Do you have all the free stuff yet?

I remember in graduate school there was a fantastic seminar we had the opportunity to attend free as graduate students.  During a discussion of who was planning to attend, one PhD student remarked he wasn’t planning to go and clarified that with, “I’ve already got all their free stuff anyway.”

dscn6703Today I had the opportunity to help host Cavin’ Fever – Ladies Day Out, an event that covered calving difficulty, management, and newborn calf care.  There were self-described ‘green hand’ ladies there, gals that have been immersed in ranching for decades, some women that had half a dozen cows and some that have hundreds of cows.  Some grew up in ranching, some married into ranching, and some add a calving night check to their day job.  And yet, each person shared what they learned throughout the day and multiple ladies commented on how they appreciated the camaraderie of the group.

A couple years back I gave one of my local farmers a ride to a conference.  On the trip to Great Falls she reviewed her notes from the previous day’s workshops and commented a couple times, “Oh, I need to look that word up, I hadn’t heard that one before!”  I silently marveled that someone would take the time to look up a word they didn’t know, rather than just gloss over it.

It is said that we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with.  To become a lifelong learner, we need to surround ourselves with other learners.  We need to take advantage of the opportunities available to us to learn, even if it involves stepping out of our comfort zone or prioritizing an opportunity.  As someone who has been blessed by an immense amount of learning opportunities and education through the years, I feel increasingly challenged to retain information in an era of ‘just Googling it.’  I feel challenged to read for content and to not just skim for what I’m looking for.  I feel challenged to block out the distractions.

Personally, I hope that I never reach the point where I miss a learning opportunity because I already have all the free stuff!  I want to desire knowledge and wisdom and be that lady taking notes and looking up unfamiliar terms.  As an extension agent, I hope you take advantage of all the opportunities available.  Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  May you surround yourself with those will sharpen and encourage you, just as I observed today.

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My Top 3 Investments of 2018

As I looked at my last 2018 retirement savings statement, the negative growth was certainly 078 cowdiscouraging.  As a I hope for an upturn in 2019, I paused to consider my investments in 2018 and their successes or lack thereof.  The following are my top three investments for 2018.

We started the year off buying a few 8-year-old bred cows from my folks.  With buying middle aged registered cows, I had the benefit of analyzing six years of performance data and their pregnancy ultrasound records in making my selections.  (I continue to maintain that using, not just collecting, data is key to progress in the cattle industry!)

Of that group, cow 032 raised two stout twin bull calves.  The timing never worked out to adopt one of the calves onto another cow, so she ended up raising them both on Mama’s milk and native grass, weaning 1,298 pounds of calf this October!  Another purchase, 078, weaned an 840-pound Big River bull calf, the heaviest of the herd.  Those cows may not have been as ‘fancy’ as a group of bred heifers, but they were proven cows adapted to the environment who all bred back this fall.

Kaleb and I wrapped up the ‘Moments with You’ couples devotional by Dennis and Barbara Rainey this year.  This $15 book has prompted us to take five to 10 minutes each day to read, discuss, and pray together over the topic at hand.  I’ve noticed there are many topics that we would probably have never discussed on our own, but with a little prompting it has led to some fruitful conversations.  I’ll be the first to admit I don’t want to do them every night, and I become resentful if a disagreement is soon followed by, “Time to do devotions!” but it has been certainly worth it.  I am continually reminded that the marriage we hope to have requires intentionality.  Whether that intentionality is devotions, asking what the spouse needs prayer for, or turning on a Focus on the Family radio program instead of Pandora, intentional marriage is a worthwhile investment.

And while the return on investment for calves weaned or a retirement portfolio is relatively easy to interpret, no such number comes with ministry.  However, investment in the lives of others is our greatest investment.  If being truly transparent, I drag my feet most Wednesday evenings knowing the masses of 3 to 12-year olds waiting at AWANA.  However, when the chaos fades away and it’s just a half dozen girls in a classroom learning bible verses, I am encouraged and refreshed.  God promises that His word will not return void, but that it will accomplish what He pleases, and that it shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:11), and that is enough.  Our Financial Peace University class was equally as encouraging as we saw students cut up their credit cards, pay off debt, accrue an emergency fund, and begin to realize their financial dreams are within reach!

The Lord reminds us to ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…’ (Matthew 6:33).  As you prioritize 2019, may you invest in that which is eternal and that which is wise!  God promises, “That if anyone lacks wisdom, we should ask Him, and He will give us wisdom generously.”  (James 1:5).  May we seek Him for wise investments in 2019!

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Over 2,000 years ago, the wise men followed a star to Bethlehem to see Jesus.

They couldn’t see every twist and turn in their trek, but they wisely sought and trusted God’s guidance to find their Savior and King.

How often do we try to do things our own way, thinking that we know best?  Or, miss out on God’s guidance and direction telling ourselves that we have to figure it out ourselves?  But God says that if anyone lacks wisdom, we should ask Him, and He will give us wisdom generously (James 1:5).  Like the wise men, we don’t see every twist and turn in the road ahead, but God does, and He promises to give us the wisdom we need.

As this Christmas season wraps up, will you wisely seek Him?  Will you seek Him daily in prayer and reading His Word?  Proverbs 8:11 tells us that wisdom is more precious than rubies and that nothing we desire can compare to wisdom.  All those ‘things’ that were marketed to us so heavily throughout Christmas will soon begin to gather dust, the batteries will wear out, or they’ll become obsolete.  But the wisdom of the Lord?  It is more precious than rubies, and nothing can compare.

As you head into the new year, may you seek Him daily, in the big things, the little things, the frustrations, the joys, the ups, the downs, and the everyday.  By reading just one chapter a day in Proverbs, by the end of the year you will have read the ‘Book of Wisdom’ 12 times!  God reveals Himself to us through His Word, and Proverbs is a great place to begin gaining God’s wisdom on marriage, managing money, work, raising children, seeking a spouse, and life.

Wise men still seek Him, will you?

7 Lessons Learned in ’17 (and thoughts of the future)

As I reflect back on this past year, here’s 7 lessons learned in ’17:

  • Appreciate the perspective – During Kaleb’s month-long work trip to Iowa this year, I kept the perspective in mind of when my Dad was also gone for multiple weeks for a job nearly 25 years ago. While Kaleb was gone, I had to pick up the slack and not only take the garbage out but also shovel the sidewalk myself!  Despite being over 1,000 miles apart, we were able to talk and text daily, and the USPS was able to deliver care packages in less than a week.  In my Mom’s day, not only did she have to take out the garbage but also was responsible for feeding and caring for two small children and 200+ cows.  Mom didn’t have the opportunity to call and text throughout the day, but instead hoped she would be able to get a call from Dad in the evening (when long distance rates kicked in and the day was done) while he waited his turn to use the one bunkhouse phone that all seven guys on the job shared.  It was only then that she got his over the phone help on how to thaw the water tanks or troubleshoot why the well wasn’t working. I hope one day I’m as tough and perseverant as my mom.
  • The law is easy, grace is hard – How relatively easy it is for me to tithe; 10% of our income is pretty easy to calculate and write a check for. How relatively easy it is for me to make it to church on Sunday.  It’s relatively easy to carve out three to five minutes in the evening to do a marriage devotional and check that off the list.  But forgive my husband 70 x 7 for the clothes on the floor?  Love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me?  Glory in sufferings?  Daily demonstrate patience to the lady who is perpetually late?  That for which there is no formula is much more difficult.  That for which can only be developed through seeking the Lord in humility, prayer, and the Holy Spirit within me, ah, how much more challenging that is!
  • Intentionality is necessary – How quickly the days, weeks, and years pass us by. If I want to visit Fairmont or the Izaak Walton with my husband, that will require actually scheduling days off.  If I want to read more real books, that will require limiting social media.  If I want to encourage others, I need to intentionally make phone calls and invite people over for dinner.  If I wait until things slow down at work, we’re caught up on the ranch, and the house is clean before I pursue that which I want to do, the days, weeks, and years will only continue to pass me by.
  • Talk about blessings more than burdens – How easy it is to grumble, complain, or gossip. Complaining requires no intellect or effort; it’s merely an effortless way to perhaps find common ground with someone without having to share anything personal.  After the weather, it’s an easy catch all topic.  But how different would things look if I instead testified to the Lord’s blessings and abstained from that which brings no fruit?
  • Embrace the tough – I am aware of how soft my life is. I work in a relatively climate controlled environment, earn a regular paycheck with insurance to boot, and enjoy a warm house with indoor plumbing and a freezer full of beef.  I naturally gravitate towards what’s easy, but I realize I instead need to embrace the tough for that is what provides a foundation for the future.  The University’s tenure process didn’t worry me this past year as I knew I’d made it through graduate school at the University of Nebraska.  The long days during calving and AI’ing have made my evening and weekend work for Extension not nearly as traumatic as for some people.  Tough times make tough people, and I am consciously aware that I need to embrace the tough conversations, tough work, and tough times to continue to grow and mature.
  • Organization is beautiful – As if struck by a disease this fall, I purged and organized my office. I introduced order to my cupboards and drawers and added notecards detailing what goes on which shelf to ensure order is maintained.  I separated the knives from the spatulas from the serving spoons at church.  It’s amazing how something so relatively easy can continue to bring satisfaction day after day!
  • Be grateful for today – We assume we will have tomorrow, and that tomorrow will be like today. But so many of our friends and neighbors have experienced dramatic wildfires, hurricanes, and droughts this past year.  May we thank the Lord daily for that which He has blessed us with, and trust that His ways are higher than our ways and through it all He will remain faithful.

 

Ten Things I love about America Today

This Veteran’s Day, I am so grateful for those who’ve defended America.  I’m grateful for the men and women who’ve scarified their dreams, their family life, their emotions, and for some, their lives, so that I could experience life in America as I know it.  To our veterans and to their families on the home-front, thank you for defending our country.  There’s no place I’d rather live, thank you for defending the United States of America.

Here’s 10 Things I Love about America Today:

  1. Freedom.  The freedom to worship God and gather together for prayer, the freedom of press, the freedom to travel freely within the country – daily I take for granted so many freedoms that others only dream of.
  2. Education.  I grew up with wonderful, creative, committed teachers who encouraged and inspired me.  There are many countries where girls do not have the privilege of education, but in America, I had an equal playing field that encouraged learning and doing my best.
  3. Democracy – It is a privilege that I can participate in government, that I have the right to vote, and that I have the ability to participate in the democratic process.
  4. Beauty – Snow capped Rocky Mountains, amber waves of golden wheat at harvest time, green grass in the Sandhills at springtime, America is a gorgeous, gorgeous place to call home.
  5. Natural Resources – Whether it be timber, coal, oil, gas, grass, or water, our nation is rich with resources.
  6. Agriculture – The bounty that this nation produces is phenomenal.  Whether its summer’s ripe cherries from Montana’s Flathead Valley, juicy sweet corn from Nebraska, succulent Florida oranges, or Washington’s gorgeous apples, I’m blessed by our nation’s productivity.  From coast to coast, we produce some of the best beef, pecans, rice, fruit, and wheat in the world.
  7. Ingenuity – Baseball, the internet, Google… America has consistently been the master of invention.
  8. Infrastructure and services – Hot and clean running water, electricity on demand, good roads, healthcare readily available, and first responders who continually put their lives on the line to protect us are all blessings of this nation.
  9. Opportunity – There is no limits to what can be accomplished in America.  Are there challenges?  Yes.  Is it perfect?  No, it’s certainly not, but I still believe America is the land of opportunity!
  10. The people – I have been blessed to know some of the most generous, kind, and caring folks as fellow citizens of this country.  When a neighbor is in need, our community comes together to raise money, bring meals, pray together, and encourage one another.

Thank you, veterans, I’m grateful that I get to enjoy all this!

Don’t give Trump so much credit, America

In less than 24 hours since Donald Trump has been named the President-elect of the greatest nation on this earth, it’s become apparent he’s being given far more credit than he’s due.  There’s anguished cries of, ‘How will my children grow up knowing not to discriminate?’ or, ‘How can I look my daughter in the eye and tell her she has purpose?’  Really?  Really, America?  You have given Donald Trump, a mere mortal man, far more credit than he deserves, especially considering the man hasn’t even taken office yet.  Trump does not have the power to mold our families, that is our flat-out our responsibility.

Your children will learn to love or hate, be respectful or disrespectful, wise or foolish, not by the character of the family in the White House, but by the family in their house.  May I submit to you that your sons and daughters will be far, far more influenced by their teachers, coaches, 4-H, FFA, Scouts or church group leaders than they will a man on TV.  I don’t feel my character was molded by the Bush, Clinton, or Obama families, but I did learn perseverance from my Dad, work ethic from my Mom, and to do my best (and then redo it) from my sister.  My college bible study leaders modeled to me how to seek God and my husband leads me in prayer.

Should those in the public spotlight conduct themselves in a honorable fashion with utmost integrity?  Absolutely.  However, it is not the responsibility of Miss America, the NFL, or the President, to set the example of moral conduct.  It is not the government’s responsibility to ensure American children have a good example.  It is our responsibility, as American citizens, to ensure that we lead our youth in showing what is right and good and honorable and true.  One good, God-fearing, America respecting football coach can do far more to shape the hearts and minds of teenage boys than Colin Kapernick.  If we want to make a difference, let’s stop worrying about Trump’s moral example and take an active role in our classrooms, churches, youth groups, sports team, 4-H and FFA.

Secondly, it is only a lie that one man in Washington can determine another person’s value or worth.  If you’re living and breathing, you have a purpose.  Case closed.  God fearfully and wonderfully made each one of us, and then continues to work in us for His good pleasure!  If I ever, ever seek another man or woman’s approval or affirmation to find purpose in my life, I will be sorely disappointed.  It does not matter if that individual is a supervisor, friend, husband, or the President himself, no one can provide me with purpose outside of the Lord.

Friends and fellow Americans, “Your success as a family… our success as a nation… depends not on what happens inside the White House, but on what happens inside your house.”  I pray these wise words of Barbara Bush should resonate with us, our nation has always and will always depend on the moral fiber of our families, nothing more, nothing less.  God bless, America, and America, bless God!

Pastors with Passion

Each October as Pastor Appreciation month comes around, I pause a bit to reflect on the pastors who’ve influenced my walk with the Lord.  I’m grateful for those who’ve not only responded to the Lord’s call on their life, but have served Him diligently, week after week, sharing His truth and love and grace.

Fresh out of college, I packed up my Dodge Intrepid and headed to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a Feedlot Management internship.  To say those 1,200 miles were rough would be an understatement.  Between a combination of not wanting to leave home, being pulled over for the first time in my life fifteen miles from home, a Wyoming thunderstorm that I was sure was the prelude to the rapture, and the acknowledgement partway across Nebraska that I knew no one, it was clear I was in over my head.  I arrived in Lincoln, NE on a Saturday night, and on Sunday found myself in the seats of Calvary Community Church.  Despite the large size of the church, I felt peace in hearing Pastor Carl Godwin’s words and seeing his smile.  Throughout the next two years at Calvary, Pastor Godwin reminded me of a Grandfather that I only wish I’d had.  He was at ease preaching, perched on a stool in front of the group.  He had a genuine smile that lit up whenever he was able to introduce a new baby to congregation (with each baby, he would walk down from the stage, hold the baby in his arms and pray for the family and truly rejoice at the blessing).  His love for his wife was evident, and he beamed with pride at watching her sing on the praise team.  He frequently encouraged his congregation to read a Proverb a day, to finish the book each month, a practice I still do now.

After six weeks in Lincoln, NE, I headed West for my internship at Minatare, NE.  Again, I found myself headed to a new church in a new town.  Even though I knew no one, seeing the pastor in boots, jeans, and a blazer greeting parishioners at the door of Mitchell Berean Church brought a smile to my face.  He preached with love, truth, and honesty as he shared personal stories of his struggles in the years while he rebelled against Christ.  He was transparent, authentic, genuine, and I appreciated his personal ranching reflections.  But what do I remember the most of Pastor Scott?  Each week, he would end his sermon by closing his Bible and looking out into the congregation with the words, “I love you, Mitchell Berean.”  It was raw and honest love that poured through Pastor Scott.

Summers during grad school found me in Hyannis, Nebraska, where Pastor Roy Monahan preached with diligence and faithfulness each week.  He tended to the congregation as a shepherd to a flock, carefully guarding the Church and its people.  After Pastor Roy married Kaleb and I and we began our married life near Arnold, NE, we were truly blessed with another wonderful pastor, Frank Scott.  Pastor Frank alternated between the pulpit and the saddle, spending his days both ranching and sharing the Word of God.  I will always remember the hot August day when it seemed every small child and baby in the church was fussing, and Pastor Scott ended the service by telling the mothers not to be frustrated by their kids, but smiled and said how grateful he was to have them in church.

For the last three years, Pastor Joe Litton has blessed us here in Cut Bank with his faithful leadership.  He is a man who epitomizes humility, wisdom, and a love for the Lord.  He radiates a personal relationship with Christ and is forever willing to give to others and to serve others.

I pray you may experience the blessing of gospel driven, humble men who preach the Word of God as I have.  I am grateful for these men for not only responding to the call of God in their life, but for their transparency to share their struggles and their walk with the Lord.  They’ve led by example in truth, love, and the study of His word.  Carl, Scott, Roy, Frank, and Joe, you’ve impacted me more than you will ever know, and for that I thank you.