There's No Place Like Home
A week or so after our big move Annie and I worked together in the kitchen getting supper on the table. We rifled through every cabinet and drawer looking for various pans, pot holders, spices, and the bread knife. She remarked that it was like we were cooking in the kitchen of an Airbnb. It didn’t quite seem like our house. We hadn’t acclimated to its new rhythm. We were adjusting and learning, laying down new tracks in our brains, realizing there would be a necessary time of adjustment to living with ease in a new place.
Several months ago, Jeff and I faced a decision that was more than selling a house and buying another. It was a decision to change the way we live. If we left the neighborhood for the farm, there would be fences to mend and land to brush hog. We’d have to fight briars and wasps and squirrels in the attic. At the same time, it promised to be a place for our kids and grandkids to come and play and rest and learn about this world from a different perspective.
Two months after they handed us the keys to our new house, the first momma cows arrived at the Rusted Rooster Cattle Company. As the last rays of the sun turned the clouds dusty pink, then lavender blue, the girls rumbled out of the trailers onto thirty-five acres back behind the house. They are all expecting and will calve in the spring. We’ve signed up for a new job.
Jared came over the next morning and handed me a legal pad. I crawled into the back of his truck, positioning myself on a stack of feed bags so I could record the numbers on the cow's ear tags. He wanted to inventory the cows so he’ll be able to keep track of the birthing dates and other cow-specific happenings that will occur in the days ahead.
The air was crisp and there was not one cloud in the blue expanse above us. It was a perfect morning. The hot muggy summer that had hung on too long was ending. The cool fall air was an invitation to breathe. I received it.
I didn’t expect that with the deep breath, I’d pull into my nostrils the aroma of my childhood, but that's what happened. I was eight years old again---the same age as Naomi---sitting in the bed of Grandpa’s truck while he inched across the pasture to check on his cows. The fragrance of cut grass and cow manure awakened me to who I am and where I was. I had come full circle. I was at home.
Place. The Bible begins by establishing the importance of place. God made all things out of the dust of the ground. He gathered up the dust into his hands and created humankind. He breathed life into them and placed them in the garden He had planted.
The garden of Eden was the place prepared for Adam and for Eve. There they would live, make choices, worship, or not. The garden was theirs to rule over and enjoy. They would cultivate their life and faith in the place God gave them.
I had been feeling like an intruder in our new “garden” until that morning out in the field with Jared and the cows. All the circumstances that brought us to this transition in our lives undeniably had showed us God had placed us on this eighty acres. It is our garden to work. It is our turn to care for this small patch of land that travelers peer at from airplanes marking the sky with contrails.
My new morning rhythm finds me meeting with God in the sitting area off the kitchen as the day breaks over the pasture to the east. Last Tuesday, Jeff left in the dark to go to the hospital. I had taken my place in a chair as the day overcame the night when a startling cry broke into my quiet time. It was a cry of panic. Not human. Not a dog. Or cow. What in the world!! I can only describe it as a mix between a desperate yell for help combined with a bleat of a sheep.
Frantic to understand what was going on, I spotted a doe outside the window straddling the wooden fence between the yard and the pasture. She was flailing about and crying in despair. I grabbed the phone to call one of my boys to come and help me. They were fifteen minutes away. It is my job to care for the creatures in this place—my garden. I headed out the door in my pajamas and house shoes.
The doe’s family looked like yard statues as they looked on from the far side of the pasture. I noticed them for a moment before turning my attention back to the doe. Couldn’t they help? When I looked back, the doe had freed herself. The deer high-tailed it out to the pasture in the literal sense of that expression! They disappeared into woods. What a relief for all of us!
“So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God said that it was good.
And GOD BLESSED THEM saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters of the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’” (Gen. 1:21-22 emphasis mine)
And God blessed them….
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
And GOD BLESSED THEM. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish in the sea and over the birds in the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Gen. 1:27-28 again emphasis mine)
And God blessed them….
The Creator has placed and blessed us with a farm. In that blessing, His call is for us to bless in turn. His intent for all of us who are placed by God is that we tend our gardens faithfully, no matter if they be a few acres or many, or a collection of pots sitting on the porch step or an herb garden on the windowsill. We are to care for the living creatures whether a herd of black cows, a horse, a calico cat, or a Maltipoo. We are participants with God in caring for his creation.
I’ve been considering the meaning and importance of blessing. I believe it is an often misused and unconsidered word. I found an ancient definition of the word that pictured blessing as the act of “filling the palm; to fill the upturned hand of one being blessed.” Blessing comes to those who are in the posture to give what is good and another who is in a posture of openness to receive the gift given. Picture if you will heads of grain, a source of sustenance and life, being given freely to another who holds out their hands to receive.
I have no idea what I would have done if the doe hadn’t freed herself. I’m certain these ponderings about that morning would have been more interesting if I were telling a story of freeing a distressed doe from a fence!! The thing is, I would have tried to help her. I have embraced God’s plan as good. I am blessed and I will bless---people, cows, a persnickety horse, and even a wild animal stuck on a fence. This calling feels both old and new. I have opened my hands and God is filling them.
I had a blessing of Moses from Deuteronomy 33:13-16 framed by an Etsy artist to hang by the back door:
May God bless this land and us as we care for it. May the “favor of him who dwells in the bush” be upon us.
The proverb that says, “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks” rings true. Like Lux, I didn’t adjust well when we first moved. I needed to sit on the feed sacks while the aroma of the morning awakened me to receive the blessing. I have come full circle. The transition I’m in isn’t only new; it is old—familiar. I thought it would be easy, but it wasn’t. I tried to rush the sense of feeling at home, tried to make myself fit into this place without getting to know it. I realize now I wasn’t holding out my hands. I’ve changed my posture. The Father gives good gifts to his children. I receive them with gratitude. I am blessed to be a blessing.
Who or what has God given you to care for? When have you struggled through a transition and breakthrough came to you when you least expected it?