"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
August 05, 2015
God's Abundance
by Marian Stoddard

Nature is wasteful. That’s been my conclusion.

I’m anxious to make every effort count. As a newer gardener, it’s been a little hard for me to do what’s necessary in thinning my vegetables. My first impulse was not to “waste” seeds that I paid good money for — money that was in short supply — and jettison some of the newly growing plants. I did better at it this year.

I did succeed in transplanting some to spots of ground that weren’t producing, and I passed some along to other women in the ward, because I couldn’t bear to toss out good tomato plants and squash that I had nurtured from seed, just because they all did well indoors and there wasn’t enough room in my garden. I guess I’m just not jaded enough. (I don’t think that’s a bad thing.)

The lesson is clear, though, with fruit trees. The trees start out more fruits than they can sustain to maturity, and the first excitement of newly loaded branches has to diminish; in fact, if you want the best fruit the tree needs to be pruned periodically, and the fruit needs to be thinned on the branches, or else the bearing limbs may not be able to sustain all of it.

Nature will thin it if you don’t, with the litter of tiny, poorly formed apples on the ground as the fruit begins to enlarge and grow.

The first sign that fruit is getting ripe enough to pick is that it starts to fall. Not the earlier, stunted, premature failures, but fruit that is reaching useful size; the fruit that has taken a head start on turning sunshine into sugars, and isn’t following the schedule.

But if you pick as soon as this process starts, most of the apples won’t be ripe yet. In the case of this variety, they have to turn a pale yellow to be perfect, and it’s a tricky thing, because that window is short — they quickly start to go bad. So I was watching daily.

I opened the back door and heard the dull thunk of an apple hitting the ground, relinquished in that moment from a tree limb, and looked at the ground. Overnight, there were more windfalls than the day before, and apples I had not yet cleaned up were resting on the squash hills, rolled down into the inside corner of the fence, and making a mess of the sidewalk outside the gate. It was time to pick.

We have friends we call, whose kids enjoy the directive to go climb a tree, and they helped us out again this year. (The pear tree will be ready for them soon.) We can’t reach a lot of the fruit just from the ground, and we’re too old for climbing trees, so when we had their help we had to get all we could.

That meant that some were a little green still, but since this is a tart apple from which I would be canning applesauce, that was all right.

We ended up holding a sheet underneath, while their nimble teenage daughter got up as high as she could, and shook branches. Some of them came down straight for us, but many of them bounced off of other branches and ricocheted in all directions.

If they landed on grass, or in the garden on my side of the fence, they didn’t fare too badly, but if they came down on the stone retaining wall or the sidewalk, the hard surfaces, most of them were smashed.

She wasn’t able to get them all. For another week I picked up apples off the ground of the garden, but not a lot. We had cleaned up everything, smashed, cracked, bruised, and intact, from the property where the tree grew. We sorted them into good, mostly good, give it a try, and yuck — straight to yard waste. My rule was if half of it was good, we kept it. I sent a bucket of good ones home with the climbers, and shared some with other friends. Another friend came and helped me carve them up as I canned, and my youngest daughter came down for a Saturday and helped.

Compared to the appearance of the laden tree, unpicked, we lost a lot of apples. More than half of them were bruised, and record heat over the weekend meant that we lost more than I had hoped.

“The earth is full, and there is enough and to spare.” (D&C 104:17) The individual fruits and products of this earth sometimes go by the wayside. It’s part of the process of a temporal world. There is more produced than the minimum, so that we may be assured of an abundance. God has provided a margin of generosity.

Yet there is a season. Last year the cherry tree next door was ripe, and cherries were falling and being trodden on messily by passersby. The weather was miserably, unseasonably hot. We picked what we could reach and called our climber-kids, but they were not available for another five days. The upper branches were full, but the cherries weren’t falling.

When the climbers came, and their son climbed up into the branches, there were no cherries. They had simply shriveled on the tree, and the ones we picked earlier were all there would be. Until this year, when picking time came again.

I think this is likened to chances He gives us, which might be all around yet not always seen, but they continue, even if “wasted,” so that we might become more aware of them, and more skilled at using them. It’s all a part of our mortal experience and learning the principles of stewardship and harvest.

With growing things, I’ve tried not to be cavalier about the surplus, and to use all of it, or share it, to the best of my ability. But I do not feel so guilty anymore about what I cannot do.

I’m grateful that God brings me second, and third, and even more chances to recognize and use his help. I think it’s not the individual apples that are key, but the tree. The apple tree is a precious piece of God’s provisions for us — and in this case, for us, a very particular gift.

We didn’t know when we rented this house that there were any fruit trees, and in fact there are none on this little lot — but the trees behind us against the back fence, decades old and large, turned out to be an apple and a pear tree.

The apple tree, in fact, was the only variety — yellow transparent, too soft to sell in stores — that my husband truly loves. The branches hang over “our” property considerably, and the tenant behind us doesn’t want the fruit. We have permission to get it all. God gave us not just any fruit here, a happy enough surprise, but the one kind that made this feel like home.

It is not our tree, according to the law, as it is not within the boundaries of our property. The law does give us the right to pick whatever hangs on our side of the fence, if we wanted to squabble about it.

In the largest sense, it would not be our tree anyway. It is the Lord’s tree, as is everything on this earth that sustains our life. This tree, and every crop that grows out of the earth, are provided for us to use. He is mindful of all of it, as he is even more mindful of us. His children are known and loved, one by one, and not wasted.

Then I thought further —

The representation for us is not the individual apples, but the tree. Part of being an apple tree is that some blossoms will be pollinated, some might not be, and some fruit that begins to develop will not become fully formed, but will drop off and be discarded as it is unable to grow.

But the tree, striving to answer the measure of its creation, will continue in its process of drawing nourishment from the soil and sunshine through its leaves and produce fruit. So can we.

He allows for the circumstances of our experience, and our inexperience. The outpouring of gifts is generous. He provides an abundance of guidance, opportunities, and quiet nudges. Every so often he gives a dramatic evidence of his presence. If we miss some of the cues, he still keeps offering — he knows this is the way we learn how to see his hand and hear his voice in our lives.

And you know what? The apples are done, but the first pears fell today. There is always a next blessing on its way.


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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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