Monday, June 15, 2015
The Story of Gardens and Blessings and Tithing and Blessings.
I am not sure which came first…the Garden of Eden and the commandment to Adam to tend the fruits and vegetables or the commandment to tithe 1/10th of all increase. The Bible is a little confusing when it comes to time lines it seems. But I do know that both commandments happened and both are commandments we follow today. I am sending this story to my grandkids and I have a feeling that in some of the families, this testimony might have to be read by the parents. And that’s OK.
Tithing has always been an important part of our lives, Papa and mine…even before we became Papa and Granny. It was always a commandment that we obeyed easily. Tithing is paying 1/10th of increase. And it is 1/10th of the gross amount we received. For Papa who worked at the mill, the gross amount would cover the benefits he received from working there as well as the salary he received. This would include health care which was wonderful for the 7 of us, covering all medical bills to a huge extent. It included a 401K portion which would be used for our retirement. There was also life insurance for both of us. Toward the end it included dental and vision benefits. If we had only paid on the net amount (the dollar amount that we could have in our hand as cash) we would never have been able to make this right with the Lord even if we could ‘pay Him back’ which none of us are ever able to do. All He asked of us is 10%, 1/10th of our increase. And no….We did not get a increase of say $537.90 and then to the penny paid $53.79. It just seemed smarter to toss in extra to cover those items we felt blessed with but didn’t seem to have a dollar amount attached to it.
Gardening has also been a part of our lives forever. When we were first married and had moved to Parma, OHIO, we decided to have a small garden at Auntie Carol/Uncle Al Etzel’s Grafton Ohio, century-old farmhouse land. That didn’t prove to be very successful since the garden plot was far away from the water line and we were almost 1 hour away and weren’t very good farmers…not living on the land. But we learned about planting and the need for watering and nourishment. and weeding.
When we lived in a 2nd floor apartment in N. Olmsted, Ohio, we also learned to have a teeny tiny garden on the small balcony where Dawn and Cara used to play. We got 2 plastic laundry baskets, lined them with black garbage bags which we had poked holes in for drainage, filled with soil. On that small balcony we raised 2 tomato plants.
Then we moved to 809 in Sheffield Lake, Ohio, buying our first home with a lovely backyard. And Papa decided to put in a garden behind the garage. He bought sand from the builder’s supply company located on the Black River to break up the clay, poured in the grass clippings every time he cut the lawn. One year Sheffield Lake gave out free recycle bins as well as rain barrels and of course we used them both.
We tried lots of vegetables and some fruits in those years. That’s where we began our raspberries and beans and tomatoes. But we also had grapes for juice and jellies, and tried our hands with carrots, broccoli, lettuce, onions although with those we weren’t as successful. But always either Lance or Lady enjoyed the raspberries. Here’s Lady trying to jump the short fence to get to them (both dogs were buried under the berries and we are sure this is why our berries were so sweet).
Every summer Dawn, Cara, Jocelyn, Marissa, and Jordan would be hauled out to the garden to harvest the beans and tomatoes. Yes, because we live along the lake shore in Ohio, we get humid summers and more than likely the 5 kids would complain about the bugs, the heat, the itchies or maybe even just having to do this. This harvesting meant they would also have to drag in the bowls filled with the produce and help clean the stuff as well. Then I would take over canning the produce. I had sat with them while they cleaned the stuff but I managed the pressure canner, always afraid it might blow up in our small kitchen and hurt one or more of the kids. But these preserved garden increases held us through the winter and summer until the next harvest and this would be repeated. Some years we had pumpkins (1998 and here’s toddler Cody. All the grands but especially the Kennedy kids have enjoyed our fruits when they’ve come in season..last year Peter didn't even care that the grapes weren't ripe, still sour, but he cleared the vines!) to carve for Halloween (one year all the pumpkins in our patch suddenly were turned silver with spray paint that I think the King kids behind us pranked us with). One year I remember a small, very round watermelon which was very sweet.
When we decided to move up here to 3830, Papa began the process to provide areas for us to garden. Gunner and Bonpapa always had terrible times attempting to get anything to grow in this yard. My mom would always say she was going to have the County Extension agent come out and test the soil but she never did. So instead we often shared our produce with them. Papa has since tested it and there’s nothing wrong pH-wise with this soil…altho most of their gardens were rocks with a little soil on top which Papa has deepened with more soil.
First we enlarged the backyard by having the fence moved out to the sidewalk. Next because Cara and Jocelyn had told Papa about square foot gardening, Papa put in boxes. They have never become raised beds and certainly are not square…we always seem to do things in a big way. Railroad beams were used up here just as they were at 809 in the garden (as well as the upright supports to our food shelves in the 809 basement that we always commented would withstand a huge earthquake). Now we are swapping these out for cinderblocks…at least that’s the plan.
We learned that Avon Lake offers free soil and mulch to anyone. This comes through their city recycling program. Without a truck, Papa drives over to Rt. 83, the car filled with large buckets and shovels in what he’s come to term “The Recipe” (aka the Baldwin Sisters’ term for hooch in The Waltons…TV show). And he still goes there several times a week and lugs in the soil and sometimes the mulch they offer free as well.
Our soil up here has become very friable and very rich. And we have been blessed.
Now we come to the reason for this story. Last week, our strawberries all ripened at the same time. They were big and red and sweet and juicy. When I got ready for the day I came down to find the first of 5 HUGE bowls filled with strawberries which Papa had picked. And I knew this was the day we were going to be preserving the berries. But this much strawberries was more than we had ever gotten, more than we probably had ever picked at the Historic LDS Johnson Farm in Hyrum, Ohio, where the Prophet Joseph had been tarred and feathered and where he received D&C 76 on the 3 Degrees of Glory… (Jocelyn picks)
(I picked strawberries when I was overdue with Dawn and everyone feared I would deliver in the field and then I’d have to name the baby Strawberry Patch Hatch) or from the fields that used to be on Abbe Road in Sheffield Lake where the now (dratted) Ford plant is or the Aufdenkampe Farm in Vermilion. I kept cleaning the berries and Papa kept bringing in more bowls.
Suddenly, Papa had the idea to pay tithing of these berries IN KIND. This was how farmers used to pay their tithing when the church was restored…probably in ancient times. They often didn’t have cash money but they did have crops which were turned into the bishop and to the bishop’s storehouse which the produce was then redistributed to the people in need of food.
This was a surprise to me. As I said at the beginning we often put in more money to our tithing to cover such events but we had never, not ever, stopped to think about paying tithing in kind for produce. Perhaps this is an outgrowth of the blessing Papa received by being the Seminary teacher this past year and covering Church History. But whatever it was, that’s what he said we would do.
So I weighed out the bowls and we had over 30 pounds of strawberries. We picked out the best, the largest, the prettiest berries and set them aside. I sat on a chair, bending over the sink cleaning the berries. I kept looking at this small amount that was set aside ..probably close to 5 pounds…and then I’d look at all the berries I had left to clean and process.
And I was quick to see that the Lord asks so little of us. Only 10% of the berries. Only 10% of whatever increase we have, in whatever form it takes. But He does ask us to do this, as a sign of faith and as a sign of trust and when you factor in the Fast Offering it is as a partnership in His great Welfare plan for his people and for the people all over the world who suffer from hardships like drought, or floods, or tornadoes or hurricanes. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is often the first to arrive with relief for such areas. No, our small bowl of strawberries would not serve to provide relief for many but it provided a strong, HUGE, example to us.
And did I have enough berries for our needs? Way enough berries. Enough and to spare as the Doctrine and Covenants said. I prepared the jelly and had 15 containers filled of freezer jelly in freezer containers PLUS 12 plastic containers filled and they were the small containers little Simon had with his baby food in them…to be given away to good piano students or friends or with a loaf of homemade bread. PLUS 6 pints of strawberry sauce for over ice cream, waffles, pancakes, or pound cakes. PLUS we took bags of the berries to our neighbors or Home/Visiting Teaching peoples.
It was quite a day. And we were so blessed. All along I had figured this would be our story, our secret, our lesson. Papa has been so moved by the experience that he’s told a couple people. The sad part is that apparently the bishop told the story to either ward council or in priesthood meeting (we don’t know where because I was in RS and Papa was in Primary at the piano but it got reported to us). My take on this is that it should have been kept private because when we get rewarded openly we have received our blessing on earth. Me? I’d prefer to get my blessings in the next life.
BUT HERE’S MY BIGGEST FEAR. The Lord always blesses us with more when we show our faithfulness. Not always in tangible things but......WHAT WILL OUR BERRIES BE LIKE NEXT YEAR?