Apr 9, 2013

A Year Later, Spring Still Comes.

We recently received an email from someone in another state.  She had recently re-read the "Spring Always Comes" post of February 7, 2012 and was wondering how we were doing after Our Most Difficult Winter.  I often forget that people read this post that do not buy from us weekly at the markets.  When customers buy weekly, they ask how the week went, they see first-hand how we are doing.  Those who read the blog from far-flung locales such as Germany or New York are dependent upon the blog for updates and it seems we were due for one.  

I am sorry to say that even in the face of a heartfelt email of concern, that it took me a while to get back to the email.  It took me a while to wrestle with how to answer.  Once I started writing, the emotions sprang forth and the words flowed.  And flowed.  I think it was partially that it was cathartic, partially that it was good and right that we take the time to assess where we were, and what had transpired in the year since that brutal time.  After the email reply was written, I sat and stared at the words that filled the screen...and knew that it needed to be a blog post.

"Dear L~

I am sorry that it took me a while to get back to this email.  In all honesty, I had to "chew" on it a while, to think through an answer!  Partly my hesitation is because I do not know you, so how to phrase an answer that will explain without leaving you scratching your head?  Much of our journey has been a spiritual one, and not knowing your spiritual background, much of this may not make sense!  I decided to simply say it as if speaking to a friend across a cup of coffee.  It may be uncomfortably intimate for you, so if you like, I can simply cut to the quick and say as we do to many who ask at our farmer's markets...we are recovering and have hope to continue doing so.  The longer answer, however, reads something like this...

We have been through rough times.  A wise friend (our CPA and elder of the church that we went to for many years) always said that challenging times are the accumulating of "rich life experiences".  Well, we have been provided with rich life experiences a-plenty.  The grace in all of it is that while the rich life experiences can be exquisitely bloody and brutal, we have been blessed beyond measure to also see that they are exhilaratingly refining and transcendent in a way that is more precious than gold.

Does this mean that we like being in the crucible?  Of course not, who would?  But if the growing and the molding into who God would have us to be can only come at this cost, how can we turn from it?  Not that I think we have much choice!  I will say that I have been incredibly humbled by the response to the blog in general and by the posts about our struggles in specific.  I confess that I often feel like a hypocrite, being in some ways on the blog an advocate for the mentally ill while most days I would prefer to rail, resent and hate mental illness and kick against the goads.  Yet, just last week, a market vendor came to our tent and pulled me aside.  She shared how she had struggled for years with depression and anxiety and that the blog and our honesty with sharing of the pain and challenges of being a family that deals with this on a daily basis gave her strength.  More reminders that we are to be faithful and trust God with the results even when it doesn't make sense to me...but then I would suspect that Paul, the Jew of Jews, must have wondered at times why he was being used to minister to the gentiles.

In the year or so since I first wrote the "Spring Always Comes" entry it has continued to be one of the most read posts on the blog.  I do not know why.  Writing the post was cathartic.  We were only barely at a place of being able to see that dawn just might be creeping over the horizon.  Writing it was as much a need to affirm our faith and stake our claim on the fact that we were looking to surviving and moving on, as it was a chance to honestly let our customers and friends know where we had been and where we were headed. We have continued the past year in a time of healing, but it has been slow and incremental.    Tim has continued to work towards healing, both physically/mentally with the aid of medication and a fabulously skilled and Godly and committed therapist.  This will likely (at the very least) be a reality of our life, if not for forever, at least for years.  

The family has continued to work towards adjusting to a chronic illness in the home, no less than if he had kidney disease and needed dialysis and accommodations for such an illness.  We have, in many ways, had to learn a new 'normal' and accommodate honestly for changes that needed to take place in our home.  We have had to honestly address the fact that there are areas where Tim, head of the household though he is, cannot function and for the good of everyone, family and business, we need to cover those areas.  (paying bills, filing taxes are prime examples as we learned the hard way when the car insurance bill was allowed to slip and we discovered after an accident that we were not covered--yikes!)  This has been a process of balancing each other's expectations and needs and will likely  continue to be a process that we work through for some time.  

I have had to go through my own time of realizing that decades of being the strong fighter that barreled through life's challenges had taken it's toll.  I began struggling with anxiety and some questioning of my own ability to rise to the challenge.  As I told Tim, I had always thought of myself as the strong and capable one who could carry anything.  Now, in many ways, I find myself feeling broken and incredibly weak.  I spent months feeling "broken", as if those skills and strengths that God had given me had been shattered, that I had not been strong enough to carry what He had given me.  I have only very recently realized that this is true--but by God's design, not by failure on my part.  It is one thing to carry everything as a beast of burden might, looking back at it's 'driver' for direction as to which way to turn and this is how I had been functioning.  Now I am coming to see that this sees my usefulness largely in my own strength.  When my strength is gone, is my usefulness also gone?  Now I see that my role is to not be the beast of burden (the ass, how apropos ;-) ), but more like the vessel that trusts the river and the captain to direct it's course.  I have a role to play, to be sure, of providing protection to those inside the vessel, but that my purpose is to trust each day that I can relax in even unsettling currents because the captain is at the helm.

On a business standpoint, if you have read the blog recently, we have some crazy busy developments.  We are now not only milking our goats for our products, we are also buying milk.  This has propelled us into involvement with the university dairy where we get our milk, and we have found it to be a way that God is moving us from running a business to provide for our family to being able to shape the future of small artisanal dairies across the country and this is so exciting!  It has also allowed us to see our cheeses and other products in many restaurants in Houston and Austin as well as possibly in a few select stores.  It has stretched us as we are busier than ever, work-wise but in ways that are very different for us and have somewhat of a learning curve.  It is very different from our previous business model, and it was hard to make that paradigm shift, but again, just one more step in trusting that God's plans for us are not always what we anticipate and practically speaking, if we cannot trust Him as he moves us into new areas, then we are all talk and no walk!  Things are changing so quickly for us, business-wise, that we have come to see it as a crazy roller-coaster ride.  We have no idea how the ride will play out, except that we are pretty sure God does.    Does He have us moving more to buying milk and selling at stores in order to increase our reach for the University?  Because it will work better for us as a couple as our children move on to their own lives?  Because it is easier to work into life if God has us focusing in other areas such as grandchildren, or even, dare I say, writing?  We do not know, but we are now better at trusting that God does.


1 comment:

Jonathan H said...

Thank you for your open and honest account of how your lives are going. I have also found that it is in the tough times, when I am at the end of my rope, that God teaches me to lean on & learn from Him.