May 28, 2015

Life Journeys

Everyone at some point in their life has experienced a life journey. These journeys are unique in that we know where we begin, we know where we hope to end. We may even know what we believe will be the route that we will take. The other aspect that we know when we begin these journeys is that they seem like they will be interminable. We look ahead and the destination is so far ahead that we almost cannot bring ourselves to take in the entire journey at one glance, it is simply too daunting. Given the overwhelming nature of the journey, we opt to take it one section at a time.

What are these journeys that almost all of us undertake? One may be parenthood. The baby is born and we are warned that we must consciously try to embrace each day, because they fly, oh! so! fast! and some day we will miss these times.

Instead, sleep deprived, we live in a world where every night takes forever. We wonder if the thankless days of spit up and dirty diapers will ever come to an end. Just when we despair, we are rewarded with that first milk-drunk smile from our wobbly-headed baby and we know that we can carry on. We have learned a lesson, though, that the days stretch on with little to differentiate them from another, so we look for that milestone and we live from milestone to milestone. The first smile becomes sitting up, becomes crawling, becomes walking, preschool, junior high, high school, then college. At that point, we have learned to endure the days, months, years of sameness by leapfrogging from one experience to another, losing the days between. The time comes when we stand at the end and look back and wonder where did the time go? How did we come to be here, kissing that wobbly-headed baby goodbye and turning back to an empty room? Wasn't it just yesterday that they were born?

This is by no means the only such journey that we undertake. We have marriage, school and running a business or working at a job. What each of these journeys have in common is the experience of feeling as if progress comes incredibly slowly while we are in the midst of it, only to look back and see two things, simultaneously. First, we see the personal growth and change that occurred through the trek.  Secondly, once we have arrived at our destination, we notice that the trip seems to have just begun.

We are pretty familiar with these kinds of journey at our home. We have raised five of our twelve children to adulthood--yet those baby pictures seem as though they were taken just yesterday! We homeschooled each of these children and are close to graduating our sixth 100% homeschooled student--yet we remember the challenges of phonics and learning place value. We have been married for thirty years, next month--yet I still seem to feel our hands trembling as we slid those rings on each other's fingers as if it happened this morning. We have been busy building a farm and it many days it seems as though the grinding nature of farming has stretched each day into a week, each month into a year, so that the process has taken an incredibly long time--yet it seems as if it was just yesterday that we walked the land unsure as to where we should build the first barn.

This most recent life journey of our family, particularly our family farm, really took us by surprise and hit us hard. We had been deep in the living day by day aspect of the journey, changing course as needed, but never doubting that the trek would take us to where we had planned to go. This all changed, when suddenly we were forced to look up and we realized that the steps had taken us from our charted course until we were not even certain that we could see our destination. It was as if we were lost in the fog and not even sure that we would be able to make it back to our original path! All we knew was that we had given our hearts and our hands to laboring to build something special and now we faced seeing it all slip away.

It didn't, of course. We learned that some in whom we had placed our trust were not worthy of that trust--but we also learned that there were many others who believed in us and supported us. We learned that while we will never be the same, we have learned that we are far stronger than we ever imagined. We learned that the bitterness at looking back at the journey can swept away by the hesitant joy of looking forward to a new beginning. Mostly we have learned that life cannot be lived by simply struggling to get through the journey, but that the journey is best lived by seizing life and joy with both hands and not letting go, regardless of how dark the storm clouds may seem.

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