The Greatest Gift

Christmas has come and gone.  The question most asked is, “What’s the best gift you got?”  And then I’m stuck.  I don’t have a one word answer and I’m not sure I want to take the time to put into words what my best gift was.

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The boys and Brittany got me some AMAZING knives, but that wasn’t the greatest gift.  And while I really liked the Grandma plaque Avery gave me, it wasn’t the greatest either.

You see, the greatest gift for me this year was when 4 generations of our family gathered on Christmas Eve to worship together.  It was such a blessing sitting there taking in the message of Pastor Jeff, singing songs of worship together and just relishing the joy of the night.  It was Christmas day that it dawned on me what made the night so special.

I grew up the youngest in my family.  And I have one first cousin on each side of my family tree that’s younger than me.  I never got to meet my Grandpa Moore and my Grandma Moore passed away before I was a year old.  My Grandpa Hillebrand passed away when I was 12.  Grandma was the only grandparent I had when I became a parent myself.

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As I sat there I realized what a blessing it is for Avery to have not only her parents and grandparents to raise her in faith, but also 6 great grandparents!  Three generations of love, joy, faith and grace being poured into this little girl.  And that was the greatest gift this Christmas.

 

80 years old

Today is my father-in-law’s 80th birthday!  I’m sure there are several of you who have never met him, so in order to celebrate him I thought I’d tell you just a little about him.

 

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Paul Bastian is a farmer.  That one word should tell you a lot about him.  He’s tough, intelligent, caring and compassionate.  He’s faithful, loyal and determined and maybe just a little stubborn.  You can find him on any given day caring for the cattle, watching the cattle and crop markets, and looking on Facebook and Tractor House on his smart phone.

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Paul is a strong Christian.  You can disagree with him on any number of topics but one that you will never succeed in swaying him is his faith.  He has been a Sunday school teacher and an elder and never has he taken those roles lightly.  He has prayed impossible prayers.  He has led his family faithfully.  He knows his Savior’s voice and listens intently to it.

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Paul is a family man.  I made a comment the other night about only getting to spoil our granddaughter, Avery, for another 18 years and both of the boys said, “Our grandpas still spoil us and we’re way past 18!”  And they were right.  We all know that if we need advice or a helping hand, we can call on Paul.  He loves each of his children and their spouses, each grandchild & great-grandchild unconditionally and fully.  And he loves his wife with his whole heart and has for nearly 60 years now!

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Paul is so much more than I can even describe here.  I guess the only other thing I can tell you is that we are so thankful for his example, his guidance and mostly his love.  Happy birthday!

Love always, 

Mike, Melinda, Chris, Jesse, Brittany and Avery

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Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning on That September Day?

Today marks 15 years since the attack on America by terrorists at the World Trade Center, in the field in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.  We talk about everyone remembering where we were when we first learned of the news and how we reacted.  
Fifteen years ago on September 11th I had morning carpool.  I had dropped off our 6 year old and 8 year old along with some friends of theirs at the Christian school they were attending.  It was the last year before we began homeschooling the boys.  I don’t even know what I was listening to but it must have been a book on tape or a tape  of music as I didn’t hear any reports on the radio.  I stopped at the gas station just up the road from our farm to fill up for the week and the attendant there asked if I’d heard the Pentagon had been attacked.  I was confused and said no, I’d been taking the kids to school.  I often shielded the kids from the news.  Honestly, they were too young to really have to deal with what was on the evening news.  And yes, I know what was on the evening news 15 years ago was very mild compared to today’s evening news.  Anyway, I came home, flipped on the news and sat there for several hours trying to comprehend what had happened.  I could not wrap my head around it.  Why had someone attacked a center of commerce, a military center and what did Pennsylvania have to do with the master plan?  At the end of the day, I went to pick up the kids from their carpool ride home and made sure to keep the TV off that night.  I needed to be able to figure out what I was going to say to them before sharing that our country was under attack.  I was torn between wanting to go to pray with other Christians and trying to keep my kids’ lives “normal”.  Eventually, God gave me the words to explain that there are people in the world that didn’t like us simply because we’re Americans.  Just as in the Bible, there were people who hated others simply because they loved God.  But I also explained that what the terrorists had meant for evil, our country needed to turn around for good.  

Thankfully, our President at the time, was a patriot first and foremost.  He guided our country to support one another, rally around one another and pray for one another.  He encouraged us to express the Agape Love that Pastor Jeff talked about today in his sermon.  A love of commitment.  A never ending love.  I long for a return to that as a country.  We are living in a time of very little love and a lot of division.  We have become a country quick to criticize one another, quick to point the finger of blame at someone else, slow to accept responsibility for our own actions.  We are quick to protest, slow to respect, slow to offer an opportunity to a better life and quick to judge.  We expect celebrities and athletes to be moral examples to our children, instead of being the everyday example to them.    We make heroes out of criminals and blast people who take a stand for the unborn as judgmental.  We’re a tick off target and are unsure of how to get back on target.  

Our lives have changed so much since 9/11/01. Our sons have become men. One has become a father. They didn’t get to grow up with the innocence I had hoped. They have seen a friend go off to war and come back a completely different person. Mike and I have become grandparents who wonder what the world will be like when Avery goes to school. Yes, we know how quickly the world changes. In 5 or 6 years, it will likely be a much different place than it is today and completely different from that September day in 2001.  Christ has been doing a work in my life over the course of the last year.  He has shown me so much grace that I can barely comprehend it.  So when He has been so gracious to me, what should I do in return?  Show grace to others.  Be compassionate.  Criticize less.  Accept responsibility for my thoughts and actions instead of blaming others.  Show respect.  Show love.  Help others who haven’t been blessed as you have.  Be the person you want your children to become.  Love first.  Love always.

Happy 1 month birthday, Little Bit!

A month ago you and your sister came into this world unexpectedly soon.  You were supposed to be our 4th of July firecrackers; instead you were a special Mother’s Day gift.

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I’ve not gotten to spend as much time holding you, spoiling you or getting to know you as I’d like to have so far.  We’ll have to make up for that!  I’m amazed at how you’ve grown, how your personality is coming out so very much.  How you light up a room with your grins and squeezing your eyes shut!

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Be good for your Momma and Daddy.  They’re getting a little stressed from being in the city and the hospital for so long now.  Celebrate with a little extra milk and a few extra snuggles from them.  Wear something pretty.  Take pictures with your Momma.  Take pictures with your Daddy.  And mostly, soak up the love and prayers from all of us back at home.

Love ya, Little Bit!

Gramma B

Hello and Goodbye.

Eight days ago, we got to say hello to our twin granddaughters.  Unfortunately, we also said goodbye to one of them.  Avery Skylar and Skylar Jean were born on Mother’s Day (May 8th) 2016.  We had known for some time that the outlook for little Miss Skylar wasn’t good.  We prayed that God would heal her in His will.  And He answered that prayer on May 8th when she got her perfected body in Heaven.  She was this tiny little girl who gave so much so that her sister would survive and thrive.  Every time I visit her big sister and see how well she’s doing, I thank God for the blessings of both of these girls.  I admit that I’ve taken healthy babies for granted.  I assume the best outcome is on its way – nearly always.  I doubt I’ll ever take that for granted again.  Miss Skylar showed me with her very short life just what it means to have a sacrificial love.  She showed me what it is to love someone you’ve never met, never held, never got to know.  She reminded me to rest in God’s sweet embrace when it felt like the world was crumbling around me.  She taught me that it’s ok for my eyes to leak without explanation.  So, Miss Skylar, until we meet again in Heaven one day, I want to thank you and I want you to know that you were and always will be loved.  Gramma Skylar and Avery

Sometimes the words have to come……..

I’ve been stuck for a good while now with not being able to get my thoughts out of my head.  They’ve been stuck between my head and my fingers.  A few weeks ago I started two new life groups (think Bible and Christian life studies).  Some of my thoughts poured out at one of the groups but I still couldn’t get them to come out very coherently.  Then this week an internet friend told me to get my camera out and take some pictures.  She’s one of the people who get that sometimes the pictures speak to me.  Today, I took the opportunity to do just that.  I took the day off from work and went to visit Brittany in the hospital in St. Louis.  She’s there being monitored with goals on her patient board being, “Stay pregnant, no fever, no contractions.”  So far she’s doing 2 out 3 very successfully and the 3rd ones improving.  But I got home and God was providing the scenes I needed to picture.

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This was the scene that greeted me when I pulled in the drive and God was speaking loudly to me.  The storm clouds were gathered but it wasn’t storming.  They just sat there for over an hour.  And that white cloud at the top stayed there.  I think most people know the storms in our lives.  Our daughter-in-law and son, Brittany and Jesse, are expecting twin girls.  Their actual due date is July 9th or 10th but they are likely delivering sooner than later.  While the girls are identical they aren’t.  As their prenatal doctor at Cardinal Glennon says, “Each of your kiddos has a very different story.”  One baby has some significant difficulties.  The other doesn’t seem to have such significant issues.  We won’t know how the next chapter will be written until they arrive.  And while we would love to have them hang out until July in the womb it looks like that chapter will be written soon.  We’ve become so attached to these little girls and yet have never met them.  The white cloud in the picture symbolizes God to me.  He’s watching over us, over the storm and we know He’s got it all in His control.  And yes, we know that our ways are not always His ways.  We know the outcome we would like and we know what the medically predicted outcome is and we know those are not one and the same.  But what we know and rely on is the fact that God is holding ALL of us in His perfect peace.

Then there’s the dandelions.  These weeds drive me crazy this time of year.  They pop up and make my yard look unkept quickly.  I got the front yard mowed last night but didn’t get the back yard where I found these done.  I read a post today about perspective in regards to dandelions.  While they’re a weed they also have a certain beauty.  I see another perspective.  The first dandelion is the image we all try to put out there as a public face.  We’ve got it all together….life’s perfect….no problems here.  The second picture is what we really look like as we’re going through a storm.  Worn, beaten, battered.  A little bit of fluff stays attached but we’re just barely hanging in.  Then I zoomed out.  I don’t know about you, but I have so many amazing friends and family that surround me and support me through life’s storms.  To me they’re both the fluffy and the golden dandelions.  I’m that weed in the middle being supported and surrounded and protected by them.  And I’m thankful – very thankful, for that support and love and grace.

So that is what came out of my picture session tonight.  Finally a break in the dam of thoughts in my mind.

Throwback Thursday

I was planning on banging out a new post this morning, but I got distracted by the drafts sitting here just waiting for their turn to become real posts.  As the MO Club Calf Association’s show season is gearing up to start again I thought this one might be something to look back on.  It was written last August.  The State Fair is a busy time for our family but it’s also a time for reflection.  So here you go – some thoughts from a cattle show mom on a hot day in August to be read on a cool day in February.

I’m trying to write this post on my iPhone while I’m in the cattle barns at the Missouri State Fair. The laptop is back in the camper and I really prefer to keep it out of the sand blown barns.

Yesterday we showed in the junior Angus and Percentage Simmental shows. We had a day of mixed results and I posted all of the results on Facebook. My oldest said I really didn’t need to post our lousy placing with one heifer. I disagree. DSC_0001

We show a lot. We do well quite frequently. As a matter of fact, Jesse has done well enough that one of those heifers is the MCCA champion Angus and another is the champion percentage Simmi.  And then, there are times a judge just doesn’t like what we’ve brought out. It happens to EVERYONE at one time or another. And it’s ok. I posted our lousy placing on Facebook so that people could see we don’t always win and it doesn’t come easy. angus side view

Last year we brought a little heifer calf out. She was, and still is a February 14, 2014 calf. I posted a picture of her as our Valentines Day treat!  When she went into her class a year ago she looked a lot younger than most of her counterparts and stood last in class. Yesterday, she was the same size as her counterparts and won her class. Funny, isn’t it?  Or maybe not. She beat some pretty good heifers. To me it’s a shame cattlemen feel the need to age the calves. When your fall calf champion is bigger and more mature than your summer calf champion, you may have an aging issue. I hear the excuse ringside that EVERYONE does it so to be competitive in the calf class you need to also. Therein lies the problem, not just in the show barn, but in life. Who sets the standards you live by?

Along with honesty, it takes a lot of hard work to even get to a show, much less do well. We have been working with 2 of our big heifers for about 10 months now, the other big for about 14 months and the little heifer for about 6-7 weeks. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times they’ve been washed, blown out, combed on, clipped and fit, led and sticked. And then, there’s feeding and making of feed and hand mixing of feed and researching different nutritional supplements and needs for EACH one. I jokingly (half jokingly is more accurate) told Mike I thought we must be raising show pigs with our unique rations. A scoop of this, a half scoop of that, half a tub of this and a little bit of that.  HOLY COW!

DSC_0011So you see, when that Junior Exhibitor walks out of the ring with a ribbon in hand, the color doesn’t matter nearly as much as the lessons learned but on the other hand, the color of the ribbon does indicate some level of work. You can tell the calves who haven’t been worked with or the showmen who haven’t done the work. It amazes me the indignation parent exhibit when Johnny isn’t recognized as the best showman or his calf doesn’t  win the show  when he’s been “too busy” with other activities to work with his calf. Yes, it’s good to have more than one thing that interests you. No, you’re not likely going to be the best if you split your focus among many things. I have never bought into the theory of putting kids in every activity offered in hopes of having a well rounded person. In my opinion, a well rounded person is one who has a lot of interests but no real passion.  We set out to raise men passionate for agriculture – specifically beef cattle. And they are.

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