Many of the most significant changes in my life occurred all in the same year. I went from being a city apartment dweller to a suburban homeowner, the primary breadwinner to a housewife with no income of my own, an independent childless woman to a mother. I instantly had the overwhelming need to prove myself. I identified a task that seemed to epitomize the work of a suburban stay-at-home mom. I took up gardening.
Most people who have never before willingly put their hands in the dirt choose to start with an easy crop. But I didn’t plant tomatoes or marigolds. I felt compelled to grow raspberries.
As my unborn child stirred in the womb, I worried about everything. I worried about the big things, such as how to teach him to be a good and God-loving person. I also worried about the seemingly meaningless things, such as why was I growing raspberries?
St. Paul to Galatia: good fruit
In his letter to the church in Galatia, St. Paul wrote, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Galatians 5:14) He told the believers to “live by the Spirit” so that they could be led to the traits he called “the fruit of the Spirit.”
St. Paul identified these as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal 5:22-23 – NAB translation) These gifts, in turn, would feed the faith of the believers. The fruit is both the incentive and the reward.
As I spent hours in my yard preparing the soil and planting raspberry canes, I prayed that I could teach these things to my child. Little did I know that the raspberries would be there through the years to assist me.
There is no other love quite the same as the love a parent feels for his or her child, and this of course is the first example of love that a child ever sees. Tending the fruit gave my son and me a lot of time to bond with one another and share in that special model of love.
Seeing my son bound out of bed on summer mornings to check on the berries and pick a few for breakfast always brings tears to my eyes. The priceless smiles that those sweet berries give us remind us that the simple things in life make us the happiest.
Sitting on a rock in the garden, hidden behind the raspberry canes, my son and I share our quiet time. It is a serene place to which we can retreat for a cuddle, a talk, or some extra prayer.
There wasn’t much yield the first two years, but by the time my son was old enough to enjoy them, the berries were in abundance. We often look at the photographs in our garden journal and remember that good things come to those who wait.
Because we value all of God’s creation, we grow our berries completely organically. We talk about how important it is to be kind to the earth and that the birds are entitled to their share of the berries too, even if that means there is less for us.
It is wonderful to share the bounty, especially in the home-baked crumb cakes, pies, and layer cakes that we bring to friends and people in our church. My son is learning that true happiness comes from giving.
We have experienced together that neglected canes wither and die. For anything to bear fruit, daily attention is required. My son applies that understanding to all his relationships with the people in his life.
Raspberries are very tender, not unlike the feelings of others. They bruise easily and must be handled with great care.
In an immediate-gratification world, my son is learning what self-restraint is all about. He knows that he has to live with the consequences of his choices. If he picks all the berries today, there will be none for tomorrow’s breakfast or for sharing with his friends and neighbors.
Looking back, it had to have been the Spirit who moved me to grow raspberries. And it is the Spirit to whom I give thanks for the bounty of berries and lessons. Indeed these fruits of the Spirit do give our family nourishment.