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The Sweetness of Smallness

By Dennis and Barbara

For the last month we have spent more time at a little farm outside a shrinking town in a sparsely populated county than we have at home. We’ve had seasons of travel in our decades together that kept us away from home more than Barbara liked, but we managed to balance them with seasons of being planted in one place, too.

However, our farm time has not been for ministry to crowds of couples at marriage events or for cruises like the one we are about to take with FamilyLife over Valentine’s week. Instead we’ve been spending time with Barbara’s mom, Emma Jean King Peterson, as she’s living her last days.

We’ve had some scares this month when we didn’t think she’d rebound, but she did. Barbara has been there more than me, but her mom keeps asking for me to come. And I do. I love reading her Psalms early in the morning when she and I are often the only ones awake.

With more boldness than she usually demonstrates she’s asking for everyone in the family to come and she’s not been bashful about her desires. Just last week Barbara got a text from her sister-in-law saying that Jean wanted some of Barbara’s sweet potatoes. “How do you make them?”

The farm where she was born and raised has now become her home again as she finishes her days on earth. She is once again living in her childhood bedroom with the original blue pierced-tin light fixture.


Our interconnected world today demands large on every front. Having a few close friends is not enough anymore … the world says have thousands of friends and who cares if you know their names? The strong implication is if you don’t have a huge following you aren’t liked. Living a small life well isn’t admired. It’s viewed as a waste.

Barbara’s mother’s world has gotten increasingly small; she can’t get in the car and go anywhere on her own. She can’t stand long enough to cook her own food. Recently she’s become weak and needs help with basic life functions. But her habitation has become increasingly rich with everyone in the family eager to come spend time with her again. Her space and her range of motion is limited, but being there with her is holy ground.

Standing near the doorway to heaven is anything but ordinary. It is sacred. We don’t know when the door will open and Jesus will take her to Himself, but we are aware this closeness to His home will not last long. We want to be near as often as we can.

And when we are not there, when we must return home to tend to our world and what God has given us to do, we find our hearts still there, still connected to the sweetness of that smallness.

We are trusting in different ways now. Waiting for God’s time for heaven to open, a little like the Israelites waiting thousands of years for the Messiah to come from Heaven.

Waiting is good. Smallness is realigning. Nearing eternity is holy ground.


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