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Friday, August 30, 2013

The Half-Halt of Life...


He was a horse... named Risky. 

 
And he was a treasured part of our family for 12 years.
 
Cleaning our shed the other day brought back the memories...moving his saddle lifted a wave of his scent and even now I can almost touch his velvet soft muzzle and hear his nicker.
 
We were just moved into the farm, feeling our way around new chores and baby goats and raccoon bandits when he arrived.  A Gift for one deliriously happy 10-year old daughter.
 
And he was a Gift.  Bringing Beauty to our pastures and Delight to our days.  We found he was a wonderful Goat Guardian and he earned his keep many times over. 
 
Katie took to her job as Horse Keeper with the passion of a first love.  Feeding, brushing, watering, and mucking stalls... we signed her up for some basic Horse Riding Lessons and enjoyed watching the fun from the sidelines.
 
Her teacher was calm and hilariously inventive.  One night she had Katie riding bareback all over the arena carrying an egg in a spoon...teaching balance.  And success was finally achieved many dozens of eggs later... Another night she had Katie working the lunge line from the ground.  Our tiny 80lb baby girl and a 1,000lb horse circling her with only a soft line and her words...teaching control.
 
So much to learn... hoof care, conformation, saddling, bridling and finally riding...
 
And one of the lessons that has stuck with me these many years past is the simple half-halt.
 
Perhaps you've heard of it, perhaps not.  It is a technique used when riding to get your horse's attention.  As I listened to the instructor explain this particular manuever, I was struck by it's profound life applications (and she thought she was just teaching a riding lesson...)
 
To understand, let me share what the instructor said that night.
 
A half-halt is used to get a horse's attention, and to ask him to balance.  You use a half-halt when you are about to ask the horse to do something: to go from a trot to a canter, to make a turn, to speed up or slow down without changing gaits, etc.  To perform the half-halt you actually are giving 2 signals to the horse simultaneously... squeezing your seat to ask for a whoa and squeezing your calves to ask for continued movement forward.  But you stop the signals before he slows down or "halfway" to his halt.
 
The half-halt itself is not a request for a change of pace or direction.  The main purpose of the half-halt is to rebalance the horse...
 
Did you get it?  The main purpose of the half-halt is to rebalance...
 
It is asking the horse to carry its weight slightly more on his hindquarters, listening to you, anticipating and preparing for the change that you will be asking of him, for the change that is coming.
 
Seriously.  That is the half-halt.
 
How many times since then have I said to my soul... time for a half-halt.
 
Time for rebalance.  Time to anticipate and prepare for the changes that are coming.
 
Do you feel it too sometimes?  The Life-Giver isn't asking for a change of pace or direction at the moment... But for rebalance, to get our attention, to prepare us for the moments ahead.
 
Asking us to listen.  To be still my soul and simply listen...
 
Rebalancing our life's priorities, more focus on Him, less focus on the busy chaos around us.  Continuing the journey forward but with anticipation for the coming change.
 
Maybe you are in the midst of horrific cancer treatment, perhaps you have just had painful surgery, could be the love of your life has been pulled from your arms, might just be the new school year begun...
 
The Life we live, the Journey we are on is filled with these moments of hard hills and deep valleys.    And sometimes in the midst He asks of us a half-halt.  To Rebalance, To Listen Close, To Accept Strength for What Lies Ahead...
 
I am reminded anew of His promises in Isaiah 40:31, the Amplified Version...
 
"But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired."
 
Such Truth, Such Hope, Such Promise.
 
Trusting With Grace in the Middle of Half-Halt,
 
                                                Love Always, Jane

Saturday, August 24, 2013

It's a Hillbilly-Cobbler Kind of Day

 
 
Peach Cobbler...so perfectly delicious this hot summer night!
 
But the day didn't start out that way.  It just kind of ended that way... in need of some sweet down-home goodness to make things all better.
 
The day actually started like most others.  Heading out to do chores with a shovel in one hand and Black Flag in the other.  That's kind of how I do chores now since the evil lurkers disturbed my peaceful existence...
 
But on this particular day, handsome Farmer Husband remembered that once upon a time (many moons ago), we had bought an electronic Pest Repelling device.  I believe it was after the Petie and Skunk incident (sad, sad face).  But no matter, we both remembered the device but couldn't actually remember where it was.
 
And there-in lay the dilemma.  Because if it was in the shed...(cue dramatic music), we will never find it.
 
Seriously.  I don't exaggerate.  Does everyone have a shed like ours? 
 
 
Our shed is a Black Hole for items which might serve a useful purpose or did at one time and might again, but who knows and let's just put it in here for a while and see if a need arises upon which one of us will say...remember when we bought a Pest Repelling device and do we still have it somewhere?
 
Yes... it may be in the Shed.  The crowded, packed, can't move around in here, it's hotter than blue blazes Shed...
 
And, of course, we spent the better part of the day "cleaning" the Shed while looking for the much needed Pest Repelling device.
 
We found many, many things...that were not the Pest Repelling device...like
 
Kayaking Paddles and Tennis Raquets and Volleyballs
(we like to work out... I hear snickering... What?!)...
 
 
and Potting Soil and Cute Crosses (I was wondering where these were)...
 
 
 
and a perfectly good saddle for the horse we no longer have (extra sad face)
but good memories all the same...
 
 
and a whole box of old-fashioned records! Really! We used to play these all the time... (Feeling old...)
  


and then there's our Knight in Shining Armor (everybody needs one of these)...
 
 
and a knee brace propped up on a very old Encyclopedia set (nobody needs those!)....

 
And finally...FINALLY... we hit pay dirt between the
electric ice cream maker and a tub of halloween costumes!

The PestChaser Pro!


 
Plugged in and working great!  The Sonic Blast is repelling all Pests as we speak!
 
And we should have stopped there.  Really.
We found what we were after.  All other relics in the Shed should be left alone... Really.
 
But no...our adrenaline high had us on a roll and we continued to clean the shed...
Until I stumbled upon this innocent Igloo Water Jug...
 
 
And I just wanted to move it over with the other motley collection of assorted coolers and such,
when, to my horror, the lid slid off and revealed a new Evil Lurker!




 
Ok.  I'm done for the day. 
 
And I don't care that Farmer Husband said that this little scorpion was deader than a doornail and roasted to a crispy crunch in the heat of our August Texas sun.
 
Nope.  Going in the house.  Where it's nice and cool and nary an Evil Lurker to be found.
 
And that's when I decided we needed some down-home sustenance... It doesn't get much better or much easier than our Hillbilly Peach Cobbler.
 
You need a CrockPot
 
 
Into the CrockPot you throw in 2 cans of your favorite Pie Filling,
cover it with a box of Yellow Cake Mix (dry, do not mix it up into a batter) and then pour a stick of melted butter over the dry cake mix.  Do not stir.
 
Set the CrockPot on Low for 3 hours.
 
And the house smells heavenly as the Cobbler bubbles away
removing all thoughts of scorpions and snakes and spiders from your frazzled mind...
 
 
We don't even need supper tonight.
I'm a thinking that warm Peach Cobbler and a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream will suffice.
 
 
 
And that's a Hillbilly Cobbler kind of day for you.
 
May your day be ending on just such a sweet note...
 
Love and Grace Always,
           Jane
  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Thinking on Dreams lately...

All is well on the farm... no evil lurkers,, just happy goats and happier goat-herders.



Lazy summer days and peacefully quiet nights... which is the perfect farm recipe for Happy if you ask me!

And it also is the perfect farm recipe for dreaming.   Just letting the mind wander as the sprinkler taps a soothing rhythm on the backyard lawn and the hummers dance around the feeder...

I saw the quote on our calendar this month.  It has given me pause.  Beckoning.  Tempting.  Drawing out the deep and opening the heart to dream...

"Twenty years from now you will be more
disappointed by the things you didn't do
than by the ones you did do...
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore.  Dream.  Discover."
                                        ~ Mark Twain
 
What I think about when I read Mark Twain's words is the fact that Mom didn't have twenty years.  The day she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her twenty years dwindled to one.  She knew, probably from the minute she was diagnosed, that she was terminal.  We, her family, didn't really grasp the finality of her cancer sentence for months...  We struggled and prayed and cried and pushed and pleaded... And if all the love in our hearts could have kept her here than she would be writing this post instead of me.  But cancer took that choice from us, from her.
 
And so...
 
This quote has needled my soul.   I hear mom whispering that not one of us is promised twenty more years, nor even our next breath... But (I can feel her smile) what if you are blessed with twenty more years?  What then?  Do you dare Dream?  Reach out to Discover the New and Unexplored? 
 
Sail away from the safe harbor...  Catch the trade winds in our sails...
 
It's scary.  But exhilirating too.  I think I will choose not to be disappointed twenty years from now.   Some dreams I can barely name, but others have been immediate... they've been there, down deep, just waiting for me to wake up in my safe harbor and turn my sails into the wind...
 
What dreams are filling your heart this very moment?  Just begging for attention?
 
It's true, I've been thinking on Dreams lately... Perhaps you would join me in the weeks ahead and open your heart and hands for whatever the Dream-Giver pours out.
 
It will be Blessing.
 
And Hope.
 
And Grace.  Always Grace,
 
Love Always, Jane
 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Evil Has Been Dispatched...Hallelujah Chorus Please!

Have to admit I am just a tad jumpy today... Perhaps it is because I did not sleep well last night.  I have determined that wasps and spiders and the ensuing dreams (nightmares) do not good bed-time companions make...

Nor do snakes...

Yes, ma'am... the horrors continue.  As if wasps and spiders were not enough of a test, look who arrived at our back door steps yesterday morning.

 
Not your run-of-the-mill garden variety rat snake here.... No....
For this week of Courage Testing we provide only the best in venomous snakes.
Meet a really ticked off water mocassin stuck in a yard full of cats and peacocks.
(Hey, Mr. Scary Snake, I didn't invite you here, so don't give me the evil eye!)
 
 
 
P.S. I was taking these pictures from the top of the porch deck with my zoom lens.  Mom would have been hypervenilating about it, but I felt very safe up high.
 
Of course, I also took this picture...

 
He's right there at the bottom of the picture.
Way too close to our back porch if you ask me...
or the peacocks...
 
 
No one was happy about this evil intruder, least of all me!

I am convinced that I surely must be living in a House of Horrors, or rather a Farmstead of Horrors (doesn't have quite the same ring as House of Horrors, sticking with the dramatic because I'm feeling just a little edgy today!)  And this House of Horrors has about done me all in...

But for Courage, I wouldn't be here to write this post.  Well, actually I still could be writing this post from somewhere in Cancun on a nice, sunny beach (they don't have venomous snakes on beaches do they?), but it wouldn't be quite as horrifying if I was recounting the story from a comfy beach chair holding a fruity drink with a tiny umbrella in it.

Instead I am wearing appropriate Snake-Battle Gear, carrying Snake-Killing Weapons...

 
Rather attractive Snake-Battle Gear in a "back-woods meets Aquarius" kind of way.  And I think I struck just the right pose... nonchalant but confident.  (Of which I was feeling neither.  Did you suspect?)
 
Crickey... How did I end up here in these psychedelic boots holding a shovel contemplating a battle to the death with the most scary of evil lurkers?
 
 
Don't answer that...Let me just pretend I am courageous for a moment...
 
Breathe in... Breathe out... Steady, Aim and De-Capitate...
 
Honestly, someone needs to invent Black Flag for Snakes.  Hello?  Wouldn't it be like way better to be standing 29 feet away from the scary snake when you decide to take it out?!
 
My legs are wobbly, but my aim was right on... Evil has been Dis-patched this day and all is Safe again in our little corner of Paradise...
 
Who knew that Courage would be demanded of me twice in one week?
 
T.S. Eliot once said that...
 
"Only those who risk going too far
can possibly find out how far one can go."
 
And I doubt he was thinking of venomous snakes or wobbly legs, but it is true.  Courage is a risk.  Sometimes life requires that we reach deep down and find out just how far we can go...
 
This Happy Goat Herder just found out...with relief and gratitude anew for His Ever Protecting Hand.
 
May your day be blessed with the Grace-Breathing Courage of a Mighty God...He will take you farther than you dare to dream...
 
Love Always,
                Jane 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What Evil Lurks Beneath...

Ok... This post actually began yesterday.  But...I was suitably traumatized and spent the night reliving the horrifying events rather than writing about them.  And then this morning, before I could let you all know what transpired... more traumatizing events occurred! 

Whatever made me write about Courage last weekend?!   I certainly did not intend on putting it to the test so soon!

I even documented the scary moments with my camera.   However, I must warn you that these pictures are not for the squeamish, or the fearful, or the nervous... to be honest they kind of make my stomach tumble.  And I was there, so I know about stomach tumbling. And sweaty palms. And racing hearts...

Well, for goodness sakes.  What could be so dreadful out here on the farm?

Let me tell you.  There is evil out there... just lurking beneath the peaceful green pastures...

 


 
 
Well, that's not exactly true... to be more exact, evil is lurking under the eaves of the well house.  And probably has been lurking there for quite some time.  And the only reason I noticed it yesterday was because I was a good gardner and decided to water my jungle of bushes by the well house (we are in another historic drought here in north Texas, must water everything, everyday...but that's another story for another day...)
 
And so I was blissfully watering away...
 
 
when I noticed with horror...
 


 
... a wasp nest loaded with a ka-zillion humming wasps!
 
I may have momentarily been frozen with fear...
 
 
... then recovered and run for cover (just sayin')
 
And as I contemplated the situation (from the comfort of the kitchen with a glass of chocolate milk and toasted bagel slathered in cream cheese), I realized that someone was going to have to do something.  Like remove the wasp nest from the vicinity of my happy farm...
 
It then occurred to me, as I slurped the last of the chocolate milk and pondered another bagel, that I was the only someone on the farm at the moment.  Handsome farmer husband was miles and miles away on a business trip (very poor timing on his part says the unhappy and now very nervous farmer wife...)
 
Thank Heavens for Black Flag!
 
 
If this was a movie, angels would be singing, fireworks would be exploding and the heroine would be smiling...
 
I don't think I was smiling.
 
But... Black Flag can indeed send a lethal stream of foam up to 29 feet.  I know because I practiced on a big oak tree in the back yard... I wanted to be very sure of my aim.  And I wanted to be 29 feet away from that nest.  Well, actually I wanted to be 29 miles away from the nest, but that wasn't a current option...
 
And so I headed back to the nest armed with only my Courage and a can of Black Flag...
 
 
 
And that's when I noticed the Black Widow Spider just feet from the wasp nest!  Not even kidding...
 
 
 
I actually noticed a multitude of things all at once... one being that I really needed to clean the well house eaves a little more often, another was the fact that this Big Mama Spider had an equally Big Bad Nest Sack under guard.  Hello?!  Does Black Flag kill spiders too?!
 
Gonna find out pretty quick...
 
Breathe in, Breathe out.  Steady, Aim and Fire....  I'm pretty sure I emptied the entire can of Black Flag on the well house in less than 15 seconds...
 
The wasps dropped like flies with a collective thud.  The Black Widow Spider not so much.
 
She appeared somewhat stunned and a lot disoriented but she hung on.  And being more brave than smart I decided to get a close-up of her next to a penny to show my family just how Big this spider was (they always think I exaggerate such stories...I don't understand...)
 
So I scooped her off the eave (with a broom that had a Long Handle) and dropped her onto her Glamour Shots Stage...
 
 
What a HUGE spider... Right?
 
But white paper wasn't her thing and all of a sudden she came to life and scurried off in a huff.  And of course I reacted instinctively and squashed her... but gently... but still pretty hard cuz it was with my boot and all... so, lesson learned.  Black Flag is really a great product, but don't trust it on spiders, especially Black Widows.  Squashing is best.
 
And for the squeamish, this next shot may make you wince, but here she is showing off the pretty red fiddle on her belly, with her legs kind of squashed, but still you can see the trademark Black Widow tattoo, which is kind of ironic, because how many spiders are going to roll over so you can identify them before you squash them? 
 


 
 
None, so there you go... all spiders get squashed here on the farm if they are in my line of sight.  Especially Black Widows...
 
Everyone warned.
 
I feel better... And exhausted.  This Courage thing is really hard on a Farmer Wife.
 
And I haven't even gotten to the horrors of this morning.  Perhaps a brief rest and the tale will resume tomorrow.  You must stay tuned for the continuing saga of What Evil Lurks Beneath...
 
Because if you think Wasps and Spiders are dreadfully alarming then I can't imagine how you will react to the terrors ahead...  Courage don't fail me now...
 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Courage to Saddle Up...





"Courage is being scared to death,
but saddling up anyway."
                       ~ John Wayne
 
May you find the courage to "saddle up" for whatever comes your way this week.
Praying you feel the Grace and Power that pours out in abundance whenever the testing and trials come...
 
"Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid or terrified because of them,
for the Lord your God goes with you;
he will never leave you, nor forsake you."
                               ~ Deuteronomy 31:6
 
 Blessings to you this coming week,
          In Grace Always,
                          Jane