Note: The memoir, In the Garden, portrays the author’s 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. After marrying the love of her life, Henry, Ellen lived the rest of her 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 she found her calling as a helpmeet and homemaker. She transformed the house on the hill into a place of beauty and sanctuary for her family. To view the memoir visit http://www.principia.com or http://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.
“Vainly the fowler’s eye
Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
As, darkly painted on the crimson sky,
Thy figure floats along.” (To a Waterfowl, stanza 2 by William Cullen Bryant)
The waterbird faces many a challenge on its migratory journey. Finding food, veering off course, mighty winds and always, the feared hunter – all pose threats; however, the poet assures us, that the hunter, or fowler will have no success in bringing down the waterfowl as it floats in silhouette against the crimson evening sky.
Ellen, like the waterfowl, would face many challenges and difficulties in her life on the farm with Henry:
Eking out a living on the farm:
“Life was difficult for them, because, in living on the land, they were vulnerable in so many ways… When the cherries were ruined by a windstorm, not only would there not be a cherry crop that year, but workers would have to be hired to pick and dump the wind-bruised cherries, otherwise the next year’s crop would not come in. Her heart breaking within her, Ellen comforted her weeping husband, Henry, with the words, “God will provide.” And somehow He did. When a cow became infected, the entire batch of milk would have to be dumped… Henry and Ellen had no insurance… When family members, suffered broken limbs, needed surgeries, dental or doctor care, there was no insurance.” (In the Garden, pp.56.57)
Losing a daughter to depression:
My sister was 48 years of age and in the prime of her life. When she died, everyone in the family was in shock, but the news hit my mother the hardest. She was stunned beyond belief. “As she struggled to comprehend the incomprehensible and accept the unacceptable, her spirit sagged and slowly ebbed away. She appeared dazed and lifeless. Finally, paralyzed by grief, she withdrew to her room. My father guarded her privacy and along with family members, saw to the details of the funeral, answered the phone and greeted friends and relatives who stopped by with their condolences.” (In the Garden, pg. 65)
Estrangement from her youngest son, who survived the jungles of Vietnam, but never returned home:
“One of the most painful things my mother had to deal with in her lifetime, was being estranged from her youngest son. To her dying day, she held out hope that she would see or hear from him one last time, but it was not to be… My mother held onto the hope that if her son could be found, he would return home. When he was located, she implored her older son to visit. How she must have prayed while he was away. But, when he returned home, the news was not good. Her youngest son had been cool an distant to his older brother, treated him like a stranger and showed no emotion when he was told of his mother’s love and desire to have him return home. My mother’s hopes and dreams were shattered.” (In the Garden, pp. 75,79)
And, yet in spite of the challenges, the grief and loss, Ellen, like the waterfowl, was not brought down by trouble and despair – the fowler, who would do her harm.
“Henry and Ellen’s faith was honed on the farm…They were both brought up in spiritual homes. Bible reading and prayer were their spiritual bread and butter, a sure foundation for the many challenges and difficulties they would face. Their faith got stronger as the years went by. Like a trainer strengthens a muscle through exercise, so God strengthened their faith by stretching and exercising it. Each time they faced a hardship, they would take it to the Lord in prayer, then trusting in His promises, they forged ahead with the chores and details of their life.” (In the Garden, pp. 56, 57)
Their life on the farm was a journey, a pilgrimage founded on faith in God. From the sunrise years of their early beginnings to the sunset years, of old age and frailty, they trusted their Lord, until that final day, when “silhouetted against the crimson evening sky,” their journeys would end and they would see the One in whom they had placed their trust every step of the way.
Illustration, page 16(from Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration)
Note: Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration is the author’s 5th book in the series, Tales From Pelican Cove,” and is based on Emily Dickinson’s “Things with Feathers” poem. The book’s themes of hope and remembering are also the themes of her mother’s memoir, In the Garden, where the author describes how God’s winged wonders often lifted Ellen’s spirits and put a song in her heart. See http://www.janethasselbring.com for more information about Janet’s books.