Lessons in Pig Farming {Part 1}

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People have asked us a lot recently how our pig farming adventure is going.  So let me take a moment to share with you how Piggytown is faring these days!  Disclaimer: This entry is brought to you by Nicole, the city girl who began this adventure with NOT A CLUE about farming livestock, so if you are a farmer, let the laughter begin, if you are not, I believe this entry will give you an easy to understand window into our life of piggy farming.  

We haven’t done a lot of updates because quite frankly the amount of energy that this first round of pigs has taken is a LOT! Neither of us have ever done this, which is why we are forever grateful to work with a company, called an “integrator” (who owns the pigs, instructs us how to care for them but pays us to house and chore them) that teaches us as we go.

Believe it or not, we are about finished with our first round of pigs. Our integrator had mercy on us this time and sent us “feeder pigs” rather than weaned babies, so they weighed 45-55 lbs when they arrived. Which means those little squeakers went from 50ish pounds to about 300lbs since October 1, you do the math, they are called pigs for a reason! We have had 1 semi load out to market…the rest will go out in the course of the next 4-6 weeks.  Then we will start the process all over again, and again, and again.

The first 6 weeks were pretty challenging. Here is a look at what we learned early on:

Signs of sickness:
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What does a sick pig look like?  They all look the same, how do you spot a sick one?  If a pig does look sick, how can I catch it and treat it accordingly?  Um, have you ever tried to catch a pig??  Good luck, is all I have to say I learned about that one. They have stumpy little legs and even after you grab them, it’s like trying to hold onto a flailing toddler. Once you have caught the little bugger, you have to decide: Does it need moved to a “sick pen” to recover or does it need medicine in the form of a shot, if so, what kind? Oh yeah, and make sure you give the shot in the correct place (in it’s neck) while it’s trying to get away from you.

Let me just say I wimped out on chores after seeing what kind of strength, determination and dexterity catching a pig and giving a pig a shot entailed.  Yes, I’m happy to help unload and load (maybe?), but whew, when it comes to daily chores…I hold a new and infinite level of admiration and respect for my husband and anyone else who chores pigs.

In regards to treating our piggies, we have learned a TON about how, when and what to use for medications under the guidance of our integrator’s vet and staff. When you find a sick pig, not only do you have to know how to treat that pig, but you have to assess if this pig is an isolated incident or if the whole herd is getting sick and needs treatment.  If you want to know more about responsible use of individual treatment vs. mass treatments for pigs, we are happy to share with you our experience. In some cases a whole barn needs treatment or the death loss in a barn can be devastating. One of our barns (that’s 2,400 pigs!) began to come down with strep early on (yes, the kind humans get). But for pigs, strep infections can become quickly fatal and infect a whole barn.  Early treatment is crucial.

We have also had to learn when to put a pig down (euthanize). Our company has a “no suffer” policy (which we support wholeheartedly!). This means if a pig is suffering with no chance to improve they are euthanized.  I watched Grant learn how to do it, it’s hard to do physically and mentally (farmers have hearts and feelings too, we don’t like to see our animals suffer or die), but it’s better than watching a pig suffer (but both suck for the record).

Food, water, air, food, water, air…they need all 3 all the time!

The only reason we can raise 4,800 pigs and work day jobs is the amazing automated technology we have in our barns. Feed is automated!  I wish they had this for kids!  We have bulk bins with feed outside the barns. The semi pulls up, fills the bin, and the line goes straight to the barn, with a motorized auger system that delivers feed to each pen every 90 minutes.  But let me just say, my husband spends many hours working on scheduling feed drop offs, and just because it’s automated, doesn’t mean it won’t clog, or break etc…  Each day Grant spends time checking the equipment, pens and feed lines to be sure they are working properly and delivering sufficient amounts of feed. Because the last thing you want to deal with are pigs who are out of feed!  They are not pleasant to deal with.

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The barn before pigs! A glimpse of auto feeders and waterers

Water is automated too!  Piggies are curious, so they will nose at everything, Including the little lever, called a nipple, that squirts out water into a basin for their enjoyment.  My eldest son also found out that the pigs REALLY like it when you use the boot wash station to give them a little shower.  Automated water is good, unless you have a waterer that is malfunctioning. If the waterer is stuck on, you not only waste water, but your daily records of how much the pigs are drinking will be skewed.  Did you know you can tell if pigs are getting sick by how much water they are drinking?  Think about it, if you are sick, you often don’t eat and drink as well. Grant charts daily water intake so he can tell if the pigs have changed habits.

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Fans on the left, drop curtains along the sides for emergencies

Air flow is regulated automatically as well. Our barns are “tunnel vent” barns, with fans on one end that suck air through the building to keep consistent temperatures throughout the barn. Each barn has curtains on the end and inlets in the ceiling so the fans are pulling fresh air into the barn. The computer has different “stages” to automatically ventilate according to the needs.  If the temperature rises because the pigs are getting bigger and have more body heat, or it’s warmer outside, more of the fans kick on. The side curtains on our type of barn only drop during an emergency such as a power outage. All these gadgets have to be checked daily to make sure the computer and the equipment are working properly.

In a nutshell, the first six weeks required learning the basics of pig care and our facility. One might ask…How long does all of this take on a regular basis?  The single most important thing I learned the first 6 weeks (and still to this day), it’s that you never, I repeat never, assume you know how long it will take.  Grant spent anywhere from 1.5-6 hours a day in the barn doing all of the above. Sometimes he would have to leave and come back to finish. But the beauty of the automated barns is most of his time is spent on direct care for the pigs. So if the pigs aren’t well, things take longer.

Every day begins at 5am, which isn’t uncommon in the farming world.  Grant heads to the hog barn by 6am and I get all the kids and our barn animals on our homestead ready for the day. Then when all is well with kids and animals we move on to our church work.

That’s a look at our early learnings, stay tuned for our next installment of Lessons in Pig farming, maybe you’ll even hear from the pig farmer himself…

I. Just. Can’t. Get. Ahead.

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“Piggytown”

I. Just. Can’t. Get. Ahead. Those were the words I spoke, or mostly sighed, to my husband last spring.  Maybe it was that we had added two little foster girls, ages four and six, for a total of five kids and a ridiculous amount of laundry to care for on a daily basis.  Maybe it was the spring fever that seems to make farm life feel like a race to get all your outdoor projects done before it’s time to work in the field.  Maybe it was that we had been planning for months to begin work on constructing two hog barns on one of our fields. Maybe it was just that I can’t imagine adding one more thing to our already full life, correction- 4,800 little things-piggies! Or Maybe it was our “paid jobs” leading two rural churches through a strategic planning process for the past 6 months with 4-6 months left.

Maybe it was one of those things, maybe it was two, or maybe it was all of them, but I had days where my overwhelm factor would kick in and I just kept saying to myself…I. just. cant. get. ahead! We had lived on our acreage for more than a year now, and I had promised myself that this spring would be different than the last.  Last spring everything was new, it was our family’s first run at planting season living here and being the main help on the family farm, so it felt scattered and stressful.  This time I would be ready, I would be prepared. Yes, I am a type A personality and yes, I believed I could organize our life enough to bypass the spring frenzy.  

I spent the month of March packing my deep freeze full of homemade meals so when field work rolled around, no time to cook for my family wasn’t a problem. We sat down as a family and discussed plan A, plan B and plan C for field work: who would cook, who would care for kids, who would drive tractors, who would pinch hit and run for parts and what needed to be done to prepare the machines for the season ahead. I felt good about the plan, until it all began to unfold…and that’s when I finally uttered the words “I just. Can’t. Get. Ahead” while tears streamed down my face. To which my experienced farm husband replied “of course you can’t, you never will, that’s how farming works. You always have too much to do and not enough time.  I’m sorry this is hard.”

I’m glad he hugged me while he said it, or I may have thrown something at him (it’s true!).  That’s not the answer I was looking for, but I knew it was the truth. I had watched Grant and his dad work together long enough to see that they couldn’t let the overflowing “to do” list bother them. They certainly didn’t let too much work stop them from spending time in between jobs enjoying life. They just took each day at a time, doing what they could and letting the rest go.  That’s just how farm life works, they’d say. But as a newby farmer, I have to say, the farm life has proved to be good training ground for more “real life” than I care to admit.

This predicament about time isn’t a new one. For decades, for centuries, for ages, OK, maybe since the beginning of time, our human hearts have tried to move ahead and plan so WE are ready for all that is to come, so WE could conquer our to do lists and be ahead of things for a change. But that’s not the way God had ever intended humans to relate to time and the looming task list.

From the pages of the Old testament to the pages of the new testament, no matter what big project God’s people are in the midst of, God has been reminding them to forget about running ahead, but to settle in for the day.  The scriptures bleed these reminders!  When the Israelites were wandering through the wilderness, God provided manna from heaven to feed them. But he reminded them: do not gather more than what you need for the day.  Then Jesus showed up, and when asked how to pray he gave us these wonderful words in his prayer: “give us this day our daily bread.”  Not our weekly bread, not our monthly bread. Daily bread.

On top of all this, there is this beautifully convicting little reminder in the gospel of Matthew 6:25-26, which says: 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,[j] or about your body, what you will wear…26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” How’s that for a reminder? We were not made to run ahead, to prepare so furiously that we forget who has prepared this day and all our provisions. Boy, do I need that reminder on a regular basis, whether it’s living the farm life or not!  

Harvest is right around the corner and we are less than one week away from welcoming 4,800 piggies into our daily choring lives. EEEK!! Or should I say “OINK!?” While it is tempting to try to get ahead, because heaven knows chaos is about to ensue, I have to remind myself regularly, getting ahead is not the point.  Because if I were ahead, I would be the one in control, and have no reason to rely upon God on a minute by minute basis.  And isn’t that what He wants from all of us in the first place, to rely upon and trust Him instead of ourselves, to see Him at work in the midst of all of our lists and responsibilities rather than see ourselves as conquerors of life?

I’ve taken a long sabbatical from writing these past few months. At first it was the added foster kids-I just didn’t have the time. When they returned home, it was the summer schedule. Then it was the added responsibilities for adding a hog site to our farm operation.  “Something” on the list was always the culprit getting in my way from doing what I love. So last week, I took five vacation days to try to clear my mind and clear my list before opening our hog site, which we fondly refer to as “Piggytown.” I was under the misperception that I would go into our Piggytown opening ceremonies with everything checked off my list! And guess what!? I was so wrong. I got a lot of projects that needed attention done, but the list still looms large, and it always will!
I still haven’t gotten ahead. But I don’t want to get ahead anymore (most days). So now I try (I said try) to embrace the bread, the manna, the provision God provides for this day, in the midst of the overwhelming list. Instead of spending my energy trying to get ahead, I want to spend my energy placing my trust, over and over, in the God who provides more than enough for me, for my family, for this community, for this world and watch the beauty of it unfold. I’m still a type A, there is still planning to be done, that’ll never change. The freezer is full, the meals are ready. But this harvest, maybe, just maybe, I’ll get it right, and realize it’s not about getting ahead, it’s about enjoying the ride and watching God. provide. Just. What. We. Need. For. Today.

But I don’t LIKE it…lessons on chores and love.

It’s Holy week, which means our house is a busy one, two pastors preparing sermons for the best celebration of the year, Easter!  This year, life on the farm provided a deeper understanding of the kind of love Jesus shares with us over and over and over again.  Here is an excerpt from my Maundy Thursday sermon this Holy Week…

As a family, Grant, the kids and I all had the goal of adding some animals to our acreage this past year.  We began with cats last March to help tend to the mouse population. Then, in July we added a pregnant dairy cow (who is due any day now).  In August, we added one puppy to tend to the dwindling cat population because of the coyotes.  That puppy died suddenly of unknown causes, so we replaced it with two more puppies (probably a husband’s mercy, or weak moment, to an insanely grieving wife)!  And in August, we added two beef cows to keep the dairy cow company. That’s a lot! I’d say we did pretty well accomplishing our goal, don’t you think?!  And I’d have to say it’s been really fun for all of us to have the barn full of our little and big friends.  Our whole family enjoys chore time in the barn.  Well, most of the time.

We purchased all of our animals while the weather was pleasant for a reason, so we could get used to taking care of them while the conditions were favorable!  Because eventually, the temps started to drop, the kids had to pile on insulated overalls and chore coats.  And that adjustment went ok, but I have to admit it wasn’t without its rocky moments.  Right around January, the brutal cold and wind set in and they were enough to take your breath away.  But the animals still needed fed.  So, we had mercy on the kids, we made a deal with them, the deal was this: as soon as the temperature dropped below double digits, whether it was due to wind or just the plain temperature, Daddy would do the chores for us, keeping us all safe and warm and happy.  

So, this little deal went over pretty well with the kids (and me), until we hit a really long spell of single digits and wind chill days.  I don’t remember what part of winter it was exactly, late January, maybe February.  But, what I do remember is that Grant did chores, by himself, twice a day without complaining, for I’m pretty sure what may have been at least a few weeks straight.  We were all grateful, and warm, thanks to him.  Until the day came when we all had to re-enter the choring routine.  

The first day the temp finally reached the teens and we all headed out to put on our chore gear.  And what do you think happened?!  What came out of my sweet children’s mouths was NOT gratitude, like they had when Dad did chores for them, but complaint after complaint!  “I’m cold” “I don’t want to go” “I don’t like this,” wah, wah, wah, lots and lots of whining (I guess I’m not the only stubborn one in the family)! Words that had rarely left their mouths before were pouring out like a flood!  Forget any memory of all the days they were spared from the most brutal cold, there was not an ounce of gratitude. And I was mad at my little ungrateful bunch, just plain mad!!

Until I realized this was a perfect opportunity for a little lesson.  A lesson on love.  In a rare and wise mommy moment, that must have come from on high, I launched into an object lesson with hopes that something would stick, and maybe, just maybe the complaints might stop. Here is how it went:

“Hey kids, do you love those animals of yours?”  And of course they replied “Yes, yes, we do!”  “Oh good!  Now, do you LIKE taking care of them in the cold?”  Which, of course, I already knew the answer to this one, but they replied anyway: “NO way, we don’t!” So I continued: “OK, how about your daddy. Do you think HE likes taking care of the animals in the cold??” There was some hesitation to that answer, because Daddy of course never complains about it.  So I chimed in…“Let me tell you what, if it wasn’t clear to you before….Daddy DOES NOT like taking care of the animals in the cold!  But he does it anyway. Why do you think he does that?”  At this point there were a few light bulbs going off, and the answers were approaching what I was looking for, so I continued….  “Daddy feeds the animals and scoops the manure in the bitter cold, and let’s you stay in here because he loves the animals, but even more so because he loves you and me!  He does it to serve us, because that’s what real love does-real love serves others! So, let me recap.  Your daddy DOES NOT, I repeat DOES NOT like choring when it is bone chilling cold outside, but because he loves us, he does it anyway.  Love does things that may not be pleasant or enjoyable, because love, real love serves.  So, kids, let me ask you again: Do you love those animals out there?  OK, well then, let’s go serve them.”  

Now, I wish I could tell you that my kids never complained again after that.  After all, they are human, but at least we got a chance to talk about true love, the kind that serves the other.  And if they remember one thing when they have to haul out to the barn the next time it’s miserable outside, I hope they remember they do it out of love.  And maybe, just maybe that will translate to something else later in life if we are lucky.

This kind of object lesson about love is exactly what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples in The gospel of John chapter 13. Jesus knew he was about to die. He had had plenty of opportunities to teach his disciples, to minister to them and the crowds, to show them what his love and the love of his father looked like. But right about the time they will face the biggest challenge of their lives, losing Jesus to death and the grave, he does something remarkable.  He gives the disciples this little object lesson on real love, the kind of love that serves the other.  The kind of love that washes feet.  It goes like this:

John 13:3-5  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table,took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

Now, before we glorify the whole washing feet thing, I want you to imagine what feet might have been exposed to back in Jesus time.  What do you think the most widely used method of transportation was during Jesus’ time?  You got it, your own two feet!  Now, the climate in the area where Jesus lived and traveled was fairly mild.  Low daytime temperatures in the Holy Land were around 50 degrees in the winter.  So what kinds of shoes do you think people wore back then? Yup, sandals!  And what kinds of materials do you think the roads were made of back then? Asphalt, concrete, gravel? Nope, just plain dirt!  

So, NOW imagine, what kind of feet Jesus was about to wash.  You know sandal season is quickly approaching, most people nowadays like their feet presentable, maybe even pedicured if they are going to expose them to others.  But this was far from the case with the disciples!  It was the norm that feet were one of the dirtiest parts of someone’s body back then, that’s why it was customary for a servant of the household to wash a guest’s feet before they entered someone’s home.  Yes, that’s right, a servant, not the master of the household. They were the ones who prepared the food, cooked, cleaned, served and of course, washed the feet of the guests as they arrived.  Not unlike today, when those who do some of the dirtiest jobs are the lowest on the pay grade.

Yet Jesus takes it upon himself to grab a towel and serve those He loved the most.  We’ve already figured out that the job itself was a disgusting one, washing feet that had dirt caked on them.  And now, it’s really clear that the role of the person washing feet wasn’t a high profile one either, it was a lowly servant. So I have to believe that Jesus himself didn’t pick up this towel and wash feet because he LIKED doing it, or because he really desired such a role. But he did it out of love-real love, the kind of love that serves!  

The rest of the days of our Holy Week are filled with examples of Jesus taking up his cross, the undesirable, wretched roles all because he loves us! The story of the God who loves in the form of service, not power or coercion or even fame.  I invite you to see this love show up, not just in the washing of feet, but in the many ways God serves us with a sacrificial love so that we might live!  I hope this Easter you will see God’s serving love for you in new ways. John 3:16 says it well… “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that we who believe in him would not perish but have life eternal.”    

Happy Easter from the Woodley family farm to yours!    

I’ll go, KICKING AND SCREAMING! How my stubborn turned into willing…

It’s been just over a year since my husband Grant and I moved into an acreage just outside his hometown and began our adventures in farming and pastoring two rural churches. People look at our posts and our adventures and think it’s charming, and it is in many ways. But the road to get here wasn’t all glorious and smooth. The journey has been a long one, one which I was sometimes willing to take, other times not so much. We both thought it was time to begin sharing our story about how we came to this point and what we are learning along the way.

Four years ago, I said these exact words to Grant: “You will not move me to Clarion Iowa, and if you try, I will go kicking and screaming!”  What a charming and supportive thing for a wife to say…I’m not sure what inspired such a great start to a healthy dialogue on my part, but clearly, I wasn’t open to the possibility at that time. Lucky for my husband, he didn’t have to put up with me kicking and screaming, I came willingly, but it took time and God working on a number of my reservations to get me here.

Before I married Grant, I knew he was a farmer.  He told me before we began dating that he owned part of the land in the family operation. When Grant and I married, we lived in North Carolina, we were both attending Duke Divinity School, so farm work and farm land all the way back in Iowa seemed a distant thing, which was just how I liked it.  I considered Grant a “yearly” farmer then: he would take a day or two to do the farm books with his dad each year while we were home on Christmas break.

Fast forward a few years, when we moved to Minnesota.  As we moved within closer range to the family farm, the time involved in the farm operation slowly increased.  At this point,  I considered Grant a “quarterly” farmer. He would go and do farm books in Dec, then spend a few days during planting and harvesting helping with labor, and perhaps a visit in the summer just for fun.  This arrangement still worked for me (most of the time). We had one baby at the time, and trips to the farm were a lot of work lugging all the baby gear. But, we enjoyed giving our son a taste of the farm experience in small increments.

Then we moved to Iowa, and you can imagine what happened to our involvement on the farm. We still lived an hour and a half away, but now we had three children.  As soon as our kids were preschool age and above, our time on the farm increased yet again.  We became “monthly farmers”, making trips in one way shape or form every month to help and participate. Still, there was a healthy distance between our home and the Woodley family farm operation. Our time visiting the farm was enjoyable, like a field trip. I still wasn’t convinced we should move there.

Grant had always spoken so highly of hometown.  I used to tease him that he truly believed Clarion was the center of the earth, that “all good things come from Clarion.” Once, during our graduate school days in Minnesota, I even tried to disprove his “idealistic” tendencies towards his hometown by writing my research paper on Clarion, Iowa. My hope was not that I would see how great it was, but that I uncover the little tarnishing pieces that Grant somehow missed with his rosy colored glasses. How charitable of me, right!?

Unfortunately, my little research project backfired, and I discovered much of what Grant claimed was great about his hometown was true!  Dang!  Now, don’t get me wrong, the town still had challenges, like any other town, but overall, I was impressed. So, I did what any stubborn wife would do, I held on to the ONE, yes I repeat ONE, fact about Clarion Iowa that I could not get over: they did not have an indoor pool.  Ridiculous, I know, but I had to cling to something. You see, I joined the swim team at the age of 6 and never turned back. Swimming wasn’t just something I liked, it was like breathing to me. So, yes, Clarion may be a terrific place, but there is no indoor pool.  Well, that’s unfortunate, I guess we can’t ever live there.  And that was the end of story as far as I was concerned.

But then our life changed dramatically.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and our fast paced life slowed to a crawl.  When I began chemo treatments, I decided to shave my head on my own terms to make it fun. But then the day came when my cute buzzed hair began coming out in clumps. This was harder emotionally than I thought it would be. Grant swooped in with a grand distraction and drove me to his parent’s farmhouse. I didn’t have much energy, so I grabbed a blanket and a pillow and laid in the grass under a tree, listening to Grant and his dad in the nearby shop. The birds were chirping, the breeze was blowing and my hair was falling out as it blew.  I suddenly had a soothing peace in the midst of a really hard day, one that couldn’t have come from myself. In that picturesque moment lying in the grass, watching the breeze blow my hair and the clouds through the air, I somehow knew my heart was endeared to Clarion Iowa. For whatever reason, that day I felt like I was “home”.  

When I finished all my surgeries and my treatments, we weren’t the same people. Cancer changed our whole family, for the good in many ways.  Our priorities changed and we were less cautious about pursuing the dreams we had for our family, and farming had become a part of that dream. Much to my (and my husband’s) surprise I started looking at acreages for sale near Clarion in my free time. I followed this nudge to start looking, and irony of all ironies, one of the first acreages I spotted had an INDOOR POOL! I laughed to myself, because the ONE thing that I held onto as an impossible barrier for moving to Clarion had just been moved.  We didn’t end up buying that particular acreage, but the house with the indoor pool was just what I needed to help us move forward. Now, not only was I endeared to Clarion, but I was willing (not kicking or screaming) for our family to take a leap of faith and call it our home.

Perhaps I’m the queen of denial, or simply stubborn enough that I often get in God’s way, but I just didn’t put the pieces together as the time actively farming increased over the years.  After we moved to the farm, I quipped to a friend, saying: “Can you believe where we ended up?! I never would have imagined we would live here!?” She simply replied: “Um, I could see this all along.” Prophetic gifting or not, I said “why in the world didn’t you TELL ME!?” But the funny thing is, I’m pretty sure she did, more than a few times, I just didn’t believe her.  And people would say to my parents, “I bet you never imagined Nicole would be a farmer and live on an acreage.” And that’s when my mother piped up: “I’m actually not surprised at all, she loved going to her uncle’s farm every year when she was little.  Every time we would leave she would cry and plead on the way home: “Can’t we please move to a farm?”

Call me the queen of denial, call me stubborn, call me whatever you want (good thing my husband still thinks I’m charming), but it takes a lot of patience for me to come around. Thankfully, God encountered a few people with a few excuses and some stubborn streaks (much like myself), who held onto more than one little thing as barriers to the good plans God might have for them. This is comforting, because by golly, if God sees through their stubborn hearts, He can do the same with mine. That’s why I love the story of Sarah and Abraham: because God plants a dream in Abraham and Sarah’s life, and many years later, in the midst of their reservations and their denial, it comes to fruition.

In Genesis chapter 12, God hides a promise in Abraham’s heart, when he is 75 years old.  God says: I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you…so that you will be a blessing.” In chapter 15, Abraham starts to have his reservations. He says: “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless… you have given me no offspring.”  Then, after who knows how much more time has passed, we find this great little story in chapter 18 of the Lord appearing to Abraham, when he is “advanced in age.”  The Lord’s messenger reminds Abraham he will have a son. Sarah is long past the age of childbearing, and she is listening in on this little conversation and we are told she laughs.  Yep, that’s right she laughs! She, like me, gave God a one liner: Sorry God, last I checked, old women don’t have babies! That’s unfortunate, I guess Abraham won’t be a father. Yes, that’s right, Sarah held onto the ONE thing that she believed to be an impossible barrier for moving forward into God’s promises for her. I love her!

Yet, in the midst of reservations and denial, God’s dream for them comes to fruition in time, (lots and lots of time) and their son Isaac is born to an impossibly old woman. I think God has all kinds of dreams for our lives. Some of them are big fulfilling dreams that change the course of our lives and happiness, some of them are everyday contentment kinds of dreams. After all, He knew us even before we were formed in our mother’s womb. He knows us better than we know ourselves. Yet, sometimes we manage to cling to the ONE thing that keeps us from moving forward in faith, whether that’s old age for childbearing, or as silly as amenities of a new hometown, rather than the many confirmations he has placed in our lives to help us move forward in faith. There is always something dangling out there that we can hold onto instead of embracing the dreams that could provide more than we could possibly imagine on our own.

Yet, it’s remarkable to me that God takes an infinite amount of time to work with us, rather than against us, to help us see His many confirmations in our own reservations, if we are willing.  There are many more stories about God at work confirming our family’s path to get here, this is just one. I’m grateful that God didn’t give up on his dream for Abraham and Sarah, even when Sarah laughed at them. Because surely, if God didn’t give up on Sarah, He doesn’t give up on me, even when my stubborn streak kicks in and I say things like “I will go kicking and screaming” or a great many other statements that involved me sticking my foot in my mouth.

With just over a year under our belts, I can’t imagine life any other way. We have made it through a complete cycle helping plant and harvest on the family farm, we have transformed our overgrown acreage from 4 acres of weeds to a recognizable yard with a functional barn and pasture filled with three cows (one pregnant, due in April), two (huge!) great Pyrenees pups and a half a dozen cats. I love most parts of our farm life scenario. But thinking about the journey to get to that point, I just have to laugh!  But now, instead of laughing at God’s plans, I’d like to think I laugh in amazement, that God seems to be more creative and more entertaining than I would have ever imagined…and I love to watch it unfold!