The Unexpected Garden

photo credit: anafuentes via photopin cc

photo credit: anafuentes via photopin cc

Today I am blessed and honored to feature a guest post written by a friend close to my heart. She writes here simply as “Soul Sister” because that’s who she is to me and that’s who she can be here too.

There is something about the sun on my face. Nothing refreshes me more, fills my spirit, or calms my soul more than sun warming my face.

As I sat on my porch this afternoon, I reflected on the irony of the One we follow allowing me stolen moments of unhidden sun seeking. When we left for this journey I feared what my loss of freedom would mean. But inside my compound, as the sun shines, I can remove my scarf and let it warm my face.

It is a gift I didn’t expect. It is hard here. And at times, lonely. But somehow along with the lonely, hard, and anxious, there is joy that is so intense it is hard to describe.

I watched my kids play in the yard yesterday. A yard filled with fruit and nut trees. A playground that beckons their imaginations to go wild. A playhouse that is home to their fun and friendship club (oh to be six years old…). It is better than I imagined. More than I asked for. I couldn’t have written this part of our story this well.  And it fills my children with hours of joy.

There is a vegetable garden growing feet away from my porch. I’ve always dreamed of having a garden. My husband laughs at my lofty ideals of harvesting a garden because I was a lackluster caregiver of our house plants. But gardening is different. It is life-giving, soul-cleansing work. There is reward in gardening.

I kinda laugh now at the gardening I get to do here. In reality, I walk around and comment all good things to my guard/gatekeeper/now gardener. I tell him in my new language how pleased I am that he planted all the new seeds and made the beds so pretty. But still it’s my garden, in my yard, that I can cook from all season long.

Amazing. Joy-giving, soul-filling. And not what I expected from this place.

I was reading a devotional recently that read: “I have planted Peace in the garden of your heart, where I live; but there are weeds growing there too: pride, worry, selfishness and unbelief. I am the Gardener, and I am working to rid your heart of those weeds . . . . I also send trials into your life. When you trust Me in the midst of trouble, Peace flourishes and weeds die away. Thank me for these troublesome situations; the Peace they can produce far outweighs the trials you endure.” (Jesus Calling)

I am grateful for my garden for so many reasons. But also to remind me that unless it’s tended, it doesn’t produce the life-giving fruit. Aren’t we the same? The rain and the sun produce harvest . . . not just sun or just rain.

But it’s the combination that brings joy and contentment.

Somehow in the hard, scary, peace-stealing moments, the intense joy balances it out. It tempers it. I find myself on my porch, lifting my face toward the Son and letting Him warm my face.


Sometimes I Only Have Crumbs To Give

photo credit: A Crom via photopin cc

photo credit: A Crom via photopin cc

Today I am blessed and honored to feature a guest post written by a friend close to my heart. She writes here simply as “Soul Sister” because that’s who she is to me and that’s who she can be here too. Below is the first of hopefully many more moments of sharing the page together:

I think the honeymoon is over. If there ever was a honeymoon. Somewhere in the mess of yesterday, it dissolved into the incredibly dry air. I think the problem started when I made a list of the things I wanted to accomplish in that day. When I look back, it’s laughable. A list. Puh-lease. The irony here is that I never left the compound on which I live. It’s not like I had a million interruptions or errands to accomplish. I just wanted a clean house, dry laundry, happy kids and yummy baked items to share with the men that keep our gate.

I’m not sure exactly what happened. But here’s how it started: a friend brought by a cast iron rose cake pan. You know, the kind that when you turn the cake out of the pan it looks like a rose? Yes, well. Let’s call that mistake one.

I looked up a recipe for pound cake because I love pound cake, because my mother-in-law always makes a pound cake for Easter, and because I wanted to celebrate the first day of spring by giving the men at our gate cake. Let’s call that mistake two.

I gathered my ingredients and went to work. I knew it would be a challenge because I don’t have a mixer. I have never made pound cake without a mixer. But I had a whisk. Isn’t that comparable? Mistake three.

I mixed until my arm was sore. I looked at the pan and pondered how I was going grease the sucker. I can’t get PAM here, so oil will be the same, right? Mistake four.

I oiled the pan, then floured it, and poured in the batter. I proudly set the pan in the oven. Mistake five.

I must confess, our oven doesn’t have a temperature control. It’s either on or off. The house began to smell heavenly, then not- so-heavenly. I peeked in the oven. Apparently that was mistake six.

It was overflowing the pan. I quickly grabbed a baking sheet and maneuvered it under the rose pan. Then waited the remaining amount of time for the cake to finish. The timer went off and I grimly removed the sad-looking cake from the oven. I think I knew in my heart that it was a colossal failure. But I wasn’t ready to concede yet. I set the timer again and waited the allotted cool-off time.

While it was cooling, I read an article online about what causes pound cakes to flop. I laughed out loud. The first was that buying store brand ingredients can affect the end product. Are you kidding me? I would pay inordinate amounts of money for Publix brand sugar right now. I buy mine on the side of the road. The man gives it to me in a plastic sack. Like a small Walmart bag. Store brand my foot. Sigh.

I turned the pan over, and nothing. I banged the pan on the side of the counter. Nothing. I set it down and got out a fork. I tried prying it loose. It crumbled to pieces. My husband came and took a look. Ever helpful man that he is, he suggested I chisel it out and put all the crumbs in a bowl, mix up some icing and make cake pops. Seriously? He quickly left the kitchen.

I never did get any of it to come out well. I gathered some larger chunks the size of cupcakes and set them on a plate. I walked outside and handed the plate to the two men watching me curiously. In my broken new language I explained the cake was for them and it was for a happy spring. They crouched down in the grass right there and ate my cake.

No one said anything about it looking ridiculous.

They didn’t know what it was supposed to look like in the first place. They just ate the crumbly yumminess a pound cake is. Then in language I could barely grasp, one stood and complimented my cake. I almost cried.

As I wandered around the yard that afternoon, I looked at all the buds on the trees. I thought about the freedom love brings. God loves me when my pound cake looks like a pile of bread crumbs. He loves me even though I can barely get a sentence out correctly in this foreign language. He loves me, all wrapped up in my coverings. I didn’t get most of the things done on my list. Things here just take a ridiculous amount of time. But he loves me anyway. I sat in the breeze and reminded myself that I am not a failure, that I am not alone. I am loved.

And sometimes crumbs are all I have to give. But I don’t know what my crumbs might mean to someone else.

Someday my husband and I will laugh, “remember when you tried to make a pound cake in that country?” It will be funny. But today it was a needed reminder that out of my mess God creates beauty. I will never, in all my years, forget that sweet man’s smile as he thanked me for my failed pound cake.