The farm draws boys. Teenage boys, specifically. There are all those cut trails meandering through wildflower prairie and around cattail ponds, perfect for dirt bikes and ATVs and airsoft gun wars. They come donning their pants, vests, and hats—all in camo—thinking they look oh, so cool. And they do dumb things—which left one, our son, with a very damaged pinky requiring at least one surgery and, for sure, months of therapy to hopefully restore full movement of his writing hand. And since this 16 year-old doesn’t drive yet, guess who gets to taxi him to all these appointments—all 30 minutes away—ONE WAY—twice a week? In the grand scheme of things, all is good.
Because who would have thought I’d end up here on a horse farm—this girl raised in subdivisions—this woman who lived in the heart of Chicago without a car, taking the “el” everywhere she needed to go, earning her doctorate, going to theatre and symphony every other weekend? And now I’m a hay-seed hick, stuck in the middle of nowhere?
Who would have thought this woman who was told she couldn’t have children would end up here, in Wisconsin, with three kids flown from half-way ‘round the world? Planted here young, they’re all near-grown.
How the years fly by and leave us in a blur looking back. I sit in my car, in my white robe, with the youngest beside me, talking nice as we wait for the bus on a rainy, autumn morning. I did the same for the other son who took the bus. We have a LONG driveway, here in the country. How special are these ordinary moments where we can share hearts, remembering the day I named that bus “the blinky Twinkie”. It stuck. We still laugh. And I still spill coffee on my robe now-and-then.
Today, I’m looking back at all the miracles.
I look at them now.
I remember all the dark—all the frightening—all the storms we’ve weathered together as a family—all the wondering how in the world we’d make it through.
Some call me courageous.
I’m just a quaking aspen all rattled with the slightest breeze. Really. But I’m becoming more alright with that. Sensitive sorts get rattled easily. And we get criticized and crushed by those who think they’re stronger. But really? The rattled are the ones who bend easily and draw nearer than most. We, the rattled, tend to be the most courageous—not in our own minds, but in the mind of God.
As General Douglas MacArthur said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”
I like that. I remember that.
Every day as I wake and quake when the winds pick up and I wonder, “Will I make it through THIS one?”
I hear a whisper . . .
“Yes, little soul. You will make it through, because I AM with you, beside you. Because you never walk alone. And BTW, you aren’t such a little soul as you think . . .”
All the years I’ve prayed to be stronger, less sensitive, more courageous—I’ve prayed—to Jesus. Keeping my eyes on Jesus, mostly—even though I’m highly distractible—I know that He is not just the author of my faith, but also the finisher. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to do anything perfect. I can even write “perfect” without the appropriate “ly” on the end if I want. And I wanted. So I did. And I can even start sentences with “and” and “so” and “but” and “because”, even though I know better. And so I do. I write fragments—incomplete sentences—to remind me I’m incomplete without Jesus. And I even post blurry photos, on purpose, because—well—we just don’t see so clearly sometimes, do we? Think about that . . .
No need to worry. All is well . . .
In God’s kingdom here on earth, there’s plenty of space for missing the mark.
It’s called GRACE.
And grace is FREEING.
Grace is FUN!
All this GRACE makes me THANKFUL. Makes me feel like a kid—before I knew what I know—before I had any self-consciousness at all—before the world stamped me “successful” and before another called me “crazy” in the midst of family and she might as well have shot me dead—straight through the heart.
All is well with my soul, though I do not forget, yet, as God . . .
I’m looking back on a life, more than half over, seeing a bountiful harvest and feeling oh, so thankful for God’s promises kept—all of them. It’s not about how good I’ve been. Because really, I haven’t been all that good. I’ve made a complete mess out of many things. Still do. But it’s not about what I do or don’t do—what I deserve or don’t deserve. Because, really, what does dirt deserve? And don’t get me wrong, coming from a girl who knows the value of good dirt. We make it ourselves, right here on the farm, by composting tons (literally) of horse manure and garden left-overs. Black gold is what I call it because it’s better dirt due to all the tossing and turning and waiting and watering and heating up till it steams when you turn it inside out.
That’s life, isn’t it? All the tossing and turning (the inner turmoil) and waiting (patience, Lord, NOW!) and watering (souls softened with tears) and heating up (some seasons are crucibles). Waste turns to gold in the hands of our Maker. Black gold soul beds are for receiving holy seed and letting heaven water and warm and bring about new from nothing.
It’s harvest time in the fields around here. I’ve never seen corn so tall—the same corn I wrote about last spring, flooded by rains, wondering aloud if we’d have a crop at all. And that just-turned 16 year-old sitting next to me in the car? He said, without a doubt, that God would provide.
Oh me of little faith . . .
How blessed am I, an older woman, a mother, to be reminded by the one I raised that God provides—His way–in His time—and He’s always good—even when we can’t see how—even in the darkest times. Oh for the faith of a child-turning-man!
I’m counting my greatest blessings—the harvest inside our home—all five of us farm-grown hayseeds. We’re learning better how to keep our eyes focused—how to hold steady, even though we’re quite a bit broken and we’ve needed quite a bit of soul surgery over the years.
Sure, we miss our mark—a lot—this family of five just trying to find our way like everyone else. But we know deep down in our darkest parts that we’re not aiming at nothing. We’re aiming at something transformative—Someone who made His mark on the world—Someone who loves us and saves us from what we most need saving—ourselves—our own deceived minds that make us think we’re just fine on our own. Until we discover we’re not. Blessed are the poor in spirit. The truly healthy know we’re nothing on our own—we’re nothing even with somebody else—we’re nothing without God.
Focus on that.
Focus on Him.
Keep your eyes on the target.
Take your best shot.
Then, when you’re full spent, go in for a close-up look.
Can you see the JOY?
Not every shot has to hit the bull’s eye to create joy.
So soul of mine, can you lessen your grip on your false hope of perfection and hold more firmly to Perfection? Can you ease up a bit and relax? He’s got you in the palm of His hand. Your name is engraved right there, where nails took your need for perfection and told you, “You don’t have to try so hard”, because the harder you try, the more you miss the mark. Life’s not about trying harder. True life is about focus—and letting go.
Breathe. Believe. Receive. Grow.
He holds you steady, sharpens your focus, gives you all that’s worthwhile as your aim in this life, in preparation for new life to come.
Shut out the lies of the world! Our soul ears need protection!
Our youngest is now the same age as I when I decided the aim of my life would be . . .
Now here I am, 55 years-old, with a wonderful husband turning 60 next week, and three Russian kids, given by God—a month shy of 23, a newly- turned 21, and 16 year-old who still kisses his mom on the cheek in front of his friends. And all following Jesus—because they WANT to. And they teach me every day about grace and faith and how age and position and worldly success make no difference in the kingdom of God. Those with “disabilities” defined by Man are greatest, wisest, most blessed in the kingdom of God.
Yeah, we’re all a bit broken and rough around the edges here—maybe more than most. I’ve become glad about that. Because we’re still aiming straight every day. Still practicing. We’ve got our eyes on the right target. And though we miss—a lot—it’s OK. Because I do remember reading somewhere that Jesus came for the broken—for those who know their need of Him—for those who will just open the doors of their hearts just a crack—for faith as small as a mustard seed to be planted.
We’re not done yet. Neither is this beautiful season of autumn. Some flowers are just now starting to bloom. Some colors are coming into their prime. There is beauty in every season of life.
He’s not done with us yet, here on the farm. We’re like those bur oak trees we planted along the northwest corner a few years back. Just 12-inch sticks stuck in the ground, they’ve rooted and grown. Still staked for support in those fierce winds that come, they’re still standing strong, still growing. And someday, they’ll be the grandest oaks of all. We have faith.
So my soul, remember not to despise small beginnings. With just a bit of faith in Jesus, keep practicing your aim and nothing will be impossible for you. With God, great harvests are assured. Let Him grow in you what He wills. And you will be FULL-filled.