I live on a family farm. Though we sold the family dairy herd a few years ago, my diary-farmer husband keeps a dairy goat on our little stead. When he’s gone, I often find myself counselor by day and dairy maid by night. This makes for a new brand of psychology – Barnyard Therapy.
A couple of years ago my husband and older children were on a mission trip, leaving me and my ten and twelve year old boys home alone holding down the fort with our menagerie of animals, including two milking goats, Stella and Chocolate. Each day my feet hit the ground running, milking the teats of these barnyard divas, catching chickens meandering to the wrong pens, then rinsing off and hitting the psychotherapy trail. All in a day’s work at Life Beyond the Picket Fence.
At the end of each day that week, I found something therapeutic about milking goats after doing home-based therapy with families in foster care. The warm body of the animals and the simplicity and dependability of getting a gallon of milk from the time and care of animals brought perspective to a lot of heavy things on my heart. By the end of the week, these were some things I processed with Dr. Stella and Chocolate.
- There is confidence in doing the unthinkable and uncomfortable. Milking goats and grabbing chickens is honestly not my idea of a good time, nor something I wake up with a passion to do. I’d rather sleep in and have coffee than have my ear next to the stomach of an animal that belches. But after getting in a routine and knowing it’s not a big deal, it’s kind of empowering to know you’ve mastered something you thought would be rather challenging.
- Women do a lot for others. Having fewer people to take care of and be responsible for that week, the thought crossed my mind how much women physically and emotionally do for others. The load was a little lighter that week, and I don’t feel guilty in saying it.
- People need hope and encouragement, both in words and in deeds. The more I work with hurting people, I marvel at the power of encouragement and hope. They’re two gifts that don’t cost much, but they’re often the last thing given. Why is that? Is it because we judge others, imposing qualifications they have to meet before we give it out? Are we afraid to seem sappy or unrealistic to impart these life-giving words? Yalom, a noted psychologist, cites “installation of hope” as one of the key approaches in successful therapy. But God thought of it first, declaring hope and encouragement as foundation to our livelihood, of our faith in Him, our source of hope.
For everything was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the scriptures we have hope.” Ro 15:4
May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Spirit.” Ro 15:13
But hope that is seen is not hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what do not already have, we wait patiently.” Ro 8:24-25
Faith is being what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
For those who believe in the hope of Christ, hope comes in knowing Him, His word, His character and which is real, yet unseen. But for people whose faith is crippled by discouraging circumstances or people, installation of hope and encouragement from others is crucial. Encouragement doesn’t mean guaranteeing a situation will turn out perfect. It’s giving hope in what a person can control – their actions, attitudes, and decisions. Sometimes, hope is simply saying, “You can do this, it’s going to be okay.”
As a dairymaid milker that week, processing these thoughts came full circle as I understood what I received. My husband was worried about me and the young-in’s not being able to handle the tasks of being a barnyard manager. I was insecure, too, because what I needed to hear was a confident “I know you can do this” before he left. By the end of that week, I gained confidence when I realized I could do this. I was empowered, feeling like Superwoman with coveralls on.
I’ve seen similar joy on peoples’s faces who begin taking steps out of discouraging and desolate situations, gaining confidence that they can control certain outcome in their life. I’ve seen how empowering encouragement can be in gaining confidence and hope.
Encouragement is powerful. The power of words to encourage or destroy is always up for grabs. When we grab words of encouragement, we impart tangible hope, trusting God to do good works where we’ve been faithful to encourage.
Lord, will you be our hope and encouragement? For those who feel hard pressed on every side, whisper words to their soul they need to hear today. For those who want us to encourage, place words on our lips to give to them, for your honor and glory. Nothing else. You are our hope and glory. Let your Holy Spirit be the power of life in our words and actions today.
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