We walk down rows of black Iowa dirt to find our favorite farmer waking up Earth. He has hitched up the disk to the back of the tractor, and sweeps fields to remind ol’ Earth that it’s spring.
We’ve come to watch, for this is the first time the John Deere has lumbered over fields since winter’s hiberation.
Anna runs on ahead, waving one of last year’s corn stalks as if she’s a baton twirler on parade.
Lydia, the family historian, hangs back near her mama. We walk against the wind, and kick at the dirt clods. She starts in on the questions like a four-foot-tall anthropologist.
“What were the names again of the other farmers?” she asks. “What were the names of the Grandpas before Daddy?”
She sees the cycle of life rooted in this place. She knows that there were others who came before our favorite farmer. He is the son of a farmer, of a farmer, of a farmer.
And I remind her that before Daddy,
and before Paul,
and before Milo,
That means the ground we trod has been awakened and cultivated and planted and harvested by Lees for more than 100 years, I tell her.
“So Ole has been in Heaven for a long time, huh?” Lydia says. And this clever little one plants her feet in Lee ground, lifts hands and voice to the wind and bellows dramatically: “Ole, Ole, Ole is with the Lord God Almighty!”
This is our favorite farmer’s first week cultivating, and his tractor cab rumbles with fresh hope — a hope that springs eternal every April. I revisit the archives of the blog to remember what we’d felt one year ago.
I uncover same feelings, on same ground:
The giddy anticipation that April brings.
This brushing-up against Heaven that comes with the loamy smell of spring awakening.
The swelling in my heart for my husband, now the only man on this farm.
The sadness that his father isn’t here, for he loved this time of year.
I remember Scott’s words last spring, the first spring without his father: “God’s in charge. God will provide. If I learned anything from my Dad, it’s that you can’t control it.”
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.
It must be in the DNA sequence of the Lees, for I recognize that trait in the man I love.
And yesterday Anna asks me: “Can I be a girl farmer?”
“Of course, you can, Anna,” I tell her, and alternating parts of me hope she will and hope she won’t. That’s why we leave these things in God’s hands, for His plans are inifinitely wiser than our own.
But I do wonder, will our family be the last of the Lees to work this ground? Does the cycle end with Scott, the 38-year-old patriarch of this farm?
I’ve only recently begun to realize how we’ve been grafted into this cycle of family and its link to Earth. Before we came home, we never lived anywhere long enough to see lives come full circle with seasons. We had moved from place to place, career to career, groping for more of something that we couldn’t quite name.
But we abandoned the grasping at air to settle into a cycle of greater substance. We are daily brought humbly low to the dirt, the very substance God used to form man.
We are but dirt, working the dirt, waking up dirt. And in these rows — farmed by the hands of Lee men who’ve come before — we cultivate dirt.
We prepare soil for the seed, and trust God to do something new in this season that eternally blooms with hope and new beginnings.
We’ve come home.
Each week, I join Ann Voskamp in her “Walk With Him Wednesday” series. This week, we consider Cultivating the Life God Desires.
This life — this Iowa farm life — is the life that God has called our family to cultivate. And He says to us: Not just the ground, but hearts, too.
We ask the Lord: What do you require of us as we cultivate a life You desire? And He whispers into our Spirit-ears:
Walk humbly with your God.
– Micah 6:8