This spring I planted some zucchini seeds in hopes to have some of my own favorite vegetables right outside my back door since I buy so many of them in the first place. Not only is growing your own food cheaper, but it is good for the environment and gives you a sense of purpose. While this trend is on the rise (35% of American households--a 17% increase over five years as reported by the National Gardening Association), I never thought I would be so concerned with the life of my own plants. I never had good luck with growing plants but decided to give it another shot.

Makenzie Jones

There is a parable in the New Testament that Jesus preached as part of His sermon on the mount called The Parable of the Soils or the Parable of the Sower. It's one that I've heard time and time again growing up, but in different circumstances, the same message can bring different meanings. At the beginning of August, the pastor of my church at home spoke on this passage for his message one Sunday.

To give you the background summary, there was a sower who scattered seeds along a path. Various types of soil affected what happened to these seeds. Sounds simple, right? Looking deeper into the meaning of these symbols, the seeds represent the Word of God, the sower is the person who shares the Word, the soils are levels of receptivity in hearts of people who hear, and the enemy who takes some seed is Satan.

Makenzie Jones

The first soil is a hardened heart (Matthew 13:19).

This can come from repetitive hearing the same preaching throughout life, repetitive trials throughout life, or flat-out rejection of the Lord. This reminded me of one of my zucchini plants that no matter how I watered it, moved it to better potting or sunlight, it wouldn't grow. The roots rejected the nutrients I fed it, and it died.

The second soil is a shallow heart (Matthew 13:20-21).

This person receives the message, even joyfully so, but it doesn't stick with him. He doesn't have a deep or strong enough faith to let it flourish in his life. As my plants grew in the little pots I started them out in, they got to a certain point and stopped. Their roots couldn't go any deeper, and they could not grow. They were alive but not thriving. Mom and I were not happy that now we would have to go out and spend more money on more soil and bigger planters, but that is what we would have to do if we wanted them to grow (and not mess up our brand new yard). Oftentimes, there is a cost we must pay in the short term to get something better and lasting in the long-term.

Makenzie Jones

Next is the crowded heart (Matthew 13:22).

This one gets me sometimes. Distractions...this world is full of them! Even if we accept the good news, we also hear and are involved in so many other things in this world, it is easy to let it go as quickly as it came. Plants can take in the sunlight and water, but if weeds and thorns choke the plant, it will die. Even other good plants, if too much too close, can crowd out the growth of another. Even good things in life, if they become burdens or distractions to what matters, can crowd out the things that God wants for our lives. Another challenge I came across in growing my vegetables was the number of plants per few boxes we had. We ended up having to spread them out to more planter boxes so that the nutrients and light could be more focused. Again, a hassle at the time, but it was necessary to get to the end goal.

The fourth heart is the receptive heart, aka the seed sown on fertile ground (Matthew 13:23).

This person not only hears but accepts the truth, lets it grow in his heart, then lets it flourish in his life. It is not always simple to let the Word of God stay in your mind and heart, but it gets easier over time. Just as plants grow toward the sun, people will also grow more and more toward what they set their sights on. The Bible calls it "dying to self" ("Now if we have died with Christ, we may also live with Him." Romans 6:8) when you put your own desires behind to follow the way of life with God (John 12:24, Galatians 2:20, 5:24, Luke 9:23-24). You have to die before you can live. With my zucchini plants, I was greatly troubled when I saw one morning that they were totally broken, laying over. It looked like something had chopped them to a 90-degree angle. However, after talking to some local growers, I found that that is how zucchini grow; they spread across the ground. In order to live and produce fruit, they must first be "broken." 

Makenzie Jones

After a time of living this life on the path with God, letting His Word work in your heart, the good will start to come out of your roots and become fruits! In the same way, though it is a long process, when the time is just right, the zucchini will produce fruit. It seemed like it took so long, basically all summer, to get those seeds to produce fruit, but that's part of life--patience. When you do what you have to do along the way and persevere through each step, the end goal (and the journey, as well) is a beautiful, enjoyable thing.

So maybe you didn't get to go on that trip when you wanted or get the job you applied for, but what came up instead? I didn't get to transfer to the school I had planned until a year later, but I lived the best year of home life I ever had, full of many examples such as this. Now I am in Chattanooga "living my best life" at just the right time. I may have had to spend more money and wait longer to get the space and proper growth that my plants needed, but in the end, we have zucchini!

So now what to do with the spiritual fruit and zucchini?

Go live life with a full heart!

And cook.

Makenzie Jones

My favorite thing is to zoodle and roast them with garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, and coconut oil. Two great recipes I used with them in this form were Mediterranean Turkey Meatballs and Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs. You know it was good if my mom and dad even liked them.

Makenzie Jones

I have also made what may be the queen of all zucchini recipes--zucchini bread. My neighbor also had a garden, and she gave me her old-fashioned, homemade recipe.

Makenzie Jones