Faith, Gardening, life, relationships, Spiritual Encouragement, Stories from Scripture
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Pitiful Harvest Stew {A Parable and a Recipe, of Sorts}

I pressed my thumb through the green folds. Peas, orb-like and smooth, popped, rolled over my thumb and round the sides of the metal colander.

I scrubbed carrots under running water, smelling again the fresh, spring soil that embraced the tiny seeds. I remembered the bare surface of the garden bed, brown and plain. It offered hope only by its acceptance of the seed, for at planting time there is no visible proof of the promised harvest.

I held the potatoes in the palm of my hand, one at a time, felt their heft. The root that’s sustained so many. I finally grew some this year: Yukon Golds and those lovely, purple “pommes de terre”. I rubbed and scrubbed the skins, set knife-blade against them and readied them for the stew.

I clipped ends off of string beans and dropped them on the rest of the vegetables. In my memory, I tasted my mom’s ham and beans, a soft and salted comfort food of my childhood that she stewed in her pressure-cooker with the jiggling, noisy top. I remember it, the smell of earth in spring transformed into dinner on our plates. We’d slop the juices with buttered, white bread and smile with stomachs satisfied.

'Veal stew made with Port wine' photo (c) 2012, Luca Nebuloni - license:

My colander was full.

I tilted it’s contents into the deep well of my slow-cooker, added the meat, onions, seasonings, turned the knob, set the cover and wondered how I can only grow enough vegetables for one, pitiful stew.

If I had to feed myself and my family on the yields of my land, we would be eating the dirt itself.

I grow flowers, lots of them. Monarda, with its shaggy heads sequestering nectar for the humming birds, lilies to scent the air, bellflowers of many kind that sway in bent repose in summer breezes, roses, alyssum, phlox, daisies….

But growing edibles is an altogether different story. I have much to learn and acres to grow before I could grow a harvest to be really proud of.

The hours passed and the scent of stew warmed the house like September sunshine. School’s begun and the flurry of four kids at four different schools across town has left me feeling windblown already. It was Wednesday when I cooked the pitiful harvest stew, so we’d be eating in shifts tonight as we came and went to piano lessons and youth group.

But somehow we all ended up on the deck in the cool of twilight with bowls of warmth resting in hands, on laps, filling mouths. And over the small harvest we laughed, we talked about teachers and news of the day, we talked about kitchen projects and future plans and aging parents and the grace of God.

And I cannot eat my harvest. I marvel at it sprouting and dropping fruit all around me. There is more blessing stuffed onto the square of my deck than anyone could think to dream of:

in the people and the lives and the futures of these children,

in the beauty of the night with its slivers of silver light clinging to the western sky,

in a bowl of stew scraped clean, stomachs satisfied,

in the hope of another spring, another try at growing life in the power of the dirt of my backyard.
'kale and broccoli, in the spring garden' photo (c) 2011, woodleywonderworks - license:









There are a variety of parables in the New Testament, Jesus’ stories, of growing and harvesting, planting, pruning, of weeds and wildflowers and fruit both bad and good. I love to take a look at the parables offered to us in the seasons and in the garden. I think of the story in the bible where the workers say of the master, “he is a harsh master, planting seeds where he does not harvest” and I wonder about the way things work in God’s economy. I think of the cursed fig tree and the grafted vine. I love the mysteries of truth hidden in creation.

Sometimes, though, I’m deflated by my own small harvests. Like my gardening skills, my life-skills don’t always produce the outcome I’m looking for. Sometimes it seems I work and work and look at a small bowl of what-have-you and wonder why I ever tried in the first place. Do you ever feel like that?

But God’s returns are guaranteed. We are told his word will not return to him void. He guarantees a harvest.  We are told in his word that his dreams for his people are filled with prosperity and goodness, they would be “like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” {Isaiah 58:11}. We are told in his word that he alone is responsible for the outcome of the harvest, we get the amazing experience of working alongside him.

The recipe is to obey God. Get to know him through his word. Watch him in creation. Seek him in the daily activities of life. Learn from him. Jesus invited us into the plow work of his ministry “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” {Matthew 11:29}.

And at the end we, like David who wrote this harvest song, can throw our voices into the chorus and sing,

“You care for the land and water it;

you enrich it abundantly.

The streams of God are filled with water 

to provide the people with grain, 

for you have ordained it.

You drench its furrows and level its ridges;

you soften it with showers

and bless its crops.

You crown the year with your bounty,

and your carts overflow with abundance.

The grasslands of the desert overflow,

the hills are clothed with gladness,

The meadows are covered with flocks

and the valleys mantled with grain;

they shout for joy and sing.”

{Psalm 65:9-13}

Friend,  no harvest is pitiful if grown with God.



Thought-Provoking-Thursday-Button linking up with Lyli




  1. This hits the spot…mouth watering stew…simple principle to obey…and words to chew on and hope to put up in the pantry for the “winter” ahead. Thanks for inviting me over via the blogosphere.

  2. Beautiful allegory, beautiful harvest, beautiful words. I have been feeling lately like the harvest of my hands, with my foster kids leaving soon, has been a little too pitiful… I haven’t had the time to cultivate all that I wanted to, a few short months haven’t been enough to fully weed out what chokes their little spirits or spoils their fruit, but I am reminded in your words that I am not the Master gardener here. And, I admire your ability to grow anything at all, since I can’t keep anything but children alive for long. My flower-box herb garden sits brittle and brown, a regular spice cemetery. Gardening is mystery and magic and beautiful work, but so completely foreign to me that your modest harvest seems a veritable bounty to this black-thumbed girl. 🙂

    • spice cemetery — I love that. I have killed more plants than I care to admit, and funny thing, the weeds are always so green and happy in my yard. But I love, love flowers and I keep trying at veggies. One day. But you’re right, we can always remember that the Master Gardener knows his stuff and tends us very well:)

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