Tag Archives: family farm

Merry Christmas!

For those of you who do not receive our annual Christmas letter via snail mail — Year #22 🙂



If I were to think of a family “mantra” for 2018, it is that we learned to live by faith. 2018 was a year full of blessings and change for us as we packed our faith to live with God’s grace. In April, a young man who I had been tutoring at the high school needed a place to call home so Joseph joined the family. He is a brave soul – stepping into a house full of women – and Matt rejoiced as he lost his status of “only male” in the family!

About six weeks after Joseph joined us, Ashley Grace graduated from high school. We are still adjusting to having an “adult” child as Matt and I wonder daily how we could possibly be old enough to have a college student. Ashley Grace joined the Notre Dame community in August and loves her new role. In addition to school, she is interning with the Girls On The Run organization. She has the heart of servant – plans to major in Political Science – is well on her way to being bilingual – and has a long-term goal of using her talents to help others to find their voices. She brought home straight A’s during her first semester in the Fighting Irish family and we are tremendously proud of her kind heart and fierce discipline.

A week after Ashley Grace’s graduation, Megan pole vaulted her way to victory at the 2018 Nebraska State Track Meet bringing home the gold in addition to a new school record. It brought joy to my heart to watch her develop confidence as an athlete as she soared 11’2” through the air. She still has her sights set on beating her Dad’s pole vault PR so we’ll see what the future holds 🙂 She began her junior year in high school this fall, and takes every science class available with the plan of studying physics or engineering when it becomes her time to start college. Meg approaches life with the same passion that she brings to the athletic field, and packs her faith with a devotion that allows for an ever-present smile.

2018 marks the year that Karyn found her voice. My quiet, shy girl blossomed into a confident and eloquent young woman. She is currently mastering 8th grade, and finding leadership roles on the various athletic teams that she loves so much. I think that she would report that swim team is still her favorite, but basketball and track are likely not far behind. Karyn’s compassionate heart combined with her steadfast loyalty provided an important foundation for Joseph as he began a new life with us. I love to watch the two of them be brave together – facing challenges with God’s grace and a faith that reflects Jesus’ universal agape love. They both serve as an inspiration for me.

Joseph is a senior in high school this year. In addition to mastering the art of deftly handling sisters, he played football in the fall and is now immersed into wrestling season. Matt reports that we are tremendously blessed as a family, and he and I are both so grateful that what used to be a great 5 is now an awesome 6! We continue to farm in the Platte River Valley where Matt amazes me with his adept entrepreneurship skills. I still work for the Beef Marketing Group with a continued passion to improve cattle welfare in feedlots. In my spare time, I coach the Cozad Swim Team and am an assistant coach for the junior high and high school cross country teams. We hope that your travels will bring you across Nebraska on Interstate 80 and that you will stop and visit us!

In the meantime, we send blessings and smiles from our farm to your family!

Matt,   Anne,   Ashley Grace,  Joseph,  Megan, and  Karyn   

 

 

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Nothing is insignificant…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from the gospel of Matthew 3: 13-15

Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” 


After I moved to the farm in 1997, I quickly learned that when you care for farm animals that it is the little things that matter most. Daily chores are a constant, and the quality of life for the animals is directly correlated with the quality of your workmanship. Nothing is insignificant. 

I think that one of the things that allowed me to find success as a cattle caregiver is my dedication to detail. If it affected the welfare of my animals, then I placed a priority on it regardless of whether or not I truly understood it. In the early 2000’s I delved deeply into “prey animal psychology” so that I could learn to think like my cattle. It led to a fascinating journey in mental and emotional health that continues to inspire me daily.

I’ll never forget the looks on my farm crew’s faces when I told them that I was going to start exercising cattle as a way to allow the animals to find a higher level of comfort on our farm. The expressions of bafflement might have been comical if I had not been so passionate on the topic. I knew in my heart that caring for God’s creatures involved a deeper level of commitment. Over time, my guys all became believers as the changes in animal care that I lead them on allowed for improved cattle health and well-being.


As I read Matthew 3, I can picture the look on John’s face as Jesus seeks to be baptized by him. It might just have been similar to the looks of bafflement that I received from my feed yard crew that day that I introduced them to cattle psychology 🙂 A lack of understanding can often lead to a human response of disbelief.

Why would the Son of God need to be baptized?

Because God required it.

Despite the fact that John did not really understand why he was being called to baptize Jesus, he preformed the action because God asked him to. He faltered a bit and needed Jesus to kindly remind him of God’s call, but together they moved in faith. If you read on further in Matthew we are told that “After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water; the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

What happened when God’s call was faithfully answered?

Blessings followed obedience and the act of faith resulted in Jesus becoming fully equipped with the Spirit of God for his earthly journey. Something that seemed unnecessary in human eyes played a critical role in God’s plan for Jesus and ultimately for us.


How many times do we fail to respond to something that God has asked of us because we do not fully understand it?

  • Perhaps it scares us
  • Perhaps it baffles us
  • Perhaps it seems insignificant as a result of our lack of comprehension

I know that this is something that I need to work on daily. For me, the vital part of walking with Jesus to fulfill God’s mission is found in the intentional commitment to answer the call; regardless of whether or not I understand it. It is the belief that nothing that God asks us to do is insignificant.

It’s okay that we can’t see the finish line —

what matters is being faithfully committed to the journey.

 

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The Power of One…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration for this week’s Wednesday Wisdom comes from Hebrews 10:23-24.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.


I think that this picture personifies the above scripture verse from Hebrews. Three very special people in my life who encourage each other to hold strongly to their faith — trusting God while also motivating each other to acts of love. They don’t always get it exactly right but watching them persevere inspires me.

Being a mother to them both humbles and honors me.

My heart wishes that my favorite brunette could have been in the above picture, but her presence is there — reflected in the love of her siblings — as we travel the journey together as a family.

We are closing in on six months of Joseph joining our family. It has been a time of great joy and also one of great challenge. Both hills and valleys have marked the adventure, but we are discovering the power of one. Interestingly, this is the motto of the Haymaker 2018 Football Team. Just as the team discovers how powerful one unified team is on the field, our family also discovers it off of the field.

It is very different to welcome a 17 year old as a son. Joseph was virtually a stranger to my family when I brought him home. We shared almost no common experiences, had made no “childhood memories” together, and brought very different life experiences to our perspectives.

  • He spent his formative years in a war-ridden country on another continent, fleeing by traveling on foot more than a thousand miles in search of safety.
  • My girls spent their formative years in a small rural town in peaceful Nebraska where “scary” meant watching Curious George be captured by the man with the yellow hat.
  • English is his 4th language and the culture of his home people holds very little in common with the traditions that we practice in the United States. Despite that, he speaks with fluency and is currently completing Honors English and American Government in the classroom.
  • My girls (and Matt and I) struggle to even pronounce his last name correctly — being unable to make our tongues create the gutteral sounds of the Zophei dialect of Chin. I encourage him to lead our nightly dinner prayer in his native language and regret that I am not savvy enough to truly understand his words.

We share a common christian faith, but our customs are as different as our skin color.

Why are we together as one? God called us to be a family.


Just as God is a relational God — always seeking a closeness to us in our daily lives — we are meant to exist in community. We are all made in His image, yet we are all unique. It takes patience and empathy to truly celebrate that diversity. He calls us to be a family — reflecting His love with our actions and searching for that same love in others.

I’ve learned many things since Joseph joined our family, but likely the most important lesson is that love trumps all.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

1Corinthians 13:7

It allows us to experience “The Power of One” as we come together to create a community that radiates God’s love. It is possible for people of different cultures – different visions – different perspectives to come together and join as a family.

Perhaps it is God’s principal calling for us. I know that it has been a transformational experience for our family as we trust in God’s promise and motivate each other to acts of love in the spirit of togetherness.

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Why Notre Dame?

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Inspiration this week comes from 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.”


Last week, we took our favorite brunette to college. This week, she begins her Notre Dame journey with an intent to study Political Science and Spanish. After spending the last couple of years watching her investigate various colleges and universities all across the country, it is rewarding for me to see her settle in a place where she feels at home.

You may well ask, Why Notre Dame?

I’ve heard the question many times since she made her decision. Why does an intellectual farm kid from “small town America” — a dedicated member of the Parkview Baptist Church family — choose to study at an elite Catholic University? It’s a reasonable question. While you’d have to ask her for her specific thoughts on the topic, I find direction in the above bible verse from 1 Corinthians 12: 12-13.


She’s grown up in a pretty unique house. It’s likely her dad’s fault that she is intellectual by nature. And, many may tell you that growing up with ‘Coach Anne’ as her mama left its mark as she is known for always being inspired to work diligently to use the gifts with which God blessed her. That being said, her faith in God provides her anchor and she walks with Jesus in her heart and the Holy Spirit guiding her steps.

She travels the journey as a child of God – a member of the body of Christ. I love how she lets her faith guide her — it inspires me as well as brings peace to my heart. We visited Notre Dame for the first time almost two years ago, and I could tell as we walked around the campus and interacted with the students that she felt God’s pull to join the Fighting Irish family. She had three main requirements for college and Notre Dame had them all:

  1. To attend a school where she could continue to build her faith.
  2. To be a part of a family that valued service to others.
  3. To find intellectual challenge as she worked to broaden both her perspective and her empathy.

When it came down to it, the religious label mattered little to her as she centered her focus on the foundation of Christian faith:

A belief in God the Father

A loving relationship with Jesus the Son who not only gave us Salvation but also the gift of the

Holy Spirit to guide us in our human journey.

She reminds me that the important question is not whether we are called to be Baptist or Catholic, rather it is are we willing to accept God’s love and submit to His guidance in order to strive to live a life of faith and grace. The team is stronger when its dedicated members are both passionate and diverse. The Holy Spirit likely does not speak to any two of us the same way, but He calls all of us to be a member of God’s team.

Answering the call will enable her to develop and deepen her faith during her time on campus through a focus on service, learning, and spreading the hope that stems from Jesus’s love.

In a time of chaos — In a world of conflict  — In a culture riddled with labels

I think that perhaps many of us could find a lesson in her journey. Her decision was not a comfortable one, and she will experience both times of joy and times of trial throughout her life as a member of the Fighting Irish family. But, Jesus calls each one of us to be a member of the body of Christ. We truly say “yes” when we submit to His invitation with a heart full of love and a mind rooted in His word for guidance.

I left her Saturday morning with a few tears in my eyes, but confidence in my heart as her eyes radiated God’s love and her Bible stood proudly on her desk.

 

 

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The Essence of Hope…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


My favorite blonde cowgirl brings inspiration for this scripture choice– this one is special to her and it comes from Proverbs 24: 16.

For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.


Our girls are our greatest blessings. There is something truly beautiful about children as they bring an added dimension to life. A child views the world with a unique perspective of innocence as well as an unrelenting fountain of hope. Even as teenagers, all three of my girls possess an ability to nurture their faith through an uncomplicated blend of optimism and forgiveness. This helps them to persevere with grace.

I’ll never forget a spring about ten years ago. It rained. And, it rained. And, it rained some more. It rained so much that we had to move cattle to higher ground. Then we got yet another hard rain that caused localized flooding both at our house and on the farm. I was emotionally defeated as well as physically drained. It seemed like the world was against me and my attitude reflected my failing faith.

The afternoon after the flood, the girls and I were driving around the feed yard. I was bitter, angry and full of judgement. Amidst my grumbling, I heard what could only be described as joyful laughter from the back seat of the pickup. I turned to look and, with a beaming smile on her face, Ashley Grace (age 8) leaned over the front seat and issued precious words of advice.

“Mama, it’ll be okay. We just need to build an ark.”

It was so simple for her. She believed that God was with us, and her faith never faltered. Despite the fact that she was watching her dad and I fall at the farm, she had internalized the important notion that if we behaved appropriately that we would rise again. She knew it was going to be alright, and the optimism and faith radiating in her eyes inspired me to recenter myself and fix my attitude. After that day, we did not receive any more rain for about 30 days which gave us plenty of time to fix the house and get the farm back on its feet. The hard work wasn’t done, but the emergency had passed.


I believe that God, with the Holy Spirit, communicates with us through feelings and experiences. I’ve no doubt that He was present in the pick up that day and spoke to me through my daughter. I also believe that He continuously pursues me in a desire for a meaningful relationship. This helps me to find righteousness in my actions and rise again when I falter. The number seven reminds me that perfection isn’t the goal. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, so he inspires us to keep going – to keeping trying – always striving to live a more honorable life.

It is no surprise to me that Proverbs 24:16 is Megan’s favorite scripture verse. Meg has an innate sense of humility — she is fully aware that she makes mistakes — but she is just as certain that God will help her to rise again each time that she falls.

This is the essence of hope.

This is a cornerstone of faith.

This is the beauty of being on God’s team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gates and Doors…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s scripture can be found in Revelations 3: 20.

Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.


As a cattle farmer, I spend a lot of time thinking about gates. Gates are essentially doors used for animals and provide critical tools for a cattle caregiver. Sometimes gates are physical, and sometimes they are the metaphorical ones that lead to a mental connection — either way, they are the pathways for forward progress.

I often think to myself:

  • Are the correct gates open to allow my cattle to go where I need them to go?
  • Are the correct gates closed to keep my cattle from going somewhere that I do not want them to go?
  • As a leader, do I correctly manage the gates as I either invite or discourage my cattle?

The simplest way to lead my animals is to cause my idea to be their idea. When we share the same thought, then we find harmony in whatever farm chore is being done. The first part to sharing a thought is gaining attention. While I don’t “stand at the door and knock” — I do the cow equivalent and enter their space until they lift their eyes and grant me their curious attention.  The moment that I become their focus, then I can begin to open the communication gate and guide them to the correct physical gate. 

There is always a choice involved, and sometimes I need to be persistent in the proper position with my animals until they chose to make that connection with me. I must be patient as well as sensitive because if I link up with them at the right moment and in the right way, then the cattle not only follow my direction but they also continue to view me as their trusted leader and caregiver. While I use physical gates and fences to help guide them, finding the doorway to their brains provides the key to having a healthy and low stress experience.


It seems to me that God makes a perfect cowboy. As a tenaciously patient and loving leader, he uses the Holy Spirit to stand at my door and knock. My awareness and willingness to engage drives whether or not we travel the journey together. He persistently pursues — always knocking and waiting for me to respond.

  • I know that there are times that God knocks and I miss it — either letting the chaos of daily life distract me from the call, or ignoring the invitation because I fail to get my priorities in the correct order.
  • I also know that my hours are better – my days are better – and my life is better when I open the door to my heart and mind to answer the call.

Sharing time with God makes life meaningful. It brings peace to the world’s chaos and reminds me of the importance of centering my life with love. Like a good friend, God offers unconditional strength and support as I travel the journey. The trinity makes a remarkably powerful combination and I have come to realize how important it is to be a part of His team.

There are many farming references in the Bible, and I think that my life is most complete when I am both one of God’s sheep as well as a loving shepard to those whom God places along my path.

Love, strength, and purpose all live on the other side of the door — We simply need to answer the knock.

 

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A Culture of Love…

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s verse comes from Hebrews 11:1

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.


Of all of the lessons that I have tried as a parent to teach my girls, packing their faith quickly rises to the top of the priority list. Faith allows for hope – it brings peace – and it enables you to live with honor to help create a culture of love. It fuels you with the inspiration to take the time to care and to spread God’s love to others along the journey.

Every time that I read Hebrews, those eighteen words jump off the page at me and inspire me to ponder their meaning. I believe that the heart of this verse is rooted in the Holy Spirit.

When I tell my girls to pack their faith, I mean for them to listen to God’s voice that manifests itself inside of them through the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit’s influence in our lives that the reality of hope/peace/joy/love can be attained during our time on earth. Our relationship with the Holy Spirit brings closeness with God. It allows for a grateful heart as well as the ability to see the instruction and opportunities that God places along our path. Our eyes cannot see His presence, but our hearts and minds still receive his faithful guidance and support.



Learning to be a caregiver for cattle helped me to develop an attention to detail that aids me in my spiritual journey. It may sound crazy, but cattle are attune to the slightest movement – the smallest sign – and respond to caregiver leadership best when the communication begins with natural subtlety. To be a good cattle caregiver, you need to slow down, pay close attention and search for the non-verbal cues that the animals send to you. This allows you to balance your energy with theirs’ and find harmony.

I best understand God’s direction when I slow down, pay close attention, and search for signs of his guidance. Just as I lead and direct my cattle to ensure that they receive good care, God guides me on a similar journey.


I’m very much a work in progress, but I clearly feel the work of the Holy Spirit in my own life — offering direction and refilling my cup as I look for balance and harmony. There is an awesome sense of peace that comes from making reality out of hope, and finding the evidence of abundant love as we attune our lives’ with faith through the Holy Spirit.

 

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The Gift of Giving…A behind the scenes glimpse of small town America

Wednesday Wisdom 🙂


Today’s verse comes from James 3:13

If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.


I became a farmer when I fell in love with my favorite farmer. Just as I married into agriculture, I also married into rural America. For a wedding gift, some of my college friends got a large map of the United States, entitled it “Civilization: A Nebraskan’s Guide Out”, and marked lines from Cozad, Nebraska to their home towns thereby showing me how to get back to civilization on the East Coast 😉 . The gift was a tongue in cheek joke stemming from the fact that none of them could believe that I actually wanted to move to a tiny town in Nebraska and make my life there as a farmer.

Twenty two years later, the map (which I framed) is faded and blurred but I still smile every time that I look at it. I knew at age 21 that Matt and I were meant to be together, and I opened my heart to the community that welcomed us a year later when we moved back to the farm. I have never needed “A Nebraskan’s Guide Out” because my adopted home state still holds my heart just as firmly as my favorite farmer.

There is a statistic floating around social media right now stating that 53% of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers actively volunteer in their local and state communities (compared with just 7% of the general public). While I have not “fact checked” this statistic, I can say that my life experiences in Nebraska demonstrate the dedication of Rural America to giving back. I know that my community inspires me to actively volunteer as I view sharing of myself to help others as a top life priority.  

Over the years, I have learned the true gift of giving. It has two components and I truly treasure them both.

  1. An unending well of energy fills your soul when you reach out in faith to help others. Good works are a demonstration of faith — they are the Holy Spirit guiding your life so that your love is shared, your talents are used to honor your neighbors, and your actions provide a living display of God’s loving hand.
  2. Giving in love inspires gifts of love. Good works are contagious as they allow for the spread of faith. Random acts of kindness are not random. Rather, they are intentional acts of love that result from a joyful and faithful heart. God is on the move through each one of us as we intentionally share of ourselves to help others.

Last weekend, our family took a four day trip to Colorado. February is generally a quiet time for Matt on the farm, so we try to take advantage of it for some intentional family time. My favorite farmer loves to snow ski and my girls happily zoom down the mountain in his wake. The long weekend is a time for us to regroup as a family and is something that both Matt and I treasure.

Our second day gone, Matt received word that one of his storage buildings at the alfalfa mill had caught fire. Matt burns sawdust (as a means of recycling) for energy to run the alfalfa dehydration plant during the summer harvest months. It allows us to reduce the environmental footprint of the farm because it uses a “waste product” to create the energy needed to dry and pellet the alfalfa. It is necessary to accumulate and store the sawdust over the winter months to ensure the needed supply for the summer months. Matt’s crew was working in the building on Friday when equipment malfunctioned – sparked – and started a fire.

The local volunteer fire department, along with our farm crew, worked diligently to contain the fire. Their hard work enabled us to continue with our family weekend instead of packing up to rush home to an emergency. Matt spent some needed time on the telephone, and worried rather than sleeping most of the night, but we were able to salvage what will likely be our last vacation before our oldest daughter leaves for college next fall.

Our crew – Our community – banded together to give us a gift. We didn’t even need to ask for it. It was given freely and with generous hearts. To me, this is the exquisite beauty of rural Nebraska. When challenges come, a support network automatically assembles to fill the need. Our community is filled with neighbors – those that help with giving hearts and a dedication to James’ call for demonstrating faith through good works.

Matt and I would like to thank all those that gave of themselves to lend aid. Your selfless generosity fills my heart with the joy of faith, and humbles me with the knowledge that we are loved — cared for — and honored as members of our family of Cozad. The clean up will take time, patience, and much work but you all have given us a reason to be thankful in the face of challenge.

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