We were sitting on a beach in Cozumel when I got the devastating news. It may not have been devastating to everyone, but it really crushed me. I was sitting and visiting with Danny and a friend of ours when I asked a question about my sweet jersey milk-cow, Magnolia, and Danny had to tell me.
“She died the night before we left to take this trip, Calley. I didn’t want to keep it from you but I didn’t want to tell you right before we left either. I’m so sorry.”
Miss Magnolia; my sweet and loyal old milk cow. The one who I walked out to the barn to greet early in the mornings back in some years of much less responsibility. I’d wake up before the sun, have my treasured Jesus time, go for a walk or run, and then go get my milking pail and take her into the barn. I’d finish milking right before Danny had to leave for the office. Rain or shine, I’d sit on a white gallon bucket and sing, and think about my day. Never once did she try to kick me. She was the tamest and most gentle cow we’d tried to milk. We became so close at one point that she’d follow me all the way to the fence rubbing her nose against my back, almost asking me to stay a little longer. She was truly my gal.
I couldn’t believe she had abruptly passed. But it’s funny how time is. You don’t even realize so many years are passing and then one day you sit back and do the math and realize that way more time has elapsed than you thought possible. Magnolia was a two year old cow we bought when Amaus was a newborn. We bought her from Magnolia, MS, which is why I called her Magnolia or Maggie. Amaus is now nearly ten years old.
Buying Maggie was a huge deal for us. Danny and I often laugh about the jokes people crack regarding being broke and making ends meet. We laugh and tell each other, “Until you’ve lived on about $23,000-$25,000 a year with a few children…you don’t know broke.” But we never lacked for anything in that season of our lives. Nothing. We lived on a strict budget and grew lots of vegetables. We saved money diligently and were still able to take our kids to see some really cool things on vacation (while camping and eating sandwiches.) We never felt deprived of anything.
That season in our lives was the dawning of so many big changes and buying Maggie was a $1,000 investment we were downright proud of; maybe one of the biggest investments we’d made with our own hard-earned money. I remember us handing the dollars over to the old cattle farmer and feeling so accomplished. We were buying our own jersey cow. How stinking cool.
Those were the simple days of our marriage and early family-life. The days when responsibility meant homeschooling every day, planning the meals right, and being faithful to give and serve. The days weren’t crowded. Most days looked a lot alike. They swung in and out through the seasons like a tireless pendulum and were always predictable.
Briefly after the purchase of Magnolia, God began to beckon us outside of that comfortable routine. He began to open our eyes to the broken in our world in a lot of ways we had never even considered, or at least considered that we could remedy at all. A couple of years passed and He asked us to bring a little girl home from the Amazon who desperately needed a family, and love and care. We had another baby. Then God beckoned us again to exchange our comforts for His call…and we returned to Peru to bring home two older kids. This was something that would have scared the living daylights out of us if it would have been asked of us back on that day when we visited a cattle farm in Magnolia, Mississippi. Then, yet again, God asked us to bring home another daughter- this time from China, who had a different set of needs.
Slowly at first, and then rather rapidly, the pendulum swinging on the grandfather clock of our lives became far less predictable. Today, one of our days scarcely looks the same as the next. One season brings a load of new surprises and unexpected situations that we have grown to embrace with the knowledge that the sustaining grace to walk through, whatever it is, will always be far more prevalent than the trial.
Yesterday, Danny had to tear down the dilapidated school house that is the symbol of my early motherhood. He built it with pride. I painted it red. It had the coolest repurposed, vintage shop doors. My grandparents came over and helped me sheetrock the inside. Every day of the school year Josiah and Isaac and I (and pretty soon Amaus) diligently went out to the school house where I taught them how to read. We did fun science experiments and had such an amazing, focused time of reading some of the most incredible stories together. Years later and unbeknownst to us, there was an old septic system at one corner of the schoolhouse that caved when there was a large amount of rain and for several years now (that have been full of other responsibilities) the school house has fallen into a state of disrepair.
When it had to come down yesterday, while I was glad to see something done with the crumbling structure…I had to take a deep breath. That sweet, simple life is certainly gone for good. It can’t be resurrected. And with Miss Magnolia, it’s but a faint memory that is not even a close semblance to what we now live. It’s been set aside for the new.
While I can idolize and long for the simplicity we once lived in, the old has to pass away for the new to come. We could’ve kept our relatively small family. We could’ve kept our picket fence simplicity. We could still be getting full nights of sleep, waking far before the sun and focusing all of our energy on natural living, exercise, milking cows and homeschooling. But frankly, we would’ve missed out on a life that is far grander.
Redemption always costs the laying down of some other things. It always costs the death of some things. And redemption is always, always worth it. I cannot imagine what we would do without any one of the treasures God has entrusted to us! Oh, what we would’ve missed out on!
The days of my greatest concern being meal planning, are far behind me. We have more quick-fix meals than ever before in our lives! I now work from home and still homeschool some of our children, but with much different methods. There’s no telling what each one of our days will end up looking like. But I’ll tell you what, there is expansion we couldn’t imagine back in our simple life, blossoming and growing in every area. We have more space, we have more resources, we see dreams and visions unfolding…and we have joy.
I’ll always hold the simple days close to my heart. They were the days I learned patience, and faithfulness and obedience- things I’ll never master but I continue to learn. But they remind me that times will always be shifting as I yield my future to the hands of the Potter. If I’ll allow Him to form the path, the harvest will keep coming with increasing yield- but I’ll have to keep letting go and allowing him to change me along the way. And that’s ok. What He has ahead is always much greater than anything I ever find myself sitting on presently.
The Old has to Die, So the New Can Come.