But thanks be to God! For through what Christ has done, He has triumphed over us so that now wherever we go,
He uses us to tell others about the Lord and to spread the Gospel like a sweet perfume.
As far as God is concerned there is a sweet wholesome fragrance in our lives.
It is the fragrance of Christ within us, an aroma to both the saved and unsaved all around us.
(2 Corinthians 2:14-15 LB)

This is a bountiful year for the apple tree at the hedgerow. We spent precious hours under its fragrant bower this spring, celebrating the delicate scent of paper thin petals. Now the branches, heavy with yellow and rose dappled apples give us cause us to rejoice.

Up in the garden the Spanish onions, white and bulbous, are popping out of the ground and the globe basil in the herb bed next to the house is just beginning to flower. All of these ingredients will simmer together to make a pot with the most intoxicating aroma. Yes, it’s Tomato-Apple Chutney time! But before this wonderful concoction can be ladled into hot sterile canning jars, the apples must be peeled, sliced, and cored, the onions skinned and cut into quarters, and the tomatoes picked, blanched, and chopped.

We’ve been feasting on vine-ripened tomatoes ever since the middle of July. My husband planted two different varieties of cherry tomatoes this year–sweet 100’s and cupids–that ripened fast and furious. I’ve been oven-drying these sumptuous tidbits and popping them in freezer bags to enjoy later this winter.

The larger tomatoes–early girls, romas, and beefsteaks–ripened shortly, thereafter. We gathered at a leisurely pace (in mid-July), strolling up to the garden to pick a ripe tomato or two for tomato basil sandwiches or garden fresh salads. Then by mid-August, when the sun began to lose its strength, the garden took on a golden hue. The tomato crop matured and we were barely able to keep up with the bounty as we hauled bushel full after bushel full down to the house in our trusty old wagon. We mainly sliced those tomatoes into quarters, adding a dash of salt to freeze and process later.

This year’s abundant harvest is ample reward for my husband’s labor of love. He staked each of the 50 tomato plants with one pole of rebar, pounding it deep into the ground. This was just to gird up the tomato cages for the duration of the growing season. After weekly downpours and a few violent summer storms, they mostly stood straight and erect, heavily laden with fruit.

If you’ve ever picked home-grown tomatoes you know how that one-of-a kind fragrance rubs off on you. The first tomatoes usually ripen in the hidden recesses of the plant, so as you part the leaves and pick the reddest juiciest ones, the spicy scent lingers on your green-stained fingers and shirt cuffs. We call this pungent odor “tomato perfume,” and it reminds me of another perfume I’ve been told that I possess – one that is produced under similar conditions.

Sometimes the little girls ask for a piece of my clothing to snuggle with at night – a cotton or flannel pajama top they call a “snuff.” Actually, almost any clothing item of mine will do as long as it has that special mommy perfume on it. Sometimes they’ll just bury their heads in my chest and breathe deeply of that nurturing, bonding fragrance, and they’ll say, “Oh, you smell so good.”

In many ways we mothers are just like those heavy laden tomatoes up in the garden, staked up by the Lord, deeply grounded in His word, supported by His sheltering arms through the downpours and storms of life, until we come forth in due season, releasing the fragrance of Christ.

Somehow in my mind’s eye tomato perfume and mommy perfume are interchangeably mixed this summer. As the tomatoes rub off on me, I rub off on my children – a smell I don’t want them to ever forget. When I invite them to go up to the garden with me to pick tomatoes, they groan, “Do we have to pick again?” “Yes,” I say. “We won’t have many moments like these left. Summer’s almost over and I want your company.” Soon they forget the hot sun and scratchy tomato leaves. We quickly fill a huge basket together, and then they’re off chasing other childish pursuits, like trying to catch the dog and hold him prisoner in the “Cucumber Haus.”

As the dog barks and dodges the grabbing hands, I laugh. Stooping over to fill yet another dress-full of tomatoes, I empty my harvest into a bushel full of memories–soon to be bottled in jars of golden hue, and I marvel at the intoxicating aroma–the unforgettable fragrance of the life-giver Himself.