The clouds at 30,000 feet are keeping me company as I write and reflect. My ears hear Celtic tunes of praise while I contemplate the lessons of the last four decades. November 10, 1978 marked the first day of my move to Boissevain to serve farm families with Manitoba Agriculture as an extension home economist. Those years hard wired me for gleaning problem-solving resources that would give farm folks practical tools to make better choices for a happier quality of life.
This fall I see Facebook posts of weary faces, dryer fires and bearded young farmers who have barely had time to sleep, pressing hard to get the 2018 crop off the field, in whatever shape they can “steal the crop.”
So when you look at the markers in your life, what will really matter most?
It matters to me that I am rich in relationship. Just this morning I met a young ambitious Texan who has just landed a sweet dairy genetics job, and is happy to be able to spend time with his young family. He was clear about leaving a herdsman position where he once was part of an 18,000-cow operation. That’s not a typo, that’s a whack load of cows. He chose family time over farm stress. He said, “Travel safe Ma’am,” when we parted.
Yesterday I met researchers who are excited about the trends of innovation and growth for agriculture. They are keen to follow the innovators and independent entrepreneurial farmers who will carve out opportunity and business wealth. These same creative types will be sure to craft a life beyond the farm gate. I can see our next generation doing that with time for fun: hunting, fishing, travel, and marketing clubs in the next town. Make time for fun this month.
As a new grandma it matters that I have fun play spaces in my home that are safe for my granddaughter to laugh and play hide and seek with me. It’s getting harder to fly away to groups and have plane delays that keep you away from the family supper table. My heart aches for the farm families who have chosen to be stubborn in their unhealthy communication patterns and refuse to let grandchildren develop deep bonds with the farming grandparents. What type of parenting are you modelling for your children? Are you ignoring the wisdom gifts from the elder generation and the time older folks love to lavish on the young? Christmas gatherings this month will be a time to connect to your family tree and celebrate the branches that are strong and still growing. If you are part of a branch that has been broken off, perhaps it is time to create new rituals and parties with friends who you can adopt into your family. We’ve experienced great delight in sharing time with families who are longing for connection. The local Boissevain Resettlement Committee has shown our community the joy of embracing refugee families who are thrilled to live in our amazing country. It matters that we take care of our global brothers and sisters who are in great need. Beds, clothes, food… we are rich.
It matters to me that the sacrifices made driving through blizzards to speak to groups and light a sense of hope in farm families is a message that will last, even if Building Your Farm Legacy is the last book I write. Compassion fatigue can set in at this time of year when a tough harvest ends, and the family feuding over the future of the farm continues. Rest.
It’s time to stop being prideful and stubborn.
A 44-year-old farmer who holds another off-farm job was desperate to find answers on how to get his dad to let go of power and control. That issue has been brought to my attention for decades. You cannot rule from the grave. Your hearse will not be pulling a U-Haul trailer to take stuff with you when you die. True wealth is in good health and rich relationships. The laughter of your grandchild on the video on your smartphone is a gentle reprieve. The best choice is to be building structure and agreements into the next business plan for the farm’s health and the financial well-being of all the families your farm supports. Don’t leave your future to fate.
Two emails today spoke of untimely deaths of fathers, who died with no will and no plan. It’s just the beginning of “Transition angst” season and there will be more stories that need a healing outcome.
Christmas for me is the celebration of the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the light of the World and Saviour to all those who believe. All I need for Christmas is time to worship with other Jesus followers and family who are happy to be together. What matters most in the last 40 years, is that I know God has always been faithful to provide wisdom and direction for tough conversations and hard decisions. He has blessed us with healing for our bodies, protection from more than one fire, and grace to grieve accidental deaths. He gives us life!
When you figure out what matters most to you and what you really want in your life, your intentional choices will be fuel for your light to burn bright. “Someday” will no longer be a day on your calendar. You’ll be ready to get out your black gel pen to mark the dates for family fun and farm meetings. You’ll block off time to recharge in the Sun Belt or play cards with friends. When the next decade goes by like the faster-rolling end of toilet paper reaching the end of the roll you won’t be the one saying, “Where did the time go?” You’ll be respected, full of the joy of knowing you embraced each new day as a gift and lived your life to its fullest.
Light some candles as a family this month and share with each other what really matters most. Poor crops, less cash, fewer expensive gifts under the tree; that’s an opportunity to live simply this winter, so others may simply live.
Reach out to get the emotional support you need as you reflect on what matters most.