Last year when we welcomed Maggie into the family, the house was abuzz with visiting family, an adorable but adjusting toddler, generous meal deliveries, and basically a lot of baby noises and smells. In this whirlwind of joy and fatigue, a lone sweet potato was feeding off our energy. Or it was just doing what really old taters do on a counter.

It sprouted. A lot.

It took a few days before anyone noticed the little plant that was making its home beside our fruit basket. I decided it would be an excellent science experiment for our 2-year-old. Well, let’s be honest, it was for me. And because I hated the idea of throwing the little guy away.

This fat seedling grew and grew in an absolute void of care and attention. We had our hands full and a couple of weeks later found the tuber was actually more like a bush. Not wanting to toss this oddity in the trash, I simply dug a hole in an old planter on our patio that had been sitting empty for years. With two minutes of effort, we went from dirt wasteland to a full, lush planter.

The shrub was then, once again, left to fend for itself.

Fast forward 11 months.

Yesterday Ansley and I decided that our planter needed some pizazz. The neglected vegetable was looking, well, neglected. I think it had three green leaves on a limp three-foot stem. Pitiful might be a good description.

So we had a family adventure (anytime we leave the house together it’s an adventure) to buy proper indestructible ornamental patio greenery with purple flowers – as requested by the three-year-old. Upon returning home victorious from our hunt, I pulled out the seemingly dying plant and began to dig a hole for the new.

Ansley PotatoUntil my hand hit some kind of rock. And then another. As I attempted to make space for our new plant life, I pulled out a little purple orb, then a tan one, followed by a beautiful pink. P-O-T-A-T-O-E-S! What wonder and excitement Ansley and I had as we began harvesting our accidental garden. She started counting and lost track (not because there were so many, but because she is three). I used my advanced mommy mathematical skills; 22. Twenty-two potatoes. In case this is not obvious I am not a gardener. I like gardens and fresh veg, but it is not something I attempt to achieve. I am lackadaisical at best with our flora. The only reason much survives outside our house is that the building manager hires lawn maintenance. And inside there is a lot of green, but all plastic.

In my serendipitous potato crop, I can’t help but think that God continuously does amazing things, even while we do very little. I did the absolute minimum needed to keep that sweet potato from rotting on our counter. And then I completed only two minutes of “work” to keep it alive as a curiosity. In response to this, the little guy grew and produced fruit in abundance. More than I could have asked or imagined.

He is at work. He is not giving up. He is developing roots and making fruit grow.

This is something we are taught about God. That if we follow him, the simplest steps can do more than we ever imagined. Not “we can do more” but more fruit will come because God is at work and he is doing A LOT in our small faithful moments. And even when we aren’t as faithful (I definitely did not water our planter for weeks on end this summer), He is faithful to his will, plan and creation.

Jesus said God cares for all he has made. He clothes the lilies of the field, and in our case, he nurtures forgotten produce on the counter. Life came from something left over and evidently useless. Provision came from an unlikely source. Under the fading glory of our sweet potato plant was a surprising blessing created and formed without any effort of my own.

He is at work. He is not giving up. He is developing roots and making fruit grow. Sometimes we cannot see what is happing beneath the surface of the potting soil. Just because we cannot see does not mean he is not at work. Let’s urge one another on in our small steps of faithful following.

Lastly, if you ever feel like you’re are lost in the bottom of God’s fruit bowl, an overlooked onion, hidden from his view or concern. Please hear me. Ansley is an accidental gardener, but God is not. He cares for the birds and the onions and how much more does he care for you. He has not misplaced you. He knows every hair on your head. If he sees my forsaken, undesirable, superfluous spud, if he can bring it to sprout, and when put in the right place, bring it to a full yield, if he can do that with an inanimate lump left in some dirt, how much more will he do with you, his precious child?

illustration by oliver age

St. Peter's Fireside