A-Tack Day

It was the middle of a crazy, emotion-packed week. Too exhilarated from my drive to town in perfect weather, I couldn’t force myself back indoors yet.

The cloud bank to the west served to justify another walk for the morning; it could be a storm front coming in, so I headed to the pastures – to check on the livestock, of course.

Only one head rose up as I approached the main gate, but I was glad it was Kendra’s gray mare on the east side. Naturally her head went right back down into a patch of sweet grass, but her pause to recognize me once again filled me with wonder.

The cattle watched me dispassionately from the west end as I moved from the gate to the south pasture. The mare pretended to ignore me, and yet she repositioned her hooves – taking more than one step away (only in case I was coming to bring her in) would have required more exertion. As I stepped closer she nickered as if she enjoyed teasing me. As she continued to munch a mouthful of grass uninterrupted, I shooed some flies away from her face and picked some straw from her mane. She thanked me by resting her head on my shoulder and with her head pulled me to her neck. I don’t care what equestrian experts call this, I consider it a horse hug.

One hand rubbed her chest between her forelegs as Kendra taught me, the other reached up and around to rub her neck and then her face. She hated that so much, except for her munching she stayed perfectly still while my hands moved over her.

Once again I felt like she understands these kinds of moments with her actually get me through my occasional bouts with loneliness.

Sufficiently stroked, I left her to walk briskly to the tree line at the back of the lot, opposite the cattle and then I turned back toward the gates. As I walked, I couldn’t believe my eyes zeroing in on the tiniest suggestion of yellow on the ground. I stepped in closer and confirmed my suspicions; a fresh crop of tack weeds had begun spreading out.

After losing my dearest canine companion to an infection caused by tack weed stickers, I developed a particular loathing for them. Here at the ranch we’ve been at war since this year’s thaw. I got a bucket, a large claw hammer and gloves from the tack room and set to digging the dastardly roots up.

The number of them I actually found surprised me, but I was glad for the perfect light to see them. A shiver had just shot through me as I imagined a mean goat head sticker stabbing the mare’s soft lips, when I suddenly felt overshadowed. From my periphery it seemed the neighbor’s bull had somehow gotten into our pasture, which for a heartbeat confused me. God and I have had a lifelong understanding about bulls (and rams); He keeps them away from me and I stay clear of them.

Instinctively I did not alter my slightest movement. However after another heartbeat, before I peeked out from under my hat, Hero, our 9-month-old calf let out a familiar low, soft moo. Immediately calm replaced all my concern. His 600-or-so pound self had silently grazed up to about six feet from me and was eyeing me curiosly as he munched.

While I marveled over how much he’s grown in a week or two, I recalled Brother telling me if one sits still long enough, the calf will come close to investigate. That had been eight months ago. My next thought was whether this half-ton baby remembered me lassoing him a few weeks back. He was too calm for that and content to continue grazing close by me.

Then I wondered where Momma was, and if she remembers me bringing her flakes of hay and fresh water for the weeks the pastures rested. I felt no alarm or concern about anything but the tack weeds.

After a few more minutes there was no sign of the malefactors outside my bucket. I slowly stood and stretched, eyes still scanning over the grounds.

Hero watched from about three feet away by then, but didn’t startle or miss a nibble. Momma looked up for a moment but her head went right back down. Mare went right on munching inches from where I left her. The neighbor’s bull, by the way, continued laying on his side of the fence and the hot wires. I marveled at how I often have trouble seeing my computer screen clearly, and yet I can spot a fly by a cow’s eye or a tack weed from yards away.

Satisfied and sufficiently stretched for the day, I walked toward the gate. Mare bounced her head as I went on without her. That’s when I remembered Kendra telling me about one of her favorite summer memories; her laying in the pasture grass with her newly acquired mare’s head laying contentedly on her like a pillow.

As much as I adore the image, it made my heart ache a bit. Too many times I had to leave my treasures behind. I’m too familiar with that ache to not understand how Kendra misses being with her horse and chickens every day. Images of harder times flashed across my mind. But happy new memories are gradually replacing them.

I sent up a prayer for my friend’s peace and strength, asked that God continue to guard and guide my family, and I thanked Him for these peaceful moments and again for bringing me here.

What a delight being able to lose myself out in the open; to be unconcerned, unintimidated and unaware of anything but God’s presence and my 5 physical senses. A tear was slipping down my face when the adolescent rooster crowed – yeah, at noon, bringing my focus back to the present.

By then I was completely relaxed and content in the present time. I happily returned to my work.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.” Psalm 23:1,2 (NLT)

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Fruity

Almost as soon as I rose, I was a mess. My bandage was stuck to my pillow case, not my forehead and my neck hurt from sleeping on my other side. I almost always begin my day by saying aloud, “Hey, thanks, God!” But instead I was all, “waa, waa, waa…”

Clearly I needed caffeine – and prayer.

Priming the pump, I thanked God for every little thing I could see. Soon that became a stream of praise. My physical pains dissipated into oblivion, and before long God and I shared a good laugh. Yeah, at my expense. Yet again.

Today’s confession: As I brewed a pot and got my prayer journal, my feelings made me miserable. The pain, the dread, the fear, would it ever end??? I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was as if a cloud of dissatisfaction blocked any light into my soul. I didn’t recognize the scary, haggard old woman watching me from the hat rack mirror by the door. And I didn’t care if she saw me.

So, what’s funny is I’d been writing about the fruit in our lives. And suddenly that morning I could see where a few of my apples had fallen and become wormy.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22, 23 (NLT)

I often wonder if the average person goes on this insane roller-coaster ride – or as frequently. Those of you that do can commiserate with me for a moment and then feel free to snicker or laugh out-right. It’s as if we don’t know from experience what we’re like when we’re tired, wrung dry, trying to live wholly holy without sufficient Holy Spirit time.

I can see it in the mirror when I need some one-on-one time with God. Those worry lines, the furrowed brow, shoulders sloping and neck bent… Not flattering, impressive or the image of a victor!

Laugh lines are so much better. So God and I laugh at me – a lot more than I like to admit. But as I learn to laugh at myself more, take myself less seriously, I also learn to forgive myself for not being perfect. Despite a rough beginning, thanks to God I’m quite content to be good today.

“A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thorn bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:43-45 (NLT)

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Different Beauties – Walk #17

For weeks we’ve walked about at first light in shorts and bare-armed against the heat.  This week I wore jeans and covered my arms from the chill.  Still, by mid-afternoon temps were in the high 90’s to low 100’s again.

Change is in the air.  Around my neighborhood rich greens are already fading.

Late Summer.

 

 

 

 

“As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.” Genesis 8:22 (NLT)

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Cultivated

Remembering the women we were at the beginning of our friendship takes some work now. A grade school classmate of my husband, I met AgriGirl and her parents when two of her three children were in primary and pre-school. We bonded immediately.

Only one facet of our friendship ever troubled me; for a time we were the most amiable, personable, but uncontrollable gossips I know – just between the two of us no subject or person were untouchable.

After a couple of years of rehashing many social events together, I grew a conscious about some parts of our conversations – people’s private, intimate details. At that time my husband and I were separating so I wasn’t proud of that season of my life. A good friend, AgriGirl stayed close, doing all she could to lift my spirits and help me through. Even so, I began to wonder; if my kind, sweet, honest friend talked about other people’s deeply intimate, personal lives to me, why wouldn’t she talk about my present mess the same way to others?

Though our dirty little secret was ours alone, that profound revelation pierced my soul. For a while I could barely stand myself. Soon afterward I realized we were friends because we were so much alike and that I never carried our stories any further. Still, we both weeded out topics that weren’t meaningful, pruned and snipped what wasn’t uplifting or helpful. In a heartbeat we would turn a subject from Anyone-Not-Present to finding knanker bulbs,* and the former subject didn’t come up again. The difference made us even closer, better friends.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26 (NLT)

Recently, thanks to our smart phones, AgriGirl and I caught up with the years since we last lounged away the afternoons on her beautiful, Mid-west deck. We shot photos and Pinterest tags back and forth so that I’m bursting with new ideas, much like old times. She’s talking about coming here to, well, talk and hang out. I can imagine she might need the visual of my life on the ranch to fully get her head around it.

I’m glad for the relationship AgriGirl and I cultivated over the years, that we can still chat for hours. Aside from politics, global events and our families in general we pretty much stick to discussing the two of us, reminiscing, what we’re doing now, comparing our project lists, bucket lists and our few dreams that haven’t come true – yet!.

“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” Galatians 6:7 (NLT)

* Yes, Danny and DBDO readers, I made up the word 😉

Image courtesy of Pixabay

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On The Rise

I want to share an astounding truth – I apologize in advance:

  • It’s not flattering,
  • It’s too sensitive for making fun or otherwise mocking (okay, almost too sensitive),
  • You’ve heard it before – from me,
  • It’s embarrassing.

The truth is, I fail.

What’s more, I fail daily.

Most of the time I don’t even realize I’ve done it again until I am on my face; dirty, often bleeding, and usually crying. Worse yet, I can be angry, hostile and ugly, as if I’d been wronged. Shocking, I know.

I hope nobody’s keeping score of how often I bolt ahead without God or checking with him – wanting to impress Him; essentially trying to earn His love.

Even if it’s happening, in all that humiliation I get to see myself as He wants me to be.

Health advisory; take a deep breath now:

… God wants me to just be – not do everything I ever knew how to do so I can fool myself into thinking I’m helping Him fix broken people in a broken world and before nightfall wind up an exhausted, painful, discouraged and often malodorous lump on (usually) the floor.

I’m sure this was not the only instance all week, but it’s the one where I spent time and energy trying to fix a pipe that wasn’t actually broken yet – while my writing awaited my undivided attention. Does anyone else do simple, sometimes ridiculous tasks trying to avoid an obstacle? I didn’t think so.

My options that morning:

  1. “Look there, Lord. That drop of water on that pipe could indicate a problem somewhere down the road. What do You think about that?” (I wait patiently on an answer, of course),
  2. “Who knows when Brother can get around to looking into this?  I am so good at juggling, it won’t be any trouble at all…”

Yeah, I went with option number two. Without mentioning the drip to God or thinking twice, I reasoned, “Oh, I can fix this, Yessiree, I see where this is going, what I can do. Heh heh. C’mon God, I’ve got this…” and off I went in a completely different direction…

Annnd again, before I even realize it’s happening I’ll have left the peace of my quiet place with God prematurely. I’ll bolt out, off balance and a mess before I start. Soon, feeling the gap widening, I’ll seek relief by working harder – cleaning something. Immediate gratification is today’s most common snare. Most of the best things in life require t-i-m-e.

Once I was done being all ugly over that big mistake, God showed me what I actually did – what I routinely do when I’m not entirely right with Him. Rather than simply sharing the observation with God, I began doing His job, minding His business and neglecting mine.

God didn’t let me go through all this because it’s cheap entertainment. He allows some things to happen if only to teach me to trust Him, to lean on Him and let Him do the work. I suspect He also appreciates a good laugh. But He never wanted me to go it alone and make myself feel prematurely old and tired.

He wants me to relax, let Him use me when He wants to, but mostly to see how He works all things out.

But what really melts my butter is how God is always waiting for me with open arms every time I realize I’ve spun off course – [sigh] yet again.

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

So, we all get stuck behind our noses – lost in our frame of reference, as if ours is the only possible perspective. Anyone denying they fail needs to read the Book of Romans. Go ahead. But be warned, if you’re like me you’ll want to argue Chapter 3, verse 23 before really thinking about what everyone/all means.

Frankly, I’m thankful for that grace. Instead of always falling short, God raises me up!

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” Romans 3:23, 24 (NLT)

 

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Smoke on the Waters

News of wildfires are not unusual this time of year.  This week the news came to us live; smoke – filling the Columbia Basin for days. Literally.

The worst of the flames were far enough from us that I could appreciate the beauty in the midst of hardships and troubles.  Smoke subtly displayed colors I couldn’t actually imagine before.

On Day Two:

Sunrise through smoke over the eastern neighbor’s house,

 

from the barn looking over the shops and the main house.

 

Sister Roan and I came to call the following God With Us Curve. The road turns sharply and drops to the left (north) winding down and around the steep hill. ‘Not gonna lie, our first winter here, ice covering that drop intimidated us. In the photo this week the continuing road is visible through the smoke from the center of the house near the top of  the hill – almost like the road winds from the chimney.

 

 

Late morning, Day Two, Smoke obscures the river view from God With Us Curve.

 

“The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.” ” Psalm 91:14-16 (NLT)

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Pressed On – Walk #16

I awoke to peaceful quiet. In fact, a nano-second before steaming my latte I noticed the distinct absence of WordPress app notification sounds from my cell – on a new blog post day.

But the forecast is for 108 degrees (42.22 C), it is only day two of a new pasture routine, the hens are laying like they’re supposed to, and so I didn’t have a moment to look into it.

Four hours, six tiny, light brown eggs, and lots of fun and games later, I discovered I’d inadvertently scheduled the wrong publish date. {I sighed with a relieved, contented and slightly embarrassed smile}, Silly Ol’ Roo.

This morning’s antics

 

Ol’ Dog and I paused a moment to admire the neighbor’s haircut. Of course, out of earshot we snickered. Llamas can actually spit long distances.

Suzy has taken to swinging on the fence as the sun rises. When she falls on my side she’ll run to me even across the lot. Her squawking interpreted; “Did you see that! Am I great or what? I fully rock that stuff.”

Later Suzy couldn’t figure out how to get back in the chicken yard. She went in the tool shed door and the other hens (ahem) couldn’t open the coop gate for her. Poor, silly Suzy.

Suzy runs to me – likely admiring the teal flip flops.

Suzy was happy in my arms for a few minutes. She wasn’t upset – just chill…

Silly Suzy still trying to figure out the shiny-boxy-thingy.

 

Notice at no time are eggs ever laid in the nesting boxes:

 

Then on to games before it gets too hot

Follow the leader

Hide and seek

Simon Says

Finally we play Roo’s Done

 

“How joyful are those who fear the Lord— all who follow his ways!  You will enjoy the fruit of your labor.  How joyful and prosperous you will be!” Psalm 128:1, 2 (NLT)

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Reason

I like to flow through my days thinking I control all the amazing things I do, that the astounding things happening in and around me are actually all about me. This fantasy is cheap entertainment, it rarely runs into overtime, and when it occasionally results in a rude thud into reality, it becomes blog fodder…

‘Fact is only God is that amazing. Were I indeed all that today, I wouldn’t be scary beyond all reason, especially to the livestock – hollering unprovoked – random bursts of upset – all day long. Today.

 

Genius that I am, in 2009, I nonchalantly lit a nice cigar. It was during an event, a rare occasion so I did’t think twice.

Weeks later my story was, smoking eased my pain better than the opiates my doctors prescribed and was cheaper than 75 year-old Oban. If I hadn’t grown up in rooms filled with Cuban cigar smoke (and sworn to secrecy), I’d still loathe cheap cigars. But in 2009 the embargo hadn’t been lifted yet, so that alone would keep me from forming a habit. “Yeah, that’ll work…”

But wait, there’s more: Thirty-two years ago I told my doctor, “I don’t have time to be sick…” Doctor replied very matter-of-factly, “Roo, you’ve had acute chronic bronchitis for ten months, been hospitalized twice. Now you can either keep smoking or keep breathing. Your call.” Quick as ever, a year later I finally stopped smoking.

In truth, if I were as amazing as I like to sometimes think, In 2009 I would never have toyed with lighting a cigar 25 years AFTER winning the battle of my life; stopping an 18 year, 3-pack/day smoking habit.

Yeah, that was me; sharp as a marble.

In a year I was smoking a pack of organic, sans additives cigarettes a week (because nicotine isn’t addictive). A few years later I was torching 12 – 14 packs a month.

Then I began vaping instead. “Seriously”, I told myself “this is best for everyone”, including my three new chain-smoking roommates (2 were siblings). Like most other bad habits, vaping began cheaply enough but grew to a roaring $76-plus a month habit – after purchasing the equipment – which breaks and wears out. Often. Seriously for real; that’s airfare and a nice hotel with the kids every year!

So, get it now! For the low-low price of only $8.17 per pack, you too can have it all. Start tarring your lungs and control that annoying nicotine addiction until it kills you. Meanwhile it will take every cent you were going to spend on that cruise with the kids next year.

Prices may vary and do not reflect the Sin Tax in The City or the costs of hiding the habit from the grand kids or your friends at church. Restrictions may apply and no one accepts any responsibility when you can no longer breathe on your own.

 

Reality Check:

The reason they call it a Sin Tax; we will pay for the indulgences we convince ourselves we need: tobacco/nicotine, alcohol, soda pop, gambling… ‘Fact is we actually live better without them.

This morning I stopped vaping. Once again my pillow and the treadmill are my best friends. As I become overwhelmed with confusion or disorientation, I scream into my pillow (so much better on the sweet, but lately very nervous chickens). If I come up for air soon, I then jog for a few minutes. Or I stay put and nap.

Hard as it seems in the present, this trauma actually only lasts for a few hours. Fine. A couple of days at worst. God has already brought me through far, far worse than this.

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NLT)

And each time I fight I win.

 

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12, 13 (NLT)

 

The Emperors New Groove video clip courtesy YouTube

The Mask video clip courtesy YouTube

Rachel Platten Fight Song (Official Video) Courtesy YouTube

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Pretention

A part of all the moving around this month involved juggling items between the main house and my cottage. My 2′ x 6′ long table is now stored and replaced by a far more accommodating 41” round table. It’s not the drop leaf kitchen island cabinet with pub height chairs I envision – yet – but this certainly frees up more floor space.

And then Brother announced he must find a place for his mammoth treadmill.


After a quick flashback of me longing to walk during the last brutal winter and being wary of the upcoming summer heat, I told him, “I’ll figure something out.”  I was thinking it best to move stuff around before the floors are refinished. Besides, he could’ve sold the thing.

With all the bells and whistles of a gym-quality machine, his Healthrider Soft Strider Pro is wide and sturdy, so it’s heavy. And with the handy space-saving fold-up track it’s awkward to haul – especially over the gravel driveway.

After two days of the treadmill and its electronic controls waiting in the heat, the voices in my head got loud, “She canna take any more, Captain.  She’s gonna blow!”

Not willing to risk ignoring Scotty, I pushed at the dolly that my strong, fit brother used to ease it down the porch steps (I’ve learned not to ask things like why it stopped there). I decided to not risk another injury, threw a moving pad over it and reminded Brother the heat can ruin the electronics.

Ten days later I’d had sufficient time to obsess over a plan to move it myself.

With some boards over the gravel, an appliance hand truck noseplate positioned between the wheels (conveniently located under the heaviest part of the machine 😉 ), I slowly, carefully rolled the treadmill through the car door into the cottage. Don’t be impressed – it’s all about leverage. Fine. Leverage, balance and the luck of the Irish.

Once inside I needed to position that monolith for use with the least amount of effort. This was tricky. I need it where I can view my 32” television/computer monitor, but not obstruct the flow. Feng Shui, people.

So, this is the part where I realize the wheels that would ordinarily move the thing easily over the concrete floor are jammed, immovable. “Where’s the damn antimatter inducer, Chekov?”

That’s when I remembered a technique a friend described years earlier after her family had purchased a somewhat dilapidated farm house. After repeatedly asking her husband to fix stuff, and after a reasonable period, she’d craftily take matters into her own hands.

Like Farm Girl instructed, I pulled out my tool box and every power tool I could get my hands on, strategically placed them around the treadmill, close to the door only slightly obstructing the entry, and then I waited.

As Farm Girl said,

“nothing motivates men faster than the sight of  a woman with power tools.”

I’m not sure if I would actually have tried to fix the wheels myself or not, with or without the circular saw or grinder. But I am now convinced that

sometimes a good pretense makes the best offense.

 

That evening, after a pitcher of iced tea Brother had the treadmill rolling easily. I can now jog to my heart’s content while catching up on my favorite audio books, programs and movies.

 

“The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.” Lamentations 3:25, 26 (NLT)

 

Featured Image courtesy ABSFreePic.com

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Wrestling

I’m new at farm and ranch life, so I’m learning a lot. Much of the new lessons provide great insights to everyday life.

  • As entertaining as they are, chickens are silly, entertaining creatures, but they eat weeds, bugs and provide good protein food.
  • Smelly as cattle can be, among the other benefits that will come later on, they now provide excellent fertilizer.
  • The mare was trained for herding cattle. Even without a saddle, bridle or a rider, when she sees me carrying a rope toward the pasture, she brings the cattle in. I especially appreciate her late in the day when I’m tired.
  • And did you know cows rub against anything that stands still – especially the ever-available sprinkler heads? Unless I want to toss hay, checking for broken heads is kind of big deal.

Brother and company back in the day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are no pigs on this ranch. Aside from seeing them at the county fair and driving through pig farm country on a humid afternoon, I’ve never been around pigs. But I’ve learned some about them from Brother. He raised and showed them in his youth. He knows about pigs.

Recently, as Brother mulled aloud his concern for an anonymous friend that’s going through a wringer in a romantic relationship, my mind kept returning to something I heard some years back.

“I learned long ago to never wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”  George Bernard Shaw

After assuring him he told me that, he stared at me blankly for several moments. Once the point set he said, “Yep.”

Today I overslept. After coffee I quickly began scrambling to catch up with the day. Out of nowhere I remembered where that conversation with Brother went;

“If you don’t mind the slime and the smell you can go wrestle that pig. It’s a workout. But when you realize you’re not getting what you want, you get outta the pen.”

Sometimes life not going the way I expected weighs on me;

  • not seeing my offspring, my sisters and old friends feels lonely sometimes,
  • having to wait on the order of projects to finish settling in to my cottage,
  • not having the funds for things like a new mattress and a good storm door (without running up debt).

I wish I could honestly say I always keep a firm grip on reality, my expectations are consistently reasonable, I’m constantly in balance, and that I don’t worry. But like Brother’s friend, I waste a lot of time, do myself discredit by fussing and fretting about things I can’t control.

It’s all good. My new experiences and some old lessons are setting up well. Aside from recognizing when the water troughs need a power spray, I hardly notice pasture smells anymore. I’ve been close enough to pig farms and other people’s squabbles I know to keep my distance. And when prayer and quiet time with Father God remains my first priority, I can enjoy life so much more:

 

  • Gazing at the stars after a hard day’s work, enjoying the fragrance of petunias and sweet alyssum,
  • Brother’s company,
  • a relaxing walk with the mare,
  • clucking around with the chickens,

And I lose weight without wrestling pigs.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6, 7 (NLT)

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