Monday, June 10, 2013
Dirt and Peppers
In recent days Steve and I have been working and creating new landscape around our little house. I have never done this before on this level: mulch, annuals, bed borders and many other things I still don’t know the names. We have been working together, moving dirt, attempting to save dying azalea bushes and replanting tomato volunteers. This is a new world for me. We have been growing tomatoes for several years now, but this year we are attempting peppers and petunias.
Recently on one of our Saturdays off we had been working all day (by the end we had spent nine hours outside, oh happy day!) The sun was on high beam, the breeze was light. We had quite a few plants to get in the ground, but little space left to put them without creating a garden patch in the middle of the yard (which I am not ready for!). I did, however, have extra pots and decided to put pepper plants in these containers and put them on the porch. If nothing else they could be ornamental for a while.
There I sat in the front yard, in the middle of the sidewalk. My legs were wrapped around the pot and I was bent over totally absorbed in my task. I was mixing potting soil with top soil in a porch container. I dug in the loamy black dirt with my gloved hands. I didn’t like the results so I removed my gloves and sunk my bare hands in the mixture. I was completely unaware of my surroundings.
My husband spoke. Actually I didn’t realize he had sat down on the porch step in front of me and had been watching me play in my dirt.
“You’ve become quite the gardener.” He assessed.
Startled I looked up at him. Suddenly aware I was being observed.
I chortled, “Yeah, right. I don’t have a clue to what I am doing. I’m not a gardener.”
“Are you working with plants?” he prodded.
“Yes, but I don’t know their proper names. I just know it’s a pepper or tomato.”
“Are you mixing dirt?”
“Yes, but I don’t know if I even have the proper ratios or the right kind of soil. I am just simply guessing.”
“Are you using a little garden spade?”
“Yes.” I laughed unsure of exactly what his point might be and completely assured that just using a little shovel didn't make anyone a gardener.
“Do you have dirt on your hands? On your clothes? On your face?’
I looked down. My pants were smudged and streaked with dirt and white places of fertilizer. My fingernails were dark with caked dirt. I assumed that as a result of all of this my face must be dirty too.
“Are you planting a pepper?” He asked.
“Yes. But, Steve, I don’t know the Latin names for these plants. I don’t know when they will come to fruition. I don’t know when the peppers will be ready to harvest.”
He shook his head at me. This wonderful, indulgent husband of mine just grinned at me. “Tamera, I didn’t say you were a professional gardener, but you are a gardener. You are helping things grow.”
I just looked at him. The revelation didn’t come until later. I put the pepper in the pot and covered the stringy roots with soil. I patted down the dirt around and watered it. Then I heaved the whole thing to the porch and sat it in its place.
Later that night and the next day I was thinking about this whole exchange between us. I mulled over the dialogue. What I remembered, what came back to me with a vivid punch of clarity, was the look on my husband’s face when he startled me.
When he spoke those words to me: “You’ve become quite the gardener.” I looked up and I wasn’t able to interpret the look on his face at the moment. In the midst of the words and the actions of the moment I wasn’t able to decipher what I was seeing on his face.
Later when the Spirit brought this conversation back to my mind (and yes, I do believe it was the Spirit.) I recognized Steve’s look.
It was delight.
Who knows how long he had been watching me—his wife playing in the dirt on the sidewalk. Who knows how long he watched me stir and pour and mix. Who knows how long he watched me push back my hair and leave black streaks on my face.
But when I looked up there was delight on his face.
I didn’t recognize it at first (later I asked him if I had interpreted correctly.)
As I pondered this I realized that this is how the Father looks at me.
My Father watches me with great delight when I am in the midst of doing the work he has called me to do. When I am sitting on the sidewalk, absorbed in the planting of the fragile little plants he has put in my care he is delighted.
I don’t have to know the Latin names. I don’t have to know the acidity of the soil. I don’t have to know when the plants will bear fruit. I just have to plant them. Water them. Nurture them.
You see, I’m just a little girl sitting on the sidewalk, playing in the dirt and trying to make things grow.
And when I do these things He is and will be delighted in me. And he will be delighted in you when you do the same.
Oh, and by the way, that pepper plant that my husband watched me plant?
Little peppers are growing on it.