I was talking to my husband tonight as our child was blissfully falling into a melatonin induced slumber about how grateful I am for what our life looks like at the moment. Honestly, it's the community garden project that our church farm is doing that has provoked this sudden burst of gratitude and contentment.
It has been such an absolute gift to discover the peace and joy that have been filling up my empty soul as I've weeded and planted, watered and fertilized, staked and pruned. It's crazy that a little garden plot lent to me on a hazelnut farm would be the catalyst for so much, but it's true.
When we lost our home group leader in a horrible car crash that injured his family, my world literally changed overnight. I just didn't know it at the time. I had no idea that friendships would change so drastically. And I certainly had no clue that the church I ran to the Sunday after our friend died would suddenly be a source of crippling anxiety just one month later. It wasn't really the church. It was the relationships within the church. The changes to those precious gifts that had once given me a sense of belonging were just too much for me to handle. So I stayed away. One week turned into twelve, and before I knew it, I couldn't remember the last time I'd actually attended. Even when some amazing things happened in my heart to heal me in that broken part at an Easter retreat, I still couldn't screw up the courage to walk back into those doors. I knew it was time, but it was just too hard.
Then came the garden. After awaiting dry weather for what seemed like eons, we finally were given the go ahead to get in there and begin planting. I put in my seeds and plants, having no idea what fruit was in store for me. Sure, maybe I'd get some lettuce or some peas, but something deeper? I had no idea. But it's true. Coming to that little plot of borrowed dirt on the hazelnut farm my church owns gave me the courage to step back into the doors of the hall we rent on Sunday mornings. But it's more than that. The garden plot has given my heart a chance to grow and heal, to find peace and joy again. I know that all I can do is put the plants or seeds in the ground and tend them as best as I know how, and that God really decides what grows and what bears fruit. I cannot make a seed do anything just as I cannot make the sunshine and warmth visit our little spot in BC longer than a day at a time here. (Boy, if I had that ability, you know I'd be using it about now!) In a sense, I'm partnering with God in my little assigned plot. I still don't know if my tomatoes or peppers will ever have enough sunshine or warmth to produce or if that spinach I've planted three times now will ever grow. I don't even know if I'll get more than just that one first harvest of lettuce. Everything must be held loosely at the garden. Even that is teaching me some pretty big internal lessons that maybe I'll be able to put into words someday.
And I've found the contentment and joy permeating other areas of my life too. We live at the back of a little town in a rented suite. We've got trees and moss and slugs in abundance. Our neighborhood is quiet. I have to be intentional about putting my child in social situations, for we could easily stay home all the time and enjoy just our little family save the occasional trip to the grocery store. My life looks very different than it did when I was a busy classical educator balancing Latin lessons with science and math, studying reformed theology and systematically putting everything from books to beliefs in neat little boxes. I don't spend hours at a coffee shop debating the latest doctrinal topics with seminary students, and I'm not busy writing curriculum or helping to plan classes for a mega church. I'm busy doing laundry and trying to keep up with the stuff that gets tracked into our house. I'm busy changing diapers and kissing owies, reading board books and making up games. My life is about making creative dinners, making the bed, planning when I'll plant kale or can peaches or pick raspberries. I have no idea what the latest shows on television might be outside of the little I see mentioned online, and I definitely am not entirely aware of the latest fashions. Yes, I had no idea how much life would change when I moved into marriage and a new country five years ago.
But you know what? I like this life. Sure, there is no disposable income or cute SUV for me to play with. And I don't have to dress up for work. Heck, I don't even have to get out of my pajamas for work. But it's a beautiful life. I never understood how a friend of mine could say, "All I need to know is that Jesus loves me and that I belong to Him." I thought she was crazy. Because obviously, she needed to know about the deep things of theology and doctrine. She needed to know about the latest books or speakers out there. At least, that's what I thought.
Now I'm pretty sure my friend is onto something. The simplicity that has come into my life from moving away from all of that has been rather freeing, maybe even purifying somehow. I was reminded of that when I read about the latest kafuffle (how do you spell that anyway?!) in the evangelical church with a well known theologian and his comment on facebook. Five years ago, that would have mattered. I would have spent hours thinking, conversing, and writing about it. But now? Well, I read about it and then decided that I had other things I'd rather be doing. My husband put it well when he said that we're fixing our eyes on one Person. He's right. In this current season, I've found all the outer trappings of faith and daily life in a bigger town stripped away from me. And I've discovered something I didn't know was missing - a contentment and joy that sometimes surprises me with its sweetness.
I like this current season. I'm grateful for what (and Who) ushered it in. Do I still mourn all that was lost? You bet. But this current season takes that grief and wraps it up in hope and peace. And that's what makes the joy steal back in. That is a gift. And I'm grateful.