The Chocolate Bars

The kids’ school did a chocolate bar selling fundraiser. They got their boxes of 60 bars each and had big dreams about how many they could sell. I tried to temper expectations. Every elementary kid in town is selling them, we aren’t from here, we don’t have family around here…

I didn’t want them to be disappointed or me to end up having to write a check for $120, so I told them they could record a video for Facebook. I thought that from the video maybe they could at least sell half, and then I would only have to write a $60 check.

You know what happened next?

Our people came through.

They kids didn’t sell 60 candy bars. They sold 660. To customers in 10 states. And one European country.

Aunt Elaine was their first order, and she took 100. Their various sheep show friends they met in Reno ordered 200. Family friends, work friends, and others all jumped in to support my kids.

It was a good reminder for me about the importance of community, near and far. It was a good lesson in letting my kids (and myself, for that matter) dream big. Mostly, it was good for my heart to see how many people care about my two little ones.

I am not sure there is something more important in a kid’s life than knowing there are other adults (in addition to their parents) who love them. I think that gives the kids strength, confidence, and self-worth. It’s about so much more than the candy bars.

It also turns their house into freaking Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory packing and shipping orders!

I couldn’t be more grateful.


Our Own Pharaohs

I am listening to Father Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year podcast in 2022. Today, he said something that completely stopped me in my tracks.

We are reading in Exodus. The Israelites are slaves in Egypt. When Moses and Aaron try to get Pharaoh to allow their people a three-day reprieve to workshop in the wilderness, Pharoah not only refuses, but piles more work on. He adds more tasks to the already unsustainable pace.

Father Mike offered the following commentary:

“We are pharaohs to ourselves. We are so busy we don’t have time to think about God. We do it to ourselves. We’ve set up a pace for our lives that is unmanageable if we even take a break. We have made ourselves into slaves.”

As I sit planning out this new month, I am going to keep reflecting on his words and so what I can to slow down the pace, to lessen the load, to remove the pharaoh from my mind and calendar.

Maybe you need the invitation to do the same?

Jesus Storybook Bible

A couple of months ago, we decided to read our Jesus Story Book Bible cover-to-cover.

Our goal was to do it by the end of the year. Tonight, we finished. We’ve read the stories in this book for years, but never in order all the way through.

It has been amazing to see what the kids have picked up, the questions they have asked, and how much more of the full picture they understand after this.

It is one of the best things we have done for their faith. (Also, one of them was very concerned we were 4 days late meeting our goal to finish…I’d like to pretend he didn’t get that from me, but let’s be real…)

Tonight, we prayed and thanked God for his word and our ability to read it. May we—kids and adults alike—never take that for granted.

Let Grief Open Hearts

This article was published in Progressive Farmer as part of their Our Rural Roots column.

The end of 2021 was filled with loss for our family. The two most profound being our 13-year-old neighbor, Kooper, who died in a car accident, our 28-year-old saint of a quarter horse, Lou.

I’ve read articles about how farm kids have hearts that are hardened to death, particularly that of animals since they may be seen as an expendable commodity.

Watching my two children over the past few months, I have not seen hearts harden. I have seen them open. And, in the midst of tragedy, this seems an important gift.

When we lost Lou, there were three generations of tears over that old horse who loved us all so well. Farm families are notoriously tough and not the best with emotion, but there is something about the bond with a horse that hits different. Comments flooded my social media page from people who understood that good horses are part of the family.

These passings have resulted in new prayers and triggered a lot of conversations about Heaven in our house. We’ve seen expanded imaginations and increasing faith. A few days after Lou died, my son said, “At least we know Kooper is there to ride Lou in Heaven.” A few days later, my daughter prayed that God would take good care of Lou and provide his favorite feed. Yesterday, my son asked if I thought there would be mutton bustin in Heaven, because he and Kooper both liked to do that. Again, hearts not hardened, but opened.

While we would never have chosen these losses, I am proud of the way we have walked through them. I am grateful for open hearts and bigger prayers and growing faith.

And yes, I absolutely picture Kooper riding our sweet Lou and a good arena for mutton bustin somewhere in the sky. May it be so.

Hell of a Year

As Parker McCollum says, “It’s been a hell of a year.”

Sun setting on 2021

From some of my very favorite memories to some of the most tragic losses. Watching my kids paddle around Lake Tahoe and put their feet into the ocean for the first time time and breaking ice and saving calves in a winter storm the likes of which I hope never to see again. Our first trip to Reno to have three generations at a sheep show, being reunited with my ag law nerd friends in Salt Lake City, and running 100 5Ks. Teaching my kids to navigate grief as we said goodbye too soon to a favorite dog, cat, horse, a dear friend’s father, and two young friends. Both kids starting school and a new niece and sneaking into see Nana in the nursing home.

Here’s to leaving 2021 stronger, more grateful, and more ourselves. Bring it in 2022 (but be nice because dang…).

Nana’s Prayer

Since she had a stroke in July, Ty’s Nana has struggled with her words. She can still talk, but sometimes she just says the wrong words. It’s been frustrating for her.

As we gathered up to say grace before our Christmas Eve lunch, we asked her to pray, just like she has every year.

She closed her eyes and talked to God, and every single word was right.

I couldn’t help but think that’s got to be because she had talked to Him so much before and she was so comfortable doing it. What grace from God, and what faith from Nana.

Tiger Butter Tradition

I make my Gran’s Tiger Butter every year for the holidays. She has been gone for almost 20 years. It still tastes like Christmas to me. I can close my eyes and be sitting right at her kitchen table.

Harper asked me today what she talked like. Of course, I can remember her voice, but there’s no way to share that very well with the kids. But when they taste the Tiger Butter, they’ll know a little piece of her.

That’s the thing about little family traditions. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive…but they let someone’s memory live on with generations whom they never met. That’s the gift. That’s why it matters That’s why we keep swirling chocolate and peanut butter year after year.

West Texas Faithfulness

One of my favorite podcasters talks a lot about the importance of having a good memory as part of being faithful. She says that we need to write down our prayers, thoughts, miracles, and hardships so that we can remember what God has done for us. Because we, like the Israelites, can so easily forget the miracles, both big and small. They stacked stones. We can write words.

Ten years ago, long before I met my husband or had any prospect of ever moving to Texas, I penned these words on my blog in a letter to my then un-identified future spouse.

Last week I ended up on a last minute work road trip through rural west Texas. I kinda secretly hope that you live there.

In a small brick house, surrounded by cotton fields. With two dogs and a tire swing in the yard. And a John Deere tractor and a beat up Ford truck in the driveway. And that the house has a back porch that holds a porch swing overlooking the orange sunsets on the western horizon. Near a town with a sign that says “Population: 2006” and a high school football stadium that holds double that number. And a tiny church where people sing Amazing Grace on Sunday. One with a water tower that lists the State Championship titles won since the 1970’s and a welcome sign made by the students in FFA. That’s my dream.

Because small town football and a porch swing, a John Deere and Amazing Grace, you and me….well what could be better than that?”

I get chills thinking about it.

It’s our front porch, not the back one, that faces the sunsets in that west Texas sky. And the population on the sign is 1,000. But other than that, it’s spot on, down to the beat up Ford and the John Deere Tractor.

God knows. He hears. He’s working. And I’m not saying things always work out down to the detail you draw out like this, goodness knows that’s not true…but sometimes, they do.

What grace it is that our God is a God of the details. What a gift it is to have this written reminder of his faithfulness that I so easily could have overlooked.

Sounds from the Big 12 Championship Game

Our beloved Pokes fell short—two inches short, to be exact—of the Big 12 Championship. We profess being #loyalandtrue in our alma mater song for days like today.

More importantly, I wanted to share a few things you would have heard if you watched the Big 12 Championship at our house…

Braun: Mom, does he know our team is wearing orange not white?

Harper: I can’t watch dramatically covers eyes

Me: You two do not say any words Mama says when we watch the Pokes play football.

Harper: Can we have a snack (for the 57th time)?
Me: Eat whatever you want, I just need to focus!

Harper (after I hit the wall and had to leave the room after the last play): Wow, Mama is really mad huh?

Braun: Guess we should have listened to Sean and gone for the Bears.
Me: No—we go for the Pokes. We always cheer for our team even if we lose. That’s called loyalty.
Braun: I think I want to be a winner instead of loyal.