Springtime on the farm. It should give us visions of tulips blooming and blowing in the breeze, fresh air, clothes drying on the line, children playing in the yard and tractors humming in fields in the distance as they work ground and plant the crop.
What it often does show us is ankle-deep mud, a mud room that suggests people might want to wipe their feet before they go outside, four-legged mothers and babies in the barn that need our attention, ferociously-stinky barn clothes, and the sound of metal-on-metal pounding and profanities coming from the machine shed as equipment is readied for spring planting.
We begin to see things we haven't seen in a long time - sunlight past 5 p.m., temperatures that begin without a "minus" sign, babies in the barns, insulated coveralls hanging on basement hooks instead of on people, and pickup trucks parked in groups in front of the shop as farmers gather to collaborate and compare stories.
Farmers have many business partners. A dream is taken to the banker, who can single-handedly determine if the farmer should proceed with it or put together a resume.
Once the dream is approved by the money gods, then there are many others to place on the team every year, including seed and chemical sales people, agronomists, equipment/implement dealers, repair shops and tire shops, auto parts stores, steel salespeople, livestock sales people, livestock sale barn managers, veterinarians, building companies, fuel delivery people, feed supply dealers and, of course, the tax preparer, who can help you remember that he/she didn't make any money this year.
But even with all the people it takes to help a farmer do what he/she does every year, there is one partner who goes almost unnoticed by most. That partner is as important as the dream is, yet He is content to remain a silent partner - providing the most basic necessities a farmer needs to give back from the earth.
A farmer can only do "so much" to grow a crop. But if the rains never came and there was no soil in which to plant a crop and no sunshine to make plants grow, the farmer's hands would be tied.
I am reminded of the story of an arrogant man who once argued with God, saying he could do anything God could do. God asked him if he could make a tree, and the man responded that he could indeed make a tree. So he took a seed and scooped up some dirt, when God stopped him and said, "Wait a minute. Make your own dirt."
This spring we had a couple of urban youth come out to our farm to bottle-feed some lambs. What they experienced was new life - a baby lamb being born - with no edits.
Their hands covered their eyes now and then as they watched, and comments of, "Ouch," and "that must hurt," along with their saucer-like eyes were all it took to remember that new life - even out in the barn - is always miraculous, no matter how old you are, and no matter how many times you've seen it.
God uses farmers, only about 1 percent of His people, to do His work on earth. God made the whole world dependent upon that 1 percent of the population to give them all they need to live - food, fuel and fiber.
The farmer is one who works directly with God to make a living each year. He has to.
In that comparatively smaller way, a farmer understands the pressures God faces. The world depends on the farmer to sustain life, and they depend on God for the same thing.
To plant a seed is to have hope. And to harvest it is, well, nothing short of a miracle.