My Papa John is the reason I grow my own tomatoes, fell in love with pina coladas as a toddler (sorry and the reason I have a salt addiction. He’s the first person to introduce me to flavor, to enjoying food for it’s beauty and it’s delicious, delectable benefits. As the first grandchild, I got to spend lots of the early years at my papa and granny’s house. When in season, these hours always included trips to the garden to pick whatever was fresh and then enjoy the fruits of the earth on the front porch, the only utensils to be used were a piece of newsprint and a salt shaker. I remember being very young and biting into a juicy, ripe pink watermelon and feeling the warm sweet, salty liquid drip from the corners of my mouth to my chin and splatter on the newsprint below, not to be topped by the spewing of the seeds onto the said newsprint. Tomatoes were honored in the same resplendent way, as a fruit from the bounty of God’s garden paradise, not be be deluded by a sandwich bread or meat but to be enjoyed alone of its voluptuous self–and a salt shaker of course.
As the years progressed papa would move to Florida, so that we’d get to see him each year on vacation and at Christmas. When we would visit we wake each morning to the smells of bacon frying on the stove next to a pot filled with bubbling gravy destined to be turned in to chocolate and blanket buttermilk biscuits made from scratch. After a day at the beach we’d return home to fresh seafood and the making of peanut butter candy– ribbons of peanut butter wrapped in a sugar coating.
If it sounds like most of my memories of my grandfather are related to food, that’s because it is so. My papa well into his 80′s now has always been a connoisseur of good food, he knows how to grow it, harvest it, cook it, serve it up and enjoy it. He also knew how not to get bogged down in the guilt of it all.
Maybe it’s because the years I have known my grandfather have been the years of his retirement, but it strikes me that there have been some pretty profound and consistent characteristics to him over these years. In my 37 years, I have never seen my papa lose his temper, become angry, fly off the handle at someone provoked or otherwise. I have seen him face hard times, the loss of spouses, family and loved ones, I have seen him in grief and sorrow but there has always been joy in his eyes. It goes without saying that this joy comes from some place other than his circumstances, however, what strikes me is he’s always been able to find the good, the yummy, the special in the simplicity, the ordinary, the seasons of life.
He’s always enjoyed good food, travel, a good story, some good southern gospel music and he’s shared this joy with his family. His life speaks to us, even now and says, “go ahead, enjoy, drink in to the fullest all of the goodness that God has provided. Don’t wait, don’t worry, drink, eat, be merry!” Now that I think of it, my papa’s life philosophy sounds a lot like something Jesus said, “I have come to give you life in abundance” (Jn. 10.10).
Maybe there’s something to be learned here, maybe a path toward true joy is embracing, appreciating, honoring and taking in every day all the good that God has given us. Maybe God’s goodness is out there to be picked each morning like ripe succulent tomatoes on a vine. Maybe, like my papa we need to become, farmers, harvesters and sharers of this goodness, maybe that’s where life in abundance can be found.