Annie F. Downs and I have been friends for years and if there is one thing she is dependable for, it is fun. It’s one of the things I know her for. But there’s always something deeper to it. And when you can hold them both, the joy and the sadness, and ask yourself the right questions, you’ll experience fun in a way that heals and changes your life. It’s a grace to welcome Annie to the farms’ front porch today…
I was lucky enough to grow up on the same eighteen acres where my mother grew up. And for my entire life, my grandparents lived on the land as well.
As you turn off Ebenezer Road—the double mailbox on your left, the gazebo covering a freshwater well on your right—the driveway crunches under your car tires because it is pure gravel. The grapevines are there on your left as well, three rows of them, and if you look just over them, there’s a small but impressive garden. The yard continues to the fence that touched our neighbor’s property.
From Ebenezer Road, headed up the drive, my grandparents’ house is on your right. And then on the left is our house, and just as you look past the front porch and the front door, you see a pond with a grassy trail circling full around it.
My grandfather moved to the farmland on Ebenezer Road in 1941. And for a time, it operated as such. By the time my parents were married and pregnant with me (the first grandchild), the place where the barn sat was better suited to be a home, so my parents built one. Within months after I was born, they moved out of my grandparents’ house, where they had been living, just across the driveway to the house that would be ours.
I’ve ridden my bicycle over every inch of those eighteen acres. I’ve played house and played basketball and pretended to be a television host (me) interviewing guests (also me). I’ve built forts and created worlds and raced sticks down the creek behind the pond.
I remember snapping beans on the front porch of my grandparents’ house while sitting next to my mom and my grandmother. My memory isn’t precise, but it was summer and I was wearing shorts, though it wasn’t incredibly hot. Though to be honest, if we were snapping beans on the front porch on a summer evening in Georgia, it probably was hot.
But my brain doesn’t remember that part. There was one section of the porch that was always cool because it was always in the shade. The ground was cement and bordered with bricks. I can almost feel that spot again, my bare legs touching the cool cement, a colander in my lap.
The long beans were in a green plastic bag of some sort from the local farmers market, and we each had our own colander. The first move was to pull the long string from the tip of the bean to the tail, then break the pod into three or four bean-length sections. You knew you’d gotten the right spot when it snapped. It’s like the bean always knew.
I was never a huge fan of chores, like many children I am sure, but there was something about snapping beans.
It mattered. It was outside, it was with my family, it was a task that had a successful ending every time.
Snapping beans was simple. I wouldn’t have been able to put that word around it as a child, but I know now that the spot it filled in me was the spot that loves simplicity.
I don’t know what was running through my grandmother’s mind as she sat there, or my mother’s, but I’m sure the task couldn’t have felt as simple to them as it did to me. I was probably thinking about a book I was reading or a friend at school or absolutely nothing.
I miss thinking about nothing.
R. R. Tolkien once wrote, “Certainly there was an Eden on this very unhappy earth. We all long for it, and we are constantly glimpsing it.”
Eden is the first place humans ever lived, according to the Bible. In Genesis 2, before there was sin and before there was the brokenness we all feel, there was Eden. It was a garden and it was perfect. The humans there worked and gardened and cared for the animals and loved each other with no shame. And it was how things were always meant to be.
Though none of us have been there, don’t you sometimes miss it? Maybe those simple memories of snapping beans are so strong because they feel like an Eden that I long for.
My childhood was not perfect, but I do have certain memories, like snapping beans with my grandmother, that remind me of something that I feel has slipped through my fingers.
It was simpler then, with the beans on the porch. I was just Annie.
I think when we go looking for fun what we are actually looking for is home.
We are looking for peace.
We are looking for simplicity, something to fill that spot that has been left by growing up or growing out or moving on.
While we think we want fun, what we really want is Eden.
A few years ago my parents moved to a new house. The one on Ebenezer Road wasn’t the right fit for them after my grandparents passed away and all of us kids left home.
I have struggled with my parents moving out of that house. All of our family events took place on those eighteen acres for our whole lives: Christmas mornings, Thanksgiving dinners, birthdays, random summer nights, Sunday afternoons after family lunch at a buffet restaurant down the street.
So while I know it isn’t my house anymore, and while there are plenty of memories there that have shaped me in all the right ways and some of the wrong ways, I also know that I’ve lost something by losing the house on Ebenezer Road. I feel it deeply.
We have lost Eden in every way, but I’ve come to realize that it’s the moments of fun that remind us that Eden ever existed in the first place.
I may not be able to meet you there, but something inside of me knows what it feels like there. Something reminiscent of snapping beans on the front porch.
Annie F. Downs is a bestselling author, sought-after speaker, and successful podcast host based in Nashville, Tennessee. Engaging and honest, she makes readers and listeners alike feel as if they’ve been long-time friends. Founder of the That Sounds Fun Network—which includes her aptly named flagship show, That Sounds Fun—and author of multiple bestselling books like 100 Days to Brave and Remember God, Annie shoots straight and doesn’t shy away from the tough topics. But she always finds her way back to the truth that God is good and that life is a gift.
We know there are certain things we must have to survive–food, shelter, and safety to name a few. But there are also aspects of life that truly allow us to be joyful and fulfilled. For popular podcaster and bestselling author Annie F. Downs, fun is close to the top of that list. Few would argue that having fun doesn’t enrich our lives, but so much gets in the way of prioritizing it. Tough days, busyness, and feelings that are hard to talk about keep us from the fun that’s out there waiting to be found.
With That Sounds Fun, Annie offers an irresistible invitation to understand the meaning of fun, to embrace it and chase it, and to figure out what, exactly, sounds fun to you–then do it! Exploring some research and sharing some thoughts behind why fun matters, she shows you how to find, experience, and multiply your fun.
[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]