A Love Letter to My Favorite Farmer

June 23, 2010 | 23 comments

I found the photograph this morning, the one where they’re sitting on the fence. He had slipped his arm around her waist. She steadied those high-heels on the wire and scooted close to her man.

She always liked to dress him up in ties and hats and tailored suits, didn’t she? I suspect he was a lot like you – itchy under those shirt collars, rather preferring the John Deere cap and work jeans frayed at the hems. The dirt and the soil were in his blood and under his fingernails.

You Lee men were made for these Iowa fields.

And I suspect I’m a bit like her – even though she and I are not blood. For I see it in the way she pressed in close to her man, leaning her head to his, before the photographer pressed the shutter. Underneath the polished exterior, she was just a simple girl who’d fallen in love with her favorite farmer.

The couple grew up, had babies, lost one, sent another off to the Vietnam War. Their babies had babies. And now, some of those babies are having babies. They moved out of the Lee farmhouse, to make room for the next generation: your dad’s. When Gerald Ford was president, your grandparents built that ranch-style house just to the south, still staying on Lee ground. And to you, it always felt like there were two sets of parents on the farm, which probably kept you out of some trouble during your teens. ~smile~

You left the farm for the university, with no intention of coming back. And you found a woman who didn’t intend to go back either. Remember our skyscraper dreams?


Yet there we were last night, on the deck, looking over moonlit cornfields you planted this spring, the second spring without your father. We traded our dreams in, and here we are scraping back earth instead of skies.

You raised a toast to our 14 years together, tipping your glass to mine, and you said the words: “We had no idea what we were getting into, did we?”

I smiled wide and shook my head, letting the absurdly beautiful truth of your words settle in. “No, we sure didn’t.”

And it’s been good, so good. We clinked glasses, touched ruby wine to lips.

But then you said it might not always be good, and your reality-check caught me off guard. Scared me even. You told me we will face trial and hardship. Not might, but will.

“In this world,you will have trouble …” the Bible says in the Gospel of John.

But you also reminded me, that we cling to the Overcomer, and to one another. For we are a three-braided cord. That’s how we’ll get through the not-knowing-for-sures of this life.

God’s got it.” That’s your repeated refrain, and that’s how you’ve taught your wife about surrender — farmer style. Those words echo strong today as I think about the couple on the fence.

The photo was taken at their beginning, as romance bloomed on an Iowa farm. I think about what they didn’t know then: the wars that would come, the losses, the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. I think about how they endured their own not-knowing-for-sure.

I think about the girl especially, and how she leaned into her man, and how she would have looked out the windows of that house to pray for her favorite farmer, and how Emma did the same for her favorite farmer Ole, and how Joyce did the same for Paul.

And how I do the same for you.

They knew what it meant to feel this swelling in a heart for a Lee man who scrapes back Earth to scatter the seed.



Last week, they put your grandparents’ house on the back of a semi-truck and hauled it down the highway. They set that house on another piece of land, somewhere near Orange City. Another family will build up lives and love in that house. And it’s good to know it will hold breath and laughter again. It’s been sad to see it sit empty these last few years since your Grandma left for the assisted-living center.

I think about coming through that back door the first time with you, with my manicured nails and just-right clothes.

We were just visiting back then.

They took the house away, but we keep the better part. We keep the legacy of faith, the sureness of God in the uncertainty of life. We keep the rootedness of family, tied to Earth and our encircling God. You can’t haul that away on a trailer.

In the not-knowing-for-sure, we have more certainty than we ever could have hoped for. And for this simple Iowa girl who’s fallen in love with her favorite farmer? I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Happy Anniversary. I love you.

holy experience

Each Wednesday, Ann Voskamp invites her community of writers to explore spiritual practices that draw us nearer to the heart of Jesus. Today, she invited us to write love letters. It’s been a long time since I’ve written one. Might you stop by Ann’s and read her love letter, too? It’s breathtaking.

by | June 23, 2010 | 23 comments


  1. Beth E.

    Happy Anniversary, Jennifer! What a wonderful tribute to your marriage.

    Have you checked your emails??? Go over to my blog and read my latest post, girl! I've announced the winners, and you should recognize one of the names. 😉

  2. Marilyn Moser

    Happy Anniversary to you both! Wishing you God's blessings as you celebrate another year of marriage! What a wonderful tribute about the Lee family sharing in a legacy on the land! It is so true how we never know what might be in store for us but just as the fields bloom in the spring and wither in the fall what a comfort to know that tests and trials are only for a season…and it is such a reassurance when we understand that God is in control! Cheers to many more happy years!

  3. Lisa notes...

    Wow. Such a beautiful love story that started way-back-when. This really touched me. I need to go give my husband an extra hug now–all these posts on marriage make me appreciate him even more.

    "God's got it." I love that!

  4. Charity Singleton

    You do love him, don't you? It's so obvious. Thanks for this private glimpse into your lives as a couple, and as a family, generations past. I think the love is somehow deeper because it reaches beyond your husband to his family, and their land. It has changed you, made you one of them. And you, you're changing them, and it, too. You're connected through those rings you wear.

  5. Susan DiMickele

    Happy Aniversary. The pictures brought back memories of my grandparents who were married over 60 years (yes, they were farmers!) God Bless.

  6. Cassandra Frear

    I love the photo on the fence, too.

  7. Rebecca Ramsey

    Happy Anniversary! Such a beautiful celebration of the love in your family, the love that is shared between the two of you.
    What a gift from God to be able to share one's life with someone-the pain and the joy together.
    May you have many more!

  8. Laura

    This makes my heart swell too. I am so enjoying these love letters. You gals know how to make a heart go pitty-pat.


  9. B. Meandering

    Beautiful tribute to three generations of love for each other and for the land.

  10. ~*Michelle*~

    WOW…..what a family story, such history packed with generations of wonderful marriages built on solid foundations.

    Thank you for sharing it all with us Jennifer….and Happy Anniversary, my friend!

  11. Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience

    Blessings on your anniversary!
    Your words never fail to deeply move… Thank you, Jennifer.

  12. Lyla Lindquist

    Farmer style surrender.

    Farmer style trust.

    It doesn't really get much better.

  13. Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife

    This was too precious! Thank you for sharing your family history.

    I'm going to share this with one of my really good friends, who is a farmer's wife. She and you sound very similar!

  14. Sara

    Happy Anniversary friend. What a beautiful tribute to what lies ahead as well.

    Thanks for splashing around with me! You sent a tidal wave of encouragement my way.

    Hugs for your day,

  15. Rosario

    Happy Anniversary! Beautiful letter. Thank you for sharing.

  16. deb

    Happy Anniversary .
    And this post, the words , the pictures,
    oh my.

    so fully completely wonderful.

    and I think we all grew up with one of those lamps 🙂

  17. Diana

    Oh Happy Happy Anniversary to you both! What a sweet sweet letter! I had tears in my eyes reading… and when they took the house down the highway, the dam burst. But oh yes, the legacy remains. Thank you for sharing your special day and letter with us! Beautiful and blessed! 🙂

  18. Jennifer

    Happy Anniversary. My prayer is that God will make your love grow deeper and wider for each other the next 14 years.

    "We were just visiting…" Isn't that just how it is? And then God settles us down where He wants us. Oh how sweet it is.

  19. Missy

    It is amazing that we think we know what our plans in life are and yet it is not in our hands at all.

    Happy Anniversary.

  20. cindyhan111

    so excellent, thank you for sharing

  21. Billy Coffey

    Happy Anniversary, Lees. That was wonderful.

  22. elaine @ peace for the journey

    A beautiful tribute to a timeless love, lived on and passed down through the Lee family. As I think about you farm women, looking out your windows at your men and the fields (in seedtime and harvest), I can't help but think about my own window this day.

    It's a strange view for me; new town, new house, new church, new friends yet to meet and to make, and I can't help but feel a bit overwhelmed and lost in it all.

    Exhaustion has set in; my heart is nearly broken, and I'm wondering what the future holds for all of us. Would you pray for me? I hate feeling so displaced, but I'm anchoring my hopes and dreams in the truth of my Father's love and praying that this which seems an odd fit, will soon burst into understanding.

    I suppose I'm a farmer's wife as well… seedtime and harvest.


  23. Carol

    I must have missed this one but so glad I came over and caught up. That is my Mrs. Lee, my high school librarian. It is so nice to see her smile and revisit my feelings about her from way back when. She was a fox and always had a smile. Sweet remembrance of such a wonderful woman, wonderful couple and wonderful family. Congratulations on your anniversary, belated as it is. Love your words and love your heart!


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