Lessons From the Field
Updated: Apr 1
Greetings from Sara, on Thistle Hill Farm.
Yep, my family bought a farm. Well, actually it's a want-to-be farm. To be more precise, we actually are want-to-be farmers living on a “farmette.” We moved to Central PA in July after deciding to make a lifelong homesteading/self sufficient dream, a reality. We bought a property with a house, barn, trees, land and plenty of work to do. Plenty. Feeling pretty exhausted and overwhelmed the day of our move, God sent a little reminder of His love and within minutes of our arrival, a full double rainbow emerged.
It’s been a few months since that moment. It has been quite an adventure. It has been a crazy hard change. It has been a refuge. It has also been, a crap ton of work. Despite the tumult of emotions that comes with a huge change, there has not been a day when I am not arrested with the Wonder and Awe of God’s creation in this ever changing landscape. It’s actually shocking, I don't have another word to describe it.
Don’t get me wrong, you can move to a beautiful place, but you can't escape pain, sorrow or sin. This is a fallen world and I am a human made of flesh. My spirit and sin nature still have a ridiculous and dramatic WWE battle each and every day. I live with a bunch of sinners who have their own wrestling matches too, and let’s face it, no matter who you are, what you have, where you live, ultimately, we are never going to escape that conflict.
So, here on the "farm", we are doing things slowly, one project at a time. Some days, I am very overwhelmed, but I am learning so many things. This is hard work and it’s very rewarding. I feel so thankful because I get to spend a lot of time close to nature and a lot of time thinking.
Do you want to know what one of the very best things about living here is? It's something that I didn’t expect. My projects on this farm feel like a personal WnA workshop, I get a chance to connect my head to my heart through my hands. (Hat tip Brene Brown)
After the move, I also began reading Ezekial. As far as books of the Bible go, it's a little different and it can be somewhat difficult to understand. What I do know, is that God has Ezekial act out His prophecies for the people of Israel. At that time, knowledge of God's word was highly accessible, but the people were numb or apathetic. They didn't have ears to hear. He needed to grab their attention using this uncommon approach. You know what? I grabbed my attention, because it mirrors our WnA model, to help the Truth reach our souls through some type of action, some sort of doing. When we take time to process God's word with our hands, it slows us down, it helps us to pay attention.
I have been categorizing all this thinking. I've been putting these "farm" musings into an imaginary file folder in my brain and labeled it, “Lessons from the Field.” This sounds very romantic and slightly dramatic, very much like the Anne of Green Gables that sometimes rears her head from within me. However, a more realistic name might be: “Jumbled Thoughts from the Side Yard” or “ Theology from an Overgrown Garden” or “Deep thoughts from a Neglected Barn: I hope it doesn’t collapse on my head while I ponder.” You can choose.
Lesson #1 (aka Jumbled Thoughts from the Side Yard)
We have a peach tree. We have a peach tree and I didn’t even notice it when we first looked at the house. I didn't really take notice of it or it's state until my neighbor said, “You better thin those peaches, before your tree commits suicide.”
I really didn't know what she meant. I thought fruit trees just made fruit, and then you picked it, and life is good. Well Praise be to God for the internet and the slew of nerdy homesteaders who make helpful videos. Truly! After my small research I learned that we were about a month late thinning the tree and that our tree hasn’t been pruned properly. Well, better late than never. I grabbed my mom, a ladder, 2 buckets, and went to work. It took several hours and at first, it was exciting and we chatted, but as we fell into a rhythm, we both worked in silence. My head was thrust up into the branches, the clear hot strength of the summer sun beat down. It filtered through the leaves and created an ever changing kaleidoscope on my arms as I gently picked and plucked fruit that would never get the chance to ripen. My mind cleared from the simple and mechanical work, and I began to feel sorrow for how much wasted fruit there was.
Then I suddenly remembered Jesus’s words from John 15:
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
There are so many parallels from what we were doing and the whole text, it became so vibrant and alive in those moments. On our break, I had to look up the rest of the passage, I wanted to reread it in its entirety so that I could think about it as we finished our work.
2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Abide in his love. What a sweet command.
Well, in order to have peaches that are full size, sweet and free from other various and sundry problems it is necessary to pull off the extra fruit from a cluster, so that only one remains. You also must also ensure that there is 6-8 inches of space between each fruit on any given branch. There is also a certain scrutiny involved, you should select (keep) fruits that the tree seems to already favor, consider it’s placement and how much sun it will get, examine the fruit's shape and check if there are any signs of blight. We filled our buckets with the discarded fruit, and then another two and another two. You can’t imagine how many peaches we had to get rid of from this one tree in our side yard. We were so sad, it seemed like a huge waste and it was tempting to pull of fewer.
However, after our first section was completed, something strange happened. The whole branch lifted up. It had been so burdened with the extra fruit that the branch was weighed down, straining the whole tree and preventing the fruit from getting adequate sun!
It was astonishing to see the transformation in this branch, it seemed happier. It was incredibly sobering to think about God as the vinedresser, pruning us. Sobering to consider how we hold onto sin and things that not only cause us harm, but burden us and keep us from bearing proper fruit. It is hard to understand that God has the big picture in mind when he prunes, and that when he works on us, it is for our benefit and for the benefit of the whole tree. It doesn't always feel beneficial. Yet, it is each fruit that benefits separately and together at the same time. Although this truth is still slightly intangible to me, His ways of sanctification became clearer through this process. It became clearer through the doing, through the acting of it out. The necessity of abiding in Him and His word seeped a little deeper into my bones.
Last month, when we harvested the peaches, we had over 50 lbs of fruit and I had a new prayer. Give me kingdom eyes, to see pruning for the benefit of my whole life, earthly and eternal. Life sometimes feels too hard and painful to be pruned. Sometimes I feel like I am already pruned enough, "maybe next season, God," has often been the cry of my heart. However, that first harvest day, I gained something; the desire to be “pruned” and the desire to abide more. I also gained insight to God's goodness and His plans for us. His plans are good, like Him. My little old peach tree in the side yard and the jam we made from it, have now become an Ebenezer for me. They are monuments set up to remind me that I can bear His pruning, when I am abiding in His love. The bearing of this pain and suffering, can turn into bearing more fruit.
Lord help us to abide in your love, in your word, and may we be a people who bear good fruit. May it glorify you. AMEN