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

Run with Me

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It’s been one month since Jason and I ran the Houston Half Marathon and I am just now getting down my thoughts on a page. Life in this season of homeschooling older children is busy and the new decade has overtaken me without much time for processing that which has impacted me. But I am choosing to take the time today.

When the idea popped into my head last August that I should begin to train for a half marathon, my children thought I was out of my mind, my husband wished me well, and I secretly hoped I wouldn’t die in the process. I reached out to my friend, Andrea, who had run it before and asked if I was crazy to begin to train for it. I mean, I would turn 40 right before the race! She assured me I was not and urged me to run it with her on January 19, 2020. So I found a plan and I began to train. In a moment of weakness, Jason agreed to run it with me IF he promoted to Driver Operator before the next promotion list expired. This was back in September. The list expired October 1 and at that time he was number one on the list to promote. He began to run with me.

Dr. George Sweeting, beloved teacher and former President of Moody Bible Institute, once said, “Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.” This applies to running so well. The secret to running 13.1 miles is discipline. It was the day in, day out commitment and follow-through that took me from hardly being able to run a mile in the humid August heat to running half a marathon in the frigid January cold. I followed my plan and I ran, gradually increasing my distance and slowly picking up my speed.

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“Discipline, not desire, determines destiny.”

It turned out that Jason did not promote to Driver Operator before the list expired in October. He had to test again. Yet, he had begun to train for the race and so he continued with me and we pressed on together as the runs got longer and our bodies began to feel the miles we were putting them through. Some days we felt invigorated and strong, like we were made to run. We’d share our hearts with each other, laugh and pray, listen to music and worship. Others day were ugly and we limped our way through the miles, not talking to one another, heads down, one tender foot in front of the other. I didn’t exactly like the days I’d run with Jason for the sheer fact that he pushed me faster, harder. When I’d run alone, I’d enjoy it more because I ran slower. But he was good for me. Somewhere along the way I discovered I could run faster and, of course, it was the culmination of all of the hard days running with my husband. Jason, being much faster than I was, had signed up for a faster corral than I did in the Houston Half Marathon. But, for some reason, he chose to stay in my corral and run at my speed and spur me on during the race.

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The morning of the race, thousands of runners huddled together in the streets of Houston, trying to keep warm, minutes before the start of the run.  Andrea, Jason and I were among the throngs of people who had trained for this day, some to run the full marathon, others to run the half. The race began and we started through the crowded streets, running around slower runners, laughing at the funny signs held up by family and friends, doing what we had trained to do: run.

Though the atmosphere was intoxicating due to the amount of people and the music, the 13.1 miles were not all that different from some of the longer runs we ran together in training. It was just the next step, the next longer run. The first five miles were easy, but my pace slowed a bit after that. My niece, Mikayla, and our three kids were waiting for us at mile eight, a place I knew was a tough mile for me. They cheered us on and Jason and I unloaded our jackets upon them. It was then that I felt a change. It was harder for me to keep up with Jason. We were no longer zig-zagging through the runners, but he was several paces in front of me and I was struggling to catch him. The sight of his out-stretched arm waving me forward became the standard for the next two miles. Early on in the race Jason and I had pushed ahead of Andrea and we lost sight of one another, but at mile ten, during my hardest mile, she suddenly appeared. There is nothing like the appearance of a dear friend during a hard, long run. It filled me with unexpected energy and hope and truly gave me what I needed to finish the race. The last mile I pushed harder and ran side by side with my man until the finish line. We had done it together. We had finished the race!

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There is nothing like the appearance of a dear friend during a hard, long run.

Oh the countless parallels to the Christian life! The discipline and the pain and the triumph in the end. How together we are so much better than we are alone.

We’re all in for the long road
We’re all in for life
Run with me baby
I need you more than ever
I won’t let you
Won’t let you down
Run with Me by Hudson Taylor

Press On

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Photo by Orest Sv on Pexels.com

I’ve decided to do something crazy. Maybe it’s because I’m turning 40 in a couple months and am feeling the urge to do something out of the ordinary. Maybe it’s because doing hard things is a good discipline. Or maybe it’s because, as a homeschool mom, I need some chunks of time to myself! Whatever the reason, I have decided to train for a half marathon.

This might not seem like a crazy endeavor to everyone, but to me, it’s a massive undertaking. For the last few years my workout schedule has gone something like this: work out once a month, then recover the next few weeks. In August I made the decision to start running a mile every day up our dirt road to the mail boxes and back, for no other reason except that I really do enjoy running. Towards the beginning of September I began to wonder if a half marathon was a possibility. I reached out to a couple friends who had run it before and their enthusiasm was enough to convince me that, yes, this was attainable. So I researched running plans with Jason and even he began to train with me.

Few things capture the Christian life quite like running. Here are a few of my observations:

  1. It’s simple. I put one foot in front of the other and I travel somewhere.
  2. It takes tremendous discipline. I have to choose to do it.
  3. It’s hard work.  Though it is simple, the act of running is tiring and strenuous to my body and mind.
  4. It’s better done in community. When Jason or my friend, Andrea is keeping me accountable, it is so much easier to continue running, especially when it’s hard.
  5. It’s essential to rest. I cannot run everyday. I must give my body periodic rest in order to recover from the run.

I’m only in week two of a sixteen-week training schedule and I haven’t hit any of the long runs yet, but I have already noticed how hard this is. Last week I was pushing myself up the last hill of a two mile run and all I could do was put one foot in front of the other and think about Jesus. How he endured the cross, scorning its shame, but for the joy set before him. I know I’m only running, but it was such a clear picture of the Christian life. Life can be so hard. And sometimes all we can do is just put one foot in front of the other and “just do the next thing,” like Elisabeth Elliot is known for saying. If that is you, my friend, you are not alone. I join you in this uphill battle. This battle that is worth undertaking.

  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14