Saturday, August 12, 2017

If We'd Stop IF-ing: The Lazarus Story in my Words

If.

It's a tiny word yet it can be powerful. 

We use it to tell of regret, to place blame, to wish, to hope, to make excuses. It's tiny but mighty. 

I was reading my devotional the other night (My Utmost for His Highest, Thanks, Daddy) and it was using a verse in John 11. I try to read the whole chapter of whatever verse the devotional uses so I can get good context and learn an extra lesson or two. John 11 is about Lazarus. You know, the guy that was 4 days stinking dead that Jesus raised? Yeah, that Lazarus. It's a good story. If you have time, go read John 11. The lord laid it on my heart to break that chapter down for myself and then share it with y'all. So if you get anything out of this post be sure and thank the Lord for it because I wouldn't have written it without His pushing. 

Here goes.

The Jews had tried to stone Jesus so he skipped town with his disciple buddies. They were going to lay low because the time had not yet come for Jesus to die. But Jesus got word that Lazarus of Bethany, brother to Mary and Martha, was sick. This family was close to Jesus' heart. One of my favorite stories in Luke is where Jesus is visiting Mary and Martha and He's teaching at their house and Martha is running around being a hostess while Mary's just sitting at Jesus' feet listening. Martha gets her panties in a twist and tells Jesus about how Mary should be helping her do hostessing stuff and Jesus tells Martha to chill her grill. Its in Luke 10, it amuses me. 

Anyhow, so Jesus gets word that Lazarus is sickly so Jesus tells his BFFs, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Translated: I'm gonna use this to glorify God.

He loved this family so much that in a couple of days he told His disciples to load up because they were going back to Judea again. They were like, wait? What? Those people just tried to kill you and you want to waltz back in there because of a sick friend? 
Lazarus had passed and Jesus knew it, so He said, "Lazarus sleeps." The disciples were like, well good, if he's sleeping then he'll wake up and get better. 

Sometimes we are so dense to what God is telling us that I bet he wants to knock us upside the head with something. Sometimes He does, with a lesson about trusting in Him. He's got this, our help isn't needed. 

Jesus said, Y'all....he is dead. And I'm glad for your sake that I wasn't there so that I can show you AGAIN that I am the Son of God, so load up. And then Thomas...oh Thomas...he's like, Y'all heard Jesus, let's go with Him so we can die too. I don't know if he was rolling his eyes or feeling brave when he said this, but either way, off they went. 

By the time they got near Bethany Lazarus had been dead for four days. FOUR DAYS. He was stankin, y'all. Lots of Jews (who were after Jesus) had gathered around Mary and Martha to comfort them. When Martha got word that Jesus had arrived she snuck out of the house and left Mary there. I'm unsure if Mary was perturbed at Jesus because she felt like He'd let her down and she wasn't seeing Him, or if nobody had actually told her that He was there, but anyhow she was in the house when Martha went out to meet Him. You know what Martha said to Jesus? She said, "Lord, IF You had been here, my brother would not have died." OUCH. She said, Jesus, this is YOUR fault. Do you think she and Mary had been having this conversation for the days leading up to Jesus' arrival?

Have you ever seen something happen and said, "Well IF God had done what He was supposed to..." 

So after Martha got onto Jesus for his absence, you know, excuse Him for not getting Himself stoned by the Jews too early and all that....He says, "Your brother will rise again." And she's all, Yeah, I know he will, in glory.... Once again, not what Jesus meant. He asks her if she believes that He is the resurrection and the life. And she said, Yes, I do believe that. Then she went to get Mary. 

Mary ran out of the house, leaving all her comforters behind to meet Jesus. Do you know what Mary said to Him? You've said it before and seen it before. She said, "Lord, IF You had been here my brother would not have died."

Well...if that doesn't guarantee that the sisters were a little peeved at Jesus I don't know what does. They went and said the exact same thing to Him using that tiny, but powerful word. IF..... Stings a little sometimes, doesn't it? Especially when several people use it in the same sentence, all but guaranteeing that they've been talking behind your back about your failure. 

After He saw Mary, Jesus asked, "Where have you laid him?" (v34) and they took Him to the tomb. 

When Jesus first heard that Lazarus was sick, they told him, "Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick." Jesus held Lazarus close, like a brother, so while he was THE Son of God, He was also human. He limited His divinity to experience humanity and I would imagine that sometimes emotion took over. When Jesus got to the tomb we get a glimpse of the power of His emotion. Verse 35 says, "Jesus wept."

He wept for the loss He felt. He wept for the loss that Mary and Martha felt. He probably wept because He had everybody "IF-ing" Him, doubting him. He might have wept because His time was coming. He probably wept because, once again, He had to prove to those who witnessed His miracles that He was the Son of God. He wept.

Ever since having children, my body's go to response is to cry. Angry? Cry. Sad? Cry. Happy? Cry. Frustrated? Cry. And it makes me so stinking mad when I get angry and cry. Good grief I just cry more because I'm angry and I'm angry that I'm crying. It's ridiculous and uncontrollable, but it's just what I do.

Jesus tells them to take away the stone. Martha is like, Jesus, it is gonna stink up in there because he's been dead 4 days. And Jesus probably wanting to roll his eyes so far back in His head that He could see the person behind Him, says, didn't I tell you that IF you believed you would see the glory of God? And they took away the stone. 

Jesus then proceeds to thank His Father (God) that He heard Him. We forget that part sometimes. We beg and plead, and ask God to grant us favor, and then He does and we just go on like we did it ourselves. Pat me on the back....(insert emoji eye roll here.) 

Jesus says, "Lazarus, come forth." (v43)

"And he who died came out.....Jesus said to them, 'Loose him, and let him go.'"

Things happen in life and we blame God. We say, "God IF you were here, this wouldn't have happened." "IF You had done what I asked of You, things would be better." "Lord, IF...." But IF WE would shut up long enough and exercise the faith He's been building in us, we will witness His glory and favor. 
The sisters said, "IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE OUR BROTHER WOULD NOT HAVE DIED." 
God said, "IF YOU HAVE FAITH YOU WILL SEE."
And they saw their brother, wrapped up and stinking, walk out of his grave. 

Can you imagine what we would see IF we would lay down that tiny word and use faith instead?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

-Dash on a Headstone-

What is success? Define it for you personally. 


The Milkman and I have had this discussion. Our criteria doesn't always match, but what ISN'T usually does. Success is not lots of $$. It's not having the fanciest clothes, the most expensive cars, or the biggest house on the dirt road. (If you drive down my dirt road you'd understand why...folks are building biggo mansions.) Success is a far deeper, more emotional thing than material items for others to admire. 
Most farmers see success differently than the average Joe. Good weather is a success. A plentiful harvest, a high milk tank average are successes. And for us moms, sometimes making sure everyone is fed, mostly bathed, and still breathing is the biggest success a day may hold.   
We all have a desire to make our loved ones proud. This is a piece of the success puzzle for most folks. We want our tribe to notice that we have put our heart and soul into being the best at whatever we are. It's human nature and if that's what drives you, then get after it Miss Daisy. For some, the desire to make someone proud comes from deprivation. There are people out there who just want someone to tell them they love them, or tell them that they are proud of them. There are daughters that never felt quite good enough, sons that never quite met that unattainable expectation, and students that couldn't achieve enough to get the "I'm proud of you" they were searching for. Sometimes this spills over into adulthood and that person is still trying to define success by words from someone they care about. That, my friends, getting kind words from an unkind person, does not define success. 
I've made a lot of generational farming friends over the years. Most of these farmers are proud to tell you that they are second, third, fourth, or fifth generation on their farm. Success to them is not as simple as leaving a legacy to their children, it's much more. Success is taking immeasurable pride in those who have come before them. It is taking a gift that was handmade with blood, sweat, tears, & many prayers, and bearing the burdens and expectations that come with it, while doing their best to preserve it. 
These farmers are proud to take what was created before them and keep on keeping on. I am a firsthand witness to a farmer that would, on some days, like to stop the roller coaster that is farming and get off. There are years where you're stalled out on the upside down part of the loopty-loop, your hat fell off, and your change is raining down on the folks below. Those years are easy to think of giving it up, but you hold on tight and wait it out. Eventually the ride moves again, but you're left with nausea and a head rush. In those times the definition of success is elusive, but you hold onto the idea of the legacy you're carrying and you move forward.
In my years of meeting these farmers, and of being married to one, I've heard a lot of hurtful things. I've been told how its 2017 and we don't need animal ag, seen and felt threats. I've seen campaigns to end my livelihood, and had friends donate to causes that would like nothing more than to put me out of business. (Until I educated them, of course.) So much in the general public is hurtful and sad, but the thing that generational farmers face that is much more gut wrenching than all that ugliness, is when people seem to think everything was handed to them. That all the work they've put in counted for nothing. That "entitlement" landed them where they are. 
I'll bite. There are some situations where that is true. Sometimes farmers (and other occupations) are created out of necessity. Some people don't want to inherit a legacy, but they get it anyway. You know how to tell the people that are honored to carry on a legacy from the ones who spitefully carry it like they're driving a dead wagon? The difference is in the heart. It's in the work. It's in the passion. The difference is how they define success.
I am a lucky girl. I have parents that were never afraid to tell me how proud they were of me. They still do. I always knew that their definition of success had nothing to do with a bank account or possessions. The legacy my dad took on was one of evangelical flavor and the one he gave to me, is made of passion, fire, and Jesus. I'm proud of it, y'all. I love the gift I was given and it wasn't made of money or material. 
The Milkman had the calling to not make his own legacy, but to carry one built by his father and men before him. All he wanted to do from the time he could make that decision, was to hold onto the gift, wrapped in those prayers, blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice. He wanted to purchase his ticket and ride out the farming roller coaster. He wanted to be entrusted with something built by his family and honor them. The Milkman works hard, he plays hard, and he puts everything into making his people proud. I, for one, couldn't be prouder. 
If you need some inspiration defining success, check out Ecclesiastes 2. Solomon had it all. He had houses, riches, servants, singers, pools, flocks, herds, vineyards. He was smart and a higher status than everyone around him. It was his reward for all his labor. But in verse 17 he says, "Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” Solomon possessed the success defined by a dictionary and society, but he still did not find happiness. He knew the secret, that the earthly successes weren't success at all.

The Milkman and I want to leave our girls every chance we can. We want them to have what they desire because they put the work in. We want to give them an education and all that we've learned in our years. The legacy we want them continue isn't tied to a piece of land, but in behaviors and beliefs. Success is to see our farm flourish, our faith strengthen, and The Milkmaids to know how much we love them and how proud we are of them. We want them to have work ethic and compassion and be productive members of society. We want them to know The Lord. A successful life for us is to allow The Milkmaids every chance we were given, but we want them to define success by their own terms. 
My personal idea of success is leaving a legacy of passion, fire, and Jesus. It is laid out in kindness, love, and boundaries. It is learning to grow where you're planted, being happy and content IN my circumstances and not because of them. Success is in carrying on when it seems like everything and everyone is against you. It's knowing that I can do ALL things, not because of myself, but in Christ. Most of all, it is in leaving the best pieces of me to the people I love. 
My successes and failures will be nothing but a dash on a headstone, but the legacy I give my children is one that I hope they can be proud of. 




Saturday, April 15, 2017

New Again

For some people the New Year is the "fresh start." A new set of numbers. The months start over. Goal setting and big life plans come to mind. For a farmer the New Year is just kind of the middle of winter. It doesn't signify much other than a new tax season. Our "new year" starts when things start greening up. The time comes to see if the fall planting survived what winter threw at it. 

We planted triticale for this year so we are chopping silage a little bit earlier than normal. It came quickly and took our equipment by surprise. But we managed to get everything ready and harvest a really good crop for our first chopping adventure of 2017. #silage17 is ongoing and exhausting. 

I love when stuff gets green and blooms. My allergies protest somewhat, but a little Zyrtec and Benadryl with a dash of Sudafed keep me functional. My other favorite part of spring is Easter. This holiday has the power to stir great emotions. It isn't about the bunny or the eggs. In short, it's the pinnacle of our Christian faith. 

Our God sent His son, whom he loves greatly, to live as a man without sin. Jesus poured out love and compassion. He taught the masses. He gave, He blessed, He shared, and He gave living water to anyone willing to drink. He washed the feet of His best friends. He was a servant. Our God sent His son to live and to die. Jesus was the sacrifice that paid for my eternity. In His death, He wrote a blank check that paid the price of every single human willing to believe in Him. 

It is important that anyone with faith to know the Easter story. Our God died a miserable, painful, humiliating death. He felt every stab, and every tear as He did. It was not a symbol. It was a sacrifice. You will find the story of His life, His death, and His resurrection in every church this weekend. Easter is about how Jesus not only died, but rose again. He promised to return for His people. And our eternal salvation is dependent on a belief in that. 

Now that I paraphrased that story as much as my wordiness will allow me to, I want to speak on another part of the Easter story that we don't focus on so much. Mary, Jesus' mom. This lady carried a baby that she didn't create or even ask for. She just told God that she'd do whatever He needed her to do. She had to tell her soon to be husband that she was carrying a baby that they didn't make together, but that He was going to be their King. She carried this baby boy and gave birth in a manger. April the giraffe had better accommodations, y'all. Wise men came and brought gifts. Mary once left Jesus in a town accidentally. I'm sure she had a slight panic attack when she realized it. It took 3 days for her to get back to Him. When she got back to Jerusalem, there He sat in the temple, teaching the teachers. He was 12, y'all. 

If I had to guess, even though Mary knew Jesus was to be our King as well as a sacrifice, she had to take some deep breaths to not beat that boy sometimes. Mary raised Jesus. And then one day 30 or so years into this deal, she had to watch her son, God's son, our Savior, be mocked, beaten, and hanged on a cross. Her sinless baby boy had to fulfill his duty. He gave His life in exchange for a sinner like me. 

I'm not sure if you've ever really studied it, but hanging on a cross is not a quick or painless death. I read an article once that told about the actual, physical, and emotional things that take place. It made me sick. It brings to light a whole new meaning to Jesus "hanging on the cross." If you feel nothing as a Christian when you think of what Easter signifies, you need to look it up and realize what Jesus endured for you. 

Back to Mary. I am a mom. And when I try to put myself in Mary's sandals, I imagine so much anger at God. So many times in life we don't understand why terrible things happen. We don't know what good can come of it. But Mary, she knew what the end result would be. She knew what good would come. She knew it had to be done, but the anger and the emotion still had to be strong. Y'all she knew that her baby would be sacrificed and she did all the things asked of her anyway. Jesus knew what becoming a man and a sacrifice would cost Him, and He did it anyway. God knew what He would have to watch His son endure, and He allowed it anyway. 

My God, my Savior died for me. He did not ask me to die for Him. Not once.

Jesus did what He did for you. God loved the world (the whole world, not just His people) so much that He made a sacrifice beyond comprehension. (John 3:16) Even knowing that Jesus would rise again doesn't soften the fact that God would watch Jesus suffer unimaginable pain. So much pain that Jesus thought His father, God, had forsaken Him. I truly believe that God never left Jesus. It was Jesus' last part of being man and the pain was beyond comprehension. I don't believe God watched it stone faced, either. Maybe he even closed his eyes and a tear fell.

There is a song that I have loved for many years now. It is the basis of my thoughts of Mary. It is on an album of songs inspired by the movie, "The Passion of the Christ." (Confession: I haven't watched it, but I think I will tonight.) It is called New Again by Brad Paisley and Sara Evans. This song makes my heart feel so many emotions. And it is beautiful. Please listen to it and feel what the words intend.

Jesus did all that He did to make everything new again. He was a baby, a kid, a teenager, and a young adult. He lived what we live. He had parents. He had friends, best friends. He taught and he loved. He performed miracles. The waves and the wind know His name and they roar and cease at his voice. The Creator of all things loves us enough to suffer great losses even though we are failures. And while I hate to be a failure, my joy comes from knowing these things. My hope is in The Lord and my faith is not in vain. 

Mary might be the strongest lady to ever breathe. I'm pretty awed by her faith and her commitment. Mary served her God well. And she was rewarded when she knew her boy had risen again and His purpose fulfilled. I don't envy her, but I'll bet she was proud.

I can't imagine farming without any faith. I'm sure people do it. But I know that every spring, God willing, our crops will sprout up out of the ground. Our momma cows will start having babies and we will witness the miracle of birth. Our kids will grow another year older, and so will our tractors. Every spring we watch new life and Easter reminds us that God makes all things new again. 

This year my heart is full and my joy overflows. Even though we are exhausted of the late nights, early mornings, and the allergies, we will celebrate our Risen Savior this weekend. The Easter Bunny will make his appearance and the eggs will be hidden, but I won't let that get in the way of sharing the real Easter story. I will think of Mary and how, as a mom, she must have ached. I won't forget to be thankful for the crops and new life. I won't hesitate to tell my kids, and everyone else, that Jesus is the reason for everything we have and that through Him, I have eternal life and so can you. 

Happy Easter, y'all! 


Monday, March 13, 2017

Be All There

It's mid-March. This year is flying. I can't keep up. How's that New Year's resolution working out for you?

I'm not big on resolutions. I set a few goals. I'm keeping up pretty well. I periodically work out. I've read my daily devotionals every day for the most part. But the one that gets me a little stuck is the one where I want to be more present. This one kicks my tail.

We live in this world of distractions where we are expected to not only multitask, but to participate in extreme multitasking. It's like the Adulting X-Games. If we aren't participating we are not winning.
I am not a fan of adulating some days so the X-Games of it don't give me a thrill. They also inhibit my ability to be present.

You know when you're on the phone with your best friend, she's telling you a story in hopes that you will offer some insight, but your parental Tourettes is full blown and you're screaming, "Do not put that in your mouth!" and "No! You can't zip line off the roof!" as you try and concentrate on cooking hamburger helper, bathe the toddler, sign permission slips, and hear your person's story. As you look up, you see the hamburger meat is smoking, one kid is eating dog food, another has a carabiner and thread, climbing on a ladder, and the bathroom looks like you're housing a whale in your tub, and that "permission slip" was actually a note because your kid got "clipped down", you've missed your friend's entire story and the house is about to burn down. You were trying to be present for so many things that you missed it all. This is a complete exaggeration, but it feels realistic, right?

I want to be present. Even if that means saying no to something. Even if it means I have to call my friend back later. Even if it means we have to eat supper at 730 instead of 6, I need to be more present for myself and for everyone else.

I need to be present when I am reading my devotional and scripture. I don't want to share my God time with driving or signing school papers or paying bills. I don't want to share a kid's bath time with supper even though that is more likely than not. I want to focus on the things at hand and let the past or the future worry about itself.

I don't usually tell people my "resolutions." I don't like to fail. I'm sharing it with you for a purpose so hang with me.

A few weeks into the year a lady that I admire at church gave me a gift. It was a pretty little package with a story and as I read the inscription on it, I was moved. It was a Rustic Cuff that said, "be all there." If you aren't familiar with them, they have a neat story. This cute cuff means the world to me right now because I'm trying so hard to "be all there" in everything I do. It is hard. It takes prioritizing and saying no sometimes, and there are times that I get it way wrong. A lot, actually. But this bracelet is a daily reminder of my goal.

This weekend I got the opportunity to go on a road trip with some good girl friends. We went to Osage County, OK to The Pioneer Woman's Mercantile. Mrs. Ree Drummond is pretty amazing. I remember reading her blog years ago and being so thankful that she had the talent to write, to share about her rural life, their farm, and her amazing recipes. Mrs. Ree did something that I think is so neat. She lives near Pawhuska, OK, about an hour northwest of Tulsa. Pawhuska is an old Oklahoma town that is far away from just about everything. Nobody is planning vacations there and I would guess that the better paying jobs involve a good commute. Mrs. Ree could have decided to build a pretty new store in Tulsa. There are gazillions of people and businesses in Tulsa. There are events that bring in tons of people, like the BOK which is where our trip ended and we saw Miranda Lambert sing her southern heart out. It was fantastic. Anyhow...The Pioneer Woman made her tiny old Oklahoma town a tourist attraction. She remodeled an old down town building and put in an amazing restaurant and general store with exposed brick and sugary sweet charm. The bakery upstairs is worth waiting in line to get into. We didn't get to eat at the restaurant because the line was long and our time was short. People wanted so badly to see and meet the amazing lady that started all of this as much as they wanted to see what she had built.

Mrs. Ree wasn't there. I'm not disappointed, though. She may be an amazing lady that built an amazing empire just being herself, but she's still a person. She deserves some peace. Peace that doesn't come with success, but the kind of peace that you allow yourself to find. She deserves to be all there for her family and her friends. As much as I would like to have caught a glimpse of her red hair in that bakery I wish for her the ability to get some quiet time. Lord knows she deserves it. She's everywhere!

The Mercantile isn't a place I'll forget. And I won't remember it for all the pretty things or the great bakery, I'll remember it because a lady decided that her community was worth investing in. Her community was worth thousands of people driving to the middle of nowhere to see what she built. If we all set aside our need to see immediate success outside of our home, our family, our town, and invested in what is closest to us we might not change the whole world, but we'd change our own world.

We also visited the Rustic Cuff store. It was in Tulsa. It was fancy. They had pictures of famous people wearing their bracelets. Needless to say, my picture wasn't on the wall and I only bought a few "on sale" cuffs, but it was a neat place to visit. Jewelry isn't my weakness, but my Rustic Cuff means the world to me.

People visit The Mercantile to say they've been there or to see The Pioneer Woman in the flesh or maybe to grab a cinnamon roll or lunch, but my takeaway was so much more.

I want to invest in my own community. I want to invest in my own family and my own kids. Success doesn't show up in my bank account (wouldn't that be nice), or in the blog I write, or how many followers I have on Facebook. Success shows up when I am investing in my own little garden. Success shows up when my kids have manners and respect because that's what I've taught them. Success shows up when I invest in my community. Success shows up in all the places we invest ourselves. We can't grow our own crops if we're too busy worrying about how the neighbor grows theirs. Bloom where you're planted.  Invest, fertilize, and water your very own and watch it grow like crazy. Be present and active. Be all there, y'all.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Ultimate Firefighter

In 2014 I watched my milk barn burn dang near to the ground. It was one of the most helpless feelings in the world. When I saw the many firefighters roll in I felt a little relief. I also felt a lot of fear. I knew most of those guys. Watching people do their job when it also means putting their lives at risk is not calming. Thankfully nobody had to run into a burning building because there wasn't anyone nor any cows in it. But I knew that if there was a chance of anyone being in there those guys would have ran into the fire to save them. The idea of that is terrifying.

I've watched people run into burning buildings. I've watched them fight a fire until they collapse. I've seen the aftermath from a day of fighting in the heat of a fire and smoke inhalation that is inevitable. I've seen it weaken big strong men to the point of exhaustion that it's hard to come out of. Fire is scary. It is dangerous. It takes someone brave to run into a hell they may not come out of.

Some of us are walking around burning up in a fire. We are burning in our past. We are burning in our sin and shame. We are burning in choices we've made. We are singed from years of rebellion and pain. And we call it surviving. The reality is that we aren't surviving when we are burning in those things. We are not thriving. We are melting on a road to hell trying to ignore the pain.

I know many firefighters that will walk into flames. They go in suited up in the best gear they have. They walk in protected. They have masks to help filter smoke. They shield themselves because we are human. But I know another firefighter that doesn't need any gear. I know a savior that is willing to march into the fire with you and put the flames down from the inside out. I know a Savior that changes us from victim of sin to a eternal survivor.

Survivors of fires don't come out exactly the same as they were before their fire. They change. They become something different. Depending on their outlook, they either become forever a victim or forever a survivor. It is all about what they are willing to let go of, believe in, and what they are willing to strive for.

The Ultimate Firefighter, my Savior, is constantly putting out flames that I create. And every time I am different, new. I am never perfect. I never seem to drop the matches that I use to start fires, but my Savior is patient with me. He helps me drop one match at a time. He will be with me and never leave me.

In Daniel 3 there is a great story. King Nebuchadnezzar issues an order for everyone to worship a golden image when they hear a horn. These 3 guys were not the "go with the flow" kind. They refused to bow to anyone other than God. When the people brought this to the King he had no choice but to punish the 3. He had them thrown in to a fire furnace so hot that it killed the men who tossed them in. When they looked through the furnace window there were not 3, but 4 men in there. Shadrach, Mesahch, and Abed-Nego were called out of the furnace. They came out of the fire without a burn or singed hair. They told them that God, their one and only King, the Ultimate Firefighter, saved them from the flames. Nebuchadnezzar didn't have a choice but to believe. His new decree said that nobody should speak against the God of the 3 men from the fire; that no other God can deliver like that.

We all have our own kind of flames, our own demons. We all constantly fight our very own fires. We fight sin and hate. We fight tooth and nail. But if we would stop fighting, and start calling on God to put out our flames we would be a lot better off. We will still be a sort of victim of our own sins and choices, but we will also be a survivor because God not only puts out our fires, he makes us survivors. He changes us. And change is a good thing.

I've been listening to this album by Zach Williams for a week or so. Most of these songs speak to me, but this morning, listening to "Survivor" God laid it on my heart to share these words with you. Maybe they won't touch your heart, but hopefully someone out there will realize their pain is from their very own fire. They will look down and see the matches they continually light and allow God to help them put out their fire and become a survivor.

Good luck y'all. Life is tough, but it's tougher when you don't have a Savior.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Fourteen

When I was little I don't ever remember dreaming about my wedding or having kids or even a career. That's probably why I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I think I learned early in life that you really never know what tomorrow holds so I just move along trusting God in the now. When we plan God laughs so I try not to do a lot of future living. 

When my parents moved me to Arkansas I had no idea what life would be like or what my future would hold. I suppose any small variation of what happened in the past could have changed my future drastically. I'm thankful for the things that have happened because I wouldn't want to be anywhere else today. 

The Milkman and I don't have a romantic love story. It would be weird if we did because neither of us  are very romantic. I appreciate it when he thinks of me. He may bring me a cotton boll from a determined fuzzy cotton seed that made its way into the ground instead of a cow's lunch. Or he might pick up a piece of rusty farm history that came up out of the dirt and bring it in for me to display on the fireplace. Those things have meaning. Sometimes on a holiday he will convince one of my dearest friends to go get something for me from the store, because Lord knows he isn't leaving the farm to fight traffic or people, and that's OK too. I appreciate the thought more than anything. I, on the other hand, run errands constantly so he ends up with candy and gifts. I also use the magic of the Internet to order things for him. One of these days I'll have him technologically advanced too. 

Our love story isn't exciting. It is mostly a girl who chased a boy because she knew, without a doubt, that he was the one God intended for her to marry. We went to church together and like any boy, he didn't know what was good for him. It took a lot of patience and commitment for him to move beyond his stubborn ways. We dated for a couple of years and one day I said, "Alright...you either want to marry me or you don't. Either is fine, but I'm not waiting forever." Lawd, I was 20 and thought I was about to become an old maid I guess. He said, "OK, let's get married." That was the end of November and we got married in February. 

That kind of shotgun wedding makes for good rumors in Small Town, USA. I'm not one to be bothered by rumors. Somebody is going to be the topic of conversation, I just gave someone else a break from fame. It also happened fast because back then, there wasn't a Pinterest. We just draped everything in tulle and tied a bow on it. Christmas lights and PVC pipe make a good enough arch. And my daddy, being a preacher, made finding the preacher and the church the easy part. . 

The amusing part is that I didn't want a wedding. My parents didn't care if I had a wedding. But The Milkman, he wanted a tux and the whole shebang. Don't tell him I told you. He'll probably deny it. It's the honest truth, though. 

You learn a lot when you date and marry a farmer. It's important to know what you're getting into. There will be times in life where you aren't the first priority. You will come after the farm in almost every circumstance. For example, when pregnant with our last Milkmaid, we went to a doctor's appointment and I was officially in labor. I didn't get to stay at the hospital because we had to "run" home and feed the milk cows. I managed to do about 4 loads of laundry while he "got everything ready" for us to go have a baby. I don't doubt my importance to him. I just realize that when it comes down to it, the farm and the animals will always be taken care of. That makes me love him more, the compassion for his charge. I have no doubt that he will drop everything for the important things, and he will always be there for me. Just sometimes it will come after the farm. 

Another thing you learn is that you love your farmer according to every vow taken at your wedding, but you will NOT always like him. When you work cows together or he's teaching you something new, there's a good chance that you will walk away NOT liking the person you are married to. You know what, that's normal. It's okay. God doesn't ask us to like everyone, only to love them. 

People like to say, "It isn't all roses." but sometimes farming and marriage are exactly all roses. You know what are on rose bushes? Thorns. Farming and marriage are labors of love. Sometimes it smells as good as fresh cut hay and sometimes it smells like the literal crap you put on the crops to grow. There are times when things are going smooth and you're happy as a cow chewing cud. But sometimes you feel like you've fallen into the thorny part of the rosebush. It hurts. It is hard to maneuver. Sometimes you want to cut the whole thing down, but then the roses bloom and everything is just like it's meant to be. 

Love is more work than the average person wants to put in. And the work it isn't always appreciated. Marriage is messy, ugly, dirty, and labor intensive. It's hard. A marriage is a true labor of love, just like my farm. Life is full of accepting things that aren't exactly as we planned. That is what a good marriage and a good farm are made of. Love, boundaries, work, acceptance, and messy places. You just keep cleaning up where the cows poop and then use it to fertilize the land. You're marriage (& farm) won't grow or even survive without a lot of care and dedication. 
Success looks different to everyone. To me, it looks like a beautiful, hot mess that The Milkman and I are committed to. We've got each other and we've got our farm, and our Milkmaids. We will put everything we have into all of it. Life won't always be roses or presents, sometimes it'll be thorns and cotton bolls. We know what we've gotten ourselves into and we wouldn't change living in our now for anything.

If you want something worth it, something that lasts, you better not be afraid to throw yourself into a rosebush or hesitate to get dirty. That's what it takes. Don't be afraid to roll in the mud and wrestle with a lion. You'll be exhausted, but you will find rest with the person that's as committed to you as you are to them. 

February 15, 2017 marks 14 years of marriage. Easy times, hard times, the good, the bad, the ugly. We may not always like each other, but we always love each other and we give everything we have to keep it together. It isn't easy, but it's worth it. Every single day. 









Thursday, January 26, 2017

Recipe for Success (and pizza)

I don't own cook books. I'm just not good at recipes. I mean, I look at Pinterest or something and get an idea of what I'm after and then I make it up on the fly. That's probably why this isn't a food blog. Lord knows I love food. I love to eat, er, cook and I'm not terrible at it (eating or cooking.) I just don't follow recipes well and I don't measure things. When someone asks me, "Can you give me the recipe for this?" I balk a little. "Um..yeah...just...um...let me look at all of my measuring gadgets and figure out how much of, wait, what did I put in there?" 

Like this blog, I make it all up as I go. 

When it comes to life, I like a general recipe. I like a picture painted of what I should do to get the desired result. No doubt, I mostly wing it, but with a general recipe you can add in some extra cinnamon or pepper or cheese and it usually turns out pretty good. 

You can get a "Chicken Soup" book for just about everything. Your soul, your dog, your kid, your bathroom (for light reading.) My go to book for life recipes, though, is The Bible. I even have an app that will give me reading for whatever I'm feeling. It's pretty cool. What is so handy about all this, is that most of the recipes laid out in the Bible, are applicable to everyday life. 

I can read a Bible recipe over and over and never get it until someone actually breaks it down for me. That happened Sunday. Our pastor preached out of 2 Peter 1:5-11. Those verses paint a picture of God. They lay out, step by step, how we should behave in life. And I couldn't help but connect the dots from Bible to life to agvocacy. 

It's just laid out plainly. I hope you can draw the same lines I did on this one. I'll try to paint the picture. I never was any good at art.

We start with diligence, careful and persistent work. I think farmers have this part under control. 

To diligence we add virtue, behavior showing high moral standards. Also, valor, fearlessness, boldness, keeping to high standards. There are bad apples in every single group. There are farmers that mistreat their animals. There are bad teachers, bad police, bad Christians, bad businessmen. We shouldn't use those as the rule, but as the unaccepted exception. If we want to tell our story and be taken seriously, we have to hold ourselves to the highest standard. We have to be able to be proud of what we do. 

To virtue, add knowledge. There is always room to grow and something to learn. It never stops till the day we die. We are the most knowledgeable in our fields. We can answer questions and defer when we aren't sure and let someone else answer them. We are a community. We have to depend on our knowledge and be willing to add to it. We also have to just admit when we don't know and learn. 

To knowledge, add self-control. Oh boy. This one isn't always easy. Control our words, our feelings, and our faces. My filter isn't very good, but I'm exercising it. It is my face that needs deliverance. I can't hide anything. Lord help me, I just don't know how. Everything I feel is written right across it. I have to work on this. 

To self-control add perseverance, steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. Crap. How are your toes? Mine are getting stepped on. Agvocating is HARD. You feel attacked by your own people, by consumers, by activists, sometimes by your very own family. Keep on keeping on. It's easier said than done. This week alone, I have wanted to give up on farming, give up on writing, give up on my story, but I know that is not the way. We all have to persevere. 

To perseverance, add godliness, being devout to God. Most of us believe in Him and we farm on faith. Taking this recipe from being a picture of God to being a picture of agvocacy, we can use this as being faithful to our trade. We must have faith in agriculture, in farmers, and in our ability to reach others.  

To godliness, add brotherly kindness. That one is pretty self explanatory. It's been a message to The Milkmaids and a goal for myself. #Kindnessmatters it really does. It is easy to roll your eyes and sigh heavily when you have to explain agriculture ten times before someone gets it. It is second nature to us. It's easy. Rocket science is pretty simple to a rocket scientist. I'm not sure I could understand it on the tenth explanation. We have to tell our story with kindness and patience. Everyone wants to be treated kindly, even if they forgot how to treat others with kindness. 

To brotherly kindness, add love. It is easy to see that we love what we do, but are we showing love as we tell our story? Secret tip: (This is free) You don't have to like someone to love them. Have you ever worked cows with your spouse? That will fuel some dislike without killing the love. Point is, if we love what we do enough, we will share our stories with love and passion. 

Verses 8-11 say "For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

In agvocacy, I'll translate that to say, "If you follow this recipe, you will tell your story and they will hear it. If you can't use these ingredients/guidelines, you're shortsighted, blind even, of what your job as an agvocate is. After all, there was a time we didn't know what we do now. Be diligent, be certain, and if you follow this recipe you won't fail. You will have plenty of opportunity to share your passion and touch lives with your story in agriculture." 

    DILIGENCE
    VIRTUE
    KNOWLEDGE
    SELF-CONTROL
    PERSEVERANCE
    GODLINESS
    BROTHERLY KINDNESS
+  LOVE                                     
     SUCCESS IN FAITH

I know that with God, all things are possible. I don't apply that just to things of faith. I think we are supposed to take the outlines that we are given and use them in every situation life serves up. 
I'm passionate about 3 things: my faith, my family, and farming. I will find a way to apply God's recipe for Christianity to each of my passions. I'll even share them with you.  

The oldest Milkmaid wants to go to culinary school. She wants to have a bakery with a giant glass case full of cupcakes and delicious pastries. I am all for this dream, it has some major perks. If she peruses this passion of hers, she will learn to follow a recipe. She will learn to tweak it to create whatever she wants. I am hopeful that I am training her up with the ability to follow recipes, both in cooking and in life.

I leave with you one of our favorite snack recipes:

1 loaf of bakery french bread ($1 bread at our Wal-Mart)

1 jar of pizza sauce (Also Wal-Mart brand because I'm cheap)

Cheese: This I don't measure or have a brand preference, nobody is paying me here. 
*You should go by the motto of the more the merrier. Use all the cheese.

Other toppings: Mini pepperoni, ground beef, bacon, Canadian bacon, whatever else you like

Did I mention cheese? Dairy good, y'all. 

1. Slice bread. You can slice the whole loaf long way, or into individual slices. I suggest the latter if you have kids that are picky or just like to bicker because they want their very own. 
2. Slather the bread with jarred pizza sauce. (Or homemade if you're an overachiever.)
3. Add cheese. A lot of it.
4. Add cooked toppings. Make sure the meat is cooked. I don't want anyone having raw hamburger or bacon. This is very important.
5. Cheese. Just do it. Add more cheese. I like mozzarella because its a little less greasy, but you do you.

Put it on a cookie sheet. If you're lazy like me, put it on some parchment paper so your pan stays clean. I hate scrubbing cheese off of a pan.
Melt all that cheesy goodness in the oven at 350 for a few minutes. I don't know how long. Don't let the cheese burn. That's my best guess. 

Serve with ranch or marinara, if you're weird and like that stuff. 

Pro Tip: Let it cool before you bite it. I know...I know. It looks so cheesy and delicious, I can hardly wait either. But cheese can cause some major burns. It is melty and sticky and it hurts. 

What's that you say? Oh, you think I should write a cookbook? Yeah, me neither.
Check out my Facebook page and share your best recipes with me!