Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Life Lessons From a Farm

Our Farmhouse

Dear Friends,

Growing up on a farm prepared me for the twists, turns and tumbles of life. Lessons learned, mostly subliminally, informed my faith and formed my work ethic.

Growing Chicks:

My fondest memories involve the seasons. Each spring the mailman delivered cardboard boxes filled with chirping baby chicks. Oh so cute. But oh so much work. We spread straw on the floors of brooder houses, covered it with newspapers and then sprinkled finely ground grain for the chicks to eat. We set up jars of water and watched the bubbles rise as the baby birds dipped their tiny beaks into the saucers below.

But it wasn’t long until the chicks kicked dirt into the saucers and messed up the newspapers. And as they grew, the messes only increased. Once they could be let outside, we mounted chicken wire fences to confine them. Nothing was ever once and done. They required care and feeding from the day they arrived until the day we gathered eggs from them and still later sold them or “dressed” them for eating. Work! A lot of work!
Brooder house behind my brother Robert and me.

Growing a Work Ethic:

But growing chickens and farm animals showed me that to succeed, you must keep at it. My family never took vacations. Who would feed the livestock if we were not home? And that work ethic has served me well. As a teacher, it took time to help students learn and develop business skills. As a director of Christian education, it took time to develop programs. And as a writer, well, they say you must write a million words before you’re worth anything. It takes work! I must keep at it.

Tasting Bitter Herbs:

Another sign of spring was helping my mother hunt dandelion. The March winds whipped our coats as we ventured over the fields, eyes peeled for the serrated dark-green leaved plants. We pierced the soil with sharp knives, cutting off the roots to harvest the bitter herb. My parents and four siblings looked forward to eating the delicacy in a hot milk sauce. Not me. The greens were bitter. I enjoyed the “hunting” more than the eating. But I knew the vegetable was good for me, so I nibbled on a few bites.

I also enjoyed helping my mother bake cakes and pies. They called me the “I wanna” girl, and she always found some small task for my little hands. Our meals never ended without the sweets. I always came home from school to milk and cookies.

Me On My Wagon
Tasting Life’s Sweet and Sour:

Sweet and sour. In food. In life. There was the sweetness of watching nieces and nephews take their places around the family table. When our gang got too large to hold Christmas dinners in our home, we moved to our church for the event. Still, there was the sadness of losing relatives. My mother was the oldest of ten children, yet one after another, they succumbed, mostly to heart disease. And some of my cousins too. I sometimes wondered how my mother could survive the news of another death, but she accepted death as part of life. And so must I.

Sowing and Reaping:

In fall we gathered tiny seeds, small as grains of pepper, from poppies, and in spring we sprinkled them in rows. The seeds we sowed varied as much as the flowers and vegetables that grew from them. Some you planted individually and others you sowed in rows. Then you prayed for sun and rain to grow them all. First a little sprout would poke up its head, then a leaf or two unfurled. I loved hoeing the garden, pulling the weeds that grew faster than the vegetables, breaking up the ground hardened by the rains.

Sowing and Reaping into Young Lives:

How would I have developed parenting skills without performing such chores? It’s a day-by-day, watching and waiting experience. Raising children is much like that. You sow lots of love, caregiving, kindness and goodness into their lives. You try to weed out undesirable traits—greediness, anger, hostility. Then you hope and pray for God to work in their lives and bring about a harvest you can enjoy. 
Our Meadow

Watching Nature Takes Its Course:

A thunderstorm could wipe out tiny seedlings and affect the harvest of whole fields. I remember a rainy period that turned a clear trickling creek that meandered through our meadow into a raging brown monster that swept away the bridge that provided access to our lane. Of course, it had to be rebuilt by my father and brothers.

Watching Life Take Its Course--Overcoming Adversity:

Such things happen in life as well. We carefully build a reputation, advance our career and establish a comfortable way of life only to wake up one day and find someone or something has undone years of toil. So we rebuild. Just as painstakingly as the men of my family rebuilt our bridge.

A Country Church Near My Childhood Home
So What:

Each of us grows up in different environments, and we come away with different impressions. I am who I am today in part because of the family and community who nurtured me and the experiences that shaped me. As I walked the fields of our farm, I often pondered the skies and thought about how the clouds would be rolled back at the time of Christ’s return. I grew to know and love the God of nature, the God I heard about in a little country church. I’m grateful for a family who nurtured me physically, mentally and spiritually. And I hope you are too.

Feel free to click on the link below and leave a comment about how your past has prepared and influenced your present.

Enjoy the journey God has laid out for YOU.

Shirley

Upcoming Engagements:
March 10-12 – Friends of the Heart at Women’s Retreat with Mt. Calvary’s Church, Elizabethtown at Christian Retreat Center, East Waterford.
March 24-25 – Friends of the Heart at United Methodist Women of the Susquehanna Conference at Best Western, Lewisburg.