Category Archives: family

A Beautiful Essay on Farm Life

I’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Dukes Lee, a journalist and contributing editor for The High Calling.  Jennifer lives in Iowa on a century farm and also blogs at Getting Down with Jesus.  She is the niece of my friend, Jackie, who hails from Iowa but has  lived in Texas for many years.   Jackie and I  met and became friends through our church in Allen, a suburb north of Dallas.  Her small town roots are deep.  Growing up on a farm shaped her into a woman with strong character, resolve and determination, and resulted in a woman worthy of admiration.   It’s been my observation that a high percentage of the folks I admire share deep roots that were often formed through rural community and  family farming.  I originally read the essay on Jackie’s Facebook page, when she proudly shared it with her friends.  In her essay, On the Seat of a Tractor,  Jennifer speaks movingly about the connections between her family and the land.

On the Seat of a Tractor

Jennifer writes about the sense of purpose and the connection to God that her family feels through farming.  I hope you take the time to click on the link to the essay and reflect on the emotions that are evoked.   If you read through the comments following the essay you find several that acknowledge that farm life is not always idyllic –  the bone tiring work and the years when the harvests were meager, the weather cruel, and the bills stacked high are recognized.  What I sense is that in spite of these frequent disappointments and hurdles, families who choose this way of life find their rewards in simple pleasures.  They seem to feel connected and strengthened through the richly detailed and colorful tapestry created as each person’s thread is woven into an intricate record of birth, death, spring planting,  fall harvests, winter cold, summer heat, feast, famine.   This interweaving  binds together those who came before and those yet to come.  Feeling closer to God through this way of life seems to be a common denominator that enables the farmer to face tribulation and find satisfaction in being a part of this cycle – “emptying and filling” (L. L. Burkat, see comments).

I have little first hand knowledge of farming.  My only experience occurred over a 3 year period after my widowed mother remarried a recently widowed life long friend.  My step father owned a 400 acre ranch in Oklahoma where he raised a 100 head of cattle.  My step father and my mother  were able to move the cattle from one pasture to another and perform most of the chores even though they were both in their 70’s.  Sometimes they called on the assistance of his daughter’s family who lived nearby.  We lived an hour away but my son and I spent some weekends and some summer days helping with basic chores like fence mending, hauling feed, and cattle round ups.  It was an experience that we relished.  It was a great proving ground for my son who was eleven when my mom remarried and fourteen when my step father died.    Those three years definitely deepened my sense of respect for the  people who choose this life.   If your way of life is inextricably tied to the land, I’d love to hear your reaction to Jennifer’s essay.  And if you have no first hand knowledge of farming,  how did you feel about her words?

Excerpts from some of the comments following Jennifer’s essay that particularly spoke to me:

“Sometimes, the sunsets of our lives are really just opportunities for the sun to rise on a new day.”

“I enjoyed the details of a farm life, both external and internal. God beautifully weaves meaning in all our lives.

All too often, I’ve felt that for something to have real purpose, it had to have the GOD label slapped on it. But I’m finding more and more, that all of our work can be worship really — even our secular work. It can all be holy and sacred, right? It’s that whole AVODAH thing that you’ve written about, Marcus. Ann Voskamp, too, has written about it. I’m in awe of that word, Avodah (a Hebrew word that means both work and worship.)

If we live an Avodah life, it all has purpose. All of it.

Really, really moving story — about the power of love and legacy and God’s good grace.

oh, jen, what a beautiful story. it does sound idyllic, i know it’s not always easy. but what a blessing to have such a family–one that works together this way, one that talks so openly. yes, what hand-me-downs your girls will have; rich stories to grow deep roots. i am in awe of such a thing. thank you for this blessing.”


Jodi’s Inspiration for Our Community Garden

After the Saturday lunch and learn, several attendees were touring the gardens, admiring all the lush growth and the biggest zucchini and summer squash I have ever seen!  Apparently John has been on vacation.  Boy will he be surprised when he sees his squash plants!

6-18-11 Benches with flagstones

6-18-11 Benches with flagstones

I was admiring the flagstones that Michael has placed in front of the two benches and Jodi shared a personal story with me. One of the graceful concrete benches is dedicated to the memory of her brother who died suddenly a couple of years ago.  The last thing they had done together was to plant a garden in Houston and the first thing she saw when she returned to Houston was a big bowl of tomatoes from the garden.  She was inspired by their gardening experiences together to dream of building a community garden at the YMCA in Wildwood.   I am thankful that Jodi directed her grief over the loss of her brother to dreaming big – creating and inspiring others to come together for this shared purpose.   We have all benefited from Jodi’s enthusiasm and we can celebrate Jodi’s love for her brother by experiencing our connections to gardening, our friends and families.  Thank you Jodi!

Slideshow, 6-18-11 Garden (Click to Enlarge)

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Is it really May? Feels more like November.

Today it really does feel like November.  Wish I could share the rain with those still suffering from drought.  I finally moved the transplants from the covered deck to the open.  I had to do it in the rain, but they looked so pathetic I felt like I had to do something.   Hopefully the Algaflash feed and rain will help revive them.

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I don’t know what I’ll do if my North Face windbreaker ever gives out.  Although it was soaked; I stayed dry inside it.  Did you ever have a piece of clothing that held so many memories that you’d miss it if it were gone?  This jacket fits that description.  Robert gave it to me years ago – probably 5 or 10 years before our 21 year old son was born.  Here’s an image of our son Eric and me sitting on a rock at Estes Park, CO when he was about 18 months old.

1991 - with Eric at lake, Estes Park, CO

And there are many more memories of hikes and vacations, wearing this jacket.  Memories of Boy Scout camp outs, standing around the fire, knowing I could go home and wash the smoke and grit out of the jacket and it would be good as new.

A preview of future garden bounty

I’m visiting my mom in north Texas and I wanted to share a few images of her backyard garden.  Fortunately she isn’t plagued by the many pests we have in Missouri – no deer leeping over her fence.  She has always had a cavalier attitude about planting – just dig a hole, dump the plant in and cover it, add a bucket of water and be sure to talk to the plant.  You’ll see from the images of her flowers and vegetables that she must be on to something. 

Grandmother's roses

My paternal grandmother once had flower beds full of these roses.  Many years ago, when I admired them, she offered me a cutting.  I timidly accepted, but asked her how I could possibly get it to grow.  She said, “Just stick it in the dirt.  It’ll grow!”  I could hardly believe it, but I was pleasantly surprised when I successfully had my own rose bush a year or so later.  Years passed, I moved, my sister started a bush from one of the cuttings. 
Now my mom has joined the cycle and has several of these bushes in her yard.  True to the Southern Passalong tradition,  this plant just keeps on giving.
My mother also has a beautiful clematis vine and an amaryllis that was a gift from her identical twin. 

Mother's Amaryllis 5-13-11


Mother's clematis 5-13-11

My favorite image is of green tomatoes.  Mother says she can almost smell these tomatoes, they look so good!  This is one of the 50 cent plants she bought and planted directly into the ground as a tiny transplant.  I take this as a sign of hope for the many plants I have recently planted – most without hardening off, just offering some words of encouragement to each plant as it faces the challenge of our ever changing Missouri weather – torrents of rain, howling winds, followed by torpid days with no hint of  a breeze  and  temperatures in the 90s.  

Mother's tomatoes, 5-13-11