“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.” ~ Habakkuk 3: 17-18
“Habakkuk teaches us that joy is not dependent on circumstances but can be embraced at the worst of times,” writes Mike Mason in “Champagne for the Soul” (Waterbrook 2003). Mason says that happiness does not just happen, it is an act of the will. As I read Mason’s 90-day experiment in joy, I was deeply encouraged by the changes in his life as he chose joy. Mike Mason married a college friend of mine, and it was great to see how he felt his melancholy character was deeply changed by joy.
Can we as farmers also choose to be thankful in a year when there might be too many cattle in the stalls, there are grain piles in your neighbor’s fields but in yours, and the hailstorms have left nothing? To say the year has been tough is an understatement for many.
Farm families look for stability, security, and control of their affairs. With the blow of too much rain, how can one choose to be thankful?
Being Thankful This Holiday Season
Thankfulness is a choice. In a year like this, it may require several steps taken in the same direction to count our blessings.
At our Foodgrains Bank harvest one year my friend relayed her feelings about listening to a B.C. rancher describe how her husband herded the cows out just in time, and as they turned back to look, they silently watched the ranch go up in flames. I had heard the same broadcast with the identical reaction as my friend. We both cried.
Tears of pain flow with empathy for families who are suffering great loss and pain this fall. We also listen to reports of bombings and war-ravaged regions that seem far away.
Are we thankful to live in a country of peace?
Be thankful that we have made a connection of goodwill with some folk.
The financial squeeze really has no easy answers. The bottom line is summed up by a comment from Dr. Nikki Gerrard who spent 12 years helping Saskatchewan communities be pro-active in dealing with farm stress. Gerrard’s response to a financially-strained farmer was “I can’t save your farm, but I can help you save your family.”
Have you told your family that you love and appreciate them?
A radio reports that tears flow from a 60-year-old cattleman under financial duress. I am glad to hear that some cowboys know the healing power of tears. Vulnerability is not a trait farm men like to openly show, as they usually are a proud, independent, self-sufficient bunch. Now is not the time to hold back from your family. Your spouse needs to feel and know the security and commitment of the relationship, no matter how tough things are.
Farm families need to know is it okay to ask for help from outside resources and talk, listen, and talk some more. People feel isolated when the stress is high. Invite your neighbor over for pumpkin pie and coffee. Be courageous enough to make the invitation and walk alongside.
I heard a story of an oil-rigger sending money home to the farm to help the cash flow. Non-farm family members have a great role to play in supporting the family back on the ranch. Be thankful for the roots and wings your farm family gave you. Bless your family with your prayers, calls, and cash.
I once kept a gratitude journal for a whole year, each night noting the five things I was thankful for. This was a soothing activity for me when my mother was dying, when I could consciously look for things to be grateful for, even when grieving a loss. God’s word, the Bible, is a huge love letter to us of His faithfulness. We are secure knowing that God deeply loves us and He cares for us all the time. It is my prayer that you will encounter believers to encourage you, pray with you, and be a practical help to you this Thanksgiving. We have a great opportunity to be “Jesus with skin on” as we show the love of God, and give thanks with a grateful heart around the turkey or beef this year.