It had been a much-needed time away. Visiting cousins and playing hockey, catching up on a few years worth of missed moments and miles at Daron's Canadian family reunion. After a whirlwind 30-hour trip over and back, we pulled into the comforting familiarity of home long after darkness had settled. It was late and a contented tiredness tugged at us as we hurriedly started chores...not even taking time to change into our warm clothes or boots.
Puppies, chickens, wood stove? Check. Cow tank? Started. Dogs, rabbit, and cats fed and watered? Check. I hurried down the dark barn ramp to the lower-level pens where our pony and calves can come in out of the extreme cold. As I rounded the corner with Daron right on my heels, I skidded to an abrupt stop, unsure of what I was seeing! Had someone thrown a rug in the water tank? A coon, maybe, coming in for a drink? Realization began to sink in to both Daron and I just as quickly... A calf. We sprung into action - already knowing it was too late. One of our new, smaller calves had somehow gotten into the water and died in the few short hours we were away. We still cannot figure out how it happened. It's hard to have loss. It's hard to stand over something so helpless and wonder what could have been done differently. To know it represents life and money lost, while listening as it's Mama bawls for her baby to come and nurse. Loss on the farm is no different than loss anywhere else. Loss by its very definition is the absence of something...the taking away or losing. In the bitter cold dimness of the barn, as I struggled to make sense of the pointlessness of this calf's death, there was a certain reassurance that came: that even in this there was purpose. Life brings opportunities along that sometimes leave us unable to see the lesson because of the growing pains. They don't feel like opportunities to gain perspective; rather, setbacks that beat us down. But, proper perspective can help us find hope in the seemingly unnavigable moments of life. Those moments when we are looking straight in the dark, looming, scary face of despair. That's when perspective is the whisper from the shadows that says, "I am here."; "You are not alone in this,"; and, "You are enough in Me." Perspective can give life. It can bring freedom. Recently, I was talking with a mom-friend whose family is awaiting some serious test results for one of their children. The kind of results that can change your life forever. She said something that was so profound: "In these moments, everything becomes so clear." She went on to speak about priorities and ambitions that are put into a new light when potentially limited time is at play with a loved one.
I have drawn on her words, as well as the jarring barn scene, to adjust my own priorities. I have a wise mentor who often says that it's not about doing, but being. Perspective is shaped in the being...in the practice of how we think, what we meditate on, and who we allow into our sphere of influence. Perspective has two roads: negativity or hope.
The other day I intentionally took a moment to practice quieting my brain long enough to notice the world around me. I was out filling the cows' water tank. It was about 8 degrees. I just listened as the slight breeze nipped at my cheeks and the sun glistened brightly even through my closed eyelids. There was the crunch of the cow hooves in the snow; a rhythmic clinking of metal-on-metal from the gate; the soft whoosh of the water exiting the hose; the scratching of the hens and their sassy clucking; our golden retriever whining to come join me from his kennel; the windmill creaking, the evergreens rustling, the occasional snort from the herd, and even my own frosty breath escaping over top of my face scarf. In just a minute's worth of quieting my mind and "seeing" the world around me in a new way, I was able to notice something important. All of this beauty was always there, it just took intentionality to notice it. How often do I miss the most obvious yet valuable moments because of my preoccupation? For instance, missing the whimsy of my daughter's stories as I absent-mindedly nod while splitting attention with social media. Or, forfeiting the togetherness of lingering at dinner with family as I rush on instead to fulfill the checklist of evening routine. And the trading of self-care as I instead push past my boundaries and needs to serve others? Service is good. Social media has its place. Checklists are a must! ( I have been known to add things to lists just for the pleasure of checking them off. Brush teeth, change 400th diaper... Hey! Sometimes we need a sense of accomplishment!!) I believe it comes back to perspective. Adjusting my lifestyle so that I can be present in my moments. Taking the time to feel the sadness of a calf lost before rushing on to make the dollar signs add up. Setting the phone down and connecting with my sweet girl's eyes - her soul! - as she shares her view of the sparkling glitter world she lives in. Reveling in the sting of my wind chapped cheeks as I take in the grandness of God's creation.
Because it's in this pause that perspective is born and we are given the choice: hope or stagnation. I choose hope. I choose to embrace goodness in the face of what can be ugly and unknown. Hope does not change reality. Hope simply invites Grace to travel the tough road with me. Oh, the amazing nature of Grace: freely given, independent of anything I could do to earn it. Romans 11:6: "And if by Grace, then it cannot be based on works; [because] if it were, Grace would no longer be grace." That is the very essence of what it means to just BE. Putting aside the striving long enough to rest in Love extended and Grace offered. To sit in this truth: I am enough not because of what I do. I am enough because of who I am. And, I am HIS. Through embracing that truth, I can find joy in the moment; peace in spite of suffering; perspective through reflection; and hope to move forward one step at a time.