Sunday, September 21, 2014

Where do You Go To Fill the Empty?

Disclaimer: A large Diet Pepsi was consumed during the writing of this post. 



I, along with many people in our town, seem to be addicted to Polar Pops. The gas station on the corner is busy day and night with customers, young and old, bellying up to the pop fountain.

I've visited many times. It is cheap and self serve, so I can get the pop to ice ratio just the way I like it-heavy on the ice. I have seen and visited with many of my former students while getting my Diet Pepsi fix, so that is another good thing.

There are 3 sizes available- big, bigger, biggest.

Nobody gets a small pop anymore. Now the 32 ouncer isn't even enough; many people want the Super Duper Size. I, personally, have never purchased the 42 ounce size, mainly because it is just embarrassing.

Do you think soon someone will invent a tank we can carry on our backs with a straw that comes around the shoulder to give us our constant fizz fix? Time will tell.

But, this post isn't about Pepsi, or Coke, or Mountain Dew.

It's about empty places and yearning and the search for satisfaction. And standing at the checkout counter of the gas station gives us lots of visuals.

Super sized candy bars.
Energy drinks.
Little bottles of alcohol.
Cigarettes.
Lottery tickets.

Oh my. We are a mess.

I've been learning recently through the study Recovering Redemption that humans tend to turn 4 places in a search for significance and purpose.

Ourselves- We strive for self improvement. According to US News, Americans spend more than $60 billion a year on weight loss. Barnes and Noble offers 186, 532 self help titles.

We instinctively know that we need "fixing".

Others- "If only I were friends with the right people"..... "When I'm in a relationship, I'll be happy".... "My kids, my kids, my kids"

World-alcohol, food, fame, fortune, shopping, hobbies, more, more, more

Religion-Attempting to save yourself through your good works and checklists of rule following

I have dipped my toe in everyone of these at one time or another and went under the water a time or two in some of them.

But all of my striving and searching left me still empty and frustrated and with more clothes than I needed and more weight than was healthy and one more box to take to the give-away pile.

None of these outside forces will do the trick.

Our joy and significance come from a RELATIONSHIP with the one who came to save us, Jesus Christ.



Oh, that we would turn there instead of the things that do not satisfy and never will.

Share your wisdom in the comments please. I'd love to hear your take on this!


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Thursday, September 4, 2014

He Is





He is.

These words seem like a twin phrase to "but God" which has shown up over and over in my Bible study this year.

Because "he is" in every circumstance around us, he can take what seems for our harm and reverse it to a "but God."

Often my eyes and heart remain closed to what is happening around me and days, weeks, or months later, I learn how God has worked something ugly or confusing for good.

When I become aware of this, I learn once again that the wisdom of man isn't wise at all, and I need to see things through "kingdom eyes" not my green ones that require glasses for the details and fine print.

Once upon a time, I thought I knew what to pray when circumstances were sticky or relationships strained. I prayed for my will to be done, and then worked hard to make it happen if it was in my power at all to do so. How presumptuous of me!

Now, I pray with confidence and much less worry and brain scurrying on my part, that God's will be done. I am learning to hand over my "control" which is laughable because I can only "control" one person-me- and as I've said on this blog before, I don't even mind myself all that well.

My Heavenly Father really does know best, and because "He is",  I don't have to be.

And I'm glad.


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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dr. Phil, Jerry Springer or God?



Where do you go for advice? Ellen? Dr. Phil? Judge Judy? Jerry Springer? (Goodness. I hope it isn't the last one!) Or maybe you turn to your friends whose lives are a mess, too.

Our natural reaction is to go to a person who will agree with us and tell us what we want to hear. If our issue is with another person, we want someone else to be mad right along with us, someone who will be outraged on our behalf, someone who will not only listen as we drag our "enemy" through the coals but will throw in a few zingers of their own. It feels good at the time to receive confirmation that our reaction is justified and the other person is at fault.

If it's a decision we need to make, we look for someone who is already doing the very thing we are pondering. Hooking up with an acquaintance? Moving in with a boyfriend? Quitting a job? Spending money we don't have? Eating too many french fries? Your friend who is already participating in foolish behavior will probably never tell you that you shouldn't, even if in fact, YOU SHOULDN'T. 

It may feel good temporarily but often times that kind of advice doesn't solve a problem or result in a good outcome. My dear friend, Debbie, says, "How is that working out for you?" We can't keep making the same knuckle-headed decisions and expecting things to turn out differently.

I love that Proverbs says that WISDOM isn't quiet. She calls aloud, she raises her voice, she cries out. We can be wise if we truly want to be.  

If we want to make the wise choices, let's try this:
  • Get into the word. Proverbs is a great place to start, and I challenge you to read a different chapter in that book each day. It will change you.
  • Ask God for it.  James 1:5  "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."  
  • Pray about it with a mentor or someone who has your best interest at heart and will help you see all sides of a situation.
  • When we know the wise thing to do, do it.       
Let's be known as a community of wise women who is allowing the Holy Spirit to CHANGE us from the inside out as we make the wise choices for our families, our communities, ourselves.  That is the kind of life that will bring glory to Jesus.
         

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Corn is a Many Splendored Thing




As you know if you have visited this little blog of mine very many times, we own and operate a grain farm. We raise white corn for Frito Lay, yellow corn for general use, and soybeans that are sold for seed beans to other farmers. It is a good life, but like all business owners, we experience a good deal of stress.

Perhaps the most anxiety ridden part is that we are not in control of the majority of it. Brad and our sons make well researched and well- thought out decisions as to planting and harvesting and work their tails off to make them happen. But, of course, Mother Nature is in charge of the weather and our success and profits depend on her.

After the drought in 2012 and too much rain in 2013, we have rejoiced in the timely rains and cooler temps of the summer of 2014.  The seeds were all in the ground in record time and the rains have been nearly perfect. We are so very thankful to God from whom all blessings flow!

I thought it might be fun to educate you, my dear readers, on the miracle that is corn. It may just appear to be a lowly plant, but each stalk is its own little food factory.

The plant goes through many changes in the 150 days our hybrids are in the ground. The life cycle goes something like this.....

Day one: Plant the seed.

Sounds like an easy thing, right? It isn't. When to plant is a big deal, and the guys don't just pick a random day to begin. The soil temperature needs to be at least 55 degrees at a two inch soil depth. Our planters are set to put the seed from 2 inches to 2 1/4 inches deep.

Brad spends at least half a day making sure all the gizmos on the planter are properly calibrated. He also fine tunes the seed population. We plant between 32,000 and 35,000 kernels per acre. Each bag of seed corn contains 80,000 kernels and costs between $200-$240.

I avoid numbers, but you can do the math. It is expensive.

A big topic of conversation around here is about seed emergence.

If the planter isn't set correctly and the seed is planted too deeply, it won't emerge properly if rains come right away, creating a crust on the surface. If it isn't planted deeply enough, it won't create a proper root structure and yields will be hurt quite a bit or it will blow over when we have summer winds. It might not even come up at all if their isn't enough moisture in the soil- just like grass in your lawn or seeds in your garden.

We have the equipment to plant 200 acres a day if there are no breakdowns or other disruptions ......if everyone puts in at least a 16 hour day. These long days continue until every acre is planted. Usually , the field work starts and stops several times depending on spring rainfalls and how long it takes the ground to dry sufficiently between them.

It generally takes us the better part of 4-6 weeks to plant the corn and soybeans.

Day two, three, four and five.

The corn kernels sit in the dark for 3 days absorbing moisture from the soil. Suddenly, they break through the seed coat with a little tiny root and a tiny little sprout. The sprout becomes the part above ground and the root becomes the, well, the root. It is amazing to see the field turn from brown to a shadowy green to row after row after row of uniformly spaced and uniformly sized corn plants.

It makes a farmer proud!

For the next few weeks, God continues doing his thing with sunlight and soil and the plants grow rapidly- you can practically watch it grow. Some people swear they can hear it grow.

A short window of opportunity exists before the plants are too tall to drive through, so if any other fertilizer applications are needed, the guys don't dilly dally. They get it done.

Knee high by the 4th of July is no longer considered acceptable. That is so 1950's!

About 65-75 days later (depending on the weather conditions).

Once it gets to be about 8 foot tall, the stalk begins to shoot tassels out the top of the plant and two to three ears appear from the middle. The tassels are golden brown and are filled with millions and millions of pieces of pollen dust. This dust is the "male" part of the plant.

At just the right time, the pollen explodes from miniature bulbs on the tassel and falls down on the corn silk.

The silks, which come out of the baby corn cobs, resemble hair, but they are very moist. When the pollen hits it, it mysteriously travels down into the interior part of the cob where it is wrapped up by the leaves of the husks.

The cob is lined with potential kernel spots. When the pollen gets to the spot where the silk is connected to the cob, the miracle of fertilization occurs, and the formation of the kernel is underway. This can take about 5 days. When this is happening, the countryside smells delicious, just like a gigantic sweet corn patch.

A few things can disrupt corn pollination, including too much heat, not enough rain, and hot dry wind. Japanese beetles can also cause major issues because those pests don't just eat your roses and tree leaves, they also eat corn silks.

No silk. No pollination. No kernel. No food.


Once successful pollination occurs, the corn plant really shifts into high gear to get the kernels to maturity. Gobs of energy is used as the plant instinctively aims to produce the most kernels and the largest kernels possible.  Sugars are pulled from the stalk as the plant makes every effort possible to reproduce itself.

Stress is not good for humans and it is not good for corn. Our plants have had a stess-free summer and we have potential high yields to prove it.

This amazing cycle is almost complete for this year. The crop is basically made and we are just waiting for the kernels to dry and shrink down to about  24% moisture. The stalks will dry up and turn from green to golden.

The guys are starting to prepare for harvest where we will all reap what has been sown.

Brad helped me with the details for this post and I am so glad he did. We both enjoyed the reminder of the miracles of life all around us. Nothing just randomly happens. God is in charge of it all, and we humbly appreciate the opportunity to play our part in His plan to care for the world He created and loves.

If you have any questions about any of this, ask away! I know just the people to ask for the answers.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

The Original Bachelorette



A few weeks ago, I finished studying the Old Testament book of Ruth with She Reads Truth. (This link will take you to the first day of the study if you are interested.)

I have some thoughts swirling in my head and I need to get them down on paper so I can move on.

Anyone else know what I mean? Sometimes I just don't know what I think about something until I get it down on paper.

If you aren't familiar with the story or aren't a Bible reader, I invite you to go to this link and read this short book in The Message. It's a great love story that lends itself to much reading between the lines. I have to admit that I'm a little annoyed that more details weren't included in the story. I want to know....

Who had the idea in the first place to take this nice hungry Jewish family to Moab? I thought the Israelites were warned against association with such people. Was it Naomi's idea or her husbands?

What was the reaction when their two sons married Moabites....a big no-no? I can imagine major parental heartbreak over this turn of events. And maybe some finger-pointing of blame. "Why did we come here?"

How did the husband and two boys die? 

Were the boys married very long? If so, how unusual that neither had any children. After all, there was no birth control pill back then.

What kind of relationship did Orpah and Ruth, the daughters-in-law,  have with their own parents? Surely, Ruth's wasn't all that great if she said to her mother-in-law, "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me."

Sometimes we hear that verse quoted in a wedding ceremony and they are lovely words, for sure. But Ruth didn't say them to her husband. She said them to her MOTHER- IN- LAW.

Huh? Most girls wouldn't choose their mother-in-law over their own mother. There is a huge backstory here, and I want to know it.

I have questions, people.

Some think that Naomi had such a strong faith in God that her daughters-in-law were drawn to her because of that faith. I'm not seeing that. For Pete's sake, Naomi urged the girls to stay in Moab with their own people and their own gods. If she had such strong faith, how could she encourage the girls to worship gods that weren't God at all?

But, Ruth persisted and traipsed behind Naomi all the way back to Bethlehem where I'm sure they endured being the object of much gossiping and curious glances and lifted eyebrows.

And that's when things really begin to get interesting. In those days, women were considered second class citizens and NEEDED a man in order to survive. The girls were probably hungry and things had to change.

I don't know if Naomi consciously began to develop a scheme for getting Ruth a man, or if it just happened innocently, but before we know it, Ruth is lying at the feet of Boaz at the threshing floor.

I've only watched an occasional episode of The Bachelorette, but this sure seems like a hot tub scene to me!

I just have to ask. Was Ruth the original bachelorette?

Thankfully for all of us, the story truly had a happily ever after ending. Boaz had already noticed Ruth (wink, wink) and taken steps to care for her and Naomi, who had a family connection to him.

Boaz was a kind and honorable and wealthy manly man. So even after a big meal celebrating the end of harvest with the other men of the town that probably included an alcoholic beverage or two, he didn't take advantage of Ruth when he found her lying near him.

Instead, it was obvious that he truly cared for her! When she boldly asked him to claim his right to marry her (I know. So many unusual-to-us customs.) Boaz was all fluttery and flattered, complementing her and telling her she could have had her pick of the younger men. The Message paraphrase says he called her "A Real Prize". After paying attention to a few details of the day, they marry.

Sooooo sweet. I love a good love story but this one continues to go on and on and on.

If you look at the linage of Christ, Ruth is right there. Boaz and Ruth have a son who has a son who has a son who has a son.....who has a son named David, who became King of Israel. And it continues all the way to Mary and Joseph and Christ.

Boaz saved Ruth and Naomi by his mercy and love. And Jesus saves you and me the same way.

Beautiful.

I just love this about God. He takes our cockamamie ideas and mistakes and boo boo's and works them out for our good.

I don't know how many of the relationships from The Bachelorette actually end in long-term marriages, but the marriage of the original bachelorette lasted.

Ruth got a husband. Naomi got a grandson. We got a Savior.

And I am so glad. Aren't you?


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P.S. In case you haven't noticed, I am no theologian. If you have some light to shed on this story or just a comment or observation, please share them with us!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I Pledge My Head



Lots of things come full circle when you live in the same place for most of your life and are lucky enough for some of your kids to live nearby. And we are doing some circling up this week!

This time, it is all about 4-H, which is all about family and community members.

The Hidalgo Helping Hands club and our leader, Ella Lee, played a huge part in my formative years. Brad's family supported the activity in a big way, as well . His dad led his club and spent hours on it, I'm sure. My parents, mom especially, spent hours supervising our sewing and other projects, making cookies and costumes for Share the Fun, and hauling us all over kingdom come to events. I'm so glad so many adults were willing to give their time, wisdom, and knowledge to help. It was so good for me!



Because of my experiences in 4-H, I learned  to....
  • make bread
  • bake yummy desserts
  • plan a healthy menu and prepare the meal
  • create pretty (!) projects with my own two hands and the satisfaction it brings
  • follow a pattern and sew my own clothes and home decor
  • make a speech without vomiting from nerves
  • do a demonstration in front of a large crowd of peers and adults in my county and then at the State Fair
  • go the extra mile 
  • plan events
  • lead others
  • meet new people and to enjoy camping with a cabin full of squealing girls, first as a camper and then as a counselor
  • throw in the towel when something is just not my cup of tea....Can you say cattle show?
  • complete project records
  • finish what I start (confession: I'm still learning that one!)
  • invest my adult life in helping others
Our boys were in 4-H, too, but I don't remember that time so fondly. It was a time of STRESS for us as parents. The County fair week was always a very inconvenient time when gobs of things needed done on the farm, and Brad, who was also a banker, was worn completely out. 

By the time the 4-H shows rolled around, we had already spent hours of the summer at the ballpark and just wanted to stay home-at least Brad and I did!

I remember flaring tempers because I wouldn't let the boys stay at the fairgrounds 24/7 "like all the other kids" and embarrassment on my part because the other moms all seemed so much more "farm-capable" than I was when we went to take care of the livestock each morning.

And mud.


And flies.

Thankfully, our kids remember the good times, not the bad! Now, we all laugh about our fair exploits, especially the year they decided to ditch showing hogs for showing sheep. That pleased me because, come on, white and fluffy and docile. 

We were total novices and didn't really bother to read the project manual, so what a shock when the boys led their clean, white, beautiful sheep into the show ring and discovered by looking at the brown, dirty animals around them that sheep aren't supposed to be washed before the sheep show.

Trust me. There was giggling at our expense that day!

Now, we are on the other side, and it is a JOY to attend the fair and see all the projects completed by the kids in our county. We don't know the behind-the-scenes angst, so we can clearly see all the benefits of the 4-H program again. Kids are learning amazing things and are capable of SO MUCH besides messing passively with technology.

I love the 4-H slogan....

Learn by Doing



And that is exactly what is happening!

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Friday, June 13, 2014

A Reluctant Camper


I was always the girl who preferred "roughing-it" at a 5 star resort or at the very least a new, very clean hotel chain. I wasn't the least bit interested in campfires or bugs or morning dampness in my pillow.

So, I am as surprised as my husband just how much I enjoy our adventures in Pearl, our 1976 Airstream. When I started seeing articles about glamping and vintage trailers, I began to get very interested in the whole idea.Then we visited a vintage camper rally in a nearby town, and I was hooked on the absolute cuteness factor that was possible. And I began to dream.



Brad found our tin can online and we purchased it immediately upon discovering what great shape she was in. The Hollingsworths were so kind and generous to us leaving EVERYTHING we would need to begin camping immediately, down to an animal skin rug and adorable dishes. How nice is that?

I made new curtains out of vintage tablecloths and sheets, sewed pillows, and put our stamp on things. Looking for items to personalize our home away from home is so fun!

We have owned Pearl for almost a year now and I am hooked on camping. Here is why....

1. The Great Outdoors

I love hearing the birds sing, feeling the breeze through the windows, hiking on trails, and riding bikes around the camp ground. Even though we live in the country with gobs of privacy, it is very different for us to be parked in the deep woods.


2. My Husband Relaxes

Brad is a Type AAA, and it is nearly impossible for him to relax on the farm. His to-do list, which has a mind of its own, constantly nags at him and he can't resist it. When we are camping, he unwinds and rests.

3. Seeing New Things

We love to visit new areas. There is so much beauty in our country and in Illinois. Our state is spectacular and has such variety in landscapes, and our natural resources are unbelievable. Can you imagine how prosperous our state could be if it wasn't run by so many crooked politicians who are elected over and over again by the residents of 3 heavily populated counties?


4. Technology-Free Zones

Most state and national parks that we have visited have had poor cellphone and virtually no internet service. I must admit that I am a bit conflicted on this one. There are times that I would like to blog or do research online when we are on the road, but I can't and I get a little annoyed.  I am beginning to realize my annoyance is probably a sign that doing without my tech toys is just what I need.

5. Time to Read

I always have a stack of books waiting to be read, and when we are camping, I feel NO GUILT about reading for hours if I want.


6. Family Time

Campgrounds are full of families having a great time together. Kids are riding bikes, swinging, playing in the dirt, making friends, and hanging out with their parents. I love that.

7. Cheap Entertainment

Camping is inexpensive fun. Granted, we didn't pay a lot for our camper and we don't have an expensive boat or other fancy toys that we drag with us to the campground. I'm sure there are folks who spend a ton of money on this hobby, but you certainly don't have to. Once you pay for your camp spot, the rest of the entertainment is basically free. Enjoying nature is cheap!


8. Clean Campgrounds

We have been so impressed with all the parks we have visited. They are clean and staffed with such nice people and many volunteers. Campers like to talk and we have met some very interesting folks! Accommodations vary from spot to spot and can include pools and tennis courts.

9. Good Local Eats


10. Quirky Finds


All in all, camping is just FUN. No make-up, messy hair, very comfy clothes are the order of the day, at least for me! We have lots to learn and hope to make many more trips to try to learn them. I want to be able to cook great meals over an open fire, I want to make a unique welcome sign, I want to paint a bicycle bright red to decorate our campsite.

I want to quit wanting to "improve" things and make them cuter and just stop and enjoy what God has already made. Maybe I'm not a Type B, after all.

The road less traveled is a really fun road, and if you have taken that path, I'd love to hear about it.
Any recipes, tips, or other advice you want to share? Please do!

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