After a very quiet weekend away from social media I thought I’d share some thoughts about work, dreams, and joy. Sometimes in motherhood and life we can work, work, work and it doesn’t seem to match the dream we once had. It’s still incredibly valued and noble. Be blessed today. ~Rachel
My grandfather was a farmer.
I remember him so well – his face, worn from the sun, freckled, and raw having had peels to remove the skin cancer that his never wearing sunscreen face endured. He was this tall man, with a laugh that filled my soul – a man that knew the value of work with hands rough with callouses but arms always willing to give a hug. As a child I remember sleeping in the front porch of his old white farmhouse, with the screen door that slammed, while the neighbor men worked through the night harvesting. I remember my grandpa leading me through the barns, showing me the stalls for the cows, helping me pet their soft faces, letting me help doing the simplest of chores, and all the time him smiling proud behind me. He’d go to bed late and rise early and I rarely ever heard him complain about life.
He’d wake before the sun on Saturday mornings and would sit and watch cartoons – Bugs Bunny – with me on an old tube tv with a crackly signal and rabbit ears on top.I loved him, that man taken from the world by the vicious beast called pancreatic cancer, the man who loved his family, loved his life, and always worked hard.
He valued work.
I never once heard him talk about how farming was his dream. In fact, I don’t know if it ever was his dream, but farming provided food for his children, for my mother, and as he always told me – it keeps the wolves from the door. In fact, before I got married he even asked my husband to be what he did to keep the wolves from his door. He didn’t ask him what his dreams were, or where he thought he’d get a bunch of fulfillment in life – he asked him a question that basically was about survival and keeping food on the table for a family.
My grandfather lived during the depression. Money was tight, tighter than I could probably ever imagine, and yet he kept on working. And at the end of his life, while he whittled away from cancer, he never complained to any of us about not following his dreams. He was content to work. To live life. To give back. To celebrate family. He was thankful, joyful, for the work that he was blessed to have been able to complete.
I think about the many people in this world, the dad working two jobs and the moms working the late shift and the moms working day after day for their kids and the people doing those jobs that often don’t get that much acknowledgement and I wonder if we celebrate and value that keep the wolves from the door work ethic. My grandfather would think it was a noble thing, really, to work that hard for one’s family. And yet, sometimes I think there are these presuppositions now about work that we’ve truly really made it when we’re working doing something that not only provides incredibly well but is also something that is our passion, our love, our dream.
Do we celebrate the mom who gave up the job that she loved to stay home with her kids? Do we celebrate the dad working at a job that he really hates but he needs to make sure that the money keeps coming in so the wolves stay away? Do we celebrate the value in just simply working?
Sometimes I can see where the scales have covered my eyes. I can see how I’ve judged and how I’ve pushed this idea of chasing the dreams and that having dreams and work intersect perfectly is the pinnacle of earthly success. And yet, sometimes, often times, life is just truly about working very very hard and not receiving much glory. In less than a month I am going to travel to Haiti to help with the rebuilding efforts. I cannot imagine, and I might be very wrong here and if I am I will gladly share it with you, but I cannot imagine sitting in a room with mothers and fathers and grandparents and children who are working hard to simply provide hearing them lament that the job they have isn’t their dream. It’s work. It puts food on the table.
We live in a world, in a country and culture, where sometimes there is this extra space, this pressure, to make sure that whatever we are doing fulfills this greater deeper desire of our hearts. I love that, really. I’m a dream big, go for the gold, shoot for the moon, kind of gal. I get the value, the deep need to live a life that matches our gifts and dreams. But, I’ve also lived a reality where those dreams had to be put on the shelf, where they had to be let go of so that food could come on the table, in those times years ago while my husband underwent cancer treatment and the jobs and dreams flittered away and life was left with humbling work. I found myself making excuses, apologizing, trying to make it all seem like more.
There has to be a balance between embracing work and pursuing dreams and defining a good life.
I want to teach my children the value in work. I also want to teach them to pursue their dreams, to live boldly, and to develop their passions – yes, absolutely. But again, I also truly want them to know that I respect the individual who sucks in pride and works to keep the wolves away from the door doing a job that wasn’t ever on the radar. The thing is – real life happens and it can knock even those with the best plans, noblest intentions, and dreams into spots working at jobs that they never imagined. That doesn’t define them. Is the the gift in simply having work celebrated? In fact, I look at my grandfather, the man who tended and fought the earth for his entire life and I see a man who lived well. He was a man who didn’t complain about work, in fact, he looked at his work as a blessing. A gift. A means to put food on his family’s table.
Work. Dreams. I feel like it can get jumbled together in today’s world. Do I want my children to live a life that is the meshing of all of their amazing talents and makes them money and is their dream? Ideally, and absolutely yes. But, I also want them to be able to live a life and to still find joy, to be like my grandfather – grateful for the ability, freedom, and gift of work.
Sigh. I miss my grandfather terribly. He was the one that called me the city girl – just like in Laura Ingall’s books – because I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis. I know to this day he was thankful for work. There are so many many many people out there, right now, working to do exactly what grandpa worried about – keep the wolves from the door. They have children at home, mortgages or rent to pay, and food to provide. So they give. Of themselves, their time, and their talents. Maybe it was never the dream, but it is a noble thing.
Does joy like my grandfather had come from living the dream life or in being content in the life one was blessed to live?
I don’t know, honestly. It’s like the chicken and the egg question, really. However, there was this deep contentment, this deep joy that resonated from my grandfather. He lived a good life – he worked the land, fought for his family, and died rich – not fiscally, but with memories and those that loved him surrounding his bedside. I wish I could have asked him what his dreams were when he was young and I could have chatted with him about life and dreams and work.
Life is interesting. My grandfather found joy in the simplest things.
I think he had it right.
Carry on today, brave mother.
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If you’re following the Brave Art of Motherhood Visual Journey . . . The days of counting change to buy groceries and meeting the gas man at the door . . .
“And yet, sometimes, often times, life is just truly about working very very hard and not receiving much glory.”
My Dad worked hard his entire life — coal mine, steel mill, factory — to put food on the table for our family. And some dinners were very lean: 1 can of tuna fish and 6 mouths to feed. Like your grandfather, my Dad never complained. On his time off, he’d work at our home. And then he’d sit in his favorite lawn chair and watch the world go by. He never talked of dreams and desires. He was a quiet man who believed that you did the best with what you were given. His faith was strong. Right to the end. I miss him every day. He was my anchor.
Love this post – beautiful.
This one resonates pretty deeply with me.
My grandmother, whom I also lost to pancreatic cancer, taught me the very same lesson. She taught me that to be happy, to be successful, sometimes the only job we have is to make lemonade from the lemons life sends our way. I think that was her optimistic way of saying we keep the wolves from the door.
I think of her in all my actions. She spent her life caring for my grandfather, who woke up paralyzed one day. There was no warning, no illness… He just stopped working from the waist down. And she gave up everything to care for him, and for my mother and aunt.
I now live in the projects with my disabled husband and five year old daughter, and I spend my time keeping the wolves from the door. And thanks to my Oma, I try to do it with grace, and with a smile. I wonder at times whether I found this life because, due to her example, that’s what my mind was programmed to need from life. It’s another chicken before the egg kind of thing.
Regardless, there is grace in this life, and I strive to model that for my daughter. She absorbs it like a sponge, and she just shines with it.
Good post today. Thank you, graceful mother.
Your grandfather was truly an amazing man, as was your grandma! I, too, was blessed to call them my own. You were always “the ones in the cities,” it was funny to see that comment! the boys and I were fortunate to be a part of their world for much of our youth. They taught us so much and we had no idea. I only wish I’d have been older when they passed. I wish I would’ve had more time to realize how valuable their lessons were.
Your grandfather is a great inspiration! Taking out a mortgage can be a tedious experience for other people, but that will depend on how they manage their funds and budget. Nowadays, getting a fixed mortgage will be of great help for future homeowners and families who are deciding to have their own cozy home. Being a farmer didn’t limit your grandpa to live a better life. If he could do it, so can you and other people. 😀
i truly love your raw honesty. what a thought provoking piece. lovely. thank you.
Thank you for this beautiful, compelling post. I gather peace in reading your encouraging words; your stories are blessings to me. Thank you for sharing a piece of your grandfather and his wisdom along with the insights you’ve gathered from remembering him and his gentle ways. I gave up a career to stay home with my first daughter (who came to us by foster care and whom we adopted 2 years later). Her special needs are my full-time job now as are the care and raising of my other two miraculous children. My husband works hard and doesn’t complain at all. I know he does it all for us even if his days are spent doing something less fulfilling, far from his dream. For this, we are blessed. Thank you for the gentle reminder that I need to thank him for all that he does to keep this family afloat!
Lovely post. A great reminder of the real things. Sometimes I think we are all too easily caught up in chasing our own indulgent desires. Our granddads didn’t have that luxury but still found joy in their lives.
Thank you for your honesty, spirituality, strength and encouragement as I walk and race and slip and plod down this road of motherhood.
Thank you, I needed this today when I felt like lamenting about lack of sleep because of working from home 30 hours a week. Okay, maybe 5 of those hours are spend browsing Facebook. It’s so hard, at the same time I realize how ‘easy’ I have it. Bone tired, but I don’t have to work the land, and I set my own hours – sort of. I can only work when the kids sleep really. I need to suck it up and I am truly thankful I can have the best of both worlds – raise our children and add to our income.
Trying to find words for what’s in my head but they’re not coming.
Know that I’m still here praying!
Psalms 59:16-17 But I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defence and refuge in the day of my trouble. Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defence, and the God of my mercy.
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Wow…my dear husband has been a welder for 30 years and faithfully working to keep the wolves at bay. I don’t think I ever asked him what his dreams were/are…it’s just been enough to provide for us. He is retiring soon and I have to seek full time employment…really I wanted the dream job…but I need to be grateful to find a job. We still have small children at home so it will be an important transition.
This is such an amazing post. I think hard work helps us achieve our dreams.
Wow. That resonated with me and took me back to my childhood…the porch at the white farmhouse, my grandpa’s calloused hands that hold mine when he would polka with me standing on his feet,, him taking me to meet the new baby calf in the stall in the barn…him dying of stomach cancer when I was in 6th grade. That strong man who was not tall in stature but was a giant to me. Up late and up early. What a wonderful post. I got his alarm clock after he died. The clock that is the symbol of a life not wasted. Time well spent. Working. Loving. Teaching.
Know that the Lord is always with you, wrapping His loving arms around you and holding on tight! Praying right now!
Psalms 18:2-6 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
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It’s interesting. This post describes my parents and I somewhat. They did the work so that I could live my dreams. They worked jobs to keep bills paid, to provide a good life for me and all that they’ve done has given me the ability to pursue my dreams. It’s not a gift I take lightly.
Glad you were able to go on your impromptu (took me way too many tries to spell that word) trip and that you’re safely back home again!
Psalms 18:30-32 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
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What a thought provoking post (which I found through Mandi’s weekend reading list.) I think a lot of people’s grandparents were like your grandfather ~ they worked the jobs they could that kept the wolves at bay but didn’t attach their self worth to them. My grandparents worked hard in furniture factories, however it was just one part of what they did & who they were. They were also loyal members of their church, expert biscuit makers, sewers of summer dresses, evening gardeners (that also kept those wolves at bay.) I’m sure they would have liked to work less hard at time but they kept doing what they needed to make ends meet & they weren’t judged for doing that.
I don’t know when things shifted so that we all have to work glorious jobs (if we work outside the house) but have been known to want to take Oprah to task for putting even more pressure on us. 😀 As if making a living isn’t hard enough we have her & people in her industry encouraging us ever second to go for the glory in everything we do. Sometimes, though, I think its just as important to root for the person with their nose to the grindstone, quietly doing what they can to keep those wolves quiet.
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