Stand!

The morning before Christmas Eve I looked out my bedroom window to see a sight that had me running out the door immediately, pulling on the rubber boots on our old porch and rushing out to the middle pasture. Annabelle, our Jersey cow was laid out on her side, her head back, eyes rolled eerily. The dirt by her feet was trenched as if she had struggled for a while to stand. Jason was on shift that day and my boys were at their cousins’, so I hollered into the house for Addie to come and, in vain, try to help me do something.

Farming, like other things in life, is manageable and even easy-going when things run as they should. When animals are healthy you feed them and let them be and they do not dominate your every waking thought. But when things go wrong, everything changes.

When we first got Annabelle five years ago.

This wasn’t the first time Annabelle had gone down. Three weeks before she couldn’t stand right before she went into labor with her calf. We had to lift her four times with the tractor and actually pull the baby out. That night Jason and I lay awake struggling with God and pleading with Him to help her to stand. Jason checked on her about 3 AM that next morning and came into the room and told me he thought both baby and mama were doomed, as she was still on the ground. Some point during the watches of the night I had to surrender my cow to the Lord. But in the morning, I went out to check on them and at once burst into tears to see Annabelle up on her feet.

But that was three weeks ago. The day before Christmas Eve I contacted Jason, who told me to call the emergency number for the vet and, when I didn’t get ahold of him immediately, called my neighbors. Our cowboy neighbor just so happened to be available and came right over and helped get Annabelle up on her right side. We were pretty sure she had bloat from being down on the ground, which is a condition that could kill a cow if the air is not released from the cow’s stomach. Fortunately, she began to belch and sitting up as she was, looked so much better. The vet finally contacted me and came over to look at Annabelle. Everything looked okay, except that she was terribly skinny and very weak. But he did not seem hopeful. Normally if a cow does not stand up within 24 hours, they will die. My neighbors and I tried to get her to stand with the tractor that day, but she wouldn’t put any weight on her feet. It didn’t look good.

That night as I was saying goodnight to Jeremiah he said to me, “Mom, I don’t want Annabelle to die.” I looked at him and rubbed his back. My 14 year-old son was a lot bigger than he was when we moved out to the land five years before. Back then we knew nothing about dairy farming, but we plunged right in and each child would take turns milking with me twice a day.

“You know what I would miss the most if we lose Annabelle?” I asked him. His back was muscular and strong. “I will miss the mornings milking with each one of you kids, when the sleep is still in your eyes and you tell me all about the crazy dreams you had the night before.”

Jeremiah laughed. “Thadd was the one with the crazy dreams!” And then, quieter, “Mom, I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to stop doing the same things I did as a kid.”

My heart surged and fresh tears came as I agreed with him, “I don’t want you to grow up either.” Already my children were growing out of their childish ways. I relished the thought of them remaining children, but I knew it is not meant to be. Things change. But this cow. How precious she would always be to me because of so many things. She was so gentle as she trusted us completely. Her milk literally nourished my family. And she bonded me with my children in a tender way nothing else could.

Christmas Eve 2015
October 2020

Jason came home the next day and successfully raised Annabelle to her feet using the tractor. Hence began one of the longest weeks we’ve had, caring for Annabelle and then another cow, who also decided to get weak and not stand. Jason lost out on two family Christmas get-togethers because he was caring for the cows. We would have to get Annabelle to stand, make sure the calf was nursing, give both cows ample food and water when they were down, shelter them creatively in the rain, and cover them and warm them in the cold. It has been laborious, but we are slowly seeing improvement in Annabelle and she is getting stronger every day. She has started to stand up on her own now, but isn’t out of the woods yet. Bobby Sue, our other cow, is still down.

Farming teaches me so many things about life. How absolutely dependent we are on God. How important it is to simply stand up. How precious life is. How vital hope is to the soul. That the mercies of God are new every morning. That His faithfulness is great.

As 2020 comes to a close, I am reminded again how very dependent we are upon the mercies of God. And how important it is to stand.

I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of the gruesome pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my footsteps. And He has put a new song in my mouth, a praise to our God. Many will see and hear and shall trust in the LORD. Blessed is the man that makes the LORD his trust. Psalm 40:1-5

Like Arrows in the Hands of a Warrior

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I looked up at the night sky as I listened to my dear friend, Laura speak about what God has been doing in her family. I had wandered onto the far side of our back pasture as I spoke to her on my cell phone, engaged in her story, not really paying attention to where I was walking. God was moving, working within her and doing mighty things in her family’s life. Tears came to my eyes as I rejoiced with her about the breakthroughs she was experiencing. And along with the celebration came another familiar emotion. The kind that robs a friend of completely sharing in the joy of another. Envy. ¬†Oh how I longed for God to move within my own life like that! Within my children’s lives. Life had become dry and I was seeing things within my children’s hearts, my heart, my husband’s heart that needed revival. A fresh work of the Spirit.

My eyes were drawn to two bright stars that, if you were to draw a straight line through them, pointed to the constellation, Scorpio (the scorpion), which is always prominent in the August sky. I had to find out what those stars were. I opened up my star app and pointed it at the stars and found they were not stars, but Saturn and Jupiter, which just so happened to be within the constellation, Sagittarius, the archer. Not only were they in the constellation, but they lined up perfectly with the bow. They were like an arrow directed at the scorpion. Interesting. There was something there.

I love the night sky and the constellations because they tell the wonders of God. I don’t live my life by the stars or the signs of the zodiac. I live my life according to the Word of God. But sometimes I believe God uses His creation to declare truth to His people. And there was something about those stars that He wanted me to see and understand. But I didn’t have a clue that night what it was.

A few days later I woke up and went for a run. It was a crazy day and I had so much to do, but running motivates me to get things done. Our missionary friends from Mexico have been staying with us all month and that day was their daughter, Kiersta’s birthday. She had a special request to be baptized in our pond on her birthday. As I ran that morning, I asked the Lord if He would also grant Thaddaeus the desire to be baptized that day. It is a prayer I have prayed for him for several years. That he would have the courage to show the world that he wants to follow Jesus.

I returned to a house full of people and work to do in preparing to teach the next day. As I hurried around, fretting over the demise of our computer and stressing over the preparations I still had to make, Thaddaeus informed us that he did, in fact, wish to be baptized as well. Everything in my frantic world stopped suddenly as the truth of what he said soaked in. Nothing else mattered. He crawled up on his Daddy’s lap as Jason explained, in a few moments’ time, what baptism meant.

“It’s a picture of what God did in your heart when you trusted Jesus. The old man is dead, buried in the grave, the new man is alive, raised to walk in newness of life.”

We hadn’t expected this that day, even though it was my prayer, so we all threw our bathing suits on and our small group headed over to the pond: our family, our missionary friends, and Jason’s parents. I was able to FaceTime my mom so she could be a part of it as well. I brought my guitar and we sang the song, “No Longer Slaves” and then we witnessed Kiersta’s baptism first in our slimy pond. Her father, Ben baptized her and after she emerged triumphantly out of the water her mother, Angela prayed over her. It was our turn and Jason and I stepped into the squishy mud with our son. Thaddaeus stood tall and expectant as Jason asked him if he had put all his trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross on his behalf. “Yes!” he declared so the small party could hear. Jason baptized his youngest and we celebrated “Antioch-style” as he was raised up from the water. I prayed over him then and found myself asking God to make him an arrow that God uses to shoot into the darkness of our world.

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I realize now what God was trying to tell me.

Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies at the gate. Psalm 127:3-5

It was such an unexpected gift. To see my son declare that he desires to follow Jesus all of his days by being obedient in baptism.

I know. I know that parenting is hard. My job is not done. There are many more years of tears and praying and discipling and training to do. And some days I will feel like an absolute failure. I still have so much to learn. But God is so gracious. He gives the strength for each new day. He gives the wisdom and the perseverance to keep on doing the hard work and to renew my conviction that parenting is a holy calling. It is a good and noble work. And it is a work of a warrior.