This is the place where I perpetually discover who I am. Right here, standing in the upturned dirt. Soon, this palette of browns will give way to new green, sprouting under the steady and constant glow of the sun. Just now, I can feel its warmth on my back.
It’s here, where I remember that I am caught between who I was and who I will be. I am always becoming — and this is a kind of personal pushing through Earth.
I snap photographs of the first day of the 2012 planting season on the Lee family farm. As the shutter clicks, the names of Lee men whisper down through the decades: Ole, Milo, Paul. I think, too, of their wives: Emma, Eunice, Joyce. They were the ones who came before us.
And now, here we stand, in the spot where the same routine of planting and trusting has unfolded for more than 120 years — only with different people and increasingly more advanced equipment.
Same God, though. Same God.
We are all like this one patch of dirt, upended and replanted year after year. All things become new again in our own personal liturgies and turning. This is the life-work of spring, and it sounds like the ripping open of a thread-zippered bag of seed.
A farmer’s work is God’s way of reminding us that great miracles can grow from something impossibly small.
My favorite farmer stops the tractor and leaps onto the dirt, kicking up a cloud. He adjusts his cap and shortens the distance between us with a smile and a happy wave. I sense an almost-giddy eagerness in him each spring — and in me, too. Here, in spring, we see God’s promises kept again and again.
It’s that one move — his leap from the tractor steps — that always reminds me who we’ve been, who we are, and who we’re still becoming. Him, the wannabe lawyer. Me, the wannabe journalist.
We both have dirty fingernails now. And faith.
“God’s got it.” Those are his words in springtime and in harvest and when life gets crazy around here. I’m writing a book, and these are the three words he daily tells me as I plant words.
He rips open one bag after another. This is the work of spring — the season of hope and promise in the planting of seeds.
My father is here, helping my husband. My Dad has readied the fields with a cultivator — a row of shiny, sharp shovels that turn the earth upside down. I sit in the tractor with Dad, and think of how I have trod the same ground, same territory, same routine — day after day in my everyday life. I think of the laundry piles, folded, and dirtied, and rewashed again.
But if I just adjust the camera angle, look at things a new way, upend old dirt, I see something new growing.
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 that was — for us — something of greater substance. We are daily brought nearer the dirt, the very substance God used to form man.
We prepare soil for the seed, and trust God to do something new in this season that eternally blooms with hope and new beginnings. And as I’m standing here, with the sun warming my back, I see again how it gives me a perennial case of God-Bumps. Every time.
This surprise life still surprises me. I did not make this life, but it is making me.
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