I read in my morning devotional that our souls are preserved by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the pungent fragrance of strawberry jam bubbling on the stove filled the air around me. Perhaps a reason we have trouble making our faith real is because so few of us can anymore. We've traded long hours in front of the stove for long hours bent over a computer. What we've gained in mental stimulation we've lost in the sensory input that is our soul's nerve endings.
Years ago I took my young daughter out into a field in Watsonville where we picked strawberries. Some fell easily into our hands. Some had to be tugged. We left the ones with a hard green side to ripen in the sun. We mourned those bloated with rot, left them on the ground to feed the soil for next year's crop.
Strawberries are like people, beautiful for a season and then they die unless they are preserved. Preserving strawberries is a process much like the work of the Holy Spirit.
Back in the kitchen, our work began. We prepared the fruit: culling, washing, removing stems and imperfections. Strawberry juice ran down our arms and dripped onto the floor as we barefooted through the mess, moving from counter to sink to stove. Our feet stuck to the linoleum floor. Summer poured in through the open patio door and steam rose from the Revereware pot full of fruit simmering on the stove, heating the air around us.
We added sugar to intensify the flavor, tasted and it was good. We sterilized glass jars to protect the fruit, ladled in the sweet steamy stuff, screwed down the lids and popped a batch into the canner for processing. Our fingers burned touching the hot glass.
Was it precious little yield for so much work? Perhaps, but seeing the pints and quarts of gleaming fruit lined up on the kitchen counter like victorious soldiers on parade in smart dress uniforms, smelling the nectar-soaked air in the kitchen, cradling a softened whole berry in the curve of our tongues while warm fruity sauce filled our mouths was heaven!
Preserving fruit is a meditation on the work of the Holy Spirit. It's a long, messy, painful, engaging, exhilarating experience. There are steps and sequences, waiting periods and celebration times.
"O taste and see that the Lord is good." Psalm 34:8
Sydney Avey writes and blogs in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. She is the author of The Sheep Walker's Daughter.
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