Images from the Ranch

Images from the Ranch


Monday, December 23, 2013

Are You Ready For Christmas?

                “Are you all ready for Christmas?”  It’s a familiar topic of conversation this time of year; for some reason we all like to see if anyone is more or less prepared than we are!   “Am I ready for Christmas?”  When it comes to all of the traditions and preparation that our family does to get ready for this holiday, I usually answer with an exasperated and frazzled, “No, not at all!”  Shopping, Christmas Tree hunting, decorating, cookie baking, wrapping, cards written and sent, packages sent, school parties, Church programs, concerts, dinner planning; whewy!  It makes a body tired just writing down all that needs to be done.

It’s always been so interesting to me how as women at this busy time we can divide ourselves into two groups: those who start Christmas early and are ready well before the big day; they are organized and have a well thought out plan as to what needs to be done in order to create a memorable holiday with the least amount of stress.  Then there are those who procrastinate until the very last minute and are scrambling like crazy to get everything accomplished in the last few days before Christmas.   I fall into that category.  Each morning Kade changes the cactus on his Cowboy Santa Advent Calendar and comes out to announce to me how many days we have left until December 25th.  Each morning I find myself shocked that it’s getting closer and closer!  Here it is December 23rd, and we are just now getting ready to take a trip to town to do our Christmas shopping!  We were so frazzled trying to get a tree cut that I was actually prepared to (gasp) buy a fake tree (much to the dismay and adamant refusal of Hannah!).  Maybe we’ll get some Christmas baking done on Christmas Eve, but more than likely I will go and buy some of those really soft & yummy sugar cookies at IGA, just so we have something to leave for Santa.

                I think that one of the reasons that I find myself so harried this time of year is because I refuse to even start thinking about Christmas until the day after Thanksgiving.  I want to enjoy one holiday at a time; and although I don’t think that there is anything wrong with that way of thinking, I end up about a month behind every year!  At the end of every Christmas season I always tell myself that next year is going to be different, and yet each Christmas I find myself scurrying around trying to get things ready to make a picture perfect holiday for my family.  Meanwhile my family is telling me that I’m acting like a crazy Christmas person, sucking all of the fun and joy out of a celebration that is supposed to be joy filled and fun.  I am so grateful that God has blessed me with a man who balances out my crazy with his  calm, because Mike continually reminds me that I need to settle down and remember what and why we are celebrating.

                What and why are we celebrating?  Am I ready for Christmas?  These questions have given me reason to pause and ponder my answer.  I suppose that it’s different for everyone; we each have our own attitudes, mindsets and beliefs about what this season is all about.  I really do love all of the celebrating that goes along with this time of year, and yet I think that I tend to allow all of the outward trappings of Christmas to get in the way of celebrating Christ.  The presents and the decorations and the baking and the parties and the Christmas meals are all wonderful “wrappings”, but the true gift is Jesus.  I love the simplicity of the story told in Luke: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”  This story has been told so many times that I think we lose the wonder and majesty of it.  And I wonder if I’ve become like one of the many people in crowded Bethlehem at that time.  I wonder if I am bustling around so much preparing to celebrate Christmas, that I’ve missed seeing the Messiah.  I’ve left no room for Jesus in the Inn either; I’ve allowed my life to become so crowded with stuff and activities that I’ve not allowed myself to slow down and look for Jesus. 

                If it were just the story of the miracle of this baby’s birth, then I think that the way we go about our days preparing for Christmas would be just fine.  But the story of his birth is just the beginning; it’s the story of the Cross and the tomb that make the difference as to how I want to celebrate Christmas!  Because it all comes down to the fact that in Jesus, in this little baby that was born in such lowly and humble circumstances, we have life!  John 20:31 says, “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”  When we believe in Jesus, the Messiah, our Savior, Lord and King, we are given life.  And not just abundant life here on earth, but eternal, everlasting, never ending life with Him in heaven!!  Now that is something to celebrate!

                I think about the shepherd’s reaction to the message they received from the angels, it immediately had them seeking Christ.  And then when they found Him, their excitement couldn’t be contained; it bubbled over and motivated them to go out and tell everyone about what they had just seen and experienced.  “After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished.” (Luke 2:17-18 NLT).  I don’t want to be like one of the crowd; going about my day, going about this holiday focused on all of the things that need to be done, all of the presents that need to be bought, worried about whether or not I’m leaving someone out and then stressed about all of the money we are spending.  I want to be like those shepherds!  I want the excitement and the wonder of Jesus’ birth, of the fact that God came down to us as a tiny baby, to just bubble over in my life.  I don’t want to contain the joy that I have because of Jesus, and I want to share it with others so that they can also be amazed. 

                The next time that the question,“Are you ready for Christmas?” is asked, I plan on changing the context of it to mean “Are you ready to celebrate Christ?  Have you thought about what it means that God came down to us as a newborn baby?  Do you believe that Jesus wants to give you joy and peace and everlasting life?  Have you made room for Him in your heart, or has He been moved to a stable in some far off corner of your life?”  I know that asking myself these questions has changed the way that I see and celebrate this Christmas season.  I hope that it does the same for you, and that you find that celebrating Christ doesn’t need to happen just during the Christmas season, but is something that we can celebrate every day.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men whom He is pleased!” Luke 2:14

Thursday, June 13, 2013

5 Effective Traveling Tips for Family Vacations - Guest Blog by Kendra Thornton

I love traveling with my family, but I also discovered that it takes organizational skills in order to make sure a family vacation goes smoothly.  After numerous experiences traveling with my children, I learned that whenever I plan ahead and take time to make a check-list to ensure my family stays healthy and occupied during vacations, the vacations are much more enjoyable!  
The Checklist

1. Whenever you visit a theme park, getting a great breakfast into the stomach of every family member is a positive way to start the day.  When you do a little research before making travel arrangements, you can discover some great Disney hotels in Orlando that provide top-notch breakfast options that are included with the room fees.  

2. Pack your own snacks for long car rides and flights.  By stocking up a cooler bag with grapes, cheese and crackers and some granola, you can make sure everyone stays on a healthy and nutritious diet during extensive traveling times.

3. If you are traveling with an infant or toddler, any small change in routine can throw the child off from feeling secure and comfortable.  You can help to reduce stress in small children by packing a few of their favorite things.  

4. When you are traveling by car, it is a good idea to make numerous pit stops so the entire family can stretch their legs and get in a few minutes of activity.  The Better Health Channel recommends planning ahead and making stops to visit parks or museums during long car rides so children can avoid restlessness and inactivity during a trip.  This will help to reduce stress for everyone, and it can also be a great way to get more enjoyment out of a vacation.

5. While it is good to reward children with treats, try to keep the sugar intake to a minimum to avoid hyper behavior that is sugar-induced.  To keep a good balance of foods kids like and healthy foods, consider packing a trail mix that includes dried fruit, nuts and chocolate. If you have to make those fast food stops still make those healthy decisions as best you can!

It is important to give yourself a break and to not overthink the trip too much.  Simply incorporate some small rules of thumb and try to make sure each child is kept to a consistent routine to make your next vacation as enjoyable as possible!

Kendra is a mother of 3. Before being promoted to the full time position of mommy, She was the former Orbitz director of communications where she was able to travel all around the world.  Kendra has  personally been to 28 countries on 6 continents and has been quoted in the news about seasonal travel trends and destinations all over the United States.  She loves to write about travel trends and tips


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Goin' Showin'

We're heading to Lewistown, Montana for the Montana Junior Beef Expo; thus begins our summer travels.  A couple of years ago when Hannah decided to take market and breeding beef we realized that it would take up a big chunk of our summer, what we didn't know is that it would take up the whole summer!!  This summer our livestock show travels will include Lewistown (which is a great little cowtown that I have fallen in love with), Laramie for the Wyoming Hereford Field Day, Kansas City, MO for the Junior National Hereford Show and then back home to get ready for the Johnson County Fair and Rodeo and then the Wyoming State Fair.  We are going to put some miles on the pick-up for sure!

We've spent the last couple of months in the barn getting 2 steers and three heifers ready.  Trust me when I say that we spend way more time on their hair than I ever spend on my own!  Over the years my brother Joel, his wife Karri and their daughter Lauren have acquired so much knowledge and skill in the world of show cattle, we have been blessed with their expertise as well as their willingness to give of their time and energy in helping Hannah.  Showing cattle requires a lot of hard work and it may not be what the average person would choose to do with their summer, these cattle shows are not the relaxing, fun filled vacations that most people are used to, but it's what we love!!  Catching up with good people, looking at good cattle, working together as a family. Traveling to cattle shows in the summer makes up a lot of my childhood memories;  so many of the people that we run into at these shows are people that I got to know through the years at various Hereford shows when I was the one at the end of the show halter.  One of the most vivid and treasured memories was when Coby was a baby and our single cab pick-up no longer had room for Joel or I, so we got to travel in the comfort of the nose and front end of the gooseneck trailer, with our steers in the back compartment.  I still see the looks of surprise on people's faces when Dad would let us out of the trailer at gas stations! Can you imagine the trouble that we would get into today if we stick our kids in the nose of the horse trailer and proceeded down the road?  Right this minute I am pretty tempted as Kade has reached the limit of what he can handle being contained in his carseat and Hannah insists that she is most comfortable with her feet stuck up in my face! 

We are going to need all of the prayers and helpful tips we can get when we hit the road for Kansas City in a month!!  No, it may not be everyone's cup of tea for a family vacation, but it's part of the life that I love and I feel blessed!  

Tomorrow look for a guest blogger, Kendra Thornton, who will be sharing some really great tips and advice about traveling with your family for the summer.  Kendra is a stay-at-home mom who was formally the Director of Communications for Orbitz.  She is a great resource for summer vacation know-how. If, however, you are needing tips and advice on how to survive a summer filled with traveling to cattle shows....ask me at the end of the summer I bet I'll be a lot more in the know :-)

Blessings from the Courageous Mommy

Monday, May 27, 2013

Remembering and Honoring

                I love Memorial Weekend, mainly because it’s signals the start to summer!  We usually kick off this first weekend of the summer by taking in a little bit of the High School Rodeo where we catch up with family and friends from around the state, then we spend the remainder of the weekend at Lake DeSmet where the boys take in the annual Lion’s Club Fishing Derby, and of course lots of barbeque action!  Yes, I love all of the recreation that goes along with this weekend, but this morning as I was driving downtown I caught the beginning of the Memorial Day Service that is held every year at the Veteran’s Memorial on Main Street.  I stopped for a minute and took it all in; the flags that lined the streets of this town that I love, Veterans who visited with one another as they waited for the Veterans parade to begin, children holding flags as they sat on their mother’s laps.  It brought tears to my eyes and a flutter of emotion in my heart.

 I realized that this is what Memorial Day is about, and I’m afraid that we’ve lost the true sense of why we celebrate this weekend.  I think that we’ve turned it into a nationwide “Kick-Off To Summer” celebration instead of a time to honor and remember those who have fought and died in order that we may have the kind of life that we enjoy in this wonderful country.  We’ve taken for granted what has been given in exchange for our very freedoms.  And I don’t want to take for granted what these men and women have suffered and endured, what their families have sacrificed for me and for my family so that I can enjoy a beautiful summer day in peace, without fear.  I think of the young men and women I have known through the years who have chosen to join the military and go to places like Iraq and Afghanistan; I repeat, they have chosen to go, and I am humbled and just a little bit shamed because I don’t think that I could do it.  What an amazing thing they do for all of us, and yet we go about our days, our summer, this weekend and we forget that those who are serving right now don’t get to enjoy a long weekend with their family, they aren’t recreating on a lake or in the mountains and eating a big juicy hamburger.  And the men and women who have died, their families have a noticeable hole in their lives, a hole that will never be filled again, because of what their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, moms and dads were willing to give up in order that we can live the life we enjoy in the United States.  Again, I am humbled.

                It’s such a picture of what Jesus did for us and all that I can think as I sit here and type away is what an incredible honor for these men and women to have the willingness to be a picture of the sacrificial love that Christ has for each and every one of us.  And like our Veterans and the men and women who are now serving our country, I think that far too often we take for granted what He gave so that we could all be free.  May we remember and honor what has been given to us, and may we not waste those freedoms, but use them to build up our families, our communities, our country on the premises of what they are fighting for, what they have died for, what Jesus came for.  Love and honor, courage and respect.  Let’s give a little bit of ourselves instead of living as if we were entitled to all that we have, let’s live beyond ourselves and not only remember, but honor those who have given so much of themselves for us.
"This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you.  This is the very best way to love.  Put your life on the line for your friends."  John 15:13 The Message

Friday, April 19, 2013

Today I Choose....

TODAY…..I choose gratitude over grumbling…..I choose to look at the sink full of dirty dishes and see a family that is well fed….I choose to look at the mountain of laundry and see a family of four who are clothed…..I choose to look at the mud and dirt on the kitchen floor and see a little boy who loves to play outside…I choose to look at the messy bathroom with clothes and towels thrown on the floor and see a beautiful and healthy teenage girl….I choose to look at my messy bed and see a husband who loves to cuddle and hold me….I choose to look at all of those “chores” that are seemingly endless and thankless and instead see blessings that are never ending and be thankful.  TODAY….I refuse to allow peace and joy to be stolen from my day because I am feeling overwhelmed.   TODAY…..I am going to choose contentment over covetousness……because I have so much to be truly grateful for  and more “stuff” is not going to fulfill my life….TODAY I choose to look for opportunities that God is putting in my path to  serve Him instead of complaining that I am of no use to Him….This is what I’m going to do TODAY……What about you?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

True Love

               It’s February!!  The month of love and romance, the time of year that flower shops and card and candy manufactures look forward to and dread all at the same time.  However, at some point in my life it turned from being about romantic love and became all about the kids.  Which isn’t bad, I love showering my kids in love!  But I don’t want Mike to get lost in the shuffle because he has been my Valentine for 18 years now, and will be for years to come. I want to be sure and let him know how much I love and appreciate him.  I am so excited because this month we will actually be in Portland for Valentine’s Day and I am really looking forward to a romantic get-away with my Sweetheart!
                This post, however, is not all about how to make your Valentine’s Day more meaningful for your Sweetheart.  I do think that celebrating our love for our spouse is important, but something else has been on my heart the last couple of days.  Our church has a wonderful Children’s Program called “Kings Kids” which I am involved in.  I have been blessed in so many ways by being part of this ministry, both by the kids and by what I am learning alongside them about being a child of the King.  Each month I submit something for the Church’s Newsletter/Website that shares what we are learning with the rest of the church.  This month our theme is “The Greatest is the Least” and comes from John 13:1-35 when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. When I first started preparing for this month’s theme I really didn’t consider it to tie in with Valentine’s Day, but the more I dug into scripture and thought about it the more I realized that it fits perfectly with this holiday that celebrates love.  So I’ve shared in part what I wrote for the February Newsletter for Kings Kids:
                What does love look like in Kings Kids?  It’s putting others above ourselves, ministering to one another in joy, love and humility.  It means sharing, taking turns, being kind, helping one another and having compassion.   As Jesus was getting closer and closer to the crucifixion, he was burdened with the responsibility of sharing with his disciples what it means to love.  At the last supper he took the opportunity to show them true love in action by washing their feet, a task meant for a servant not a king. 
                Jesus wants all of us as his followers to understand that true love means considering others greater and ourselves less, to take up the bowl of water and towel and wash one another’s feet in love and humility.  I think that this is easier in theory than in action because it doesn’t come natural and it’s not what the World teaches us; but it’s what Jesus calls us to do so how can we do anything less?  So while this month will mean giving and receiving cards, flowers and candy to some, may it mean something different to those of us who belong to Christ.  This Valentine’s Day (and everyday) let’s show love by giving of ourselves in Jesus’ name.
This was so good for me, because as I was writing it and tying it in to this holiday associated with love, I came to and important realization. The best way that I can show love to my husband and my children, and really anyone who God places in my life,  is by loving them with this selfless, sacrficial type of love that comes from a servant's heart.  This is so contradictory to what the World teaches us, the examples that society gives us of love is not selfless or sacrificial, and it certainly does not require taking the role of the servant! 

 I also realize that it takes a lot of courage to love this way, it's risky to put ourselves in the postion of the servant and love in a way that is opposite of what the world says. But I am telling you that in my own experience, when I love in this way, where I am willing to  become less in order for others to become greater, Christ's love in me is increased!  And this is worth far more to me than flowers and candy!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Return Of The Courageous Mommy

I've been gone from the blogging world for awhile.  I don't really have a good excuse other than life is incredibly busy right now with a High Schooler and a preschooler at home.  Honestly by the time I get a chance to sit down, I fall asleep! As I catch up with some of my friend's Blogs, I see that they must be in the same boat as I am because they've let months go by without blogging as well!

In all honesty I have to say that the biggest reason I haven't written on "The Courageous Mommy" blog is because I have felt less than courageous for the past several months.  Dis-"couraged" is more like it, along with defeated, disheartened, and at times in despair, but not very courageous.  I suppose that every mother goes through periods like this, but sometimes it feels like a very lonely place.  As a result I haven't felt like I am qualified to write a blog about parenting.  I've felt like a failure more often than not, have had more days that have ended in frustration and regret than in victory and confidence.  Each day that I sit down at the computer and try to figure out what I'd like to write about, I end up closing the lid on my lap top and giving up because I feel that I have nothing to offer in the way of encouragement to other mothers.  Not every day is like this, just too many of them.

So, what has propelled me to write tonight?  Just the realization that this is life, part of a phase that I am going through as a mom; and maybe, just maybe, others will gain as much from my experiences of failure and discouragement as they will from my experiences of victory and joy in motherhood.  Maybe even more so. 

Why am I feeling discouragement and defeat?  Because I am the mother of a teenage girl and I can't do anything right in her eyes right now.  And I am the mother of a preschool boy that never stops... never stops moving, never stops talking....unless the t.v. is on.....and the t.v. has been on a lot lately.  I feel like most days are spent either arguing with Hannah or apologizing to her.  Most nights are a literal fight to get Kade to bed.  I feel like most nights I go to bed close to tears and feeling like a failure, wondering how I should have handled certain situations differently.  Each morning I wake up with a new perspective and determination, spending time in Quiet study of God's Word, reflection and prayer.  And then my family starts waking up and I begin making those mistakes all over again.

I look at other mothers in my sphere of influence and it seems like they have it all together; they have good relationships with their teenage daughters, they have a handle on their young son's or daughter's energy and enthusiasm (or they at least have enough energy and enthusiasm themselves to handle it).  They don't forget orthodontic appointments, or show-and-share at preschool.  They don't talk too much and therefore irritate and annoy their teenagers.  So many of them are preparing beautiful, nutritious meals and then sharing them on Pinterest or Facebook, while more often than not I am serving cold cereal or hamburger helper because that's all I have the energy for.  I'm sure that no other parent eats their words more often than I do.  I don't see any other mothers embarrass their kids, but I seem to do it every time that I open my mouth!  I have a hard time imagining other mothers being as cranky as I am. I describe myself as "prickly" because that's what it feels like to me and my family; like if anyone gets close enough to me they're gonna get poked! And I've often convinced myself that I am alone in my fear that I am irrevocably messing up the lives of my children by the mistakes that I am making as their mother.  OK so realistically I know that other moms are struggling every bit as much as I am; but oh how it feels like I am all alone in this challenging phase of parenting!

So, even though I am feeling overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy and insufficiency, why am I choosing to write now?  It's not so I can complain and bemoan my life in order to gain sympathy (trust me, I know that most of you will either say "Me too!" or "Toughen up Mama, this is life!"); but it's so that through my discouragement others may find encouragement.  Because deep down I know that I'm not alone in all of these feelings.  And I do know that this too shall pass.  Maybe at that point, the point where Mike and I are old and grey and our kids are grown and raising kids of their own, I will be able to lend some wisdom, but right now all that I can offer is empathy and support.

Because I know that ultimately none of us is adequate or sufficient to handle this responsibility given to us.  Without the Lord and His wisdom and grace I know that I can't move forward but will be stuck in a parenting rut where fear and despair take over.  This isn't what I want for me or for my children.  I want an abundant life for my family, where we are intentional about the life that we lead, where we respond to one another and not react, where we are guided by love and respect for eachother and not selfishness and pride. 

I know that I've been in a pit for a while, and I also know that I don't need to remain in that pit.  God has given me the tools that I need to live life and make the choices that I need to make in order to insure that we are living for His plans and purposes.  Each day is a matter of making those choices and using those tools that He's given to me.  We all have struggles that we are dealing with, some are much more serious than having a teenager and preschooler in the house.  I know that there are some of you who are facing health problems or behavioral problems with your kids, some of you are dealing with difficulties in your marriage or financial hardship.  Life is a struggle, but it's also good and I feel that goodness when my little boy wraps his arms around my neck and tells me that I am his best friend, or when Hannah and I have a long conversation about things that are deep and meaningful, or when Mike and I take advantage of the quiet and can just be in eachother's company. The only way to gain victory in the ups and downs of life is with courage.  I refuse to lose courage just because life gets a little rough!  So the Courageous Mommy is back, hopefully with as much grit and determination as ever!