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.

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!