I. Just. Can’t. Get. Ahead. Those were the words I spoke, or mostly sighed, to my husband last spring. Maybe it was that we had added two little foster girls, ages four and six, for a total of five kids and a ridiculous amount of laundry to care for on a daily basis. Maybe it was the spring fever that seems to make farm life feel like a race to get all your outdoor projects done before it’s time to work in the field. Maybe it was that we had been planning for months to begin work on constructing two hog barns on one of our fields. Maybe it was just that I can’t imagine adding one more thing to our already full life, correction- 4,800 little things-piggies! Or Maybe it was our “paid jobs” leading two rural churches through a strategic planning process for the past 6 months with 4-6 months left.
Maybe it was one of those things, maybe it was two, or maybe it was all of them, but I had days where my overwhelm factor would kick in and I just kept saying to myself…I. just. cant. get. ahead! We had lived on our acreage for more than a year now, and I had promised myself that this spring would be different than the last. Last spring everything was new, it was our family’s first run at planting season living here and being the main help on the family farm, so it felt scattered and stressful. This time I would be ready, I would be prepared. Yes, I am a type A personality and yes, I believed I could organize our life enough to bypass the spring frenzy.
I spent the month of March packing my deep freeze full of homemade meals so when field work rolled around, no time to cook for my family wasn’t a problem. We sat down as a family and discussed plan A, plan B and plan C for field work: who would cook, who would care for kids, who would drive tractors, who would pinch hit and run for parts and what needed to be done to prepare the machines for the season ahead. I felt good about the plan, until it all began to unfold…and that’s when I finally uttered the words “I just. Can’t. Get. Ahead” while tears streamed down my face. To which my experienced farm husband replied “of course you can’t, you never will, that’s how farming works. You always have too much to do and not enough time. I’m sorry this is hard.”
I’m glad he hugged me while he said it, or I may have thrown something at him (it’s true!). That’s not the answer I was looking for, but I knew it was the truth. I had watched Grant and his dad work together long enough to see that they couldn’t let the overflowing “to do” list bother them. They certainly didn’t let too much work stop them from spending time in between jobs enjoying life. They just took each day at a time, doing what they could and letting the rest go. That’s just how farm life works, they’d say. But as a newby farmer, I have to say, the farm life has proved to be good training ground for more “real life” than I care to admit.
This predicament about time isn’t a new one. For decades, for centuries, for ages, OK, maybe since the beginning of time, our human hearts have tried to move ahead and plan so WE are ready for all that is to come, so WE could conquer our to do lists and be ahead of things for a change. But that’s not the way God had ever intended humans to relate to time and the looming task list.
From the pages of the Old testament to the pages of the new testament, no matter what big project God’s people are in the midst of, God has been reminding them to forget about running ahead, but to settle in for the day. The scriptures bleed these reminders! When the Israelites were wandering through the wilderness, God provided manna from heaven to feed them. But he reminded them: do not gather more than what you need for the day. Then Jesus showed up, and when asked how to pray he gave us these wonderful words in his prayer: “give us this day our daily bread.” Not our weekly bread, not our monthly bread. Daily bread.
On top of all this, there is this beautifully convicting little reminder in the gospel of Matthew 6:25-26, which says: 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[j] or about your body, what you will wear…26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” How’s that for a reminder? We were not made to run ahead, to prepare so furiously that we forget who has prepared this day and all our provisions. Boy, do I need that reminder on a regular basis, whether it’s living the farm life or not!
Harvest is right around the corner and we are less than one week away from welcoming 4,800 piggies into our daily choring lives. EEEK!! Or should I say “OINK!?” While it is tempting to try to get ahead, because heaven knows chaos is about to ensue, I have to remind myself regularly, getting ahead is not the point. Because if I were ahead, I would be the one in control, and have no reason to rely upon God on a minute by minute basis. And isn’t that what He wants from all of us in the first place, to rely upon and trust Him instead of ourselves, to see Him at work in the midst of all of our lists and responsibilities rather than see ourselves as conquerors of life?
I’ve taken a long sabbatical from writing these past few months. At first it was the added foster kids-I just didn’t have the time. When they returned home, it was the summer schedule. Then it was the added responsibilities for adding a hog site to our farm operation. “Something” on the list was always the culprit getting in my way from doing what I love. So last week, I took five vacation days to try to clear my mind and clear my list before opening our hog site, which we fondly refer to as “Piggytown.” I was under the misperception that I would go into our Piggytown opening ceremonies with everything checked off my list! And guess what!? I was so wrong. I got a lot of projects that needed attention done, but the list still looms large, and it always will!
I still haven’t gotten ahead. But I don’t want to get ahead anymore (most days). So now I try (I said try) to embrace the bread, the manna, the provision God provides for this day, in the midst of the overwhelming list. Instead of spending my energy trying to get ahead, I want to spend my energy placing my trust, over and over, in the God who provides more than enough for me, for my family, for this community, for this world and watch the beauty of it unfold. I’m still a type A, there is still planning to be done, that’ll never change. The freezer is full, the meals are ready. But this harvest, maybe, just maybe, I’ll get it right, and realize it’s not about getting ahead, it’s about enjoying the ride and watching God. provide. Just. What. We. Need. For. Today.