Evident Gentleness

I am not a gentle person by nature.  Many of my high school peers and even my youth sponsors from that season of life can attest to this.  I tend to be a bit of a bulldozer–both physically as well as verbally.  I wish that weren’t the case, but it is.  The last 20 years of yielding to the Holy Spirit in this area has definitely helped, but let’s just say it’s still not a sure bet.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t usually beat up on people any more.  (Although I did let loose on an unsuspecting man last Friday.  I think he’s fully recovered, though.)  I just say things in a not-so-gentle way.  And, if those words don’t actually come out of my mouth, they kind of come out in my attitude, which I think might be just as bad.  I once had a preacher tell me that he could tell what I was thinking from the pulpit.  This is very inconvenient at times…especially when I’m thinking about lunch.

I have a precious friend in the same boat.  She and I work really hard to not always say what we think…or to at least to say what we think in a kind, productive way IF it needs to be said at all.  She has remarked on more than one occasion that, after her husband (one of those naturally gentle types) or someone else kind of scolds her for not speaking gently–especially if she’s been practically biting her tongue until it bleeds–she wants to defend herself with, “If only you knew all of the things that I thought and did NOT say!!”.  I feel the say way.  If I’m gonna get dinged for not speaking gently, I want to get points for all of the times I edit my words for gentleness before they come out of my mouth!  This same friend also lamented that, even when she successfully filters her words, her expression gives her thoughts away.  She says she and I need face filters.  Too true.

Anyway, one of the easy ways I have learned to be gentler with my words is to just not speak them right away.  I had to walk away from my email last week before I responded to something someone said.  I went through my morning as usual, occasionally formulating a reply in my mind, until I came up with one that was respectful and true.  There are times I don’t do that and I wish I had.

Social media is the worst for this.  It is amazing how emotionally-charged some of those threads are.  I learned this the hard way in my first couple years of Facebook-dom.  The fact is that not many people really care about my opinion on social media, and I am not doing them any favors by posting it–especially on their thread.  It would almost be like a friend inviting me into her home and offering me a cup of coffee…and me pouring my coffee on her floor and leaving.

Facebook offers us a remarkable trust–a look into the thoughts and feelings of the people we call friends.  It gives us opportunity to pray specifically for them, reach out to them when we wouldn’t otherwise know they’re hurting and to better understand their perspective.  We don’t have to agree with them (and it’s sometimes best if we un-follow them), but we can still stand on common ground with them.  Whether they’re grade school friends, high school teammates, extended family, past co-workers or whoever, they’re people who have had a place in our lives and deserve our respect.

(Yes, there are those people who are toxic and crazy and who would love to drain the very lifeblood from our limbs.  These are the folks whom we can feel free to un-friend in order to be healthier.  However, we can still do so respectfully.)

Let your gentleness be evident to all.  This is what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:5.  Paul was not a gentle man.  He spoke harshly and sometimes acted harshly.  I bet he could’ve even used a face filter.  His gentleness came from knowing Jesus and submitting his natural tendencies to the Power of the Holy Spirit.

Many of us Christians are not very good at being gentle.  We’re either “gentle” to the point of weak-minded (which isn’t at all what Paul is talking about here) or we scream the Truth of Jesus Christ in such a harsh, abrasive and judgmental way that we turn people off to Who Jesus really was on this earth.  Jesus was gentle.  He was meek.  He had tremendous power/authority/integrity, and His very life proved it.  He lived in humility and meekness, serving the under-served.  He didn’t scream His point-of-view on the street corners.  He lived His point-of-view for decades before beginning to speak out.

I wonder what Jesus would’ve posted on Facebook.

As a Christian, my job is to be a light that draws others to Jesus–a warm, inviting light that represents safety and security.  My job is not to be a spotlight–harsh and painful and repelling.  Once people give their lives to Christ, He can shine the spotlight of His Holy Spirit on their sins as He is compelled to do.  Our job is to gently speak the Truth in love.  His job is change people’s lives.

It’s time to focus more on showing how God has changed us and less on what needs changed in others.


Roadside Hay Baler

You may have passed us last night.  We were on the shoulder of an Indiana state road–old blue Chevy truck and a well-used red hay baler with a flat tire.

It was not our hay baler.  It belongs to our friend, Mark, and we were just borrowing it for a few days.  The last question I asked him before we pulled out of his drive was, “Mark, will you still like Dave if we break this thing?”  He smiled his ready smile and assured us that he would.

I probably should’ve gotten that in writing.

We’d been tooling down the highway, blinkers on, at a cautious 35-40 miles per hour.  We hit a bump, and a sheet of metal flew off of the baler and landed in the opposite lane.  Dave stopped as quickly as he could and ran back to get it.  Fortunately, motorists were paying attention and calamity was avoided.  Whew.  Unfortunately, Dave heard the tire hissing when we threw the sheet of metal in the bed of the truck.

We called our children first.  Due to the kind of long list of outdoor chores we’d left them to do, they did not answer the phone.  (My son assured me this morning that if we’d just let them watch a movie last night instead of mowing, feeding animals, etc., they would have been much more available to take our call.  I told him his observation was duly noted.)  Dave and I discussed calling some of our other neighbors, but we knew Mark was home and had an air tank, so we called him.  (Sorry, Mark.)

Dave and I discussed beef prices, upcoming auctions, his birthday lunch and a few other odds and ends as we sat on the side of the road.  I was acutely thankful for the folks who slowed down and went around us; it made a big difference in my personal peace of mind.  We also kind of chuckled about the shirtless guy who kept appearing at his front door window and peering out at us.  The beveled glass gave him a unique appearance at best.  I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking as he periodically materialized in the window.  I wonder if he had an air tank.

Mark got there as soon as he could, and we were glad.  Dusk was setting in, and there were no lights on the baler.  He aired up the tire, threw his tank in the bed and encouraged us to get moving, stopping as necessary to put in more air.

At our first opportunity, we turned off of the state road onto a country lane and bumped our way along toward home.  The potholes did the tire no favors, but we certainly felt it was a safer alternative to the highway.  We continued to stop to air it up as needed.

A couple of miles from home, the tank ran out of air.  Dave slowed down and tried to avoid bumps, but it was to no avail.  The goofy tire needed more air.  We called our oldest daughter, now in from mowing, and instructed her on filling and loading the air compressor.  She went to work on following orders.  We were about a quarter of a mile from our driveway at this point, and Dave wondered if he could pull up into the drive to at least get off of our narrow road.  He started to ease forward, and the tire fell apart, shredded.

By this time, it was almost totally dark.  Our neighbor, Adam, chose this time to step out of his barn.  Fortunately for us, he was wearing his superhero cape.  After a few moments of catching him up to speed on the situation, he had us back the baler into his driveway, brought out his heavy-duty jack and he and Dave were working to remove the tire.

Another blessing.

At this point, our daughter had appeared with the air compressor at this point, so I went with her up to the house and Dave soon followed.  We were home and the baler was safely boarded at Adam’s for the night.

What Dave and I thought would be about an hour together turned out to be more than two.  I don’t know that he or I would’ve chosen these exact circumstances for our date, but the time together was good.  We were reminded of how good people can be and how we can all make a difference in this world.  Our friend, Mark, and our neighbor, Adam, may not have set out to bless us yesterday, but when the opportunities arose, they did.  We are thankful.

I am also thankful that I didn’t allow myself to be consumed by all of the things I could’ve been doing if I had chosen to stay home.  For one thing, we wouldn’t have had to bother Mark.  Even then, though, I am learning that I need to take opportunities as they come.  Dave and I had lots of opportunity for uninterrupted conversation last night.  That’s a rare thing in my house.

Maybe once we get the tires replaced, the hay in the barn and the baler back to Mark, Dave and I can go out on a real date–one without temperamental equipment, speeding semis and creepy guys peering at us through the window.

Sending Off Sir Loin

While the solar eclipse is exciting news all over the U.S. today, we had some pretty big news of our own here on our little farm.

Our first steer went in for butchering today.

I remember the very first time we saw Sir Loin.  He was in a neighbor’s pasture, and we were told to go take a look at him.  Our neighbor wanted our heifer calf, Brisket, and wondered if we thought his young bull would be a fair trade.  Dave and I pulled over onto the grassy shoulder of our country road and sized up our neighbor’s offer.  The conversation went a little something like this:

Me:  He’s bigger than Brisket.
Dave:  He looks healthy.
Me:  He has a sweet face.
Dave:  I think he’s about 6 or 7 months old.
Me:  I hope he’s not aggressive.
Dave:  He’ll need to be castrated.
Thoughtful silence.
Me:  What do you think?
Dave:  Sure.

And that pretty much clinched the deal.  Later, after my favorite vet castrated the animal, I asked if everything looked good.  The vet replied with something like, “You guys made one heck of a trade”.  That was good news.

We immediately dubbed him Sir Loin and set about making his stay at Country Haven a healthy and enjoyable one.  He was even-tempered and relatively friendly.  He made buddies with our 4 month old heifer, Red Rose.  They became friends quickly and showed lots of bovine affection for one another.

Sir Loin was often the first to come running when I took a bucket of produce scraps or sweet potato vines to throw over the fence.  He loved his snacks, and would often follow and frolic alongside us on our evening walks around the pasture.  He was always willing to stop what he was doing for a fistful of red clover, and he intimidated more than one uninformed guest by intensely staring in their direction, snorting while not-so-patiently waiting for a fresh handout.

People have long asked if it would be difficult for me to eat Sir Loin, and I’ve always replied with a sound “nope”.  However, I will say that I will miss his presence.  He had a sweet disposition, and he was an asset to our little farm.  Having said that, we know that his purpose was to provide healthy, low-cost beef for our table.  Today was the day to begin the transition from field to freezer.

I am thankful for what I learned from Sir Loin, and I am thankful for the opportunity to experience growing our own beef.  As a special send-off, we were able to give him lots of his favorite treats over the weekend–mealy watermelons, cantaloupe rinds and corn husks, plus lots of fly-swatting and back-scratching to boot.  He sure did have it made while he was here.






Lord, thank You for this new provision for our family.  Thank You for letting us have a hand in the process and for increasing our knowledge about growing good food.  May we share this beef in a way that brings You glory, showing the folks around us how big You love them! 

Waiting for the Bell

Ringing, dinging, buzzing, singing.  We are a noisy bunch of folks these days.

It’s a wonder that we can focus on anything with all of the chirping, whistling, humming and vibrating that’s going on around us.  Most of us are answering our phones in the checkout lines, drive thru lanes, on date nights and even in church.  We’re pouring out our hearts in waiting rooms, school rooms, break rooms and even bathrooms.  (Puh-LEASE!)  We scramble to answer our phones while we’re driving, groping frantically through our purses and consoles.  We carefully position our phones on the steering wheel so that we can even text while speeding down the road at 60 miles per hour, seemingly forgetting that we cannot control everything.  We interrupt friends, ignore children, tune out spouses and neglect to thank the folks who hold open our doors, wave us ahead of them at the 4-way stop and bag our groceries.  Many of us even try to maintain two conversations at the same time, confusing a multitude of people around us.

And yet we keep on doing it.

What is wrong with us that we think we are so important?  What makes us live as though we truly believe that the world will stop spinning if we ignore the bells?  How can we justify putting other people in danger for the sake of a text?  How can what is happening on social media trump precious time spent with our children at the park or extended family on holidays or even our evenings with our spouses?

We’ve got some priority issues, folks.

The number of people who have liked our status does not determine our worth.

The continual chirping of our phones does not dictate how much we are needed.

The world will not spontaneously combust if we silence our phones while driving.

Unless the good Lord wills otherwise, the sun will still rise if we leave our phones on the kitchen counter through the night.  (We’d probably sleep better, too!)

We have got to discipline ourselves to tune out of some things for the sole purpose of tuning into the important things.  We have got to unplug from the little things so that we have the energy to plug into the big things.

We simply must recognize the difference between a distraction and a priority. 

When we choose to heed the chirp of our phones over the well-being of the people around us, we are allowing our legacy to be compromised.  We must be intentional about our investment in those we love if we want to have a positive lasting legacy.  Boundaries are a good thing.  It’s time to set some for ourselves.



Last Sunday morning, I went out to take care of all of the young meat birds.  I had slept in until after 7:00 and was feeling quite refreshed.  The Cornish-X chicks are always so happy to see me, and they seemed even more eager to be fed this morning.  An extra 45 minutes of sleep for me meant a longer wait on breakfast for them.  They’re certainly fat enough already, so I knew they’d be fine.

I was wrong.

Apparently, a couple of the birds decided to attempt to make breakfast out of one of their young coopmates.  Now, keep in mind that these birds are out on fresh grass; they had plenty of green options to hold them off until their high-protein mash arrived.  Their impatience or self-centeredness–or whatever–made a pretty rough start for one little gal.


This is Flapjack.  She’s looking pretty good right now, and we are thankful.  Last Sunday morning, though, she was a raw, bloody mess around her throat.  She had a one-inch flap of skin hanging, wide open, from her neck.  It was difficult to tell how bad her injuries were because of the blood, but I sprayed the wound with an aerosol bandage and separated her from the flock.  We will probably keep her separately for the duration of her stay here at Country Haven, which is only four more weeks.

This experience has made me glad that people aren’t chickens.  I mean, I can’t imagine living side-by-side with my fellow man and suddenly being ripped to shreds by someone else’s impatience or self-centeredness.  I mean, can you imagine what it would be like if people didn’t have the decency to just respect the folks around them even when they weren’t getting exactly what they wanted when they wanted it?  Can you truly imagine living in a world where people acted that much like animals?!

Yeah, so can I.

There are a lot of really good things about this life–plenty of green grass beneath our feet, so to speak.  It’s all a matter of focus.  We can choose to perpetuate the problems or to rise above and be part of the solutions.

Glazed Pears

I have watched television chefs make one version or another of glazed pears for years.  I don’t know why, but they’ve never really piqued my interest.  Last spring, though, I watched Jacques Pepin make some apricot-glazed pears, and they grabbed my attention.  (I don’t know.  Maybe it was his French accent?)

Anywho, I decided to make a simpler version, sans apricot preserves, and they were a huge hit for my hungry crew…and so simple to make!

This could certainly be prepared with fresh pears and a honey or maple syrup glaze, but I opted for a simpler route this time.

2 T. butter
1 (15-oz.) can pears in light syrup
1 cinnamon stick

Melt butter in saute pan.

Add pears and about 2/3 of the juice, along with cinnamon stick, to melted butter.

Drink remaining pear juice before the kids come in and start fighting over it.  (Learn from my mistakes, people.)

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, gently stirring and basting, until liquid is reduced to syrup consistency.

Eat these sweet gems plain, over ice cream, on pancakes and waffles or with a biscuit.  Delightful.


Tomato-Basil Soup

For the cooking classes I teach at the Mooreland Free Fair each summer, I always try to highlight some fresh, in-season produce since Indiana has such fantastic garden fare in August.  Even though our overall harvest has been a bit lackluster so far this season, our basil has been beautiful.  I am not sure how many times I’ve made this soup (or a version of it) this summer, but it’s been quite a few.  Today’s batch was generously garnished with some yummy queso fresco.  Mmmm!

2-3 T. oil or butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2-ish cups fresh, diced)
1/2 c. fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 (15-oz.) can chicken broth (about 2 cups or so)
1/2 t. freshly-ground pepper
1/2 c. half & half or whole milk

In oil, saute onion until translucent.

Add tomatoes, basil salt and pepper; bring to a simmer.

Add broth and pepper; stir.

Blend until smooth.  (Make sure to cool mixture adequately if pouring into a blender with a plastic pitcher.)

Stir in half & half; add more salt and pepper if needed.