My husband Tom and I live in Austin, Texas. I grew up in Dallas in the 1960s. It was common for 110-112 temperatures in August. August had a rhythm then, as now. Temperatures are in the 90s by 10AM, 100s by noon. August is the worst. Heat can creep up on you slowly and death happens quickly in brutal heat. As I write today, warm gulf winds gently blow. It is 104 in the shade. To survive Texas in summer, fan and air conditioner drives are in late spring so all can go inside during the heat of the day. Many city utilities will not cut off home electricity until it cools.

As a former hospital chaplain, I suspected early how serious COVID-19 might affect us as “high risk” individuals and began stockpiling: not toilet paper – disinfectants. CPE students were reminded: where our shoes go and how many imprint those same floors; never enter our homes with them. Clothes were stripped and placed into the washing machine before touching the floor. We showered with soap before hugging loved ones.

As we quarantined, I thought of Victory Gardens people planted during WW II and bought seeds and some seedlings. Beginning a garden reminded me of great seminary sermons where gardening terminology was often accompanied by the familiar phrase, “That’ll preach.”

The squash came up first, then keeled over. I planted more and fed them. They flowered but never produced. Tom’s Aggie former classmate specialized in horticulture said, “Don’t worry, squash are finicky!”

The lavender never came up; tried 3 times and even though I check occasionally, have pretty much written it off.

The corn – well, I screwed it up. Instead of vegetable food, I used herbal, only realizing it after planting. The sprouts peeked out, took a look and promptly died. I dumped everything and re-started. Corn is now climbing.

The tangerine peppers popped up as the 100s hit, then died.

The Big Daddy peppers, radishes and strawberries have lush green leaves but no pepper, radish or strawberry. Maybe a gecko or lizard is eating them. I spied a fat toad sitting in the radishes; hope he’s eating the bugs!

The moonflowers jumped out, as if begging for earth. Re-planted, they were shell-shocked until shaded and now they climb vociferously.

Daisies and marigolds fascinate me. From a big box store, delivered broken, the dying resurrected into healthy soil with regular watering. Closely guarded, they acclimated to the heat. One by one each bloomed. Lately, they stay in their own little clumps but are infested with some type of killing machine. I’ve deadheaded, separated and amazed at how they thrive, once separated. Still others tend to almost take joy crushing their own. Those remind me of abusers.

It’s powerful– to name abuse out loud. Abuse is at work, schools, churches, families, communities … Sometimes we are in the middle of it, caught up mimicking its destructive ways by “one-upping,” or “tearing another down.”

Abuse is deadly and creeps as our August heat. Today it feels as if God is challenging me, us, everyone as long-time abuse is exposed. What will I do, say? How do we step out of comfort zones and make a change for the better, even a tiny one?

Today, I am filled with deep concern as many freedoms disappear, dying. If not resuscitated quickly, we can lose them.

Today, I am also filled with great hope. People of all colors, ages, peacefully protest against injustice, in a PANDEMIC! Churches, companies, small groups and classes pop up in social media, hunger evident with discussions on “how to be anti-racist,” “make a change – for better NOW!”

As if to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of our right to vote, more women hold and run for all offices. For the third time in history, we have a woman on a Presidential ticket. Women leaders hold positions of authority where yesterday it was only a pipedream.

America is challenged as never before. She needs us to stand up for what is right. As Baptist Women in Ministry, we are called and trained to lead, with great love as Jesus did. Are we up for the challenge? YOU BET!!! It is time for us to use our God-given strengths.

Jesus went into the garden to pray. He was afraid. He asked for and received strength from God. In our garden, however small, we receive what we need in this moment, this day, this time.

Rev. Jody J. Harrison, Officiant, Blessings of Life Ministry, LLC. Jody and husband Tom are members of First Baptist Church, Austin.