Thursday, July 6, 2017

-Dash on a Headstone-

What is success? Define it for you personally. 

The Milkman and I have had this discussion. Our criteria doesn't always match, but what ISN'T usually does. Success is not lots of $$. It's not having the fanciest clothes, the most expensive cars, or the biggest house on the dirt road. (If you drive down my dirt road you'd understand why...folks are building biggo mansions.) Success is a far deeper, more emotional thing than material items for others to admire. 
Most farmers see success differently than the average Joe. Good weather is a success. A plentiful harvest, a high milk tank average are successes. And for us moms, sometimes making sure everyone is fed, mostly bathed, and still breathing is the biggest success a day may hold.   
We all have a desire to make our loved ones proud. This is a piece of the success puzzle for most folks. We want our tribe to notice that we have put our heart and soul into being the best at whatever we are. It's human nature and if that's what drives you, then get after it Miss Daisy. For some, the desire to make someone proud comes from deprivation. There are people out there who just want someone to tell them they love them, or tell them that they are proud of them. There are daughters that never felt quite good enough, sons that never quite met that unattainable expectation, and students that couldn't achieve enough to get the "I'm proud of you" they were searching for. Sometimes this spills over into adulthood and that person is still trying to define success by words from someone they care about. That, my friends, getting kind words from an unkind person, does not define success. 
I've made a lot of generational farming friends over the years. Most of these farmers are proud to tell you that they are second, third, fourth, or fifth generation on their farm. Success to them is not as simple as leaving a legacy to their children, it's much more. Success is taking immeasurable pride in those who have come before them. It is taking a gift that was handmade with blood, sweat, tears, & many prayers, and bearing the burdens and expectations that come with it, while doing their best to preserve it. 
These farmers are proud to take what was created before them and keep on keeping on. I am a firsthand witness to a farmer that would, on some days, like to stop the roller coaster that is farming and get off. There are years where you're stalled out on the upside down part of the loopty-loop, your hat fell off, and your change is raining down on the folks below. Those years are easy to think of giving it up, but you hold on tight and wait it out. Eventually the ride moves again, but you're left with nausea and a head rush. In those times the definition of success is elusive, but you hold onto the idea of the legacy you're carrying and you move forward.
In my years of meeting these farmers, and of being married to one, I've heard a lot of hurtful things. I've been told how its 2017 and we don't need animal ag, seen and felt threats. I've seen campaigns to end my livelihood, and had friends donate to causes that would like nothing more than to put me out of business. (Until I educated them, of course.) So much in the general public is hurtful and sad, but the thing that generational farmers face that is much more gut wrenching than all that ugliness, is when people seem to think everything was handed to them. That all the work they've put in counted for nothing. That "entitlement" landed them where they are. 
I'll bite. There are some situations where that is true. Sometimes farmers (and other occupations) are created out of necessity. Some people don't want to inherit a legacy, but they get it anyway. You know how to tell the people that are honored to carry on a legacy from the ones who spitefully carry it like they're driving a dead wagon? The difference is in the heart. It's in the work. It's in the passion. The difference is how they define success.
I am a lucky girl. I have parents that were never afraid to tell me how proud they were of me. They still do. I always knew that their definition of success had nothing to do with a bank account or possessions. The legacy my dad took on was one of evangelical flavor and the one he gave to me, is made of passion, fire, and Jesus. I'm proud of it, y'all. I love the gift I was given and it wasn't made of money or material. 
The Milkman had the calling to not make his own legacy, but to carry one built by his father and men before him. All he wanted to do from the time he could make that decision, was to hold onto the gift, wrapped in those prayers, blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice. He wanted to purchase his ticket and ride out the farming roller coaster. He wanted to be entrusted with something built by his family and honor them. The Milkman works hard, he plays hard, and he puts everything into making his people proud. I, for one, couldn't be prouder. 
If you need some inspiration defining success, check out Ecclesiastes 2. Solomon had it all. He had houses, riches, servants, singers, pools, flocks, herds, vineyards. He was smart and a higher status than everyone around him. It was his reward for all his labor. But in verse 17 he says, "Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” Solomon possessed the success defined by a dictionary and society, but he still did not find happiness. He knew the secret, that the earthly successes weren't success at all.

The Milkman and I want to leave our girls every chance we can. We want them to have what they desire because they put the work in. We want to give them an education and all that we've learned in our years. The legacy we want them continue isn't tied to a piece of land, but in behaviors and beliefs. Success is to see our farm flourish, our faith strengthen, and The Milkmaids to know how much we love them and how proud we are of them. We want them to have work ethic and compassion and be productive members of society. We want them to know The Lord. A successful life for us is to allow The Milkmaids every chance we were given, but we want them to define success by their own terms. 
My personal idea of success is leaving a legacy of passion, fire, and Jesus. It is laid out in kindness, love, and boundaries. It is learning to grow where you're planted, being happy and content IN my circumstances and not because of them. Success is in carrying on when it seems like everything and everyone is against you. It's knowing that I can do ALL things, not because of myself, but in Christ. Most of all, it is in leaving the best pieces of me to the people I love. 
My successes and failures will be nothing but a dash on a headstone, but the legacy I give my children is one that I hope they can be proud of. 

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