What We Stand In Need Of

I was outside the other evening locking the girls (my chickens) in for the night. It was quiet, the moon was big and the barn was just a silhouette against the sky.

It was a good time to just stand out there and think about what is happening all around me. To be honest, I avoid the news as I don’t really like thinking about all the crazy that is going on right now in this country.

I got to thinking about my dad and how he prays. Somewhere in his prayers he always asks for “what we stand in need of”. Those words are really a huge leap of faith.

Saying those words gives over control of our lives to our Creator and that can be scary because you never really know what He will use to work for our good.

Sometimes the way is easy and we, at least me, are positive that we are indeed blessed because it is easy. Sometimes, like the world now, the journey seems bleak, dark and so twisted that we will never find our way through. It does not always feel like a blessing on that journey.

I stood outside in the dark, listening to the night sounds…the rustling of little critters in the grass…the soft cackle of a hen from the chicken coop and the distant sound of a combine still in the field. My mind wondered if this twisted journey is “what we stand in need of”.

Perhaps all the “stuff” going on right now…from covid to unrest to crazy debates is what is needed to make us sit up and listen. Maybe it is the refining we need; so when we make it through to the other side we will end up where we are supposed to be.

Maybe, just maybe, it isn’t so much about what is happening around us, but what is happening inside of us. And Maybe it isn’t so much about where we are right now, but where we will be down the road.

May we use this somewhat weird time to grow, to learn, to listen and to follow the One who never changes. May we be given “what we stand in need of”.

“We must be able
to let go of the life we have planned
in order to live the life
that is waiting for us.”

“Life is 10% what happens to you
and 90% how you react to it.”
– Charles R. Swindoll

Questions Without Answers

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Years ago, many years ago, we had a Bible teacher named Mr. Feenstra. He would ask us questions for which there were no answers. At the time we thought they were really dumb questions because there wasn’t an easy answer.

I am finding during these last weeks that there are a lot of questions without answers. I am also finding that the older I get…the more questions I seem to have. I find that my world gets grayer right along with my hair!

I have been reading a lot of posts on social media these last days. Probably because I seem to have time to do that. I also am curious what people are thinking and what my friends and family are doing.

Many of these posts raise more questions for me, about this time in our world. I read posts about how, staying home is what a “good Christian” would do. I read posts saying that saving a life is the top priority. I read posts about how people are suffering during this time and how they are overcoming.

Some of the questions I get to thinking about in the wee hours of the morning: Am I a better Christian staying home and staying safe and keeping others physically safe or am I a better Christian going to the home of a person who lives alone and desperately needs someone to physically give them a hug? Is the need for physical safety higher than the need for emotional and mental well-being?

I wonder if the need for physical safety trumps the need for spiritual well-being and worshipping with community. I wonder if physical safety is better than financial safety and at what point does financial insecurity become physically unsafe?

Where is the tipping point where self-isolation becomes harmful in more ways than physical? At what point do I sacrifice my well-being to tend the very real needs of someone who needs me to be physically there?

I read stories of those who are hurt by the lack of physical contact that comes with hugging someone you care about, but does not live in your home. They are hurt by the glares they receive if they come within 5 feet of someone in the grocery store instead of maintaining the standard 6 feet. Is one persons need of physical safety higher than another’s need of emotional, mental, financial and spiritual safety?

I don’t know the answers to those questions and I am struggling with them as I watch the farmers in our area grow more and more concerned about how they will make it. I watch small business people worry about the employees they had to lay off and furlough and wonder if they will have a business to go back to. I see teachers aching for their students.

I see pastors struggling with the fact they have to do their job long distance. I see stories of domestic abuse on the rise due to being stuck at home where it is not safe. There are stories of families going hungry because their parents do not work at an “essential business”. At what point do these issues become as important as staying healthy? At what point does staying isolated become selfish instead of selfless?

I wonder if following all the rules, while neglecting all my questions makes me a “good Christian” or a “good Pharisee”? Does posting judgmental comments on social media against those who are not reacting the same as me, make me socially responsible or a social bully? At what point am I just surviving instead of living? So many questions……very few answers.

I do know that history will judge us. It is always easier to judge after the fact. I wonder how we will look through the lens of time. Will we look like people who cowered in fear? Will we look like people who sacrificed for the needs of others? Will we look like people who were discerning and had wisdom? Will this just be a blip in the timeline of our world or will this so change our world that we no longer recognize it? Will we be judged on our lack of ability to listen, really listen to someone who had a different opinion than us?

What I DO know is this…now is the time to encourage and lift each other up. Now is not the time to beat each other over the head with our presumptions of how others should live or react. Now is the time to listen, to hear each other….to talk with each other and connect.

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way…” 1 Corinthians 13:4,5a,b. I also know I must not fall into the trap of thinking that this verse is perfect for so and so because they are, or are not social distancing…..because that is not really love at all.

You may wonder why I posted a photo of rocks. For me rocks are solid. They are not easily chipped. They are not tossed about by random winds of change. They become smooth and shiny and beautiful with the pounding of storms. They stand firm.

Soooo…..a big thank you to Mr. Feenstra….the teacher who taught us to think beyond what we see. He taught us discernment and we never even realized that is what he was teaching. He taught us to plant our feet on solid ground…something that will never shift. He taught us that when firmly planted; we can truly listen, hear, see and be love to those around us. He taught us to be rocks…….and maybe that is our answer to all those questions…….

“Lord,
give me firmness without hardness,
steadfastness without dogmatism,
love without weakness.”

― Jim Elliot

 

A Lesson In Hope

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I spoke with a friend last week. There is nothing unusual in that because I tend to speak directly, or through texts with friends everyday. What was unusual was the news she told me.

A friend of hers has been diagnosed with cancer….incurable….inoperable. I know this friend of hers. This friend posted on Facebook and I was blown away at the words she wrote. They were words that acknowledged pain, wondered about the unknown, and her words were fearless.

Her words were HOPE. Not hope in the days spent on earth. Not hope in the friendships. Not hope in the things of this world….but hope in the One who orchestrates our days. They were words of a life to be lived while still alive.

The past week has been a time of news that is not good to our way of thinking. Too many friends, relatives and acquaintances with diagnosis of illnesses that are going to be a challenge and going to bring pain to them and those around them. It has been a week of hearing about family issues that hurt. It had just been one of those weeks.

The news makes us want to ask “Why?” Years ago I had an aunt who answered that question with “Why not me?” It was a perspective shift for me. It is a question I try ask when life seems to pick me up and toss me around like an amusement park ride.

I don’t know the answer to either of those questions. What I do know is that hope sustains…hope comforts….and hope never disappoints when your hope is in the One who created you.

Hope gives you the ability to put one foot in front of the other when the way is dark. It sustains through physical, mental, and spiritual anguish.

And so I will watch these people that I know…these people I love…these friends, acquaintances and relatives who make this journey. I am in awe of their faith. I am in awe of the way they handle these days and the thought of the days to come.

They are an inspiration….they are a witness. They have Hope with a capital H because God…..God in the dark and God in the light. He shines and because they have hope they reflect the shine and I stand in awe.

Yes….life is hard and sometimes feels like an amusement park ride that will not let you get off. But Hope……..

 

Hope is being able to see
that there is light despite all of the darkness.
Desmond Tutu

 

Faith and Farmers

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So many things in life take faith. In the years I have been married to a farmer I can testify to the fact that farming is one of those things.

Every year my husband diligently heads off to the field to prepare and plant the crop he hopes to harvest in the fall. Some years that works out really well…..and other years not quite so good.

This past year we experienced some of the worst flooding on our fields that we have ever seen. We watched that water come up, go down, come up and again, very slowly go down the second time.

My farmer husband patiently (sort of) waited for the fields to dry enough to get back in them. He would walk out to the bottoms and stand in the middle of brown dead corn. He never said much when he came back…..he just waited and wondered what the best course of action would be for those fields.

This past week I witnessed an act of faith. I saw him once again haul out the disk and planter, prepare that bottom piece of field and plant it. It is rather late in the season but he has faith that there will be something that can be harvested from that piece. He is a quiet witness to perseverance, hope and faith.

I am reminded that we have never experienced a total crop failure like those farmers did in the 30’s. I often wonder how they kept hope alive when the rains never came.

It is a good lesson for me to learn…..that things are probably never quite as hopeless as it looks at the first look. That with a little patience and perseverance things might turn around….that sometimes the only thing you have is faith and the hope that faith brings……and that is enough.

“A farmer has to be an optimist 
or he wouldn’t still be a farmer.”

Will Rodgers

 

“He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate-
bringing forth food from the earth.”
Psalm 104:14

 

Considering Snowflakes

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I ventured outside tonight to gather the eggs and make sure the girls had everything they needed before they bedded down for the night. As I stood outside in the quietness, tiny cold snowflakes gently drifted down around me.

For some reason winter is finding it difficult to release it’s grip on our part of the country this year. We are teased with a couple nice sunny days….days that melt the latest snowfall. We get the sticky mud that comes with that melting…a faint promise of Spring and then…..we get more snow.

The last two days were spent watching the snow blow sideways past our windows. Schools once again let out early on Monday and they had a late start on Tuesday. Children rejoiced….I think teachers probably rejoiced right along with them! (In fact, I know several teachers and I can assure you they rejoiced.)

It makes me wonder if we enjoy Spring, when it arrives, as much as we do; for the simple fact that it seems to take so long to get here. The anticipation keeps building with every warming day in February and March. We are urged on in our desire for Spring with every bit of snow that melts and drips from the eaves of our buildings.

So much of life is like that. We get glimpses of the future and the wonders it might hold and then a curtain of snowflakes, once again, sweep in to block that view. Teased and tantalized our minds get twitchy just waiting for that next break in the weather.

It seems to take a lot of faith to believe that Spring will actually come to stay. I think what keeps us going is the fact that Spring has never failed to show up. I am reminded that no matter what happens in life, no matter how much winter seems to close back in…God is there and He has never, ever failed to show up.

I sometimes wonder why it is such a process to make it from winter to spring. I wonder if there is a lesson in there that I am supposed to be learning. Perhaps it is the lesson of patience….the lesson of perseverance?

Perhaps it is the lesson that I need to know, that I am where I need to be and that I need to find and understand the beauty that is hidden in that place and in that season. Maybe I need to open my eyes to the beauty of those tiny, cold, works of art called snowflakes and their place in my life.

Maybe I need to realize that each flake,  each situation, holds a beauty that needs to be held, looked at, and felt to be appreciated.  Perhaps I need to understand that some situations just need to be seen through the lens of faith. The faith that it will change, that I do not need to be in control and that I am exactly where I need to be at that time.

I always think it would be a wonderful thing if I could actually get a photograph of a single snowflake. I have never been able to accomplish that task. Maybe that is okay. Maybe it is a message to me that sometimes life needs to be viewed as the entire snowbank ….a collection of snowflakes that have banded together to make something entirely new.

 

“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations,
but look what they can do when they stick together!”
Author Unknown

 

“Are you where you need to be?”
Quote from the Cursillo weekend

Friday Blessings

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Red Headed Woodpecker

 

Today was a marvel, weather wise. The last while, we have been sweltering and today, the day just kept getting cooler and cooler. One weatherman thought we should tell people we are in the month of Junuary. I think he might be right!

As I sat on my porch enjoying my cup of tea and breakfast this morning; I even had to wear a coat….that is really unusual for this time of year. I will say it does smell nice and fresh when it is cooler out in the morning.

My husband and I really do enjoy the quiet start to the day. We get to share the outdoors with lots of wildlife. It is so interesting that these animals don’t even seem to pay attention to us as they go about their morning rituals.

We had a wonderful time watching the Red headed woodpecker clinging to the tree in the front yard. I hope he is eating a lot of bugs and ants…..it makes for less bugs and ants that get into my house!

This morning we had a very enterprising little squirrel join us. He was so busy digging up previously buried corn kernels that he did not even care that we were sitting so close and taking pictures of him. I think he felt very sure that we would not meddle in his affairs.

It didn’t take long and a rabbit decided to make his appearance. This was really no surprise as we seem to be overrun with rabbits of every size. The rabbit population is a running argument conversation between me and my husband.

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Cottontail/Bean Eater

 

He thinks we can’t have too many rabbits around…….I think we have waaaay to many to be compatible with my flowers and vegetables.  So far, the rabbits and my husband are winning. (Can you hear the big sigh from where you are?)

I must confess the baby bunnies are cute….but eventually they turn into bean eaters and that is not cute whatsoever! I am hoping my husband commits to doing something this fall about the rabbit population. (He does like rabbit soup, so there is hope.)

Watching these animals this morning was a great reminder of trust and faith. None of these animals worried where their next meal was coming from. They just figured that it would be provided when they went looking.

They do have predators to think about, but it doesn’t seem like they live their lives in fear of what is coming. I sometimes wonder if we spend so much time and energy in fear of what the future will bring, that we find it hard to live in the present.  I think if we could live the way these small critters do……..full of trust and faith; life would be so much easier.

I am sure they have hard times……times where food is scarce, times when they are cold and uncomfortable, and times when they have to run or fly for their lives. And yet, they live and enjoy the moment for what it is. They bask in the sun when it is shining to warm them. They eat their fill when food is present. They live fully in the time they are given.

May your weekend be full of life lived fully. May your life be lived in the present and may you enjoy the small things that can be hard to see. Have a blessed weekend!

Look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Matthew 6:26-27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaleidoscope of Grace

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My mind is whirling, my heart is full and my soul is content.  The road taken to a good weekend at a women’s retreat does wonders for renewing and refreshing. I am not sure why I am always surprised when God shows up…..He has never failed to show up yet….but yes, I am always still surprised in a wonderful way.

I spent this past weekend at a place called Inspiration Hills. It was the location of the Christian women’s retreat where I was privileged to serve. The retreat was put on by Northwest Iowa Cursillo and it was a wonderful time of connecting with women, listening to talks on God’s grace and ministering to each other.

Today, it has been hard to focus on the everyday tasks of the everyday in my home.  My mind wanders and a grin comes to my face with the vivid memories of the weekend. I can close my eyes and see a kaleidoscope of pictures from the weekend.

Pictures of open Bibles, women praising and worshipping, tears falling as past hurts were let go, strangers becoming friends and genuine smiles. Pictures of delicious meals served by cooks with huge smiles, beds made by women who were giving of their time, and women kneeling in prayer for those they only knew by name. Pictures of grace in the flesh.

Women went home to the same trials, the same heartaches, the same problems and issues they had before……but they went home equipped with a stronger faith to deal with them. They went home knowing they had a network of women who were not going to let them fall. They went home knowing that in the brokenness God does indeed make beauty out of ashes.

Today it is back to doing the everyday tasks that are part of the everyday in my home. The difference is I am doing them in the after-glow of a grace filled weekend……and that is a wonderful blessed way to do those everyday tasks.

 

“God uses broken things.
It takes broken soil to produce a crop,
broken clouds to give rain,
broken grain to give bread,
broken bread to give strength.
It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.
It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.”

Vance Havner

 

 

 

Lessons From Geese

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The past few days have been unusual with our very warm weather. It has been a wonderful reprieve from the cold days that we had in January. The last few days we have even heard flocks of geese as they fly over our farm on their journey north.

It is hard to believe that the geese are already migrating. This is really early for them to be moving that direction again. It makes me wonder how long it will be before they are thinking they may have left those warmer areas a little too fast.

I love the wild sound of those flocks as they fly overhead. It is usually that wild cry that alerts us to their presence. Once you hear it, you start looking up till you finally locate them. Sometimes they are just small groups of a dozen or so. At times they are so large they have several V formations within V formations.

I am amazed at the instinct these birds have in knowing when it is time to hit the migration trail. Year after year, they unfailingly take wing and go when the time is right. Year after year they follow that age-old path to get to the same location as they were the year before.  Against all odds they  manage to make that same trek over and over.

There is a great comfort in the constancy of the geese as they migrate. It is wonderful to know that even though this world may be in an uproar…..the geese still fly when it is time to go.  They do not take their cues from man-made circumstances. They go when it is time….no matter what; because that is what geese were made to do.

There is a lot to be learned from geese I think. They are not swayed by circumstances and opinions. They do not try to be something they are not. They stick together so their journey is easier.  Just think if we were not swayed by the opinions of people who care nothing for us. What would happen if we did not worry about being good enough? What would this world look like if we stuck together and loved each other enough to help each other through this journey called life?

What if…..against all odds….we stayed true to being who God made us to be and we stayed focused on the business that He has given us to do? I cannot speak for anyone else….but I am thinking that would be a mighty fine thing.

May you have a blessed weekend and enjoy the things that God has put in your path . May you find something to marvel at in the days ahead. I pray that someone is placed before you and you are given an opportunity to love, serve and help…… and may your life be filled with simple pleasures like geese flying overhead.

 Morrie Schwartz quotes 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/against-the-odds/

A Little Tour

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Today the blogging well seems to have run a little dry so you are going to get a short tour of the farm.  The blogging well might be slightly on the dry side but our farmyard definitely is not.  We are enjoying some amazing, unseasonably warm weather around here. I am not going to complain about the temperatures…..but there is a downside.

The downside of these early warm temperatures is that all the snow melts….rapidly. When snow melts that quick and the ground is still frozen, our yard turns into a pond fed by a small creek that winds it’s way  from the field to the west, to our farm yard.

This all sounds delightful and probably would be if we were in the mountains and we were talking about bubbling brooks and clear mountain streams. What this means for us is that our yard becomes a pond which then turns into a mud pit.

Our car is no longer parked in the garage but up the driveway a ways so that we will not have to go “mudding” every time we need to go somewhere. There is an upside to this beautiful weather….there is usually an upside to most situations if you look hard enough.

I find that we can go outside with lighter weight coats on. Gloves are no longer needed to keep your fingers from freezing.  And it is now enjoyable to take a walk down the road as the wind is not howling with a sound like that of a roaring freight train.

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My husband pointed out to me that we had an eagle in the bottom field the other day. I headed out, camera in hand to try get a picture of him.  The expectation was high that I would be successful in getting this accomplished.  As I came around the corner of the barn I could see him sitting in the bottom field.  He was quite far away but I managed to get a picture of him before he decided I was too scary for him to stay put. If you look closely at the picture at the top of this post you will see him flying away, heading towards the river.

As I slid my way through the mud (and of course wearing my chicken wellies)  I found much to appreciate.  From the trees that are patiently waiting for their summer clothes, to the girls enjoying themselves with some treat they found in my wheelbarrow…..the farm was a delight.

 

Even with the mud, this farm not only makes a living for my husband and me…..it also feeds my heart and soul. It has so many facets to it’s personality. Each season brings a certain beauty that makes me stand in awe.

There are times it is so still that you wonder what will happen when that quietness has passed. There are times when the soil comes to life with the green of corn, beans, and hay fields. The air is fragrant with the life of growing things.

This piece of land is a feast for the senses in every season. There is a connection to this ground even when it has turned to mud. It is much like life. There is promise and there is hope. There is a knowing that God is faithful and Spring is on it’s way. It is a reminder that life is rich and is the accumulation of so many wonderful little things.

 

 

“Farming is a profession of hope”
Brian Brett

 

 

 

It’s a Blogiversary

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I cannot really believe it!  I have been blogging for a whole year. My kids had been after me for a long time to try this thing called blogging. Last year when my daughter-in-law, Becca, set this up for me I would have found it hard to imagine that one year later I would have written 163 posts. It has been so much fun.

My husband still shakes his head about this whole blogging endeavor. He’ll ask, “Making any money blogging?” (accompanied by a smirk and a laugh.) I tell him “Nope.”  Then he asks, “So is it kind of like having  pen pals?”  Then I smirk and laugh and tell him “Yep!” I also never dreamed I would meet so many absolutely wonderful people.

Tonight I just reread that first post from January 31, 2016.  I still have some of those same question that I asked back then…..Will anyone really want to read what I have written?  Will people really care what I think?  And the amazing answer is Yes!!!! That fact still boggles my mind.

People will ask me what the main focus of my blog is. I am still not sure how to answer that one and typically grin and tell them it is very random. I tell them it is just a blog of life in general; that covers topics from farming, chickens, gardening, crafting, faith, family and pretty much anything else life throws my way.  Hopefully it is a blog filled with love, humor, hope and encouragement and a few life lessons tossed in.

Back to the people I have met along the way on this blogging journey.  There are so many of you that I would love to meet in person. You are beautiful, honest, down-to-earth, funny, joy filled and life loving, gracious people. You share your lives honestly….the joys and the struggles.  You share the things that make you laugh and cry. You use your life experiences to make others laugh, lift them up and find hope. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking time to like, comment and offer friendship and encouragement to this Chicken Grandma.

I am so looking forward to this coming year of blogging.  I am looking forward to meeting more of you and getting to know what makes up your life. I am hoping to love more, encourage more and bring hope.

Let me know what you want to see over at the Chicken Grandma and I will see what I can do! Like I said it is pretty random over here. Life over here is rather like that box of chocolates that Forrest Gump talked about. You never quite know what you are going to get on any given day.

May your day be filled with hope. May you feel grace from those around you and may you be a blessing in return.

      This is the day that the LORD has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

Read more: http://www.whatchristianswanttoknow.com/bible-verses-about-hope-20-uplifting-scripture-quotes/#ixzz4XUvN5XL0