On Tuesday of our county fair, the 4-H building comes to life with a sea of little people in green shirts, frazzled parents whose arms are laden with yet-to-be-judged projects, and gracious judges who sit patiently listening to young voices for 7 hours straight.
This year was my first year at the fair as a frazzled parent. Come to think of it, maybe I was the only frazzled one there… I was responsible for locating the judging location of all 4 of my kids’ projects. It might not sound like much, but my oldest son had 7 projects, the second oldest had 9, my 3rd oldest had 5, and the youngest one eligible to show had 3. Each project gets judged individually so I literally pulled up a lawn chair and barked orders like the drill sergeant that I turn into on occasion.
Everything went well! The kids all got blue ribbons except for one… now let me explain the rating system. There are three colored ribbons. Blue symbolizes that the 4-her (yes that is an actual term, pronounced Four-H-ERRR, actually I don’t know how to dictate pronunciation, so I hope that helped! And just believe me that this is a commonly used pronoun within the 4-h community!) Before I cut myself off, I was explaining the merits of a blue ribbon. This means that a person has met all of the standards expected for that particular project area. A red would indicate that the person is in the general ballpark but missed a few key things. And a white basically means you are way out in left field.
I was anticipating quite a few reds, considering we speed-read the manual. The judges are all teachers at heart and do a fabulous job of encouraging you on how to improve in a particular category so that you can improve year after year. The kids were ecstatic to come home with a fistful of blues with the exception of one lone raspberry plate.
Before we get to that, let me tell you that we had covered a wide range of projects from the tallest stalk of corn to a report on the black widow spider, and from a beloved agate collection picked from our own cornfield to a carefully drawn and colored picture. We had an herb garden, potato plate, shelled corn sample, green beans, and several other entries.
The sad little raspberries were freshly picked an hour before we headed off to the fair. They started off as a beautiful, juicy, red lot, but got judged as a tiny plate of unripe and scrawny samples. Where did the picture-perfect raspberries go you might ask? Ask my son, the exhibitor of the fruit plate. He got hungry on the way to the fair and decided to snack on some berries. Obviously, he wouldn’t eat the underripe ones that he picked, or the little misshapen ones because they just don’t taste as good!
The judges got a good chuckle out of his hodgepodge collection, gave him a red ribbon, and instructed him on the importance of quality and uniformity when showing produce.
As the week went by, his scraggily little fruits got shriveled up by the heat, and by Sunday, all that was left was a splash of red where a berry once had been lying on the plate.
Sometimes I can be a lot like my young son. I give the least exciting parts of me to God. I know the bible talks about giving our “first fruits” in many locations, Genesis 4:3-5, Ezekiel 44:30, 1 Corinthians 15:2, Proverbs 3:9, to name a few, but that is so hard! Most days I wake up, get dressed, brush my teeth and sit with the Lord for as long as the kids allow me to, giving God the first fruits of my day. But sometimes I just want to get a head start on a writing project I’m working on while I have a quiet house. I always figure that I will just do my morning prayers later. Fun fact- if I actually remember to say my prayers later in the day it will ALWAYS be rushed, and that’s if I even remember to do them at all!
The same goes for money. It takes a lot of planning and organization to give the Lord our first fruits. It’s so much easier to just throw whatever change we might have on us into the collection plate. It requires effort to budget and properly manage our money so we can be intentional with giving generously to the Lord.
My son chose to keep the best part for himself by eating those beautiful red berries on the way to the fair. In doing so he missed out on the better part of coming home with a blue ribbon for a job well done. Short-term thinking often stunts long-term results. Let’s give God our best now, so we can reap the benefits of an eternity-long reward of eternal life in heaven!
Until next time, my dear friends in Christ,