Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Hermit and the Butterfly

This year is a big one for Cowboy and me.   We are celebrating 20 years of marriage.   A big milestone for sure, but we also tip our hats to both sets of our parents who are celebrating 44 and 50 years. Marriage runs deep around these parts.

All those years ago, our wedding invitations were emblazoned with the phrase, “Today, I marry my best friend.”  

We had dated for several years before tying the knot, but to be honest, I developed a bonafide, heart stopping crush on him the first time I saw his denim blue eyes and slightly crooked smile.  Too shy to talk to him, I’d find reasons to pass him in the hall at school just so I could see him.  

But even from the beginning when my breath would catch just trying to talk to him, friendship with a healthy dash of humor has always been our heartbeat.  To this day, there is still no other human on this planet that I’d rather spend my time with than that car-loving, mr.-fix-it, critter-wrangling man.

Which brings me to what has often been one of our greatest differences.  He could easily be a hermit.  He’s a loner.  He’s perfectly happy working away on a project, minding his business.  While he can be sweeter than southern iced tea, the man simply doesn’t like to socialize much.  Those who know him best, know that he has, what we all affectionately call, a people limit.  In general, the fewer the better.

Me, on the other hand, well I love people, sharing stories, and connecting.  I mean seriously, my first grade teacher didn’t call me the mouth-of-the-South for nothing.  So I’m often itching to go galavanting somewhere, to see or do or taste something new, to meet up with friends, or to just take a break from the farm.

Not Cowboy. Nope. Not one little bit.  What he does have is a deep down in his bones kind of contentment and satisfaction.  He knows who he is and what he wants.  And over time, I will be darned if that man is not rubbing off on me.  I swear, at least once a week I break out in laughter as I look at him and say, “You are successfully turning me into you.”

And as you can probably guess, he just smiles.   

My Farmtastic Lie - Cowboy and Ranger
One of my all-time favorite pics of Cowboy. That man continues to capture my heart each day, and boy can he make me laugh.

This winter, I have found that I can go weeks and weeks, barely leaving our beloved farm.  I am perfectly content to putter around, drink up the sunshine, and just be. Cowboy is so proud.  

Cowboy and his contentment have taught me so much.    The realization that you can define for yourself exactly who you want to be.  That you can love so deeply and be so connected to a place, a person, a passion that the noise from the outside really doesn’t matter.  It’s not about loading up your days with busy.

It’s been in this season of freezing temperatures and shorter days that I have truly settled in.  Had a chance to reflect on this major milestone we are approaching, of who we were and who we are.  And I am grateful.  

Once a social butterfly, I now consider myself more like a faithful old hound dog. Learning that it is not about the quantity of activities but about the quality of them. Knowing that when it comes to the heart of the matter, it’s about friendship and kindness, and well, just simply being who you were always meant to be.  May we all be so lucky to have someone rub off on us, someone who can show us the way.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Sun, The Water, and Hope

August has shown us the best of humanity, and through tears of joy and sorrow, it has offered us hope.  We so desperately need hope.  We need to believe in the goodness of the human spirit, in what unites us all – our raw, deep down humanity, our will to survive and thrive.

Earlier this month, we saw people lining up, camping, and gazing skyward in unity at the beauty and wonder of the eclipse.  Caught up in the awe of nature, of science, of God’s creation. We now see people launching boats in streets swollen with water to rescue strangers, animal rescuers descending to make room for displaced critters, and people around the world donating in ways big and small to help those in South Texas with hurricane Harvey.  It is these images that give us hope.

Admittedly, this Texas farmgirl has been glued to the news in the mornings and evenings, keeping a watchful eye on my Twitter feed throughout the day, and checking on friends in Houston as they wait and watch.  Doing my best to go through the workday, but in the back of my mind thinking all the while about what is important in this life.  Watching as the dogs and cats and horses and donkeys laze around the farm unaware of the world in peril, getting some sort of peace observing their peace and knowing Cowboy and I would do anything to safeguard our little zoo.

My faith in God is such an important part of my personal journey, and continues to grow and expand as I watch these beautiful moments when we come together with the best that we are, offering all that we have in order to help a fellow soul.

My Farmtastic Life - The sun, the water, and hope. The beauty of humanity when we all come together.
There is nothing more beautiful than connecting to your fellow humans – reach out, hold someone’s hand, say a prayer, offer a hug.

When I first sat down to write this post, I wanted to talk about how we’ve all gotten into an us vs. them mentality, and how it is pulling us apart.  How at some point, all of us are part of a them group to someone.

Even today as my fellow Texans are fighting to survive, I watched as ultra conservative religious leaders took the opportunity to launch the Nashville Statement – targeted to isolate and condemn our LGBTQ friends and those of us who love them.  And again, my heart broke as all I could think was, “Really?  Seriously? This is what we are spending our time on?  Why oh why are we not lifting up our neighbors?  Jesus was and is the ultimate in love, and we are so missing the point.”

And while I could argue until I am out of breath as to why this latest attempt to divide us is wrong and heartbreaking and ill timed on so many levels, it’s become clear to me that we simply cannot give hate or those who look to divide us any more airtime. It is enough. Silence may be our greatest gift to each other.  If no one is listening to the dividers, then they no longer become dividers, and we become the uniters.

The beauty of our world is that we can all communicate quickly, loudly, and hopefully thoughtfully.  The curse is that we can all communicate quickly, loudly, and if not careful not so thoughtfully.

So as we watch the tragedies that surround us, let us share the beautiful stories.  Let us link our hands with our neighbors in comfort and solidarity.  Let us remember that there is far more good than evil.  We just have to make our voices thoughtfully and beautifully heard.

P.S. If like me you grew up in a church that had a limited view of love and are looking for a breath of fresh air, might I suggest checking out Love Wins by Rob Bell.  You might just find a little respite for your soul.

P.P.S. There are lots of ways to help those who have suffered and are suffering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey.  Whether you want to help families, babies, the elderly, or critters find a spot that speaks to your heart and offer your hand. See list from Texas Monthly. #TexasStrong

P.P.P.S. For all of those who have checked on us at the farm during this storm, thank you for thinking of us.  The farm was never in danger, as we are several hours from the coast.  However, knowing you care means a lot.  God bless!

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

 

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Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Unfriended

I’ve been thinking about this piece for a while now. I’ve mulled it over and over in my mind. Would I write it or not? How long would it be? How much background would I share? Am I willing to share so much of my personal faith? So here goes …

I’ve composed this piece in three parts:

  • The Background – a little about how I grew up and how my faith has evolved
  • The Incident – the seemingly harmless interaction that shook me to my core
  • The Result – how my faith stands today

Part 1: The Background

I grew up Southern Baptist, so Southern Baptist that our pastor was the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. We didn’t dance, movies were frowned upon, and any music that wasn’t Christian, and preferably Southern gospel, was seen as less than ideal. In the ultimate irony, as a young teenager I had one poster of a boy on the back of my bedroom door, and took it down due to guilt over the potential to lust. Oh, what was the irony you ask? The boy was Kirk Cameron.

As one friend recently put it, “You mean you grew up like Footloose? That is a real thing?”

Yep, that was a real thing, and in many places it still is a very real thing.

There was a lot of pressure to stay in the lines. You showed up at church every time the doors were open – Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night. You wore dresses, and not just any dresses but nice dresses with giant floral patterns, bows in your hair, and the perfect giant curls. Yes, some of that was just simply the 1980s, but the point is that the lines extended to how you looked and dressed.

One of my very best friends was often ostracized because she loved to wear black, was little alternative, and marched to the beat of her own drummer. We were an odd pair – I followed every rule, terrified to step out of line, and she fought to be herself, even in the face of harsh judgment. She’s still one of my best friends, and part of our life-long bond is that we survived that crazy time in our lives.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got some good memories, too. I loved to sing and play music, and we got to do that in spades. We had summertime rollerskating parties after church. There were secret moments where a boy you had a crush on would boldly sneak and hold your hand in a church service and your body would tingle with the electricity of something new, the danger of getting caught, and the simple power of a human connection.

And then time moved on … and literally my family and I moved on and away to Texas. Probably one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. We left that church.

We still went to church, but it was different. There was more freedom, less rule following, and just a general casualness. But I had spent my formative years learning how to live in the box really well, so while I occasionally dipped my toes in the waters of life, I pretty much kept decorating my perfectly safe and limited box.

Fast forward over 20 years, and my world has greatly expanded. There are things, that if my childhood friends who still practice that same form of devotion knew about me, would have caused them to write me off long ago.

Here’s my top 10 list of actions, thoughts, and beliefs that are wildly out of step with how I grew up:

  1. I married a Catholic. Not only did I marry Cowboy, I went through the entire conversion process, and we got married in the Catholic Church. Why is this a big deal? Because people I grew up with thought Catholicism was a cult. I was seriously stepping out on a ledge with this one.
  2. Cowboy and I have gone to all kinds of Christian churches – Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, non-denominational, heck we even tried the Cowboy Church trend for a while. Today we would tell you that we are Christians, and not so great at being joiners.
  3. I’ve got friends, like true-blue-do-anything for you friends, that are from all walks of life and all manner of beliefs. Now yes, lots of folks talk a good game here, but I mean I love these people for who they are. It’s not about tolerating them or spouting some “love the sinner” language at them. Some of my friends are gay. Some are transgender. Some are atheists. Some are Jewish. Some are Mormon.  Some Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some are Catholic. Some have blond hair, and brown hair, and red hair.  You get my point.  It’s ridiculous all the classifying of people we do.
  4. I listen to all kinds of music. I even sometimes dance – although admittedly I’m no Ginger Rogers so it’s generally more of a wiggle and a waggle kind of affair.
  5. I sometimes curse. Well, because sometimes you just have a moment.
  6. Cowboy and I don’t currently have a church. Sometimes we have church on the porch.   We are Christians, we hold our beliefs dear, but we also hold our love for others dear. We aren’t keen on signing up to belong to any group that is unkind toward any other group. We hope we will find a new church home someday, but for right now we are okay.
  7. I believe tithing doesn’t mean the money has to go to church. I believe it’s about doing good, and your gifts of time, money, and your talents can be shared with any group, cause, or organization that makes this world a better place. I don’t think God is keeping track if it went to a certified church.
  8. I believe women can be in charge, and can be leaders and pastors. That we don’t have to be relegated to childcare and women’s ministries. I also believe we don’t all have to aspire to motherhood. Ladies, if you want to be a mom. God bless you! It’s one amazing calling, gift, and job. But if that’s not your thing, that is okay, too. And out in the world, while women can work for men (no shocker there), men can also work for women. In my day job, I am the only girl on the leadership team. That means I work with a lot of men. I travel with them. Eat with them. Work with them. Some have even become like brothers to me. But don’t get me wrong, I’m still wildly devoted to Cowboy, and he is my one and only guy. You can do both.
  9. God’s greatest gifts to us are love and grace. That means, our greatest gift to others needs to be love and grace. “Now wait a minute. No one would argue that point,” you might say. You are correct. No one will argue that point, but my point is that we need not to just talk about this but LIVE IT.
  10. God can use anything to speak to you. It’s okay to read and learn and question. God can stand up to your questioning. We don’t need to run away and hide from other religions and see them as scary. If you take a minute to look and listen, you will see that we are really not all that different from each other.

If many of the folks I grew up with knew the real me as I am right now, I’d be added to prayer lists, seen as on the fringe, and dare I say, unfriended.

Which leads me to why I wrote this piece in the first place. I wanted to share an experience that happened several months ago that shook me, wracked me with tears, and caused me to do some deep soul searching.

Part 2: The Incident

A childhood friend, who knew me then and still subscribes to her deep version of faith, who even makes her living in the ministry, wrote me off. Now in her defense, she only knew the me of 25 years ago. Through the magic of Facebook we reconnected, talked over Messenger, shared Christmas cards, and voila our friendship was back in tact.

But here’s the thing. She didn’t change; I did. Her beliefs, her behavior were exactly how we were both raised. When we rekindled our friendship, her assumption was that I was how I had always been. Through the limited window of Facebook, she saw pics of the farm, of Cowboy and me, and read my stories about farm life. She was missing the context of who I really am.

Through Facebook I also learned that politics were somewhat of a passion of hers; they are not so much for me. And that over time her politics and her faith had become intertwined in ways I didn’t, and still don’t, fully understand. As a rule, I try to avoid politics, especially on social media. I’ve got friends on all sides, and I try to be respectful.

One night I saw a political post she made, and I responded. Another testament to why one shouldn’t Facebook at night. I don’t recall saying anyone was wrong, but more just sharing a different point of view.

And it wasn’t about anything earth-shattering; it was simply about all of the hubabloo about whether Pence would eat dinner with a woman who wasn’t his wife. (In case you missed this media circus, as I had before I saw her post, simply Google “Pence dinner.” You’ll have reading for the next week from all sides.)

If you’ve stuck with me this far, you know, from my comments up above, that in my line of work you sort of have to forget gender all together and just get the job done. I mean really, in most lines of work that is jut how you have to roll.

And what started as a harmless comment where I thought we were sharing ideas turned into an explosion. I desperately tried to go back and re-read my comments to make sure I hadn’t been offensive, but it was of no use. My comments were erased. Others who vehemently agreed with her, including her husband, where chiming in. And that was it. I was fully exposed for who I am today.

I sent a private message trying to make sure that she knew no harm was meant. I didn’t think she was wrong, I was just trying to share my point of view. Radio silence.

And then it finally came the next morning, the response. A scathing private message. At the end of the day, the tone of the message was what hurt so much. There was a moral superiority. That somehow she and her family were more faithful, closer to God, more devout because of their point of view.  I was free to have my point of view, but I was clearly less than.

I read and reread the note. I had no words, except simply reply to her that I appreciated her sharing her thoughts. And then in a flash, it was over.

I was unfriended.

This girl, who I had known since we were 13 and 14 years old, who had slept over at my house and me at hers, was done with me. I was written off in the name of God. And all of those feelings of having to stay in the box came flooding back.

I had very clearly stepped out of the box. I sent one more private message wishing her well, and expressing sadness that she had unfriended me. And there were crickets. Not a sound. Not a peep. It was over.

Part 3: The Result

I wrestled with how this woman of immense faith could cut me out. And then I remembered what I have always known. We, as humans, have an uncanny ability to misuse the words of God. That when churches and people of faith cut you out, tear you down, and look to break you, that is simply not God. It’s the farthest thing from God.

What breaks my heart is that my story is not unique. Heck, this is not even my first go-round with being shoved to the outside in the name of faith.  So very many have been hurt by the church. And for many, the church and God get intertwined in a way that makes the two inextricable from each other, and understandably so.

But what this hard lesson reminded me is that God is love. God is God. And while there are those that would seek to use God’s message to separate, to hurt, and to feel superior, there are even more of us seek to show God’s love. We’re often quieter and harder to spot, but we are here.

My Farmtastic Life - God is Love

God is here. God loves us, even when people disappoint us. God is ready to pick us back up again and walk beside us.

I realize this is quite a long post, and for those of you who stuck with me, thank you for letting me share my story. To those who have been hurt in the name of God, my heart breaks with you. But know, that those people do not speak for God. God is love.

P.S. As for my friend, I truly do wish her well. I don’t hold ill will or bad feelings toward her. I realize that she never really knew me as I am today, and when she caught a glimpse of the real me, it was frightening. If she ever reached out, I’d gladly answer her call.

P.P. S. We’ve all (at least I think) unfriended folks in our lives for different reasons, especially in the world of Facebook, if for no other reason than to limit who we share our lives with. Sometimes it needs to happen. This piece is far less about being unfriended and more about when you are cut off in the name of God and when you are seen as less than. To anyone in my past who may have experienced the feeling that I thought you were somehow less than, please accept my sincerest apology. I continue to grow and to learn, and I cherish the people in my life who allow me to call them friend.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Valentines Schmalentines

I got a text from Cowboy last week that said, “Happy National Spouses Day!” To which, I replied, “Who knew!” And my quick-witted better half quickly typed back, “Evidently I did.”

This is just one of the many exchanges we have that just makes me laugh and love him all the more.  As I’m sure I’ve covered in past posts, Cowboy is not much of a holiday guy. He’s more of a live-love-laugh-every-day guy.

To be fair, I can pretty well guarantee you that he was not waiting on pins and needles for this day.  He simply saw a post about it online and beat me to the punch.  He’s also one to poke you in the ribs at 2 a.m. on Christmas morning to wish you Merry Christmas and chuckle that he told you first.

It’s always been this way with us.  Laughter is a big part of what makes us tick.  And as you can probably tell by the way I write, I think humor is a darned important part of life.  I mean seriously, when you live with 16 critters it’s a requirement, not an option.

Which brings me to the fact that we are on the cusp of February – the month of love. You know the holiday I mean – the annual chocolate-rose-love fest known as Valentine’s Day.  Let’s face it, this day just requires a little humor.

Back in the early days (I mean like when my age started with the number two early days), I used to have silly expectations about the importance of this occasion.  As if a gift or a dinner or moment would feel extra special on this day.

My Farmtastic Life - Cowboy on a Tractor
Cowboy just doing what he does – taking care of us. Love!

Looking back this just flat out perplexes me, and these times were certainly not my finest hour.  The truth is that Cowboy loves me, and has always loved me, every single day.  He’s a man of actions, and not so much of words.  To prove my point even further, the song that always makes me think of him is the classic country tune, When You Say Nothing at All.

It’s the little everyday things that mean the most.  Like when he cares for the horses or washes the car or just knows when I need a hug.  He’s truly my better half.

While I’m sure he’ll be oh so delighted to make this appearance on the blog (he may be funny, but he’s also pretty private), I write this to all the gals and fellas out there that are setting themselves up with great expectations during this season of candy hearts and pink balloons.  Give your other half a break.

Look for the little things – like the special language only the two of you share.  Be grateful for each moment – even if it’s a 5-minute chat as you fold the laundry.  Most of all – laugh together.  Especially on Valentine’s Day, because seriously it’s a day whose mascot is a chubby baby with a bow and arrow.

P.S. – A version of this post was published in The Glen Rose Reporter under the title of Laugh, Love, and Laugh Some More.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Lessons From the Farm – Rainbows of Love

Life around the farm is pretty simple, and to be honest Cowboy and I just don’t watch the news much because it’s a whole lot of drama, and if you know one thing about Cowboy, it’s that drama is definitely not his thing.   But lately some of the crazy talk is just a bit too hard to ignore.  Frankly, I think it’s time we take a lesson from some of our animal friends.

A couple of things to know about me and Cowboy.  First, we are not political.  We are the live and let let live sort.  I’ve always liked the quote that your rights end where my nose begins, although a Google search to see who first said this leads to over a million results and a whole other debate.  Secondly, we are Christians.   That’s right, church-going, creationist-believing, gospel-music-listening Christians. (Okay, the gospel music thing is mostly me.)  Do you think you have a picture of us in your heads?  Have you labeled us yet? Let me throw you a curve ball.  One of my very best friends is gay.

Why does this matter?  It’s something that has been on my heart a lot lately, and to be honest, as Christians, I think we can do better.  For whatever reason, a fraction of Christians have decided that is okay to call out gay people, to condemn them, and now in Arizona refuse them service.  Now I don’t want to get into a whole debate throwing Bible verses around about what is right and what is wrong, but there is one thing that as a Christian I undoubtedly know is right.  Jesus called us to love one another, to love our neighbor as ourselves.  As Cowboy recently said, “It’s our job as Christians to love and help people.  We aren’t asked to be the judge or the jury.  God will take care of that.”  Have I mentioned that I just adore Cowboy?

Enter my animal friends.  You see, we’ve got all sorts of critters on the farm.  And they are all a little different and they all have their quirks.  But most importantly we love them all and they love us.  We’ve got a dog who is a little too large (and yes it’s her thyroid).  We’ve had a dog who was deaf and losing her eyesite.  We’ve got horses who are deemed mutts by some, as they have no pedigree.  We’ve got a donkey who still doesn’t trust us no matter how hard we try.  We’ve got one horse who blows at everything, another who can’t leave anything alone, and another one that requires special food and minimal dust for her allergies.  But they all work it out.  They accept each other, despite their differences they enjoy their life at Wild Horse Valley.

As far as I’m concerned, we all have our differences.  My point is simply this, if we all want to get along there is just no sense in focusing on a handful of things to get so wound up about.  Someday I believe we will all stand before God, and when He asks me, “Were you kind?  Did you love your neighbor?”  I want to be able to answer a resounding, “Yes.”  Not,  “Well, everyone but people who were not like me.”

You see, I grew up in a judgey-pants kind of church.  There was no dancing, no going to movies, no secular music.  And we had rules.  Boy did we ever have rules.  But what we didn’t have was a sense of service for helping others.  It was missing. (Don’t get me wrong, there was some good stuff too, but this is what is stamped on my childhood brain.)

So why do you ask am I still in church?  Because I know that those rules, that crazy environment was made up of mankind, and in general we humans have an amazing ability to screw things up.  My faith, my belief is in Jesus and God.  My focus is on being the best person I can be. That means loving my neighbor, and my dear sweet friend.  He and his partner are welcome in our home anytime.  Cowboy and I appreciate their friendship.

There really is nothing to be scared of.  My friend has never asked me or Cowboy to be gay, he’s never thought we were odd for not being gay, and we’ve never caught any cooties from him.  The truth is, he’s been nothing but patient and kind as I’ve asked him lots of questions to try to help me understand things that he experiences.  My friendship is the least I can offer in return.

Farm Photo - Rainbow over the farm
A glorious rainbow over the farm. A reminder of God’s love for us. Can’t we find it in our hearts to love others?

So yes, I am a Christian.  One of my best friends is gay.  These two things really can co-exist.   The rainbow is the symbol that God gave Noah that he would never again destroy the world by water.  Let us not destroy the world with hate.

P.S. – I know this was a departure from my lighter posts, but it was just something I wanted to share.  I promise the humor will return with the next post.  I’ve got stories about donkey basketball!  (Yes, you heard me right.  I’ve even got pictures!)