The kind that milk cows morning and evening and come in from the barn needing a shower. That was my definition of a farmer. I was pretty sure I would never marry one. I mean really?! We do have a choice whom we marry, right? I didn’t have to sign up for a lifetime of pouring feed and pushing cows around.
I remember one time when an old family friend stopped by for the evening. This man could earn money in many different ways and one of his occupations was shearing sheep. Up to that point I had never actually met a sheep before. I knew they weren’t white and fluffy like pictures made them look but I had never actually touched or come close to a sheep. Much to my mother’s chagrin, long after the man had cleaned up and left, days later, there was still an odor about the house that smelled of bad wool and lanolin. It was then that we found his old shoes in the laundry room, left behind because their odor was so offensive they could never have been fit for anything other than the garbage.
I don’t remember when Ian first learned I had a keen sense of smell. Probably shortly after we started courting because I told him that I knew he was in the room because I could smell his cologne. Ian was a bit afraid I might not like him because he had chosen sheep and animals as a way of life and I might not approve of the smell. I will admit, I wasn’t crazy about how sheep smelled at first. But somehow with lots of love for the Shepherd I decided I could deal with it. Because, after all, it was Ian’s love and dream to work with sheep. I watched him shear, and on occasion would hold my breath and scoop up the shorn fleece and haul it off to the bag. Only to come away with a lingering smell, and lanolin on my hands. The more I came to know Ian, the more I learned the value he placed on farming. His love for sheep came right after his love for God and his love for me. I was married to a farmer!
Ian always tried to be careful about not dragging in too much odor when he came in from chores, but I could smell it, even in his beard. As time went by I came to not just tolerate the smell but even to enjoy it. It meant my husband was doing what he loved, and that made my heart full and content.
And then, it started getting harder to do chores, to move fences, to scoop feed and fork hay. Slowly Ian had to give up caring for sheep. Only a few now and then, and not the large flocks he wanted. The equipment he had accumulated for his work has been sitting. Unused. Waiting. And we’ve been waiting too. Waiting for life to change. For energy to come back. It’s been almost two years. And the reality is that life has not returned to what it was. The letting go has become more than a conversation. It has become life.
Ian started posting his equipment on Craigslist. Trailers drove away with new owners. And just this week a few more pieces of equipment rolled off the property. And with each piece it feels like Ian is losing a part of his dream. A part of his identity. A part of himself.
I tell myself it would be easier. Easier if there was something to replace the dream. Some direction for moving forward. I tell myself it would be easier if it had all disappeared in some horrible disaster. Then at least we’d know. And we’d know we have to move on. But instead it’s a slow death. One day at a time. Letting go, with nothing for stability but our relationship with Christ.
Last evening I found myself in the kitchen wondering what to do? I knew that Ian was having a difficult evening, which meant I was in tears. I’ve found that one of the best ways to bring cheer to Ian’s heart is when one of his sisters or friends calls to say hello. I wanted to call someone, anyone and ask them to call Ian and encourage him. I tried but they were busy. This sibling was doing this and another was too far away and another was having family time. In my heart of hearts I knew that God could send the balm for my husbands pain. But as a wife, what do you do when your husband is hurting? Hurting deeply. Feeling the loss of the future.
When Christmas rolls around each year it often gives us pause to think and remember and miss the absent and think about the important. Beauty seems more real, trials more difficult, separation more keenly felt. We all long for a miracle to somehow come and mend our broken lives. To rewind or fast forward to another day, another time. I find my heart longing for something big to happen and heal the pain in my life.
Oh my heart- how do I reach out to the man I love most on all this earth? How do I encourage him through the pain of this night? This night of losing? God, where is my heart’s miracle?
And then it happened. Through nothing I did, Ian’s sister, Mary Heather, called him all the way from Paraguay. And when I saw Ian next, his face was bright with a smile! My miracle had happened and all that was left was for my soul to recognize it and revel in it.
Two thousand years ago, God sent a miracle for my heart. His only Son came to this earth and daily I experience His hope and His grace if I choose. The miracle of birth. The miracle of a baby. A God-baby that came and dwelt among us to show us mercy in our sin. This was the big miracle that my heart longs to know and understand more every year. And through this miracle, I can daily receive the gifts of life.