Hoeing In the Garden #3b –  120 Years and Still Not Enough Time? 

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

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

     In the second section of this funeral psalm, Psalm 90, Moses contrasts the eternal God with the ephemeral nature of His creatures.  Though Moses lived one hundred and twenty years, he still died too soon, leaving his dream, of entering the Promised Land, unfulfilled.  He comes to realize that life is a disappointment only if we expect too much from this world and fail to see that our earthly pilgrimage is only part of our life’s story – the rest will be played out in another sphere – eternity, the glorious sequel to life’s first chapter, lived on this earth. 

     “The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)

      “{My parents}Henry and Ellen had a screened-in front porch, where they loved to sit and look out over the countryside….Here they communed with nature, tired, but happy and contented after a hard day’s work.  They watched the birds, enjoyed the cool breezes, listened to the crickets singing and the frogs croaking.  They watched the sun set over the western hills.  My father claimed that he could see all the way out to Lake Michigan on a clear day.”  (In the Garden 50,51)
     Like Moses, my parents suffered disappointments in life – eking out a living on the farm, the death of their beloved daughter, estrangement from their youngest son, who survived the jungles of Viet Nam, but never returned home, Ellen losing her beloved Henry, after 60 years of marriage and becoming homebound and dependent herself, during the last years of her life.  In each of these defining moments, their faith was put to the test.  In reflecting on my parents’ lives, I realize that at every fork in the road of their lives, where they faced a “why” moment, they chose faith over doubt, hope over despair, acceptance (of God’s will) over resignation, which according to Madeleine L’Engle, is a fine point of distinction, but will make all the difference in how one lives out one’s life.  When confronted with accepting the unacceptable, they, like Moses, lifted their gaze, beyond earth’s challenges and disappointments, heavenward.

     “Over the years, the porch came to be a refuge and a shelter for them – a place where they could come apart from the cares of the day and find rest.  Perhaps, gazing outwards helped take their minds off their problems, while gazing upwards gave them a renewed perspective.”  (In the Garden pg 51)

            In looking past their cares to heaven and eternity, my parents never stopped working and praying here on earth; however, gazing heavenward put earth into perspective for them and brought a sense of peace and victory in their lives – peace and victory that could only be explained in non earthly terms.  They put earth second to heaven, and in so doing, came to experience a “heaven on earth.” 
     C.S. Lewis explains it this way:  “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)
     Interesting thought indeed, giving one pause:  in what order have I placed Earth and Heaven in my life? 


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