I had one of those great long talks with an old friend the other day. The kind that realigns you; where you bear your worst fears, relive sadness, reassess decisions made, and shed tears. It is so important to have someone you can bear your soul to and who would never give you cause to regret that you did.
Time changes things and that is inevitable. On the farm it is certainly true. I've chronicled the various animals arriving and the joys they brought. We still have joy, but we have had to live with some difficult losses. Annabell was never able to conceive and so we could not keep her. One philosophy about working farms that is difficult for non-farm folk to understand is that if an animal, or crop, or aspect, does not work in the plan, then oftentimes that part needs to be changed. Annabell was given to a very nice family. A cow named Sugar was sadly given away as well. Betsy was sold. Who would guess that I would develop a severe allergy to cow dander. I tried everything. It was very hard to give up the dream, but I started the process.
And then one February morning I walked into the pasture and Flossy (Betsy's daughter I hadn't sold yet) had dropped a beautiful calf. We were so surprised; we did not know that at 9 months, Flossy had been bred when our neighbor's Gelbvieh bull kept hopping the fence. I'd figured Betsy was sold pregnant, but never dreamed that little Flossy was with-calf. We named him Friday for the day he was born and the dream that Marie recently had about a calf. Flossy produced delicious Jersey milk and I tried milking again. We were blessed with new tenants who wanted to milk, plus a slew of other friends who wanted to, and things worked well.
We even bought another cow, with great plans in mind. May was a beautiful Jersey/Red Angus cross. She had a gorgeous brindle coat and she was bred. Not too long after, she dropped a bull calf and we named him Norman. All was well, but then a really tragic event occurred. One night a pack of feral dogs attacked and killed all six of Marie's sweet Nubian goats. We had hand raised most of them. Marie was away at college and for that I was thankful; the sight was one I won't forget. Over the next few weeks an anxiety came over me that was not easily shaken off. It was a long process of trying to make all of the other animals (the small ones) safe. My cow allergy worsened. I didn't sleep well.
A month later we found May lying still in the pasture. She had died suddenly of bloat. We had a vet come out and run tests; it was a freak occurrence. I wondered what God was trying to tell us, to tell me. The stress became too much and we sold the rest of the cows--Norman to our neighbor and my dear Flossy and her Friday to a wonderful homeschooling/farmsteading family. We also let go of one pony to the same family. In retrospect it was a dream which was not meant to last. That is what I spoke to my friend about, in sadness.
Like the best of friends she listened, and she told me she was so sad for me. Then she said something that maybe I wasn't prepared to hear earlier, but could now. She said what a blessing there was even in the sadness. It was obvious to think she referred to the people who were gifted with our animals, and even that Marie was not home to see what happened to her precious goats. That was not all she meant. What she said that resonated deeply was, "There are so many people who will never do the things you have done, who will want to but have no farm or no means to have pets. But you always wanted horses and cows and goats and more. And for a brief time, you got to live that life of milking cows and raising goats. Maybe you will again, maybe you won't. But you did."
She went on to tell me something we'd talked about before: "Life is full of so many puzzle pieces. We may never see them all put together, but our Lord does. He sees all the stages, all the beauty, the tragedy, and even His finished picture. We can trust that the pieces are placed before us by Him, that we can pick them up and turn them around and stare intently before placing them. Some we can move around. Some need to be put aside for another time." She made it sound so comforting, so deep and wise and true. Life would always involve change, and it would not always be easy, but we could trust the true builder of the puzzle, and we could be thankful for the pieces, even aspects of the difficult ones. Love, thankfulness and trust were the keys to working the puzzle.
Driving home one day, pulling into our lane I saw the Robins return. Always a moment of joy in those first days, I remembered when my Mom was alive and the game she played with our landlord, Mrs. Mayo. Who would see the first Robin return after the long winter. I smiled and thought of Mom. My heart ached with missing her, a tear fell down my cheek but was replaced by a smile. What memories! I realized that some of the puzzle pieces would stay exactly where they were for the rest of my life, not to be picked up again. I might not see the finished picture, but much of what had been laid down and interlocked carefully--or even hastily or even forced--was there to stay. And that was okay. It continues to be built. A beautiful and unique picture in the journey of a life.