A Fresh Start

April 20, 2009 | 19 comments

We woke up Earth this week from a winter slumber.


Scott combed through lazy Earth, 20 feet at a time, kicking up dusty clouds on soil farmed by four generations of Lee men. Grafted in by marriage, I woke up Earth, too — one small patch at a time with rake and wheelbarrow.

Scott in his field, I in my garden. Together we labored, in a season where hope springs eternal.

Almost everything was ready for Earth’s wake-up call: Scott’s John Deere tractor, my rake and an almost-giddy eagerness to see God’s promise kept again.

Yes, almost everything was here. Everything, except for Paul.

***

It’s been almost three months since Paul went home. He died in January from leukemia. Before his diagnosis, we’d always imagined Paul would live long, farming alongside his son (my husband) who’d come home to help on the farm.

Living long. … That’s how Lee blood runs. Paul’s father died at age 95, farming alongside his own son up until a few years ago. Paul’s mother, 95, is still living. Paul was only 67 when he went home.

For a time, it was three Lee men on the farm — Milo, Paul and Scott.

Five years later, only one Lee man is left. I watched the lone farmer Saturday morning, brushing strokes — east, then west, then east again — across an earthen canvas.

At age 37, for the first time, he’s the patriarch on the farm. My heart swelled.

Alone, he was. But not really, you know …

***

“God’s in charge,” Scott told me just minutes ago when I asked him about the weather and his farming plans for this coming week. “God will provide. If I learned anything from my Dad, it’s that you can’t control it, so don’t worry about it. God’s in charge.”

No, Scott is not alone.

Before he died, Paul told his son that he felt closest to God on the seat of a John Deere tractor, tending to God’s Earth.

I felt it, too, like I was brushing up against Heaven, as I did my own tending with a rake.

With the grit of dirt between my teeth and the smell of loamy earth filling crisp spring air around me, I gardened with God. Together, we woke up Earth in my garden, raking away the old to make room for new.

Into the wheelbarrow went
dried clumps of lamb’s ear
twigs from overarching trees
Leaves from last year’s hosta.


And then this: dried corn leaves.

Those leaves were the last remnant of Paul’s crop. Dead ol’ corn leaves stuck in the thorns of a rose bush. I had to get down on my knees and pull them out by hand, for the stubborn thorns wouldn’t let go.

A year ago, I watched as Paul planted that crop, and now, here I was clutching what was left of it. I tossed it all in the wheelbarrow, teary, as I knew the leftovers would be headed for my garden graveyard, where all of the garden’s dead things go.

Was that OK to do? Should I save it? I wondered.

But in removing the old, I made room for new.

Maybe this is how Paul felt each spring, when hope was most clearly seen from the seat of a tractor.

He was making room
for new things,
new growth,
the hope that springs eternal.

And to think I thought I was waking up Earth. Seems Earth was waking me up, too.

***
Deep gratitude to Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience for her encouragement in writing this post. Though separated by distance, we’re connected by God and by Earth. She blesses.

by | April 20, 2009 | 19 comments

19 Comments

  1. Billy Coffey

    I come here to be inspired, to be uplifted, to feel a little more joy and a little less doubt.

    This has done all of those things.

    What a blessing you are.

    Reply
  2. mom2six

    I write through tears after reading your post. My father died last July, and now, this spring we (mom, husband, sons) are turning soil in the little garden he tended so well. Doing so many outside chores that were his. Thank you for putting tender words to raw feelings. May God give you peace and joy as you walk the grief journey. In Jesus…

    Reply
  3. patty

    beautiful…

    Reply
  4. Q

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful story with us. I am proud to be from a farm family and you have caputured the connection between the farm, God and nature.

    Reply
  5. Sara

    I can’t really see through the tears right now, but I’ll do my best. As always, I’m leaving your blog feeling inspired, impressed, and blessed to know you, even though we’ve never met. Thanks for sharing your stories with us.

    Reply
  6. Denise

    I have ventured your way from Ann’s Holy Experience. It is a journey I am glad to have made. The soil of my heart has been turned by your words. I await for the seeds that have been placed to germinate.

    It has been a pleasure to visit. I will be back.

    Shalom,
    Denise

    Reply
  7. Red Letter Believers

    there is something that connects God to man through the earth — and although i live in the heart of the city, I appreciate reading about the connection. Your husbands simple faith is typical I think of those of who work the earth — simple, trusting, and pure.
    David
    http://www.redletterbelievers.com

    Reply
  8. TUC

    Lovely post. What happens to the things in the garden graveyard? Is it a compost pile?

    Reply
  9. Alleluiabelle

    I am commentng with tear-filled eyes. I, like Bill Coffey, come here to be inspired, to be uplifted and you always do that Jennifer. You always do that. I have not lived a farming life, but it gives me such a different perspective on things, it really does. Thank you for touching deep within my heart again today.

    Hugs & blessings,
    Alleluiabelle

    Reply
  10. Chris Godfredsen

    Have had this on my heart for the past week-and-a-half; the first turning of the soil and the first planting season. You have me bawling in my office, wishing there was some cell service over there so that I might reach out and talk with Scott.

    Instead, I continue to pray that as he goes about this business, that he feels the love of his Father blessing him and keeping him this moment!

    Grace and Peace

    Reply
  11. Chris Godfredsen

    Have had this on my heart for the past week-and-a-half; the first turning of the soil and the first planting season. You have me bawling in my office, wishing there was some cell service over there so that I might reach out and talk with Scott.

    Instead, I continue to pray that as he goes about this business, that he feels the love of his Father blessing him and keeping him this moment!

    Grace and Peace

    Reply
  12. Angie

    Oh the beauty. Behold, He makes all things new!

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

    Glory!

    Reply
  13. Jennifer

    Thank you for sharing and encouraging, all of you. This piece was hard for me to write — we’re still in the rawness of our grief.

    Yet the cathartic nature of writing is like a balm … as are your words here.

    Reply
  14. elaine @ peace for the journey

    Let me pull up a chair and drink this one in a bit longer…

    waking up the earth through tears of remembrance and surrender.

    So much truth here. I just want to lunch at this feast for a while longer. Thank you for writing this.

    peace~elaine

    Reply
  15. Andrea

    I dropped in from Elaine’s. So glad I did! What an inspiring, moving post of love and surrender. Very deep and life-transforming.

    Thank you for your wise, godly words. Many blessing to you in Christ our Lord.

    Andrea

    Reply
  16. ChristianMommyWriter

    I found your blog after visiting Elaine’s blog.

    What a beautiful post! Sorry about Paul’s death. I hate cancer! Sounds like you all are moving on with the help of the Lord. May you and your family continue to find strength and peace from God.

    Reply
  17. Pamela (His maidservant)

    Jennifer, I came over from Elaine’s site and yes you are a beautiful writer. I could visualize your words so well, but also I could feel their meaning. I am praying blessings on your “new” and healing for your heart. God is good through it all!

    In His Graces~Pamela

    Reply
  18. Carey

    Catching up, Jen…wonderful post. God Bless!

    Reply
  19. Betsy Markman

    Thank you for this post. I really can’t imagine how anyone even tries to make sense of life without the Lord…

    Reply

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