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Of ideals and grace in the new year
I’m going to keep this a bit shorter today, because I hope you can pass your time this weekend more disconnected from the world, and dialed in on what’s real, and beautiful, and worth your precious time. But if you’re like me, you’ve already taken stock of 2022, and you’re peering down the road at all of your hopes and aspirations for the new year. ’Tis the season!
One of God’s most cleansing gifts is the new beginning, and aren’t we blessed to live in a world so refreshingly punctuated with them - new babies, new relationships, new knowledge, new goals, new hearts, new life. And the dawning of a new year is such a fitting time to make preparations and set goals for such fresh, exciting ventures.
But determined folks like us are prone to burning ourselves out, even with all the good intentions, if we’re not careful to set boundaries for our ideals. So on this eve of the coming year, I simply want to set this little, burning ember before you, so that perhaps behind these new fires you’re building, you’ll use it to light a backfire of grace.
Something I’ve been digging into over the past few weeks has been a list of requests for husbandry topics to cover in 2023, and I admit, I’m totally geeking out. Y’all have come up with some of the best questions. They’ve each been assigned their own bullet point in my little, red brainstorming book and they’re filling up the editorial calendar into Spring. (Keep ‘em coming!)
A common, idealistic thread runs through much of what us homestead-y folks want to learn and apply to our own farming and husbandry practices. If we’re being honest, we must own up to the fact that as a general rule, we really are an idealistic bunch - of which, I confess, I may be the chiefest. It’s built in to folks like us. We’ve got a better way in our sights, it’s lit a fire in our hearts to pursue it, and doggonit, we’re going for it.
And personally, I don’t think idealism is all bad. I think, when kept between the navigational beacons of God’s will, it’s a potent driver of progress. I submit that our society as a whole could use a King size dose of it in the rump.
The problem enters where that ideal becomes an idol. In this rigid, unbending place, the joy can get thoroughly sucked out of homesteading. That ideal is no longer a friendly lighthouse at that point - it’s a self-imposed millstone that will drag you to the bottom of Failure Bay. Been there a few times, wouldn’t recommend it.
Especially when we’re new to something…man! We just want to do it BY THE BOOK! And get it right. And have it fit into this lovely, organic box we’ve made for it (where it would be free range, of course). And feed it strictly from our garden. And use only herbs for it when it gets sick. And only post pictures of it when it’s absolutely perfect, so the even crunchier homesteaders won’t criticize us for the antibiotics we had to use last week because it had mastitis.
Are you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?
I’ve been guilty of this. Have you? I’m currently guilty of this with my new honey bees. I’m still wet behind the ears with that new enterprise, and I have to unshackle myself from my it’s-gotta-be-perfect ideal on a weekly basis.
There is nothing wrong with striving for excellence. Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might,” and so we work to do so. We should do the very best we can, whenever we can.
But after having been at this for some time, after having burned out a time or two, here is my encouragement to you - especially for the new homesteaders:
build GRACE into your plans.
Use it to build a backfire, so you’ve got a line of defense against feelings of failure & burnout when circumstances catch you by surprise, and you have to address them with means you consider less than ideal.
When you move to that new property and put those sheep out to pasture with the goal of not vaccinating against tetanus, but start finding board-stiff lambs - it’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up. You’ll have to change course to adapt to your property, and that ideal will need some grace to let it go so you can control the problem in years to come.
When an exceptionally cold winter causes the calves of your antibiotic-free herd to succumb to pneumonia - it’s ok. You haven’t failed. Apply some grace to this difficult year that will require less than ideal interventions (antibiotics) to save your calves, but will better prepare you for next winter.
When the garden doesn’t produce enough greens to feed your rabbit colony through the year - it’s ok. Farm long enough and you will have crops fail. It happens to us all. Buy feed, do what needs to be done to keep your bunnies in good condition. You can learn and pivot for next year’s garden. Grace.
All this to say, make those plans, do your research, shoot for the ideal, but keep forgiveness and grace kindled for those times when the ideal is out of range.
We are all fallible creatures living in a fallen world of imperfection. And even those who look like they have it all together in their cropped little squares, do not. No one but you is in your boots, no one shares your constellation of circumstances, no one else walks your unique path.
So breathe deeply and keep going, pilgrim! May your fire burn brightly in the days to come, and happiest of New Year to you, friend.
A benediction from Numbers 6:24-26…
“May the Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”