Thursday, February 26, 2015

Writing Letters

People don't write letters very often anymore. It used to be the way we communicated to distant friends and relatives. Long distant phone calls were expensive and to share a long message it was best if written in a letter. The price of a stamp was inexpensive and paper and envelopes were nearly always available.

I think about the service men and women who were stationed overseas or away for months at a time and the letters that were written. What a cherished piece of history those letters became for the families. It was like a piece of home packaged in an envelope, touching the heart, and bringing tears of both joy and sadness.

The long descriptions of life at home, children growing, parents aging, jobs changing, and the love so deep words could not do it justice, would fill the pages with emotion and fact intertwined so carefully. What happened to those days of letters? Now communication has come to abbreviations and short cuts pecked onto electronic devices and zapped away in seconds.

When I was a child I would have pen pals to get me through the long summer months away from my classmates, because I lived on a farm. Sometimes it was a faithful exchange that lasted all through the break, others were short-lived. I'd keep in touch with cousins I rarely saw or with new friends I met at church camp. Many times our letters would continue until we saw each other the next year at camp.

Thankfully we have many letters written in the Bible that give us history, teachings and direction. Paul's writings open new wisdom to us about becoming Christians and growing in our faith. Cherish your letters.

"To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you" (Philippians 1:1-3 NIV).

Monday, February 23, 2015

Who is Your Rock?

"As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?" (2 Samuel 22:31-32 NIV).

Living on a farm for most of my life I've had experience with a variety of rocks. In the spring we would wander the fields picking up rocks to remove them from the land so the planter would navigate smoothly. We would walk behind as Daddy drove the pickup or a tractor and wagon. Some areas of the field would be prone to rocks and you could see them scattered about the surface of the ground. Sometimes plowing would reveal large rocks that would have to be dug out by a tractor and scoop or even drug out of the field by a tractor.

The large rocks would usually become landscaping rocks in or around the lawn. The largest rocks would provide a resting place for tired bodies or a climbing place for children. Some of the medium sized rocks would accent the flower beds or border a garden. All the rest would be dumped or unloaded by hand along a creek or fence-line. That became a great treasure pile for city dwellers who would come to gather rocks for their own rustic lawn decorating.

It was always amazing to me the number of rocks that could be found on the same ground year after year. They would constantly be working to the top of the soil from below after plowing or harrowing. There would be rocks of pretty colors and interesting shapes, some too heavy to lift and others round like a bowling ball. All were created by God.

"From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe" (Psalm 61:2-3 NIV).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lambing Season

"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:14-15 NIV).

My husband John is the good shepherd on our farm. During this lambing season he has spent more than two full hours a day with his flock of 50 sheep. Many days it has been three hours in the lambing shed. Since he typically also works nearly 12 hours a day at his job that pays, that qualifies him for laying down his life for the sheep!

When he heads out to chore the outside ewes (those who didn't have babies) come running up to the gate awaiting their daily portion. They hear him coming even though he didn't call them; they are always watching. They have shelter in a shed but also have the freedom to wander through the pasture now coated in snow. Surprisingly, they still make at least one trip a day out to forage for grass. These 10-12 are the sheep our dog is responsible for keeping safe from the coyotes. In the summer Bella protects the whole flock of 50.

"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27 NIV).

John enters the lambing shed and instantly the sheep draw to attention. The youngest lambs and their mothers and the mothers-in-waiting enjoy the heated portion of the shed. Individual mothers and their babies are in separate pens and a large pen holds the mothers-to-be. Everyone is hungry and excited for feeding time. Some climb up the pen standing in wait for that generous portion of hay and the scoop of grain. They are usually ready for a fresh bucket of water as well. It takes a lot to keep making milk for those babies. If the babies are quiet and resting it is a sign that they have full bellies. Those crying may not be getting enough milk from mama. So there is one pen of three lambs who now get bottle fed on demand.

In the back portion of the shed the older lambs have a weaning area where they can get away from their mothers and try tiny morsels of lamb feed and rest under the heat lamps. They can go back through the narrow panels to nurse off mama whenever they choose. These mothers are really hungry as they have to share the feed and hay with all the other mothers. They tend to be rude and rambunctious trying to be the first to eat and get the most grain. They all love the hay; even the babies quickly learn to nibble at the hay for its taste and nutrients.

The shepherd knows when a sheep is sick. John's been doctoring a mother-to-be for several weeks. She is a good ewe and he is hoping she'll have a healthy lamb but she won't eat when he's looking at her and she stands back from all the other sheep. He continues to watch her and care for her because he is the good shepherd.

"The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep" (John 10:2 NIV).

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Sunporch

They call them three-season porches now and add them on to the main level of many homes. The designers of my childhood home were very wise. They featured a sunporch on the second level and it was part of the big square 3-story farm house. Equipped with three windows on the east and seven or eight on the south side, the room gathered in the warmth of the sun. The room was generous in size and had two doors, one to each adjacent bedroom on the north and the west.

It was a delightful place to seek quiet and it had a perfect viewpoint into the second story level of trees, almost like a tree house. I remember watching young birds in a nest as their mother brought food for them to eat. With the windows open you could heard the chirping and enjoy a comfortable breeze.

During the winter Mama used the sunroom for storage and for hanging clothes on a wooden dryer that spread open like an accordion. She would locate her sewing machine near the door in one bedroom so she could open the door for warmth from the sunshine or for a breeze during the summer.

I enjoyed playing on the sunporch. I remember playing house or school out there for hours at a time. I liked it even on rainy days because the fragrance of the rain would fill the room and you could listen to the rain falling through the leaves. I also loved it because it was painted a brilliant sky blue. In later years it held a ping pong table that my nephews loved battling over. The sunporch was a wonderful place.

"The Lord watches over you--the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm--he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore" (Psalm 121:5-8 NIV).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine Memories

The days of construction paper and doily valentines are gone for me but I remember the years of creating shoebox mailboxes to gather all the classmate valentines during a party at school. It was a highly anticipated day and always lots of fun. Most made homemade valentines but some of the kids would bring store purchased cards and some had candy attached! Those were really special. I longed to give those kind of valentines - yet another hurt connected to not being able to give birthday treats to my classmates because my birthday was during summer vacation. But I digress...

The first Valentine's Day gift from my then fiance, John, was a bright pink and red stuffed animal. Though totally useless it captured my heart and brightened my room for many years. Through the years he has become more and more generous as our budget allowed and I received many beautiful gifts. One year I was feeling a little less loved; he gave me bath towels. For the years I worked John never failed to send beautiful bouquets of roses. My memory fails me regarding what I ever gave John except I know I always included a purchased valentine.

John's parents often gave us heart boxes of candy. But just as special was my mother's homemade heart shaped angelfood cakes with pink frosting or pretty heart shaped sugar cookies with pink frosting. The boys loved them and we did too.

Last night I got to watch my grandson finish his box for valentines at preschool. It was a pink monster box complete with a big mouth (for the valentines) and jiggly eyes and curly eyebrows with a pom pom nose, and lots of valentine stickers; thanks to his very creative mother.

Valentine's Day is a time to share good with others.

"The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks" (Luke 7:45 NIV).

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Eagle

A few months ago we had an eagle in one of our tall trees and were delighted with the spectacle. Eagles are common sights near the Iowa River in Marshall County but we are 10-15 miles from it and just over a mile from Linn Creek. It was a surprise to see the eagle here once, but to have it return again and again is just awesome! Yes, the eagle has returned to its 'favorite' tree twice in the past week.

There is a tall, ragged maple tree that has been storm beaten several times and lost its top limbs except for one straggly, but sturdy, limb that protrudes several feet above the rest of the tree. That is the choice perch for our eagle. Three stories up, the eagle sits with its brilliant yellow bill, turning its head side to side viewing all the activity in the area. Its white tail-feathers ruffle in the wind as it sits steadily in the late afternoon. Perfect timing to spot the rascally rabbits that are eating my small bushes above the snow piles. I personally hoped the eagle would feast on one of them. I'm sure their tracks are visible in the snow.

We feel so honored to have the eagle's presence on our land. It's delightful to watch it circle our acreage in its majestic form, wings spread wide and so gracefully gliding above the ground, before it returns to its high perch in the maple tree. The eagle is poised and ready to attack. We have no fish to offer so it must be looking for something else to quench its hunger.

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:31 NIV).

I'm hoping the eagle returns to visit us again. It is such a powerful reminder of God's blessings.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Snow Cover

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live" (Ecclesiastes 3:11-12 NIV).

White mounds of thick snow coat the bushes and evergreen trees. The ground is white as far as you can see. The birch tree stands with ornaments of ice crystals handing on the branches, left by the rain/snow mixture that started the storm. Birds flutter from within the evergreens desperate for food from the feeder. They hover over the vent in the shed roof to capture some heat that escapes from below. The squirrel sneaks around the bird feeder searching for dropped morsels then bravely climbs up to the suet block and attempts to steal some fat.

The loud rattle of the snow plow scraping snow from the roads echoes across the countryside as it comes closer. Long peaks of drifts decorate the barnyard and lawn after wind whipped the snowflakes into submission. Rabbit tracks reveal the hiding places under the deck and around the evergreens and bushes. The woodpecker tap, tap, taps searching for nourishment. His red head smartly chooses the suet block for easier rations. Icicles hang from the eaves and sparkle in the sunshine waiting for warmer temperatures to start their melting again. They pause, frozen in the air slightly angled from the wind's power.

God's creation shines all around us in amazing beauty that takes my breath away. I'll continue to fill the feeders and find an ear of corn for the squirrel and replenish the suet block as it dwindles away by pecks. For truly everything is beautiful in its time and warmer days will erase winter's pristine picture soon enough,

Monday, February 2, 2015

Mama's Attic

My mother was a recycler before there was a word for it. There was almost nothing that went to waste in her house and clothing was forever. Unless it was threadbare, then it became a rag. Most clothes retired to the attic. The attic was a treasure chest where anything you might need was waiting.

Mother was a seamstress and she could turn a 1950s dress into a 1970s vest and mini skirt with ease. Fabric from clothes was also transformed into pieces of quilts made for grandchildren. If you needed apparel for a play or a costume it was there. There were coats and dress-up clothes, complete with purses and shoes to match. There was a chest of wedding dresses and prom gowns, luggage, and a plethora of grandmother's elegant hats decorated in lace and netting, ribbons and beads.  I miss that attic.

It was a gold mine for playing - lots of old books to play school with. There were old band and 4-H uniforms, toys, instruments, boxes of school papers, photographs and memorabilia. It let your imagination run wild and mama's creativity bloom. There were cubbies to play house in and so much to make it seem almost real. The attic was a great place to play hide and seek. Each peak of the roof made a great hiding place.

Mama's recycling went beyond the attic to her kitchen as well. We kids laughed about her bread bags and cereal boxes but watched in amazement as she always had whatever you needed. It's no wonder she was a saver; she lived through the depression and experienced many lean years on the farm when there was no buying new. Mama knew the value of her items and treasured them for their usability.

"The lazy man does not roast his game, but the diligent man prizes his possessions" (Proverbs 12:27 NIV).