I need you to hear something right now. I need you to hear this loud and clear - I’m so sorry for everything this year has thrown at you. I’m so sorry for all the things you cannot control that put so much weight on you. But hear me - YOU are not defined by this year’s crop. Or this year’s income. Or this year’s “success”.
You are not the farm. You are more than the farm.
I saw you leave again this morning, smiling, but still carrying the stress. I know the first thing you did was drive down by the creek to see how much the water has receded. After you do chores in flooded pastures, you’ll sit with your Dad to try and figure out what fields might dry out the fastest and what, if anything, can be done while you wait.
You’ll run the numbers another time or two, to see if it all makes sense. You’ll run through the calendar a few more times, to count down how many days you have left to get caught up on work. We both know you’re never going to be caught up.
You’re standing there, facing wet fields and a crop that may not generate enough income to cover its own expenses, hay fields that can’t be cut, and calves that don’t quit eating just because it’s wet. In your head, you’re hearing the clock - tick, tick, tick - counting down the hours you’ve got to do the work you’re so far behind on.
I know, that even though you keep smiling and laughing, the stress is getting heavier each day. I see it in your eyes. I feel it in the way you toss and turn all night.
So I need you to hear me again - YOU ARE NOT THE FARM.
You are a man who works harder than anyone I know. You are a man who is honest to a fault. You are a man who always finds new ways, better ways. You are a man who can keep the big picture in mind while maintaining laser focus on the details. You are a man who quietly, and humbly, prays for God to help you on the tasks he’s laid before you.
You’re a husband. A father. A son. A brother and an uncle. You are a farmer, a damn good one too, but you are not defined by the farm.
Your family and friends - we love you, regardless of your corn yield or planted acres or the price you sell your calves for.
We will get through this year - one, rainy, wet day at a time. Together, with the strength and guidance of God, we will get through this.
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How was your Christmas?
It was amazing. It was wonderful. We are so blessed, beyond what we deserved. My heart is full. Or at least, that’s what I am supposed to say. And I take my role seriously, so of course, that's what I say.
But how was Christmas, really?
It was exhausting.
Since the turkey from Thanksgiving cooled, I’ve been in my excel spreadsheets making lists. Making budgets. Checking them all twice. And twice more.
I’ve been browsing, ordering and sending back. I’ve been answering the never-ending requests of, “Do you have any ideas for...”
I’ve been cussing at missed deadlines for the custom things and praying for delivery of the late-things.
I’ve been cooking. And baking. And shopping. And searching. And wrapping.
No really, tell us how Christmas was.
It was a little disappointing. The reactions to those “perfect” gifts I found was nonchalant.
The dip I found on Pinterest that promised to make this the #BestChristmasEver was just OK.
The Christmas trip I planned for weeks that was sure to make this the most unforgettable Christmas ever? At times it felt more like a visit to an overcrowded nuthouse run by small children.
And then, on December 25, it was all over by 8:00 a.m. and left me in desperate need of a nap.
As a mom, I wanted everyone’s Christmas to be perfect. I wanted everyone to get just what they had hoped for. I wanted the meals to be amazing, the games to be fun, the company to be perfect.
Because, growing up, that’s how Christmas always felt to me – it felt perfect.
So the day after, when my oldest woke up and said, “Yesterday was the best Christmas ever,” I was confused.
When I quizzed him about it, he replayed Christmas from his eyes. “Mommy, remember the water slide I went down with Daddy and I wasn’t even scared? And then remember at church I got to sit with baby Beau? And when our friends were here and Papa won that game and it was so funny? And we both got new boots which was exactly what we told Santa we needed! And we played games all day and even Daddy got to stay home with us?”
My youngest, also wanting in on the recap added, “And it was Jesus’ birthday. And we had fun for Jesus’ birthday. And we watched that movie when Aunt Bethany says the pledge instead of praying!”
Their little voices carried on over breakfast, remembering all the fun they had over the last few days. In their eyes, maybe it was perfect.
Even though, we didn’t get the family picture. Even if they opened gifts in their underwear instead of Christmas pajamas. In spite of the fact the jeans I picked out myself, as a gift from my family, still somehow didn't fit.
I know in my heart, that Christmas is perfect with or without my help. Because Christmas is the celebration of Jesus coming here, to save me. And you, when none of us will ever be good enough to deserve saving.
Even knowing that truth, part of me, the mom part, still wants the experience of Christmas to be unforgettable. To be perfect. Like it was when I was a kid.
But maybe now, looking back, I can see that behind those perfect Christmases, there just might have been an exhausted Mom, in desperate need of a nap.
It was nearing 4:00 p.m. He’d been in his singlet since before 7:00 that morning. He walked back across the mat to his line, bent down to take off his ankle band.
As he straightened up, he glanced over at the scoreboard, to confirm what he already knew. From my stance on the side of the gym, I could see his shoulders shudder, a breath drawn into his chest and held tightly. He quickly shook his opponent’s hand, the one who would leave with the medal he himself had been working for all day.
He walked towards the other coach, and his shoulders shook again. This time though, he couldn’t hold his breath in his chest and it shook his body when it came out.
Before he even turned to come back to his coach, I could tell he was crying. His whole body was silently crying. He went to his coach. He listened. He nodded. But he couldn’t stop the free flow of tears down his face.
I had a flashback to a few years prior, when I overheard a Dad kindly, and lovingly tell his son, “You can lose. You can be frustrated, even mad. But you cannot cry.”
My heart felt clenched by a fist. My mind raced. He would come to me next. He would leave his coach and come to me. I had to do this right. I wanted to hug him,hold him, tell him we would go home and watch movies and it would be OK. I wanted to take away his hurt.
But I wanted to do this right. His Dad, always measured, said over my shoulder, “He’ll be fine.”
He started across the mat, and in a moment of clarity I realized, he was experiencing something he needed to.
He wasn’t having a meltdown. He wasn’t crying tears in a fit. He wasn’t “being a baby”.
He was experiencing loss. And in a world where many will live their entire lives, never putting enough on the line to cry if they lose it, I was proud of him.
After weeks of hard work, focus, and determination, his 60 pound, seven year old body was feeling loss, hard and brutal.
And on that Sunday, in that gym, we let him cry.
I don’t know if it was right. That’s the thing about parenting, we don’t ever really know if we are doing it right.
But in a time when kids are given trophies for losing, told “good job” for barely showing up, and insulated from facing hurt and disappointment, he had stepped up to a line where he knew he risked losing it all and went after it anyway.
And he failed. And it sucked. And he was crying. And we were proud.
And next week he’ll step up again.
Someone shared with me an article published by PETA, “Seven reasons kids should never hunt”. Last year, I wrote about my mixed emotions sending our oldest out hunting his first deer season.
Even while the number of hunters continues to decline, I was confident this year that the deer stand was exactly where he needed to be. Here’s why:
We are blessed to have the opportunity and resources to allow our sons to spend time hunting in a safe, responsible way. To those who argue that children shouldn't hunt, I hear you, but you're wrong.
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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