Hoeing In the Garden 3a

                                      Tenting Tonight

Note:  The memoir, In the Garden, portrays my mother, Ellen, an ordinary woman, who became extraordinary by surrendering her will and ego to the will of God at every crossroads of her life.  She chose faith over doubt, acceptance over resignation, hope instead of despair.  “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” was her mantra.  Ellen lived her entire life in a house, on the hill, on a farm in west Michigan(the site of present day Country Dairy)rooting herself in the place where she believed God had planted her.  There, alongside the love of her life, Henry, she found her calling as a helpmeet for him and transformed the house on the hill into a place of beauty and sanctuary for their family.  To view the memoir visit www.principia.com or www.janethasselbring.com.
In Hoeing “In the Garden,” the author revisits her mother’s story, cultivating and digging up tidbits of truth to provide inspiration and encouragement for the challenges of her life.

Hoeing In the Garden #3a

              “Lord, You have been our dwelling place throughout all generations…” Psalm 90:1
 “On the morning my mother died, {Sept., 1, 2005},I stood with my brothers and sisters as the attendants placed a sheet over her body.  The house had been filled with the sounds and activity of family members, Hospice nurses and volunteers and my mother’s musings and reveries.  Now it was eerily still and so, so deafeningly quiet.  With my mother gone, the life had gone out of the house on the hill. I knew that she had “flown away” to her heavenly home, where she was free of pain and sorrow, but as her body was wheeled away, I heard a voice, from somewhere deep inside me, cry out, “No! No! Don’t take her away!”  I didn’t want her to go.  It seemed so final.  Even then, I had no idea of the thunderous waves of loss and bereavement that would roll over me in the months and years to come.”  (In the Garden pgs. 109,110)
     It was early May of 2013.   Springtime had finally come to west Michigan.  I had been south for the winter and was eager to make my first trip out to the Lake Michigan.  I had heard that melting snow and heavy spring rains had caused the Grand River to flood, but I was unprepared for the sight which met my eyes as I reached the lake. Debris covered the sand like a wooden blanket, littering the beach with beachwood of all sizes and shapes.  Parts of trees were everywhere. Twigs, trunks and branches – some still sprouting leaves, lay about in contorted, twisted shapes.  Entire trees lay partially submerged in the sand. 
     One particular tree, rudely uprooted from its foundation, had floated downriver and now lay on its side like a horned beached whale, where, in an ironic twist of nature, it had become a shoreline hotel for seagulls and various shorebirds inhabiting the area.   As I watched the birds swoop and soar and listened to their raucous cries and calls, I thought of poet, Billy Collin’s contention that birds are  “symbols of imaginative freedom in their flight and substitutes for the poet in the full-throated ease of their singing.” (Bright Wings, Billy Collins, pg. 2) 
     Though created for skies of blue and cirrus, these avian flyers found, a temporary shelter and resting place in this oddly-placed tree. 
“He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge.”  Psalm 91:4  
      So like the human spirit, I mused, remembering St. Augustine’s apt assertion that when God created us humans, He built eternity into our souls,  making us “restless until we find our rest in Him,” 
     The 90th psalm, aptly called the funeral psalm, was written by Moses, and recited in part at both of my parents’ funerals and interments.  The psalm separates itself naturally into three sections, as does the life of Moses, the author, whose life divides into 40-year segments. In the first 40 years of his life, Moses, rescued from slavery in Egypt, in a woven, floating basket, spent his early years in the luxury and splendor of a royal court.  Yet, restless, he longed to help his enslaved, downtrodden people and in his fortieth year, broke away from the entanglements of royal favor and went to live in the deserts of Arabia, from which he would submerge forty years later, ready to do the will of his God.
     Moses came to realize he was a pilgrim on earth and that Heaven was his eternal home. As a wayfaring stranger, just passing through, he learned to put his faith and trust in God throughout the vicissitudes of life.
        I thought of my parents, who had lived most of their lives on a small farm in west Michigan, in a sturdy, well-built little house on the hill, where they lived together 60 years and where they both died.  Their life together was based on a firm foundation of Scripture reading and prayer and yet, for all of that, it was still, for them, a temporary shelter – a mere tent compared with the heavenly abode,  where they would finally arrive “home,” to live forever with their Lord.   In the scheme of eternity, that home, was of no more significance to them than the tree, on the shores of Lake Michigan, was for these avian flyers. 
“For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”  Psalm 90:4
     Given a long, true look at life, my parents understood the relationship of Earth and Heaven.  Though they immersed themselves totally in their work and what they believed was God’s plan for their lives, they understood that earth, and one’s life on earth, is, after all, merely a stop on the way to its grand sequel.   
     C.S. Lewis, in his uncanny way of cutting through to the truth says, “But what you ask of earth?  Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place.  I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell; and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been, from the beginning, a part of Heaven itself.”  (The Great Divorce, pg. 7)
     And, so we travel on our way, stopping here and there to find rest and refreshment, placing our faith and trust in God,  our rock and fortress in the midst of the “floods” of life.
“…In mansions of glory…”(My Jesus I Love Thee)
 “Ellen had often remarked that she didn’t need a mansion in heaven – a simple cottage would suffice for her and Henry. She had now realized what we have since learned:  the word, “mansion,” does not refer to a place of opulence, but from the Greek, simply, ‘an abode, a resting place,’ – much more to her simple tastes….After the interment, we stood staring at the gaping hole in the earth, which would hold the remains of our beloved mother, grandmother and great grandmother.  Suddenly, a child’s cry pierced the air.  One of Ellen’s great granddaughters, in a sudden realization of the finality of death, voiced our collective feelings.  No!  We didn’t want her to go!” (In the Garden, pgs. 111,112   

May you see a robin and hear a warbler’s song soon…
     within the cage
where he wakes from sleep at daybreak
the sound of a warbler’s call
(translated by Stephen D. Crane)
May you see a robin and hear a warbler’s song soon…now
that spring has come to the world?
     within the c
From     within the cage
where he wakes from sleep at daybreak
the sound of a warbler’s call
(translated by Stephen D. Crane)
May you see a robin and hear a warbler’s song soon…
     within the cage warbler’s call
(translated by Stephen D. Crane)
May you see a robin and hear a warbler’s song soon…


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