Wiechmann: Christmas Gifts
There’s always something to be thankful for.
Sometimes this statement seems trite, but I find, in the darkest moments, that centering myself on what I am truly grateful for brings the returning of light.
I’m not talking about ‘Pollyanna’ style attempts to gloss over garbage. I’m talking about gratitude.
The darkest day of the year, the Winter Solstice, was last Wednesday, and it was also one of the coldest, nastiest days that brought one of the fiercest storms I can remember. Maybe I’m not old enough. Maybe my memory is short. But it’s not very common for us to have twenty below zero temperatures combined with a fifty mile per hour wind, sixty-something below windchill, and horrific blizzard conditions.
It’s pretty hard to dress warmly enough for weather like this. It’s hard to mentally prepare to deal with caring for livestock through this kind of storm. It’s hard to put out enough feed, or really feel that you have enough protection. And when a winter weather advisory suddenly switched to a blizzard warning, and I was two counties away feeding the stock at my mom’s, it was not possible to get back home.
If we’re ever tempted to think we have the world by the tail and everything going our way, nature has ways of reminding us how very helpless we are in the face of her fury.
I’m not the first rancher to pace the floor of a warm house, powerless to do anything further outside. It’s not the first time I’ve lost livestock to a blizzard, and, unless I make a career change, it probably won’t be the last time. It certainly won’t be the last time that I feel that horrible sense that I am not enough. That I haven’t done enough. Prepared enough. Had enough foresight. Worked hard enough or fast enough or long enough.
Saturday, Christmas Eve, the roads were finally safe to drive home. I arrived just in time to help gather up some of the cattle that had drifted away with the wind. I was close to tears as I walked along the gravel road behind them, seeing their bloody, swollen, hairless ears, watching their tired steps, smelling the sickly smell, so close to the smell of death, that wafted from their bodies, mentally tallying the losses.
My mind wanted to go back, to put them in a different pasture, to undo the ‘not enough’ of what happened before the storm. That, of course, is not possible. But what is possible is the right now. Each encouraging step I took behind them, getting them closer to water and feed and their own pasture. The neighbor, leading them with a bale in his tractor bucket. My family and several neighbors working together to get our cattle off the roads, out of the corners of the pastures where they had drifted. The neighbors who had tucked groups of our cattle in with theirs for the time being. For today, it is enough. And I found myself incredibly thankful.
It was nip and tuck to get to church after we got the cows back to their proper spot. No, I did not have time to change my jeans. Yes, we arrived late.
“It doesn’t feel like Christmas,” my girls said.
It certainly did not. And again, my thoughts spun into ‘not enough’ –I hadn’t done enough baking, enough decorating or cleaning, prepared or purchased enough gifts, and with yet more weather coming, I wouldn’t be able to travel to be with family on Christmas Day as planned.
As I drove to town, I remembered the story of some other folks who spent their lives caring for livestock, long, long ago.
“And there were in the same country, shepherds…”
What would it have been, to have angels appear on that icy gravel road where I walked behind the cows?
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David A SAVIOR, who is Christ the Lord.”
The miracle of Christmas is that the gift of God’s love in Jesus did come that day in Bethlehem, and does come to us, ever constant, over and over again. Daily. Hourly. Moment by moment. In our need, in our helplessness, in our darkness, in our ‘not enough.’ And HE is enough. For each day, for each storm. His eye is on the sparrow, His eye is on His children, and His eye is on the cows.
“Thanks be to God, for His indescribable gift.”