Corn, beans, squash. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. These plants are the three sisters in a traditional Native American style garden. My children and I happened to read about this type of garden, also known as a milpa, while reading about the history of the United States. These three plants have a very symbiotic relationship where the beans provide the nitrogen the corn needs to grow; the corn provides the strength and height that the beans need to grow, and the squash provides the weed and deer suppressant they all three need in order to grow. Not only did we research the milpa, but the children and I also have had the opportunity to plant our own! Call it a twist of fate, providence, or an answer to prayer, but we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow our own small three sisters garden if a strange twist of community hadn’t occurred in our lives.
Several months back, I sensed our family was being drawn to the mountains of western North Carolina. However, we were loath to leave behind our great neighbors, our lovely church family, and the special friends we had made in the homeschooling community. The source of evening conversations suddenly turned into reality when God closed one door after another and, we joke, booted us out of Lubbock, Texas. Suddenly facing a sort of bourgeoisie homelessness, we decided that it was time to make the move to western North Carolina that we had talked about for years and set aside the other temporary plans we had to remain in Texas for another year or so.
Thus began the fervent prayers for new friends for my sad children and for a place of service and community for us. Homeschooling for me is all about the experiences I weave for my children. Yes, we sit for hours each week learning math, writing, history, and science and tweaking their high school and college plans, but our adventures are the motivation behind getting the academics done. I want to taste, see, and smell my way through life and show love to people along the way with my children! Why else are we on this planet if not for relationship? We made the intentional decision to rent an apartment in North Carolina so that we would be in closer proximity to others and have the complex pool as a vehicle for meeting new folks. What we didn’t anticipate was a pandemic shutting down our plans.
Suddenly, being in community with others looked like nothing we could have ever imagined. Not only had we left all those beautiful people behind in Texas, but we were stuck indoors nearly 24/7 and unable to meet new people. But God was not sidetracked by a pandemic; He was able to answer my prayer for a place to serve and a new community for our family.
Right after we moved at the beginning of March, we met a young mom running her own small farm cooperatively with others in the local small-scale agriculture business. I got a good vibe from her and liked her sense of community, so we signed up for her summer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and asked when we could visit her farm. Tensions were high all around us, everyone was feeling uncertain, but one visit turned into weekly visits to volunteer for a few hours on the farm. Nicole has two preschool-age children, and her interns had quit due to the pandemic. All you parents out there know what it’s like to try to get any adult work done with two preschoolers under your care! God was graciously weaving together answers to our prayers. My big family didn’t have to remain stuck indoors constantly, and Nicole got some much-needed help watching her children, planting seed, and harvesting produce!
I believe God is into win-win situations. In His omniscience, He provided a symbiotic experience for Nicole and her family and me and my family. His love and blessings are so abundant, and He wants us to come to Him as children. That means so many things, but in this situation, it meant answering my heartfelt prayers for community in our new state and an opportunity to serve in a useful way. So while the pool remained closed into June (and even now we can’t have guests with us at the pool), we have been able to meet wonderful new friends at the farm and even grow our own milpa garden! I’m pretty sure my children will remember their first spring and summer playing and working at Bearwallow Valley Farms more than those worksheets I doled out this morning, and the three sisters will always be a metaphor for community to us.
Jaime Goodman is a singer, herbalist, acupuncturist, and lover of books who resides in Asheville, NC with her four children and high school boyfriend turned husband. They have been on the homeschooling journey since 2010.
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