A distant train whistle sighed briefly above the soft, clattering whisper of it headlong rush towards the sunset; as if its driver was being drawn – moth-like - into a glare he couldn’t steer away from.
Late afternoon light was inaudibly anointing the western edges of every tree and outbuilding around the farm with golden highlights; even as it subjugated all else within ever-lengthening shadows.
Calls from nestward-bound birds, silhouetted against a rapidly-fading azure sky, jabbed at the silence, as an invisible palette began smearing pink and mauve over eastern clouds which had boarded the wind, seeking to escape over the horizon.
Reds, oranges and purples from this palette were also immersing the west in a raging flux, and silently recruiting the most defiant low-lying clouds by gilding their outlines; or spearing them with shafts that radiated out across the sky like wagon-wheel spokes, from the fiery hub behind them.
Three generations of the Watkinson family had gathered to celebrate the harvest, which still needed transporting to the rail depot, but that could wait.
Contrasting with the increasing shade from a wisteria-draped pergola that kept out the day’s heat, the barbecue fire’s coals now began their own golden glow to echo the western spectacle.
Everyone’s plates had been foundations for constructions of grilled corn and selections of salads, vegetables, cheeses, fruit, and home-baked breads; covering slabs of meat that the menfolk had grilled so competitively - with extra ribs and corn provided verbally…
“Is that remains of a steak one of your own cremations, Steve?”
“Nah Dave, that’s a misteak!”
“So you like vegetarian food, Mike?”
“Absolutely; if there’s a thick enough steak to go with it!”
Desserts – and the mosquitos - were yet to arrive, so while the menfolk furtively began the guilty pleasure of licking the sauces and meat juices from their fingers, mothers were submerging their offspring’s faces in tissue wipes.
It was time for more homespun pearls from Grandpa...
“We can thank our Heavenly Father for so much,” he began.
“Yes, Grandpa, he’s given you this beautiful farm,” observed young Scott.
“Well, that’s true Scott,” replied the old man, his features creasing in a smile, “but you should have seen it when he had it to himself.
“We trusted God as our senior partner, and he guided us through clearing our crops and pasture. We left some trees as windbreaks; excavated for dams and put up fences. We’ve kept listening to his lessons in the seasons, and we’ve learned to time our planning with how he prefers to get things done.
"He’s blessed us as we’ve played our part and kept busy while waiting for the results. We never found any switches on steers or sheep or crops to hurry them up, or to slow them down if we were sick. We’ve just kept going.”
“Dad,” said youngest daughter Emily, “we see you living out Jesus’ parable of the sower.”
“Maybe Emily, but what’s really inspired your mother and me is Jesus’ pearl merchant parable in Matthew chapter thirteen.
“As we all know, seasons can be so unseasonal. Cold snaps come when you need heat; winds can interrupt sowing; spring rains can fail; floods or storms can arrive without calling press conferences; market prices don’t always cover what we have paid out; and machines can break down.
“We can’t control any of that – or send it back. It’s just like when grit lands in shells and won’t go away.
“God understands how easily we can feel cheated when natural cycles go out of whack. Stupid or mean people don’t always help, and neither do the mistakes we make all by ourselves. But we’re learning to let him apply his grace; just like a shell overlays the unwanted grit with its own nacre-lining. Then he’s free to grow new value out of any setback, and we keep going instead of giving up.
“We love our farm, but it’s not our life. Jesus’ parable compares a trader’s search for top-price pearls with how he’s always working to help us realise what we’re really worth. He’s already paid that value through his death, and he activates that value with his resurrection power.”
As the family bowed their heads for Grandpa’s prayer, they opened their hearts in thanks: for God’s presence with them; for the harvest; for more insights into seasons; and for the harmony which kept their family strong.
Desserts soon followed.
Sweet – as expected - but not as sweet as the depth of their love for each other.
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