December - January 2023
Lighting the Darkness
Longing and Fulfillment
By Martthew and Sarah Bracey
Husband and wife drove down the winding gravel driveway, past the old fencing, and through overarching trees. It was a cold, wintery day, but the sun shone brightly on them. A charming country home greeted them, fashioned after a bed and breakfast establishment.
A large porch graced the front of the house, and she could already hear the creak of a rocking chair, could already smell the aroma of morning coffee, could already envision the grazing of local deer.
They were looking at their new home—their dream home. “I can already see it,” she exclaimed. He looked over at her. “We’ll buy a few layers and have fresh eggs.”
Their previous home was a good one, but it was a starter home. It had been their first home, and they loved it. They tried their hands, time and again, at whatever do-it-yourself project arose—inside of the house, outside of the house, even on top of the house. They gave themselves to that property, and it gave itself back to them: scrapes and bruises and joy and blessing.
He learned how to use a garden tiller. Fond are the memories of them planting and cultivating and harvesting tomatoes and peppers, beans and okra, and herbs and melons, in that quaint 15x15 garden.
Salsa, made from the freshest ingredients, has no equal. Many are the hours they spent in that little garden—hoeing weeds, pruning plants, picking produce. They planted a blackberry crop along a row, and she made the most delicious cobbler.
That home treated them well but could not accommodate their aspirations. They also wanted farm animals: goats and chickens and the like. But the sounds and smells of country living had to wait—those dreams could not be realized on a mere third-acre plot in the middle of a suburb.
But this home standing before them, this property stretching out before them, could. This home signified a new, exciting chapter in their lives. “The garden could go here,” she said, pointing northwest toward a field, “and the chickens could go over there,” she added, gazing further toward the west near the woods.
As she spoke, he looked about the property, taking in the totality of the five-and-a-half acres. Undoubtedly, it was much larger than their previous one of six years; in fact,
it was 15 times larger. “This push mower isn’t going to cut it,” he remarked.
Husband and wife each recognized stewarding this property would require more than their former one: more planning, more time, more money, more work. But this more was a good more. It was a significant step forward but not an impossible one. Their new property was big enough to keep them appropriately busy but not so big it would overwhelm them.
“Also, I think we can do something with this area over here,” he said, looking toward the trees on the west side of the home. Woods had grown up beyond the yard on both sides of the house, and they were out of control—full of decades’ worth of terrible thorns and poison ivy, which had grown up among the dense undergrowth.
As they would work to clear this area in the coming months, they would also find evidence of the former owners—broken pots, rusted tools, plastic bottles—buried beneath the seasons of fallen leaves, sticks, and trees. He looked on the sight and, in place of messy woods on a floor of dead leaves and rotting limbs, saw a grove of trees with a carpet of living green.
He also saw scratches and rashes in his future.
He would give himself to this property, and, undoubtedly, it would give itself back to him. He was excited about developing it, but it would come by hard (good) labor.
Over the course of coming seasons, husband and wife would tackle these projects and others like them both outside and inside the home. Some would go as planned; others would not. Most projects would take longer—much longer—than expected.
In addition to sweating in the field and working in the woods, she would maintain a compost pile for the garden; he would fell trees and split logs for assorted wood-working projects; they would construct a chicken house for fresh eggs and build fencing for other farm animals. They would work that property and love that property.
As the cold winter turned to a warm spring and hot summer, husband and wife would acquire rocking chairs for that inviting porch. Through the years and decades, they would enjoy much freshly-ground pour-over coffee while rocking back and forth.
They would also observe the birds and squirrels and rabbits and turkey and deer. They would admire the beautiful blooms and green canopy formed by the trees—ash and beech and cedar and dogwood and maple and poplar and tulip.
“We couldn’t do this at our old home,” she said one day. They breathed in the morning dew and the aromatic coffee as they sat on the porch.
“This,” she returned, extending her arm to indicate their present station—the house, the porch, the property.
“Ah yes,” he chuckled. “That old rickety porch was a bit precarious, wasn’t it?”
“It had its limitations,” she said, “but it was a good home.”
“It was. We learned a lot about keeping a home, maintaining a property. We learned a lot about ourselves.”
“It’s amazing to look back and see how you’ve changed and grown.”
“Anticipation plays an important role in life,” he remarked after a minute. “It’s good to look forward to things, to hope for things. And yet life is now—it’s in the suburbs and in the country.”
“I do love this house,” she paused, “but it’s not without its problems either.” At that moment three white tails hopped the fence from the neighbor’s property onto their own.
Husband and wife remained quiet as they watched the deer meander from the grove of trees through the field and past the garden (now fenced off from those little sneaks). After they had passed on, he arose to get another cup of coffee. “Would you like a refill?” he asked.
“Yes, please. Oh, and one more thing,” she said as he opened the door to enter their home. “Have you noticed the shingles? They’re looking rather worn.”
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth…And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards and eat the fruit of them” (Isaiah 65:17a, 21).
About the Authors: Matthew and Sarah Bracey are professors at Welch College. They attend Sylvan Park FWB Church in Nashville, Tennessee, where they work with children.