I had already purchased the necessary quantity of sugar, vinegar, and onions earlier and had yet to make the last-minute collections of fresh sweet peppers and dill. For the last two years I had purchased large quantities of dill from Barrie Hill Farms which is conveniently located a few km north of the Harris farm. Unfortunately for me, Barrie Hill Farms was closed until Thursday, by which time I hoped my pickles would be bottled and lined up like soldiers in neat little rows.
The children whooped and groaned when I announced pickling. On one hand, it meant less book work for them but on the other, they would be needed to care more for the twins and help with pickling. My eldest daughter rolled her eyes.
Did she remember how short-tempered I was last year? I wished I could promise them Mommy would not be cranky or irritable this time. I asked God to help me with my usual responses under pressure. Would this year be any better? Again Jason was on evening shift, and this time he was doing a day job as well. Could this be a joyful and memorable experience even though it was hard work? I desperately wanted it to be. I called out a prayer asking for God's provision for dill and for His grace, mercy, and strength in the midst of task. "Lord, help me to be gentle, patient, kind, and humble," I asked.
"I need your help, Father, to keep my attitude light, to focus on family and relationships first and pickles last."
God's grace fell like a steady rain. It came in many forms.
The dill came in a large white bucket with several long, curly-stemmed sunflowers from a friend's garden. She gave generously and thoughtfully. How their sunny faces blessed me as the clock ticked long past midnight and my strength waned. In the wee hours of the morning I smiled often at their large brown eyes and golden yellow petals. A gift of encouragement.
Busily the children pitched in for entertaining the twins, washing cucumbers, preparing a light supper, and other various tasks. "Many hands make light work" These dear hands and spirits were another blessing from His hand.
On a cloudless warm Saturday at the cottage on Labour Day Week-end another friend had asked to come and watch the pickling process. She wanted to add a new skill to her household management artillery and pickles to her pantry. So she came. It was this friend that brought the dill, went out to purchase a hand chopper (mine had broken), and then once shown, began bottling dills. She also brought a few cookies from Tim Horton's which was a thoughtful treat to make the labour light.
One of the steps in making relish is chopping cucumbers. I was given a food processor a few years ago but I had never used it. My friend didn't give me the manual so I needed to work through a learning curve. Let it be said, I am not technically savvy nor do I have a knack or patience with technical machinery. I found it necessary to chop 4 quarts of cucumbers and 6 large onions for relish. In the past I had used a meat grinder however this apparatus had broken the last time it was used. The process proved to be stressful as I was liquifying, not chopping, the vegetables. It was a trying experience. Later that evening after calling another friend, she came over with her food processor experience and a manual. Within no time we were turning out 4 quarts of cucumbers and all the onions. Hands of friendship given by God, taken and held, and our lives are richer, more abundant.
The pickles were done mid-evening the next day. At times I was short-tempered and hasty in my words. More often I chose, in God's grace, to exercise patience, compassion, and kindness. I found that my gentle responses bore good fruit. I realized more than pickles, we made fun memories.
Along with many perfect pickles, I made a weak brine for one batch of bread and butter pickles. Several jars will be consumed by our family, not shared or given to others. When we eat those pickles I will savour God's faithfulness and generous provision with every bite.
Some of the bounty...
From my distress I called upon the Lord; The Lord answered me and set me in a very large place. Psalm 118:5
Thank You Lord for your faithfulness and provision. Thank you for friends, pickles, and sunflowers.