It began with an ugly bare spot in the backyard, a spot that marked the former location of an above ground pool. After two heartbreaking miscarriages, my arms were finally wrapped around a beautiful little girl, and there wasn’t going to be anything dangerous around, so the pool had to go.
With that baby also came a change in my career, cutting our household income by over 40 percent. As a result, we were continually searching for creative ways to make living more affordable. By the time our second child arrived, just 17 months later, we had also become a “crunchy” family, opting for more fresh and organic food. So, on a beautiful spring morning, as I stood on the back deck permitting myself to be completely aggravated by that ugly bare spot, I realized that it was the perfect place for a vegetable garden.
And so, the journey began.
I remember the first time I heard the term “suburban homesteader,” and the vision it triggered was straight from the pages of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book – linen dress, gingham apron, ugly shoes, and lots of hard physical labor. It seemed a rather bizarre endeavor, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why anyone would sign up for that. I bristled at the thought and convinced myself that we would just be a typical suburban family with a vegetable garden.
It started out small, but I soon learned that putting a garden tiller in my husband’s hands was reminiscent of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. What began as a 20 by 20 foot garden plot, grew to 30 by 40, then ballooned to 30 by 60 feet. It started with veggies and morphed into veggies plus hundreds of berry bushes, dozens of fruit trees, 20 chickens, six ducks, and five beehives, altogether consuming most of our yard. Without ever intending to do so, we had become those suburban homesteaders.
Although my vision of homesteading was flawed, I was correct about one thing – it involves lots of hard work. There was the physical labor of prepping, planting, fertilizing, pruning, weeding, harvesting, processing, canning, dehydrating, and freezing. There were eggs to collect, chickens and ducks that required care, and coops to clean. Beehives needed working, and honey needed to be extracted. The physical demands accounted for most of the work, but it also required hours of research to learn the best, most sustainable methods for achieving our goals. We had to develop a deep understanding of organic methods, composting, pest management, food storage and preservation, animal care, and beekeeping. It took a lot of time and effort, but like most things in life that require an investment of time and energy, the rewards were great.
We began with little to offer – a little gardening experience, a desire to learn, a willingness to work hard, and a backyard with an ugly bare spot. God took our meager offerings, blessed them, equipped us to learn and to have the energy we needed. He uncovered talents and abilities that we didn’t know we possessed. Gradually, our suburban yard yielded a bounty of food, and the hopeful prayer that we could become more self-sufficient was answered.
But there’s more, with God there’s always more…
In Ephesians we read that God, “… is able to carry out His purpose and do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us …” (The Amplified Bible, Ephesians 3:20). Blessings from God are always more profound and immeasurable than we expect, and He delighted me with so much more than produce. I believe that we are hard-wired to connect with creation – God has woven it into the very fabric of our DNA. It speaks to us of His greatness, His glory, HIs complexity. “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature.” (New Living Translation, Romans 1:20).
As I tended gardens, God tended my heart – teaching, counseling, comforting. The hymn In the Garden by C. Austin Miles says it best:
I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing;
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.
I’d stay in the garden with Him
Tho’ the night around me be falling;
But He bids me go; thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.
What began as hope for self-sufficiency, became a place of peace and trust in God’s sufficiency. What are you being prepared for? How has God equipped you to provide with your gifts and talents?
He is my caretaker, “… do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (ESV, Matthew 6:31-33).
He is my helper, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” (ESV, Luke 1:37).
By His grace, He faithfully equips me, “…my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (ESV, 2 Corinthians 12:9)
With God, there is always a Reason to Hope.