Spring has finally sprung and at the Brandsma farm we are more than happy to say good-bye to what felt like a very long winter.

Winter was rough this year. We had numerous windstorms that wreaked havoc on our farm. There were power outages and downed trees. The tin was torn off the front of our barn and the huge barn doors that for years have withstood countless blustery days were almost ripped from their hinges as the wind gusts tore across our little prairie. I was battered and bruised, coming close to breaking an arm in the process of saving those doors, for my strength was insignificant against the power of that wind.

And when it wasn’t wind, it was ice-cold temperatures. We may not have had -50 C like my family in Winnipeg had, but for BC, combined with the windchill, our homes and buildings are simply not designed to handle prolonged winter temperatures like we had. The frozen water lines and burst pipes in both the chicken and cow barns made a long winter feel like an eternity.

Winter has its beauty and I fully enjoy a hot cup of tea by the fire, looking out on a bright white world.

But this year, it wore me down.

Life can feel a lot like that too. Some seasons wear you down and you wonder when you’ll see spring again.

The Beauty and the Exhaustion

The stage of life we are in has so much beauty. I watch my boys growing each day and it’s exciting to see them learning new things, developing skills and uncovering truths about themselves and the world.

Aiden is obsessed with volleyball and given his height and determination, he has had much success in the past year and it’s a joy to see him blossom. Owen and Levi each spent time in school mastering the provinces and capitals and it’s fun to see the light come on when someone mentions a place and they look up in surprise and say, “Hey, I know where that is!” The world is opening up to them and their brains are absorbing information at an incredible rate.

But as much as this stage of life is something to celebrate, it’s also a challenging one.

When you add up the demands of having jobs, paying a mortgage, keeping on top of all the school responsibilities for the younger boys, letting them explore their gifts and talents through extra things like volleyball and guitar, and then keeping them all fed and clothed and happy and healthy…it amounts to one monumental task.

Add to that learning how to parent teenagers who constantly waffle between needing you as much as they ever have and pushing for independence…it’s downright exhausting at times. As we navigate the teenage world of activities, limits, freedoms, social media, independence, friends, confusing emotions, we feel like we can barely keep our wits about us. Steve and I have looked at each other at times and despaired over how we will ever manage to do this five times over.

Eager Little Helpers

On Saturday, Steve does his weekly chores in the bull barn and he requires the help of a hired hand and one or two of his sons. What began as Caleb’s job has transitioned to Drew and Aiden.

Saturday morning, Steve looked around. The neighbour boy was in Mexico, Drew was working at his mechanic job down the road and Aiden was MIA due to a sleepover the night before. All he saw were two eager little faces that looked up at him and said, “We’ll help you, Dad!” It wasn’t the muscle he was accustomed to for shoveling manure and their short stature and inexperience undoubtedly meant they wouldn’t be behind the wheel of the tractor. But what they lacked in experience, they more than made up for in enthusiasm.

Two hours later, the three of them came traipsing back in from the barn. They were sweaty, stinky, dirty and loud. But they were grinning from ear to ear, chatting a mile a minute, and each trying to outdo the other with their stories.

I happily ignored the instant mess they made of my kitchen as they prepared themselves a snack fit for a working man. Steve leaned over toward me as the two boys chatted over their hot chocolate and jokingly said,I think I was meant to parent up to the age of 11.”

Those two little boys may not have had muscle or experience, but they had enthusiasm, good attitude, great conversation, and willingness aplenty.

Our teenagers are a blessing to us, but the uncomplicated, simple pleasures and problems of our little guys are a welcome change to the harder, more complicated, wisdom requiring parenting of teens that keeps us awake in the nights. When Levi cuts his finger and needs a Band-Aid, his tears wiped and a snuggle from mom, I feel like Supermom.

But teenage problems rarely leave me feeling like Supermom and instead I lay awake super confused, praying and hoping for wisdom and advice to help my boys navigate this complicated season of their lives.

Open Arms and Renewed Optimism

Life can overwhelm us when the winter seems long. And to make matters worse, we assume we are the only ones who are limping our way through. But thankfully just as winter is a season, so is each stage of life. Some I’d like to hold onto for longer than others, but each has its joys and hardships.

We get that reminder when we Facetime Caleb who is now 20 and in college. He is thriving, contented and has moved well past the moodiness of the teenage years. His life is not uncomplicated and perfect, but he has moved into a new stage and with each new stage comes renewal and hope. And as a parent, it’s a good reminder to me that this too shall pass.

Spring is here. And it’s all the more sweet and life giving because of the hard winter we just experienced. The daffodils are blooming. The sunshine on my face makes me feel younger, healthier, and happier. The sheep are lambing and as they frolic in the field, you can’t help but laugh at their joy and exuberance.

I welcome this new season with open arms and renewed optimism and when I look back at winter, I plan to smile at the beautiful memories and trust God’s faithfulness through the moments I’m more than ready to leave behind.