Images from the Ranch

Images from the Ranch

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 a 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 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 such 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, intense, sharp, 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.  Their kind words and love covered us all like a warm quilt.  Our family began arriving and covering us in love and care.  My aunts, uncles, and cousins were a lifeline to me.

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 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 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 have 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 choiceJ), a book that she loaned me, a sweater that she wore.  Being at State Fair was hard because everywhere I went I was reminded of her. When my kids went back to school this week I had two days that I allowed the grief to wash over me because every year I would call her after they had left so that we could have uninterrupted phone conversations.  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…..at 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 when we got to the checkout counter we would decide that about a third of what was in our cart wasn’t really needed 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 1 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 friends who have lost their moms 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…..it 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 Chistianbook.com, 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. 
http://www.christianbook.com/esv-single-column-journaling-bible/9781433531910/pd/531910?event=AAI
 
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…..in 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…..you 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…..giving 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).

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Journey Into Intentional Living




                Well, I’m at that phase of the holiday season where I am starting to pack up all of the Christmas decorations, getting rid of all the uneaten Christmas goodies, and putting away beloved ornaments for another year.  It’s in the single digits in Wyoming today and so I am enjoying a cozy fire, a plate of Swedish Kringler, and a cup of coffee while taking some time to think back over this Christmas, and actually thinking over the entire year.  I’ve been remembering the blessings, the pain, the disappointments and the victories of 2014.  This is also the time when I begin thinking about the New Year, wondering what 2015 holds in store for me and my little family…..and I have been contemplating that sometimes loved and often hated tradition of making resolutions.  I don’t know about you, but making New Year’s resolutions ultimately ends up overwhelming and discouraging me rather than motivating me to have a better, healthier, happier year than the last.  There’s too much that I’d like to change, improve on, new things to try or bad habits to let go of.  Are you with me?  Am I the only one who struggles with making resolutions?  I start trying to figure out what my New Year’s Resolution is going to be and before I know it I have so many to pick from that I just throw my hands up in the air and give up before I even verbalize what my resolutions are!  Or I go ahead and make one or two and within a month have completely given up or forgotten what I had resolved to do in the first place!

                No, New Year’s Resolutions are not my favorite…..and yet……I love a clean slate, a fresh page, a new start.  And I really do love what is behind the meaning of making New Year’s resolutions; the meaning of resolution is: “a firm decision to do or not to do something.”  I’ve tried for a few years now to figure out a way to make resolutions without really making a “New Year’s Resolution”; how to take advantage of the newness of the New Year, of resolving to do or not do something, without being unrealistic in what that is, as well as not losing steam in my resolve one or two months into the year!  In all of my soul searching, praying and thinking about this I have ultimately come up with one resolution for 2015…..the resolution of intentional living....but this one resolution leads to so many more areas in my life that I want to make a firm decision about living with intention or purpose…..12 different areas in my life that I feel God is drawing my attention to live with intention; areas that I need to either completely change, shift in a different direction or areas where I need to just keep on keeping on!  The opposite of “intentional” is “accidental”…..I would so much rather live by intention than to live by accident!

                I began thinking of this idea of intentional living this time last year; and have been thinking about what aspects in my life I would like to live with more intention and purpose since then.  I want to invite you to go on this journey with me; each month I will focus on a different area that I have chosen and share my thoughts, feelings and experiences with you.  It may just be one post a month dedicated to intentional living in that certain area or it may take a few different posts depending on what subject I’m covering!  These 12 disciplines in my life are places where I feel God is drawing my attention to live with meaning, intention and purpose; you may have areas in your life that are completely different.  If so please share them with me, I’d love to hear about your journey as well!

                The 12 areas in my life that I have chosen to live intentionally for 2015 are:

1.)    Being intentional in my faith and relationship with God

2.)    Being intentional in my marriage

3.)    Being intentional in my role as a mother

4.)    Being intentional in my attitude towards food

5.)    Being intentional about physical exercise

6.)    Being intentional with my finances

7.)    Being intentional with my thoughts

8.)    Being intentional with my relationships

9.)    Being intentional with my time

10.)  Being intentional with my words

11.)  Being intentional about my responsibilities and jobs

12.)  Being intentional about my calling, gifts and talents
 
 My hope is that by dividing this resolution up into 12 different areas, I will spend an entire year focused on living with intention and purpose.  The definition of intentional is “something done on purpose or deliberately.”  See, that’s the key for me; I want to live deliberately and on purpose!  I want to thrive, not just survive.  I’m tired of feeling like I am just barely scraping by day in and day out…..spending a lot of my days low on energy, motivation, joy and intent.  Like so many of you out there, I want a full and abundant life.  One of my favorite verses is John 10:10 where Jesus tries to explain to the Pharisees who He is and why He has come.  He tells them “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Jesus came to give us full and abundant lives; He doesn’t want us to just “get by”, going through the motions of our days, doing what needs to be done but no more than that…..living flat, dry and intentionless lives. I think that especially for those of us who are stay-at-home-moms or ranch wives that work at home with our husbands, the drudgery of our days takes out the intention and purpose that God wants us to live with.  I want to resolve to change that.

                So, I invite you to go on this journey of intentional living with me; commit, not to making another New Year’s resolution that will leave you overwhelmed and disappointed, but instead commit to living the next 12 months with the intention and purpose that God intended for you to have.  And I want to wish you all a Happy New Year……No more than just “happy”…..I want to wish you a joy-filled, abundant and full 2015, a year that is lived with meaning and purpose to the glory of God!!

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

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