Homesteading from Rest
Homesteading and farming come with a long, labor intensive to-do list. Even with two adults
and two responsible, capable teenagers there is never a point when we can call ourselves done and sit back and watch the farm work for us. In many ways, it is the exact opposite of the modern push for passive income earning online.
Knowing this going in five years ago, I had a long list of criteria. Things that I thought we would require in order to succeed. In fact, I had resigned myself to the fact that this would always be a part time gig. I felt the draw to go deeper, but it just felt like that to-do list was always going to be more than our physical capabilities.
And it is, so what changed that allowed us to dig in full time regardless?
Years ago, I came across a little book by Sarah Makenzie (Read Aloud Revival) called Teaching from Rest. It transformed the way I homeschool from a place of peace rather than anxiety about daily lessons and achievements. The concept of teaching from rest helped me focus on what we could and did do, rather than what I wish we had finished but hadn’t. The beauty was in the faithful practice of the process, not the final result.
For me, this practice of daily surrender started as a homeschool discipline. Then I came across a myriad of spiritual books that promoted the same thing. Practice of the Presence of God (Brother Lawrence), Searching for & Maintaining Peace (Fr. Jacques Phillipe), Sacrament of the Present Moment and Abandonment to Divine Providence (Jean-Pierre de Caussade), and many more.
I started thinking about how that mindset affected other aspects of my life. Did it apply to housekeeping and parenting and farm life? This spring, Tim left his job teaching and began farming with us full time. I like to say he used to be a full time professor and part time farmer and now he is a full time farmer and part time professor (he is still consulting remotely). Let me be honest, I went into this with a long to-do list. All the things we were going to finally be able to focus on and finish. I was ready to do, do, do. At this point it is probably obvious to all of you reading this that I am a slow learner.
The same time Tim began farming full time with us, our daughter‘s brain started going a little crazy. She has a rare form of epilepsy and it periodically goes from stable and sporadic seizures to intense and daily. Instead of farming, he was medical parenting. Meanwhile, I was in my third trimester, preparing for my sixth C-section. Not exactly a pillar of getting things checked off the to-do list. The harder I tried, the worse it got. I was starting to think we really stunk at farming and perhaps made a huge mistake.
And then God reminded me of that little practice of teaching from rest. I started making my daily prayer, “God if you want something specific finished today, put it in front of me. Loudly if necessary. I will let you take care of the rest.”
I still have a long list of things to do, but I am learning (every single day) to be at peace with what we can do and trust that it is what God has allowed.
And it works.
Last week we had a bit of an apparent disaster when our back up care for Lucie and my chore help came down with COVID at the same time Tim and our teenagers were heading to camp for a week. I would be home alone with full responsibility for the farm, a two month old, a special needs child, plus a 5 & 6 year old. Discouragement was high. I had no idea how we were going to do this. Admittedly, I was starting to panic. (So was Tim.) After a slew of frantic Sunday night texts and a few Monday morning phone calls, Tim and the kids headed off to camp without knowing how we would get it done. I held on (desperately and frantically) to that daily prayer. After lunch I heard from one friend, and then another. One chore at a time, every single bit of help I needed was provided.
During the chore periods without extra help, Lucie (9) learned to milk (she’s really good at it!) and Tomas (6) was a great help with all of our chicken chores. Aaron (2 months) was content to nap in the arms of one of Kylee’s friend who came and stayed the entire four days. Sometimes when I was on my own, I didn’t quite finish every job on the list. Yet I never ended up alone for two consecutive milking and chore times.
It could have gone very differently, and I’ve asked myself if I could have maintained the same level of rest without the help that God provided through our family and friends. I think the answer is yes, and this is why. With each friend who came to help, the thing I heard again and again is “I don’t feel like I did very much.” Yet somehow, their not very much was exactly enough. The little bits here and there added up to what needed to be done. That held true when I was working alone and when I had help.
Each day of faithfully offering what I had and surrendering the rest to God turned all those little bits into exactly what was needed. It is homesteading from a place of rest* instead of from the never ending to-do list. In retrospect, it is the simplicity we have been striving for all along...and success looking completely different than I imagined it would.
*Just to be clear, homesteading from rest doesn’t mean we weren’t exhausted! Aaron slept and nursed almost the entire day after everyone was finally home. I was perfectly happy to curl up and join him!