Monday, October 9, 2023

A Fruitful Field

If you read through old blog posts from ten or so years ago, you'd find that I used to do a lot of homesteading-type activities. For example, we no longer raise chickens for eggs and meat.  Sometimes I miss it. Other times I'm willing to accept that my life looks differently than a decade ago. 

I wrote about this quandary for the recent issue of Commonplace. 

A Fruitful Field

 Soon after Ed and I became engaged, we toured the house that would become our home. A dusting of snow lay on the ground as we walked through the backyard to the one-acre pasture. I was smitten.

The house wasn’t perfect, but I fell in love with that pasture. I had spent hours of my childhood playing in a pasture like this. I could envision our future children scrambling over the rocks, playing hide-and-seek under the cedar trees, and picking raspberries.

A few years flitted by, and my vision came true. Now, when I walked through the pasture and avoided the clutches of brambles, I saw signs of childhood imagination. An overturned crate and a few jars marked a young lady’s store. Under a pine, old cans and a few rocks created a kitchen. High in the arms of an oak, a pallet was wedged, constructing a rough tree house. Our evening routine included picking burrs out of socks, rubbing lotion on poison ivy, and checking for ticks.

We attempted to make the stony field productive. We pastured a few steers and raised chickens. We dreamed of someday having a milk cow and perhaps even boiling maple syrup from our own sugar bush. But eventually the fence fell into disrepair, and the steers began regular visits to the neighbors. The chickens became dinner to some wild beast. We quit pretending we were homesteaders, and when visitors peered into the overgrown pasture and asked what we raised, Ed simply said, “Children.”

Besides, the steers weren’t the only ones pulled past the boundaries of our property. Ed and I pushed the stroller in Hagerstown, our nearby city, handing out Bible Study invitations and introducing our children to the concrete jungle. As years passed, Ed’s spare time became divided between work projects at a boys’ camp, Bible studies in prison, and sermon preparations. I remember Ed looking at the leaning pasture fence on a rare quiet Saturday and saying, “Maybe we should stay home and work, but the children are growing up so fast, let’s take a bike ride.”

Then brain cancer stole my husband. The children and I became dependent on others for daily sustenance. Fence repair wasn’t a high priority, and honeysuckle and wild roses prospered in our unruly pasture.

When I drove down the road I saw productive fields. A trim pasture with a quiet herd of black cattle. Tidy rows of peach trees. Orderly vegetables growing behind a picket fence. Lush acres of corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. All my life I have valued efficiency, productivity, and profitability. My personality finds value in what I do, what I produce, what I give. My pasture didn’t live up to my standard.

But I didn’t see slothfulness when I looked at that field. I saw memories. I saw suntanned creative children spending hours under blue skies amid waving wildflowers and weeds. I saw a dad who chose people over projects. I didn’t see regrets.

Sometimes I compare my productivity, my fruitfulness, with what I see in others’ lives. But there are as many ways to live a faithful life as there are ways to tend a field. 

Ruth gathered barley, elderly Elisabeth guided a well-respected home in Jerusalem, Lydia sewed for the poor, and Priscilla traveled with her husband to share the gospel while making tents. A praying invalid, a mother of toddlers, a grandma washing dishes, a teen sending a note of cheer – all are fruitful fields.

Whatever our age, marital status, economic position, or health condition, each of us can bear fruit. Because fruit bearing isn’t simply what we do, or how we appear to others, it is about connection to God, abiding in the Vine, and allowing His Spirit to bear His fruit in us.i 

Yes, obedience and surrender are required, and faithfulness isn’t optional, but we can’t conjure up love, joy, and peace on our own—it is the work of God.

Some days I feel like a weedy pasture smothered by burdock and thistles. Life is often harder and more complicated than I expected. I compare myself with that lush field of soybeans and wonder what I did wrong. 

Sometimes it is hard to know if my desire to be fruit-bearing is based on pride and people pleasing or a genuine desire for God to be glorified. But the important question to ask is, Do I receive the Word of God with joy and am I nourishing that seed? If so, my Master is pleased even if my field looks different from my neighbors.

I dream of someday repairing our fence and filling the pasture with spotted goats. Maybe I’ll have another little flock of hens to scratch among the red clover. But even if this field grew only memories and nourished children, it has been fruitful.

iJohn 15:4-5

First published in Commonplace - In Fields and Wood in Fall 2023.


  1. One of the most beautiful pieces I have read by you! And I can relate so very much to your experience. Blessings!

  2. Gina, this resonates deeply with me. Thank you for putting into words the thoughts that I haven't been able to.
    Blessings to you and your family.
    Sherri Martin

  3. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. And I can totally relate. My husband and I raised our children in the city, but we longed for wide open spaces. So we bought a 24 acre farm with some vague idea of making it productive as a family project. Except, it didn’t happen. The kids loved that land, running wild and free and pushing their imaginations to the limit. To the outsider, it looks like an untamed wasteland of woods and overgrown pasture. To us, it’s a slice of heaven here on earth.

  4. Oh, Gina, what an article! Thank you!!! - Aimee S.

  5. This is lovely! Thank you Gina!


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