Monday, June 1, 2009

Picking Rocks

Saturday afternoon we “picked rocks”. If you’re not a farmer you probably don’t have the slightest clue what I’m referring to. Well, to be honest with you, before moving to Iowa I had NEVER, EVER heard of such a thing myself. It seemed like such a strange phenomenon to me. I grew up in a small town in Indiana. I knew farmers and there were a lot of farms around, but I had never heard of rock picking. That’s probably because rock picking isn’t necessary in Indiana. It IS necessary here in Iowa!
In order to pick rocks we have to take a tractor with a wagon pulled behind it out into a freshly planted field (before the crop is tall enough that it would get damaged). In this case, I drove the tractor with my two year old son sitting next to me. My husband and father-in-law walked along each side of the tractor looking for rocks that needed to be picked up.

The winter frost and tilling of the ground (preparing the ground for planting) cause rocks that lie beneath the surface of the field to rise to the top. Every year this happens. There are fields that my father-in-law has “rock picked” every year for the past 35 years. The rocks have to be picked up before the crops can be harvested so that they don’t damage the machinery that we use. Farm machinery isn’t cheap, you know?!

Soooo…rock picking isn’t exactly a favorite chore. It’s hard work. It's dirty. It’s tedious. It’s time consuming.

I drove the tractor for 3 ½ hours yesterday (with my little guy along) while the men picked up rocks ranging in size from the size of a man’s fist to larger ones that had to be dug up with a shovel and that one guy could not carry alone. We also picked rocks on Monday and are going back out to do it again this evening.

Here are the rocks we picked on Saturday…

along with my two gorgeous guys! :)

Stick with me here…this farm lesson has a purpose…

As I drove the tractor on Saturday (and last Monday as well) it was interesting to me how sometimes we would be traveling along quite well; speeding right through the field (if you can EVER call 2 to 3 mph speeding…*giggle*). There were places where it was rather smooth. There may be a rock here or there, but they were smaller ones. They didn’t slow us down much.
There were times when we could see a big rock coming up ahead. We knew it was coming and were kind of prepared for it.

However, there were many more times when we’d be cruising along (once again I use the word cruising lightly) when, out of no where it seemed, we would find ourselves suddenly upon a very rocky path. We had no choice, but to slow down. In fact, many times we had to stop completely. “WHOA!” my husband would shout. Time to get out the shovel. Time to put those back and arm muscles to work.

I can’t help but notice the similarity between rock picking and this journey we call life.

How many times have you been sailing right along when all of a sudden, out of no where it seems, you’ve found yourselves upon one of those rocky paths in life? You find yourself saying, “WHOA! Where did this come from? How’d I get here? What do I do now?”

I’ve heard it said that there are three kind of people in the world. Those who have just come out of the valley. Those are in the valley. Those who are going into the valley. Replace the word valley with rocky path and you get the idea.

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve been there. I have gone through some dark times in my life. I’ve struggled with issues like my parents‘ divorce, church division, broken relationships, financial issues, a life changing fire, postpartum depression, a miscarriage…just to name a few. Even now I’m struggling with neck and back pain. I saw some of these things coming. Others came out of no where!

Read Matthew 7:24-25, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and obeys me is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse, because it is built on rock."

God doesn’t promise us that there won’t be hard times. The floods still come…the water still rises…the valley still nears…the rocky path still appears. We live in a fallen, imperfect world. The difference is in how we handle the tough times. What do we have our “house” built upon? Where do we go? What do we do?

If we have our house built upon the solid rock, Jesus Christ, we will not collapse.

II Samuel 22:2 & 3 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the strength of my salvation, and my stronghold, my high tower, my savior, the one who saves me from violence.” No matter what situation we find ourselves in, nothing is impossible for Him!

I love the entire chapter of II Samuel 22, David’s song of praise. In verse 7 it says, “But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I called to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears.”

Then, in verses 17-20, 29 it says, “He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He delivered me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest, but the LORD upheld me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.
O LORD, you are my light; yes, LORD, you light up my darkness.”

There was distress. There was deep water. There were enemies who attacked. There was weakness. There was darkness.

BUT GOD heard. He reached down. He rescued. He delivered. He upheld. He gave strength. He lit up the darkness.

What do we do?
We hold on to hope:
“Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”
Hebrews 10:23
We hold onto faith:
“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.” Hebrews 11:1
We don’t give up! We go to the LORD. We remember His faithfulness. We cling to His promises. We praise Him…even when we don’t feel like it. This is hard, I know…especially when depression hits. Yet, this is still so necessary because what we feel and what is true are so contrary to one another (I’ll post more about this later).

Praise God, the rocky path doesn’t last forever! Sometimes we have to slow down and put our spiritual muscles to work. It's dirty. It’s not very fun, but it’s necessary. Then, before we know it, we’re shifting gears and moving onto smoother ground.

If you’re going through a tough time, be encouraged! If you’re house is built upon the rock, not only are you safe; God hears your prayers.

If there’s something I can pray about with you, I’d feel privileged to do so.


  1. Rachel,
    Wow, this was so good, and so what I needed to hear right now...
    You said,
    "We don’t give up! We go to the LORD. We remember His faithfulness. We cling to His promises. We praise Him…even when we don’t feel like it. This is hard, I know…especially when depression hits"

    You are so right. This Sunday at church I praised Him, though I didn't feel like it. I feel like the depression is trying to take hold of me again. I know it has when I have no desire to sit at the computer... when I have no desire to write, cause that is one of my loves.
    This past weekend was a hard struggle, and I feel broken on the rocks of the fight... that rocky field is very, very much like what my hubby remembers doing as a kid... picking rocks. No way around it in central WI. But back to the point. I have been going along good... had a great get together with a good friend this past week, started coming off my anti-depressant.. (wonder if that's what triggered the depression, going back on it to see if that makes a difference) but still finding God hitting me through a couple of books, touching my heart, exposing raw places, digging up more rocks... mostly with a shovel (not especially pain free)!!!

    Please pray that I would be willing to yield to God's digging and realize the only reason he is peeling back the layers I have put down over my heart, is to heal me and help me live more fully for him.

    Thank God he hears my prayers! there have been a lot said this weekend, out loud, and in the quiet of my heart... some of them not even realized, cause i haven't had the words. I have had a hard time, because I am trying to have more solitude, and silence, resting in His presence, and it is extremely hard to still my mind enough not to be distracted... so that would be another prayer request!

    And... thank you so much for praying for my friend Cindy. I spoke with her briefly today, and she said she will be down in Tennessee until her nephew is well enough to get by without his mother all day. He is home now, so its a matter of how long it will take him to recover.

    God bless, and thank you so much for your insights! :)

  2. Rachel, I love this analogy. Thanks!

  3. Heather and Kathy,
    Thank you for your comments. It's so encouraging for me to hear that someone's actually reading and getting something out of these blog posts. :) I pray that God uses His Word to speak to your heart.
    Here's a verse that I want to share with you specifically, Heather. Your comment brought it to mind immediately. It's one of my favorites!
    "And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don't even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words."
    Romans 8:26

    Isnt that just awesome?! Even when we don't know what to pray for, now how we should pray. He hears and understands the groanings of our hearts. God is so good!

    Even when you don't know the right words and can't think clearly, keep going back to Him with a prayerful heart. He understands!

  4. A good Word!

  5. Picking up rocks to make ready the soil for harvest time. Now that will preach, sister!

    Thanks for visiting the blog. You are welcome there anytime. I love meeting new friends.

    Enjoy that tractor and life on the farm. That sounds like a place I could spend some time.


  6. Great words Rachel!! I can relate to the rock picking part of things, but love your comparison to life! Oh how true!! Thanks for sharing and being such a wonderful friend!!

  7. Great analogy, Rachel. Love this story and what God showed you from a day in the (farm) life. :)

    When we lived in Michigan we picked rocks one exhausting day, but for a different reason. We gathered rocks from the empty lot next door and our own yard so that we could create a (free) flower bed border. It turned out beautifully.

    Oh, and I love the new pic of your hubby and adorable little boy. Precious!

  8. We too have used a lot of rocks for flowerbed borders. We're actually going to use some of the ones in the picture for my most recent project. They come in very handy. :)

    Some people from Northern Iowa take rocks up to the Cities (Minneapolis/St Paul, MN) to sell. It's unbelievable how much they go for...especially considering we dump most of ours over the creek edge.

    Glad more people could relate with the story than what I originally thought.

  9. This was such a great post. I just keep thinking about how much stronger we end after the "rock picking" times in life. You can see in the pictures of your guys that your husband is really strong from the work he does. I want to be spiritually strong like that and know the exercising of my faith is important for that to happen.

    Thank you for such a great post! I hope you aren't too exhausted this weekend from all you hard work. We have to do this on a really small scale for our garden every year. I can't imagine doing it for a farm. : )


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