"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

March 31, 2011


I like to call this cow Hoppy.  Her real name is something like XGrettle, but Hoppy is easier.  And the reason I call her Hoppy is because when she was around 1 year old (I think she's just about 2 right now) she broke one of her front legs.

The veterinarian came and did something that I didn't know you could do on a cow.  He put a cast on her leg, like a regular cast that you would see on a person's arm or leg.  It took her a while to get used to it, but after she did, she would walk around everywhere, almost hopping as she went.  And she was very friendly, whenever she would see someone she would sniff at them and let them pet her nose or scratch behind her ear.

I'm not sure how long the cast was on, I've never had to have a cast myself, so I don't know how long it takes for those things to heal.  But once she got the cast off she was as good as new.  Her leg was weak from not using the muscles in it, but now you can hardly tell that she ever had a broken leg.

It might have been her left front leg, if I had to guess, but I really can't tell, can you?

March 30, 2011

What's in a name: Spring Lawn Farm

It is really self-explanatory.  The farm is called Spring Lawn because an underground spring begins in our yard.  We have a spring-house in the middle of the yard over the place where it begins.

But we also hope that this place can be a spring of life for those who come to visit.  That it wouldn't just be held underground where no one can see it, but that the spring would become a river, to encourage and nourish others.

“When the poor and needy search for water and there is none,
and their tongues are parched from thirst,
then I, the Lord, will answer them.
I, the God of Israel, will never abandon them.
I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus.
I will give them fountains of water in the valleys.
I will fill the desert with pools of water.
Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.
I will plant trees in the barren desert—
cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, fir, and pine.
I am doing this so all who see this miracle
will understand what it means—
that it is the Lord who has done this,
the Holy One of Israel who created it."
Isaiah 41:17-20

"They will never again be hungry or thirsty;
they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun.
For the Lamb on the throne
will be their Shepherd.
He will lead them to springs of life-giving water.
And God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 7:16-17

March 29, 2011

What's in a name

This morning I feel that I am faced with a huge task.  Folding the laundry.  Something that I do not enjoy in the least.  I washed everything yesterday and ran out of time to fold it all, so now, since its all wrinkled, it is time to fold it.  I feel so incompetent whenever I do laundry.

And that's not the only chore that I feel like I can't do very well.  There's cleaning, cooking, washing dishes, packing for a trip, gardening, or pretty much everything that has to do with house-keeping.  Or stuff out at the farm, like when a cow is being stubborn, and driving me crazy, or I can't drive a tractor, or give a vaccination.

"Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith." 
"...but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Philippians 3:1, 13-14

I think Paul is saying in these verses that, no matter what circumstance I am put into, I need to choose to worship God and not become bitter or angry, because that would give the devil a foothold to damage or even destroy my faith.  And instead of that anger or bitterness, I need to focus on what is ahead, have a heavenly focus.  Not focus on my imperfections or failures, that just distracts me and discourages me.

"Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.  Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:4-7

"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:13

It's quite obvious that I can't do everything.  My name, Valerie, means "strong," but I don't feel that way most of the time.  Not when I have a stubborn cow to work with or when I have a large task ahead of me that I don't even enjoy in smaller portions.

I have secretly hated my name my whole life.  I 've hated telling it to people when I get introduced.  I feel like I can't say it right, and they misunderstand me more times than not. 

The conversation usually runs like this:
Them: Hello, my name is ........  And you are?
Me: Valerie
T: Excuse me?
M: Valerie
T: Oh, Malorie, what a pretty name.
M: No, Valerie.
T: Oohh, Valerie.  Ok.  (notice, they don't say that its a lovely name).

And can you imagine trying to explain it to someone in another country?  In Costa Rica my host family called me something like "bal-er" (since they pronounce v's like b's).  I think I wanted to change my name for those few weeks.  I've often wondered why I couldn't have a "normal" name, like Melissa, Kristen, or Michelle. 

I know it's not as strange as I think.  And I shouldn't dislike it, because it is a part of who I am.  And who knows, maybe I am strong, but I can't live up to that name on my own. 

"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:13

One of my professors in college told me that I could do anything I put my mind to, I never believed her.  But I can do anything, as long as I am depending on God's strength and not my own name.

March 28, 2011

Unstoppable and Fireproof

Last night we watched a movie with some friends of ours.  It was a really good movie, very intense.  I think my heart was pounding out of my chest the whole time.  It was "Unstoppable," a movie about a near train disaster that occurred in Ohio in early 2001.

Even though it was a really good movie, I woke up this morning thinking about one part in particular that I thought was pretty dumb.

These two men, Frank and Will, are trying to get out of the way of an oncoming runaway train with some toxic chemicals on it.  Frank is probably in his 50s with 2 daughters in college.  Will is maybe in his late- 20s.  He is married with a son, but his wife has a restraining order against him for doing something stupid.

So the two men are pretty much thinking they are going to die so they're telling each other their stories.  Will came home one day to find his wife texting someone.  He assumed that it was a mutual friend of theirs and that they were cheating together on him.  He grabs her arm and scares her, she probably thought he was going to hit her.  So he goes to this friend's house and confronts him, threatening him and even pulling a gun on him.  When he gets home he is served the restraining order, and then finds out that his wife was texting her mother or sister, I forget exactly who it was.  So he overreacted and got himself in trouble.

Frank was married, but his wife died of cancer a few years before.  His two daughters are working to pay their way through college, at Hooters.

When Frank tells Will this, he is sort of shocked by the news, blushing.  But he says, "I'm a fan."

So a man who supposedly "loves" his wife and wants her back, pretty much admits that he lusts after other women.  That doesn't sound very loving to me.  And that is what marriage has become. 

It is not permanent.  It's like your spouse is a car.

I heard the story of one famous football player asking the other when he was going to "trade his wife in" for a better/newer model.  Just like you would trade in a car.  With this attitude it is no wonder that the divorce rate is so high.

Jesus says in Mark 10:6-9-
But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation.  ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’  Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

And Ephesians 5:31-33 says:
"As the Scriptures say, “A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.”  This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.  So again I say, each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

Another movie, "Fireproof," illustrates marriage like this:

Caleb Holt: I'm not gonna tell her. If she wants to go ahead and file, it's up to her.
Michael Simmons: Divorce is a hard thing, man.
Caleb: Well, if it brings peace...
Michael: But Caleb, you want the right kind of peace.
Caleb: What do you mean by that?
Michael: You know what that ring on your finger means?
Caleb: It means I'm married.
Michael: Yeah, well, it also means you made a lifelong covenant. You putting on that ring, by saying your vows. The sad part about it is when most people promise for better or for worse, they really only mean for the better.
Caleb: Catherine and I were in love when we got married. Today, we're two very different people. All right? It's just not working out anymore.
Michael: Caleb, salt and pepper are completely different. Their makeup is different; their taste and their color. But you always see 'em together. And when you... Hang on a second.
[Michael glues a salt and pepper shaker together]
Caleb: What are you doing? Michael, what did you do that for?
Michael: Caleb, when two people get married; it's for better or for worse, for richer or for poor, in sickness and in health.
Caleb: I know that. But marriages aren't fireproof. Sometimes you get burned.
Michael: Fireproof doesn't mean a fire will never come, but that when it comes you'll be able to withstand it.
Caleb: You didn't have to glue them together.
[Caleb picks up the shakers and starts trying to force them apart]
Michael: Don't do it, Caleb. If you pull them apart now, you'll break either one or both of them.
Caleb: I am not a perfect person, but better than most. And if my marriage is failing, it is not all my fault.
Michael: But Caleb, man, I've seen you run into a burning building to save people you don't even know. But you're gonna let your own marriage just burn to the ground.
I think that says it all.

It's not a game, marriage is a serious, life-long commitment.  Commitment to something or someone takes hard work.

March 27, 2011

What I'm thankful for today

We were very blessed by another family from church inviting us over for lunch today.  They have some pretty adorable children.  It was really great to talk with them and get to know them better.  And of course, the food was great! 

It was really fun to interact with their children; we played Old Maid, Go Fish, and Yahtzee.  And they showed me their rooms and all their cool toys.  Kids now have so much cooler toys than I had when I was little! 

But I just really appreciated their openness and willingness to share their time and part of their lives with us. 

Also, I am thankful that Josiah's dad is okay.  He basically got run over by a cow yesterday, and is pretty banged up, with some cuts and bruises.  But overall, he is able to get up and keep going, so that's something to be thankful for.

I'm also very glad for weekends when we have off.  It was nice to relax and catch up on some sleep.  But I'm also thankful that we can help out on the farm, even on an off-weekend, when someone else has something important going on.  It's all part of farm-life.

March 24, 2011

Strange Calf

One day I walked out to the box-stalls, where the cows give birth and newborn calves are housed.  I think I was going to take pictures of the calves or something.  I had been in with them the previous day to bottle feed one of them, and I just really like visiting the calves because they are so cute and friendly. 

So I glanced over the wall and kept walking toward the door.  It struck me very suddenly that there was a really strange looking, black calf, whom I had not seen the previous day, in with the others.  So I looked over the wall again, only to see that the "calf" was actually George, all curled up in the one corner.  He was so cute, but when he saw me he took off out of the stall like he had been bad.

George was such a good dog and we all really miss him.  Sometimes when I walk to the barn, I forget that he isn't around anymore and look for him to be in his favorite spot on the barn porch.  Eventually we will get another farm dog, but there will never be another one as good as George.

He smiled a lot

March 23, 2011

Cute new baby

I couldn't resist taking these pictures of our newest little heifer.  She is absolutely adorable.  She was happy to lay down and be cute for a while.

Then she got up and leaped and jumped around.  It was so cute!!  I only got one good picture of her jumping though.

And right after this she was so tired out that she layed back down.

Being adorable is such hard work.

March 22, 2011


I made ugali and chili last night, and I thought that I would share this super easy recipe. 

I learned how to make it from Josiah's parents, who were missionaries in Africa for almost 3 years.  It is a very simple, yet filling, bread-type food.  (Sorry to anyone who is allergic to wheat.  I don't know if you can use other types of flour with this recipe, but you could try.)  There are other recipes out there, but this is the one that I used.

2 cups water
2 cups whole wheat flour

Boil the water.  Add the flour, keep the heat up.  Stir until the flour is completely incorporated (your arm will get a workout).  The ugali will be very sticky, so it might be best to use a non-stick pan and spoon to stir.  After the flour is incorporated, which may take a few minutes, depending on how large of a batch you make, put the ugali onto a plate and serve.  You can form it into a nicer structure if you wish, ours looked like a brain.  Be careful, it will be hot!!

It is a really easy recipe and I think it goes best with chili because ugali is a very bland food.  We like to tear it apart into small pieces and dip it in the chili.  And of course our chili has to have cheese in it (because it's a dairy product)  Enjoy!

March 21, 2011


Spring has officially arrived.  Here on the farm, the transformation has already begun. 

The grass is growing and turning green, I think I'll have to mow soon, especially since it rained last night.  And our lawn was already long to begin with since it hasn't been mowed since September, maybe.

The rye is starting to get more green also.  The warm days will really help it to shoot up in height, and before we know it, it will be time to harvest it and plant corn.

The trees are getting buds on them.  I can't wait for the dogwoods to bloom, they are one of the most beautiful trees.  And lilacs too, I love their scent!

The flowers are starting to peak their heads out.  The little daffodils have been blooming for days, and soon the big ones will too.  I think I like daffodils so much because they are so bright after the dull grayness of winter.  They just say, "surprise, spring is here!"

And with spring coming, many people try to transform themselves.  From our bodies to our mood to the clothes that we wear, we feel it's time for change.

I was reading from Ephesians 4 this morning, and Paul talks a lot about transformation in this chapter.  I won't copy the whole chapter here because it would be pretty long.  You can read it for yourself some time, find a Bible or look it up online.  But several different verses stuck out to me.

Verses 15-16
"Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love."

Verses 23-24
"Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.  Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy."

Verses 31-32
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.  Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."

These passages speak to me of transformation.  All the verses that I pulled out have the word "instead" in them.  Paul points out how we act or used to act and says, don't be that way anymore, "instead" live this other way and allow the Spirit to work in you to transform you more and more like Christ.

Transformation brings growth, just like the seasons are starting to transform and plants are starting to grow.  It may not always be growth that we can see so well as in spring-time, but it is transformation and growth.  Even though the trees' leaves change and die in the fall, the tree, if it is still connected to the ground and being nourished by it's root system, is still growing even though the outside becomes barren.

In my life, there are definite days of spring and also days of winter.  I feel newness and growth when I am focused on God, but when I get distracted by my problems or worries I feel like everything is gray and dead. 

Growth can be very painful.  Josiah reminds me often that hard times make us grow, my reply is often (jokingly) "I don't think I want to grow anymore."

Yesterday in Sunday school, we were talking a little about growing. 

In John 15:1-4, Jesus says, 
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.  You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.  Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me."

Pruning trees and bushes helps them to be more productive.  But it sounds painful, and pain is something that I don't like to experience.  But if we don't grow then the other option is to be cut off, and that sounds painful too.  So I think I would rather still be connected and feel the pain that leads to growth instead of getting cut off and feeling the pain that leads to the death of me and my emotions.

March 17, 2011

Spring is here

The weather is starting to get warmer!  I think spring is here.  We still have the possibility of getting a surprise snow shower. 

Like that one year, I was in maybe 5th grade, and it was April 1, April Fools Day.  And it snowed a lot!!  Our school district was closed but we went to a private school which did not even have a delay.  So somehow, we decided that school was more important than our safety and we piled in the school van.  I remember we almost slid off the road going up a hill, but that was our only adventure.  And when I got to school, which was about 20 miles away, there was no snow on the ground and no one believed me that it had snowed about 6" at my house because it was April Fools' Day.

But I didn't mean to dampen anyones hopes with that story.  It could happen, but I think it's just really nice to see the sun and to be able to go outside without a huge winter jacket, scarf, and hat.  Yesterday I saw that the daffodils are just about to bloom, we might have some that bloom today if it gets warm enough.  And I can't wait!!

So this morning I was reading from Psalm 65, and its all about spring!

"What mighty praise, O God,
belongs to you in Zion.
We will fulfill our vows to you,
for you answer our prayers.
All of us must come to you.
Though we are overwhelmed by our sins,
you forgive them all.
What joy for those you choose to bring near,
those who live in your holy courts.
What festivities await us
inside your holy Temple.

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds,
O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth,
even those who sail on distant seas.

You formed the mountains by your power
and armed yourself with mighty strength.

You quieted the raging oceans
with their pounding waves
and silenced the shouting of the nations.

Those who live at the ends of the earth
stand in awe of your wonders.

From where the sun rises

 to where it sets,

you inspire shouts of joy.
You take care of the earth and water it,
making it rich and fertile.
The river of God has plenty of water;
it provides a bountiful harvest of grain,
for you have ordered it so.

You drench the plowed ground with rain,
melting the clods and leveling the ridges.
You soften the earth with showers
and bless its abundant crops.
You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.

The grasslands of the wilderness become a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.

The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy!"