“God provides thread for the work begun.” James Howell

A Cottage Quote

“God provides thread for the work begun.” James Howell, writer and historian, 1593-1666

As I mentioned in a recent post about my visit to Ohio’s Amish Country, I’m in awe of how families bind together on the same property for years – family property being passed down from one generation to the next.

Then I remember that I have family land, and it’s been in my family for almost 40 years. Do you or did you ever hear the age of one of your children and shout, ‘He’s a senior already?!’ or realize how long it’s been since you’ve graduated, and you’re caught short because that can’t possibly be right? So you start counting the years and decades back on your fingers and it turns out it’s true? That’s how it feels when I think about how long our woods and cottage have been ours. Where has the time gone?

I first moved to the Carolinas when my daughter was 6 weeks old and my oldest son was 3. Hubby had already moved here, bought wooded property, and started clearing the area for a house. A year later we moved into the house, which was little more than a shell, to fulfill our dream of being modern day homesteaders. We lived in the house as hubby continued to build it around us. So many stories! Hurricane Hugo’s leading deluges arrived a couple nights while the second story was being added, so every hour or so I had to go outside, climb a ladder, and sweep the rain off the flat roof so it wouldn’t leak into the downstairs. (Hubby worked nights otherwise he would have done the sweeping.) I was nine months pregnant with my youngest son at the time. When that baby was two-years-old, I once went outside and discovered him scaling a 20 ft. extension ladder to go ‘help’ his daddy work on the upstairs.

Homesteading included providing some of our own food. We planted a large garden and put up veggies. We foraged for mushrooms and made jelly from wild cherries. We collected eggs from our chickens – until a black snake took up residence in the laying boxes for a week or so. When the chickens’ laying days were over we killed, plucked and froze them for later. And of course we were pioneering homeschoolers in our area. It was a great life . . .

Then the unplanned life happened, the homesteading dream ended, and I became the sole owner of the land, but no longer lived there. I was often asked why I held on to it. Simply saying I felt connected to it or I found solace there didn’t seem to make sense to many people. Trying to explain it further made me feel like Scarlett O’Hara fighting for Tara. I’d go out regularly to mow the lawn, do some woods maintenance, but mostly to just be. I’d read, write. And to be honest, continue to mourn that loss of all those plans. When I started blogging it was there the idea of my Cottage Quotes page was born because that’s where I did my quiet thinking. I often imagined I’d end up back there and visualized what I might do with the land. A prayer labyrinth was always in the mix and I knew exactly where it would go.

Then a few years ago my youngest son asked if I’d consider letting him and his family live there. At first there was this little catch in my heart from letting go of that place of solitude. But it was a momentary catch. The idea of having my family closer and seeing them regularly won out. As it turns out, this is why I was meant to hold on to the family land – to pass along to family. My youngest is the most like his dad in many ways and he’s the one, of all the children, who fits out there. I’ve long ago stopped referring to it as ‘The Cottage’, the name we’d given that property to differentiate it from the house we live in. Now it’s simply their home. In their own way, they are continuing the dream we started. I love going out there and seeing what new things they’ve added, what they’re doing with the woods and in the gardens, and listening to my grandson tell me about his mushroom adventures foraging in the woods. And yes, his parents plan to homeschool. When I used to hear people say land had been in their family for 50-60 years, I thought what a legacy and love for that piece of dirt. I love knowing that if all goes as planned, my son will one day soon say the same about his piece of dirt.

“God provides thread for the work begun.” Sometimes that thread is heavy like twine to keep things secure – like those years I held on to that acreage for no logical reason. Sometimes it’s thin, strong, and pure like gossamer – which is what it feels like my son and his family are using.

The thing is, those threads were also invisible. It wasn’t until all these years later – almost twenty-five – that I see and appreciate them. I’ve learned to trust that pull of something I can’t explain.

I started Cottage Quotes because I enjoy them – thanks to my Grandma Schmitt. She gave me this notebook of quotations she’d collected from magazines. One of the clipped out pages is called words to live by. I’ve since added to them . . . and apparently have a few to glue in. Since the cottage is no longer mine and I no longer go out there for solace, I should rename this page Garden Quotes. But I’m not sure I will. It’s family land and I’ll always be connected to it.

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