God is Faithful

I saw a friend post a rain gauge with a glorious inch of rain in it this morning with the caption, “God is faithful!” Indeed He is, and we should post about it every time we have that full rain gauge.

But it strikes me, the same is true when our rain gauge is empty. When our grass is brown, the cure doesn’t come, the marriage is crumbling, the child is dead, the dream is gone, hope feels lost…we have to believe that God is just as faithful in the dry times as well.

And that’s sure not as easy to do. I am good at praising Him when my kids are jumping in mud puddles and my cows are standing on green grass. It takes a lot more effort on a morning like this, when I catch a glimpse of the empty rain gauge and the dwindling pile of hay bales and wonder how this will all work out. Or an evening when the chance of rain blew right on past and my kids ask why God hasn’t answered our prayers that we pray every night.

I think, though, this might be when believing in and proclaiming His faithfulness matters most. I also think this is why having a discipline of gratitude and faithfulness matters so much. We need the discipline not when it’s raining, but when it’s parched.

Shaun’s Neiquist puts it this way in her book I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet: “It’s easy, of course, to buzz the beach (look for beauty and joy) and find the sparkle on good days—the days when the sun is shining and your heart is light. When it gets really dark, though, that’s when you start to understand that it’s a discipline, and you need it in the dark so much more desperately than you need it in the light. Joy and celebration are practices for the long haul.”

So today, I’m re-reading Psalm 46: 1-3. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

So, here, with my empty rain gauge, I’ll say it again. God is faithful. God is faithful. God is faithful.


Remembering Nana

The first time I met Ty’s Nana was Thanksgiving at her house when Ty and I had been dating about 6 months. I hadn’t been there 15 minutes when she pulled out a photo album full of pictures of wedding cakes she made and tasked me with finding the ones I liked. Ty and I hadn’t even talked about getting married and here she was quizzing me about cake details? I guess it worked, because when we did get married the next October, she made exactly the cake I envisioned. For my Braun and Harper’s first couple of birthday, she made tractor, train, and pink cakes that were, of course, huge hits.

Since her stroke Nana frequently didn’t recognize me. But she always knew my kids and Ty. Anytime I would show her Ty’s picture or FaceTime from her room so she could see him, she would get so excited and tell me repeatedly how handsome he was. “Oh he is just so cute, just look at that face.” She might have been glad to see me, but I was no Ty.

During covid, I was able to kind of sneak the kids in to see her at the nursing home. You have never seen anyone so proud to show off a couple of kids as she was. She had many gifts, but I feel sure that being a Nana was the one at which she shined the most.

Over the last couple of months, I spent quite a bit of time with her in the hospital. This was where I got to see more of feisty Nana, and she was my favorite.

They kept her legs wrapped and she was not afraid to tell you that she was NOT a fan. She kept asking me take them off and I told her I couldn’t. Exasperated she said, “just give me your knife and I’ll do it myself!” I told her I didn’t have a knife on me in the hospital room. She looked me square in the eyes and said, “I am so disappointed in you.”

Later that same day, our discussion over the leg wraps continued. After some more back and forth she got frustrated and told me that if I didn’t take those wraps off, she was going to fight me. I’ve got to be honest, I think she could have taken me!

Another time she had been sleeping most of the day, but I knew she liked the Country Hymn station on Pandora, so I had it going. The nurses came in to adjust her position so I turned it off while they were working. I was standing next to her bed when she grabbed my shirt and sternly said, “You! Sing!” I’m for sure no singer but you better believe I scrambled for that play button.

But my favorite Nana story came last Christmas at our house. It was a pretty simple brisket dinner. But she acted like it was fit for a king. She had to have eat enough for 3 people and made me sneak her a to go bag for the car. When it came time to pray, we circled up as we always did. I then realized that it was Nana who always prayed. But after her stroke, she struggled with her words and sometimes got frustrated. I didn’t know what we would do. But Jana didn’t miss a beat and said, “Mom, will you pray for us?” She did, and every word was right. Standing there in that kitchen I just thought what a testimony that was to God’s kindness and Nana’s faith.

Nana went home to Jesus today. What a beautiful moment that must have been. We were lucky to be loved by her.

Hope Remains

This article was initially published as part of the Our Rural Roots column for Progressive Farmer.

As I write this, the wind is blowing at sustained speeds of 45 miles per hour with gusts even higher. The sky is brown from all the dust in the air. Stubble from the sorghum field north of our house is currently piled up like snow drifts in the yard. We have not seen measurable rainfall—actually, any rainfall—for months. Grass fires seem to pop up with more frequency. It is easy on these days to feel defeated and to want to throw in the towel.

And yet, hope remains. We see it all around. We see it in the excitement we feel as we prepare for calving season to start in the next two weeks. We see it as the farmers and ranchers spend a cold January day at an Extension meeting getting their CEU credits and learning about the variety trial results from last year. We see hope when farmers are buying seed on Friday and praying for rain every Sunday in our in tiny little church. We see it when generations work together like grandfathers teaching their grandsons how to drive a tractor or granddaughters to band a lamb’s tail.

It is near impossible not to hope when the weatherman says that each day it does not rain just gets us one day closer to the next big rainstorm.

If there is one thing farmers and ranchers must do well, it’s hope. It is as much a part of our DNA as the dirt beneath our nails and the working sunup to sun down. We believe better days will come, and when they do, we will be ready with our seed selected, rain gauges in place, and caving book ready for entries. Here’s hoping for better days, greener pastures, and rain in the forecast.

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.