In Jeremiah 29, God says a few things to the Israelites living in exile...
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
That is what I heard this morning and that is what I understood this night.
It all started this morning, on the way to church, we made our usual WalMart stop. Stock up on everything we need that won't get ruined sitting in the parking lot for an hour while we're at church. Today, it was mainly cleaning supplies. Soap, laundry detergent, more soap, more laundry stuff. We had been chatting on the way to church about "prepping" -- having backups in case the power goes out for a few days, a few weeks, a few months. So instead of one box of washing soda -- I bought three. Instead of the normal sized bottle of soap, I got a massive one. We don't want to be crazy, but prepared couldn't hurt.
So with prepping on my mind, we dropped off the babies and headed into church. The sermon? Jermiah 29. ...but the sermon wasn't on “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future". Nope today was on the even better "plant a garden" section of that chapter. Can you imagine how happy I was sitting in my little chair at church -- all excited because clearly this was one sermon I had already mastered. I find more joy in the garden than perhaps anyone I know...
Of course, the sermon wasn't just about building gardens, but my mind fixated on "making a home, building a garden and having lots of babies" -- OH and prepping. For 60 minutes my thoughts flitted from Jeremiah's words to the exiled to stacking cans of tuna and stocking up on hydrogen peroxide. I can't imagine God was terribly pleased with the bouncing betty thoughts, but perhaps He doesn't much care as long as his point gets across.
So later that day, my son and I decide to go out. I've still got prepping on my mind, and anyone who has ever studied prepping for 2 seconds knows that seeds are a numero uno place to start. So I was on a mission. I had already planted some mid-season seeds the day before to capitalize on the cool temps that should roll in in a few months, but now I wanted more. I wanted extra to grow -- extra to save "just in case" == just a little extra to prepare. So we bought beans and mesclun and spinach and beets. Red bought carrots. He wanted a variety for each of his brothers and every few seconds in the store he would bring up another pack and try to convince me that we really, really needed this kind. "Look it has really long roots and it super shiny and this one would be perfect for my brother!". I talked him down to 2 packets and we made our way to the checkout. That was that and there was no big deal to it. ...and I was starting to get a headache...
Then we went to a movie. Of course the movie had to be "The Lorax". Heavy on environmentalist agendas and light on adult humor, I felt like I was in church again. The evil men cutting down all the trees felt a bit too preachy, but so it goes. ...and my head is pounding...maybe some chicken noodle soup will help?
The real sermon came once we arrived home. The kids were settled, Alex was working, so I escaped into the garden for a few minutes. I grabbed my seeds and started planting a few. You see, we've been in a drought here for the past few weeks (months?). We haven't had nearly enough rain and everything was starting to rip at the seams a little bit. Our water treatment system starts showing signs of stress when the well gets low and the well has been very, very low. The filters clog up easily. The water starts to reek of iron and sulfur. My ice maker broke because the lines were to full of junk befre the water made its way to the filter. The pool is getting so low that the pump can't function properly and we were cutting back on our water usage so much it was starting to hurt (just a little). There was a self-imposed moratorium on watering plants, so I bid adiu to the radishes and crossed my fingers for the tomatoes. Laundry started to pile up and we started using those hideous paper plates to cut back on washing dishes. We were fine, but we were starting to feel the pain of a water shortage. We needed some rain. God obliged and we had a little sputtering of rain yesterday. The next few days had percentages in the 40's and 50's, so I thought now is the time to sow those mid-season seeds. Maybe they will have a fighting chance.
So there I was planting seeds, herding in the chickens, checking the growth of those pumpkin vines and I notice that the sky is still overcast. Maybe we'll get a little bit more rain tonight...wouldn't that be amazing?
So as I start walking back towards the house, I feel a drop. You know that feeling -- it can kind of feel like impending doom. That first little droplet of rain hits your forehead or your shoulder or your wrist and you know it is coming. The next drop comes a little quicker and before long there is a tap, tap, tap on the top of your head and you know if you don't run you are going to be in for it. Today that impending doom felt like joy. A tiny droplet of joy, and then a little more and then a TAP TAP TAP on my forehead -- this is going to be a DOWNPOUR!
We raced to cover the pool, close up the garage, get the chickens settled and the boys rushed back inside. At that second the rain really began. The downpour gushed down onto our thirsty earth and I stepped out into it. I took a few steps and looked up into the deluge and all the sudden I remembered that I had more seeds. There is no more perfect time to sow seeds then when the rains are coming down, hammering them into contact with the soil and loosening up those tough outer membranes. Add lightning raining down candy tablets of nitrogen and the plants seem to wiggle in joy when a summer rainstorm comes their way.
I finished seeding the packets I had, finished moving bucket after bucket after bucket to catch those precious drops of water, spun a few circles in the yard, opened my mouth to catc the drops like snow and called myself crazy a time or two. I knew I should probably get inside -- that thunder was getting close -- but I wasn't done yet. I had saved those carrot packets for the boys, but there was something about this storm that was just perfect for planting carrot seeds. You see, carrot seeds are pretty tiny and they are hard to plant without bunching them. The rain? It helps. So I ran up to the house, grabbed a pack and took 2/3 of the seeds out. (I couldn't take them all or what kind of awful mother would I be, but I needed to take most.) I ran to the garden, slipping and sliding in the mud (THE MUD!) and ground to a halt when I reached that freshly cleared plot of soil for the carrots. I should have sprinkled them into rows, letting the rain pound them down and start urging them out of dormancy, but I was too joyful. I couldn't just plant them responsibly. This storm called for carrot seed confetti. So up they went, thrown high into the air and SPLAT onto the ground one by one by one. Little tokens of joy raining down onto a little patch of earth in our Pennsylvania yard and a crazy lady giggling like a kid. Good thing the vegetable garden in in the back yard.
I've never heard carrot seed confetti to rid anyone of a headache before, but I must tell you it worked. Something about running around in that rainstorm, finding joy in the long-needed and long anticipated waters from Heaven, and throwing those carrot seeds in the air with all the joy of a 2 year old. There is something about that basic kind of joy that can take away a little headache. There is something about that basic kind of primitive joy that can make life worth living. I'm no preacher, but I think that is what God meant when he told those Israelites in exile to buckle down and build homes, plant gardens and multiply. You may not want to be here, but this is your home, so you need to find your joy here.
I'm not in exile, and I don't want anything to change about the life we live here. We are happy and content. ...but I too often forget that primitive joy. Throwing carrot seeds into a summer rainstorm can be a stupid childish crazy person act or it can be a totally sane little act of joy. This is our home, we have built our garden here and I have found my joy here.