Friday, December 28, 2012
Humans are depraved creatures. I have known this, but fortunately I live in an environment that often allows me to ignore this fact. However, the day after Christmas I watched Les Misérables. No denying the depravity—and the hopelessness—of mankind after watching that movie.
Hopelessness. Despair. These two emotions flood the screen for this appropriately darkened and usually dimly lit movie. Unfortunately, for too many people in this world, the visual created on the screen is a reality, not a special effect. Although I do not believe the extremely harsh physical condition of the characters in the movie exist in modern United States, Canada, or England, I believe they do exist in less fortunate areas. However, the depravity of the mind and behavior of the characters exist everywhere—envy, hatred, cruelty, theft, deceit, fraud, extortion, and destruction of character and pride—to name a few. Each of these sins is coated with hopelessness and despair.
Yet, cracks in the hard veneer of depravation can happen. The main character Jean Valjean has every earthly reason to be a ruthless, scheming malefactor the rest of his life. However, the unconditional kindness and respect of the elderly Bishop Myriel of Digne began to make a crack in Valjean's hard exterior. Valjean repays his kindness by stealing from the bishop. When given a chance by a patrolman to condemn the thief, the monsieur shows love to the ex-convict and hands over more silver as a gift from God to start a new life. The veneer shatters. He spends the rest of his life seeking to do good for others and showing compassion.
Fantine, abandoned by her husband, works in a factory to support her daughter, who is virtually a slave for ruthless tavern owners in a nearby town. When she is wrongly fired from her job, she becomes a victim of abuse and trafficking. All pride is gone, but she endures for the sake of her child. When she is rescued, she does not ask for food or comforts or even for revenge against those who wronged her. She desires someone to care for her daughter. Despite her ill treatment, love radiates from her heart, not hate nor the depravity of her condition.
Although more examples of love motivating characters exist, the lack of hate does not always produce positive results. Revenge, hatred, and disgust empower Officer Javert's efforts to make the whole life of Valjean miserable and virtually unbearable. However, when Valjean rescues Javert from impending death, the officer becomes lost and confused. He attempts to hunt down his savior but finds himself unable to shoot him when the opportunity arises. Rather than graciously accepting the gift of unconditional love and finding a way to be compassionate as well, Javert believes his life is no longer valuable if cannot cruelly hate. Ironically, the veneer of his depravity cracks, but he chooses to dispose of his life before the hardness can completely fall away for fear that his viciousness may be healed. Love trumps depravity, but the beneficiary cannot reap the benefits if he refuses to accept the gift of love.
The real world around us today is full of people with no hope. People who live in despair that appear to have no way out. Some have a flicker of hope buried deep, like Fantine, and others are so far into despair that they seem to be a lost cause, like Valjean. Yet, love can reach them. Love can make their lives meaningful again. God has given his children the responsibility of sharing his unconditional love with all, just like Bishop Myriel of Digne. We are not to first judge who is "worthy" of such love or who will accept it (unlike Javert). We are to love, because love overcomes depravity. What have you done this week to show love to someone in despair or to someone who may not seem to "deserve" it?
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Instead of making personal New Year's Resolutions you may or may not keep, let's look at practical ideas that we can do to put a damper on the insanity and depravity in our world (see my blog on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28 for more comments). I hope YOU will join me with your ideas.
If you have a blog and will like to participate, put a link to your blog in the comment section below. Maybe before this officially begins I will figure out how to make it possible for you to add an icon to link to your first page of the series. If you have a link to a site that tells me how to do that, please post it in my comment section below, too. If I do not get the icon links figured out, I will copy links to your blogs at the bottom of my entry on January 1.
If you have a blog and are going to participate (including putting a link to your blog on my page), I ask one thing from you. Please put a link on your blog referring back to my January 1 entry on each day that you participate.
One more thing: the 26 Expressions of Love and Kindness Plus 1 will start on January 1, skip all the Sundays, and end on January 31, which is a total of 27 days or 26 days + 1 day. I just want to tell you this ahead of time, so you do not think I simply forgot to write on Sundays.
I am looking forward to this. Now let's all put our thinking caps on!
|photo from Wikipedia "Sandy Hook Elem. School Shooting"|
Essentially it has been three weeks since the heart-stopping rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Quiet comments heard everywhere included the words, "This is insane." There is no good reason to motivate someone to do this. There is no justification for it. There is no peace—only pain.
Surrounding the time of this insanity, joy and hope filled the streets decorated for Christmas. Perhaps the contrast darkened the situation at Sandy Hook a little bit more, but probably not—that event cloaked itself enough in black mourning clothes. So, did the opposite happen? Did the tragedy darken your Christmas?
I was blessed this year with having all my children, children-in-law, and grandchild with me for the Christmas season as well as having a refreshing time with much of my extended family. Even so, thoughts of these other mothers* came to mind. They had to stare at Christmas presents under a brightly decorated tree that would never be opened by the child whose name danced across its label. With tear stained cheeks, they strained to hear stirrings of little feet trying to sneak out of bed Christmas Eve. They prayed both for the morning to come quickly so the lonely misery of Christmas Eve would end and for the morning to never come so they would not have to endure a giggle-free Christmas morning. I pray that I never have to live through their misery, whether it is at Christmas time or any other time of the year.
Unfortunately, although I cannot say, "I know what you are going through," too many other mothers can. Ask the mothers in Rwanda or Croatia in recent years. Ask the mothers, especially the Jewish mothers, in Nazi Germany. Ask the mothers in Israel living at the birth of our A.D. calendar.
At the time of this latter event, King Herod of Judea learned from distinguished visitors to his land that they were seeking the King of the Jews, who, by all signs, had recently been born. Horrified, the reigning king shortly after sent out a decree to kill all male children two years old and younger living in or near Bethlehem in an attempt to make sure he eliminated the promised one. (Luke 2:1-16) Insanity.
Warned ahead of time, Joseph had lovingly taken young Jesus and Jesus' mother Mary to Egypt to escape whatever fury King Herod may choose to release. What about the others? The countless others who were ripped from their mothers' arms and mercilessly slaughtered in front of their families. Insanity. I cannot imagine the horror that must have filled the streets, especially for those—and I assume this to be the majority—that had no idea that a new "king" had been born. I doubt the soldiers supplied any type of reason why the king had ordered this murdering rampage. Confused, these mothers figuratively had their hearts ripped from their chests. They would understand the pain of the mothers in Newtown, Connecticut.
The question left is, "Does God understand?" Where is He in all this? Despite my inability to truly know the answers to these questions, I do know where he was. He was
lying in a manger after his birth. He was hunted by King Herod and was on-the-run with Joseph and Mary. As a human adult, he was flogged and beaten until he was nearly lifeless. Then he was nailed to a cross where this sinless being willingly and lovingly died. He understands what it is like to be attacked although he was innocent of wrong doing.
You might be saying, "Wait, a minute. Aren't you talking about Jesus?" Yes, I am. Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God in the flesh. There is one god who manifests himself (or shows himself or functions) as three: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Although Jesus is God, he is not the totality of God, otherwise everything else would have fallen apart if God had allowed his total being to be trapped in one place at one time. Thus, Jesus is the Son (part) of God. While the Son walked as a human, the Father (and Holy Spirit) was over everything and everyone. (I am not a theologian, but this is the best way I can explain it.)
The point is: God is here with us. He even physically walked among us for a time. He does understand. Yet, there are many things I cannot comprehend. I do not understand why he did not stop the mad man that killed the children in Sandy Hook or one that killed the children in Israel at the time of Jesus' birth. I also do not understand why he willingly put on the restrictive confines of a human body. I do not understand why he did not beam death rays from his eyes to vaporize the Roman soldiers who beat him with whips designed to tear and mutilate flesh or to zap the Jews (and Gentiles) who mocked him along his death march when everything he did was for them.
I do not understand how he can love the sinful, hateful, and insane creatures called human beings, but he does. Love drove him to design a plan of salvation in place before the first sin was committed in the Garden of Eden and before the first murder took place a few years later. At the right time, love compelled him to humble himself and take on the form of a man. Love convinced him to submit to a crucifixion (despite his unearthly potential to resist it) even when the human part of him was feeling abandoned. Love sang the victory song of his resurrection (and of his conquering of sin and death). I do not understand why he loves us, but he does.
However, the plan begun in ages past has not yet been completed. We stand confused and lost because we cannot see the culmination of his design. Fortunately, we do not need to see the end; we just have to trust the Designer. Evidence of our trust can be found in our following his example: loving despite the hatred and insanity around us. On the cross, Jesus cried out with love and forgiveness, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34) In Nazi occupied areas, the insanity of Hitler was thwarted by the compassion of many who preserved hidden Jews. The words of hope that radiate from the incident at Sandy Hook are rooted in acts of love and compassion. Love conquers insanity. What have you done today to throw love into the face of insanity?
*I realize this tragedy affects more than mothers—fathers, grandparents, siblings—but being who I am, I am writing from a mother's perspective.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Who isn't touched by the absurdity of yesterday's shooting? Today I think the words of Max Lucado are better here than mine. You can find this on Max Lucado's website and on his Facebook page.
A Christmas Prayer
It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.
These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.
The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?
Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.
Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.
Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.
This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.
Saturday, December 8, 2012
The winner of this cute little purse is Lobela with her post on December 5. I have contacted her by email and will be sending out her prize this week.
To find my winner this time, I used Random.org. This was much easier than my old way of cutting up little pieces of paper for each entry and randomly drawing a name. I only learned about this simple, helpful tool this week. I have so much to learn about blogging!
HOWEVER, you can still get a little something for yourself.
If you want to get a cute number like this (or something different), go to www.hyenacart.com/TwiceIsNice. But in celebration of Give-A-Gift, the creative talent behind Twice Is Nice will give you a 15% discount if you enter the code JOLLY12 at the checkout. It's that easy! Merry Christmas!
By the way, shouldn't we be saying Merry Christmas everywhere we go and writing it on everything we write everyday in December?
Merry Christmas. :-)
Friday, December 7, 2012
Nearly every family has been touched by the Day-After-Christmas gift return; however, do you start returning presents before Christmas. I have. In fact I have nearly every year for the past few years. Why?
|As I check off my shopping gift|
list, I number my receipts and match
the receipts to the gifts on my list.
This one is waiting to be numbered.
Sometimes I get carried away and neglect to total the amounts I am spending per person as I am shopping. Since I have started using my Christmas Club account, I mistakenly think I will have no problem purchasing the presents. Then reality reminds me that there limits for each person.
Sometimes the furry of the Black Friday Sales confuses my thinking, "If I don't get it now, I won't be able to get it at all." So, it lands in my cart. Then it goes into my car. Sometimes the extra item makes it home; other times it's returned to the store after I am done shopping and before I go home.
Sometimes the item has made it home and may even be wrapped. Then the person who "had to have it" suddenly wants something else even more for Christmas. Now, this situation is not a guaranteed return. Usually the gift receiver has to graciously accept the first item without a complaint since that was what was on the wish list at the time purchases were made. (I was thinking of my children as I typed that last sentence.) However, sometimes I am willing to make an exception. For example, if I have a child that has no definite desires but is pressured to put something on the wish list so I can go shopping and then that same child later knows exactly what she wants, then I would probably return the first purchase if possible and give her what she really wants instead.
Tonight I did a different type of return and repurchase. Last month I had earned a gift card at a store and planned to use it to help purchase presents, but I kept forgetting to pull it out until after I had already paid for the items. It happened again this afternoon. However, tonight I went back to the store and returned one of the gifts I had purchased only hours earlier. While standing there, I re-purchased the very same item and used my gift card to pay for it. Wah-lah! No more forgetting to use my card! I may be little over-excited about using my gift card, but you would understand if you knew how frustrated I was about continually forgetting to redeem my card.
Even though this last instance was not technically a before-Christmas return, I have had my share of them. How about you? Has your family already been touched by a before-Christmas return this year?
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
|Can't you just see that on you?|
Fear not. Here is a direct link to my daughter's blog More Like Home where she is also participating in the Give-Away-Day event. However, she has TWO prizes she is giving away: a corduroy tote and a pattern book. If you have not found her blog, take a look. It is much different--and more engaging than mine. Have fun. Then check out the website where she and her twin have more quality, handmade items, art, and jewelry for sale at HyenaCart--Twice is Nice.
Monday, December 3, 2012
Now is the time for giving and receiving. This week I get the pleasure of giving, and you might get the pleasure of receiving as I participate in the Give-Away-Day Dec. 3, 2012, which is sponsored by Sew, Mama, Sew.
What can you get if you win this drawing? --this darling handbag and matching accessory pouch that one of my daughter's made. This perky floral print is 9 ½ inches long, about 6 inches tall, and almost 3 inches deep. To get your chance at winning this snazzy little number, do the following:
1. Read any of blogs posted before December 3.
2. Come back to this page: give the date and title of the blog you read.
3. Make a comment about that blog.
That's it. And guess what? You can enter the drawing up to 3 times, but each entry has to be about a different blog. Be sure to include your email address with each entry or check back on Dec. 9 to see if you won and then leave your email address. The contest ENDS at midnight on December 7. The winner will be announced here by Dec. 9.
Sorry, I will only ship to addresses in the contiguous United States. The good news is that I will pay shipping to a qualified winner.
Do you like this bag and want to see what else is available? Then check out the online store of my twin daughters at hyenacart.com/TwiceIsNice.
I cannot wait to hear from you. Check out the other offers as well. I hope you come back to visit (or follow!) even after this fun give-away.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas." Has the Christmas spirit touched your family yet? My husband and children have put up multiple, decorated trees, and lights. It is beautiful. Then I got a surprise last night.
My married daughter, her husband, and little boy made a surprise visit to our house last night. Well, it was a surprise to half of us. She called to make sure we would be home before making the three- to four-hour trip. My husband and half the kids were home. They all conspired to keep it a secret, and amazingly, they succeeded. It was a wonderful surprise. Then my other adult twin's boyfriend was able to join us as well. Having all my kids and their families (or special people) is wonderful. I know it will not be able to happen as much as I would like, but it is wonderful.
How has this time of the year touched your family so far?
**If you were following my 30-Day Farm Theme Series, it might appear to you that I just entered my last three days today. Well, it does not just appear to be true; it is true. J
Saturday, December 1, 2012
|From MIT Technology Review: A computer |
with a camera and projector fits into a light
bulb socket, and can make any surface
interactive. Could this affect farming technology?
Technology has triggered enormous changes, even from year to year, and those changes touch families almost as quickly. Its affect on farming is no different. I have no idea where it is going next. As my last entry in this farm-related series, what are your thoughts? If you were writing a science fiction story regarding farming or agriculture, what would you include? What is the next step? What is the "ideal" situation even if it seems impossible at this time?
Remember, many of Jules Verne's ideas in his science fiction stories are possible today. The same is true with 007 James Bond's gadgets—not all of them—yet. I also remember lamenting over my desire to have a telephone that I could take with me in the car to call for help (or to even say I was running behind). Now, nearly everyone has this device and refer to it as a cell phone. It does what I wanted and so MUCH more that I did not even begin to dream about.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this and how you think it may touch your family.
|a close up photo of bulgur from Wikipedia|
The stereotypical menu for a farming family is meat and potatoes; yet, many farm families are touched by menus full of vegetables or other produce grown in the family garden. As a town girl, when I want to think about eating in a more healthy way, I think about getting back to whole grains and vegetables, not necessarily to replace meat and starches but to have more balance in my eating. For the first time, I am going to include a recipe here. It is full of whole grains, protein, fiber, and other good things for a healthy and surprisingly filling meal.
The name of it refers to it as a salad, but it can also be used as a non-meat, main dish. I have never put everything in the recipe in my mixture at the same time, but I have always included the lentils, bulgur, and feta cheese. The other ingredients depended on what we had on hand or remembered to purchase.
Prep. time 30-40 min. Yield 6 servings or more (for me it's definitely more)
1 c. dry lentils fresh black pepper, to taste
2 c. water 1/4 c. packed freshly minced parsley
1/3 c. finely minced red onion
1 c. dry bulgur wheat 1 small bell pepper, diced
1 c. boiling water 1/2 stalk celery, finely minced
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 c. olive oil* 1/2 c. olives
1/4 c. lemon juice** 1 med.-sized tomato, diced (or cherry tomatoes)
2 med. cloves garlic, crushed 1/2 c. chopped toasted walnuts (or other nut)
1 tsp. salt squeezable wedges of lemon, for garnish
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 Tbs. freshly minced mint
(or 2 tsp. dried mint)
1) Place the lentils in a medium-sized saucepan. Cover with 2 c. water, and bring just to the boiling point. Turn the heat way down, partially cover, and allow to simmer without agitation for 20-25 minutes—or until tender, but not mushy. Drain well, then transfer to a large bowl.
2) While the lentils are cooking, place the bulgur in a small bowl. Add boiling water, cover with a plate, and let stand 10-15 minutes while getting the other ingredients ready.
3) Add everything to the lentils, except tomato chunks, walnuts, and lemon wedges. Mix gently but thoroughly. Cover tightly and refrigerate.
4) Just before serving, top with tomatoes and walnuts. Garnish with lemon wedges. Can be served warm right after its creation or can be served cold.
*I sometimes like my onions and bell peppers to not be totally crunchy, so I might sauté them a little in the oil before mixing in the other ingredients.
**I have substituted apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar; however, that often makes the salad a little too tart and requires a sprinkling of sugar added in.
If try this, let me know what you think. Have a healthy recipe that has touched your family and that you would like to add? Please feel free to share it or provide a link to it.
This week in the newspaper I received a whole section on agriculture news. This is an occurrence that commonly touches our family. Even when there is not a whole pull-out section, we will find sections dedicated to agriculture news. If I wanted to get up early enough, I could listen to the morning farm report on the radio. In addition, various times of the year, especially in the spring, the commercials on television are flooded with seed, fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide products. For me, even as a town girl, this is normal and to be expected. I live in the middle of a farming area.
I did not realize how unusual this is for some people until two new professors from New York came to the university I was attending. The men had been friends in New York and both received job opportunities in the education department. Before they came to this part of Illinois, they joked with each other that the television and radio would probably be full of advertisements for corn seeds and bean seeds. Then they thought it was hilarious when they got here and found out that they were basically correct. I asked them to what kind of ads they were accustomed. Matter of factly, they replied, "Fashion ads and ads regarding banks and Wall Street." Fashion ads! Now, to me, that is a waste of time. I'm not talking about a few clothing ads. I am talking about non-stop, high-fashion, non-practical-clothing ads. Those are the kinds of ads these men were used to seeing on their television.
To be honest, neither of these types of ads have anything to do with anything that is part of my daily life, but to me, the agriculture ads are overall more worthwhile. Farmers feed the world. The quality of food they produce, the ease of producing this food, and the cost effectiveness of everything they use from the seed itself to the combine (the machine that harvests many crops) affect the ultimate cost and quality of food available to everyone in town and country. Thus, farming directly touches every family, unlike high fashion ads.
What kind of advertisements or commercials do you see most often?
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Monday, November 26, 2012
Why is it that people
who live in town
worry so much about landscaping
and "get-away's" in their own backyard?
They envy a life in the country.
A common urban misconception about rural life is that people in the country are "behind the times," especially when it comes to technology. Those people living in homes with no yards have no idea how wrong they are. In fact, yesterday while at my parents' home, a turkey hunting show was on.
(Just in case this sounds strange to you, numerous outdoorsmen shows exist, and a large number of those feature hunting specific types of animals. Yes, this particular show is 30 minutes of watching men hunt turkeys—and the show has enough of a following to justify its existence.)
Anyway, while these huntsmen were describing their strategy, a suggestion to follow them on Twitter—with their official Twitter account reference—popped up in the corner of the screen. Apparently, during the lull of waiting for these elusive birds, these men are tweeting their progress. Take that, doubtful city folk!
Saturday, November 24, 2012
When I joined 4-H in about the 5th or 6th grade, I had no idea that most people believed this organization touched only families that farmed. I did not live on a farm or have animals—well, no livestock animals. Amusing to me now, but when I went to my first 4-H Fair, I thought it was strange for people to bring cattle, sheep, and hogs. I thought it was all about sewing, cooking, and a few other things. Obviously, my Gold Mound 4-H group was full of youth who lived in town. I realized later that some lived in the country, but I thought that was a fluke. Maybe my observation (or thinking) skills as a child were just underdeveloped.
Despite my early misunderstanding of the relationship of 4-H and the farm lifestyle, my children learned about this relationship at the beginning of their 4-H careers. Their 4-H club probably has more members that live on farms than live in town, but they blend well together as a group. It was in this environment that Daughter S began her 4-H career, following in the footsteps of her older sisters.
However, I guess my observation (or thinking) skills have not improved much with age, at least not when it comes to 4-H, because it was not until last year that I realized the purpose of some of the paperwork the girls filled out at the end of each 4-H season. That is when Daughter S learned that a couple of friends, who were members of different 4-H clubs in different counties, had been awarded the 4-H National Congress award and had gone (or were going) to Atlanta, Georgia. She then began talking to our county's extension 4-H leaders to get more information. In short, the process was long and time consuming, and Daughter S wonders if she could have made it through the whole process without the encouragement and coaching from Tessa and Velynna. Although I agree their advice was priceless, I also know their help was not a guarantee she would win this honor. She truly earned this award/experience. Thankfully, she has a better awareness and ethic work when it comes to 4-H than I had.
That brings us to yesterday morning and our travels among the Black Friday shoppers on our way to the airport. My husband, Daughter S, and I arrived at the airport lobby before anyone else from their traveling party. In fact, only one person total was in our sight. We watched several airport personnel file past us as they reported for work. Then a couple of young ladies with the parents of one arrived. They seemed like sweet girls, and one of them, we later learned, was to be our daughter's roommate. Shortly after, the place started to come alive with employees behind counters and travelers gathering in lines. We stayed until her group made it through security. I could not help but smile, and maybe giggle a little, while I saw tub after tub with brown cowboy boots travel down the conveyor belt. Well, actually, only 13 Illinois participants and 2 chaperons shipped out from this terminal (while 8 others left from O'Hare), and not all were wearing cowboy boots. Even so, I doubt the airport TSA officers get that many sets of cowboy boots at one time very often, including Black Friday.
Despite all those cowboy boots indicating that the 4-H organization has definitely touched the lives of numerous farming families, it also touches town families positively regarding character development as well as skill development.
Yes, I did some shopping on Black Friday, but it was not necessarily for traditional reasons. One of my daughters earned the privilege of attending 4-H National Congress in Atlanta, Georgia, and we left our home at 12:30 a.m. on Friday to head for the airport in Bloomington. I will talk more about seeing her off on Day 24, but since we had to be out anyway and our routes took us past stores with sales, we, of course, had to shop a little—and discovered an unexpected, perfect item.
Originally, our plans were to leave at 1:00 a.m., which would have given us ample time to get to the airport by the assigned time, allow for traffic, and maybe even allow for an unexpected minor delay. However, we decided to go a half an hour earlier so I could stop at one store on the way to Bloomington to hopefully pick up a desired item on another daughter's Christmas list. Since one of my adult daughters was home with the rest of the children who decided to sleep until a decent hour, my husband and I could easily shop without trying to hide what we were getting. Yet, leaving at 12:30 a.m. could prove to be too late.
Why? The item I was seeking went on sale at 10:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving. I refused to shop on Thanksgiving, and if that meant that item would be gone, so be it. At the same time, I was not too worried because I doubted it was a highly sought after item. When we arrived at the store, several employees were visible but customers were nearly non-existent. We were in that lovely lull between door buster sale times. Even so, my husband asked a clerk if they were busy earlier. We learned that they had been packed. Lines had been from the check-out counters to the back of the large store. She remarked, "We haven't seen that kind of madness in years." Yes, we arrived at the perfect time. However, was our item there?
We easily found the rack for it. (I cannot be more specific because she might read this, and no one wants to ruin the surprise.) Two that would work for her were left. Yes! We just had to pick which color. Wait a minute. Something was not quite right. Of course, I knew one small part would be different because her request had been based on a more expensive model from another store last year. I knew they would not be exactly the same. Even so, it was more than that. This look-alike was just that. It looked like what she wanted, but closer examination revealed the quality was substandard. I especially found this troubling when I noticed that the non-sale price for it was nearly the same as the better version. Thus, when it was not on sale, many people would assume it was the same quality and just a little cheaper than the other store's version. Without an examination of both, a customer would not know that this look-alike was not really a good deal. Slightly deflated with enthusiasm, we left it on the rack.
All was not lost. Daughter S, who we were taking to the airport, found an item she wanted. I guess I could list it here since she helped pick it out and tried it on; but I know she usually reads my blog, and it would just not feel like a "surprise" for Christmas if I named it in print before the big day. Anyway, she was happy, and I was thrilled! Maybe relieved would be a better description. Despite my efforts before Black Friday, I had not been able to find what she wanted and was afraid that, even if I did, I would not be able to pick out one that would fit her just right. We had lost out on our original purpose, but won the prize when it came to something else.
Isn't it like that with many aspects of life whether you live on a farm or in a town? We guide our hopes and expectations in one direction, but we find that path either overgrown with obstacles or a dead end. Sometimes we are just plain misled, like I was about the first item I wanted. Both the ad and the initial appearance of the original item* suggested it was something it was not. Sometimes people (or even our own ideas) make us to believe something to be true when it is not. Fortunately, we also get those surprises or unexpected rewards. Often, the very thing, that led us astray, ends up leading us to an opportunity that was almost missed. If the ad for one item had not guided me to that store that day, I would have missed the exact gift (at the right price) for Daughter S. Yes, I could have checked that store another time, but I would not have known if it would fit correctly or was the right color. I may have found it somewhere else later, but I doubt it would have had a Black Friday price tag.
The next time an unplanned (and probably undesired) event touches your family remember my Black Friday experience and make a game out of finding something good in the disappointment. In many situations, you might have to use a little imagination to discover something positive, but give it a try.
*If you are wondering about first daughter and what she wants for Christmas, I believe someone with an extra is going to sell it to me. I just have to verify that on Saturday. It will all work out.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
|The beginnings of|
green bean casserole
Yet, when I sit down to a wonderful Thanksgiving meal tomorrow with my husband, children (minus one and her family), my parents, and my local sibling and her family, I will be thankful that we will be touched by the hard work of farmers. Everything we will enjoy eating will be the result of farmers. I guess you could also that farmers will help us get to our destination because of the ethanol in our gas tank. In addition, we can thank farmers for some of the clothing--due to cotton--we will be wearing.
So, to all of you farmers out there: Thank you! You have touched our families in more ways than we probably even realize. Have a blessed day with your own families.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
|Cousins eating snowflakes after|
Where is home for the holidays for you? The vast majority of families in America live in towns or cities and are not directly touched by having a farm homestead to visit for traditional family holidays. Why is it then that many of us, including television and movie script writers, often envision a farm or country setting when picturing a home for the holidays that is not their own experience?
Maybe it goes back to the founding of our country when nearly every new settlement was essentially "a big farm." Maybe it goes back to the expansion west that was accomplishment mainly by families risking everything to make a living on their own homesteads. Maybe it goes back to creation, the very beginning when all was "right with the world." Regardless of the reason why, a country setting can bring a sense of peace and comfort during the holidays, and there always seems to be room for "one more" so no one is left out.
Isn't that what most of us want at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter—to be somewhere we will be welcomed and be a part of the family? Of course, I know that is not true of all holidays on every farm. In some cases, it is quite the opposite. Yet, I do not think families will ever give up hope of being touched by that kind of holiday "back on the farm." As a result, many city people will do their best to try to duplicate that feeling in their apartments, condominiums, or houses amid rows of identical houses. That is o.k., too, of course, because the best part is not where you spend your time of thanksgiving but with whom.
|A town girl soaking in the country air|
1. Visit Holly's blog today to see what she is talking about (antibiotics in animals--considering all the facts) and then scroll down to find links to her other topics.
2. Scroll down even farther to take a look at all the blogs participating in this challenge. I have not had the time in the last couple of weeks to read any of them, but I want to get back to it soon. I found some interesting--but not always agreeing with each other--perspectives, views, and lifestyles. They are worth a look. If you make a comment, tell that Gayla from Touching Families sent you. :-)
Come back later today for my entry for today. As a warning, I have not been getting my blogs posted until 11:00 at night, but you can always read them the next day.
Monday, November 19, 2012
"You have heard that it was said 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." Matthew 5:43-48
Whenever I read the part in bold print, I think of farmers. I know this passage is not talking just to farmers. These are instructions for everyone, but who watches and tracks sunshine and rain more than a farmer? The town girl in me says farming families are not touched by enemies. They live in the country separated from others by large expanses of land doing their own thing. How can farmers have enemies?
Unfortunately, farmers can have many enemies. It can be a neighbor who has a bull that has broken down the fence, but he has not take the responsibility of quickly repairing it before more of his cattle enter the other farmer's corn field and create excessive damage. It can be the tractor repair guy who does not seem to get around to fixing an important piece of equipment on time because he is still holding a grudge against the farmer. Maybe it's the grain elevator owner that never seems to pay a fair price by claiming the corn is too wet or has too much foreign debris to get top dollar. The list of possible enemies for farmers can get quite long.
Even so, God still gives these "enemies" another chance. He still spreads His mercy and grace upon all—sometimes in the form of needed sunshine and rain. Then He goes so far as telling us—farmers and townspeople alike—to love our enemies. Fortunately, He does not expect us to do it all alone. The ability to love our enemies can only come from the Heavenly Father who showers us with grace and mercy even though we, too, deserve to be treated like His enemies.
No matter how well your family members live their lives, every one of them will be touched by the resentment or hatred of enemies at one point or another. The question then becomes: Will they be able to follow your example to love their enemies or will they see the opposite in your life?
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Did you know there is a different between egg-laying hens and meat hens? Yes, in general, all hens lay eggs. Yes, if you butcher a hen and cook it, you are eating "chicken." Even so, the difference touched this family last year in our own backyard (or kitchen).
Let's start with what this town girl is doing with chickens in town anyway. It started a few years ago my mother-in-law gave us fertilized eggs which my mother then hatched in her incubator. The result was a hodge podge of hens and roosters of mixed breeds. That did not matter. My girls enjoyed their new pets, so much so they decided to use them for 4-H projects. However, since the mixed breeds had a limited ribbon potential and since they had been a hit with the kids, we decided to order pure bred chickens from Murray McMurray. This first batch of chickens was returned to their original home at my in-laws, and we made plans to share a minimum order of hens with another family. That is how this town family got another batch of chickens.
Our method up to this point included the chickens spending a lot of time in our basement with daily trips outside to a make-shift cage. This was not pleasant for our noses, even with daily cleanings of their area. That did not matter too much to the girls. Who would have thought pets that actually gave back to the owner (eggs and/or a food source) could be so much fun? To keep up the girls' chances at blue ribbons for the chickens at the 4-H Fair, we needed to get a fresh batch of chickens every other year or so. When we wanted a new batch, we took these to a livestock auction barn about 40 miles from our home and got a good price for them. Their overall healthy appearance played a big role in the price the girls got, but it also helped that the chickens were very tame from all the handling they got during play time.
Before the last batch of chickens was grown, my husband built a great chicken house (with a little help from the kids) enclosed with a little yard space on all sides. Chicken wire protected them on all sides, including the top, which was helpful when a hawk discovered our treasured pets. Now with the new batch, he made some adjustments and ran cords for heat lamps, so the new baby chicks could live outside beginning on day one. Whew! All of our noses thanked him. This chicken pen proved to have another advantage for the girls during play time. The chicken pen was right next to the swing, the slide, and the sand box with the plastic sand castle. Yes, the chickens took turns on all of these. Who would have thought a child could shove a chicken through the doors of a sand castle and have it appear out another opening unharmed? Unbelievably, it can be done. When these chickens had fulfilled their 4-H obligation once or twice, they, too, were taken to the auction barn. About our third time of doing this, the auctioneer began recommending our chickens because he had bought some and was thrilled with both their tameness and egg productivity.
That brings us to my original question. When ordering chickens, the descriptions often referred to them something like egg-producers or meat chickens, we eventually settled for the high egg producing Black Australorps since we did not plan on butchering them. Although the girls were not happy with even the thought of possibly butchering them, all my husband and I could think about was our individual home butchering experiences when growing up (which I talked about some yesterday). Unfortunately, our chicken plans were foiled when government regulations demanded that every chicken at the auction house be tested for disease before they could be sold, even though they sit in open cages outside for a few minutes before they are sold. To be expected, the testing process would not be worth the cost to the auction barn, considering their percentage of the sales. Thus, they no longer allow chickens to be sold at their establishment. After some discussion, we decided to hire an Amish family to take our chickens from fluffy to ready for the oven. This is when the difference between egg-laying chickens and meat chickens did not just touch our family but knocked us in the face. Underneath those bountiful, fluffy feathers stood naked, skinny, anorexic hens. Actually, they were not really anorexic, but egg layers put all their extra calories (calories not directly needed for survival) into egg production. Thus, there was not much "flesh" on the birds; in fact, on these high egg producers, there was barely enough meat to scrape off the bones.
So, what does that mean for our current chickens? We are not going to bother butchering them when we need to rotate in new chickens—for a fresh appearance for the 4-H Fair. Since they will still be good for producing eggs, we hope to sell them to someone wanting eggs. We will just have to make sure the buyer knows not to expect to get good, fried chicken out of them.
I have already given a couple of stories about the processing of "live food," yet I still have another one. This one does not just taste like chicken; it is chicken. Yes, my family was touched by domesticated birds as well as the wild variety when I was a child.
The other steps included dipping the deceased birds in nearly boiling water, pulling out feathers (which, of course, stuck to a person's hands, arms, and virtually everywhere to a certain point), singe-ing the pin feathers, gutting, cutting up, and lastly, wrapping and freezing the pieces. The part that stands out the most in my memory is the horrible smell of hot, wet feathers (and the singe-ing). I am sure the location of this part of the process had a major role in burning this detail into my brain.
At this time, we were living in the basement of the first house my parents built. We lived in the basement for several years while they saved up money to then spend on different stages of construction to reach their blueprint goals. In essence, it was easier to carry re-filled gunny sacks into the basement than to carry the very large metal tub filled with very hot water up the stairs and into the yard. Did I mention the ventilation? The best place for this huge wash tub was in our cinderblock shower. The bathroom had no windows, and by the way, to get to this bathroom (which was the only one at the time), one would have to travel through the kitchen. The kitchen had no windows either. Thus, the "stink" basically stayed completely in the bathroom with me while I plucked. This experience in the basement in my childhood influenced a decision we made last year (or maybe it was two years ago), but I will talk about that tomorrow.
In the meantime, consider yourself and your family lucky if you have not been touched by an odor-filled experience in a windowless bathroom with hot, water-logged chicken feathers, and if find yourself eating something that tastes a lot like chicken, then it might very well be that—chicken.
***By the way, if you are looking for Day 16, stop. There isn't one. I apologize, but that is just how it is sometimes.
Thursday, November 15, 2012
|Frank truly worked day after day for his family's daily bread.|
When I try to visualize this verse, I imagine a rural setting or farm scene. It seems that families that work the ground and directly depend on what it produces are more closely touched by the truth that everything good we receive is a gift from God. Yet, God does not give us any guarantees.
Farmers especially understand this, and they also realize that, despite their best efforts, only God can provide daily for their needs. No one can make a seed sprout. People can only provide the most optimal setting for that seed: enriched soil, appropriate moisture, vital protection against dangers, such as disease and infestation, etc. Some people would want to argue that they can force a seed (or bulb) to sprout and will site experiences with tulip bulbs in pots in the middle of winter. However, that is only someone providing the right situation to allow the tulip to come to life, not truly someone making it come to life. If this were possible, then I believe farming today would be very different.
Unfortunately, the farther that members of the human race get away from the farm the less they believe they need to rely on God. Self-centered, these city dwellers often tend to believe that it is by their own power and might or even intelligence that they get what they need (or want). In truth, pride plagues people of both towns and country. Then situations, such as Hurricane Sandy, come along and remind even the most proud that in reality people are basically powerless. Then they remember who is truly responsible for providing them with their "daily bread." It is too bad that it often takes a disaster or tragedy touching a family before mankind remembers who is truly in control.
*All verses quoted are from the New International Version: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
**Come back later to see the photo. I cannot get it to work right now.
**Come back later to see the photo. I cannot get it to work right now.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
In the past, neighborly concern and helpfulness touched nearly every family; however, that is not the norm in many situations. In contrast, I can think of two places where this type of concern for others is the norm. One is our church; the other is the farming community surrounding my small town.
|A different meal gathering at church|
Just tonight our church had its annual, free Thanksgiving dinner for church members, family, and friends. "Friends" is used loosely, because you can be the friend of a friend of a friend or even of, yet, another friend and be welcomed for the meal. Preparation began at 8 a.m. with some volunteers, and different people followed through with other tasks as the day progressed. In the end, a mouth-watering turkey dinner with all the fixings served about 100 people. All of the food was donated by members of the church, and an offering was collected as a Christmas gift for our missionaries. No one complained about their tasks. No one tried to be the "big boss" and control everything. Everyone who helped found something that needed to be done and did it—and they sought advice from those around them if they were not sure what they should do. This Thanksgiving dinner happened because of a spirit of servanthood, helpfulness, thoughtfulness, and putting others before themselves.
Over the years, I have seen this same type of neighborly generosity in my farming community. Although hired hands are used by some farmers either on a regular basis or an as-needed basis, farmers often help each other in exchange for getting some of the same help for themselves. At first glance, this might not seem to be the same thing. One could argue that the "help" was provided for a price (free labor in return) rather than for the sake of being thoughtful. Yet, that does not explain farmers pitching in and helping a farmer who has become acutely ill (such as having a heart attack) or helping a farming widow who lost her husband before the crops were harvested. In this situation, there is no payback or financial compensation. It is purely a compassionate heart at work. I have even witnessed farmers delaying the harvest of their own crops, so, as a community, local farmers could work fast and furious together to rescue the family that was in a desperate situation. Sometimes they did not even accept compensation for the fuel used to run their personal machinery. It became a part of the gift to go along with the time donated. Does this happen very often? Not that I have seen. Thankfully, it is not needed very often either. Fortunately, when help is needed, the good-old-boy (or woman) farmer is there ready to generously volunteer.
Alone, no one can fill a gap, but together many can accomplish what was at one time impossible to get done, just like our church's Thanksgiving dinner. No one person could have easily provided such a wonderful meal, but together our church community completed the task joyfully. The same goes with harvesting an extra field when the owner is unable to contribute any effort. An American farmer fills the gap with his farming community just because it is the "right" thing to do—and he (or she) knows others would do the same thing for him (her) if needed.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
When most townspeople envision a farmer at work, they picture a solitary man traveling the fields alone atop his green and yellow tractor. Farming can lead to a lonely, isolated life. However, even farmers have found ways to socialize and interact with other men, hopefully for the betterment of all touched by this interaction.
These guys like to portray themselves as the strong, independent John Wayne types, but you know they all cannot be so hungry at the same time every morning and unable to find enough to eat at home that they have to all be at a local restaurant at five in the morning. Food may be their excuse, but fellowship and comradery is what brings them together. Not all of them will hit the early morning restaurant.
Others will "go for a ride" instead. These rough and tough men suggest they are out to see how the crops are coming along or checking on fences or getting some supplies of some sort. Interestingly, however, their vehicles tend to find a way to pull into another farmer's barn lot or into a business that serves farmers but also seems to have employees (or owners) who take the time to "visit" with customers (or potential customers). The motivation is the same: fellowship and comradery. Is this bad? Far from it. Actually, it is a good thing.
At the college visit my daughters and I did this week, we happened to learn about some research the university had done. Essentially, people who were desperate to lower their blood sugar level for health reasons had much greater success if they were part of a group learning environment rather than part of an individualized instruction situation only. Now the patients who had both—individual and group learning—did best, yet when comparing those who only had one learning method, those in the group setting had the best success. What is the difference? Fellowship, comradery, support, encouragement, and understanding. That truth is as evident with farmers as it is with city dwellers. Both groups benefit from interaction with perceived peers. Even the disciples of Jesus in their own little family-like relationship were touched by the direction to travel and work with a companion rather than going it alone.
|Not college, but you get the idea.|
Too many times a farmer has his plans lined up for the day but is unable to complete them. Sometimes it's the weather. Sometimes it's uncooperative machinery. Sometimes his own body halts the day's agenda. The same type of day touches everyone, including this girl from town. The title says it is Day 12 when in reality it is for Day 12, not made public on Day 12.
What was I doing yesterday? Taking two of my daughters on another college visit. Sometimes I wonder why we bother since we do not have the money to send them, yet I do not know what God has planned. I like to leave our options open to what He chooses to provide when and how He wants. My older two daughters graduated from college. Of course, their hard work regarding assignments and part-time jobs (and some college loans) contributed to their success, but without God's intervention with scholarships and grants, they would not have received a bachelor's degree—or at least not in four years.
That brings me to the next daughter in line (and another one a year behind her). Not only do we have questions of which college and which major, but also a little thought whispers, "Do they need to go to college?" I think farming parents with their own land would find this "whisper" to be very loud as they consider college for their children. "Why spends thousands of dollars to learn something that they could learn better by hands-on experience on the farm they will eventually take over?"
However, in this changing world, is that enough? Even as a town girl, I can see how high tech farming is becoming, e.g. using satellites to guide the application of fertilizer in the right proportions over a field. Can the farming family in the next generation survive only by what they learn from their parents? Besides needing to know tractor mechanics, will future farmers also need to know computer science, environmental science, chemistry, how to write a business plan, etc.? Still, it can be a tough call. My daughters' options without college will be very limited, so it is much easier to be motivated to find a way for them to attend a college or technical school. In contrast, if I was running a farm, I would have to wonder (1) if the payoff for a college degree would exceed the cost of that degree and (2) if I could spare the children as "hired hands" while they took turns going to college. Our family is touched in a big way when contemplating the question of college, but I believe the farming community has an even bigger dilemma when considering college. Good luck to you.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
|"The heavens declare the glory of God"|
God's Country. When you think about God's country, do you think of urban areas and large cities? Do you think of a serene farm and wide open meadows? How can any family not be touched by the presence of God when surrounded the wonder and peace that nature brings. Just the smell of moist dirt can draw a person into walking through meadows, forests, or even tilled ground. No wonder so many civilizations over the centuries have mistakenly worshiped the creation rather than the Creator.
For example, many false religions have a sun god among its list of deities. Not only are the heavenly bodies amazing to ponder, but also the necessity of the sun's life-giving rays for our survival is obvious. Without question, power exists behind the sun, stars, and other bodies of space, but the power does not lie in these bodies but in the God who created them.
Psalm 19:1—"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."
Not to be left out, the rest of creation also reveals God to all of mankind.
Romans 1:19-20—"since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."
Unfortunately, scores of people would rather ignore the True Giver of Life and worship the frail and impotent items of creation.
Romans 1:25—"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen."
Determined to show his love and give mankind a little longer to choose to worship him, God continues to bless mankind—blessings given through rain and the seasons that govern crops of the field and forests.
Acts 14:15b-17—"…telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony. He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy."
Nature touches every family everyday in one way or another. Do not miss a chance to let God's creation—whether it is a lush forest, the full moon, the goldfish in your fishbowl, or everything you see when you take a walk in the country—lead you to worship and follow the Creator.