Jubilee Farm

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I so enjoy gathering with family over a delicious, bountiful meal, looking into the faces of those I love. It causes me to ponder Heaven--an eternal feast with our Savior and the family of God. My heart flies with joy in the day and hope for the future. Christmas is great, but we have brought much "doing" into it. Thanksgiving still allows me to "just be" with beloved souls as I contemplate the goodness of God.

For as long as I can remember, my mother's family has gathered in my grandparents' living room on Thanksgiving night. Before the feast, we bless the meal and share one thing for which we are grateful. We have so many blessings from which to choose. The room which once seemed spacious is now quite snug due to the marriages and babies of my generation. There is food enough to fill us all. We have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Our answers range from "toilet paper" to "Jesus Christ" with many things in between. There is always laughter. There is always at least one "amen."

Due to my extreme sensitivities, I will not be able to join them this year. The thought saddens me, but I don't see why I have to break from all tradition. If I could be with them tonight, upon my turn to give thanks, I would answer, "Jubilee Farm."

To truly appreciate my answer, a story must be told.

Early in 2012, my dad had a difficult decision to make. He could retire at the end of the school year, or continue a job he no longer enjoyed in order to secure a more comfortable retirement. Dad's health was deteriorating, but if he resigned my parents would no longer be able to afford their house. Mom encouraged him to retire anyway.

My parents brainstormed about possible jobs my dad could do. A bad back is a bigger obstacle than one might think when considering a career change at the age of 60. They asked the Lord to guide them, and waited with eyes wide open.

One day, Mom came upon Proverbs 27:27--"There will be enough goats' milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls." (ESV)

She shared the scripture with Dad. "Maybe you could farm," Mom suggested. "You can grow our food, and maybe even make a little money." Dad once wanted to farm for a living, but his grandparents discouraged him so he went to college instead. Mom has always dreamed of a Little House on the Prairie lifestyle. It was a crazy idea, but my parents are just the right kind of crazy for this brand of adventure. 

If my parents were to become farmers, they needed to sell their house and find some land. They discussed moving closer to Farmerville to be nearer to Mom's parents and my family. Mom asked her dad to look for property outside of Farmerville. In no time at all, he secured the twelve acres which would become Jubilee Farm.

But there was one small problem: to buy a farm you need money, and money was something my parents did not have. Mom's parents agreed to help. They covered the cost of the land with Mom's inheritance and a promissory note which Mom and Dad would pay within a year upon the sale of their house. It didn't quite work out that way. Eighteen months later, they still haven't sold their house. Instead, they paid the difference with Dad's inheritance, which came in only a few weeks ago. Talk about a leap of faith....

After Brandon took a walk on the new property and had a talk with my dad about the merits of reducing and eliminating debt, Brandon came home to me one May afternoon with the looney notion of selling our house, buying a trailer and forming a commune with my parents and sister on the farm-to-be. My health was tanking at the time. "It would be nice to have your parents close by," he said. I thought he had lost his mind. But eventually, I lost mine, too, and we became the first family to take up residence on Jubilee Farm. 

The land here--it isn't prime property. This place used to be a dump. Literally. There is a lifetime's worth of glass shards in our front yard. Three pipelines run through it, and there isn't a lot of marketable timber. It's rutted, weedy and wild. It isn't pretty. The soil is acidic and rock hard, which is the opposite of good farmland. However, it's lack of apparent potential made it affordable, which is what we needed. And we know that the Lord does not see as man sees. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord sees deeper and farther (1 Samuel 16:7). He saw potential and beauty, and helped us see it, too. Even Jenny, who visited before many improvements were made, declared the property possessed "a blessed quality."

In January, I shared the story of how Jubilee Farm earned her name. What I didn't share is the passage the Lord used to speak a blessing over our little farm. I read it in January, just before Mom's Jubilee Birthday celebration, and inscribed it in her birthday journal.

"You visit the earth and water it,
You greatly enrich it;
The river of God is full of water; 
You provide their grain,
for so You have prepared it.
You water its ridges abundantly,
You settle its furrows;
You make it soft with showers, 
You bless its growth.
You crown the year with Your goodness,
and Your paths drip with abundance.
They drop on the pastures of the wilderness,
and the little hills rejoice on every side.
The pastures are clothed with flocks;
The valleys also are covered with grain;
They shout for joy, they also sing."
-Psalm 65:9-13

Brandon tilled the ground. Dad put his Master Gardener's knowledge to use, and balanced the pH of the soil. In March, we planted the gorgeous baby plants the Yakaboskis sold to us, and watched them grow. The work suited Dad, even with his bad back. It actually made him feel better.


Unfortunately, some mistakes were made. Overwhelmed by the bug population trying to eat our lovely little plants, Dad used a mild pesticide early in the season. In his defense, almost no one around here has much success at organic gardening. He simply gave in to what the Master Gardener class taught him, and what other gardeners do themselves. But it didn't kill the bugs, and I couldn't eat the first of the produce as a result. Later, he tried a more potent pesticide. I didn't know he was spraying again, and walked outside with the kids about 20 minutes after everything had been doused. The poison, which is a neurotoxin, almost killed me. I do not exaggerate.

The initial exposure is the worst reaction I have had to date, and there were long term effects. It put me in the bed for weeks, and set my health on a steep decline. I made some mistakes of my own, and found myself unable to eat or drink again during the first week of June. I was watching all of that gorgeous food come into my kitchen, and couldn't eat a bite of it. I struggled to believe God's promise to me that I would live because I felt like I was dying. I will not rewrite what has already been written, but it is important to note that a prayer meeting took place on my behalf and things drastically changed afterward. 

Yes, mistakes were made, but God trumped them all. Within a few days, I was eating again. Granted, it was only raw eggs and cream of rice cereal at first, but when I began to eat "real food," I could suddenly eat from the garden. Zucchini, squash, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, peppers, onions, cabbage, all of it! I could even eat watermelon to which I have been allergic for years. I could eat foods then that I cannot eat today. And best of all--the food was healing my body. As I ate, I could feel a gentle tingle throughout, almost as if I was feeling the healing taking place at a cellular level. I will never forget the sensation.

When I finally climbed out of survival mode, I realized how well our garden was doing. Others gardeners would comment that their gardens weren't doing as well, and they had years of experience. Rains came regularly and at the right times, nourishing the plants and washing away the poison. Dad, determined to never use pesticides again, began to pick off the potato bugs and tomato eating worms by hand. The Louisiana summer was not overly hot. We grew enough safe, beautiful food to feed our families, to share with our friends and to sell at nearby markets well into the month of July.

The excitement we experienced in the summer is mostly over now. We have greens to look forward to, but a recent frost killed our squashes and only a few green tomatoes remain to be fried. But when I look back at what came to pass, I tear up a little. 

God used the garden to save my life. The thought leaves me speechless. 

It overwhelms me that as early as the spring of 2012, God was actively answering the prayers offered for me in June 2013. Think about this--as you make your requests before God today, His answer is already in the works. He resides in our past, present and future, and is not bound by time or money or our limitations or our mistakes. He reigns over all. And He is building with us a rapport of faithfulness so when the next trial comes, we can say with greater assurance, "God, You are faithful, and You are good. I trust you."

I am thankful for Jubilee Farm. I am thankful for what she says about my God. He is the ultimate Gardener, enriching the soil and the soul, bringing the rain and sunshine as needed for growth. He crowns the year with goodness. He makes our paths drip with abundance.

Happy Thanksgiving.