Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Stopping to Take it All In

This Christmas I found myself being more reflective than I have been in the past.  I think so often, especially on livestock farms, we get so caught up in the tasks of farming and getting stuff done just to spend a little time with family during the holidays that we neglect to stop and take it all in.   I found myself noticing my nieces’ smiles, laughing with my goddaughter as she played hide and seek with Nana, and smiling when I watched my 93 year old great grandfather just watch his family around him.  I also took some time in the barn to take it all in.  I was asked by my brother to milk cows and do chores so that he could visit his in laws for Christmas.  Since I have a more flexible schedule I decided to help him out.  For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I was at my family’s farm working with my parents and sisters.  This year, more than ever before I needed to stop and take it in.  This is the last Christmas Eve and Christmas morning that I will ever milk in my great grandfather’s original barn, as in the coming months my family’s herd will be moving into a new parlor that my brother is building.  I am overjoyed at the farm’s progress but I can’t help my smile and tear up a little bit thinking about the memories in that old barn.

My favorite mornings and nights to milk are during Christmas.  I love the calm in the barn, the calm in the moonlight and star light at winter time, the calm in the morning at sunrise just as the sun shine hits the frozen Earth.  I love the gentleness of the cows as they pass into the barn, a soft nudge while I lock them into their milking stalls, and a wet kiss with their scratchy tongues as I pet their heads.  I love the smell of cows, their feed, the fresh bedding, and I even think freshly fallen Christmas snow smells.  I will always remember the years we put Christmas lights on the pasture fences, the silo pipes and the milk room, and how they made the whole farm glow in the snow.   I love the memories of working as a family to get chores done in time to make it to Grandpa’s house and the stories told by my father and mother of Christmas’s past.  I can’t help but feel connected to my past when I’m in that old barn.  I bet those walls have some amazing stories from Christmas when my dad was a little boy, or even when my grandfather was a boy!  I bet there was lots of laughter, as my dad’s family is filled with pranksters and story tellers.  I can’t even begin to imagine how much wisdom and lessons learned happened inside those walls!  The good news is that my family doesn’t plan on tearing that old barn down.  It will remain a pillar of the farm for the future.  The barn will be used for calving in fresh cows and taking care of newborns, but it won’t be the same life it had as a milking barn with a vacuum pump firing up in the morning and lights on late at night.  So as I reflect on my last Christmas milking in that barn, I can’t help but feel blessed to have an experience that only a few are blessed to have. 


Thursday, December 24, 2015

My 2015 Christmas Card

My 2015 Christmas Card Letter, too all of my readers, I wish you the most blessed Christmas Season! 
Tis the season for Christmas Cards and well wishes once again!  What a year it has been!  This year I thought I would use my 2015 Christmas letter to highlight some of the things that I have been so grateful for during this year of growth and renewal. 

1.       I am so grateful for the family who reached out to me and helped while I was moving.  Thank you to all of you who were generous, who allowed me to land while I waited for God’s plan for my life to unfold.  Thank you for the family who loves me unconditionally and have shown me what unconditional love looks and feels like.  I hope I can return your love.

2.       I am so grateful for my friends that have been there through everything with me.  What a blessing you have been to share my journey, to listen, to send me a text just saying hi, and it is an even greater blessing it is to be able to listen to you and share in your journeys.  I am so blessed to be able to see your vulnerabilities, to see your strengths, to watch you grow.  I had some of the best times with friends at concerts, events, girls’ weekends, a Friday night out, or just enjoying the company of you and your families!

3.       I am grateful for the opportunities that I took this year to go to conferences, growing my leadership and personal skills, reading more books, and meeting more people.  I am so blessed by the opportunity to live in the moment and experience life to the fullest, to have conversations with new people I meet, and marvel in how great these people are.  I am blessed to have attended several Women in Agriculture events this year, and each time I went I came home with so many more ideas to apply to my personal and professional life. 

4.       I am grateful for the job I have as a dairy specialist.  I get the pleasure of working with dairy farmers, some of the greatest, kindest people I have ever known.  I get to help them make their farms better, and while I don’t have a farm of my own it still allows me the chance to still be involved in making food for people and providing the best care possible for cows.  I am also being challenged to learn new skills like welding and plumbing, while working with our team.

5.       I am grateful for my nieces, nephew, goddaughters and “adopted” nieces and nephews (my friends’ kids).  While I don’t have children of my own, it is such a blessing to see life through these innocents’ eyes.  It is a blessing to be a part of their lives, make play dates and watch them grow into awesome people, just like their parents.  I try to never take their little hugs and kisses for granted.

6.       I am grateful for the house I now call my home: for its cute rooms and DIY projects, its bountiful vegetable garden in the back yard, the beautiful flower beds in the front yard and the kind neighbors I now enjoy.  I am so blessed to live in New Ulm, a city with a lot of history and charm as well as amazing people and even though I miss my country living, this will keep me happy for now.

7.       I am grateful I have more time to use social media and my blog to educate others about what is happening in agriculture.  It is priceless to open the eyes of just one consumer to the importance of agriculture and the value of avoiding fear tactics in marketing.  It is a blessing to make these connections with others as well as connect with other farmers who are striving to do the same.

8.       I am grateful that I have my health and I was able to participate in several 5K runs with friends this spring and summer.  More importantly I was able to go on bikes rides, walks, and runs with friends and family.   

9.       And Most of all I am grateful for our Lord and Savior, who during this Christmas season reminds us of his selfless sacrifice.  How blessed are we that God sent his only son as an infant to die for our sins, to love us unconditionally!?!  I pray that when you gather with your families this holiday season that you too, can reflect on the many blessings in your lives, how even the hardships and the suffering can be blessings in disguise and then be sure to express your gratitude to God, for through him all things are possible.

God Bless You, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Generations that came before Me

Doing calf chores on my family's farm.
I had the pleasure of milking cows with my dad last night.  I took advantage of the situation and asked him about his memories of his dad and grandfather.  He started sharing stories from the past. The stories that are so awesome that you hope you can remember them forever.  While dad was talking about his family, I asked him what his grandfather, my great grandfather, would think about the happenings at the farm (new parlor being constructed).  My dad smiled with a big grin, “I think he would be proud.  I think he would say to me, ‘That’a boy! Way to go!’” I smiled.  I know dad would be right but what I didn’t expect was the reason dad thought his grandfather would be proud.  My dad smiled again, “Your great grandfather would be proud because we are still working and milking cows, in fact almost 130 cows in the original barn that he built when he started farming here years ago.”  It was the idea that we were still using something that my great grandfather built and that through the generations has become a legacy of farming for my niece and nephew.  I couldn’t help but smile and be proud also.  It has been such a blessing to be the collection of the generations that came before me: the ideas and dreams that they had, the hard work that they did, and everything that they strived for.  If it wasn’t for certain decisions at a certain times by these ancestors, I might not be who I am today doing what I am doing.

A path was laid out for me before I was born, this I know and I have complete faith in.  A perfect example of this path is when my father was a graduate from high school.  My grandfather asked him what he wanted to do with this farming career, there was no doubt my dad was coming home to farm it was just a matter of what was he going to raise and grow.  My grandfather had a variety of crops: corn, soybeans, oats, wheat, alfalfa and he even grew peas for the local canning factory.  My grandfather also raised dairy cows, beef steers, hogs and in his younger years, horses.  When my dad was a senior in high school my grandfather was moving towards having only pigs and beef cattle.  He had built a hog barn and he was breeding his Holstein milking cows to Herefords, starting his beef herd and transitioning out of dairy.  When my dad was faced with the question of what he was going to raise, he couldn’t get himself to have a farm without dairy cows.  My dad and my grandfather went on a shopping trip for Holstein heifers which resulted in a replenishing of the dairy herd as well as breeding all of the dairy cows back to Holstein bulls.  If dad had not made the choice to have dairy cows on our farm, my siblings and I would not have had the opportunities that we had growing up.  Sure, we would have had beef cows and pigs, as well as crops, but there is something special about dairy cows, something special in all of our hearts.  Without dairy I would have never had the opportunity to show cows for 4-H or be a finalist for Princess Kay and have my head carved in butter at the Minnesota State Fair.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have gone to college for dairy production, had the opportunity to operate a family farm or work in a career where I am able to help other dairy farmers.  Based on that single choice that my dad made, because he wasn’t ready to have a farm without dairy cows, I am who I am.  I am the collections of all the generations that came before me and that is just cool!  It’s this very reason that I enjoying spending a little time asking my dad these questions and learning more about those who came before me.  I have so much to learn from them. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Advent and the Year of Mercy

In the holiday spirit I thought I would post a blog about what I truly believe the holidays are about, and conveniently it also works to post about the celebration of the Year of Mercy.  Pope Francis celebrated the start of the Year of Mercy yesterday, a perfect platform for the holidays to discuss what Christmas is really about.  Advent is a time of renewal and preparation; it is a time for growth, but when you combine it with the Year of Mercy it truly amplifies the opportunity for growth.  So what is mercy all about and why should we care?  Mercy is more than forgiveness and thankfulness, it is putting grace into action.  So what are some things that we can all do in this season of advent to help perpetuate mercy?

As a child growing up I remember the importance of going to the sacrament of reconciliation during advent.  This was part of the process of getting ready for the coming of Christ at Christmas, but I would challenge you to go one step further.  Have we asked for forgiveness from those we have wronged?  Have we asked for forgiveness for the pain we have caused others?  Have we given forgiveness to those who have wronged us, even though they have never asked for forgiveness?  It is a very humbling experience to go to those that you have wronged and ask for forgiveness, especially when you know you don’t deserve it, but it is also completely liberating.  Even if we never receive forgiveness from those we have caused pain, just the action of coming to them and asking for forgiveness alone can free us from the suffering that comes with sin.  Mercy takes forgiveness one step beyond the confessional.  How often we hear stories of people who have been called to forgive those who have murdered, raped, threatened, assaulted, or harassed?  Somehow these special people find strength in the vulnerability of forgiveness to do the unthinkable, to forgive those that don’t deserve forgiveness.  These inspirational people go on to live life liberated from that suffering.  Are there people in your life that you need to forgive that don’t deserve forgiveness?  Who are we to decide who deserves forgiveness and who doesn’t?  This is where real mercy comes into play, forgive those who don’t deserve it, love those who are unlovable, be Christ in our world.

Perhaps forgiveness at this level is too big of a step, then start small.  Donate money, toys, food or clothes to a local charity to help them during this holiday rush.  How about taking the time to visit with an elderly neighbor that doesn’t have a family during the holidays to visit them?  Have you taken some time to visit with coworkers or employees outside of work, and shown them appreciation for all that they do?   Have you considered making a meal for a family that just welcomed a new baby?  I’m sure a little bit of relief would be gladly appreciated, or even a free night of babysitting so friends can have a special date night.  Have you taken the time to be kind and show appreciation to your spouse and children?  When was the last time you talked to a good friend and just listened to them talk about their joys and stresses?  What about the family member that lives far from home, when was the last time you talked to them?  During the busyness of the holidays, I really encourage you to stop and take a little inventory.  Where can we show mercy to others, to be kind, to be love?  Where can you make life better for someone else, because it is in giving of ourselves that we become truly blessed!  Happy Advent to everyone!