"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain."
~Psalm 127:1

October 16, 2018

Perspective Shift

I am having trouble articulating my thoughts recently, mainly because there is so much going on in my head that I don't know what I really want to say.  And there are so many emotions running around in me that I'm a little confused over what exactly I'm feeling.

I know that I feel sadness.  A year ago today, two major events happened on this farm.  

The first was that we decided to sell the cows.  

The second thing, I'm hesitant to talk about, because everything has not been settled and I don't want my words to negatively affect the outcome or consequences.  I will only say that it was something that felt very devastating to the farm, something that we never expected to happen, a structural failure of sorts.  I still think back to that evening, an hour and a half before the event, I had been walking with Joshua in an area that, if we were there a few hours later, we may have lost our lives.  Still, all I can do when I think of that evening is shake my head in disbelief at the sight of that accident, and remind myself to keep breathing, that we're okay and that we received a miracle and a confirmation in that one awful moment.  It was time to sell the cows (once again, I am being purposefully vague in exactly what happened).

I was fighting to hold it together this morning while at a mom's group that I attend.  Feeling sorry for myself, for my loss.  And then we walked outside and I was reminded that I'm not the only one feeling loss.  A graveside service for the mom of someone I know was just finishing up.  I always start to feel a little silly when I see and hear about other people's difficult situations, they always seem so much worse or more important than selling a bunch of cows.

But diminishing my story and my pain doesn't make me feel any better.  I know that the timing was right for us to walk away from dairying, but that fact doesn't help my feelings either.  

So I've kind of been feeling stuck in this place of having all the feelings, but not knowing what exactly is going on, what God is doing, what He's trying to accomplish through all this.

"This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing."  -Romans 4: 17b (NLT)

Pretty much that verse sums it up, the small hope that I've been clinging to through this.  The only way that anything good will come out of all this is if God makes it happen.  He's going to have to be the one to bring the dead hopes back to life and create new things out of the nothing that I'm feeling.  

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life."
-Proverbs 13: 12

The other day as I was walking around this (too) quiet farm, I was thinking that maybe my perspective is what is holding me in this stuck place.  Maybe if I think more about what we had and less about what we lost.  Considering the "firsts" rather than obsessing over the "lasts."  More thankfulness and less longing.  That sounds a little too familiar for comfort, like the Israelites longing for slavery back in Egypt instead of the dusty, hot desert where they didn't have enough food and water.  The place where they were slaves but had plenty rather than the hard journey to the promised land. (Exodus 16)

There are more sad milestones coming over the next few months, but there are also some joyful ones coming as well.  Our little boy will be turning 3 and our baby boy will be turning one (I can't believe they're growing up so fast!!!  I look at my 3yo and wonder how he got to be such a handsome, perceptive little boy!).  We'll get to celebrate the holiday season with family surrounding us.  We'll be welcoming a new niece or nephew.   Even though I'm being reluctantly thankful about all these things (not because I'm not thankful for them, maybe just because it's easier to see the negative), I still feel some of the heaviness lifting.  

Lord, change my perspective.  Maybe then I can see all the things You are resurrecting in me and all that You are creating anew in my life.

"The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
23 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
24 I say to myself, "The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!"
25 The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
    to those who search for him.
26 So it is good to wait quietly
    for salvation from the Lord."

-Lamentations 3: 22-26

November 16, 2017


There is a lot more to the story that I posted the other day, but it would have been way too overwhelming to write everything down in one post.  I think it will have to come in bits and pieces as we process everything more and see where God is leading us.

Something I've thought about a lot over this whole journey has been failure.  At first, I was worried about what other people would think when they heard we were selling our cows.  I thought it would seem like a big failure to them.  I could just picture some people laughing and whispering behind our backs about us not being able to make it in a tough dairy economy.

But here's the thing about failure.  Maybe we're too quick to call something failure when the Lord has another name for it; His leading.  Maybe failure is His way of directing us away from something that might seem good in the short term, but in the long run isn't His best plan for us.  And only through the difficult process of "failure," will we grow in the ways and areas that will make us more like Him.

One of my favorite podcasts that I've ever heard is a series by James MacDonald called When Life Is Hard.  Our veterinarian introduced it to us a couple of years ago (thanks Bridget!!).  One of the things that James MacDonald talks about is the difference between trials and consequences.  In life, there are consequences for our actions, for example if you rob a bank, you could go to jail if you are caught.  That is a consequence, not a trial.  He says that Christian men and women go through difficult trials to display "the superiority of a life lived in Christ."  Our choices, thoughts, and actions through a trial will display where we are rooted and display the reason why we can ever bear up under that trial.  We have hope in something more than our jobs, our dreams, and our goals in this life.  And that is the reason that we can keep going, trusting that the Lord will work out His specific plans, trusting that He is good even when it doesn't feel like it, and trusting that there is so much more that He has for us than our little human brains can ask or imagine.

November 9, 2017

Season of change

I have so much to say, but every time I sit down to write, the words won't come.  I'm going to try to push through this because I want to share what we've been going through this past year and where we are headed.

This year has been and will be one that revolved around change.  Change is not something that I readily put myself through on a regular basis, I would rather stick with the status quo of life, let's not rock the boat too much, even-keeled everyday living.  But the more I go through difficult circumstances, the more I can see that I need change in my life.  Changes, especially hard ones, make me lean harder in the Lord.  They make me set aside my desires and dreams and ask the Lord, "what are You trying to teach me through all this?"  I've been having this kind of scary thought recently: maybe I shouldn't wish for seasons of rest, because in those seasons its almost harder to trust the Lord than in the hard times.  And that is a truly terrifying thought to my North American perspective and lifestyle.

This whole year, my husband and I have been processing what we should do in the coming years.  The dairy industry has been a hard one over the past 9 years or more.  We (I say we to include the previous generation, not just myself and Josiah) expanded the dairy in 2007.  2008 was a "rebuilding" year, trying to get the cows used to a new facility and back up in production, while paying off loans and other bills from the expansion project.  Then 2009 hit.  And it hit hard.  Milk prices were very low and as you can probably figure out, low milk prices for a dairy that is trying to pay off loans is not a good thing.  And it just feels like we could never get our feet back underneath us with one thing or another.

In 2013, Josiah and I bought the farm.  We restructured everything, renovated the barn and milking parlor to meet our (and the herd's needs), and tried to keep moving forward.  2014 was a really good year for milk prices, but once again, we were in a "rebuilding" year where we were all adjusting to the stress of finishing up construction and getting the herd healthy and used to a new routine.  So we've basically been holding on for the past 4 years with everything that we have.

This past March, Josiah was approached by my dad about the possibility of coming to work for him and 2 of my uncles.  I don't even know how to describe the agonizing decision that was, especially for me.  I did not grow up on a dairy farm, and over the past 8+ years of working on one, I have fallen in love with the animals and the work itself, as hard as it is.  I'm the one that drug my feet on giving up this lifestyle.  I felt like it's all I've ever been good at and to take that away is crushing.  But at the same time, the Lord was leading me to let go of this thing that I have held on to so tightly, this idea that dairy farming is the only way we can live our lives, that it is somehow my only identity.

But changes are coming.  In about a week, we are selling our cows.  We don't know exactly what the future will look like yet (of course, we never know what the future looks like until we get there, and we never get there because the future is always the future).

There have been a few verses that I've been clinging to over the past few months:

- "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." -Psalm 27: 13-14

In a world where nothing is for certain, if I can get to that point where I can say that the Lord is good through everything, I'm getting somewhere.  His goodness may not always look like what I had planned, but He does have good plans for me (Jeremiah 29: 11), and even if I have to walk through difficult times, He is still there and He is doing work in my life to make me more and more into who He created me to be in Him.

-"The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need." -Psalm 23: 1

As simple and familiar as this verse is, I've been reminded that it is true.  The Lord does provide all that I need.  Once again, sometimes what I think I need and what I actually need aren't the same things, but the Lord is faithful to gently lead me away from the things that might actually hurt me in the long run that might seem good right now.

I am going to miss the cows, the work, and our workers like crazy, but all the more importantly, I don't want to miss out on what the Lord has for me in this new season.  I don't want to miss out on the purpose that He is fitting me for even now in the middle of the messy unknowns of life.

A book that has meant a lot to me during this season (besides the Bible, that's been a very important aspect of life + tons of prayer) is Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong.  There were also a few Bible studies that have been impactful over the past year as well, the 2 that stand out are by Priscilla Shirer: Discerning the Voice of God, and The Armor of God.

January 3, 2017

Something to work on this year

I'm a few days late with these thoughts I guess, but I'm still mulling over exactly what this means for me this new year.

And I've been anxiously holding my breath, hoping that the stomach bug that has recently visited my sister's home will not show its presence here.  I always get a little unsettled in my stomach when I know someone I've recently been around has gotten the stomach virus.

So something that I've been noticing recently... well, not really recently, I've kind of always known, so... something that I've been wanting to work on recently has been communication.

I like when people communicate in a direct way, not beating around the bush, but saying what needs to be said, in a kind way of course.  To me, a good communicator is succinct (without leaving out pertinent information), direct, and kind.  I feel like you need all of those factors.  Some people can be direct and blunt, but leave out the compassion for their listeners.  And others can be a little overly nice in their speech and never actually say what needs to be said.

I would probably fall more in the second category.  I try not to be too wordy when I speak (which really isn't that hard for me, I don't talk much.  I think it has something to do with the verse in Proverbs 10: 19, "when words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." For some reason that verse has always stuck with me), but I also don't always get around to what I actually want to say because I don't want to hurt the feelings of the person that I'm talking with.

So I guess one of my goals for this year is to work on my communication skills.  And not just with other people, but with God as well.  I've kind of been slacking in my prayer life since the little guy came into our lives 13 months ago.

Who knows, maybe I'll even improve my communication skills on my blog too (actually posting more than once in a blue moon). 😬

August 27, 2016

Farming can be dangerous

Josiah almost died today.

And I'm not being overdramatic about that statement.  There were many, many miracles that happened to prevent the accident that he had from resulting in serious injury or death.

It's hard to describe.

It's hard to describe the feeling of getting a text from Josiah telling you to come to the manure day-pit because he's trapped.  I don't even know how he had the strength or the wits about him to send me a text and call his dad and grandpa on the phone while teetering on the edge of the pit.  I gathered from his text that it was serious, but to [speed]walk around the corner of the barn and see the position of the skid loader on it's front with the bucket down in the pit and just a chain link fence holding both it and Josiah from falling into 5+ feet of manure that was being agitated, that really got my adrenaline going.

He was trapped for maybe 10 minutes.  I'm thankful that the right people were there to help.  I couldn't have driven the tractor to pull the skid loader back off the fence.

It was a scary experience.  And I'm so thankful that Josiah is okay!

Farming can be dangerous.  It's really scary to think of all that could go wrong each day with the chores that are done every single day.  Something could break, or a tire could go flat at the wrong time, or a cow could get spooked and kick back as you're walking past her stall.  Anything could happen, and it's hard not to think about that right now since something bad almost did happen.  Equipment is replaceable, but human life is precious and fragile.

On a broader scope, anything could happen to anyone at any moment.  A car accident.  An illness that started out as something minor.  Food poisoning.  A meteor strike!?!?  Really anything.

But if I dwell on all the "what if's," I will become paralyzed with fear to even move or breathe (which would also be deadly).

Today was a scary experience, but I know that whatever happens, God is still in control and He has already been victorious over death or anything else that can happen to an earthly body.

It's not an easy thing to believe, but where else can that real, deep, root-drenching hope be found but in a relationship with God?

I'm so thankful for my family!!

June 29, 2016

Night work

What seems like ages ago, I used to work a night shift of milking.  This was when we were milking 24/7 (milking 24/7 is not normal for a herd our size, but the reason we did it is a long story that I don't know if I will ever tell on my blog.  Too complicated and probably wouldn't be that interesting to read.)

Sometimes, especially on nights like tonight, when I take a walk after dark around the barns in this beautiful weather, I miss those late night milkings.  

I would turn on the worship music and sing as loud as I wanted because no one else was around except the cows, and they really don't care what I sound like when I sing.  It was kind of exhilarating, being up when very few other people were.  Doing something productive and good and seeing how good of a job I could do each time.  And being alone.  That place became my personal worship and prayer room.

Of course, that room no longer exists in our new parlor setup, and I no longer get to milk because I'm taking care of Joshua.  

But I still pull some night shifts of a different kind.  It's hard to feel the same way about these shifts as I felt about milking because they're just so different.  Then, I was caring for 250+ cows, and I could see the progress and outcome of my work very clearly, almost instantly.  Now, I'm caring for 1 little human.  And the progress feels so slow, the amount of work that we've put in feels greater than the "outcome" we've seen so far.  The past 7 months have seemed to crawl by, but at the same time, I'm wondering how my little boy is growing up so fast!

I guess those night shifts were preparing me (a little bit, nothing can ever really prepare you for having a baby) for now, as a reminder that the work I'm doing is still exhilarating.  I'm raising another human being, for crying out loud!!  It's been the most crazy, and scary, and wow-I'm-gonna-need-so-much-jesus-and-coffee-to-make-it-through-this, and hard, and wouldn't-trade-it-for-the-world challenges.

June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day & Joshua's story

So today, along with being Father's Day, was also the child and baby dedication at our church.  There were 8 children being dedicated!!  And Joshua was one of them.  (Only one child was a girl!)  I thought I would share what we shared in front of the church, which is an abbreviated version of Joshua's story of existence and words of encouragement for him from us.


Valerie:  In 2012 (and really since 2009) the farm was going through a difficult financial time.  I was reading through the book of Joshua and I felt the Lord prompting me that the name of our first son was supposed to be Joshua, which means "the Lord saves," because the Lord was going to save us through that hard time (and He still is).  So I wrote that down on a piece of paper and hid it away for later.  (I brought it along to the hospital to show family and friends after he was born.  The date on it was 10/29/2012)
  Then in February of 2015, I had a dream that we had a baby boy on December 1 (I asked the date several times in my dream just to be sure) and we named him Joshua Clay.  **Side note that I forgot to share: If I had been a boy, my parents would have named me Joshua.  I had forgotten all about this until after Joshua was born and my mom reminded me!!**  When we had the doctor's appointment to confirm the pregnancy, they told us our due date was December 11, which is the date of our dating anniversary.

Josiah:  I am the fourth generation in the Garber family with the initials of JCG.  We thought this was a neat tradition that we wanted to carry on.  And Joshua Clay fit that "criteria."
  At our 20 week ultrasound, we found out we were having a baby boy and he was growing well.  The next day Valerie had to go back for some follow-up ultrasound pictures and received the diagnosis that our baby had a 2 vessel umbilical cord, a normal cord has 3 vessels.  **Another thing not shared:  Valerie also had a low lying placenta, which can also lead to more complications.  Thankfully it moved up to its proper place after a few weeks.**  Because of this we were scheduled for a few extra check-ups.

Valerie:  At the first of these extra appointments, I went by myself (Josiah had been able to go to all them so far).

Josiah:  Shortly after Valerie left, I got a phone call from her saying she was headed over to the specialist (Maternal Fetal Medicine or MFM) for an emergency ultrasound because the baby's heart rate was irregular.  I joined Valerie for this appointment and every appointment after this.  **They didn't find anything wrong, his heart rate was normal and continued to be normal at every visit.**  Monthly, then biweekly, then weekly ultrasounds (and non-stress tests) followed and consumed the last 3 months of the pregnancy.  These appointments confirmed Joshua's health, renewed our faith in God and reminded us that "the Lord saves," and an added bonus was that we got to see 3D pictures of him almost every week until he was born.
  We prepared for a December 1 arrival.  And on Monday, November 30, we went in to the hospital in the evening, hoping now was the time.  Joshua Clay was born November 30 at 11:55pm.

***Big side note here:  The midwife asked if we wanted to wait until December 1 to have Joshua because we mentioned the dream, but we decided that we didn't need to specifically wait for that date.  Whenever he came, we would be happy.      So when Joshua was still inside me, he apparently pooped, a lot.  This first poop is called meconium and is black and sticky.  When this happens and the baby is born, they may have meconium in their mouths and can inhale it which is pretty bad for their lungs, as you can imagine.  So they try to take the baby quickly after birth and suck as much meconium out as possible before they can breathe it in.  We later learned that the midwife said this was the worst amount of meconium that she had ever seen and she was a bit worried that it could basically have killed him (this midwife (lovely woman that she is) tends to be very excitable and even maybe a little overdramatic at times, so I'm not sure really how serious it was).  Thinking back on this, I wonder if part of the reason for my dream was a warning?  Maybe Joshua wouldn't have made it if we had waited until December 1?  Either way, God's timing was perfect!***

Valerie:  Joshua, it would have been easy to see all these challenges arising and be discouraged and even fearful that we may never be able to meet you.  But the Lord is consistently faithful.  All your extra check-ups were an assurance of this and of His promise to save you.
  It would have been (and sometimes was) easy to doubt God's timing of your birth, but we kept holding on to that promise of December 1, even when others may have laughed it off as a simple dream.  Through your birth, our faith has been strengthened in the promises and faithfulness of God!

Josiah:  Joshua, may you live a faithful, passionate life; whole-heartedly chasing the dreams the Lord lays on your heart.  Be a strong and courageous mighty warrior, fighting battles for the Lord.
  Joshua 1: 9,  "Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

Happy Father's Day Daddy!!