Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

If you look at the lower right hand corner of this photo, you will see the tractor that has been methodically traversing this barren field across from our home for 5 days. We wake daily to the sound of it’s engine early in the morning, and observe the cloud of dust surrounding it’s implement, breaking up the earth’s crust in it’s wake until quitting time.

What has me stumped, is the need for so many trips across, back and forth, side to side, diagonally, back and forth, over and over?

Well I looked it up on and after sifting through pages of instructions on farming, I learned about “harrowing” which, after plowing, breaks the ground into dime-sized pieces that will allow the tiny seeds to push up their tender shoots unimpeded, simultaneously allowing water to evenly soak into the earth. Harrowing takes numerous treks across the field in order to refine the soil.

So why am I suddenly interested in this familiar activity now, after watching this same scenario for almost 14 years?

Well, for the first time in these 14 years, that large field across from me has lain fallow for awhile. The routine was interrupted. Instead of the plowing, harrowing, rowing and planting of cilantro or parsley, cabbage or bok-choy, we have had weeds and dirt out our front windows, with the accompanying invasion of more dust than usual inside our home. Usually, the first thing I see through my windows when I walk out of my upstairs bedroom is the lush plants that seem to pop up over night after the tractors do their work. No such loveliness for months!

This brings me to the point of my post. When I am engaged in my Fourth-step inventory (part of ongoing 12-step recovery work) I experience it as a breaking up of fallow ground. The methodical plowing up, turning over and harrowing work of inventory can take a miserably long time, each time. When I work this step thoroughly, I often ask myself the same question – “why is it necessary to go over all this ground again and again?” To be rigorously honest, it is sometimes a tiresome process. Each time, however, I am reminded of a precious Bible promise in Hosea 10:12, “Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the LORD Until He comes to rain righteousness on you.” I dare not let the ground lay fallow for too long.

Recovery is not about rehashing the past to blame, justify my actions or defend myself. It is about seeking God and allowing the seeds of His righteousness to have a soft and fertile field in which to grow and bear the fruit of His Spirit in me so that others may taste and see that the Lord is good.

It takes many passes over the fallow ground of my heart in order to accomplish the rich environment for a good harvest, especially if I have let the ground of my heart harden. But I can trust my Heavenly Gardener to break up the fallow ground enough to finish the work He has begun in me.

I have learned over the last 20 years of recovery that this breaking is always painful, always longer than I anticipate but always for my good. (Romans 8:28)


Retirement Options

I’m thinking that I might be in a good place to evaluate the last three years of “retirement”. I put the quotation marks around the word because the context of retirement is so variable. Many look forward to traveling, having more time for a hobby they enjoy, or volunteering for worthy causes. I considered all of these as I neared the final work-day.

I always thought of retirement in terms of what I observed growing up in a lower-middle class white family in Southern California. My Grandfather worked for a large manufacturing contractor for over 40 years and retired with a nice pension. My Grandmother raised two kids with a violent alcoholic. In those days, domestic violence was never mentioned…neither was physical and sexual abuse of children.

Upon retirement, they bought a small mobile home in Orange County in the late 50’s. Grandma spent her time cooking, sewing, gossiping with the neighbors and looking after her Grandchildren when called upon. My Grandfather quit drinking, had a beautiful garden, smoked a lot, and listened to the Dodger games on the radio. Mostly I remember the silence between them.

As I was growing up, we went to Sunday dinner at their house after church. I loved my Grandmother, avoided my Grandfather for good reason, and rarely visited them after I left home at 18. I rarely visited my parents either, until my daughter was born.

My Dad retired early due to advancing Multiple Sclerosis. He had worked at a large Aircraft company for 30 years, and his union provided for him abundantly. My mother worked periodically, but her mental illness prevented her from enjoying any career opportunities. She was a compulsive cleaner, with a debilitating germ phobia. She was one of the first to be prescribed a new wonder drug called Prozac. They also purchased a mobile home, after retirement – first in Orange County and then in Hemet, CA. They became very involved in their church and traveled as often as my Dad’s illness permitted. They had great friends and a lot of fun. When my sister and I started our families, they enjoyed the kids whenever we visited. My mother was especially close to my daughter and indulged her much more than the other grandchildren.

Out of the blue, my mother took her life. My dad was beside himself with anger and grief. He met a retired Army nurse and married her not two years after Mom’s death. She took great care of him, and they spent most of their time watching TV and going to doctor appointments.

Well I certainly did not picture myself in a mobile home watching TV all day, nor did I have travel destinations in mind for my retirement years. I did not want to emulate any part of my family of origin. I did not, expect that I would be a full-time caregiver for three of my grandbabies!
I actually have the best “retirement” job ever. I still have a significant ministry in my church, and the wonderful opportunity for what I often refer to as a “do-over”. I’m having a blast actually, and very much enjoying this season if my life. I feel blessed to be part of influencing the next generation, while enjoying the fruit of my own parenting.

My kids will probably never know or experience a “pension”. They certainly are not counting on Social Security. Statistically, they are the first generation in American History whose standard of living will not be better than their parents, nor will they live as long! I’m sad for that. Hopefully I can leave them enough to help out with college expenses and a bit of a nest-egg for their retirement years. They are sure providing me with a rich retirement of my own.