Turtle Soup

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My dad loves to do yard work. He’s always been this way. The yard is my Dad’s domain, his kingdom, and each blade of grass bows to him.

My childhood memories are littered with grass clippings. I can remember him out in the yard all summer long in his white t-shirt and baseball cap. I remember how he would push that loud machine in meticulous rows all along the grass, leaving a trail of straight lines behind him, like he was a colonel and the grass stood at attention in perfect formation as he passed. I can picture him stepping back to take a break and locking eyes with my mom as she walked out to meet him, pushing down the freshly shorn blades with her feet, and handing him a glass of Arizona Iced Tea.

It was his thing. It still is his thing. When he’s out in the yard, he’s like Adam in the Garden of Eden, taming and shaping and perfecting the nature that is his.

There’s a picture that I’ve seen often of my Dad and me. I’m just a baby and my dad is just a twenty-something and there we are, in the backyard. My dad is standing behind the lawn mower with a huge smile on his face and I’m there, strapped to his back in a baby carrier. The sun is bright but my dad’s joy is brighter. He was in his kingdom with his princess at his back.

I’m told that he mowed the lawn like this a lot. That his thing became our thing.

Once I got bigger, too big to fit in that baby carrier, he figured out another way to include me.

“Hey Kels, I’m gonna go mow the lawn.” He would say to me and I knew what it meant. His announcement was an invitation. A call to join him in the yard.

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I would follow him outside and sit next to the aluminum trash can that he dumped the grass clippings in, waiting patiently for the bag on the lawn mower to fill up. He would finish a portion of the lawn, stop and detach the bag that caught the grass clippings. He would carry that bag over to me and the trash can and dump in that heavy, wet, earthy, confetti.

“Here you go!” my dad would say to me.

“Thank you! Turtle Soup coming right up.” I would reply.

That’s what I called all of those tiny, discarded blades of grass. Turtle Soup. They were green ingredients for imagination. I pretended to stir the trash can full of grass, pretended to sprinkle in seasonings and smell the concoction as it cooked on my imaginary stove and every few minutes, my dad would come over and add more to the pot.

Turtle soup became our creation, the result of our shared interest. He had invited me in, made me a part and had given me space to create my own iteration of the thing he loved.

I loved making Turtle Soup. I loved the smell of the grass and the way it looked heavy and fluffy all at the same time. I loved pretending to make something yummy and filling and I loved sharing the sun’s rays with my Dad. Mostly I just loved that part; sharing something with my Dad.

The picture of my childhood summers is drawn with grass clippings all in a mound in that aluminum trash can. Each blade piled high affirmed my dad’s love for me, his desire to teach me and spend time with me. His hope that the stuff he loved could become the stuff that I loved just because we did it together and it’s fitting isn’t it? While he cultivated our yard and made wild things tame, he cultivated my heart, pruning away any doubt that he loved me and wanted to be with me no matter what.

My Dad invited me into the garden to work and cultivate and create treasures from waste. Our Heavenly Father does the very same thing.

“I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener.” John 15:1 NIV

He’s constantly at work in our lives and in the lives of others. He’s shaping and pruning and watering and fertilizing the seeds that are there, dreaming of what they will become. He knows the potential that’s wrapped up tight within the hearts of people just like he knows the color and shape of every petal that lies within a flower’s seed. He knows it all, could cultivate it all alone if He chose to but instead, He invites us in to join Him.

He comes to us daily just like my Dad did with an invitation to join Him in the garden, to find a part in what He’s doing and to wait for what He will pour into our barrel’s to work with.

“And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’” Mark 16:15 ESV

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” 2 Peter 1:3 NIV

So what has He given you? What has he asked you to do? What are you making with the portion of work that He’s poured out for you in the garden of His kingdom?

When I spent time with my Dad as a kid, I imagined that I was making turtle soup. I pretended that the smelly, wet grass could turn into something special, that the mess could be redeemed simply because the magic of a little girl’s imagination said it could. The thing about working in God’s garden though, with Him right along side you is that it actually can.

He’s in the business of pruning away the bad and transforming it into something good. He specializes in beautification and transformation just like any good gardener does. He makes all things new.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Set your hands to the work of His garden. Trust in what he’s pouring out for you. Make the most of it. Stir that mess, those hearts, those jobs, those opportunities, those people or trials or triumphs into Turtle Soup. Accept His invitation to join Him.

Accept what He’s given you and conquer that transformation well. While you do, don’t miss out on the knowledge that you are sharing in the work of your Father. That He has invited you out to work alongside him.

Don’t miss out on sharing something with your Dad. He could do it without you but instead, He’s waiting for you to join Him, the King with His Princess at His back.