"Someday we will both get a place of our own. And we will plant our gardens and eat from it!" She said, with stars in her eyes - a glimmer of the hope we both held onto. We were chatting as our littles played on the playground after church one morning. Both in a very similar place of being nomads, living with other people after having lived out of suitcases and boxes.
"Yesssss. I want to have a house of our own. I want to plant a garden. It's going to happen. I'm claiming it." I replied, wide-eyed and smiling at the prospect. The hope.
Fast forward about a year. We both have homes of our own. We both have gardens.
But one of us was definitely only gardening out of obligation. One of us only planted flowers hoping that we wouldn't actually be around long enough to eat any fruit from our efforts. Hint: It was me.
My garden came with a cute little brick duplex in a quaint suburb that more resembled a little village. Only a seven minute drive to the library, the Y, an amazing park with a ride-on train, playgrounds, splash pad and even a double-decker carousel! A five minute drive to another park with a pond, huge walking track, playgrounds and ducks. Only fifteen minute drive from the grocery store. And within minutes of several of our friends.
But here I sulked, asking God, "Why?"
"Because you asked for them, child." He responded (quite clearly).
"Yes but I wanted it to be in Australia.... or somewhere else.. not America!" (in my whiniest toddler-voice you can possibly imagine.)
You know, it's like when your kid asks for a drink of juice and you give it to them and they stomp their feet and whine "BUT I WANTED IT IN THE PURPLE CUP!!"
That's pretty much what I was doing. And I'm (only slightly - but really a decent bit) ashamed to admit it. I didn't want the blue cup. I wanted the purple cup, dangit!
And then came the realization of it all:
He prepared this place for us.
I found it after months and months of scouring all. the. web. sites for a rental within our (minuscule) budget (seriously we needed a two-bedroom for half the going rate). I did a walk-through before anyone else because I was willing to hop in a car for the first time after leaving the hospital with sepsis and anemia, because the houses were flying off the market when rentals came open. We walked through while the guys were still putting mud on the bathroom tiles. Our application was accepted and we moved in two weeks later.
Wait. Let me clarify:
We. MOVED. In.
Shortly before finding this house a family in our church (whom we only know as acquaintances) gave us a car. It was an older salvage title that he removed and rebuilt the engine in (he's an airplane engineer), then signed over the title to us. And gave us the money to put insurance on it "So their gift wouldn't become a burden." And we now had a reliable way for Bill to get to work every day.
We. Moved. IN.
We own very little. Everything we own can fit into a dozen or so Rubbermaid Totes. Mostly clothes, toys, shoes and photo albums/keepsakes.
Our entire home was furnished out of the generosity of others. A dining table and chairs from a friend's mother. A queen bed (super comfy and hardly used) from a stranger at church. A full sized loft bed for our son, almost brand-new ,from a friend's co-worker that didn't even know us. End tables, throw pillows and shelves from another stranger at church. A toaster oven from a friend. Bedding from another friend (who also offered a TV, which we politely declined :) it's just not our style after not having one for five years). A couch, carpet, three chairs, lamps, a fan, space heaters, linens, coffee table, end table, two dressers and a full supply of dishes, pots, pans, silverwares, glasses, baking stuff and more from a friend that's getting ready to go on the field as a full-time missionary. Bill's friend from way back in his Pepsi days gave us his lawnmower. And even though we only asked to borrow these things, 90% of the things given to us came with a, "You can keep it, don't worry about it!"
Oh, and that's not all.
WE. Moved in.
That stranger that gave us the loft bed for O lived about 30 minutes away from us, offered to go an additional 20 minutes in the opposite direction to also pick up our bed from the other stranger and deliver them to our house on. the. day. we. moved. in. for. Free.
Another (very strong) stranger from church brought his panel van to our missionary friend's house 40 minutes away to load up and bring things to our place. Another acquaintance took the seats out of her minivan and met us at that same house to help us get it all in one load instead of two.
Our other friends let us borrow their tools, paint supplies and yard work stuff to clean the place up and put furniture together.
When I sat back and realized all these things, my tantrum slowly turned into tears. Tears that were so, incredibly and indescribably thankful for the way our village showed up. For the way HE prompted them to show up BIG. Tears for the pang of heartache for having all these things... but not in the way I'd hoped: overseas. Tears for the realization that he's a Good Father and that he only wants the best for us and right now this is what we need. We need to put down roots (for a little while). We need to build our community even more. We need to rebuild our finances. We need to grow closer to Him.
So we did what we knew we had to do. We went to Lowe's.
And we planted our garden.
The day after we finished our garden Owen & I headed to Georgia for a retreat/debriefing time with our good friends at Juniper Table. We met Leah & Pat (the founders of Juniper Table) in Tanzania and we did life there together for about a year before they moved back to the states to start their nonprofit. It was so great to reconnect with her for a week in the mountains. But what I wasn't expecting was the Bible verse that came our first morning there, in a Bible study created by Jacci, a former missionary and current missionary-care guru.
"Read & Reflect on Jeremiah 29:1-13," was typed on the top of the paper.
So I started reading, with new eyes as the study asked me questions like, "Who is Jeremiah writing to?" (the people exiled to Babylon) and "What is God telling them to do?" Verse 5: "Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce." (NLT). I'm not even making this up. Jacci didn't know me at all. She didn't know our story, my desire, anything about me, not even that we'd just planted a garden. But a couple days before the retreat when she asked God what scriptures to focus on, this was what he gave her (she shared that with me after I told her about our garden and my toddler-tantrum).
As I read these verses the tears started coming and I started saying, "Okay, okay already, I hear you God!" Verse 7: "And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare." Verse 10: "This is what the Lord says: 'You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again." The hope. Right there in those words. The hope came back.
Some days are still a struggle to hold back the tears. But I'm slowly coming to terms with our home assignment. We know this is not forever. And it might not even be for that long. I'm so thankful for all he's blessed us with to be able to live in America for this time. For our amazing village that has taken care of us in so many ways. For our incredible church family that have stepped up, showed up and prayed up so many things with us. And for our garden. Because every day we walk past it, it's a reminder to us that God is in the details and he gives us the desires of our hearts. It might not always look the way we expected, or come when we want it, but it always comes -- if our desires line up with his word. And right now, his will for us is to enjoy our passport country, build the friendships we left behind so many years ago, create new ones with our church family and neighbors, and rebuild our finances with Bill working to pay the bills so our ministry partnership funds go into savings for our next assignment.
As our too-wise-for-his-years son once sang in a spontaneous song he made up at 5 years old:
No matter what country we're in
We'll praise you forever
We will praise you forever
I will give thanks to you forever
On the earth
No matter what country we are in
No matter where we are
No matter what
No matter what happens to us we know
You are in heaven
We will praise you
Oh. And on a homeschool field trip to a farm, they gave Owen a bean plant, and he put it in the garden. So maybe we will be eating from it, after all. :)
**** UPDATE ****
We ate the harvest from our garden in our egg fried rice that night. ;)
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