Tag Archives: blessings

Blessed Variety

The warm weather gave in to more normal winter weather for us this week.

On Wednesday:

On Friday:

 

 

Frolicking in snow is pure joy for GoodGirl. ChihuahuaTwo however is not the least bit amused.

 

I adore variety.

Count your blessings, friends!

 

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)

 

 

 

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Nooners and All-Nighters

I’ve been marveling over the paths that brought me here and all the turns my life took.

Take heat for instance: I had some doubts about staying in the cottage after processing wood with chain saws and hand tools the first two years. But the new hydraulic log splitter is a game changer. Getting Cole’s attention and assistance is easy when power tools are involved.

Also, I don’t often check the news as I prepare to leave the cottage. Instead, Cole and I catch up on the way to do chores.

Processing firewood we alternate one operating the splitter while the other stacks the split wood. Eyeing smaller logs we’ll holler over the motor, “that’s an all-nighter,” –  a cut from the trunk of a younger oak, ash, walnut or birch. We watch for logs that fill either of our stoves allowing just the right airflow to burn for six-ish hours.

Naturally, we also watch for nooners – small or half logs that burn hot for two to four hours. These are great during our work days.

After two back-to-back days of processing wood, Cole thought hard and then commentated on how the terms all-nighter and nooner both have such different meanings lately. Yep.

And today, rather than maximizing every moment, I can slow down instead when I feel pressed. It’s a sharp contrast to former times when I stressed over each day, dime and dollar, often paying somebody to do what I longed to do myself.

I actually get my steps in by keeping the fires going in both houses, rousing the old, little dogs while I’m at it. I can get annoyed when they want to continue playing after my break time is over. And sometimes GoodGirl bolting out to the pasture to play with the steer instead of heeling can irk me.

I so quickly forget I’m not the boss here, God is.

Silly human.

What initially seemed like an inconvenience during my first year here is now instinctive. Around late summer we evaluate the wood pile. Come fall we check tractor, quad and wagon tires, power wash water tanks and locate water heaters.

God certainly brought me a long way from wondering if I remembered to adjust the thermostat during my hour-long commute to work (that was before Cortana, Alexa and Google Assistant, kids). Traffic for me these days amounts to occasionally steering around a dog resting in the road on scenic drives through acreage, and slowing to admire the neighbors’ livestock along the way.

Maybe I don’t seem to accomplish as much as I used to in a day. I’m content to meet the important demands before bedtime. Instead of fretting over what may come tomorrow, I thank God for bringing me back to my bed in my comfortable home today. By His grace I’m usually asleep when my head meets the pillow and I hit the floor running before sunup.

Today I’m good with that.

“Be still, and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

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Thanks?

For what?

So what?

What next?

 

Happy Thanksgiving Holiday to one and all!

 

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalm 100:4 (NIV)

 

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Pressing Back

As this week began, even with the four of us working at it, I felt the pressure keeping up with our super-sized vegetable garden. The weeds were seriously battling for the ground that served the livestock well in previous years.

Often I’d spend enough time bent over the rows that moving the rest of the day was a challenge. Even so I’m glad for it. Taking a little time out with ice packs each day began as physical therapy. As often happens I soon turned to prayer and in no time rose again refreshed and determined to keep up the good work.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

About mid-week Cole took advantage of a western breeze. He mounted a tank on the ATV and drove it around the garden side of the fence, spraying the outward perimeter as he went.

Surprisingly, the only casualty was one sprinkler head at the north end and the conductor holding the hot wire above it. We replaced them quickly so the sun didn’t burn the entire north end of the crop. Two days later we can barely see where the balloon-like tires rode over the cantaloupe vines.

With a couple of days of light cloud cover we took a break from weeding to bring in the first loads of fire wood. Staying warm this winter should be much easier with a new log splitter due to arrive any time now.

With all that we still found time to relax a minute, count our blessings and gear up for fireworks later on this week.

And the lessons continue.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

 

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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 the gray mare grazing on the east side. Naturally her head went right back down into a patch of sweet grass, but her nod, acknowledging 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 – certainly 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, 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, the tiniest suggestion of yellow on the ground stopped me. 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.

Though I was glad for the perfect light the numbers and sizes of these new weeds surprised me. 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 curiously 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. I remembered a favorite story about a fair summer day, a newly acquired mare lay laying contentedly in the grass with her person…

As I continued on I thanked God 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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Stuffed

Late winter is my favorite season for baking. It warms the cottage while filling it with delightful aromas.

It was the last week of the month. With frozen, wet roads I had left the ranch only when necessary, so supplies dwindled. This is typical. I have seen hard times, so any day there is food is good and having choices is great! I take advantage of bargains and stock the freezer and pantry. Still, there was remarkable room in both.

That particular day I had to be especially creative. I was delighted to find all the makings for a pumpkin cheesecake pie – of all things! Hey, it includes all four food groups.

I gathered the ingredients and began making the crust. But when I went to roll out the dough I couldn’t find my rolling pin.

After exhausting every possibility I looked about for anything suitable for the task. Rolling the dough with a tall juice bottle, I mentally rummaged through lists of things I’d inadvertently left in Texas or Colorado last year.

I put the pie into the oven and began cleaning up. As I put things away I began to laugh. Without some extensive reorganizing I actually have no place for anything else. This cottage is stuffed full!

I know any time I need a rolling pin or baking sheets, I can walk 20 yards and borrow Kendra’s, but the situation made me deeply reflective.

Over my history I experienced some devastating losses. Yet, hard times taught three generations of my family to be resilient, flexible, inventive and most of all thankful for what we have.

It’s not my preference, but if I must I can fish and hunt. I know how to clean fish and dress out a deer, rabbit or fowl. More important, I adore growing vegetables and canning them.

Over the years, I learned to use a pair of forks or knives as a pastry cutter. A tall glass makes an adequate rolling pin as well as a cookie cutter. Since I needn’t make it anymore, a quart of yogurt provides me calcium and protein and a storage container as well. With friends I learned how to make cheese and delightful breads. Long ago, Moms passed their talents for making biscuits, tortillas and pancakes from scratch on to me. And hanging out with Kendra I recently learned to make candy.

Though some of my history is grievous indeed I’m glad for it all today. Because of hardships and heartbreaks, God and I are sufficient in all things. I am blessed indeed!

“I am not saying this because I am in need. I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances. I know how to survive in tight situations, and I know how to enjoy having plenty. In fact, I have learned how to face any circumstances: fed or hungry, with or without.” Philippians 4:11, 12 (The Voice)

 

*Image courtesy of ABSFreePics

All other images courtesy of Gigi @ A Warm Hello

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The Stihl of the Night

wood-pixabay

**

Sunday night Cole was plowing after dark. Although I typically avoid working on Sunday, I pulled on my boots to help shovel the pile-up from the walkways. Sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

As soon as I stepped outside Cole passed between my cottage and the shop. As he went, he called to Roommate and me, “Let’s build a bonfire!” – long after dusk on a work night. Crazy. Right?

icy-snow

We often enjoy bonfires at parties or on a relaxing evening after a hard day’s work. But not in 9 degrees and wind with a foot or so of snow. And it was late.

Cole also knows I typically retire early in the evening. I’m not literally an insomniac. Still, turning my brain off takes hours, so I typically “rise and go to roost with the chickens.”

As we shoveled Roommate shared that Cole had mentioned cutting wood earlier. I’m ashamed to admit my next thoughts were how I’d told him the day before I’d cut all the wood I could with my little chain saw – that he gave me for Christmas. He’d responded saying he’d go to the grove the following day, bring in more wood, split some logs and start up the big Stihl saw.

Another job came to the shop, so that didn’t happen. And then it snowed – yet again.

As I worked I realized some other important facts:

  • The main house where they live has forced heat and air. Their wood burning stove is essentially aesthetic, more for ambiance. They don’t need wood for heat. I do.
  • For several consecutive days Cole spent hours on the tractor moving snow from the lots and the driveways. We all appreciate a path to the pastures.
  • Cole ensures I have all I need: heat, transportation, food, companionship and even hugs.

pepper-snow

Fortunately, before shooting off my mouth without engaging my brain, I realized Cole was looking out for me. Sure, he teases me saying, “You’ve been sheltered too long. You’re spoiled.” Cole actually doesn’t know better. He sees me today with all my “quirks” – not the scarred and torn Former Me. Translated that actually means, I have your back, Sister.”

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.*”

Daily I thank God for my whole family. While Cole’s manners and personality can sometimes be annoying, we have shared some rough times together.

Four years ago, with my sister, brother and niece, we were all a family here together on the ranch. Cole and his household at the time occupied what’s now my cottage and the loft. And then all our lives changed forever; Roan and I were barely settled into our apartment in McKinney, Texas when Cole called late one night. Without warning Cole’s best friend, my precious kid brother suddenly, unexpected died here.

Jan 26, 2014 5 a.m. Opal, Roo, Seagh, Roan, Cole, Kendra

Jan 26, 2014 5 a.m. Opal, Roo, Seagh, Roan, Cole, Kendra

Yes, life goes on. Still, Seagh is such a huge part of our lives we all miss him – daily. We all occasionally see him in our peripheries. We need never explain those moments.

Initially Cole was my brother vicariously through Seagh. Though he knows comparatively little of my history, today Cole’s close as a brother. In his life Seagh called three men his brother; one is by blood, one a friend from his youth and then Cole.

Sunday night was a reflective occasion, only it didn’t hurt as much. Because of Cole I was only mildly concerned taking the last of the cut wood early that same morning. At the time I had no idea exactly how much the full wood box would actually comfort me that night.

God blessed me with many brothers and sisters and good friends. Though I miss many of them often, especially Seagh, Cole has my back – daily.

I’m glad to see I “Stihl” have room to grow into a better person.

Have your circumstances forced you to grow where you didn’t realize you could?

It’s -3 degrees this morning. With this crazy weather the crib’s almost empty again. No problem, we got this.

“And my God will supply every need of ours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

*James 1:27

**Image courtesy Pixabay

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Aftermath

After the weeks of disruption, seeming like the entire local family being upside down with the plumbing challenges, we have running water in the kitchen again. No sign of water downstairs. Yeay!

20160811_115024 20160811_120256

I doubt I ever take indoor plumbing for granted again. Without it we city folk get more like fruitcake – a little nuts and heavy on the fruit.

I never made it out to Keira’s this week, but Peter’s Branch Family Reunion continued – the fish are still biting. His offspring will begin their departures in the morning.

What’s most noteworthy throughout this ordeal has been God’s Holy Spirit constantly in control. He commanded an air of considerate cooperation – so welcome working among siblings.

Sure, there will be more repairs in the near future:

  • We must replace the kitchen faucet as both hot and cold water now drip about one quart per hour. We’ve been turning the hot water on and off under the sink since before I arrived, so we can live with the drip until Edmund’s next visit.
  • The steady flow of good ol’ boy contractors and the mud took a toll, but we we put a dent in the dry goods pantry serving them sweet tea.
  • Edmund pitched in and helped pave a way downstairs, then drug the mattress upstairs for us – I shall be grateful for years to come. Still, in the process he noticed the downstairs retaining walls are deteriorating. That’s gonna hurt.
Ellie, Roo and Erin

Electra Bolt (Ellie), Roo and Erin. Go Cubs!

With God’s empowering presence,Erin, Ellie and I wrestled the futon mattress down the stairs and the box spring up to make room for the former. We shall be utilizing moist heat and ice packs for a few more days. Edmund doesn’t get what all that’s about – yet. I seem to be the only one to notice the dank smell, so no worries there either.

All the chaos forced remarkable progress on the property. The pressure of time restrictions was a little nerve wracking, but I’m glad for it now. There’s a Thera-Pedic bed (old-school premiere brand) upstairs in my room/office today. Can I hear a thunderous applause? Forget about memory foam, sleep numbers and gel toppers. This like-new heirloom is the real deal for a good night’s sleep.

After only the one annoying instance between anybody, and some new aches, we got through the crisis together unscathed. We dread the bill arriving at Keira’s, but realistically, such comes with maintaining this old house. We are blessed to continue loving and caring for the first property Erin’s parents bought in Colorado.

Making it work to the family’s best advantage, I feel more deeply committed to loosing my root bag here a little bit more.

Until the next crisis – probably the electrical system, we’ll face it as it comes.

“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)

 

All images are property of Rapture Practice! Publications (c) 2016 and are not to be duplicated or otherwise distributed without prior written permission. Thank you!

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Gross: The New Cool

Today, for about a minute, I worried I may have discovered a new depth of depravity.

I discovered a streak of blood on the white sheer curtain panel in my room. At the time, I quickly deduced it must have somehow come from my leg immediately after a fresh excision of skin – 5 weeks ago. Gross. Right?

sheers

I noticed the same streak again this morning. Initially I marveled at the changes in color and shape – and that it’s still there. A dab or two with a couple of sponges and some diluted hydrogen peroxide would have removed it altogether when I first noticed it.

But no… Not this time. Three more excisions later and physical therapy twice each week, that streak has become my visual touchstone.

I’m in a storm. It’s not a hurricane, a tornado or even a squall. And yet, since the cancers are easily excised and forgotten – granted, every few months – I’m blessed.

Reality check: The streak reminds me every time I see it, that while so many of my dear friends have and continue to undergo the many miseries that come with chemo and radiation therapy, I am indeed blessed.

Today I sincerely hope that anyone unable to appreciate the new cool, never actually experience it.

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