Year of the Green Beans
“Just keep the beans picked so they’ll still be producing when I get back.” With those words, my friend Karen went to Idaho to visit, leaving me with her large garden. That was early in the summer of 1975 in Oklahoma City. I had agreed to tend Karen’s garden in return for the vegetables it produced, a way to supplement my own family’s food storage. At the time I thought it was a good idea.
The next day I took six large grocery bags and one small son to the garden. Before long, the bags overflowed with beans. Vegetables are best when preserved fresh, so we hurried home to snap beans and fill jars. At 2:00 A.M. the next morning my tired eyes viewed rows of jars filled with beans. I felt weary, but satisfied.
The glow lasted two days until I went again to the garden, this time with one son and three daughters. We came home with three large laundry baskets of beans, and canned into the night. The children became experts at cleaning and cutting beans—and muttering.
I bought more metal shelves for my storage closet. Soon they were filled with beans. My non-gardening neighbors chuckled as every other day we lugged bushels of beans from the car. I wasn’t laughing. I was tired, and sick of beans! Yet, I felt compelled to keep on canning. And I did want the beans to be bearing when Karen came home.
After twenty-one days and 216 quarts of beans, she returned to harvest her own crop. In the meantime, I’d bought more shelves, more jars. One whole closet was filled with beans; every time I opened the closet door, I had mixed feelings of satisfaction and puzzlement. We just didn’t like beans that much.
The next few months brought a pregnancy, along with some unexpected changes in our lives. When a promotion and relocation in Texas with my husband’s company fell through, we decided to move back to the upper midwest of our growing-up years and purchase our own business. We’d already sold our house, so the decision wasn’t hard to make.
What a plunge! We sold possessions and packed only needed furniture and our large food supply into a truck. With a grain of faith that we’d be sustained, we headed for Illinois.
The Illinois years couldn’t be called prosperous. We worked hard, but the business didn’t thrive. We learned to do without and to appreciate what we did have. We clung to each other, and to our new baby daughter—a reminder of our Heavenly Father’s goodness to us. And we ate green beans.
How many ways are there to serve green beans? There were soups, salads, casseroles, souffles. They went with wheat, rice, and everything else. If any were left, they were pureed and baked into bread. Oddly, never in two years did we tire of beans. They were truly delicious and nourishing beyond what my nutrition education told me they should be.
At the end of two years and the last jar of beans, a new career for my husband brought us to Wisconsin and a more successful venture. I called my friend in Oklahoma to thank her for those lifesaving beans. She said, “It’s funny. I’ve never had beans grow like those. I wonder what happened that year?”
We still like green beans, but we don’t eat them as often. Once in a while I do get a request for “that good bean soup with a little cheese in it”—the soup God provided.
“How Could I Believe Him?”
My friend Dave had just joined the Church, and for some reason he wanted to share his newly found faith with a friend. So he came after me! He explained so many new concepts to me that my interest was immediately kindled. The only thing was, I wanted to oppose them, not accept them.
We talked for almost three months, ten to fifteen hours a week in interesting and deep discussions. But no matter how good his story sounded I still wasn’t convinced. I thought I knew Dave too well; his change seemed incomplete and phony at the time. So how could I believe him?
One night he caught me with my guard down and asked if I would go with him to an Institute of Religion party. I had nothing else to do, so I went. Never in my life did I have more fun! Good, clean fun. Two things there really influenced my joining the Church. First, I found out that Mormons could laugh and have fun. All I had seen of the Church up to that time was the deep discussions between Dave and myself. Second, I learned that LDS people are really warm and friendly. They took me in as though I belonged there.
Well, that started it. I began going to other functions, like Religious Emphasis Week, where I met an institute director for the first time, and I heaped my hardest questions on him. He destroyed my objections as he answered all my questions and helped me feel positive about the Church. I guess the biggest thing about the institute in my conversion was that I was able to see great people actually living an unbelievable religion. And also I could see that LDS students were not unfeeling and cliquish as I had been told. They would gladly take anyone in and be his friend.
As I look back on my first contacts with the institute, I have come to a few conclusions: (1) It doesn’t matter what the institute activities are, we have the truth and anyone seeking truth will see our light whether it’s in playing games or in an all-out Religious Emphasis Week. (2) LDS students should never be afraid to take their friends to an activity. Sometimes we grow used to the same old things, but to a nonmember they are new, different, and exciting. (3) The whole world is seeking friendship—and many are seeking the truth of the gospel—and all we have to do is sincerely offer it.
I was twenty years old and 3,000 miles away from home attending college when my mother passed away unexpectedly. I had not seen her for two years, and this added to my shock at her sudden passing.
Two months later the missionaries came to my door. During the discussions I was surprised to learn that many of my mother’s personal beliefs were the same as those of the Church—beliefs she had steadfastly held despite criticism from the church I was raised in. I readily accepted the teachings of the gospel and was baptized three weeks later.
For me, baptism was a bittersweet experience. I was happy in a way I had never known before, yet I struggled with grief and disappointment because Mom had been so close to the truth and yet I had been robbed of sharing it with her by two short months. Despite all I now knew of eternal life, I could find no inner peace. I poured out my feelings in prayer, apologizing for my weakness in not being able to come to terms with Mom’s death.
Then one night I had a beautiful dream. My mother entered my room and sat on the edge of my bed. She was dressed all in white, and although she looked much the same as when I last saw her, she was yet more youthful, for no lines of worry or sadness creased her brow. She was smiling and radiant. When I awoke, I could only remember that in the dream she had spoken to me for some time, comforting me and reassuring me that all was well.
The following week I received a box in the mail. It had been among my mother’s things in storage and was labeled in her own handwriting “for Cindy.” I was stunned as I examined its contents. There were old family portraits, some of grandparents who had died before I was born. There were some of my school papers, childhood photos, my first letter to Santa Claus. I found a small white journal my mother had kept, personal letters, and a large graph-paper chart, yellowed and tattered, with several generations of family genealogy carefully penned by Mom and started by her mother long years before.
My eyes flooded with tears, and for what seemed a long time I rested my head on that old box and wept. My sobs seemed to wash away the doubts and grief, and the peace I had sought filled my being.
With that peace came a sudden realization: it was no coincidence that Mom’s beliefs paralleled many Church teachings—or that she had collected and preserved the box of family items. Mom’s life and teachings prepared me to receive the fulness of the gospel; her faith and inspiration guided her to pave the way for me to compile a family history and perform genealogical and temple work that would unite our family forever.
I hadn’t needed to be a missionary to Mom—she had been a missionary to me!