Oh, the do-over. The “I should've done that differently.”. The “Whoops, that wasn't quite right.”. The “Dang, that's not the way I should've handled that.”. The “What was I thinking!”.
You know what I'm talking about.
Because you're human. And humans require do-overs.
I like to think of where we were when we first start this blog over a decade ago. I was so sure that I had it all figured out then. I'd throw a “fancy” new pillow on the couch, stick a chicken in the oven for supper, water my house plants and think – Well, hey hey. This homemaking thing isn't so hard. I got this – I'm goooood.
I'd mouth off about [insert anything here] because I was so sure that I had it all figured out. I was an adult now. Mature now. Experienced now.
Oh ye of folly.
The last decade of clawing my way through motherhood, marriage, building a farm, moving a farm, building another farm, homeschooling, and homemaking has graciously gifted me with more knowledge and wisdom then I even though I needed (after all, I had it figured out). Simultaneously, those same happenings have often kicked me to the back of the line as if to say: Do-over. Nice try.
One step forward. One step back. Two steps forward. Another step back. Three steps forward. Another step back.
You learn something new, just in time to need a do-over on something else. Rinse and repeat for the rest of your days. It's one school year, one garden, one meal, one load of laundry, one correction, one conversation at a time. Rinse and repeat for the rest of your days.
But, dear reader, don't let that be a discouragement. Progress is just stupidly slow.
Yes, I said stupidly.
For the mother: Oh how do I even begin the do-over of this? By God's grace, they're still my children and they're absolutely beautiful. We are potty trained, buckling ourselves, and have moved onto a new stage of life. Now, we spend our time redirecting hearts, putting out sibling squabbles, and “building character”. I was once encouraged by an elderly woman I love to not expect my children to be anything other than what they are. I can't expect the 5 year old to be a 10 year old or the 10 year old to be a 15 year old. I simply must take them one day a time, sometimes one second at a time, and savor, sweat, and enjoy what is. Stuart and I continually sit back – astounded – that we are even old enough (mature enough?) to have four growing children. Georgia was 2 weeks old when I started this blog. She's now 11. And even on my do-over days (I had one yesterday… wow… it was a doozy), they seem to love me. And God help me, do I ever love them.
For the farmer: My farm do-overs are many. Go figure. I fear that Stuart usually bares the brunt of my bad homesteading decisions as he cares for the animals and our land. We've tried and done it all – failing at most of it at least a few times. The latest do-over was a 10-hour car trip to pick up a new ram for our flock (after losing Hamish to old age last Autumn). The ram came back, lived at peace with our flock for a few months, before promptly keeling over on us. He required a mercy kill and that felt like anything but merciful to us who had invested so much time and effort and money into bringing him to the farm. The new sire of our flock didn't even last until breeding season for – what appeared to us and the vet – no reason at all. Or there was the time I made Stuart go and pick up Guinea fowl on a very busy day, only to have them magically disappear out of the coop that first day, never to be seen again. Or the time we lost fifty frozen chickens from a broken freezer. Or had the cow die from ketosis. Or the time an owl killed thirty-five meat birds in one night, just one week before they were to be harvested. Or the time we had to move the herd of sheep in the biggest snow storm our area had seen in over a century. Or the time the pigs got out and ransacked the neighbors apple trees.
Shall I go on? I don't think I shall.
For the wife: My saint of a husband is far more than I deserve. Those who know Stuart – who is very quiet, reserved, and desires nothing less in life than to be featured or talked about on this blog- know that he a wise man. He is settled in his soul. He's gentle, but full of a hunger for life. There have been so many stupid arguments over the years in which I held unrealistic expectations or failed to communicate – assuming instead that he could magically read my mind and fulfill all my desires and needs while simultaneously tending to my ever changing emotions. (Sure – sounds totally realistic.) God has been merciful to us and over the 12 years we've been married, we have learned to talk less, listen more, speak clearly and calmly, and hold each other accountable. We've grown gentler with one another. As with all relationships, there are many “do-overs” where I wish I wouldn't have said that… done that. The progress of a deep rooted relationship is much like the growth of a tree. It's slow. Moment by moment, day by day.
Sometimes my do-overs haunt me at night.
The stupid thing I said to a friend in the 8th grade.
The times I dishonored my parents as a teenager.
The Cliff Notes I read instead of The Iliad for English class (sorry, Mrs. Simmons).
The time I yelled.
The tantrum I threw.
The laziness I gave into.
The careless thoughts I entertained.
Here's the bad news, my friends. There aren't do-overs. And isn't it a pity. A reset button would certainly be helpful for a brief moment. Yet as I age, I've realized that wisdom often comes from being stupid. Maturity comes from being embarrassed by an immature action. Laziness is often cured by costly consequences. Careless words remain unspoken after one sees their ability to harm another.
Could it be? Do our do-overs actually shape us into the people we'd hope to become?
It's been observed long before this blog post, by minds much smarter than my own, that we learn more through our failures than our victories. For me, as all things listed above, that is most certainly true.
And while I wish there was a humanly way to spare myself the grief of my stupid actions, to simply be angry at their existence would be a shame. I will certainly never be the exact wife, mother, or [insert anything here] that I hope I would be – and yet, there is wisdom and growth through the do-overs. The moments that teach us, shape us, direct us.
While there aren't do-overs, there is forgiveness. Knowledge. Wisdom. The revealing of what is good, true, beautiful, and eternal.
So take heart, my dear friend. The Lord holds you, in all your imperfection.