Friday, October 20, 2017

This ground.

Image may contain: plant, tree, sky, flower, outdoor and natureI am learning to know and to love this ground.

This summer, I ate the first Eastpointe zucchini ever grown in my garden; with butter and pepper, and it was delicious. Grown from the rich soil in a bed put there by Skurda Landscaping with care and good humor; under the cherry tree that bore much fruit last year, the tree we climbed and picked with Sunny.  We shook the branches and caught the bounty on sheets while Peter ate himself sick.  This year it is diseased and everything that grows is rotten or fuzzy.  Sunny, she says,  “In my country we paint white I don’t know name-- white something-- up and down the orange trees every year and we not have problem; my family every year all lotsa lotsa trees and I need find english word I don’t know what they call name but I be find and you be see.”  But the tomatoes grow, and the squash spills out over the garden beds, and the cucumbers.  The raspberry patch is taking root, and this is multi-layered grace to me: a gift from church friends, and the fruit itself full of childhood memories.

Image may contain: outdoorThere was a stump by our gate that the trustees were going to take out someday. I wasn’t here long before I realized the workload of the trustees and the low priority a stump would have on the list so instead of waiting to plant in that area, I embraced the stump and we painted it “The Cooks” and made it pretty.  Then I surrounded the “art” with God’s flower art and some bean vines. This year, I let Lorraine paint it, and she and a friend wrote a lovely quote about friendship over distance. The flowers grow there again, and this year, sweet peas, and they taste just like the ones I grew in Indiana.

A sidewalk passes our house, and those who walk on it are manifold: high school kids, the homeless man with the Aldi bags, the woman and her dog, the friendly guys from the car lot next door, a man in a suit on a bike, the man without a shirt, the mom and her toddler waiting for the bus, and us, of course, on our way to work, or taking our dogs on a walk.

We have memories in this house now: That time when we got locked out; when we had that big party; where we lost our bird and gained a puppy; when the bike got stolen; when the kids came to play on the trampoline; the nerf party; the bleary-eyed morning devotions; where we come and collapse after traveling to faraway sporting events. It is the place where we have danced and fought and yelled and cried and sang and grown together.  It will be our third winter with a fireplace; we hope for more snow this year, and I can’t wait to get out the box of Christmas books.

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Once again, we live next door to the place where the saints are laid to rest.  The children walk through this garden on their way to school, past those who have worked to give them their heritage, through the pine trees that have grown tall and strong. I do not know all the names on the stones in the cemetery, nor their histories.  Those roots grow rich and deep, and while my family enjoys the fruit of their labors daily in the church and school buildings, we have not yet learned to trace exactly the path God used to give them through the saints gone before.

But I know one saint buried there would have turned sixteen this year.  I imagine she would have been friends with my teenage daughter as I am friends now with her mother.  Her father and mother walk this property often, in work and pain and grief and hope, remembering her each in their own way.  She is sorely missed.

I have come to love more than one dear gray-haired saint whose spouse is buried here.  “I wish you could have known her,” one says to me with a sad smile, and I wish it, too. Someday, Lord, will there be time for knowing all these saints and all their stories?  I do hope so; I hope we will be able to see and trace the work of Your hands in each life, and in my own life, too.  But right now, there is not enough time- new shoots are growing here, and new families are being gathered in like we have been- it is time for watering and nurturing and praying to God for growth.  It is time to “take and eat,” to receive from God in this place, and to come alongside those who have grown here for decades and now pray with trembling hands.

Image may contain: candlesIt is fall now, and the breeze of October stirs up wet leaves and pine needles and layers of Michigan memories.  We gather beauty from the grounds and make them into oil candles so the inside of our house smells more like outside (and less like boy shoes).

The six lane road that passes our house has been freshly paved. The flowers that hang from the lights along the street are almost done blooming, but soon the posts will be wrapped in lights and ready for Season’s Greetings. I love how the trees and lights look covered in snow.

We greet the next season with gratitude for daily gifts and daily strength.  As the days get darker, we pray for God’s light and warmth to sustain us.  Apart from Him, all is winter (and never Christmas,) but in Him, we welcome the next season with hope and expectation of his provision. We pray on this ground, that the work of God will continue to be done in this place; that He would sustain His shepherds and His servants, that His Word would ring out like the daily church bells and lift eyes and hearts upward and into faith in Christ.  
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The Lord looks down from heaven;
   he sees all the children of man;
from where he sits enthroned he looks out
   on all the inhabitants of the earth,
he who fashions the hearts of them all
   and observes all their deeds.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
   on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death
   and keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the Lord;
   he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
   because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
   even as we hope in you.
From Psalm 34

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