“Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked.” -Psalm 37:16
One year ago, my dad sold our family farm.
When he told me that it was really happening, the auction had been scheduled and the realtor contacted, I knew it was the right decision. I knew in the end it would all work out and he would find something new to do and life would move on. What bothered me, besides some sadness thinking about losing the home had been a constant my whole life, was realizing that my dad, who is perhaps the hardest working person I know, might end his 26-year farming career with nothing to show for it. After the auction and land sales EVERYTHING would be gone, the house, the land, the barn, the milking equipment, the tractors, the crops, the feed the cows, the calves, EVERYTHING he’d acquired would be gone. AND even better, he probably wouldn’t have any money left over after the bank and government were paid back.
This is one of the reasons (along with my hatred of cold mornings, smelling like manure, and love for living in the city and having freedom to go where I want when I want) I never really had a desire to go into farming. You have to work SO HARD all the time and sometimes it doesn’t even matter. You do everything right and things still go wrong and don’t work. So much is outside your control.
It’s really no wonder one of my dad’s favorite phrases and lesson to us kids is “Life’s not fair.” You learn that first hand, time and time again as a farmer. Dad learned this when he planted the crops but there was no rain. Or when he was a compassionate boss yet was continuously stolen from and abandoned by his workers. Or when his best milk cow broke her leg in a freak accident. Or when an employee milked a medicated cow and the whole bulk tank was contaminated…thousands of dollars literally dumped down the drain.
As for me, I’m much happier in a 9-5 job where I know my expectations and as long as I do the work and don’t be an idiot, my paycheck arrives in my bank account every two weeks.
However, two years ago, I started a new role at my then job in development. And all of a sudden, it started to feel a lot like my dad’s job. You see, just like crops, you plant seeds and cultivate relationships with people in fundraising…and sometimes the connection between your nonprofit’s mission and the donor just doesn’t grow or produce fruit. You work SO HARD all the time and sometimes it doesn’t even matter.
And that’s how my first year in development went. The hosts for our events experienced deaths, job transitions, babies and illnesses and couldn’t help us. Our staff experienced turnover making our deadlines impossible to follow. After working so hard to find a career path where my hard work would result in success, I had somehow found myself in the uncertain world of relational farming…and it proved to be just as hard and unfruitful as real farming.
In that season, I read Psalm 37 and Tim Keller made the following reflection from the passage:
“Righteousness is no guarantee of prosperity. It is possible to be faithful and hardworking and end with “little.’”
It’s like Keller was reading right out of our life. This is what I saw my dad going through (and me to a much, much smaller degree) and it just wasn’t fair.
Yet the auction came. My dad told me the only time during those two days where he really hurt over what was happening was when they loaded my brother’s cows into the trailer and Dad saw tears in his eyes. My dad was not saddest over what he lost, but over seeing someone he loved losing something. And that made me so proud of him.
Although it looked like he would have no money, possessions or land to show for his hard work, we knew he had a family with a love for people, animals, God’s creation and good hard work. Although we were losing the place that had been home field for so many beautiful memories, the whole team is intact and ready to play on new turf.*
“Yet riches can erode quickly and can’t help you in the next life, so only God himself–and his unfailing love for you–are investments that never lose their value.” – Tim Keller
*I wrote this post a little over a year ago before we knew if they would be able to keep the farm. It was a hard season, but now a year out, it’s been amazing to see how God has brought them through the uncertainty and now Dad has found a new job he enjoys and they were able to stay in my childhood home.
Each month I try to record the little glimpses of joy infused in my life. Here are my glimpses from September:
- An amazing restful trip to Mackinac Island and the UP
- DISNEYLAND! …and fun time with my parents and sister-in-law
- Walking around Stars Hollow and Rosewood…and all the other Hollywood goodness on the Warner Bros tour
- Sleeping in a hammock out in a thunderstorm – awed by the power around you and feeling very small
- The rest that only being away from technology and out in nature can bring
- Football games
- Eating dinner with Aaron
- Waking up in a good mood! Mornings are not my favorite, so I’m grateful when I have time to get up slowly and get ready for the day.
- Getting to plan and schedule our year-end campaign at work – two of my favorite things!
- Starting a new creative project
- Finding a small group I’m excited about
- A sunny day
- Learning all the fun facts about Komodo Dragons at the zoo
- Birthday celebrations with a best friend