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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Farmer's Take on Adversity

by Casey Peterson (bio)

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker

Saturday mornings in the fall are a bittersweet mix of beauty and busy. The weather is crisp and clear, the colors of fall foliage are breathtaking, a sense of urgency to prepare for winter is in the air, and the excitement of upcoming holidays is electric. But in contrast, sports seasons are overlapping, end of term school assignments are pouring in, and honey-do lists swell with left over summer projects that are compounded by fall and winter preparation tasks. I appreciate President Uchtdorf's insights from his talk Saints for All Seasons when he said:
"We have seasons in our lives as well. Some are warm and pleasant. Others are not. Some of the days in our lives are as beautiful as pictures in a calendar. And yet there are days and circumstances that cause heartache and may bring into our lives deep feelings of despair, resentment, and bitterness. I am sure at one time or another we have all thought it would be nice to take up residence in a land filled only with days of picture-perfect seasons and avoid the unpleasant times in between."
I had looked forward to my Saturday morning all week. My younger son had his first basketball game, I had cattle to move at my farm, fences to build, leaves to rake, garden and fruit tree harvests to complete, and a ward service project to roof a house. On top of that, I had purchased a new buck sheep to improve our herd that I needed to pick up, and I carefully planned the day. However, as perfect planning often happens, it started to unravel even before I started my day.

Thursday night was the football rivalry game, the last home game of the season, and senior night. My son had a gutsy performance at quarterback, making some great runs and throws, occasionally getting sacked on others, and missing a few other passes. It was a great game, but not a perfect game for anyone involved on either team. With less than two minutes left he drove his team down the field, down by one touchdown. With about 13 seconds left, he eluded the rush and threw to the end zone, only to have a leaping safety intercept the pass to end the game. I watched him trudge off the field along with disheartened teammates. I watched the receivers coach get in his face screaming at him, leave, then come back and continue the berating and blaming. As the seniors were recognized, another parent came up to me and told me to go hug my son, and to be proud of him. I went out on the field, found him, and tried to be strong as my big, muscular, fully-padded, 6'4 son cried on my shoulder. Later, when he came home, I watched him peel blood soaked clothing off of numerous wounds, and put ice on bruised and swollen body parts. I tried to focus on his effort, not the outcome. But I realized Saturday would be less about perfect planning, and more about parenting and people.

Saturday we got up early, and I checked one task after another off my list. The brotherhood of roofing together as a ward brotherhood seemed to pick up our spirits, and then some old-fashioned sweat and work further lifted us. My son called his teammates, and went to throw while I went to pick up the buck sheep, something I thought would be a perfect ending for the day. I had researched pedigrees, explored temperament and disposition, and financially saved and then negotiated the sale. Many people get an emotional charge from shopping, but buying livestock is one of my personal favorites. Finally, I felt that healing and happiness would be in my grasp.

I returned home, unloaded the sheep, and had all my kids come out to see what I hoped their future 4-H lambs would look like. They fed him apples and admired how gentle he was as I turned him out in my pasture. The other buck came up to inspect, and I carefully kept them from acclimation fighting. As things seemed to settle down, I started to go help my daughter gather eggs, only to see the bucks back up and butt heads. My new prized buck immediately dropped over, began twitching, and died. I, along with my whole family, were stunned. I couldn't believe that my planning and purchase lay dead in my field. Ten minutes after proudly unloading him, I was hoisting him back on my truck to haul away with a horrible feeling of failure, pain, disappointment, and numbness. It seemed like one thing after another just kept coming down, and I wondered why.

The next day at church I shared the pain with my friend Mike, a fellow farmer in my ward. There is a special understanding from speaking with a farmer, and they generally have an experience even worse that helps put things in perspective. Though I know Mike has dealt with worse things, he didn't bring them up. He instead told me that "At those times when I hit rock bottom, I see the real miracles happen and always come out better." That wisdom and perspective helped set me right. I realized I had been categorically listing things that went wrong; the furnace going out, the game, hurtful comments from others, unfortunate agricultural experiences, etc. As the list built, so did my self pity, which then decreased my faith.

President Uchtdorf also spoke in the same talk about this perspective on adversity.
"As I look over my own life, it is apparent that many of the times of greatest growth have come to me while passing through stormy seasons. Our all-wise Heavenly Father knew that for His children to grow into the beings they were designed to become, they would need to experience seasons of adversity during their sojourn in mortality. The question is not whether we will experience seasons of adversity but how we will weather the storms. Our great opportunity during the ever-changing seasons of life is to hold fast to the faithful word of God, for His counsel is designed not only to help us weather the storms of life but also to guide us past them. It is an important part of our life’s experience to develop the strength, courage, and integrity to hold fast to truth and righteousness despite the buffeting we may experience."
I am glad to be surrounded by people of strength, character, and integrity who embrace and appreciate the buffeting experiences and life. From Mike the farmer, to my young son Chad, to church leaders like President Uchtdorf, I have examples to learn from to do better in appreciating adversity. As I work to prepare for the physical seasons change, I also realize how much work I need to do to prepare for change in the seasons of life.

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