When John got home earlier this month he was slightly sunburned, very tired, and quite excited. He had just spent nearly two weeks with our daughter Amy and her family on their farm in Virginia.
While there, John planted 1,000 chestnut trees and 28 fruit trees on the property we own "next door" to Amy and Phil's farm. Though I stayed home, John's experiences helped me reflect on the life of a farmer. I think I've learned a few lessons since Amy and Phil started their adventure "living off the land" a few years ago.
Lesson #1: Farming is hard
With our children grown and our nice little house in Metro Denver, it's admittedly pretty easy for John and me to keep our day-to-day life functioning. I can get up, throw a load in the laundry, cook some easy breakfast, do my work at a desk or on the couch and run to the store whenever I need something. But since Amy and her family moved to Virginia, I have been shocked to realize how unbelievably difficult it is to start a farm.
Farmers seem to face absurd obstacles every day. The weather continually dictates what they can and can't accomplish at any given time. Machines and gadgets break at just the wrong moment and keep Amy and Phil from their work. Then, just when the family is ready to go in and eat supper, they discover that the sheep have escaped. So Amy and Phil take off running down the hillside to corral them back into the pen.
It seems like every day on a new farm is the equivalent of the washer breaking, the car dying, and a leak springing in your roof. Amy's blog post "If not one thing it's another" seems to sum this up pretty well.
And as I think about this, I remember again that simply raising a family is hard, even if you do have a comfortable house in town and a steady income. There is a day-in/day-out fortitude necessary to keep caring for your family and yourself.
Lesson #2: The importance of taking the long view
So how do farmers (and homeschoolers) press on through daily trials? In light of the multitude of difficulties farmers face every day, I've come to appreciate anew the importance of taking the long view. Amy knows she must celebrate the little victories each day, even though large difficulties continue to loom overhead.
Even if giant fields are not yet tilled or planted, a fluke hailstorm killed last week's transplants and the family is still living in a 250 square foot trailer, they can rejoice that (most of) the new lambs are thriving, their four-year-old is faithfully praying for the new little lambs, and tiny new buds are growing on the peach trees. And in the midst of the immediate challenges and joys, Amy and Phil keep their eyes on what they hope this farm will be one day.
. . . So it is with raising a family and homeschooling. As I'm sure you know all too well, success does not come overnight. The hopes you have for your children as adults may seem impossibly far off. Though you face trials now, taking the long view can help you keep moving forward. Your primary reason for homeschooling is probably not to make today easier. You are probably homeschooling for the longer-term benefits you hope to cultivate—for example, to form close family bonds over time, to give your children a better education in the long-run, to help your children grow up with Godly values and beliefs.
To stave off discouragement and keep these long-term hopes alive, I think it helps to celebrate the little steps of progress when you can. Celebrate that your children read better than they did a year ago. Celebrate when they master a new concept in math. Celebrate when they offer to pray for a neighbor or take on extra responsibility. Celebrate when you finish each school year.
Even if life isn't easy today, I pray that you can keep the big picture in mind and persevere as you move ahead. Your long-term goals are worthy and good. May you keep forging ahead toward them.
Which brings me to my next point: be wary of the lie that you will always face the exact same struggles as you have now. This can discourage us and keep us from pressing on. Besides, it's simply not true! But more on that (Lord willing) in the next Beam . . .