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Growing in the Gravel

Can I admit something to you? I love free stuff. I always have. In fact, I love it so much that when I was young and limited in my means, I… well… um… I used to steal stuff.

Please don’t hate me. There’s just something thrilling about getting something for (seemingly) nothing.

Because of this shady past, I have this strange mix of happy guilt when I come by free stuff now. The other morning I woke up with that feeling. In those first few moments before the brain has time to tell you what you’re thinking, I just had that feeling like I was in possession of something I didn't buy: equal parts bad and good. Only this time, I had a different feeling: a wave of peace came over me. It was as though I could hear the Lord say, I give you everything to enjoy. Once my brain kicked in I thought of sunsets and flowers and veggies in the garden that all come at no cost to me. I thought of all the real, tangible ways that God blesses me and I realized something for the first time.

God is the giver of all good gifts. And not just that – which we can read in scripture – but something more: God wants us to see that his gifts are free.

I might be oversimplifying it a bit, but stay with me in the pre-logic place a moment.

He gave us life. He gave us breath. He gave us minds, bodies, souls and spirit. He gave us sunshine and rain. He gave us beautiful things to see and eat and learn and know.

Is it any wonder we want free stuff? I’m not talking the buy one, get one free kind of deal, although come to think of it, marketers know what God knows:

Free is appealing. At some deep down, core-reaching depth, we all get thrilled by sunrises, rainbows, gifts and smiles that didn’t cost a thing. It’s a reminder of God, I believe, that goes beyond all the words and knowledge and teaching we could ever amass.

And it’s one of the reasons I love gardening. Sure, I do a lot of work to help along the seeds and plants that I buy. But every now and again, they give back so unexpectedly:

Like they did this year in a gravelly spot beside our garden where a bunch of Super Sweet Tomatoes started growing. A few little ‘maters must have rolled in there last year from the garden. And up out of the unlikeliest of places, grew these volunteer plants. I was going to pull them at first – thinking them to be weeds. But quickly realized what they were and left them just to see.

In fact, we have had a bumper crop of tomatoes this year from volunteers – it’s a term gardener’s use for those seeds that sow themselves. Today, I will go out and pick all those little sweet bites and bring them to a luncheon I’m going to. Because the one thing better then getting free stuff, is giving free stuff. In this way, we join the Maker of the world in his gift of giving:

The God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Genesis 1:29

When we not only get free gifts, but give them as well, we complete the cycle. We don’t have to wake up fearful or anxious, but expectedly looking for each day to be a gift and an opportunity to give a gift.

In that way we can enjoy the present. It's free!

(If you're thinking, "But I don't have a garden or free stuff to give: hold the door open for someone, compliment a tired looking cashier, let a harried driver get past you without getting aggravated. There's lots of ways to freecycle.)

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