This is a special guest blog post by Dr. Wendy’s niece, Haylee. Harvest time will soon be here and Haylee has some insightful thoughts to share with those who are married to a farmer (or any of us who are married). Haylee Spronk is a daughter of the King, created by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and renewed by the Holy Spirit. She currently lives on a farm in rural Minnesota with her farmer, 2 sons, a daughter, pigs, and a couple cats. Haylee grew up in a “loosely” defined family with 2 brothers, 3 sisters, and lots of foster siblings. Her foster siblings inspired her to pursue her bachelor’s in social work and eventually a degree in clinical social work from St. Thomas/St. Catherine’s University. She has worked with the elderly population in nursing homes and hospice and loves the stories of the geriatric population. She has also spent time working with those who struggle with mental illness and trauma. She enjoys baking family recipes, being average at triathlons, a good cup of coffee, weird foods, and spending time in deep conversations with those she loves.
“You know I’m going to be gone a lot.”
I nod my head emphatically as I gaze into his perfect blue eyes and admire his flawless smile. In my lovesick state I think, “I’d do anything for you!” I mean c’mon, spring planting and harvest can’t be that bad, right? I can ride with my farmer in the combine into the wee hours of twilight. I’ll bring him hot meals just so I can see his cute butt climb up the steps to the tractor. It will just be sublime and somewhat romantic! Seriously though, I have always been a very independent woman…
Fast forward 5 years and now we are married, have 2 kids, and I am holding a full-time job. Harvest is fast approaching, and I am already having anxiety about the the next couple months. It means lonely evenings, fights over the phone, parenting by myself, planning lunches for my farmer (bologna sandwiches anyone?), and trying to emotionally hold it together whenever someone asks me how I am doing. It is hard to make choices by myself such as “Do I take the baby in to the doctor?”, “How do I balance a checkbook?”, and “What bills are due again?” I start to become very angry and bitter in my heart for him “leaving” me for months on end (Yes, a bit dramatic since he was home every Sunday). Something had to give soon…I just can not imagine doing this for the next 50 years.
We’ve now been married 11 years, have 3 beautiful children, and I no longer hold a full-time job. I still do not look forward to spring planting or fall harvest but God has worked a miracle in our marriage to help us become stronger in Him. So if you are where I was a short 6 years ago here are a few lessons God has taught me from 11 harvests and 10 spring plantings.
- Check your expectations at the door. Unchecked and unrealistic expectations can damage a marriage no matter how long you have been married. The media, our friends, and our family of origin create certain images and portrayals of what a husband and father look like. For example, my dad worked very regular hours with some on-call hours. I felt as though I had commandments in my head for my farmer such as, “Thou shalt not work longer than 6 pm and thou shalt have every holiday and weekend off.” And “Thou shalt take out the trash and be really handy in the house.” Even though my farmer had attempted to warn me about the long hours, I still pictured him home at 6pm fixing up our house all cute! I had to realize God has called husbands to different occupations with unique talents which require varying work hours. I could not find my commandments anywhere in the Bible!
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col. 3:17
- Understand each other’s love language. Reading The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman was a game changer in our marriage. It helped us understand how to make our spouse feel “loved.” When we were time-crunched, we could meet each other’s love language in a very specific way. For example, my farmer was willing to engage in deliberate time and conversation with me, and I could give him a back rub or even just a back scratch instead of wasting time on things that did not make our spouse feel loved. It takes sacrifice, at times, to be willing to meet your spouse’s needs above your own for the sake of your marriage. I will tell you it is well worth it though!
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” Rom. 12:10
- Assume the good about your spouse. Of all the things on this list, this is still the most challenging concept for me. It means a deliberate choice to assume the best in my farmer’s intentions instead of the worst. For example, I would assume my farmer was really enjoying the time away from us. I would assume my farmer was angry or upset with me during short conversations we would have. I never really asked him if my assumptions were correct. What would happen if instead I would assume he really really missed our family? What if I would assume he was having a bad day during our conversation instead of thinking he is angry at me? For example, “It feels like to me your upset, but I am wondering if that is correct?” It would be and is a game changer for my attitude.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Cor. 13:7
- Talk about expectations and frustrations as they come. Early in our marriage, I wanted to keep the peace even at the expense of bitterness growing in my heart. It was helpful for me to tell my farmer about the struggles I was having at home. The tricky part of sharing was doing it in a calm and non-confrontational way (This takes practice and I have not yet perfected it). It also means allowing space for him to share how much he missed us and missed being a part of the family. It was equally hard for him to not be there for the kids’ programs, good conversations, and homework. It also means asking clarifying questions and really listening to the answer. So often I would guess at the meaning of things he said instead of asking what he meant. When we both practiced non-judgmental listening, experiences could be shared, and we could walk away both feeling heard (even for a 5 minute conversation).
“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,” Ephesians 4:26
“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” Ps. 141:2
- Find a spring planting/harvest support system. During harvest, I lose two very important pieces of my support system…my farmer and my mother-in-law. My mother-in-law is a very calm and grounding presence in my life. My farmer creates the fun and light heartedness in the house. I miss them both dearly during harvest! God has provided a different support system during harvest. I have a girlfriend whose husband works crazy hours and we can call each other at night to talk about how we are surviving. I join a Bible study during fall which happens while my kids are at school (daycare provided). It also may include paying for daycare a day a week so sanity can be maintained. I try to be very aware of what my needs are and keep a regular routine during harvest. Do not be afraid to seek out people who are willing to share your burden.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2
- Find the joy and lesson in this season. One of the greatest gifts God has given me through harvest is an appreciation of my farmer’s presence in our family. When he is gone, some of the joy is missing in our household. It makes that joy much sweeter when you have missed your farmer. I’ve learned to do things I would not have otherwise learned to do such as run the lawnmower, do the farm books, pay bills, rely on others for support, allow myself to be vulnerable with other people, and learn to rely more fully on God’s presence. I have also learned the importance of having regular time with God in the mornings so the rest of the day flows from my relationship with Him.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zeph 3:17
Even though these 10 plantings and 11 harvests have been difficult to navigate, I would not change my farmer’s occupation! Ultimately, God has changed my heart through these seasons of trials. I really think Paul says it best:
Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Haylee and her farmer ❤🚜
Stay Calm and Have a Safe Harvest!
Profs Dr. Wendy. & Dr. V.