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Keeping Blessing Hill: The Story of a Couple Who Converted a Barn, Created a Garden, and Celebrated Home

Keeping Blessing Hill: The Story of a Couple Who Converted a Barn, Created a Garden, and Celebrated Home

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Keeping Blessing Hill: The Story of a Couple Who Converted a Barn, Created a Garden, and Celebrated Home

199 página
2 horas
Jul 3, 2018


  • Reassures readers with the story of two very flawed people who show it is possible to live out a commitment to honor Christ in all aspects of their lives

  • Provides a fresh attentiveness to and perspective on God, nature, and relationships through stories of living in a converted barn and in a garden on a hill in Maryland; and through stories of ordinary days lived among the roses and chard, the bees and chickens and other residents

  • Helps readers acquire fresh ideas for creative, Christ-centered living through homemaking and gardening tips, recipes, and more

  • Inspires readers to create their own “Blessing Hill” that will become a gift to all who come there

  • Reveals the inner workings of a long, stable, and often jolly marriage

  • Shares a good story, especially one embellished with humor and international experiences
  • Publicado:
    Jul 3, 2018

    Sobre el autor

    Joyce Sackett and her husband, John, served as staff with The Navigators, an international interdenominational Christian ministry focused on discipleship, for fifty years, in three countries. Today, Joyce and John are members of Timonium Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Maryland where they mentor their church shepherding group and lead several Bible studies. Joyce has a degree in Art Education plus post-graduate credits in writing. She has also published a devotional, In God’s Garden, a devotional calendar, Finding God in the Garden, and Goodbye, Jeanine, her memoir of her daughter’s suicide. Joyce has also had articles published in Discipleship Journal and is a popular speaker at women’s retreats and conferences.

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    Keeping Blessing Hill - Joyce Sackett

    Keeping a Record: An Introduction

    Ihave been keeping a journal, not always faithfully, since I was in college. Some gaps in the record of my life are several years long. Still, I’ve managed to fill more than seventy journals. They are lined up on shelves behind my desk in my writing room. Reading them now, I see that I chose to preserve my thoughts and worries that were sometimes turned into prayers because I am convinced that the details of my life matter to God. I find ambitious to-do lists, scrawled in a burst of energy, and records of meditations on a verse or a section of Scripture that had grabbed my full attention on a certain morning.

    The journals also hold safe the funny antics and clever (of course) statements of our children and grandchildren. I preserved these moments in writing because I didn’t want to forget anything that stirred me to praise and thank my God for them. Like the delight on the face of our youngest grandchild, Chloe, as I pushed her higher and higher on the swing, and how strong and happy and willing grandsons Thomas, Charles, Stephen, Kristian, Dietrich, and William looked as they split firewood and stacked it.

    When we moved to Blessing Hill, our home for the past thirty-four years, I began a separate journal for my gardening life. On a visit to the Netherlands, I bought a Natuur Dagboek, a nature diary, arranged by the months of the year with several pages allotted to each month. It was illustrated by Marjolein Bastin, a Dutch artist who paints the world’s creatures and plants with loving attention. I began to record in this pretty journal what was going on in our hilly landscape and what I was doing to it. I kept track of the weather and noted what bloomed and when. I included lists of garden chores and plants I wanted to buy and what vegetables I gathered from the potager. I keep these records of how my garden grew on the same shelf with my other journals. They are the fields where I am gleaning now for this book.

    When I think about the why of my habit of journaling, words like preserve, remember, treasure, and keep come to mind. My dictionary lists at least fifty uses for the word keep. I can keep to the path, keep in sight, keep it up, and keep cool. To keep is to maintain, to preserve or reserve, to protect and provide for, to pay obedient regard to.¹ This last definition is serious keeping, the correct response to the laws and rules of government or organizations, and to commitments and contracts. This kind of keeping is what I have in mind when I read my favorite book, the Bible. I read to discover more of God, to hear His voice in His Word, and to see where I need to change in order to pay obedient regard to this voice. And I read to learn how to praise and worship the God who keeps me in His care. God’s Word is full of promises about His keeping us. A favorite of mine is in Isaiah 26:3: You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

    I used to keep a prayer list of extras I was asking God for, things certainly not necessary but nice to have, like a larger refrigerator and an oval dining table. I felt I could ask for such things and trust God to give or not, as He saw fit. I lost track of this list but recently found it tucked into an old journal. Several items had dates beside them when the request was answered. Others were crossed through, I suppose because I had changed my mind and no longer wanted them. One item remained unchanged: an acre of land.

    I began asking for an acre of land after we had moved from Europe to Asia and were planning to return to the United States. After so many moves, I longed to own a place where I could practice what I believed: that it is a good thing to be close to the land, to grow your own food, and to create a welcoming home, a refuge from the over-busy and enervating way of living that is common for so many people we know. I wanted to see what would happen if we stayed in one place long enough to really get to know our neighbors. I did wonder if the care and responsibility of a tract of land would distract us from our work as staff members of a Christian organization. But I still hoped.

    God has answered yes to my request. This book is a record of the many ways God has kept His promises to us and of the years we have worked to keep the gift of Blessing Hill in a way that honors Him.

    We Move to a Large House on a Hill

    At least, come see what you’re saying no to, says my husband as we climb into bed. He is in high excitement over a house he saw today in a neighborhood north of us. He’s been talking about it ever since he came home.

    Joyce, you won’t believe it! It’s immense, seven bedrooms, I think, I can’t quite recall the layout and all the rooms, but there’s a large attic and basement, a wine cellar, and a root cellar, I think it’s called, where you can store potatoes and such.

    I make myself listen to John while resistance and frustration build in me. How could he entertain the idea of another move? We have lived in two other countries besides the United States and have moved sixteen times in fourteen years of marriage. All our moves were into rented places. Until now. We are homeowners at last. To move again, and into a rental, seems like a step backward, away from the permanence I thought we both wanted.

    John and I have worked hard to make our house livable. I think about how it looked when we first saw it. The front porch was rotting at one end and falling away from the house. Shrubs by the porch were overgrown and crowding the steps, and a huge thorny tree’s branches pushed against the side of the house. John was, as always, optimistic. He thought we could fix everything that needed fixing. And we did. Lately we’ve been talking about somehow making the house bigger, maybe putting a wing on the back. John thinks he could build it. He has also made drawings for an enclosed staircase and a vestibule to shield the living room from the front door. This improvement would allow the kids to go to the kitchen without having to walk through the living room where our Bible study groups meet three times a week. I’m for building. Building is a great idea. Moving away, not good.

    I love our house. I want to keep it. Its tall wide windows have real wooden shutters on the outside that still function. It has an attic. I love attics. I found a box of tiny perfume bottles up there, almost buried in the insulation, and a small vase of crackled glass and three fabric purses that looked to be at least half a century old, judging from their art-deco designs. Also found in the attic: old mailing labels from a corset company, the original owner’s family business; a wooden form for stretching nylons; and a washboard made during the Second World War that reads "Victory Glass—use this washboard made of materials not needed for defense and help win the war." While raking the lawn one day, I uncovered a small aqua cut-glass dish in perfect condition and, under a shrub, an ornate copper letter opener. I love old things that are beautifully designed, well-made, and carry an aura of the past when artful care was valued. There might be more treasures in the attic or around the house that I’ll never find if we leave this place.

    I love our quiet pocket of a neighborhood just off busy Liberty Road. I love our porch with the hanging swing, where I sit for a while every day with Joyella, who’s too young to go to school with her brother and sisters. I admire our street, lined with maples that stand in front of handsome single-family homes. Our house is also good-looking now because we’ve repaired and restored what was once the neighborhood eyesore. Our next door neighbor is a gardener and has shared plants and garden knowledge with me. He told me the overgrown weedy area that runs along the back of our yard had once been a stunning perennial border. I am working to bring it back to its former glory. I am happy and satisfied in this house. I want to stay put.

    I adjust my pillow and choose not to be too agitated by where this conversation is going. John pulls the covers up a bit higher under our chins and begins another gentle attack on my resistance: It’s beautiful, woods all around, did I tell you about the swimming pool? Well, it has cracks in it and the pump doesn’t work, but we could fix all that. There’s a barn. You need to see it!

    I don’t want to see it, I say to myself. To John I say nothing. My husband thinks I am Superwoman, able to leap over huge obstacles of emotion in a single conversation.

    OK, I say, after a long minute of silence. That all sounds really nice. But what about the children and all the adjustments they would have to make again if we moved? Losing newly formed friendships, starting over at new schools! And I’ve just finished making curtains for all the windows! I don’t want to move.

    I am thinking hard now, gathering strength to push back against John’s excitement.

    Wait. What was that he just said? A barn and acres of woods? I do like how that sounds but I don’t want to admit this to John. Maybe he’s right. I should at least go see what I’m saying no to.

    And so it happens that a few days later, John and I and Mr. Ellingsworth, the owner, walk around inside a twenty-one-room house and then stroll out to a dilapidated barn on a high hill in northern Baltimore County. And I surprise myself with the thought that moving one more time, if it could be to this hill, to this house, might not be so bad after all.

    John and I are on staff with The Navigators, a ministry that seeks to encourage and train men and women to become faithful followers of Jesus Christ. We have worked for this international organization (here in the States and in two other countries) since we married. Before our marriage, John and I had benefited from the up-close-and-personal training we received while living in the home of a Navigator staff family. Once married, we opened our home and our lives in this same way while living in the Netherlands, the Philippines, and the United States.

    Mr. Ellingsworth has heard about The Navigators. John fills him in about our particular ministry, about the Bible study groups that meet weekly in our small living room, and how good it would be to have more room for these groups. He mentions our four children who would enjoy the luxury of having this house and hill to explore. John then tells the owner the strongest impetus behind our consideration of his offer: We would be able to invite a few young people to live with us for a time, to receive training in discipleship and Christian character. Mr. Ellingsworth is immediately enthusiastic. He offers to give financial support to us through our organization so that we’ll have enough to pay him rent. And he will set up a fund that John can draw upon to pay for any necessary repairs and improvements. My husband is handy. He can do a lot of what needs to be done here.

    So far, so very good. I am getting excited now about moving to this hill and living in this genteel house. And then we hear about the one little glitch in this happy arrangement: In a few years, when the church figures out how they want to use the house and the hill, we will be uprooted again.

    We invite our couples’ Bible study group to see the place. We want their wisdom. Are we being dazzled by the size and beauty of the house and hill? Will this move be a good thing for our family and ministry? What if I get so comfortable, so involved with the place, that I forget my calling to help people meet and follow Jesus? And what would our supporters think about us living in such a grand house on such a vast property?

    Everyone in the group feels excitement. They see the potential and are happy that we’ve been given such an opportunity. We all sit on the floor in the large front hall and pray together. I am in awe as I listen to them ask God that our move to this hill would further His purposes in our lives, that Jesus Christ would be honored and served, that many people will be blessed by coming to this place. We decide to put our dear house in Milford on the market and we sign a contract to rent the great big house on the hill and to care for the expansive grounds.

    In May, we bring our children to see the hill and the house. We inspect all the rooms from attic to cellar, check out the pool, and walk into the woods where we discover some trees that are so huge I can’t put my arms around them. John and our son, Johnny, climb a ladder to inspect the barn’s upper floor. What fun things could they do with all this space? Johnny thinks maybe a boxing ring for him and his friends would be good.

    My head is full of decorating ideas. I also dream of a big vegetable garden. We can host large groups on the lawn, pool parties and bull roasts, and everyone will have a great time. I walk out to the swimming pool to inspect it and hope that it can be fixed in time for summer. Beyond the pool, trees and brambles form a separation between this property and the home of Sandy and Johnny Unitas. Johnny U, as he is often called

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