"How can I bless this food? It blesses me."
—Rev. Nancy Shaffer, in “Field at Table” from Instructions in Joy
I compost. Obsessively. You may be a dinner companion whom I've awkwardly asked to gift me your leftover broccoli stems or tamale wrappers. You may be a coworker whose banana peel has been tucked away in my empty lunch container next to an apple core.
It all ends up in my backyard compost pile, where you’ll also find my dedication to life within, around, and beyond myself. Composting has become a spiritual practice: a way to honor the limited resources we have and to nourish what may come to us in future days.
Last summer I made a commitment to tend to my little backyard garden. Then a bunch of life happened—family time, seminary studies, work obligations, and lots of other beautiful, tough stuff. My best intentions got overgrown with a bunch of weeds, and I'm not a very effective weed-puller. My allergies get in the way. My body revolts when I try to clear away the less-than-desirables, making that task an especially unpleasant one.
But one morning, the weeding had to be done so I got to it. I noticed a familiar plant growing among all the unwanteds. It took a little more clearing away to find it: a tomato plant waiting to be uncovered—the tiniest seed from some long-ago composted tomato plant. It was there all along... just waiting... for the right time... the right place... to find its way. That sacred seed held all it needed to thrive. The weeds had protected it until it was time to enter the world again; to grow into what it was meant to become.
The miracle of grace is like that, always available to us even when it has been left untended.
This little plant is full of my breakfast, lunch, and dinner for many days to come. It's the unintended, uncovered gift that continues to give me nourishment—a tangible reminder of grace every single day. And honestly, it's not even the tomato plant I would have chosen. Though I love most all tomatoes, this kind isn't my favorite. But here we are: my mighty little tomatoes and me, uncovered in their fullness and appreciated in their wholeness.
Thank you, compost. Thank you, air and water and just the right temperature. Thank you even to the weeds for protecting all the sacred seeds until you and I were ready for the uncovering.