The jangling of goat bells, shrieks of children’s laughter, and swish, swish, swish of milk hitting a metal bucket meld together into a symphony of the cadence of life.
I dump a gallon of water into a container then stir in milk replacer, the idyllic scent sending me back to my own childhood when I’d bundle up in layers to brave the zero-degree weather and tromp out through the crunching snow to bottlefeed the newborn kids. The sky was always clearest on the freezing nights, and many were the times I’d flop down on my back to stargaze on my way back in from the barn at 3:00 am.
At the beginning of the week, my pace was frantic, busy. There was so much to do and no way I could accomplish all there was. I swept the floor half a dozen times each day, kept loads of laundry whisking through the washing machine, folding the clothing that the dryer spit out during what was supposed to be nap time. I churned out meals, bottle-fed kids, and found myself constantly exhausted.
Finally, my sister, who I came to help as she’s not feeling the best, sat me down to explain there was no way I’d ever find an end to the work, so I had better stop trying and begin pacing myself better.
Her advice was timely. Soon instead of sneaking in laundry-folding during nap time, I found myself collapsing into a sleeping heap each day. Who knew I could take a nap each day and still sleep so well at night? But, it’s been a while since I’ve spent my days surrounded by nine happy, questioning, and storytelling youngsters, so I think it’s the mental rest nearly as much as the physical one that my body needs.
Now when I go out to bucket-feed the calves I drop onto the warm grass and gaze at the tree-covered mountains in the distance and sparkling stream that looks like diamonds are dancing along the surface. I breathe in deep. Relax. Soak in the moment.
When breakfast was finished this morning and I’d cleaned the egg yoke out of the youngest one’s hair and had sent the older children off to finish their chores, I asked the younger ones to help me clear the table and wash up the dishes. Then even though the floor hadn’t been swept, I chose to sit down and read to the littlest ones instead of indulging in more housekeeping.
Each day, each moment, I get to make a choice. I can either focus on the things that I can do, the ways that I can make a difference, or I can scramble around trying to do more. Trying to do the most. Trying to do everything.
The other day when I came in to a sink full of dishes – a sink that I felt like I’d just empied – I gave my oldest niece a hopeless look, “I really did do the dishes earlier, not that you’d be able to tell now.” She laughed, and with wisdom that I certainly don’t remember having at seventeen told me that her mama often says that people don’t generally notice the work you do, but everyone would notice if you didn’t do it.
May has arrived and as I look back on the last few months I can see God’s guiding hand. Even though I wasn’t where I thought I’d be (or wanted to be), I can see how I was exactly where He wanted me. It’s nearly been two months since I left my little home in Kentucky to help my family for what was supposed to be a week and turned into almost seven.
At the beginning of March Mom was telling me that she was praying she’d have someone come and help her for a while. (Because my family was moving.) I was glad I was going for a week, but I couldn’t really take more time off of work than that, but then work closed so I stayed. Then, about the time that my family’s house was set up and my family was settled in, my oldest sister’s family needed help for a variety of reasons that I could relate to. So, instead of heading back to my little Kentucky home I braved the twisting mountain roads and arrived on their doorstep on a rainy Sunday afternoon. My sister told me how when she’d been praying that they’d have help, she’d never imagined I would be the answer to her prayers.
And the truth of the matter was I hadn’t imagined I’d be spending the last few months helping my family, either. But I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the ways I’ve been able to grow and change and see into the fissures of my heart that need cleaned out that I didn’t even know about.
It’s not easy having plans upset and desires withheld, but today, I’m thankful. Today, I’m focusing on the differences I can make right where I am, and I’m rejoicing.