Early this past summer, between the rows of kale and marigolds in my make-do garden, I planted four leafy-green Brussel sprouts. Tomatoes I knew. Cucumbers and green beans and zucchini too. I’d never grown Brussel sprouts, but the thought of harvesting my own organic, farm-to-table mini cruciferous cabbages was too delectable to resist. So I scooped four shallow holes in my loamy soil, packed it around the promising shoots and waited to see what grew.
All summer I watered and weeded—sometimes too much, sometimes too little. The shiny red orbs of cherry tomatoes ripened first, followed by prickly-skinned cucumbers. Heavy leaves grew wide from the now thick shoots of the Brussel sprouts. Sometime between July and August, they must have flowered. But whenever I bent over their dewy, greening tops, I found only an empty nest where I expected nubby knobs.
Then came the cabbage worms, squiggly green pests that devoured the uppermost leaves of my sprouts, leaving behind nothing but spiny, sharp ribs like the carcass of a half-gnawed beast. By summer’s end, my garden was filled with a cloud of fluttering white butterflies, all of which I knew were laying eggs that would hatch into another round of grubby green, leaf-eating worms. To my dismay, whenever I peered over the rows, there appeared still no sprouts.
In early September, I marched into my garden, sure that the worms had devoured what I hoped to steam for a delicious, butter-dotted side dish. Determined to yank out the ruined plants, I wrapped my hand around a woody stalk only to step back in wonder. I bent closer, hardly believing what I saw. There, in a glorious profusion, were dozens of budding green balls. Brussel sprouts! Having not known where to look for the fruit, I’d almost destroyed the entire plant.
How like my own life. When the fruit of my life doesn’t appear as quickly or in the place I expect, I so easily believe it has all been for nothing. The worms are so quick to consume, their egg-laying offspring so abundant. Frustrated by my seemingly failed efforts and impenetrable odds of success, my first instinct is to rip out the spiny carcasses of what remains of my well-intentioned hopes and dreams – whether for my children or my work or my own deepest held longings.
But sometimes, like with my Brussel sprouts, the product of our work doesn’t appear as soon as we want or look like what we expect. To reap a harvest requires perseverance, along with the knowledge of what we are looking for. “So let’s not grown tired of doing good,” the apostle Paul writes in Galatians 6:9 (NLT). “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
Not ahead of time. Not late. But at just the right time: That is when the blessings come. Last night my family sat around our kitchen table to enjoy the freshest, tastiest Brussel sprouts we’d ever eaten. So, if you too are waiting for the fruit of your deepest held hopes and greatest efforts, don’t give up before the blessing.
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. The Christmas Cradle, the first book in her Lantern Hill Farm picture-book series, is available now. To help others discover these books, please write a review on Amazon or CBD and share with friends! Connect at www.meadowrue.com