A Garden of Surprises


Two compost bins stand off to the side of our garden. Every few days we bring our scraps of food to the bins, toss them in, and rotate the mix of leaves, grass, and food and watch it transform. We’ve been using these same compost containers for the last few years and it never ceases to amaze me what comes from the bins. 


Not only fresh, dark compost, but growing plants. 


It started earlier in the summer when we noticed the tomato plants shooting out from the bottom of the bin. “What do you think?” my husband asks me. “Should we let it grow or pull it up?” 


Hesitating a bit as I stare at the vibrant green vine that will produce tomatoes, I say, “Sure, let’s see what comes of it.” In past years we’ve let our volunteer plants such as squash and tomatoes grow and sometimes they take over our garden so we’re not sure what we originally planted and what grew organically. 


A few weeks after finding the volunteer tomatoes I noticed a new vine coming from the compost. And each day following I’d walk outside and need to step over the growing vine. Soon big, green leaves formed followed by yellow flowers. My husband began mowing around the vine and we’d have to step over it to get inside our small shed which stands behind the growing plant. Another squash plant we thought. Another plant coming to life from the compost. 


Now it’s August and we’ve picked an abundance of cherry tomatoes from the volunteer plant. We’ve delighted in the sun-ripened tomatoes and given thanks for their bounty, not from the work of our hands, but from the work that happens when we open our eyes to God’s abundance in our midst. 


The other day I saw a small vegetable growing from one of the flowers on our squash plant. It was green and round. A few days later, I realized we had a large green pumpkin. I don’t know if we’ll get more pumpkins, gifts from this plant that grew from our compost, but I do know that the gift has already been given.  


The volunteer plants remind me that sometimes the best work we can do is to let things grow on their own. To trust that sometimes we need to let creation flourish, and to be surprised by the miracles of life that pop up. God constantly shows up in the places that we least expect. In bread and wine, water and word, a tomato plant, pumpkin, and compost. 


Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website. Or follow her work on Facebook.   


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