“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (Galatians 6:9 NKJV).”
There’s about five weeks of summer left, and I’m doing all I can to make it last. After a long string of hot days, I’m spending mornings up in the garden again, sipping coffee and reading my Bible under the shade of a walnut tree that’s next to my husband’s “Cucumber Haus.”
The roof, constructed of nylon netting, is now covered with curly tendrils fingering their way skyward, while creeping vines around the base spill over into the path. When I step inside the wooden frame, I’m surrounded by a canopy of fuzzy green leaves and delicate yellow flowers. The air is cool and delicious, and I feel like a child again, exploring a secret garden. I love picking the prickly cucumbers, and listening to the bees buzz from blossom to blossom.
The “Cucumber Haus” has become a spiritual dwelling place, a temporarily tabernacle. But its glory is short-lived. Come fall, the frost will strike with a vengeance, shriveling the life-giving vines to the ground. Still, the memory of this year’s harvest will be permanently fixed upon my heart.
Years ago, I began making pickles out of necessity because I married an over-zealous vegetable gardener. I didn’t learn the art of canning from my mother, however. Even though she loved to garden (she planted a modest salad garden every year), she was overly cautious about germs and deathly afraid of botulism. So it’s no surprise to me that she asked a woman at a local grocery store how to make pickles.
Now mind you, my mother has been with the Lord for 19 years. I didn’t know anything about this conversation until a couple weeks ago – after I had made my first batch of pickles. I received and email from a homeschool mom related to my husband’s sister through marriage. She wondered if I was the same Jill Novak that was married to Bobby Novak (that’s what Robert’s family calls him). After I let her know that, yes, indeed, I was “Bobby’s wife,” she wrote back saying, “I was reading your blog and I knew that you were the Jill I know. The Lord used your mom to change our family’s life. She witnessed to my mom in the produce section of the Eagle grocery store in Mundelein in 1979. She asked about making pickles (I remember what a prayer warrior your mom was)! As a result of that mother accepted Christ and through a series of events, my husband and I did also. Your mom used to say we were “shoe-string” relatives! We have been homeschooling since 1989, and have been blessed with 8 kids ranging from 25 to 6.”
I can just imagine my gregarious mother striking up a conversation with a total stranger in the grocery store about making pickles. I can hear the woman assuring her that there is really nothing to worry about if you follow the simple directions. I can see my mother’s face aglow with the thought of making her own pickles. And before you know it, she shares about her faith and her relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. She makes Him so appealing, so appetizing, that this woman accepts Him as her Savior right there and then. The two women exchange recipes that day – one for Kosher Dills, and the other for eternal life; my mother’s evangelism is winsome at best.
I’ll never know how many people my mother led to the Lord in her lifetime through normal, everyday conversations about things like making pickles. She didn’t go out of her way to evangelize the world; she just bloomed where she was planted. People tend to laugh at me, too, because I have a way of spilling my guts and sharing my faith with total strangers (especially at garage sales). That’s why hearing this story about my mother, 27 years after the fact, moved me to tears. The older I get, the more I miss her, and after all these years, the Lord confirmed something I already suspected – I truly am my mother’s daughter.
Well, this is the fourth time that I’m harvesting cucumbers this season. As I pick, slice, and can pickles, I’m passing down recipes to my own children: the joy of growing a garden, the sweet and spicy smell of pickles simmering on the stove, and the appetizing aroma of a relationship with the living God, the recipe for eternal life. For the memories I make now will be permanently fixed upon their hearts, and I will be remembered, like my mother before me, as a woman who nurtured her children’s souls, and reaped an abundant harvest – a winsome evangelism at best!