What Does Preparation Look Like?

IMG_0267As a child growing up on a farm in Ohio, I was given the gift of so many things I didn’t even realize I was receiving until much later in life when the farm was no longer there. Most of what was served on our table was grown or raised on our small sixty-acre farm. Both of my parents were exceptional stewards of the land and all they owned. That witness resulted in me keeping just over seven acres of the original farm, which I allow a neighbor to utilize for whatever crop he needs to plant. I feel a sentimental tug to the values I saw day in and day out from one season to the next.

My parents never took God’s provision for granted, nor did they cease to exude gratefulness for His supply. Part of that was demonstrated in their faith and another was evident in their actions.

In the winter my father would pour over the catalogs of plants and seeds choosing what he believed would be best for our land and provide his family and livestock with what they needed. Preparation began when snowdrifts covered the fields and the garden, when the trees were bare. He knew there would be no crop if he waited until spring to consider planning.

The spring calendar was timed to exact details so that each crop, each plant, and each seed would be planted at the optimal time to bring about the best possible harvest. It has been many years since I watched the checks on the calendar as tasks were completed, but I still remember much of the sequence of which things were planted when. The ground was tilled until clumps were broken into fertile soil waiting for the seed. Fertilizer of just the right type was added at just the time it was needed.

As school ended for me and summer began, more work was done weeding and watering, always tending and never shirking responsibility for the land. One by one crops began to push up out of the ground, grow, and be harvested. My roll of “helper” whether podding peas, snapping beans, picking cherries, sterilizing jars for canning, or holding bags open for freezing taught me much about food preservation that prepared us for the fall and winter seasons when the land would not be producing.

In the summer and early fall we enjoyed a table of great goodness, but my parents never took for granted any year’s harvest. A bit more than would be needed until the next harvest was always put away in the event the rain was too much or too little, the sun too hot or the air too frosty. As a result of that preparation, we enjoyed God’s provision through all the seasons of the year.

But my parents’ stewardship did not end with the land or the livestock. They also stewarded faith, knowledge of God’s Word, and a commitment to prayer, tithing, service, and fellowship. They continued a lineage from their families. The harvest of their preparation and tending passed to me and beyond, to my children, their grandchildren. They knew well that life apart from the Lord would never prepare us to live with hope, find peace in the midst of life’s storms, or courage in the face of obstacles.

Today Frederick Buechner again reminded me of the importance of preparation as I read these words:

“People are prepared for everything except the fact that beyond the darkness of their blindness there is a great light. They are prepared for God who strikes hard bargains but not for a God who gives as much for an hour’s work as for a day’s. They are prepared for the potluck supper at First Presbyterian but not for the marriage supper of the lamb, and when the bridegroom finally arrives at midnight with vine leaves in his hair, they turn up with their lamps to light him on his way all right, only they have forgotten the oil to light them with and stand there with their big, bare, virginal feet glimmering faintly in the dark.”

As I read his thought provoking words and reflected on what I had learned from my parents who went home to be with Him twenty years ago, I sought the Lord’s grace to let my preparation for Him be a daily priority.

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