The Unexpected Blessings of God – Sweet and Juicy Every Time

Tomato harvest

The unexpected blessings of God - sweet and juicy every time

This morning I am giving thanks for the many blessings of God and for the unexpected ways in which they come to us.  A couple of weeks ago I was moaning because I did not think that any of our beautiful big brandyboy and brandywine tomatoes would get ripe this year.  Summer seemed to be coming to an end and they were still hanging on the vine without even a blush or red.  Friends everywhere were sending me recipes for what to do with green tomatoes and I was contemplating the need to pick them all green and let them ripen inside.

Then suddenly it warmed up and in the last couple of weeks we have been enjoying the most beautiful tomatoes I have ever tasted – not only are they ripening but they are more flavourful than ever.  So we are living on a diet of BLT’s a la Tom Sine & tomato basil salad (recipes below) and relishing the wonder of a God who gives generously without measure even when we have given up.

This is not the only place in which I am aware of God’s unexpected blessings at the moment.  As you know we are working hard to raise the money for our first building at the Mustard Seed Village.  But it has not been easy especially in these challenging economic times and I sometimes feel as though all the tomatoes in our gift giving pool are green and will never ripen.

Many of you were very encouraging when just before our Celtic retreat in August, I wrote a blog post entitled Whatever Happened to Thomas – When Doubt Overwhelms Us  in which I shared: I am struggling because I want to see God’s plan mapped out and I want to see it happen now, on my terms. I want to see big donations come in, but God is sending small mustard seed donationsthat move us forward one step at a time. I feel like Thomas who needed to see Jesus in the flesh with the scars from the nails in his hands and feet in order to believe. 

At that point we needed $500 before the Celtic retreat to clear the area where the pole barn our first Mustard Seed Village building would stand.  I shared my discouragement with a friend at church and she said: I’ll do it!  I’ll raise that $500.  And she did.  Over the next week she asked friends at church to contribute $10, $20, $50 to the cause. That gift was immediately doubled by another unexpected gift of $500.  The land was cleared and at the retreat August 13th we held a very moving dedication ceremony on the cleared area.

In the last couple of weeks we have seen these mustard seed gifts multiplied many times.  One of the retreat participants promised a matching gift of up to $25,000 to help get us started.  Another unexpected $10,000 gift the same day provided the first matching contribution we needed and others are starting to contribute as well.  And now we are more than half  way to matching the $25,000.

It was so exciting last week to get together with our architect and say “go ahead we are ready to start” And in the next couple of months we will begin building the first building at the Mustard Seed Village.  I am convinced that without the initial gift from St Albans parishioners that this would never have happened.

God so often works in unexpected ways but we of little faith find it hard to believe that God will ripen the fruit on our vines.  In my impatience I could so easily have picked that green fruit a couple of weeks ago but it would never have had the flavour God intended.  When we patiently wait for God, miracles happen, the fruit  ripens and is sweeter than we could ever imagine.

Oh and by the way if you want to help us match the rest of that $25,000 we would certainly appreciate your donations.

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwiches a la Tom Sine

Take 2 slices of good, crusty Italian bread and spread it with mayonnaise, mustard, or butter. Fry pieces of lean bacon and drain off the fat on paper. Place the bacon on one slice of bread and top it with tasty cheese. Place under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Top with slices of sweet onion, avocado, lettuce, and large slices of Brandywine tomatoes. Pepper and salt to taste and place the remaining slice of bread on top. Enjoy!

Basil, Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad

1 cup fresh basil, chopped

2 cups of several tomato varieties of all different shades (red, yellow, green, chocolate), chopped

1 cup sweet onion, chopped

1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup kalamata olives, chopped

Mix ingredients together and serve with an oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.

 

 

 

What Do We do With All the Tomatoes?

Brandy Boy tomatoes - delicious

Brandy Boy tomatoes - delicious

Yesterday I posted a twitter update that read “Enjoying the aroma of drying tomatoes.”  Unfortunately some of my facebook friends interpreted that as “dying tomatoes”  and so there have been a few rather pointed comments about the state of my garden.  That of course made me realize that I have been rather silent about what is happening in the garden over the summer – partly because the summer garden seems to keep growing and producing without me needing to do anything at all except wander around admiring the flowers and the growing produce.

Of course there is always watering to be done but most of the time that is a delight rather than a chore as it gives me an opportunity to admire the fruits of our spring labours.  This year has been an exceptionally hot summer in Seattle contrasting with the record cold winter that preceded it – record hot July temperatures contrasted with record cold January which has meant that the garden has produced a little differently from previous years

We are enjoying wonderful tomatoes – especially the new Brandy boy we tried this year.  It is similar to the Armish heirloom Brandywine but on smaller plants and a couple of weeks earlier production which is a real plus here in the Pacific NW.  It has certainly produced big beautiful and delicious tomatoes – many of them weighing more than a pound each.  We have had many feasts of sandwiches;  Our favourite recipes begin with a good loaf of crusty white Italian bread:

Fry some bacon (wish we could get good English bacon here), place on bread, cover with cheddar cheese and melt under the grill.  Top with big slices of the sweetest tomato you can find, sweet onion and avocado.  Spread another slice of bread with mayo or mustard for the top slice of the sandwich and enjoy.  Best eaten with good potato chips.

For a vegetarian version grill slices of summer squash and big portabello mushrooms and use in place of the bacon.

I also bottle lots of marinara sauce and dry lots of cherry tomatoes at this time – wonderful packed in olive oil with herbs and garlic.  We use them in omelettes, salads and pasta dishes over the winter.