Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Merry Up

“I don’t feel like decorating for Christmas this year,” I remarked to Hubby the other day. His response was immediate: “Are you sick?”

Usually I can hardly wait to haul up the boxes labeled Xmas, dig out my treasures, and spruce up the place into holiday shape. Most years, I even start decorating before Thanksgiving! But this year, son Zach is a world away in India, and it will be my first Christmas in 19 years without him. Heavy-hearted, I kept thinking Zach’s not going to be here, and no family is coming, so who cares? and I’m too down in the dumps to do this, so why bother? (I didn’t realize it, but I’d pretty much thunk myself into a funk!)

Well, Hubby helped me carry the boxes up, and eventually I began to drag out a wreath here and a sleigh there, but I couldn’t muster any of my usual enthusiasm. Decorating had become drudgery instead of delight.

Early this morning, while taking my first sips of coffee and watching the Weather Channel with Hubby, a thought entered my groggy brain: What if you decorated more instead of less? Huh?

I looked around the living room, and my eyes rested on a sampler I’d stitched that reads: “The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10.” Then I noticed the lone wreath hanging on the wall; it had a little sign on it that says “Joy to the World”. And I remembered that one of Jesus’ names is Immanuel (God-With-Us). Robin, do you believe what you profess to believe?

“Yes, I do!” I replied in my journal. “God is here, joy is here! And wherever Zach is, God is with him too.” Something that felt like light and warmth immediately lifted the cold heaviness that I’d allowed to seep into my soul. I could hardly wait to get my house and cow duties over with so I could resume decking the halls!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” ROMANS 15:13

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cinnamon Toast

     When son Zach was in preschool, he and his little classmates created their first Thanksgiving works of art: the iconic tempera -handprint-on-construction-paper turkeys. The teachers took dictation from the children as they completed the sentence, “I’m thankful for….” Heart-warming expressions of gratitude--usually for Mommies, Daddies, and pets--were transcribed below each speaker’s turkey. The masterpieces were displayed on the wall for proud parents to admire and exclaim over.
     I eagerly searched the exhibit for my son’s magnum opus. There it was--a darling yellow and green fowl, beneath which the caption read (drum roll): “I’m thankful for…cinnamon toast.”
     “Cinnamon toast?” I said to myself. “Is that all? A painful birth, colic, breastfeeding, diapers, strollers, tantrums, potty training, and 2,017 re-readings of Where the Wild Things Are, and the only thing he’s thankful for is cinnamon toast?” (Don’t ask me why I’d expected grander things from a preschooler.)
      Fifteen Thanksgivings later, Zach’s on an 11-month Rotary exchange to India, which, coincidentally, is one of the birthplaces of cinnamon. I’m proud of his gumption to travel to and study in such a drastically different world than our own, and I’m very grateful for his hard-working guardian angels, but I really miss him. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking about cinnamon toast.
      Ah, but why not be thankful for cinnamon toast? Without cinnamon, pumpkin pies would be nearly tasteless, and no one’s grandma would have ever baked the world’s best cinnamon rolls. God didn’t have to bless us with such a vast assortment of spices and seasonings. Try to imagine what life would be like if every meal since the first breakfast served in Eden had been without seasoning or zing. We’d be a thinner species, to be sure, but oh, so dreadfully bored!
“Every good and perfect gift is from above….” JAMES 1:17

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Big Game

Hubby and I are loyal fans of the Montana State Bobcats.  Thanks to Hubby’s nephew Paul, we had two of the most coveted football tickets in the state of Montana—today’s archrivalry between the Bobcats and the University of Montana Grizzlies. But when a storm brought snow, icy roads and bitter cold, I opted to stay home, babysit the animals, and watch the game from my recliner. Hubby, who’s considerably braver than I, not to mention a great deal more zealous for his team, risked life and limb (to accident or frostbite) and made the pilgrimage alone.

I’m no football analyst, so I can’t say exactly what went wrong for the Bobcats, except everything. Not a single player on the team played his position with his usual assurance and pizzaz. The final score was a dismal and embarrassing 36-10! Needless to say, the Bobcats are no longer rated No.1 in the conference, although they are still expected to earn a spot in the playoffs. Their coach is a smart, classy, character-oriented guy, so I’m sure he didn’t scream at his already-disgraced team in the locker room following the game. Still, I wonder what he did say. Maybe he quoted some well-known, wise and witty coaches….

·         “Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.” John Wooden

·         “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” Lou Holtz

·         “If you make every game a life-and-death thing, you’re going to have problems. You’ll be dead a lot.” Dean Smith

There’s nothing like a good wisecrack to put things in perspective! 

“Then the God who lifts up the downcast lifted our heads and our hearts….”
                                   2 Corinthians 7:6-7

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Circumstantial Evidence

I’ve been a goat owner for seven months now. For six months and 29 days, my sweet Blueberry and Meels have had me wrapped around their proverbial little fingers.  Hubby calls them Their Majesties, the Princesses of Spoilsville, because of all the time and effort I put in to ensure their welfare and happiness, not to mention the money and exertion that we’ve invested in their accommodations! In my and the goaties’ defense, I present the following evidence:

·         My Nigerians love to give and receive affection. Even when let out of their pen to graze, they want to exchange pets, kisses, and tail wags with me before they eat. Our horses enjoy strokes and hugs, but only when their appetites are satisfied and they have nothing better to do.

·         The twins truly prefer human company. Given their freedom, they putter around somewhere near their people, although they’ll hang out with the horses or cows if we’re unavailable. The little dears love to “help” me do chores or accompany me for walks—no lead rope needed—and have been lobbying for admittance into the house.

·         Goaties make for great merriment. On excursions, the twins play their preferred game, Hi-Ho Silver, in which they hang back and dilly-dally before breaking into a clattering gallop as they race each other to catch up. Other favorites include Queen-of-the-Hill (pushing each other of the top of a hill, table or ATV), Lion-and-Wolf Wars (pretending to stick the cat and dog with their pretend horns), and Bighorn Sheep (leaping, charging and butting heads with one another just like bighorn rams, albeit with mock force).

·         The caprines are less devoted to terra firma than bovines or equines. (How many cattle or horses have you seen up in a tree?) Of the two, Meels (short for “Amelia Earhart”) pays the least attention to gravity; her motto is The sky’s the limit, and her favorite napping spot is the sunroof on my Escape.

·         The darlings have the gift of gab. Whenever they see or hear me, they seek to engage me in their nasally chatter. Such conversation usually falls into the category of Requests and Reminders (“I felt a raindrop—can we go in the barn?” “Can we come too?” “It’s time for supper.”) Most other remarks can be filed under the heading of Announcements (“Hey, we’re over here.” “We like these leaves.” “You’re our best friend.”)

If one takes into account all amusement delivered and smiles rendered, one must conclude that I am completely justified in spoiling, indulging, and fussing over Blueberry and Meels. Case dismissed.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and
carries them close to His heart.” Isaiah 40:11

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Grace and Pastry

We had our own protest movement that morning: Occupy Round Bale Feeder. Our little herd was rallying against greedy ranchers who store up alfalfa in haystacks, only feeding it to spoiled goats, while withholding it from the animals that do the real work on this ranch—the cows. The spokesperson for the herd, Princess, has a loud and insistent moo that’s hard to ignore, backed up by some of the most enchanting and persuasive big brown eyes to ever plead their case.

We’d been waiting for the ground to freeze and the recently established alfalfa and grasses to go dormant before turning out the cows; in the meantime, we’d been supplementing their shorter pasture with some lesser quality hay. Hubby has always fed the round bales with the tractor. Years ago, a guy I knew was killed in a freak tractor-round bale accident, so I was hesitant to volunteer for the job. But Hubby had been working off the ranch full-time, so I’d resolved to face my fears and help him. Princess and the other demonstrators were in full agreement with my decision.

Earlier that morning, I’d asked Hubby if I should wait until he got home from work so he could ride along with me while I fed the first time, but he’d said, “No, you’ll be okay.”

Well, it turns out that I was okay, even got the bale fed okay, but the two of the gates I drove through weren’t so okay! I’d driven the tractor now and then, but never with the terracing blade attached in the rear. I was so busy practicing with the round bale spear hydraulics that I never thought to check that the blade was lifted off the ground and turned diagonally so that it wouldn’t catch on every other gate I drove through! When I discovered the damage, I was so angry with myself, humiliated, and afraid of Hubby’s anger that I started crying and couldn’t stop. Bodie, my cowdog and right hand man, was wagging his tail slowly, looking worried.

When I reached Hubby on his cell and sobbed out the details of my disaster, he just laughed. “I guess you disliked my gates so much that you decided to just wipe them out!” he chuckled, referring to a recent column I’d written for The Western Farmer-Stockman ( “It’s okay. I know of a good fencing assistant,” he said, and then added when we signed off, “Love you.”

After that, I looked at Bodie and said, “Grace. That’s grace. We’ll have to bake that man some cookies today.” I did, and those cookies sure tasted better than the humble pie I'd eaten earlier.

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven.” Proverbs 17:9 NLT

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One Goat at a Time

I can’t relax in the evenings without first making sure that the cat and dog are safe indoors, the goats are safe in the barn, and they and the livestock have plenty of food and water—oh, yes, Hubby too! The heartbreaking truth, however, is that our animals are better off than over one billion children on this planet. Look at these facts from UNICEF (in The State of the World’s Children: 2005):

·         33.9% of the world’s children share a room with 5 or more others and/or live on a dirt floor.

·         30.7% of the world’s children have no toilet.

·         21.1% of the world’s children have no access to clean water.

·         16.1% of the world’s children are malnourished.

·         14.2 % of the world’s children have no medical care whatsoever.

·         13.1% of the world’s children have never been to school.

But the worst statistic of all is that 1.2 million children are trafficked for slave labor or prostitution every year (according to UNICEF in The State of the World’s Children: Special Edition). Some of these children are kidnapped or found in the streets, but many are actually sold by their parents because they think their kids may have a better life in slavery than at home with them, starving.

Fortunately, there are well-established and reputable non-profit organizations, made up of hard-working, smart, compassionate and courageous people, who are helping these desperate families. Charitable donations are converted into meals, water wells, medical supplies and clinics, school supplies and schools, homes and orphanages.

Or—get this—you can give a goat! You can donate rabbits, chickens, ducks, dairy goats or cows, sheep, llamas, donkeys, water buffalo, honeybees or even camels to families who are trained in animal husbandry, supervised, and required to donate the first offspring to another needy family. Livestock not only provide families with ongoing sources of food (eggs, milk, cheese, meat, honey) and/or fiber (wool), they also provide income from the sale of food, fiber, offspring or manure.

Hubby and I are giving a dairy goat. By doing so, we aren’t just giving a handout, we’re giving someone hope, dignity, and entertainment. (If you don’t know what goats have to do with entertainment, or if your life is a bit predictable and dull, then you need to give yourself a goat!)

If you’re at all interested in contributing a cow, bestowing a beehive, sharing a sheep, or providing a pig, check out the following organizations: Heifer International (, Samaritan’s Purse (, and Gospel for Asia ( Please let me know of others that are doing the same type of thing.

If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.                                Isaiah 58:10-11