I’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Dukes Lee, a journalist and contributing editor for The High Calling. Jennifer lives in Iowa on a century farm and also blogs at Getting Down with Jesus. She is the niece of my friend, Jackie, who hails from Iowa but has lived in Texas for many years. Jackie and I met and became friends through our church in Allen, a suburb north of Dallas. Her small town roots are deep. Growing up on a farm shaped her into a woman with strong character, resolve and determination, and resulted in a woman worthy of admiration. It’s been my observation that a high percentage of the folks I admire share deep roots that were often formed through rural community and family farming. I originally read the essay on Jackie’s Facebook page, when she proudly shared it with her friends. In her essay, On the Seat of a Tractor, Jennifer speaks movingly about the connections between her family and the land.
- On the Seat of a Tractor
Jennifer writes about the sense of purpose and the connection to God that her family feels through farming. I hope you take the time to click on the link to the essay and reflect on the emotions that are evoked. If you read through the comments following the essay you find several that acknowledge that farm life is not always idyllic – the bone tiring work and the years when the harvests were meager, the weather cruel, and the bills stacked high are recognized. What I sense is that in spite of these frequent disappointments and hurdles, families who choose this way of life find their rewards in simple pleasures. They seem to feel connected and strengthened through the richly detailed and colorful tapestry created as each person’s thread is woven into an intricate record of birth, death, spring planting, fall harvests, winter cold, summer heat, feast, famine. This interweaving binds together those who came before and those yet to come. Feeling closer to God through this way of life seems to be a common denominator that enables the farmer to face tribulation and find satisfaction in being a part of this cycle – “emptying and filling” (L. L. Burkat, see comments).
I have little first hand knowledge of farming. My only experience occurred over a 3 year period after my widowed mother remarried a recently widowed life long friend. My step father owned a 400 acre ranch in Oklahoma where he raised a 100 head of cattle. My step father and my mother were able to move the cattle from one pasture to another and perform most of the chores even though they were both in their 70’s. Sometimes they called on the assistance of his daughter’s family who lived nearby. We lived an hour away but my son and I spent some weekends and some summer days helping with basic chores like fence mending, hauling feed, and cattle round ups. It was an experience that we relished. It was a great proving ground for my son who was eleven when my mom remarried and fourteen when my step father died. Those three years definitely deepened my sense of respect for the people who choose this life. If your way of life is inextricably tied to the land, I’d love to hear your reaction to Jennifer’s essay. And if you have no first hand knowledge of farming, how did you feel about her words?
Excerpts from some of the comments following Jennifer’s essay that particularly spoke to me:
“Sometimes, the sunsets of our lives are really just opportunities for the sun to rise on a new day.”
“I enjoyed the details of a farm life, both external and internal. God beautifully weaves meaning in all our lives.”
“All too often, I’ve felt that for something to have real purpose, it had to have the GOD label slapped on it. But I’m finding more and more, that all of our work can be worship really — even our secular work. It can all be holy and sacred, right? It’s that whole AVODAH thing that you’ve written about, Marcus. Ann Voskamp, too, has written about it. I’m in awe of that word, Avodah (a Hebrew word that means both work and worship.)
If we live an Avodah life, it all has purpose. All of it.”
“Really, really moving story — about the power of love and legacy and God’s good grace.”
“oh, jen, what a beautiful story. it does sound idyllic, i know it’s not always easy. but what a blessing to have such a family–one that works together this way, one that talks so openly. yes, what hand-me-downs your girls will have; rich stories to grow deep roots. i am in awe of such a thing. thank you for this blessing.”