Patience

“Patience is not the ability to wait. Patience is to be calm no matter what happens, to constantly take action to turn it to positive growth opportunities, and to have faith to believe that it will all work out in the end while you are waiting.” – Roy T. Bennett

Patience has never been one of those things that comes easily for me…I see a problem and I immediately want to confront it head on.  We had a new horse come to spend the winter with us at the stables while her mom is away. This mare is over 10 years old and up until she came to our place, has been a beautiful pasture pet with very little ever asked of her and she has been the boss to both human’s and horses alike. I have been amazed as I have watched my daughter work with this horse on something as simple as accepting a halter to come in at night to her box stall. The mare has stretched Aly’s patience to an extreme and I am astounded at the depth of my daughters patience with this horse.  I have yet to witness her lose her temper even once. Aly refuses to give up on this horse in situations I would have screamed and stomped off cursing the mare the entire way as I headed back into my warm house to thaw out my frozen fingers and toes.  Yet watching Aly, she did not resort to bribery (I would have had a bucket of grain out in the first 5 minutes) but just kept asking the horse to trust her and waiting for the right response, consistently and gently making the wrong responses harder work than the right one. This is the process of “joining up” or bonding that you sometimes hear about in natural horse training.  

Last night was a cold night and with daylight savings time ended it gets dark ridiculously early. The mare did not want to be caught to be brought into her box stall and have her supper and her evening hay.   We did head out a bit later than we should have to do the evening chores and turn ins. By the time we had brought all the horses into their stalls and fed those who stay out, Aly was still in the mares paddock quietly working with the mare. All Aly did was just kept gently asking for the mare to  allow her  to approach and halter her, never giving up, never getting angry.  This kind of approach takes time and patience beyond what most people feel that they are able to bear. Aly had compassion on her and has made it a mission to teach this lesson.  Aly just kept asking and waiting and once the mare would allow Aly to get close she would praise the horse, rub her with loving pats and then walk away. My mentor used to say, “Inch by inch its a cinch, Yard by Yard its hard”.

I think that is the hardest thing for me to do….to walk away when what I want is within my reach. My tendency is to grab the thing I have been working for and run. But when dealing with horses (and people) it is better to let the horse choose you then to force the horse to do the thing you want.

I think it is the same with people. Once again, as I watched my daughter and the mare, I was struck with how much of this horse life is parallel to parenting or relationships of all kinds. My children and husband are so much more responsive to a gentle patient mother and wife than a raging maniac demanding obedience.

“Patience is not passive waiting.  Patience is active acceptance of the process required to attain your goals and dreams.”  Ray A. Davis

  How often in life am I in a hurry and just want to get the end result without much fuss or bother. I hate to wait!!!!   It got me thinking about how God works with me when I am resistant to his will for me.  He never forces me to follow Him.  But he does gently, patiently, continually make the wrong paths hard and bring me to a point that my comfort is in his presence alone.  He never seems to be in a hurry, but asks and prompts and waits, and waits, and often waits some more.  Sometimes, like this mare, I kick and fuss and snort and fume.  I hate that I am being asked for something I do not understand or maybe I think I don’t want to do.  But God, eternally patient, prompts and waits for me to just stop and turn to him, just like Aly and the mare.  

“Patience is a form of wisdom.  It demonstrates that we understand and accept the fact that sometimes things must unfold in their own time.”   – John Kabat-Zinn

This morning, the mare once again resisted being haltered in her box stall.  Oh how she fussed and fumed not even realizing that all we wanted to do was lead her to a paddock where she could enjoy the late fall sunshine and stretch her legs and have her morning ration of hay. Once again, Aly delved into her pocket of patience and waited for the mare, asking for the mare to stop and let her halter her and lead her to a better place.  The barn staff understood the good things that awaited the mare if she would just cooperate, but the mare did not.  She was just afraid and upset and unsure and so her answer was to resist the unknown. 

Isn’t that just like most of us? We fight the good things God has in store for us because we are just afraid of the unknown. But God in his infinite patience never gives up on us. And I am so thankful he doesn’t.

“With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.”  Proverbs 25:15

Seasons

So much of this country life I am living revolves around the seasons. And I am so thankful that each season is unique and brings its own version of blessing as well as challenges.

Winter is the season of rest and my season to reflect on the past year and maybe even dream a bit…what do we want to accomplish in the next year.

Spring, here in Northern Wisconsin, could almost be broken up into two seasons. Early spring here in my neck of the woods should just be renamed…something like mud season, or messy season, or “Please winter, just give it up” season. But our late spring is wonderful. It is the season of hope as the birdsong wakes me in the morning and the season of promise as we wait for the days warm, the mud to dry , the grass to green, the trees bloom and the baby farm animals arrive and oh how my heart sings at the potential. This is my second favorite time of the year because it is so full of hope and possibilities. It is like a fresh morning dawn, beautiful and unspoiled. Or, in the words of Anne Shirley, “it is fresh and clean with no mistakes in it…yet”

Summer is the season of hard work and very long days. Often, here on the farm, my days begin before dawn and end long after dusk. But these days are as rewarding as they are long. Days of tending and watchful waiting. Days of sore muscles, sore backs, sunburnt faces and necks, days of riding by the moonlight because that is the first opportunity we have had all day. Sun burnt hot days that are perfect for hay (as long as we can get a long enough string of them) and looking forward to a jump in the lake after a long hard days work.

And then there is my favorite season of all. Fall. I have debated on why this is my all time, hands down favorite season. I love Winter’s Christmas and Springs Easter. But there is so much about fall to love. The colors of fall are my absolute favorite colors of all! And every day, God amazes me with a brilliant splendor of color and light. The bright crisp days and frosty nights around the campfire, the fact the routines return to our life with the start of school and church programs. Maybe what I love about fall is I never can seem to get enough of it, in the blink of an eye the wind denudes the trees and I feel like the celebration is over. The other seasons span months, fall only has six to seven meager weeks before the leaves are gone and the snow flakes begin to fall. Maybe I am just conditioned to want more of what I cannot have. I love what fall represents, harvest and reward for the hard work of the spring and summer. Routine and a readiness for the restful time of winter. Yup, Fall is definitely my favorite.

With the beautiful fall colors all around me, the crisp cold nights, the golden sunshine of the days…I have been struck with how my life has become so seasonal…not just with the farm and horses, but with my family also. I think that John and I are in the fall season of our family, most of the kids have grown and moved out, some starting families of their own. We just have the two youngest still in school with one graduating this year, and the other next year. They are even beginning to think and dream of spreading their wings and delving into their own season of planning and growing. This summer, we became grandparents for the first time reaching a milestone that just two years ago seemed far, far down the road. Yes, I truly feel this is the fall season of our life, I want want to linger in it…I want to enjoy each moment and savor each event.

I love this parenting season I am in…reaping the harvest of all those springs and summers of hard work as the majority of our children are grown and on their own. The memories of late nights and long prayers. The precious moments of guiding, mentoring, praying and encouraging. Those were the seeds John and I sowed to reap the harvest that we now are beginning to see. Watching our children grow and spread their wings, find love, start families, make their way apart from John and I and begin to leave their mark in this world. This is what we were working for all of those years. To raise independent, vibrant, caring young men and women who would in their turn do the same for the next generation. See – it is the cycle of the seasons!

But as John and I walk thru this season of fall in our families life I have to remind myself that fall is a brief but beautiful season. It is over all to quickly.

I wish I could sit down with the “spring or summer ” me over a cup of coffee. For the “Spring” me, I would encourage her to not be in a hurry for the little ones to grow out of the phase they are in. I would tell her to make more time to read books. Never miss an opportunity to tuck the little ones into bed. To linger over a craft project with them and to not worry so much about how many toys are strewn over the floor. After all, she is in the sowing season and the more seeds she sows, the bigger harvest she will reap.

I would tell the “summer” me to make an effort to stay up late to talk to the teenager or college kid, to not be quite so quick to give my opinion but to ask them questions to help them come to good conclusions for themselves. To be willing to see their perspective. To judge less and love them more and make our home a rest and refuge for them away from the chaos and confusion of high school or college. I would encourage them to really know themselves before they begin relationships. I would do what my Heavenly Father does for me. Love unconditionally.

I wonder what the winter me will want to tell the fall me? Probably a lot of the same things I would think. Be patient and linger in the season you are in….because in the end, they all pass to quickly.

Haying and Raising Children

I think my hair turns more gray during haying season. I can almost feel the color drain out of it as I watch the skies and listen to the weather forecast.

Someone once told me that farming was the only form of legal gambling in all 50 states. I think this is an apt description especially when it comes to cutting hay because in the end you may have better odds playing 21 than getting your hay up dry and and in good order. There is an element to the farmers life that no matter how experienced or skilled he (or she) may be, somethings are completely out of their control, especially the weather. Farming is one of those careers that teaches us to grow our faith in God.

Lets take the simple (oh such an understatement) act of growing and putting up hay.

First there is the foundation work of testing the soil, fertilizing, tilling, rolling the field and planting the seed. We pick a season that we know the grasses will have the most opportunity to take root and grow. We pray for rains at the right time and in the right amounts. We consider carefully what types of seed we wish to plant and then pray that the seed we planted is good and will take root as intended. We pray that weeds do not choke out our seed or that the grasses grow strong and tall enough to take the dominant place in our field. We take precautions to keep the pocket gophers at bay We pray for long, hot sunshine days to help the young plants grow strong and tall. And then after all the waiting is done, the grass is tall and the alfalfa is in the proper bloom, we watch for the window of opportunity to cut and rake and bale which is probably the hardest and most helpless feeling of all. And usually when I start to feel my hair turn gray.

Hard work, timing, patience and a whole lot of faith


Haying time is illustrative of parenting at its finest. Every year after the icy snow is gone and the grasses begin their growth, I am struck anew by the similarities.

Making hay is equally as stressful as parenting…. You plan, you watch, you put a lot of thought and effort into making good decisions and hoping they were the right ones…. You lose sleep wondering if everything’s okay, you encourage the right friendships and discourage the unhealthy ones. You put the good things in front of your child and keep the bad things far away from them. You watch on the horizon for the storms to come, praying that you have provided them the strength and endurance to withstand them. But, no matter how hard you labor, your child is in God’s hands, and you can only sit by and watch and wait and turn a little more gray. I suppose it is silly to think of it this way but after raising 8 children I am greatly struck by the similarities.

Is raising kids just another form of legal gambling? I think this is where the similarity ends. Because in the end, as a believer, these children God has given me are really his own children that he has tasked me with the job of caregiving. In the end..they are His kids. He is the “farmer” and the harvest belongs to Him. I just need to be a faithful steward of the gifts He has given. I find great comfort in that and in a small way it preserves my hair color.