Category Archives: Grace

The vine, the branches and the computer

I am the vine and you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:5
 
I have been thinking about this verse lately. It says that apart from him I can do nothing! I can’t breathe, walk, think or anything else. The implications of this are staggering. I have pondered this verse many times. The last few days, He has made it clear to me that I have a long way to go before I understand this verse.

The dying computer

 
My computer has been dying a slow and painful death for the last few months. My talented IT guru, my husband, recommended that I save anything important to my Google Drive. And wait for it to die. It had symptoms for a long time but was usable until last week.
 
On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, it was clear that it was fading fast. In those two days, I was able to get it to boot and function once.
 
On Friday, my husband was able to diagnosis and repair the problem. He explained what was wrong. I didn’t understand it all except that it was big and bad. He had to create me a new profile. This meant that I had to re-create my desktop and sign into a bunch of things.
 
Early Saturday morning came and the computer worked fine. I started re-creating my computer. I thought the troubles were over. Later, we went out of town for the day so I didn’t touch the computer. Sunday was busy so the computer stayed off.
 
Monday morning came and I tried to use the computer. It started having the same symptoms as before he fixed the issue. I let him know the issue had returned. Later in the day, he found a disk drive error. He was able to repair it. I am happy to report that the computer has been working perfectly since then.
 
So with the whole computer disaster, I was without a working computer for about a week. We rely on our computers a lot around here. I found out the hard way how much of my life depends on this silly machine. I can’t tell you how many times I would say to myself, “I can’t do that, it is on the computer.” Even cooking dinner was a pain. We have started storing our recipes on a program called Pepperplate. My husband would have to go to Pepperplate his computer, email me the link and I would pull up the recipe on my phone.

God and computers

 
Yesterday God and I were talking. He reminded me of the verse in John 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” He spoke very so gently and only He can do. He reminded me that I repeatedly said that I couldn’t do anything without my computer. He reminded me that I have lived in a time without computers and done fine so my words were not true. I was only inconvenienced without a computer. Without any hint of anger or condemnation, he asked, “Do you think of me that way?” Do you ever think that you can’t do anything without me?” The truth of his question hit my heart because many times a day I do things in my own strength. I almost never think that apart from him I can do nothing.
 
While the truth of my own thoughts stung for a moment that is not what I noticed the most. It was the overwhelming sense of His love and grace. I had a glimpsed the majesty of our God and I was in awe.
 
He is so great, grand and majestic. I got a glimpse of Jesus as he is described in Colossians 1:15-17
 
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[f] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
 
He holds everything together so apart from him, I can do nothing.
 
What about you? I would love to hear your understanding of this verse.

Still learning about blogging

I still have a lot to learn about working this program! I goofed this morning. I hit the publish button before I was ready. I needed to fix a few things before the post was ready for the world to see.  I thought it would resend the email out once I updated my post. I was wrong. In case you were wondering when the post was going to appear, here is the correct link. The Latest “Doings” at the Double Portion Ranch.  Thanks for your patience.

The Latest “Doings” at the Double Portion Ranch

I feel like I haven’t written in ages.  Nothing was wrong with life, just really busy. Writing was not a priority. Living life was. Spending time with God, family, and friends was important. Pull up a chair and read about the latest “doings” around the Double Portion Ranch.
 
My husband and I repaired our chicken coop. We built a new fire pit to burn our trash. We moved 150 cinder blocks in two days. Some of those blocks were moved many times. (Google says an average cinder block weighs between 30-35 lbs.)
 
We have 20 new chicks to add to our flock of 25. Right now, they are being raised in a dog crate on the front porch. Soon they will move into a larger coop inside our approximately 20 ft. x 30 ft. chicken coop. They should start laying eggs in the early fall of this year.
 
The Pyrenes puppies are now 5 months old. They are adorable and have stolen our hearts. They are learning the ropes to protect the sheep but are still very much puppies! If there is any mud on the property, they find it.

Snowball & Sugar

Snowball

The emu chicks are growing like weeds. We have commitments from people that want to buy them. Yeah, we have sold all 5. We are making plans for them to be picked up. This should be fun because none of us, including the buyers, have ever caught a baby emu. Stayed tuned for that post.

Chicks are 2 1/2 months old.

 
We have worked on doing some spring cleaning of our front porch. There were leaves, dust, and debris from the winter that needed to be cleared away. We have a large covered porch; it is easy for clutter to accumulate. We took care of that. We have been enjoying sitting on the front porch swing in the evening. We watch the hummingbirds and fireflies until darkness falls.
 
We feel like God has said that we should “feed people”. It is a big goal with not much direction at the moment. We have hopes and dreams of what we would like to see. For now, we do what we can. In two weeks’ time, I made 6 loaves of bread and 13 dozen chocolate chip cookies. Some of it stayed here and some went to other people. We also hosted a sit-down spaghetti dinner for 11 people at our home. For some time, we have been donating to our local food bank. We are in the beginning stages of volunteering there a couple of Saturday mornings a month. We hope to be able to start in June.
 
I finished reading the entire Bible last week. This is the fourth year I have done this and it works well for me. I spend the first four(ish) months reading the entire Bible. I use a chronological reading plan; I read the books in the order that they were written. I don’t study; I make a few notes here and there. I read it like one would read a novel. Then I spend the next 8 months of the year studying topics that I noted while reading. While it might not work well for all, it is a cool process for me. I will do it again next year. I have started a verse by verse in depth study of 1 John.
 
I have written before about my plan vs. God’s plan. There have been many times in the last few weeks where I have wanted to write a blog post and have been stopped. He has said, “It’s not in the plan for today; just live life.” That is what I have done.
 
What about you? Where has life taken you the last few weeks? I leave you will a Corrie ten Boom quote that I can’t get off my mind because of the truth of it. “There is no panic in Heaven! God has no problems, only plans.”

Happy 4th Birthday Pistol!

I missed my sheep’s birthday by a few days for the blog post.  She was born on May 5, 2013. It was a Sunday morning and we were on the way to church. We were scheduled to be greeters that morning. We never made it to church that morning.

We were on the way to the car and noticed a group of sheep behind the house. One of the pregnant ewes was acting strangely. We went to investigate. It was obvious that she was in active labor. We were going to see a lamb being born. We had only lived here for a few months and had not yet seen a birth. We were excited.

This was a first-time mom. She was scared and had no idea what to do. She literally pushed out the lamb onto the ground and ran. She did not want to have anything to do with her baby. We tried to introduce the lamb to her. Sometimes, if you can get the lamb to nurse, mom will accept it. It wasn’t happening. So we became first-time lamb surrogate parents.

We had our first bummer lamb.`That is the correct agricultural term for a lamb that is raised either partially or completely by humans. Since we do not have a barn she was raised in the house in a dog crate. My older daughter and I took turns doing the required around the clock feedings. 

The same week, we acquired a 4-month-old Great Pyreness puppy. I didn’t want the dog but we had friends in desperate need. Our friends were in the military. He was within days of putting in his papers for retirement and received orders. They couldn’t take the puppy with them. They were moving from 5 acres to house in a subdivision. We took the dog. His name is Balto. He stole my heart. I can’t imagine life without him. He is important on our ranch.

I would never have made it through the first few months without Rachel’s help. She is an amazing surrogate sheep mom.

The rhyme goes, “Mary had a little lamb.” My little lamb grew up to be a beautiful ewe. Happy 4th birthday Pistol!

 

 

My Plans…

For I know the plans I have for you

Jeremiah 29:11

This morning I was putting some clothes in the dryer. Umm, the setting was wrinkle release. I dried them last night and forgot to take them out of the dryer. Of course, it was the load that had items in it that would wrinkle. I was talking to God while I was working. I asked Him to direct my steps today. I had several things that I wanted/needed to get done today but I wanted to do the things he had planned for me today. I said my prayer and got on with my day and didn’t think anything of it until…
 
This is the second version of this blog post. The computer froze and I had to restart it. I lost the entire entry. It was almost finished. I guess God had other ideas of what needed to be said. I can believe that or I can get upset about losing my work. I guess I know which is better. But, there is a big part of me that feels like I wasted my time.
 
I liked the previous blog post. This one is very different than the one I had planned. Maybe those words will be for another day.
 
Today, he is reminding me of the beginning of Jeremiah 29:11. It says, “For I know the plans I have for you”. He knows the plans! I asked to do what he wanted me to do today. I am a calendar person and I make “to do” lists. But he has a plan. We tend to think of God’s plan for our life. But we forget that he has a daily plan.
 
It is way too easy for me to plan out my day or my week with the things that need to be done. I am not saying that is a bad thing because we each have responsibilities. I am flustered when things don’t go the way I had planned. I could have been upset when the computer ate my blog post. I would have been if I had not remembered my prayer.
 
As I look at my emotional reactions the last few days, I know that I have not been content. I have made plans and they have not turned out that way. Dinner was way late last night and that bugged me. I had planned to have dinner ready at a reasonable hour but we didn’t eat until about 7:45. Hubby and I fed the animals. It took longer than it should have. We had to rescue an emu stuck in the garden area. Then we had to rescue a sheep that had his head stuck in the fence. I had planned to grill hamburgers for dinner. I lit the charcoal and went inside to prepare the meat. I went outside to check the coals and the fire had completely gone out. I lost about 30 minutes. Nothing major happened. All the animals were safe and we ate dinner. But things did not happen like I planned. I forgot that the plan is his not mine.
 
This morning, he reminded me that the plan is his with a frozen computer. What about you? Do you have the similar struggles? Let me know what you think.

Sometimes my days are as packed and out of focus as these ewes waiting to be sheared. Remember the plan is His.

Weep with those who weep

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep
 
Romans 12:15 (ESV)

This week

 
This has been a week of reaching out to friends that are remembering past tragedies in their lives. We surround our friends with love when the event happens. Then we go on with life and forget about the anniversaries. That is not a bad thing; it just is. Sometimes people don’t want or need anniversaries remembered. It is personal.
 
I remember my dad died in late August 1981. My sister was shot in a workplace shooting on July 23, 2003. My mother-in-law died on January 31, 2011. My mom died on July 2, 2015. Each of these has personal significance to me. It doesn’t matter to me if others don’t remember them but I do.
 
The three events that I remembered with friends were personal but also in the public eye. In my last post, 731, I remembered and gave honor to the Herrera family. April 17th was the two-year anniversary of their son’s suicide. Today, I turn to two other events that happened on April 19th.
 

April 19,1993

The first is the end of the Waco siege of the Branch Davidian compound on April 19, 1993. We were close friends with a cameraman from one of the San Antonio news stations. Our families went to the same church. Our daughters were the same age. We did things together as families. We would trade off babysitting for date nights. I don’t remember how long he was on location but it was longer than intended. Waco is about three hours north of San Antonio. It was supposed to be one day trip. I don’t remember if it was days or weeks he was gone but it was long and stressful.
 
I was a stay at home mom at the time, our older daughter was a little over a year old. I remember being glued to the television that morning. It seems like hubby was at home too. But that doesn’t make sense because it was a Monday. He would have been at work. Not sure either way. I remember seeing the compound go up in flames and thinking our friend was in harm’s way. Two years earlier we had watched the bombs in Desert Storm go off in an area where a friend was stationed. Many people died that day; our friend came home safely to his family.
 

April 19, 1995

Two years later on April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City bombing happened. It purposely staged to happen on the same date as the Waco fire. I remember watching the scenes of devastation on the television. I wouldn’t know until many years later that a friend was in the middle of the chaos. I worked with my friend several years ago. We were close friends at the time. Now, we live in two different cities and don’t often talk. Every year on April 19th, I send her a message of remembrance and prayer. OKC is her hometown. She was an EMT on duty when the bombing happened. She worked her shift and quit her job soon thereafter. She has been divorced and is a cancer survivor. I have heard those stories. What I know about her time at the OKC bombing is in the paragraph that you just read. She doesn’t talk about it. It is important for me to tell her that I remember her and all the others like her that helped saved lives that day.

What about you?

 
You may not have friends that been affected by such public tragedies or you might. No matter, be there for your friends that need you on the anniversaries of times of grief. All it takes is a phone call, text or note saying that you remember and that you are praying for them. It means a lot. It is a tangible form of love.
 
 
Do you have dates in your life that it is important for others to remember? Did friends or family members come to your mind when you read this? Reach out to them. As always, I would love to hear your comments.
 

731

Suicide

I live in a small, rural community. We have one high school. Many of the students have parents and grandparents that attended that same school. We have only lived here a few years and are slowly building those ties to the community. Two years ago today at 9:41 a.m. tragedy struck that shook the town. One of our teenagers committed suicide at the high school during the school day. Though I did not know them, the family was a part of my church. The family was loved in the community. I would guess 1000 or more showed up for the funeral. Our church building seats 400 at best. There were people packed everywhere. There were even some watching the service on a video screen outside. For me, after the funeral, the family faded back into the background because I didn’t know them.
 
But, I would see them at church. I would pray for them but didn’t want to intrude on their grief. I didn’t know them. That changed a few months ago. The mom started to go the women’s group that I am a part of. We had a few conversations and I added her as a Facebook friend. I subscribed to her blog. I watched her and her husband at church. They are not the same people I saw two years ago. Grief has changed them as grief always does. But, they have allowed grief to change them for the better. They have run into the arms of their Savior and are receiving his healing touch.
 
Some, in times of tragedy, run from God. They ran to God. They have been touched by their friends, family and their church. They have not stopped living. Life goes on for the survivors of a suicide. I have listened to Cassie, the mom, at the women’s group. She has shared stories of tears and of joy. She has shared how her family has reached out to help other families that have been affected by teen suicide.
 
I don’t mean to sound like they don’t struggle, she has shared those stories too. What I see in Cassie’s life is the love of God shining. She has chosen to trust God in one of the most difficult situations a parent can be.
 
Life goes on and Cassie is not stuck in the past. I have heard her talk of memories of her son but she doesn’t live there. Her husband is a local police officer. He recently tested for promotion. She asked for prayer for his test. She talked about planning a birthday surprise for her youngest son. She found the specific tennis shoes he had asked for. She was excited to be able to give them to him.
 

Mental Illness

I titled this post 731. That is the title of the post on her blog. I don’t think she will mind me using it too. She starts her post by saying that 731 is the number of days that they have survived since the death of their son. She chose to write the blog post on this day to grieve, honor her son and maybe save a life. I would like to stand with her.
 
Her son, Isaac, had struggled with depression. He was receiving help. But it was too little, too late. My family has a history of mental illness. No one has succeeded with suicide. There are extended family members who have considered it. I also have a dear friend whose husband committed suicide. I have been on the fringes of it.
 
Our society puts a stigma on mental illness. We in the church are no better. Mental illness can be treated. If you are in a place where you are considering suicide, there is help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone.
 
I tell the story as an outsider. If you would like to read more, this is Cassie’s blog post. I write today to honor her family and the memory of her son, Issac. I also write with the hope that another life can be saved. I have scheduled this post to be published at 9:41 a.m. to honor Issac.

What about you?

I know that suicide and mental illness are hard topics to talk about. If you are struggling, there is help. Even if you do not have health insurance, there are places you can receive treatment. Reach out. Yes, it is scary to admit you are struggling. Take a chance and reach out. It may be your own life you are saving.  As always, comments are welcome. If you would like to say something to me privately, add that to your comment. Comment do not appear for public viewing until I have seen and approved them.

Easter week musings

Be still
And know
That I am
God
 
Psalm 46:10
 
All week long I have been thinking about a blog post for Easter week. It is such an important week in the life of the church and believers. I have tossed around a few ideas and have come up with nothing. That is until today. It is not what I thought it would be.

This week…

 
On Monday, we were invited to a friend’s celebration of the Feast of the Unleaven bread. We had some lamb in the freezer that they used in the stew they served. We had one of our   4-month-old Great Pyrenees puppies disappear. We found her. If you would like to read about the adventure, check out my husband’s blog. Because of this, we missed the celebration. We didn’t eat dinner until about 8:30 that evening.
 
On Tuesday, we had a severe thunderstorm roll through the area mid-afternoon. There was a tornado warning for our area. Hubby was working from home so he carefully watched the radar. Fortunately, none touched down and we are safe. We did get about an inch of rain in an hour. That evening, I went to a Bible study and we shared Communion. That was special.
 
On Wednesday morning a good friend came by for a visit. We spent a few hours catching up. Later in the afternoon, my older daughter and I went to feed the livestock. One of the 2-year-old rams had gotten his head stuck in a fence. He has done this before. We were able to get him out unharmed. I picked up a few cactus spines in my hand and leg in the process.
 
When hubby got home, we washed the duck and chicken eggs that we had gathered this week. He brings them to work on Thursdays to sell. He shared with me what God had been saying to him lately. He asked me what God was saying to me. I said something like, “He has not said much lately.”

Silence?

All day I have been thinking about that comment which leads me to Psalm 46:10. Be still and know that I am God. It is a verse that has been important in my life for years. Usually, God reminds me of this verse when life is hectic and I start to melt down. Not this time. All week, there has been a gentle sense of His presence but I have been concerned that I am not hearing him. I am one of his sheep and his voice brings peace and comfort. In my quiet times this week, it has seemed like all I am doing is putting one foot in front of another. I have been doing a chronological reading plan and have been in the prophets for ages. They are so hard to read! 
 
Tuesday I finished the Old Testament and started the New on Wednesday. It took me 24 hours and the turn of a page. In reality, it was 400 years that God was silent. If it were our time, God would not have said a word to his people from 1617 to 2017. That is hard for my mind to comprehend but, it happened. God was silent. I was concerned that I hadn’t heard his voice in a few days. Four hundred years of silence.
 
I realized that I haven’t heard the still small voice in my heart but God has been far from silent. I have been in his word, he speaks there. I have gone from the words of doom from the prophets to the restoration of Jerusalem’s walls in Nehemiah. And then the birth of Jesus and his miracles. He speaks through his word. I went to church on Sunday and heard his word preached. On Tuesday, I went to a Bible study and shared Communion. On Wednesday, I shared sweet fellowship with a friend. The undercurrent through the whole week has been the understanding that he lives in me. He never leaves me.
 
Maybe that is my taken away from this Easter week. I was hoping for some understanding that I had never seen. And yet, what I received is profoundly simple. The Jews had 400 years of silence but I never truly have silence because he lives within me. The Jews did not know that God had not left them. All they had left were religious observances. We have the assurance that he will never leave us or forsake us. He has told us so. So even in the moments of quietness, he is there.

What about you?

What have you learned this Easter week? Have you heard something new or the comfort of the truths you hold dear? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Death on the Ranch

And we know that in ALL THINGS
God works for the good
Of those who love him,
Who have been called according to his purpose.
 
Romans 8:28
 
I keep running into this verse lately. God is trying to drill into my being. Today it sucks. I don’t see how he could possibly use it for good. But, I believe what he says. So somehow, some way, he will work this too for good because it is an ALL THING.

Pie

 
Death happens on the ranch. It was a hard concept to get my head and emotions around when we first moved here. In some ways, it has gotten easier. But it still hurts. I guess if you don’t feel it, you have become dead inside. When you pour your heart and soul into these animals, when one dies, you grieve. We have lived here for a little over four years. In that time we have lost cats, dogs, chickens, ducks, lambs and adult sheep. But it has never happened like it did today.
 
Pie was an adult ram. He would have been two years old on April 1st. He had a twin sister named Blueberry. She died when she was 5 months old. He had nice quality wool and beautiful horns. He had a gentle personality. We had recently decided to breed him when the ewes came in season next. He died today when he choked on an alfalfa pellet.
 
Our sheep are primarily grass fed. They do get a mixture of corn and alfalfa pellets for treats. I had thrown them some on the ground like I usually do. I went to do my chores in the chicken coop while older daughter took care of the ducks. The rams and the fowl are in different areas separated by a fence. She was the first one to notice that something was wrong.
 
She saw that Pie was choking. He was shaking his head and salivating. Shelby, our adult breeding ram, was head butting Pie. Another 2-year-old ram was doing the same.
 
From where I was standing, I did not have a clear view. I saw Shelby hit another ram. I am yelling at him to stop. Shelby is the alpha male of the group. He uses his status to bully the others. This is what I thought was happening. Daughter yells back at me that Shelby was trying to help. Still yelling, she stated, “We need to get into that pen, Pie is dying.” I thought she is overreacting because I can’t see anything yet.
 
I told her not to go into the pen. Shelby has an attitude with people too. He has knocked myself, husband and older daughter to the ground with his head butts. He sent my flying butt first into a cactus bush. Yes, it was as bad as you are imagining. You never walk into that pen without corn to distract him or our walking sticks. The sticks are used to herd all the rams into a different area. Or you point it at him to keep physical distance between your body and his. They are never used to hit or punish.
 
I remember telling her, “I don’t care if he dies while you are watching, don’t go in there unprotected.” She listened. Fortunately, we have trained the rams to quickly move from one pen to another when you shake a container of feed. We moved the other ten rams and went into the pen with Pie.
 
It was evident that it was really bad; he wasn’t breathing. I have never had sheep first aid so I wasn’t sure what to do. But, he was dying in front of us. I have taken human first aid and CPR many times. I did the Heimlich maneuver on a 100 lb. ram. The Older daughter was amazing. She has never taken first aid so I was talking her through this. We had to adapt for sheep anatomy. Sheep have four stomachs so I didn’t know if I could get enough pressure going to clear the airway. Daughter is holding his horns to keep his airway in the proper position. She was also helping to hold up the sheep. I had my arms around his belly, holding him up and doing the Heimlich maneuver. Did I mention that both daughter and I are a hair under 5 foot tall and weigh about 125-130 lbs.?
 
It worked for a few minutes. It didn’t completely clear his airway but he was breathing. He was more alert and we thought he was going to be fine. Then he threw his head back like he was looking up at the sky. Ten seconds later, he was gone. It is silly because he was a sheep but, we called the time of his death. It marked the point of closure and finality. We couldn’t have done anything more. We went inside to take care of ourselves and call my husband with the news.

After Effects

 
We both understand the need to deal with the emotions. We are both very sore. She more so the legs. My arms and chest are in pain. It hurts to type and move the mouse. She is missing work tomorrow. She works at an animal shelter. Her boss is an animal control officer; he understands the lifestyle. Tomorrow we will get up and take care of the chickens, ducks, emus, dogs and sheep because that is what we do.
 
Pie was a livestock animal. But he was ours to care for. He was a fine sheep. We had plans to breed him. There is an emotional loss and a financial loss. We go through this every time a sheep, lamb or livestock guardian dog dies. We grieve and then we go on.
 
We knew nothing of this lifestyle until four years ago. But we would never turn back because we are shepherds and ranchers. It is part of who we are.
 
I am physically sore and emotional drained. It has been a difficult day. I know that death is a part of life. We have had animals die before. But, I have never had one die in my arms while I am trying to save its life. I choose to believe the truth of Romans 8:28 but I hurt.
 
Though the fig tree does not bud
And there are no grapes on the vines,
Though the olive crop fails
And the fields produce no food,
Though there are no sheep in the pen
And no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
 
Habakkuk 3:17-18

RIP
April 1,2015- March 30,2017