How the Sheep Farmer and his Wife transformed my way of thinking: A birthday remembrance
Well, it’s birthday time again. I don’t know the physics behind how the years went by so slowly in between birthdays when I was little and how they whizz by so fast now. Surely there is an explanation!
I’ve thought so many thoughts in the last few weeks, looking back, reassessing, wondering what great wisdom I might be able to share with people, given my advancing age! HA! I’m sorry to say, I have no great wisdom and if I did I would not only share, I would shout it from rooftops.
But I am just a normal person living a normal life. I don’t have huge insights that will change your life, only know that they have changed mine and you will, no doubt, have your own insights that will affect YOUR life.
So I want to share a simple story with you that taught me some big lessons and see if it will resonate for you too. It illustrates that sometimes what we perceive and what is really happening are two different things. To demonstrate that there really is Divine Timing. And to perhaps bring hope to any of you who might be feeling as if everything has been lost to you.
24 years ago we had the opportunity to take our 3 sons to New Zealand for a two-week adventure that to all of us is still one of our very favorite vacation memories. Having sons, we always planned our vacations around their interests and thus we had lots of outdoor adventures that would help exhaust their very intense energy!
New Zealand was no different and if you have ever been there you will know there are hundreds of outdoor things to do there and it is uniquely suited to teenage boys.
One of the best things we did was stay overnight at a sheep farm. We were there in June, the middle of winter for New Zealand. I will spare you the details of the treacherous trip to their farm, about 25 miles off the nearest paved, “almost” two land road. When I say it was in the middle of nowhere, believe me, it was. Their nearest neighbor was a sweet little family with two precious girls who were being home schooled, the only way to educate children that far from a town, much less a road. They helped us call for help when our car slid off the ice into a ditch, but that is another story.
We finally made it to this farm and spent a very cold night cozily nestled beside their huge stone fireplace, enjoying great conversation, the most delicious farm meal (still the standard for all meals for our boys) and the best Scotch ever.
To cut to the chase, it turns out this was a second marriage for the sheep farmer. He had had a wife and family when WWII broke out and he joined up as a pilot. He ended up in the Mediterranean area, fighting in Italy. On one of his last missions, which happened to be on a cold, very foggy night, he and his crew were being directed by a voice from the air field who was following them by radar. They flew out of the fog only to see a huge mountain in front of them into which they crashed. Turns out the radar specialist had misread the map AND the radar.
The farmer was the sole survivor and awoke only to find that he couldn’t move and that a man with a gun was standing over him and arguing with other men who circled him. This was the real Italian mafia and they had come up to take what they could from the wreckage never expecting that there might be a survivor.
But there he was, against all odds, and they argued loudly and extensively over whether or not they should kill him. In the end, they made a litter and carefully lowered his body down the mountainside to safety.
The farmer spent the next year in a British hospital being patched back together. On his return home, he discovered his wife had left with an itinerant sheep shearer leaving him alone with his children.
At this nadir, he could not imagine how he could ever put his life back together. A near invalid, he realized he had to finish raising his kids, run his farm, which by the way is 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and 365 days a year unless it is leap year in which he gets an additional day of work thrown in.
Can you imagine what that must have been like? Broken body, broken spirit, broken heart?
With an admirable toughness, he pulled himself together somehow, hired a nanny to help with the kids and to teach them (remember, this is where home schooling is the ONLY option). The woman he hired was energetic, young and attractive. Yes, you know where the story is going.
At one point she quit this job as she realized she had fallen in love with her boss and that it was not appropriate nor comfortable for her. It was when she had left that he realized he had fallen for HER, so he went after her, brought her back and married her. At the point we arrived, they had been married for 25 years. Which, by the way, was the occasion for the ONLY weekend they had taken away from the farm in those 25 years. Can you imagine?
Well, here’s the rest of the story. The farmer’s wife was very social and yearned to travel. Living so far from other people and never standing a chance to travel, she got creative and solved her own problem. She decided to create a B&B there in the middle of nowhere enticing tourists to come and stay, to observe what a sheep station is like, and to experience what living on a farm is like in this magical country.
Is that not so amazing? Here she was, isolated, unable to pursue her passion of meeting people and traveling and she came up with this brilliant solution. ON a wall in her kitchen was a huge map and on that map were hundreds of push-pins put there by those who had come to stay at the sheep farm. From China, S. America, N. America, Europe, Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, Latin America, the Carribean Islands, Russia, Africa…..there was not a country not represented. She got to travel everywhere….EVERYWHERE by staying at home and inviting the world to come visit HER.
The point of this long story is that sometimes what we see is no way out. Sometimes we are in a very dark spot where there seems to be no bright light. Sometimes we believe our world is over and there is no reason to continue. But it is during those times that we break open and the light begins to enter. It is at those times when we are at our lowest that we get burnished into a glowing ember and then we begin to expand our narrow thoughts and world and pretty soon we find our life has shifted into something we never dreamed could come from that dark, hopeless place.
If you have read this far, God bless you! I know this is a long story but truly, it has such a good message doesn’t it. I learned from the farmer and his wife and their individual and together stories that when it is the most hopeless that we find the spark that will ignite the biggest miracle if we but allow it. There is always hope. Even if we can’t see it or feel it.
I know this to be true from my own very normal life. And I am so thankful for this truth, and for the experiences I have had that have led me to it. I hope that on this birthday weekend you will read this and find hope for yourself if that is what you need, or reassurance that the goodness happening for you is because you opened to it at a very dark hour.
Sending you all joy and wonder, hope and love ……