Images from the Ranch

Images from the Ranch

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Justice Versus Vengeance

"Lord, hear a just cause; pay attention to my cry; listen to my prayer- from lips free of deceit. Let my vindication come from you, for you see what is right."  Psalm 17:1-2 HCSB

Almost every day the media reports shootings, bombings, protests, cars crashing into crowds of people and other forms of terrorism where we feel completely helpless.  Almost every day.....all around the world.  People of every race, nation, gender, and religion are so desperate to have their own personal causes heard that they are willing to go to whatever extreme, including taking other human lives, to guarantee that they have a voice.  People who are so desperate to be seen as worthy and right in their causes that they refuse to see the evil that has taken hold.  Certain groups of people truly fear for their lives because of the color of their skin, or because of what they do for a living, or because of how they choose to live their lives.  And my heart breaks at the pain and fear that others feel, and my soul is tempted to give into despair at the state of the human race in this day and age.  Especially right now in the midst of a very dramatic and tense Presidential Election that seems to have no ideal outcome.

Ultimately we aren't dealing with a need for more gun control or stiffer immigration policies, or legislation on hate; although I know people from both sides that will argue that these are exactly what we need.  I personally think that these are just bandaides that we are trying to put on a gaping and bleeding wound....and that wound is sin.  Our problem isn't racism or guns or immigration's a heart's a sin problem, and we all are vulnerable to giving in to it because at the root of this sin problem is selfishness and pride.  We feel that we don't need to take the time to listen and really try to understand where the other side is coming from because we feel that our side is the only one that matters.  We feel right in our causes, but do we ask God to examine our hearts and expose our true motives?

In the last week as I studied and meditated on Psalm 17, God has shown me that our circumstances are not new to Him. He has continually dealt with evil, and pride and selfish motives, along with His people's fears and pleadings for justice and mercy.  The  life of King David has shown me that God hears our cries and knows that we want justice for our causes....the key is to seek His justice and not our own vengeance.  Because that is what we are dealing with; groups of people who want their causes to be heard yet aren't willing to go to Him, instead seeking justice and vengeance on their their own strength and power and wisdom.  And this is why we are seeing evil raise it's ugly head and seemingly gain an advantage in the world.  

But through this Psalm and David's life I see how God wants His people to react.  Psalm 17 is more of a pleading prayer than a praise, and I think that's ok....David shows us that there are times to sing praises, and times to cry out in prayer.  His is a plea for justice; and if anyone had a cause to scream "Unfair!!!" it would be David.  In the midst of false accusations and persecution, being hunted down by his own father-in-law, whom he had protected and fought for, David faced an outer, physical battle with Saul and his men, but he also fought an inner battle where he had to face fear.  Both of these battles urged David to make a justice and vengeance on his own or fall on God's mercy, allowing Him to fight David's cause and right the wrongs done to him.  

David asks God to recognize his integrity and his heart. During this time of crisis, when his very life is in danger, David wants God to know that he is praying with no hidden motives or known deceit.  He had confidence that God would hear his plea because his cause was just.  And David did not want vindication over his enemy if it didn't come from God.  David teaches us through his prayer that we can give all of our struggles and pain, all of our fears, all of the ways that we feel we have been persecuted and mistreated and we can give them to God to take care of. We don't need to protest how unfairly we have been treated because God knows our cause and He will be the One to mete out justice to our enemies, we don't need to lift a finger.  Instead we can rely on Him to give us wisdom and discernment and to judge the motives of our own hearts.  David's emphasis was on God's justice and not his own vindication.  Maybe if we all focused on that then the world would be a less scary and hostile place. 
 #EveryLifeMatters  #VengeanceBelongsToTheLord #Psalm17 #LessonsFromDavid

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ranch Kids vs Cowboys



Today was one of those days that my son learned the difference between playing cowboy and being a ranch kid.  That you might have the cowboy garb with a button down shirt, a good looking cowboy hat and chaps and spurs that give you the right cowboy look; but if you don't have the heart for this way of life you are probably not a ranch kid.

Today was a hard day.  Most days he and I both just revel in the fact that we have the life that we do, that we get to enjoy being outdoors, wide open spaces, cattle that look great, trusty horses that you love spending time on, good grass, mild weather, bonding time with family.  Life is good.  

And then we have days like today.....days that are full of lessons for a ranch kid.  Mornings where you get up before the sun and it's chilly, but a few hours later it is blazing hot and dusty.  Days when cattle go into gates they aren't supposed to and those that are supposed to run right past them.  When Mama cows forget they have babies and you have to remind them because you can't get to the holding pasture without keeping the pairs intact.  You have those days when that trusty horse that you love won't cooperate and you have to fight him to do what you want him to do.  Family bonding means getting yelled at because you're at the wrong place at the wrong time and hearing a few choice words from your Dad and Grandpa.  You learn the importance of paying attention and not day dreaming, of taking a wide circle and not riding too close to the fence when your Dad is bringing a pair towards you.  You have those days that after so many hours in the saddle your bottom and your knees start to hurt even if you are only 7 years old, but you just gotta keep on riding through it until the works done.  Those days that you learn while working cattle that it's not all fun and games and you'd better put your rope away unless you intend on throwing a loop at a run-a-way calf!  You learn to eat your breakfast because it may be a long time before lunch....unless you are lucky and your Mom packs you a few smooshed up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and then you learn to be oh so grateful for those!  And this time of year you learn all about the birds and the bees.....or rather the Bulls and the cows, which lead to a lot of questions that your Mom has to carefully answer.  

Days like today teach a kid that while the cowboy way of life might be glamorous and fun, the ranch kid way of life is not all that it's cracked up to be.  It means long days and hard work and not a whole lot of fun. But at the end of the day, the thing that separates a ranch kid from a wanna-be-cowboy is when he is ready to do it all over again the next day whether he wants to or not!  Thank God for ranch kids!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

I Am My Mother's Daughter. I Am My Daughter's Mother

Yesterday I stood in front of the Mother’s Day and Graduation card section at Walmart and burst into tears.  Why in the world do they have those cards right beside each other?!  There was no controlling it, I was overcome with a sense of loss and change and deep sadness.  I’ve been trying to hold it together for the past week as I have realized that my role as a Mother and a Daughter has completely turned upside down and inside out; it has changed and because of that I have changed.  And yet, now that my tears have subsided….for now….and I face my first Mother’s Day without my mother and as I prepare my heart to watch my first born graduate I am left contemplating what my Mother and Daughter have taught me, how their lives have helped to shape and mold my own.  These two women (I can’t believe that I am actually referring to my daughter as a “woman”) have had such enormous impacts in my life and I would not be the woman that I am if it weren’t for them.
 I have learned from both Mom and Hannah the fine art of laughing at myself.  Times when I would rather cry or dig a hole to hide in, they have both been an example of how not to take myself too seriously.  Life would be dull and colorless if it weren’t for the spilled coffee or chocolate sauce on our white shirts or the times that we’ve tripped and managed to catch ourselves just before hitting the ground with our faces.  How boring would it be without the toilet paper hanging from our panty hose at weddings, or the times we’ve accidentally found ourselves in the men’s bathroom instead of the women’s?  The ability to laugh at our mistakes and blunders only adds to the beauty of our days, it doesn’t diminish it.
My Mother and Daughter have also each brought music into my life.  I cherish the memories that I have of Mom and I doing dishes together “harmonizing” to “Rocky Top” or “Country Roads”….it wasn’t until I was an adult and able to laugh at myself that I realized that it isn’t really harmonizing when one person isn’t able to carry a tune in a bucket!   I loved it when she would bring out her guitar and sing for the boys and me, or share songs that she and her Dad used to sing together.  I’ll never forget when she introduced me to the music that she loved as a child and a young adult, listening to her old records and singing songs like “Three Wheels On My Wagon” are some of the best and dearest memories my brothers and I have.  The love of music that she and her granddaughter shared was a precious gift to both of them.  I’ll never forget how excited she was when she discovered that she finally had someone to harmonize with!  The days of cleaning up the kitchen had a whole new level of joy once she and Hannah began singing together.  And the music that my sweet daughter has brought into our house has brought immeasurable joy, not to mention the way that her face lights up whenever she is making music or sharing her gift with other people.  The joy she has felt and exudes each time she performs is contagious and blesses my heart.  They both have taught me that you don’t have to have the voice of an angel, or any musical ability at all in order to receive and enjoy the gift of music.

Mom and Hannah have each taught me about grace.  It’s one thing to read about God’s grace or to hear about it in a sermon, but to actually see grace lived out in someone’s life…that is a beautiful thing to experience.  At different times and stages in my life I have been shown and showered with grace by my Mom and my Daughter.  It’s not been so terribly long ago that I can’t remember what being a teenager was like….those years were full of selfishness and insecurities and hurt feelings and hurting other people’s feelings.  Yet through all of my messy and sometimes ugly teenage years I was given grace by a mother that loved me unconditionally and who taught me that my true identity came from the Lord who had created me and gave me gifts and talents and characteristics that made me unique and precious.  I didn’t have to earn her love I just had it.  I learned during those years that no matter how ugly or inadequate I felt, knowing that my Mother loved me and thought that I was beautiful and full of potential was enough for me.  I’ve tried to gift this same grace to Hannah, but more often than not over the last 18 ½ years my daughter has taught me about grace.  Forgiving me when I have failed as a Mom, overlooking my shortcomings and instead focusing on what I’ve done right over the years for she and Kade.  She and her grandmother have always been my biggest supporters and cheerleaders.  Both of them have encouraged me to not let go of my own dreams and goals, but to keep on chasing them.  And they each have shown me the beauty and joy of extending grace to those around me.

 Lastly my Mother and Daughter have shown me the importance of having a right perspective in life.  Because life is hard and messy at times, full of disappointments and sorrow and regret.  But life is also beautiful and full of joy and victories and purpose.  Something that my Mom would always say about herself was that she was an “optimistic realist”.  She wasn’t a Pollyanna, she didn’t look at life like nothing bad could ever happen as long as you just lived the right way or did the right things.  She was a ranch wife….she knew that life could be tough and sometimes not turn out the way that you wanted or expected it to.  But Life was still good and at the end of the day when you go to God with all that you are blessed with, you can’t help but be thankful.   She taught me that all of the hard things in life just kind of fade away in the light of eternity and God’s plan for each of us.  And the fact that the Lord does indeed have the power to work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28); the realist side of her would say that this doesn’t mean that all things are good, but it does mean that God has the ability to take even the most tragic of circumstances and turn them into something beautiful and useful for our good and His glory.  And Hannah has been such an example of this!  She has faced many great victories but also some pretty tough disappointments in her 18 years.  There have been things that she has worked so hard for and found herself coming up short.  I have watched as she has discovered that she could allow those disappointments to destroy and take away something of value to her, or she could just put her nose to the grindstone, keep on working hard and forge ahead to the next thing, refusing to give up or give in to self-doubt or pity.  I’ve seen how my girl has weighed those disappointments in life on a godly scale, not a worldly one…. determining whether or not in the grand scheme of life it really mattered.  I’ve watched as she has maturely let some things and some people go who have not had a good influence on her soul.  Hannah and my Mom have taught me that life is precious and too short to allow things into our lives that steal joy and keep our character stunted. 

 As I reflect early on this Mother’s Day morning I am struck with the realization that I am the Mother that I am because of these two precious women in my life.  Even though I ache deeply with missing my Mom, and as I prepare my heart to watch my Daughter go out on her own, I am overcome with joy and awe at just how blessed I am.  Happy Mother’s Day to my sweet Mama in heaven and to all of the other women in my life who have blessed me!!

“Her children arise and call her blessed.” Proverbs 31:28

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lessons Learned In Grief

In the last two months I have found myself an unwilling student in the classroom of grief.  It’s not where any of us want to be, and yet at some point in life we will all likely find ourselves in that place; and grief will teach us some hard and cruel lessons. However, I’ve also discovered that there are some lessons that I’ve learned in grief that have served a purpose and have been a blessing rather than a curse.
Ten weeks ago, on June 18th, I lost my Mother unexpectedly when her horse fell over backwards on top of her while working cattle at our family’s ranch.  I have lost loved ones before in my life, but the sudden loss of my Mom has left me reeling, feeling numb, lost and adrift in a sea of indescribable pain.  In the two months since that Thursday morning phone call I have felt like I’ve been in the middle of that stormy sea and have struggled trying to find my way to shore.  And yet, like so many things in life that are hard and painful I have two choices: I can keep on moving forward and let the grief mold and shape me and my character as well as strengthen and endure my faith in the Lord; or I can allow grief to destroy me.  There are some days that I allow the sadness, regret, anger and fear to take over and I am oh so tempted to just bury my head under the covers and not come up for air.  But I have also discovered through the loss of my mom that she has given me a rich heritage of faith in God’s plans as well as a sense of fortitude that keeps pushing me forward.
Here are some of the lessons that I have learned through this grieving process; it’s a list that I keep adding to as the days go on, a list that I will probably continue adding to over the years as grief continues to teach and change me. But two months later, this is what grief has taught me:

1.)  We all process grief differently.  My father, two brothers and I, as well as the rest of my family have all reacted and responded differently.  My Dad and my brothers were rocks, handling the responsibility of making those oh so very hard phone calls, making most of the funeral arrangements, calling in friends, family and neighbors to help with cattle work that couldn’t wait.  They were hurting and upset, but they were calm, as was my sister-in-law and niece when they showed up at my door that morning.  My husband was also a calming presence, holding me and holding our children while our world - while his world was collapsing.  When Dad called me early that morning to tell me, I lost all sense of peace and calmness.  My mind could not rationalize what my father was telling me.  I couldn’t breathe.  I was sick to my stomach. I felt like someone had hit me over the head with a hammer.  While others were making decisions around me I was just trying to breath.  

Now, in the months following I have found that in order to get through this grief I need to have lots of time with God, praying, writing, reading His Word.  I need to keep life and death in their proper perspective.  My Aunt led me to the book “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn, and I have found so much comfort and peace in this book because it leads me to what Scripture says about heaven.  I know that ultimately, although I’ve “lost” my mom, I haven’t really because I know exactly where she is and I know that because of our salvation through Jesus Christ, I will see her again someday in a place that is more glorious and amazing than anything we know here on earth. (My mom always hated the terms “passed away” or “lost”….she preferred just cutting to the chase and saying that ‘someone died’ or to say that they had "gone home"….it makes me giggle now about how adamant she was that we not say either of these two things when she died.  Death did not scare her one little bit because of her belief and trust in God and His plan for eternity).

2.)  Heartache is a real thing.  I’m not talking about the idea of heartache…. I’m talking about the literal ache in your heart.  It is an intense, sharp, and overwhelming pain that my heart felt, especially in the days that followed my Mom’s death, and that even plagues me occasionally still.  It totally caught me off guard how physical grief was; I felt like someone had their fist around my heart and was squeezing the life out of it.  I truly wondered if I was going to follow right behind Mom and join her in heaven, the pain was that intense.  I walked around with my hand over my heart saying, “It just hurts so bad.”  There is a reason why it's called “heartbreak”, you actually feel like your heart is breaking in two. 

3.)  We can’t do grief alone; we need to let others come alongside us.  All that I did know to do in that instant was to start calling in reinforcements because all of a sudden I was paralyzed and couldn’t put one foot in front of the other much less make any kind of decision.  Two of my best friends as well as two pastors from our church dropped everything that they were doing and came immediately.  I don’t know what I would have done without them, they helped my kids pack their bags, they packed my bags, thinking about all that I would possibly need in the days ahead.  They followed me around in my dazed state and made me eat and drink and sit down.  They made phone calls for me.  They prayed over me.  My precious friend Deb sat beside my bed with me and wept.  My sweet friend Roxanne drove the kids and I to Lusk so that Mike could tie up loose ends at home before leaving.  She never stopped praying for me the whole way.  I began receiving phone calls and texts from family and friends.  I don’t know how I survived that first day because everything is such a blur, but I do know that I was able to because of the people that surrounded me.  Friends and neighbors began to circle around Dad and the boys and I, helping with things on the ranch, bringing food, offering all kinds of help.   Our family began arriving and showering us with so much love and care that we were overwhelmed.  Everyone's kind words and love covered us all like a warm quilt. 

There were times over the next several days, however, when I needed to remove myself from everyone else and be alone.  I would sometimes find myself as fragile as spun glass, feeling that if one more person hugged me or said a kind word to me telling me how sorry they were, I was going to break.  Those moments were fleeting though and I did discover that grief most certainly cannot be faced alone. I’ve just had to learn when I’ve reached that point where I feel fragile and need to escape; and I’ve discovered that after a time of quiet retreat I am then ready to face people.


4.)  I've learned that grief is exhausting.  In the days that followed my mom’s death I was overwhelmed with all of the decisions that had to be made, with things on the ranch that still needed to be taken care of, with people that needed to be called, arrangements that needed to be made and on top of all of it dealing with the anguish of losing the most important woman in my life.  Again, it felt like I was in the middle of a raging sea; in the beginning the waves were enormous and kept slamming me to the ground.  I felt like I was continually fighting them, just trying to come up for air.  I couldn’t sleep or eat or think or breath and had to take things one step at a time, one minute at a time.  As the weeks went on the waves became smaller and less frequent, but they still hit at unexpected times, knocking me down and taking my breath away.  I have learned to just ride the waves with the knowledge that it won’t last and I can trust that ultimately God is in control of the sea and He won’t let me drown.

I also had to learn to “be kind to myself”.  That was such a hard concept for me, but something that people told me over and over again....I didn’t realize that I was being unkind to myself!  But I discovered that it meant being patient with me and making sure that I was taking care of myself and my most basic needs.  I had to figure out how to get enough sleep, force myself to eat even if I didn’t feel like it, escape to a quiet corner of the house - even if it was just the bathroom - when I was starting to feel like things were closing in on me.  I had to grab my Bible and begin searching for scripture that was going to calm my spirit.  I've had to be patient with myself and ask my family to be patient with me in the weeks and months that have followed because my sadness isn’t letting up.  I know that it has an effect on Mike and the kids, but I can’t fake being ok when I’m really not.  I've needed to give myself time and realize that grief doesn’t have a timetable; it’ll take as long as it takes and I just need to let it happen.

5.)  Grief will hit you at the most unexpected times.  A picture, a smell or a memory are triggers for the grief to return with a vengeance. What I’ve discovered is that it can be anything; certain foods that Mom made or just loved, the sight of decaf instant Folgers coffee (because that was her drink of choice), a book that she loaned me, a sweater that she wore.  Being in her home or her favorite places on the ranch have taken on a different feeling for me now because it hurts.  State Fair was hard because everywhere I went I was reminded of her, seeing so many people that she would have loved catching up with, checking out the booths on the Midway, eating at our favorite spots, hearing her give Hannah words of encouragement, having her take Kade for a few hours to a couple of days so that they could enjoy their usual favorite spots. When my kids went back to school this week I had two days that I allowed the grief to wash over me because it was too quiet and I missed our phone calls that happened so often after they had left the house.  Those phone calls and uninterrupted visits with my mother were a lifeline to me.  The urge to call her was so unbelievably strong, I had to keep reminding myself that she wasn’t there to call anymore.  In the quiet moments of my day my mind will start thinking about all of the milestones that are ahead of us that she is not going to be here for and I am overcome with such an intense longing that all I can do is let the tears fall. 

I get that certain dates, celebrations and occasions are going to be hard to face without my Mom, what I didn’t realize is that sometimes grief will catch me completely unaware and hit me like a freight train… the most inconvenient of times.  Like the other day while I was in Walmart, something as simple as shopping…all of a sudden I was thinking of all of the times that we shopped together because we were so similar and both hated shopping.  We would fill our carts but then inevitably when we would get to the checkout counter we would decide that about a third of what was in our cart was unnecessary and give them back to the checkout person to put away. The tears came right there in the middle of the toilet paper aisle, the realization that I was never going to experience Walmart shopping with my mother ever again.

I’ve learned to just welcome the tears, no matter when or where or who I am with, to just let them flow and if someone asks if I am ok, to be honest and say “No, I really miss my Mom.” 


6.)  There is freedom in grief.  I was given a book by a dear friend at church about understanding grief; in this book C.S. Lewis was quoted from his book “A Grief Observed”, he said about his experience after the death of his wife, “An odd by-product of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet….Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.”  Sometimes I think that our society tries to encourage us to just push through our grief as quickly as we can; I think that this is in part because we don’t want someone else’s grief to touch us.  We don’t want to see people sad, or upset, or crying so hard that they are a blubbering, snotty mess.  We would rather say “Wow, he/she is so strong.  They are really getting through their loss so well”, and then go on about our lives. In our culture I think that we try to avoid pain of any kind at all costs, wanting to bury it or ignore it.   I think this because this was how I thought before my mom’s death. As a result we are ashamed if our grief is too much, if it affects those around us, if it goes on for too long, if it’s too emotional or demonstrative.  We think that we should have better control of our grief instead of it controlling us.  But the fact of the matter is that grief hurts, and the first step in healing from it is to allow ourselves to feel the pain.  It does a burn victim no good to just ignore his burns, he has to go through a very long and painful healing process until scar tissue forms and eventually becomes less painful and less obvious.  The same is true for grief.  The painful process is part of the healing.  If we don’t allow ourselves to go through the process then we won’t have freedom, we will remain prisoners of grief.



7.)  God does not waste grief.  I have learned that 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 is absolute truth: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”  Two of my best friends lost their mothers just months before I lost mine, and one of my best friends lost her father and her mother-in-law in the past year. I also have many dear friends who have lost a parent over the years.  My husband still hurts from the death of my sweet mother-in-law, Barb.   I hurt for them at the times of their losses, but my compassion for each of them has multiplied since losing my own mother.  And the love and compassion that they each shared with me is something that I can’t even put words to; it’s a compassion that moves into empathy because they actually feel the pain along with me, they don’t have to imagine what I am going through, they KNOW what I am going through.

God does not waste our grief.  I know that my Mom would not want this grief to be destructive in any of our lives.  She would want us to give it to God and allow Him to use it to glorify Him and to honor her life.  Grief is so unbearably hard, and yet there have been so many beautiful moments of joy and blessing that I have experienced since the loss of my beautiful, sweet Mom.  I think that I am feeling things more sharply, seeing things more clearly because I realize that life is so unbelievably precious and so fragile and can’t be taken for granted. 

Our loved ones may not be here tomorrow for us to tell and to show how much they mean to us.  I have found myself measuring time now based on the day that my Mom left us, and I also gauge time by how many days/weeks/ months it’s been since I last talked to her.  How many days have gone by since the last time I saw her face and felt the warmth of her hug.  If I had known that she would be gone on the morning of June 18th, would I have done or said anything different?  You bet I would….actually I would have just said more…..and yet I know that I can’t rewind time as much as I’d like to. So I have come to the realization that what grief teaches me is that I don’t take any of my relationships for granted.  I am going to love hard and completely, I never miss an opportunity to say “I love you”, or “I appreciate you”, or “I am here for you” because death is real and could happen at any given moment.  I don’t want the pain of death to be because I have regrets.  I have experienced that one of the reasons that the death of a loved one is so incredibly painful is because we love so incredibly much.  That’s what I want grief to teach me. 


Jana M. Fraley

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Intentional Wife

Focusing on being an intentional wife during February…..the month that we associate with love….was completely unintentional (pun totally intended!)  It just happens that after God, the next important area in my life that I want to focus my intention and attention on is my husband. 
              Now, let me precede this by saying that I am in no way speaking or sharing from a place of authority in this area.  I am in the midst of the battle of trying to become a more intentional wife because I think that it is a very important aspect of marriage; I am simply sharing what God has laid on my heart in regards to what steps I need to take in order to become a more intentional wife to Mike.  That being said, Valentine’s seems to be the perfect opportunity to focus on being intentional with my husband because this is a way that I can show my love, respect and appreciation for him.  I can buy the sappiest, most poetic card at Wal-Mart, but if I don’t show Mike love and respect, if my love doesn’t have some action to go with it, then it’s just words (someone else’s words at that) on cardstock….words without meaning.  Being intentional in the way that I love my husband is something that brings real value to our marriage.

                When I think about being intentional to Mike I think about loving him on purpose, doing things for him that makes him realize that he is on my mind and in my heart, that he is a priority in my life.  I think that Mike and I are in the stage of marriage where raising our little family takes every bit of energy that we have.  He is busy making a living in order to provide an income as a Ranch Broker as well as helping his dad run the family ranch, and making sure that he carves out time to spend with each of the kids; and I spend every last resource of mental, physical and emotional energy on making sure that we all have clean clothes, a clean space to call home, healthy meals that everyone likes (an endeavor that I have come to the conclusion is almost impossible!), make sure that everyone is up to date on dentist and doctor appointments, as well as helping with ranch work…..etc., etc., etc.  My point is that life is busy, and why is it that the thing that ends up being the last priority is our spouse?

     I remember the days when being intentional about showing my love to Mike was easy, and really didn’t require much thought because all of my thoughts, all of my emotions, my whole life was pretty much focused on him.  Those days of new love when everything that he did was sweet and endearing and not at all irritating.  Those days before kids when every minute of my day belonged to him and him alone.  Those days when the stress and strain of daily life were few and easily handled.  In those early days of our marriage it was easy to give him all of my attention.  A perfect example is that when Mike and I were first married I began the habit of bringing a cup of coffee to him to wake him up in the morning.  I have always been more of a morning person so I am the first one awake and it was such a joy to be able to wake my husband up with a kiss and coffee.  I don’t know at what point this no longer was a habit; occasionally it will be an afterthought, but I generally don’t wake Mike up this way any longer.  More often than not I catch myself snapping at him to get his own coffee!!  In the beginning, during that honeymoon phase, paying special attention to Mike was easy…..and now fast forward 20 years it takes a bit more of an effort!

                This is where I feel that God is really convicting my heart.  I have fallen short in making my husband feel that he is priority….that he is deserving of my intention and attention.  And I desire to change that because the fact of the matter is that I want my marriage to thrive and not just survive. Mike and I are committed to each other, we are in this for the long-haul, and there is no question in either of our minds about that.  Almost 20 years ago we stood before family and friends and God and we promised to love each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer.  We made a covenant that is more binding than anything else in our lives.  We’ve survived some hard things in those 20 years, and have come out stronger and closer to one another because of those struggles.  What is tough is dealing with the tiny, seemingly insignificant and mundane details of the day in and day out parts of our lives.  Those are the “little foxes” that work to destroy our marriage.

                 If I don’t work on loving my husband with intention then those little, seemingly insignificant problems will grow into big and very significant ones.  Here’s the deal with loving intentionally… requires being selfless, it means putting my husband’s needs above my own.  This is so good in theory but soooo hard in reality!  I do know that the more that I give of myself to be intentional in showing love to Mike, it goes a long way in making all of those little foxes disappear! 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Intentional Faith

                I want to share with you one thing that I started in 2015 as part of my journey of intentional faith.  Hannah and I got Journaling Bibles for Christmas and we have thoroughly enjoyed immersing ourselves in God’s Word in a whole new way!  I became interested in Bible Journaling a few months ago when I discovered it on Pinterest.  In the beginning it was just another outlet for journaling my thoughts and gleanings as I was in God’s Word; but as I saw more examples of what others are doing with their Bible journaling I decided to get a little creative!  This is my first attempt:

                By nature I am not artistic; I love words and making thoughts, ideas and dreams come alive through them.  Drawing does not come naturally for me, I have a hard time drawing anything past a stick figure; but I have really enjoyed getting creative with lettering and drawing simple images.  I’m also excited about the prospect of utilizing some of my abandoned scrapbooking paraphernalia with it. 

                I joined a Bible Journaling group on Facebook…..and oh the ideas and inspiration I have gotten!  I love sharing in these stories and ideas and seeing how God’s Word comes alive through the process of Bible Journaling.  I have journaled along with my daily Bible reading for years…..notebooks full of my thoughts, feelings, what I feel that God is saying through His Word.  Some days I just write those things down…..or words that others before me have discovered through Scripture….or words to Hymns.  I just read His Word and go from there!  There are so many out there who are much more talented than me, their drawings are amazing.  But this is mine, unique and personal and full of how God is revealing Himself to me. 

                This Bible that I found was from, I know that Amazon also carries them.  I spent right under $30 for mine; if you don’t want to invest in a new Bible, or if you feel funny about writing and drawing over your Bible, then a lot of women have taken devotion books and journaled  in them or have gotten creative with a notebook journal.
Hannah and I use colored pencils and I am planning on trying my scrapbooking pens to see if they won’t bleed through the pages.  It was a little intimidating to begin with…..I was afraid of ruining my Bible!  But I think that it’s like anything that we do for the glory of God…..we move forward in faith and give it to Him……and then I think that whatever we bring to Him is a sacrifice of praise.  This has been a blessing for me and for Hannah, another way that we have to look forward to being in His Word every day, a way to be intentional in our faith and walk with God. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An Intentional Walk

My plan was to begin writing about being intentional in my faith and relationship with God weeks ago; but each time that I sat down to begin I didn’t know how!  This area of intentional living is probably the most important aspect of all; I believe that it is the foundation for every other area in our lives in which we can begin to live with intention and purpose.  Because I feel such a burden and passion about this I have had about a million thoughts and ideas running through my head over the past month as I’ve thought, prayed and soul searched what I wanted to share with all of you about having an intentional faith in the Lord.  I’ve finally decided just to start at the beginning of my journey and go from there, because it has been a journey…..a journey of daily walking with Him.

                This journey of faith is different for each one of us.  Some of us walk towards God dragging our feet, digging our heals in, resisting Him for years until something in our life brings us to our knees before Him.  For some we run…..we run hard… the opposite direction!  And then maybe someone comes into our life and introduces us to The One that desperately wants us to stop running away from Him and instead run to Him.  Maybe some of you are still running and are not at all convinced that you need or want God in your life; or maybe you are running because you don’t believe that God can ever truly love you because of the messiness that defines your life. 

                  And then for some of us the journey is a gradual walking towards Him, trusting and following Him without too much difficulty.  I think that when we decide to trust in Jesus when we are younger it’s an easier journey because we have the simple faith of a child; it doesn’t take a whole lot to convince us that God is there, that Jesus is real and that He loves us and has a plan for us.  I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love Jesus, when I didn’t believe in Him.  And yet there were plenty of years when I believed but didn’t give Him the proper authority in my life.  I believed and worshipped and loved the Lord….when it was convenient for me…..Like on Sunday mornings….but then the rest of the week belonged to me.  And then in my early 20’s life got real for me…..I felt real discouragement and real disappointment and real shame and real fear.  All of a sudden I needed Jesus in my life more than just on Sunday mornings when I was sitting in a pew in church.  I needed Him desperately to show me which path I was supposed to take, who I was in Him and who He was supposed to be in my life.  I needed Him to be in my life every day, every minute of the day.  I needed Him to be real and I needed to be real with Him.

                This was a turning point in my journey with the Lord.  This was when I realized that a relationship with Him required attention and intention…..not just once a week but every day for a lifetime.  I am so blessed to have a mother who has built a “Quiet Time” into her days.  Growing up I remember Mom getting up before the sun and sitting in her favorite chair, with just one light on and her Bible.  A box that holds her Bible, notebooks and a journal has been a constant in my parent’s home no matter where they have lived.  I watched as she made this chunk of time that she spent with the Lord a priority in her life.  As I grew older I remember many days spent doing chores, feeding cattle, riding horseback or cleaning the house where our conversations turned to what she had gleaned from that morning’s Quiet Time.  She shared with me once that on the days when she missed this time spent with the Lord her entire day was completely off kilter.  She taught me that it was hard to trust in Someone that we didn’t know, and the only way to know Him was to spend time with Him.  My mother instilled in me a strong sense of the importance of spending time with God in His Word every day.  But not until that point in my early 20’s did I choose to make it a priority for myself.  And now I can say with my mom…..if my day doesn’t start with the Lord, my day doesn’t start off right! 

                Some of you may be wondering “what in the world is she talking about?  What does she mean by a ‘Quiet Time’?”  All that I mean by “Quiet Time” is time carved out of your day dedicated to and spent with the Lord.  I joke all the time that I am refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to face my day as I spend that hour to hour and a half with the Lord in the morning…….I can face anything and anyone as I sit at my kitchen table after spending time with God……that is until my family wakes up and I actually have to put into practice whatever I learned during my Quiet time…..that’s when it gets difficult!   But that is a joke….the time that I spend with God first thing in the morning is what sets the mood and my focus for the entire day.  Depending on how early I wake up (anywhere from 4:00 to 5:00 in the morning) I spend time praying, reading from either the Old Testament or New Testament and the Psalms or Proverbs in the Bible, I generally have one or two devotions that I read (Our Daily Bread, Streams in the Desert, My Utmost For His Highest, and In Touch are some of my favorites), and then I journal for about 15 to 30 minutes.  Sometimes I spend the entire time in prayer, sometimes I spend the entire time in His word.  Each day I come ready for Him to reveal something to me. 

                When I first began reading the Bible I bought a Student Bible and wondered where in the world to start, and I wondered if I was going to get bored quick……after all this was the Bible, how interesting was it going to be??  But then I discovered the truth of Psalm 119: 103, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  God’s word has proven to be true and life giving and comforting and full of wisdom and love and grace and peace…..His Word is full of adventure and real life trials and pain and victories; however His Word has never once proven to be boring!  The more that I have read it the more that I have desired to be in His Word every day, His word to me is sweeter than honey……I learn something new each time that I read it. 

                Now, I have to be honest and tell you all that I am naturally a morning person.  My favorite time of the day is early in the morning, when the stars are still out and everyone is still in bed.  It probably has something to do with my ranch upbringing, but getting up before the sun is not a hardship for me, it is the time of day when I am at my best, my mind is clear and I am ready to start.  But I realize that for a lot of you it is not that easy… wake up with more of a fuzzy mind than a clear one, you can’t focus enough to see the coffee pot much less your Bible.  I know so many women who become discouraged with the thought of having a consistent Quiet Time because we tend to correlate “Quiet Time” with “Early Morning Time”.

                 Or maybe you are in a phase of life when your kids are little and having any kind of “quiet” seems completely out of the question.  I know what that’s like!  Trust me, when Kade was a baby to about 3 years old I had to get real creative on getting that Quiet Time into my day.  With Hannah it was easy; she seemed to have been born with an innate sense of my need for this early morning quiet time.  But with my second child I was not so fortunate.  For three years this boy could hear me the second I got out of bed….he had an innate sense of me being awake and then it was “early morning Kade time”!  Having ten minutes to myself in the bathroom in order to read a devotion or listening to a sermon online while cooking dinner was sometimes as good as it got during those years.  Some of my most precious memories are of praying as I was nursing my children in the middle of the night or early in the morning.  Yes, I know what it’s like during those years when our children are tiny and oh so needy….and God knows even more so! He recognizes and appreciates how our lives are consumed with those little humans; and yet He still wants us to give Him the best part of our days.  In God’s economy, if we are willing to give him the best and the first part of our days, He is able to supply for the remainder of our hours!

                If you are in this phase of life, or if you just aren’t a morning person, then maybe you simply need to get creative in how you spend time with Him.  I’m not talking about giving Him your leftovers, but rather look for opportunities to spend time with Him.  Maybe you have a commute to and from work; there are so many great podcasts or sermons online that you can download and listen to on your drive.  Or spend your drive praying!  When Hannah was a baby until she was two years old I had about an hour on the road as I drove from Meeteetse Wyoming to my aunt’s house 15 minutes outside of Cody Wyoming where I worked.  I spent that hour in the morning praying for everyone that God brought to mind.  I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever had that deep of a time for prayer since.  I have friends who have a real struggle with sleep at night, so they use that opportunity to read the Bible or pray, figuring that if they are losing sleep they might as well give that time to the Lord!  If you aren’t a morning bird like me, but are more of a night owl like many of my friends, then carve out a Quiet Time with Him after your kids have gone to bed and you can enjoy the solitude of the evening.  I don’t think that God is as concerned with what time you give to Him, as long as you are intentional about giving Him time in your day. 

                That being said, I would like to encourage you to choose one or two mornings a week, or even once a month, to sacrifice sleep and get up before the sun and your family.  There truly is something about early mornings spent with the Lord, pouring out our hearts and expectations and concerns to Him.  If we are able to do that first thing in our day, and then give the rest of it to Him, we are then able to have a proper focus for whatever the rest of the day has in store for us!  Psalm 5:3 says, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”  If we intentionally choose to go to God in those early morning hours, He will meet us there and it will set the tone for the rest of the day. 

                However you choose to spend “Quiet Time” with God, I just encourage you to begin to carve time out of your busy schedule and give it to Him.  Make an intentional decision to put Him first in your day… Him your schedule, your time, your energy and your talents to use to glorify Him and build up His Kingdom.  God bless you as you intentionally draw closer to the One who has called you by name (Isaiah 43:1).