Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

What’s in a Word?

As we welcome November and the promise of cooler weather, turkey leftovers, and family gatherings, we also enter the official spokes-month for gratitude.  A time when we take a personal inventory of all that we are grateful for – from people to things, jobs to homes, children to critters.  All of us have something to be thankful for, even in our darkest moments, and for many of us we can swell up with a feeling of being blessed.

But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this word blessed.  No doubt it’s trending right now – you can find it on everything from dish towels to picture frames.  And it’s a perfectly good word.  But it’s also a word that I think we sometimes get mixed up with grateful.

You see, blessed is a passive word, whereas grateful is an active word.  Someone gives you a blessing, but you have to take an action to be grateful.  Being grateful is a decision.  We are fond of saying that God has blessed us.  And trust me, I wholeheartedly believe He has, but maybe just not in the way we think.

Now if you feel like I’m on the edge of blasphemy here, please stick with me. I promise this will turn out okay.  

Let’s say you have a beautiful home and a good job.  It’s easy to say, “I’m so blessed.”  But here’s the flip side.  Is the person who lost their job not blessed?  The person who is working two jobs just to make ends meet less blessed?  

Or think about how often you’ve heard the phrase, “I’m blessed with good health.”  Great, but does that mean the person who has cancer is not blessed?  That they somehow incurred wrath from somewhere?

I can hear you thinking, “No way.  That’s not what I meant at all.”  

And I’m with you.  What we really mean is that we are grateful for our homes, our jobs, our health.  And we would never want our gratitude to be confused for the belief that we have somehow received divine preference over our neighbors.

Blessings are something that we, the collective humanity, share.  Nature and life itself are blessings.  Things we can all enjoy.  I, personally, don’t believe they are doled out to a few, and I don’t believe they always look like we would expect them to.

And while this may seem like a game of semantics, words really do matter. (Yes, I was an English major, so humor me with this one for moment.)  Think about someone whose world is falling apart.  If you are busy talking about your blessings, things that are received, where does that leave them?  It leaves them feeling like they are walking around under a dark cloud, out of sorts, out of favor.

Rather, share your gratitude.  Your zest to acknowledge all that is beautiful, from the smallest to the greatest moments.  Trust me, I am a recovering blessing user myself.  I used to liberally smatter blessings here, there, and everywhere.  But after reading an article about the importance of our words, I realized I was truly filled with gratitude.  I wanted to wish people a beautiful day, a day with at least one moment of happy, and leave blessings to the big guy.

So as you start to make your plans for family dinners, school activities, and get togethers with friends, I encourage you to think about those words that are most meaningful for you and those you love.  How will they impact others?  How can you share your gratitude?  

P.S. A version of this post was published in the Glen Rose Reporter.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

Farm Life · Farmtastic Stories

Spring Is for the Birds

So I think it’s safe to declare that spring has sprung around the farm. (Oh Lord, please don’t fail me now.)  And let me just say after this winter with the ice and freezing temperatures, me, Cowboy, and all of the critters are singing a glory hallelujah to that.

One of the best indicators that spring has arrived is our annual welcoming of the hummingbirds.  They arrive at the end of March and drink generously from our feeders until October.  It’s the time of year when sugar is on our grocery list every week.  The local checkout clerks must think I am a baking fool.

With the arrival of the hummingbirds also comes one of our challenges.  Hummingbirds in the barn.  Inevitably, one, or heaven forbid two, will flutter in. The problem, as Cowboy has discovered with much research, is that when they panic they fly up.  Which is precisely where they cannot get out of the barn.  This results in numerous antics, as we move equipment and other stuff out of the way to make a clear path and hang a feeder right outside the door.  You can imagine how this thrills Cowboy, but let me assure you he is out there trying just as hard to save the little buggers as I am.

And if we can’t get the little guys to leave on there own, they will eventually run out of steam and gracefully flutter to the ground.  The challenge then becomes do we see it before Nightmare the barn cat.  I’m sad to say he’s beat us to it a couple of times in the past, and proudly presented us with his latest find.  Not fun, not fun at all.

But tonight was a great night for the first hummingbird-in-the-barn of the season.  Cowboy and I cleared out the barn, hung the feeder, and sat and waited. We watched as he flitted from light fixture to light fixture and then finally wore his little self out.  We sprinted to action, and I quickly scooped him up, much to Nightmare’s displeasure.

It’s an amazing experience to hold one of these tiny creatures in your hands.  I took him outside to the feeder and gently pushed his little beak into the feeder, then watched as he drank and drank.  He finally started to get his strength and gripped his tiny toes around the perch, and I could feel his body warm up.  And then it happened.  He sat there, turned and looked at us as if to say, “Thanks dear friends.  Much obliged.”  (In my mind they have very good manners.) And then flew off to meet his other hummingbird pals whizzing and whirring around the variety of feeders.

Cowboy and I smile at these moments because in some small way, you feel like you made a difference.  May you all get your chance to feel the wonder of the hummingbird this spring.

P.S.  You know your man is a gentle soul when you see him on ladders waving brooms and such in an effort to shepherd a hummingbird to safety.  Truly blessed here at the farm.