very kind.  I now have the exact same  model of SUV except in black and newer.  That is grace upon grace, y’all.

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone- especially to those in the family of faith.”  Galatians 6:10

 

 

 

 

Lessons From My Crooked Garden

Almost 2 years ago we moved from a country club cul-de-sac to these 7 acres.  I think maybe we had moved the first box in when I decided to name it the “Ranchito.”  For a girl from the east coast of Florida I thought that was a great, little name.  People name things in Texas!  And I’m no Spanish expert but doesn’t “ito” on the end of anything mean “little?”  Our “Little Ranch.” Cute!  Maybe we could get a sign for over the gate?  Maybe we could get a brand! (Texans also make “brands” up for things.  I’m still not sure what they are but it means something is legit).  Let me just tell you that my hubby was not a fan!  He is a true-blue Texan through and through and “this is not a ranch! We don’t even have cows!  It is not cute.”  But, what can I say, it stuck.  The Ranchito it is.

I have made so many discoveries in the last couple of years on the Ranchito.  Some have been less than lovely… For example, don’t walk barefoot outside in the middle of the night to call the dogs when you are allergic to scorpion stings.  Also, giant bull snakes can act like rattlesnakes to scare you to death but they are “good snakes” so “don’t kill them” because they keep the actual rattlesnakes away. (Listen, a 6ft. snake in my front yard is a 6ft. snake in my front yard.  Or in the back of my hubby’s truck headless.)  But, in the spirit of “Laying it down for Lent” I will not utter a complaint because, really I have loved it all.

One of the very best discoveries I have made is A GARDEN!  The woman who lived here before me had a garden!  A real one… with a fence, a watering system, and a compost pile.  How exciting!

So, last year I planted my first garden and here are a few of the lessons I learned, in gardening and in life:

  1. It’s okay to stand on some shoulders. 
    How silly it would have been for me to decide that I wanted to plant a garden and ignored the one that was already laid in front of me.  How much more work it would have made for me (please read “hubby”) to find a new spot and start from scratch digging a new plot, building a new fence, and engineering a new way to water?  Of course that is not what we did.  We had a lot of clearing and tilling and weeding to do, but we were not trying to reinvent the wheel, you know?  We used what had been put before us and worked hard to make it better.  It’s okay to stand on some shoulders.  I think in modern American culture we have lifted the traits of individualism and independence so very high that we forget this sometimes.  If you have a legacy, step into it.  If someone before you paved the way for you, walk on.  Just walk a little farther. Every trail we do not have to blaze ourselves.  We live in a time where we have access to so many resources.  There are so many beautiful, brave, wise sets of shoulder to climb atop. Pull some weeds and honor their work before you.
  2. Everything is better in community.
    When the plot was ready to go I decided to ask some friends for help.  After all, this is a large garden and we could share in the harvest.  So, we split up all over the nurseries around town and bought lots of little, tiny veggie plants and met back up at the Ranchito (sorry, Babe).  We then proceeded to blast “90’s Country” on Pandora, pour a little sangria, and plant a garden like serious gardeners. (Not really).  There were kids and dogs everywhere, and a crew of dirty, hot, laughing, friends who had no idea what we were doing.  But it was a good day.  And in the end, there was in fact a garden planted.  Here’s the thing, that day could have tedious and exhausting alone.  It wasn’t.  It was a blast! Life is hard.  That is not a complaint that is truth.  Life can be tedious and exhausting. Days can be isolating and lonely.  But when we reach past ourselves and ask for help or just ask for a little company those same days can be full of laughter and community.  Be messy together.  Get hot and dirty.  Sing off key. Admit that you don’t know what you are doing.  And then share in the harvest.
  3. Veggies grown in crooked rows taste just as good.
    When my hubby came home and inspected our very serious work he said, “Your rows are crooked,” just like any good perfectionist would.  Were they?  I hadn’t noticed (please refer back to sangria).  Maybe they were a little crooked.  And do you know what else?  We had no idea what plants we were supposed to plant together and which ones we weren’t.  We didn’t know how big those pumpkin vines would grow and that eventually they would overshadow the squash.

ranchito-pumpkins

We didn’t know that some things need to be in blocks rather than rows for pollination.  We didn’t know how to hill some seeds and trench others.  We just went for it, crooked rows and all.  Let me tell you something, that garden was a huge success!  We did not buy a vegetable from June until September.  I had more zucchini and squash than I could give away. We had enough okra for all our families!  And when fall came, I had cute little pumpkins to decorate with- from my own garden. Did some plants die? Yes.  Did I have a problem with critters?  Yes.  Did I get one stinking tomato from all those tomato plants?  No.  But there was a huge yield, especially for a first time gardener.  This is what I am saying, veggies planted in crooked rows taste just as good.  Everything does not have to be perfect to be life giving.  Our days, relationships, efforts do not have to be completely aligned to produce a harvest in our life and in the lives of others. Sometimes we just have to go for it and work hard and have faith that there will be fruit (or veggies as the case may be).  Don’t let your lack of knowledge, experience, or expertise paralyze you from what the Lord is calling you into.  Pour a sangria, blast some Clay Walker, and plant some crooked rows.

 I have learned so much since last year.  I have read books and started seeds indoors early.  I have planned and plotted so that this year my veggies will be next to the right companions, and receive the right amount of sunlight and water.  I know a little about composting and cross-pollination. Will my garden be better this year, more successful?  Perhaps.  But fried okra is fried okra y’all, crooked row or not. Cheers!

fried-okra-from-garden