Friday, October 9, 2015

That Impossible, Worrisome Cardinal



10 seconds...


10 seconds more.


This past spring into the summer, a female cardinal spent much of it's morning (and sometimes well into the afternoon) flying into the window.

We never were quite sure why she decided to spend much of her time doing such an obviously painful exercise; but every day she came.
Her male friend was always on a branch of a nearby shrub,
watching her constant confusing crashes.
  It often began at sunrise:
we were awakened by the thumping since she never stayed at one specific window, but would migrate to different windows around the house.

I felt so sorry for her.
She seemed so determined on this self-destructive path,
adamantly sticking to her chosen occupation of trying to accomplish something...
but nothing more than pain seemed likely to happen. 

I would wander over to the window and tell her to stop it, and she would while I stood close by in her view, but as soon as I walked away, her thumping would begin again.

"Crazy bird.  Don't you ever get hungry or thirsty or want to build a nest and have baby birds?
If you would just fly away.
 Why don't you do something with your life besides waste it banging your head against the glass." 

 I finally gave up and pursued my own course of actions for the day.

And then just like that, it hit me.

Isn't that what I do?

I've been reading Hebrews and I just came to chapter 11 this past week.

I've stopped to soak in the verses a bit more,
studying each person mentioned in the Hall of Faith.
It's funny because I like to read some verses from the Old Testament and some from the New Testament, and my reading in the Old just took me through the story of Moses and the escape from Egypt.
I also recently heard a sermon about Jacob that exposed how full of turmoil his life was:
the loss of three of the people he loved the most, all dying rather close together in time:
his wife, then his father, and then (it seemed) his favored son;
the plight of being a single parent to his sons Joseph and Benjamin,
the sorrow of losing a child; having a daughter raped; and having treacherous,murderous, shameful sons;
but he still trusted in God.

And then there was Enoch,
and Noah,
Abraham and Sarah.
People, ordinary in life's journey, sometimes experiencing hard trials,
but choosing to have faith in God despite everything that bumped into their way.

"But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him."
Hebrews 11:6

We like to worry about things, we humans.
We worry about money and having enough.
We worry about out kids: their frustrations, their stages of life, their health, their futures.
We worry about our relatives, ourselves, our own futures, our own health.
We just worry. It seems to come easily.

My farmer and I are selling our farm, and we have moved to my in-laws farm.

It was the right thing to do, we know it for so many reasons and the peace God gave us about the move made it clearly the right path.

But our farm hasn't sold.
Not yet.
Months have gone by and the time slot that we expected things to work out is getting longer than we'd like.

Worry works it's way in like a drifting breeze of smoke,
just a touch at first, but steadily making it's presence hard to ignore.

We beat our heads against the glass of it, thinking, 
that our worry will do something with our fears;
will demand a response other than pain and discontent.

God calls us to have faith,
to do right and glorify and thank Him
and trust that He will carry us through anything we may face

because His wings are a much safer place to be than our own.
I'm not sure if that cardinal is still greeting the morning windows at the old farm,
but it's been nice to get a few extra minutes of sleep since we left her.
I hope she finds whatever it is she's looking for,
for her sake and for her patient red mate.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Trying to see the "Good" in some Fridays.

It was 'Hawk,' 
Levi's hen.

She was one of the first hens we had gotten for our shed-turned-chicken-coop.
It is hard to let a pet go, even when they've had a good, full life.

Violet carried her little body out to the pasture after she'd found it lying in the pen this morning.
I didn't see her, but I'm sure there were tears.
 Those chickens are her pets more than anybody's.

It didn't feel very much like a good Friday.

The spring weather has been an extra cold one,
and the flower beds need for me to get into them
to prepare for the plant sale so quickly creeping up.

It's another of the unpredictables that comes with farm life;...

just like the situation earlier in the week when one of the heifers was acting sick,
kicking and licking at her side and her tail.

We worried she'd eaten something,
maybe a piece of metal last week when they'd managed to get out of their pen and rummaged through the barn alley.

We'd called the vet because the loss of her would be too great,
to our pocketbooks or to our freezer,
if deemed necessary;

but the vet said she must have eaten something that affected her because it looked like just a gassy stomach ache.
It was just another one of those things that doesn't really make sense,
but it was better than what could have been...

and even more of a blessing that Violet hadn't gotten hurt when she and I had tried to help the vet get the heifer into the headlock and she'd revolted,
 her wild, black furred body smashing up against the gate,
 squishing Violet between it and the post. 

 I worried for her wrists or her face the way she'd been hit, but thankfully, she'd only gotten a scrape on her leg.

No, not a good day, or much of a good week either.

My farmer has had to fill in at work extra, working 6 days a week every other week.
It has frustrated me to see him: tired, the jobs around the farm getting stacked up on his endless "to-do" list,
worrying that the onslaught of spring and summer won't show him pity with their "to-do" agenda.

 It is easy to let frustrations build and fester,
to get angry at inconveniences.

And then this morning, I heard about a serious car wreck involving a young mother whose life is hanging in the balance, critically wounded.

The good of life, sometimes, seems to get muddled in the little frustrations;
but life can be excruciating when blasted by the hard situations that knock the breath right out of our bodies. 

"Why is it called 'Good Friday,' Mom?"
Levi disrupted my thoughts as I was washing the floor, cleaning up a mid-morning mess.

"Oh, because Jesus died for our sins," I explained.
"It surely wasn't too good a day for Him, though, was it?  
I mean, it was, because He showed His love for us by dying,
but it wasn't a very nice way to have to spend the day.
It was a bad day, but it was a good day."

And then I thought about my own words.
Jesus knew the frustrations of days that didn't turn out nicely,
a manger birth; sudden, uncomfortable trips; being left behind at the temple;
the struggle of a job in the carpentry shop.
He knew what it was to be hungry and cold, to face a storm,
to be alone in a wilderness,
to feel abandoned by friends in the Garden of Gethsemane;
He knew the pain of loss: the death of his adopted father,
of His cousin John, of his friend Lazarus.
He knew the sorrow of pain in the heart and the hurt of pain in the flesh.

Jesus lived on earth.

I thought of the words I had read as I ate my breakfast,

"Be careful for nothing;
but in every thing by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known unto God.
 And the peace of God,
which passeth all understanding,
shall keep your hearts
and minds
through Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7

Sometimes, when frustrations appear, the only thing we can do is pray...
with thanksgiving,
which seems two contradictory terms when there is pain included;
it seems hard to even mention them together.
But it is only through that stretch of prayer that we can rest in God's peace
because He is the only one who can see the whole picture.
He knows the reasons that we cannot earthly see.


He holds the key in understanding the why of a 'Good Friday'
because He owns Resurrection Sunday...

With guilt, I realized my mistake as I spoke the words to Levi...
my perspective of 'good' is often narrowed by my idea of it.
I thanked the Lord for this Good Friday as I saw Violet's muddy boots from the pasture,

and I prayed I'd remember it for the tomorrows, too.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Life in a Glass Jar.

It seemed like it would be forever when we planted them:
pruning, watching for worms, fertilizing.

Sometimes, when things take time, prayer, work with no instant rewards,
you start to feel like giving up,

 like there will never be rewards that amount to anything.

Some things just don't tell you what they will become someday,
that they actually are progressing in the quiet days and passing seasons as you work patiently at them.

Sometimes I feel that way about my children, when the moments seem long and hard and there is so much we see that still needs work; 
sometimes I feel that way with housework,
sometimes with striving toward personal goals that seem impossible and so far away to reach.

 The daily plod dims the joy of the finish line;

but it is there,...

it really is,

if we do not quit.

 It is funny to think that a simple treasure,
 steeped in the lessons of life: struggle, work, prayer, patience and then joy...
can be tucked away for winter in a little glass jar.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Fish Tale.

It was decided: he would take Levi fishing.


My farmer lives a busy life: full time job by day, farming by evening and weekend and any space in between.

This life prevents much of anything in the way of vacations or excess "play."

It does have some great benefits, too,
if you are a home-body, like lots of animals, enjoy gardening, love tractors and tending to the crops of the different seasons,
and find ways to ignore the things that aren't getting done as quickly as you hoped.

Even doing the simple things people do with their kids can get lost in the busyness of a farm life:
riding bikes, taking trips, playing catch, going fishing...

my farmer used to love fishing when he was a boy.

I could tell it kind of hurt him that Levi has been fishing several times with an uncle that comes by to take him, but never with his dad.

Today was an overcast day with an occasional sprinkle of rain,
a day that field farming tends to slow down and wait til tomorrow.
It was decided that today would be the day of a fishing trip.

I heard the attic door open and the Farmer made his way up the crowded steps of stuff waiting to go up there to be put away
(that never seems to get done).

He found his tackle box in his personal 4' x 4' section of the attic.

He dug his poles out from the shed and tested their structure, making note of what he needed to purchase at the store to get things ready.
After looking online at some local fishing spots, he prepared to head out to pick a few last minute things up as well as a license for himself.

"There are fish in our pond, you know," we told him.

The fishing uncle had given us some fish from his trips with Levi,
and the kids had enjoyed watching them swim away to freedom in our pond.
For several years, they had set a few free each time they'd come back from their fishing trips,
some smaller, some bigger.

A few weeks back as I went up to check on the grape arbor and gather the eggs from the chickens' nesting boxes, I had stopped to look at my pink water lilies in the pond.
I noticed a large number of fish, large and small, looking out from the water at me.  

Still, the waters of other fishing spots seemed to promise the "big catch."

Once everything was in order, we all piled into the truck
(because we all wanted to see the action.)

When we got to the big water, the excitement in the air was thick.
Fishing poles, bucket of worms, and tackle box were ready.

We watched as the lines went out...
 and the lines came in.


Fishing for an hour and not seeing one fish is pretty sad.


We weren't the only ones though.  The others fishing there were coming up with the same results.

A frustrated 11 year-old girl, a hungry 4 year-old girl, and a weary, disappointed 7 year-old boy soon lost interest in fishing in a dark watery world where nothing was happening:...
at least when they fish in the kiddie pool at home with their toy fishing poles, they can see the primary colored little fish that they are supposed to catch bobbing around, waiting to be snatched up by the magnet on the ends of their poles...
even if they don't stick very well.

The Farmer wanted to catch something.
  I could see it really was bugging him that nobody had caught anything, so he kept insisting we just watch while he fished,
(which is not easily doable with the crew I have already mentioned,
especially since the mother who is solely responsible for being the enforcer of cajoling the waning audience's attention had long since lost interest in the fishing expedition herself).

Eventually, the Farmer saw the need to abandon the idea and we all piled back into the truck,
and hungry.

As I entered the kitchen on our return to the farm, I dug out the chicken pieces I had cut up earlier for our meal and then
pulled up Pinterest on the computer to find the recipe I had chosen.
 I started chopping the onions and put the water on to boil when Violet came banging through the back door
"Daddy needs your help outside RIGHT NOW!
He stuck his finger with one of the fishing hooks and can't get it out."

"What!?!  What do you mean he can't get it out?  I've got food cooking here.  What am I going to do if he can't get it out?  I'm not good at those kinds of things!  I don't do too well with blood..." I rattled on as if making her understand would somehow change the situation.

I turned the water off on the stove and set the knife down, wiping my hands and wondering what in the world I was going to do and how I was going to look at the finger without screaming and fainting.
I headed up to the pond and could see him there,  face engrossed in the pliers he had in one hand, pulling at his other hand.

  This was not looking very hopeful.

"What happened?" I asked.  

"It was a big one.  I caught a big fish in the pond.  Levi was reeling it in, but it was big and swimming toward the cattails and I didn't want it to break the line with the hook in it's mouth, so I reeled it in.  I was having trouble getting it off the hook.  It was maybe 14" long and pretty strong.  I put it in the water to try to get the hook out and keep him alive while I tried, and he thrashed when I got him in the water and stuck the other side of the hook into my finger.  He kept thrashing, I kept trying to get him off and when he got off, that hook was buried in my finger."
As he told the story, I could feel my stomach tightening and my eyebrows scrunching on my forehead from imaging the painful scene.
 He held the finger up for me to see:
half the hook had disappeared into his finger.  

I suddenly felt very queasy and had to turn around and walk away to get control of the world that seemed to suddenly be spinning.

"Well, thanks for the help," he said.
"I've been trying to get this thing out of my hand for a while now, and I just can't get it to budge at all."

Honestly, hearing that surely didn't help me.

"Ooowwweee-ooooo, what are we going to do?" I squealed and fretted.
I tried to look at it, and felt my head spin again.

I knew I had to do something, but this wasn't what I am good at....
at all.

I am not nursing material,
not even good at putting on bandaids.

I told him I was going to get the teething gel to help numb it up while we worked on it.
Good ol' teething gel: 
see, that represents the sufficiency of my nursing skills.

I ran into the house and flew to the computer and typed in
"How to get a fish hook out of a finger," because I was just hoping there would be some kind of internet secret that would make this all go away...

 "Repeat these words while handing teething gel to husband: 'hook begone,'
and hook will instantly leave embedded finger."


Clicking on a link called something "the art of manliness", I was taken to drawn images of a fish hook sticking out of a finger and the best way to remove it.

"Okay," I panted, "I can handle this black and white sketching where there isn't any blood,
no puckering flesh on the helpless hand."

I yelled out the door for him to come inside and look at the pictures on the Internet.

He mumbled something more about the wonderful help I was and meandered down toward the house, eyes still looking at the finger that was unwilling to cooperate with our good intentions.

I pointed to the computer screen as he looked and then ran into the bathroom to get some dental floss (it said to use string to help pull out while pushing down on the tail end of the hook. 
String, when your brain is spinning out of control, comes out as dental floss.)

We worked together,
 but nothing was budging,
his hands were shaking, and I was ready to do what I do so effectively when trauma strikes my heart with fear:
bawl until somehow it could be fixed without my having to watch any more of the horror of it.

"I'll call my dad," I finally decided.  He was a medic in the army, so whenever medical issues come up and my Farmer isn't around, he's always the one I call to come remedy the situation.

"He's a half hour away," my Farmer reasoned.  "Am I supposed to sit here and have this thing sticking in me til he gets here?"

  I didn't care about the details, I just wanted help, so I picked up the phone and poked in the numbers.

The phone rang twice with no answer.

Then I heard from the bathroom,
"I got it out."

Oh, how wonderful those words.

Do you have any idea?
The sun came out again.
I could hear the kids voices outside again.
The dogs was barking, but I didn't mind.
"You got it?  How did you do it?"
I grabbed a cup and put some Epsom's salt into it and got some hot water heating.

"I just pulled it out," he replied.

That was plenty of enough detail for me.

As he soaked his finger and told me about the size of the fish and how he didn't want it to die,
I suddenly saw the humor of it.

We'd gone to "the fishing spot" and spent a long hour watching the still water;
we came home and he threw the line into our back yard pond just for fun;
 he catches such a big fish that it returns the hook to his own finger
as he worries about it dying before it gets off the hook because of the loss it would be to our little pond.

Sometimes, living on a farm, you can start to let yourself feel stuck with the invisible "ball and chain" of responsibilities, the many faces that look to you for food and water each day;
and then hearing of others' adventures abroad can seem grand, alluring, glittering with "better."

I am sure that they are fantastic memory creators, these adventures around the world;
no doubt about it!

But magnificence and memorable adventures don't have to be far...
they could be a stone's throw from your back door,
a few steps from your everyday path,
a hand stretched to touch yours across your own table
(even if that hand is stretching across wanting a hook to be removed from it).

"I think that's enough fishing for a while,"
I teased my farmer as I headed up to the barn to do the farm chores while he soaked his sore finger.
"It might be too dangerous to fish in that pond out there."

I smiled even though I wasn't sure he was too agreeable to the humor at the moment.

We'd created a story we all would keep:
a lasting memory filled with sites, sounds, predicaments, drama, pain, laughter,
and a big fish.

My farmer must not have thought it was too bad either.
He's been up fishing at the pond nearly every evening that he can spare a moment since.

"The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich,
and he addeth no sorrow with it."
Proverbs 10:22

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Reason for Disappointment Summed up in One Word.

"You know why it bothered you, don't you?"
my friend asked.

Her voice on the phone promised an answer,
one I was curious to hear.
Had she come upon some secret that I had missed til now?

"Expectations," she said.
"You had expectations of what would happen;
you expected it to be different."

It was so simple,

too simple,
and definitely not what I wanted to hear.

Blame would be much more comforting;
pity would offer temporary condolence;
but disappointed expectations?

"If you don't expect anything,
you won't ever be disappointed."
I could feel the conflicting humor in her truth.
It was what I needed to hear and as a true friend, she knew that.
It woke me from my self and stirred my thoughts.

It is the way of expectations.

Violet put 30 eggs under the duck who was feeling broody and had decided to nest.

It hadn't started out that way.
There had been a dozen or so,
but she wanted more ducklings and chickens and saw the sitting duck as an opportunity for more.

Nothing hatched.
All of the eggs had to be thrown out because double-decker eggs in a nest cannot get the proper attention, heat, humidity that they need;
or so found out that momma duck, spread as wide as she could get herself to go
with no tiny chirping to reward her patience.

Violet expected that more would be better,
the apple didn't fall far from her mother's tree;

but contentment with enough is far better than the emptiness of unnecessary more.

I sent a book to a literary agent.
I had written and rewritten it 2 dozen times til I thought it was good.
I had spent months working on a few possible illustrations for it,
hoping they were good enough.

I have heard the stories, taken to heart the warnings of rejections,
but when my answer,
 "Not unique enough,"
 came for something I had put so much of my heart into,
the expectation crashed hard;
the hurt and tears were more than I expected...
because I had expected rejection,
but just not the intensity of the pain of it.


Two years ago I made the garden and planted a few of them.
Two years I have watched them, watered them, weeded them, spread their trailing vines to increase their numbers.

We had a few samplings last season, but the increase of flowers and drooping green fruit this year has not gone unnoticed.
Daily I visit that small patch of garden,
admiring the growing fruit that those plants have in their possibilities.

Not to have expectations would be to take the soul out of the work.
All of it has been done to cater to great expectations.
I don't expect a crop failure, but it very well could come.
The chipmunks may come back;
the squirrels may decide to tear out the bushes in search of whatever it is they recklessly decide to dig for;
the chickens may discover the taste of juicy redness;
my 4 year old (who seems to be going through a stage of terrorizing my expectations) may execute her sense of undercover mischief and gobble up the whole patch when it sits just nearing it's prime.

I know the answer I hear on the phone is right.
I know I have to give my expectations to God and take whatever comes,
good or bad.
I know that trials increase faith,
that rejections and disappointments can be the stepping stones to better attempts,
modified goals,
sweeter fruit.

I am just hoping that this patch will avoid calamity and bring fullness of joy:
 because sometimes expectations are fulfilled,
and those times are sweet happiness.

 Deep inside, when the issues are weighed, the truth is:
without occasional disappointed expectations,
the hatching of a dozen ducklings wouldn't seem enough,
the long-awaited title across the front of a book wouldn't be as graciously humbling,
the berries from an anticipated patch wouldn't taste as sweet,
gratitude wouldn't have a chance to blossom...

because isn't that the way we seem to work?

It certainly seems to be the way I do.

I'll tell you for sure when I eat some strawberry shortcake,
because like it or not,
I just can't seem to keep those juicy red fruits out of my dreams.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mini Miracle on the Shelf.

It came in a game box...

at the Good Will.

 Not only does it have dinosaurs,
but it has tar pits for conquered pieces
and volcanic mountains and ledges for the "king" pieces to sit on.

Somewhere in the back of my mind,
I know that God knows his favorite games,
his favorite creatures,
his hard work he had done to earn the reward of getting to choose one thing from the charity store
for all those plants he had helped me pot up and move in the yard.

I know all this in my mind,
but in the busyness of life, 
I forget that God would care about those details.
I could almost imagine God arranging the circumstances of that game being packed up in some home where it was no longer wanted,
the mother clearing out to make more room.
I can see it being driven to the store amid a pile of other board games, 
an old soccer ball lamp,
some t-shirts and sweatshirts that had suddenly grown too small.

I can see it in my mind being carried in by the workers and piled into a bin where it would sit for a few hours, or maybe days.
Finally, it would get a price and be rolled out into the store,
set on the shelf.

Perhaps an angel had kept an eye on it,
making sure no other curious little fingers might thwart its chosen destination.

 "They are actually allosaurus dinosaurs, not T-rex dinosaurs, Mom,
because they have three fingers."

I sometimes wonder if God and His angels watch from heaven at these little amazing gifts
and smile in anticipation...

a happy boy,
an amazed mom.

Somehow, I think the Good Will might be God's place of mini miracles...

or at least 
maybe it is the mini-miracle market
for the thrifty.

The game brings a smile to his face as he hops over a not-so-well-thought-out move of my dinosaur,
and he sloshes him into his tar pit.

 I am thankful
and hope that my bags of cast-offs might make mini-miracles for others as well.

Sharing at:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Mess in the Cupboard and What it Taught Me about Home-schooling.

I opened the craft cupboard door to look for an envelope for a card and accidentally tipped a small box on the shelf.  Little slips of paper tipped out.  I picked one up and read it.

They were from an activity we had done for school some time back:
little bits of memories.

 Home-schooling can seem so frustrating at times: the things that are great about it are also what make it hard.

When you home school, your kids are with you in your own home environment all the time.  This means that your kids are always with you...not much time alone unless you can manage to sneak down the stairs in the morning without them hearing you, or you can try to keep your eyes open after they have gone to bed for enough time to read more than 3 sentences from a book for your own enjoyment before you feel your head drop from dozing off.

When your kids are home all the time, it means that your home gets that many more hours of full time use, full time wear on the walls and furniture, full time messes being made, full time "I'm hungry" and "I'm thirsty," and full time sharing of toys that aren't any easier to share when it is the same people wanting to borrow them.

 It means full time memories to be made: good and bad.

When you home-school, it means you are the one mainly responsible for your children's learning, for their steps toward achievements and successes, and the heavy weight of what may seem to be failure when they just can't seem to get the knowledge you think they should have gotten after the repetitive teaching you have given them.

It means you can't blame anybody but yourself; and, strangely enough, you realize that education diligently put forth has no room for blame because each child is different.

It means that when people say that your child's handwriting is sloppy, even after you have corrected her for her cursive o's and a's enough times you start to dream about it; it means when you have said, "'I' before 'E' except after 'C'," and she still spells friend "freind"; it means when you hear that somebody has said that they have met a lot of "dumb" home-schooled kids, that you will fight to not take those things personally, knowing that people who have never struggled to help a child learn will not understand the patience that is sometimes required in teaching without crushing a child's spirit.

It means you will come to understand that knowledge puffs the head that thinks he is superior, but learning how to learn and learning to love the search for true knowledge and the path to wisdom is what is more important.   Embracing education is finding one's area of excellence and using it for the glory of God and the good of man, even when it occasionally means being wrong or randomly requires spell-check.

 Homeschooling means you are the primary source of providing knowledge, but also the guardian of care, understanding, the ear to listen, the eyes to watch for needs, the heart that can stir or squelch adventure.

 Home-schooling is a heavy task, very full, not to be taken lightly... is a gift from God but only if we pursue it with dutiful determination, disciplined direction, diligent dissection, daring dramatization.

 You will see the joy of searching and finding;
               you will see the light go on in their eyes;
                          you will be the one they run to to share those sentences that catch their curiosity and burn in them that sudden love of learning...

 even if that moment doesn't come until years into the process.

Homeschooling teaches your children to learn even when it is hard and it feels like work;
it teaches you your own weaknesses and strengths,  and uncomfortably at times,
where you need work.

Above all, home schooling can be successful to the Christian only if we make the center of it what God's credentials demand:

5"And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
 Deutoronomy 6
Of course, these verses apply to all of us influencing the lives of children, not just in school, but in each moment of our lives.

Sometimes in our zeal to pass on knowledge, we forget that although every date might not be remembered and spelling errors will surface, those little shards of memories we make along the way can be the glue that makes an education the gift that lasts beyond a lifetime...

it can etch into the soul of the person they are becoming.

As I closed the cupboard door, I smiled at the thought that a memory had been made that somebody had not wanted to forget by hiding them in the cupboard...a little stash of papers.  Yes, it was a little unexpected mess, but it was one that was worth it.