He’s 91 years old, but most wouldn’t believe it. With the exception of faulty hearing and worn out knees, he still looks ready to head out to the field. His mind doesn’t miss a beat – it really never has. While he admits that ‘growing old ain’t for sissies,’ he’s done a mighty good job of embracing his season of life.
It felt like everyone was posting a status about their dad on Father’s Day. My dad’s fingers haven’t touched a computer keyboard, (and certainly he doesn’t know about Facebook) but I found myself wanting to jump into the newsfeed. So I posted this picture of my dad taken in the 70’s as he worked in his feed lot.
That was the easy part. A farmer almost all of his life, he lived in his overalls, work boots, and a seed corn dealer hat. This is exactly how I picture him when I pull up scenes from my childhood.
It was much harder to condense his influence into a Facebook status, but I think I got pretty close when I landed here.
This man taught me the joy of noticing creation and the wisdom of resting on the Sabbath. For those things and many others, I am grateful to be Clyde’s daughter.
Most of my writing is rooted in the noticing of God’s fingerprints singing through a bird, blooming through a flower, or covering branches with a snowfall. His very livelihood depended dramatically upon the conditions of the earth, the rain that fell (or didn’t fall), and the changes occurring as we circled the sun.
He was the man who grabbed my hand to stand out on the front porch gazing west as the clouds darkened and the humidity rose. He wasn’t afraid (even after a tornado literally touched down on our farm), but was in awe of the power of God as it thundered and hailed all around us.
He was the man who quizzed me on what kind of bird was racing across the lane by the crick (a killdeer). He was the man who figured out a way to catch a dragonfly so that my insect collection would prove they are different than lacewings.
He was the man who encouraged me to plant an acorn to see what would grow. And yes, a little oak tree tried desperately to grow even though my dad kept running over it with the lawn mower.
He was the man that taught me to notice how subtle changes in the leaves and bird movements predicted a change of the weather. He taught me the names of wildflowers and trees and showed me how to forage for morel mushrooms at the base of dead elm trees under decomposing oak leaves.
He must have noticed and then embraced and even more importantly, encouraged, my desire to learn as much as possible about all that was changing and growing around our farm in Millbrook.
I would not be who I am if not for those casual, meandering lessons in noticing.
And now for resting.
I always loved Sundays on the farm. I didn’t know why that was until I was in my late 30s and was exhausted, crabby, and fragile much of the time.
I heard some teaching on the Sabbath and then it hit me. My dad had endured with energy and passion about farming because he incorporated a Sabbath rhythm into his life. He never preached it at us, and I don’t remember a proclamation or even hearing the word Sabbath used in our home. Yet, I knew that Sunday afternoons were sacred.
I knew that he wouldn’t be heading to the field or doing any work at all (except for feeding the livestock). Instead, he would put his feet up in the recliner and relax during the Cubs game. He would read books, work on a jigsaw puzzle, or devour a big bowl of popcorn. And he napped ferociously.
Here is what was so beautiful about him taking a Sabbath – or at least this is what I have gleaned and incorporated into my life.
Dad had limits. He also had restraint. And he modeled faith in God’s provision.
If he had worked 7 days a week, he could have managed more acres. He would have bought more land. He then would have needed more equipment. Then he would have needed more acres to pay for the extra equipment he bought to work the extra land. See where this cycle is headed?
Instead, he had just enough land that he could work responsibly in 6 days a week. And that is where restraint served him so well.
I remember driving home from church on Sundays and nervously watching him watch the roadside fields more than the road. When he saw our neighbor out in the field planting corn, I know that I at times heard panic in his voice. “What if it rains before tomorrow, and I don’t get the corn in?”
But, he never caved. He never took the tractor to the field. And guess what? He always got his corn planted. He always got his crops harvested too. Guess what else grew besides his crops? His faith. And that has rippled down to me.
I think that there is a necessary correlation between noticing and resting. I know that during my season of being too busy, I rarely could notice anything. The main way that I know if I am calibrated right these days is if I have the capacity to notice God’s whisper through creation. I also know that if I can’t do all that I am doing in 6 days, I am doing too much.
Thank you Dad for showing me how that is done. I can only pray that I continue that as well as you have.