Like all families, mine had its share of secrets, some of which I became aware of as I grew up. As I journeyed with other people in the recovery process, I recognized how destructive secrets can be as often people were left wondering why they struggled as they did and what the roots of their issues were. It’s hard to make sense of the picture when you are missing some of the pieces.
I always loved algebra and I can reduce one of my favorite scriptures to an equation. https://www.biblestudytools.com/1-john/passage/?q=1-john+1:6-10
Honesty and vulnerability + repentance and forgiveness = fellowhip and freedom. You’ll notice there is no room for shame or guilt in that equation; those were nailed to the cross 2000 years ago.
I bought a house 4 years ago after living in my last home (with its lovely gardens) for nearly 40 years. The new house was workable but it was the location, on the side of gently rolling hills, opposite a rugged rocky cliff, with views of both valley and lake and the nearby orchards and vineyards that captured my heart. As soon as I stepped on the property, I said in my heart, I want to live here. And with a little help from my friends, I do.
When I look back now at the before pictures I am stunned at my willingness to take on the task. The nearly 1/3 acre yard was simply an undifferentiated mess of weeds masquerading as grass. As we were remodelling the first summer there was no time to landscape. The next year a good friend offered to help with hardscape and with one pass of a backhoe (and 2 weeks work) gave it structure, shape and a way forward.
I had never worked in rocky soil before – every attempt to dig was met with a resounding clunk and jarring resistance. So it’s been small mountains of wood chips, manure, compost and top soil, and four years on the soil is rich and friable (in places).
I wrote this poem about the struggle of life taking root in rocky soil when I was dealing with some of the stumbling blocks in my life. I am going to visit Harvey and Karen’s farm this weekend so I thought I’d post this in honor of their incredible hospitality, generosity and decades of hard work that cleared a place for life to thrive. And boy has life thrived – with three kids and sixteen grandchildren almost within a stone’s throw! On behalf of many, I bless you both.
STONEBOAT Part I Harvey I was city born and bred – didn't know a heifer from a steer - but every spring we visited Harvey's farm at calving. He’d make us sweat, had no use for slackers, Uncle Harvey. There'd come a day, perhaps, "Too cold to plant, too wet to plough," and he'd get out the old stoneboat and hook it to the tractor. We kids would shuffle after with crowbars and raw hands. It almost seemed that's all that low field grew. Stones. He said, "Frost heaves and erosion work 'em to the surface," and "Root crops don't grow so good in rocky soil." and "You could break a plough on them stones." That's all. He said he used the stones for fences and foundations. Part II Dad If I could spend an hour with him now, I'd ask him why but since I can't, I wonder. The rock had been there longer than the farm. Too big to shift, (big as a shed my sister said), and every year they ploughed, sowed and harvested around it. Perhaps the furrows - farther and farther off true, bothered him. He liked the symmetry of straight, the purity of parallel. Perhaps the inefficiency annoyed him, farther and farther off true. And perhaps it was just a practical joke – the sly fun of watching the farmer's face when he got home from town. Whatever the reason, Dad dug a hole and buried it. I wonder if it ever surfaced, what grew there, and how well. Part III Reunion It happens every time we get together: at Christmas, at Thanksgiving, at every family do. The aunts are in the kitchen slicing peaches, on the porch shucking corn when someone drops a word and conversation falters. A quick glance round the room, a who knows what inventory, an arched brow, a tilted head, an imperceptible nod. “Look at these carrots, Martha. Ain’t hardly fit for pigs.” And the ghosts of Christmas Past are howling still.
The master storyteller Jesus began a parable with this lovely line – “A sower went forth sowing seeds”. God as gardener is one of the most common metaphors in the Bible. As a gardener, made in His image, aside from the sheer joy of working in the soil, my main goals in gardening are beauty and harvest. Likewise God is looking for a harvest of righteousness and beauty in our lives.
When I look at my life I realize there have been examples of all 4 types of soil that Jesus was discussing in that parable: impenatrable, rocky, weedy and receptive. As gardeners of our own souls we can make the choice to get rid of rocks and weeds, we can ‘break up our fallow ground’ – we can make the choices that allow our hearts to be fertile ground for seeds to grow.
If you have a few minutes here is a lovely reflection on God as gardener by Jill Carattini, a writer at Ravi Zacharias Ministries. I just heard that Ravi went home to glory today. I can only imagine the reception he will get there. I doubt there was a square foot of fallow ground in his life.
Come back tomorrow for a special treat as I introduce the first of my guest poets, Anna Elzinga.