[Find more from this series by starting at the first blog HERE.]
By Tom Reese III
Our living room is dark, a movie is paused on the TV providing a shallow glow in the corner by the couch. For the past two days, we debated on spending a significant amount of money for a flight to a promising job fair back on the East Coast at the end of the week. Alas, another full day of anxiously waiting to hear back from job recruiters has proven fruitless. Disappointment prompts me to close my eyes, clench my teeth, and utter an unembellished prayer asking for help.
“Lord, if you don’t want me to go to this job fair then I need to know. Like…now, even now.”
The next five minutes, including the first seconds immediately proceeding “Amen”, consisted of two not-so-random circumstances where [I believe] the Lord directly answered this frustrated and specific prayer. The infant monitor, affixed to the crib watching over a sleeping and still baby, unexplainably fell to the floor, and a random email from a computer programming center I researched years ago was sent to my inbox at 21:53 Central time. Megan, at the same time all these instances were occuring, was in the shower and praying a very similar prayer (unbeknownst to me) for clarity and direction right now. Just a few minutes later, the path became clear, the application was sent, and my steps were directed straightforward. The look of shock and near-disbelief when I told her what was planned next quickly became a visage of humbled tears, emitting both joy and relief.
Everything had built up to this moment of change, this opportunity to take the next leap of faith, planting my shovel deep into the dirt and believing this is where God had carefully guided our steps. A weight lifted off of my back, excitement rushed in, and we shared a giant embrace celebrating the moment.
A day or so after this personal revelation we found ourselves helping build a small chicken house for our family in Oklahoma. Megan’s father, the jack-of-all-trades, was the natural foreman for the project. Megan’s sister had a little bit of land to work with, and her desire of owning chickens marked a great excuse for us all to come together and argue about how we should proceed with building the coop. This project would eventually change about fifteen times, and the seasoned father effortlessly would change the design to fit the needs of the moment (all while looking in my direction and winking).
In the front yard was a beautiful flowering quince, a large shrub with thousands of flowers needing pollination. Noonday arrived and hundreds upon hundreds of honeybees were seen circling its pink blossoms looking to load up on the yellow spoil and take it back to their hive.
A beautiful sight, a wonderful sound, a promise of local honey to pour later in the summer. Our baby girl spent time with her young cousin and met two of the tiny chicks which would eventually make the coop their home. She would reach out grasping for the tender bird and her loving cousin would gently turn away to avoid a chicken catastrophe. I’m unsure of the poultry equivalent of veal, but we weren’t ready to dive into that particular cuisine delicacy.
Late afternoon approached, and the chicken coop started to take shape. The day’s work was done. We said our farewells and took the long way back home: an old highway passing through ranch land; however, not just any ranch land, big ranch land. The comforting sights and smells of large fields being burnt for the upcoming season allowed for moments of quiet reflection. We had just come through our own personal burn season, and now we were ready to start planting.
We know where the seed will go, we expect to watch the plant grow over the course of time. We anticipate the day we can reap the crop, but sometimes we forget what happens after the yield: preserving the food, planning meals, cooking and consuming meals, and sharing the spoil with others. The reality is we plant many seeds not knowing if all will come to harvest. Sometimes we see the buds sprouting, sometimes we are able to take the seedings to their permanent home out in the garden, and sometimes (hopefully) we have a bumper crop. A garden is a stepping stone for these plants, not the end-game. The harvest isn’t the final step of the vintage, we want to enjoy what has taken weeks and months to produce. Our seed was planted in Virginia, we didn’t know where we’d go at first, but we did eventually find ourselves placed with moderate delicacy in the soil of Missouri. For a couple months we struggled to see the light [seed], barely peeking out of the ground and not knowing what was going on in our lives [sprout]. Then, suddenly, one day our trajectory started to make sense [seedling]: weed out all the distractions, stop worrying about the job offer that never came, focus completely on the task at hand (my course work), and prepare to be transplanted in the coming months.
Back at the farm, another day, dinner time. Sitting outside enjoying a bowl of homemade spicy lo mein and watching the cars go by, a chorus of target practice suddenly erupts from the neighbors land: serenading us with the calming ambiance of gunfire and the obvious enthusiasm of one particular shooter who apparently valued speed over precision. Our little girl just had a few spoonfuls of rice formula, a new experience for her and a very welcomed adventure. A door is heard closing on an old truck down by the bridge. A quick peek confirmed two boys heading under the bridge weren’t our neighbors. They silently slipped into their hiding spot with their red plastic cups, a bag of ice, and what they thought was going to be a quiet evening quickly turned on them as I approached their concealed position. I don’t get these moments much, but I could feel the “get off my lawn” old man personna channeling through me quite vividly. Quick pleasantries are exchanged, the young country boys head back to their truck and disappear down the road. Back to the lo mein, now cold, and this grumpy personality switches back into lounge mode.
The sun is beginning to show days-end light. Shadows slowly stretch over the wonderful array of evening color: rays of shimmering gold cascade over flora and fauna (if you include our dear cat, Ella). Everything begins to wind down, time even takes its own time to grasp its hands, curl out its fingers, and give itself the good ole over-the-head stretch and groan. What a night, what a land, what an experience. This isn’t our homestead, yet, and may never be; however, for now, it is ours to take care of, to maintain and improve. Be mindful of those that have helped you along the way, tilling your ground or giving you pointers, those special nuggets of wisdom you can only hear when attentively listening. We recognize our family that came before us in this house, on this property, that paved the way and allowed us to partake of their labor and enjoy the fruit of their land. We treasure our neighbors, a link to our heritage, who learned from that family how to care for the land and animals: and, in turn, are showing us the same kindness. Generational farming. We listen and search for old wisdom even though Megan’s grandparents are gone now. Much like walking through the woods and looking for a babbling brook: ears open, eyes wide, soaking in the ambient sounds waiting for a song of gentle waters running downstream.
As the final sliver of sun disappears into the horizon, and a cool moon rises ahead, we made our way back into the old beige house. The child is put to sleep, the dishes are ready to be washed, and the final load of laundry is finishing in the dryer. On the kitchen table lay a few pieces of mail, a Bible, hand-scratched notes for a list of errands to do tomorrow, and a laptop with tutorials loaded on the screen and ready to begin. Megan turns on the coffee pot and heads into her hobby room to look at wood burning ideas for her beehive. Alone, facing my laptop and studying for the future, I hear the familiar buzzing hum of the outside garage light. Home. Hope.
[From the Author]
To those of you who have followed along the last three weeks, my goal was that you felt frustrated with allegories and vague details: those were purpose-built to mirror the feelings that have been going through my own heart and mind this past year. As the main story arced, the plot narrowed and led to a specific direction: hope. Much like anyone on a farm or homestead, we hope for what we plant, or rear, to grow full and ripe in it’s own season. Writing out this series has helped deal with the raw emotions that can come from tough transitions, and I thank my wife, Megan, for the encouragement to put words down in black-and-white. Thank you homesteaders, you inspired this story. Fingers crossed we’ll have a great garden, honeybees, and some more tales to tell after this year. God bless you.
About the Blogger:
Hi, I’m Tom Reese—a reluctant addictive personality, where “close-enough” is the measure of perfection. My storage area is full of para-cord, disc golf memorabilia, ammo, not nearly enough 10mm sockets, fishing gear, hunting clothes that must’ve shrunk two sizes, and empty boxes full of future ambitions. I’m not quite mid-life, but it’s gaining on me. The best part of me is my wife, Megan, and our baby girl. What’s important to me? Christ. Family. Forgiveness. Cigars. Bourbon. Hot sauce.
Find more of Tom’s blog posts here.
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