“Grandma, this year I want to grow pickles,” answered our eight-year-old grandson when I asked what vegetable he would like to choose for his garden. It was suppertime at the kitchen table, and I had to smile, explaining that the way to get pickles is to start with cucumbers! Beginning with his vision of pickles in Mason jars, it was up to me to turn that goal into a summer project of planting, mulching, watering, fertilizing, weeding, and—finally—harvesting and pickling.
Each year, we toil in his little plot, filled mostly with perennial and annual flowers. His garden this year would host sweet burpless cucumbers clinging to a six-foot tower built by his grandpa. But before a single seed was pressed into the soil, Deuteronomy 6:7 came to my mind, wherein the Lord commands us to teach His laws to our children: “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Our vegetable crop could become so much more than a summer project—it could become a wonderful way to teach some very important principles of Christian living.
Grandma’s Little Gardener
Working side by side, we turned the soil and tucked the seeds into the ground at the depth instructed on the package. (Yes, it is important to follow directions.) We got our hands—and feet—dirty. We watered. We fertilized. We waited. In days, seedlings with two oval leaves popped out of the soil. Grandson was starting to get excited now; each time he came to our house, he would run straight to his tower to see how high the cucumbers were climbing. Next came yellow blossoms, with honeybees buzzing around them. And then, Look, here is a tiny cucumber fruit at the end of a bloom!
Finally, one cuke matured enough to pick, followed by many, many more. Grandson put up a “Cucumbers for Sale” sign, selling to kindly neighbors. He gifted cucumbers. We ate them with most suppers. At last, the day arrived when we filled quart jars with refrigerator pickles, some dill and others sweet.
Reflecting on this project, I am awed by the role we women can have in teaching God’s way to the children in our lives while completing everyday activities. Here are some lessons in Christian living taught by way of a cucumber vine:
Begin with the end in mind. Grandson held this concept firmly in mind when he asked to grow pickles, and I pray he will remember this lesson as he matures. To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. Proverbs 21:5 says that the “plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty,” and that adage certainly applies to cucumbers! Beginning with the end in mind is also the second principle of Stephen Covey’s worthwhile book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Having a positive vision and seeing it through to completion is a key to true success.
Patience is a virtue. In this age of instant gratification, children need every opportunity to learn this crucial attribute. And how better to learn patience than by sprouting plants from seeds? I cannot think of a way to “fast forward” a garden. Galatians 5:22 calls patience “longsuffering”—and, for a child, waiting so long might involve some of that! Helping them understand the process involved, and highlighting even tiny hints of progress, builds and encourages patience. Months passed before our grandson tasted the pickled treat he had long desired, but his patience was rewarded.
We will reap what we sow. During our gardening adventure, I often expressed the truth that as you sow, you will reap, asking, “When we plant seeds from a package with a picture of cucumbers, what do you expect to pick later on?” This led to a discussion of Paul’s admonition in Galatians 6:7–9 that what we sow we will reap—and not to grow weary in doing good, for we will reap if we do not lose heart. On the other hand, Proverbs 22:8 considers the evildoer: “He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow….” Working side by side in the fertile, black soil provides an opportunity to discuss God’s blessings for obedience in which God says, “I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce” (Leviticus 26:4). When we sow good seed, we reap good produce—just as, when we sow cucumber seeds, cucumbers are what we reap.
Hard work pays off. Gardening takes effort. It involves sweating, perhaps a sore back, and even an occasional blister. But the rewards are tangible. “He who tills his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough” (Proverbs 28:19). Proverbs often contrasts the lazy man and the diligent. The lazy man goes hungry, while the worker is fed. We read, “In all labor there is profit, but idle chatter leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23). Teaching our children to work hard will hold them in good stead throughout their lives; you will not find an employer complaining that his employee works too hard.
God rewards generosity. I like to call Proverbs 11:24 the “Law of Generosity.” It says, “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.” Grandson and I go over this verse monthly as we read through Proverbs. Materially speaking, how does it happen that by giving we receive? That occurs only through God’s blessing. It is important to explain to our children that we cannot outgive God. Grandson’s crop was bountiful and he was quick to share his produce. These gifts fed not only the body, but also the soul. One widow at church shed tears when receiving her jar, as it awakened warm memories of her mother’s bread-and-butter pickles.
God expects a tithe of our increase. A garden is an excellent setting in which to discuss the truth that all of creation belongs to the Lord, the master Designer and Creator, and that He gives us so much yet demands just His tithes out of the bounty He provides. God has no need of our money, but He wants us to acknowledge and revere Him, to show gratitude, and to support His Work. When my grandson handed me two dollars from his piggy bank to mail to Charlotte, I felt gratified by his willingness. After all, that two dollars might pay for a booklet that could change someone’s life!
There is a season to everything. One early autumn day—after dozens of cucumbers were harvested, but before the first frost—the vines shriveled. It seemed to happen overnight—and that was the end of the season. We cleaned the vines from the tower and removed them from among the lilies, zinnias, and roses. The sudden end of our project offered a time to reflect. Ecclesiastes 3:1–2 states eloquently, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted….” Solomon understood that God has made everything beautiful in its time (v. 11). Just as we enjoyed the beauty of the vines and the fruit they produced, we accepted that every living thing—be it plant, animal, or human—has an expiration date. This is something for grandmothers to consider after experiencing many trips around the sun.
Sweet Spiritual Fruit
Our gardening project was a success, both physically and spiritually. Thinking back on it brings me joy. In addition, contemplating our cucumber adventure awakens visions of next year’s gardening possibilities. Will we grow cucumbers? Strawberries? Potatoes? The choice is not mine. However, this grandma is already pondering godly principles to be planted in a child’s heart and mind while weeding and watering. Perhaps the principle of sowing bountifully versus sparingly? How about the necessity of the seed dying to produce a glorious crop, or comparing the Kingdom of God to a tiny seed that grows large?
This grandma can hardly wait to get planting!