Saturday, February 28, 2009

Seasons Change

Seasons change.
People (cows)change.
It has been so long since I found you
but it seems like yesterday.

I want you.
I want to feel you by my side.
I need you.
Don't you know I need you. baby? (lyrics robbed from 80's pop hit by Expose)

Alright. She let me milk her last night. I guess she is over her mad with me. Actually, I think it had more to do with that nice non-GMO, locally grown grain from Sunrise Farm. Perhaps she missed her evening milking snack more than she missed her freedom.

I told her how much I appreciate her hard work producing all that wonderful milk. We discussed her need for a vacation, her need for a date with some big handsome fellow. How it must be rough seeing her kids grown up, wishing for another baby.

Coco will be officially on break pretty soon.

We haven't set a date. It will probably coincide with a visit from our friend's bull. By then we will be in full swing with goat milk production. Priscilla is due to have her calf in late summer then we anticipate the flow of more cream. I love goat milk yogurt. Prefer it to cow's milk. Chevre is a tasty treat. But please don't tell anyone. I can't stand goat milk in my coffee. I am a heavy cream kinda gal. Guess it will be green tea for me for a few months. Sigh.

To everything there is a season...

Speaking of seasons, the fields are waking up! Bright green blades of grass are popping up their heads. The transformation is subtle. I am hearing birds outside in the mornings. Sounds like March. The air is damp and full this morning. The forecast suggests we have rain or snow in the future. Today that doesn't bother me because I have evidence it won't stick around for too long! The flowering trees are swelling with buds. The chickens are laying again. The egg yolks are red orange with all the new grass those girls are getting.

I had better get another cup of locally roasted, organic free-trade Star City coffee with thick cream while opportunity avails. It you want some, you better come over soon!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eegads. Or Oh my goodness. Or what in the world is going on?

For the second night in a row Coco would not let me milk her. The mornings have been fine. She has been giving over 2 gallons of milk in the morning.

For some reason she backs up, dances around and goes crazy when I get ready to milk.

What in the world is the problem with that girl?

Maybe it is a bad case of cow PMS.

Maybe she is punishing me for leaving for 2 weeks.

Maybe she is getting tired of 15 months of lactation.

Maybe she wants a vacation.

I have never restrained Coco for milking time. I call her. She comes up to the concrete pad by the backdoor and I get out her food and she eats and I wash her udder and milk her. Same thing every morning, every evening. I haven't put her in a stanchion because we haven't needed to go that route. I kinda like our easy going relationship. Partners of sorts. Pals. Colaborers in this operation.

So what the heck, Coco? What did I do wrong? Why are you mad at me? Please don't make me beg you.


To be continued...

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

This morning the temperature outside was over 30 degrees! It felt like a balmy tropical day after waking up to 14 degrees for a few days. Right about the time I thought I could endure the cold no more, the weather shifted.

The other day I was moaning and groaning about being cold to the bone. Philip asked me if I had prayed about it, asking for some warmth. I thought about it.


I had been praying for my Indian friends, for my husband, for the kids, for my friends, for our homeschool and church, for our neighbors, but hadn't even considered praying about the cold.

Every year around this time I feel miserable. My Texan bones tell me that it should be 65-80 degrees right now. It makes me grumpy. It makes me grouchy and sluggish. It makes me snappy and irritable.

So I eagerly embraced the thought of praying for some relief.

As the temps crept up to 50degrees yesterday and the sun shone brightly I stretched out my arms and gave the day a big hug.

Today is even warmer.

I know, I know. Spring is not here yet.

Winter still has a few more blasts up her sleeve.

But as we get out and plow and plant today I rejoice in the God who knows my limitations. This little bit of warmth just might get me through to April. I hope everyone out there will remember to throw your requests out to God. You might be happy to know our Creator cares about all things. Even cold grouchy bags of bones!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Spring is Coming! Really!

Yesterday morning while milking, I noticed the willow tree in the corner of the hay meadow. It was brushed with a pale yellow green wash. It appeared to glow. My toes and nose were numb, milking in the brisk morning wind. Even so, the heart warmed a degree or two, enjoying the green glow of the little willow tree. What a relief. After 2 weeks of 80-90 degree temperatures, it is truly brutal to be cold again.

Never fear. Spring is almost here. In a few weeks we will be seeing blossoms, I hope.

We are readying the barn for goat babies which we expect to begin arriving in a couple of weeks. It is time to plant peas and spinach. That means the free-ranging chickens need to move to another area to free-range so they don't decimate the new garden. It is more fun to work in the garden in March than in cold February, but today's Proverb is a good reminder:

"A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing." Prov 20:4

Is a sluggard a cold person, wanting to stay tucked under the down comforter? No, I think it must be the cold person that doesn't just want to stay tucked under, he/she DOES stay tucked in until the warm days of May!

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace..." Hebrews 12:11

Not to mention PEAS!!! We are still enjoying last year's abundant harvest of frozen green peas. I will try to endure the discipline of gardening because I want more of those sweet treats for next winter. Maybe this weekend or early next week we will be getting the garden beds ready.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Thomas J. Hillery (warning: sentimental meandering from a mom grieving the loss of her son's babyhood)

Thomas turned 16 years old yesterday. February 17th, 1993 is his birthday. It was very cold. I remember seeing the bank thermometer read 21 degrees as we drove to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning. Back in those days we lived in seminary housing in Fort Worth, Texas.

What a miracle. What fascination as we felt kicks and squirms in my belly and watched little baby roll around. We eagerly painted my old baby crib, measuring to be sure the slats were not too widely placed. We bought gender neutral baby blankets and baby curtains and baby t-shirts and stacks and stacks of pristine white cloth diapers. We read books on natural childbirth and parenting and every single chapter in the WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING book. I got very interested in nutrition and learned that what I ate fed the little baby as well, so I greatly altered my diet to include whole grains and meats and fresh fruits and veggies and plenty of vitamins. We were in awe when the doctor did the sonogram and we saw a real human baby, thumb, legs and cute little ears.

Philip was on hand to "assist" during the c-section. I can almost see his eyes when the doctor said the famous words "It's a boy!" The squirming little rolling ball in my tummy now had an identity. He was Thomas! Thomas was Philip's uncle, my professor and mentor in college and James was Philip's middle name, his father's middle name and my grandfather's name. His big eyes looked like they belonged to a wise old man. Our firstborn.

We spent hours studying Thomas's face, his fists, his chubby little toes and legs. We agonized over every night he cried. We were shocked and delighted over every new little thing he did. I still have fond memories of carrying him out to the seminary housing clotheslines in the over the shoulder baby holder, hanging out those diapers on the line.

Before you know it, Philip finished his MDIV and we were off to Japan for two years, baby Thomas in tow. He was the hit of the party. In the city of Tokuyama-shi, Yamaguchi prefecture, very few residents had much contact with blond little boys. People would stop their cars in the middle of the street to say their hellos to Thomas in the stroller. They would give him little toys and fruits. When Thomas was old enough to hold on tightly, we fitted our bikes with a baby seat. The three of us would cycle all over our city. I would carry as many bags of groceries as would fit on the handle bars, Thomas in bike seat and me holding umbrella in hand, cruising through the busy town. He loved our little Japanese table on the floor and would toddle around it, just his size. He loved sticky rice and curry and tofu and especially crispy seaweed and squid. Our english students adored their little friend Thomas-kun.

Those memories are so precious to me because it was such a unique world, Philip, Thomas and me. We have so many other memories. I guess we never thought that it might be too much to travel around with a little baby. Before we headed to Japan, we traveled in our little blue pickup, camping across the United States. New Mexico, Arizona, San Francisco, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and all the way East to New Jersey, New York and back down to Texas. Two years in Japan, with a visit to Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium somewhere in the middle. Thomas was a celebrity when he, his father and grandfather celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Liberation of Luxembourg. Three generations. Thomas journeyed with us to S. Korea, to Sinagpore and Malaysia, to Hawaii. Always the happy camper. Always smiling at fellow journeymen, bowing and shaking hands.

Patrick was born and then we were four. Thomas grew to be an attentive big brother. He would cry out to us, "Check him, Mommy, check him!" anytime Patrick would wimper in his crib. This was in Buchanan Dam, Texas. We moved back to Fort Worth, Texas. The Thomas train tracks followed us, as did the big stacks of books. He always loved to look at books from the moment he could hold them in his chubbly little hands. He also loved to put stuff together, and more importantly, take things apart. Legos have always been a big part of his world. So have bugs. He and Maggie, when very little, would spend afternoons collecting bugs in their bug collectors.

Just yesterday I asked Thomas what type of work he would enjoy doing this year. He said demolition. He absolutely loves helping people take down old shelves, old boards, ripping out walls and cabinets. He has been very helpful in that department in our own home renovation. I am hoping that his love of insects will translate into a love of beekeeping.

Thomas loves big city life and trips to New York. He loves to watch TV (whenever he gets to be around one!), and reads more books in a month than most adults read in a lifetime. He is creative and writes stories in his head on a regular basis. I hope he will decide to get a few of those stories on paper. He enjoys drawing and music, fires and big explosions and eating. He is a great hand in the kitchen and will start apprenticing under me in the baking department this year. He doesn't much care for farm life, but nonetheless has shoveled and wheelbarrowed his share of manure. He loves his cat, Zaccheus. He loves to sleep. Doesn't much like getting up in the mornings, unfortunately for both of us. He loves the Sr. High youth group at Church of the Holy Spirit. He loves to talk about movies and books. A sure way to know if he likes you is to see him chatting nonstop with you.

Our world is much different now. The cozy little three of us is now a noisy seven. There is a lot more opportunity to learn and practice grace and forgiveness. I guess I am sorry for Thomas having to be the first born and deal with a couple of parents who didn't know a thing about parenting. Not that we know much more now. Even so, he has a unique position. The firstborn son. Now growing into man.

Thomas, I love you so much. I am so glad you were born. I look forward to hanging out with you and seeing you grow into a man who fills his role in this earth. You are unique and created to do many good things. There are many many more things I could write about you, but the clock is ticking and I must make your breakfast. You are a very good boy growing to be a very good man. May this 16th year be a year full of surprise, delight and accomplishment. May you learn everything you need to learn this year. May your joy bless many others this year. May the Lord grant you the journeys you desire and many oppportunities to do good. Big hugs from your mom.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day! or Home Sweet Home

Oh how good to be home. I wanted to kiss the soil of our precious farm when I got home last night, but I was too tired! I settled for kissing a husband and 5 kids instead! After a 20+ hour train ride to Chennai and 24+hours of air travel, my journey to India has come to an end. Oh, how I missed my family.

I think Nora must have grown an inch or so. Everyone seems to be doing well, despite my absence. Philip has greatly improved his milking technique. Thanks to many friends everyone seems to be well fed. I so appreciate the whole gang making it possible for me to get to know a little bit of India.

Many stories clutter the mind. Some are pretty sad. I got to stay a night in the home of Rajesh and Bobbi. They are taking care of 15 Khandamal kids whose families lost everything in the riots. I fell in love with those kids! We had so much fun together. Two of the big guys, Swabesh (10) and Amiya (12), were a real pair of characters. They love Abraham Lincoln. They asked me to tell them everything I knew about Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately that didn't take very long. All the kids enjoyed seeing pictures of the farm and my kids. They want me to go back to Orissa next month and be sure and at least take Patrick and Maggie with me. If I could bring them a puppy they would like that, too. Bhumika is an 8 year old fireball of a girl, 8 years old and very much like my Rose. Spunky, spirited, full of energy and quick to flash a mischievous smile. Jablal is a 5 year old little fellow who sat in my lap when I told silly stories like Goldilocks and the 3 bears with their big pot of rice (none of those kids had ever seen oatmeal or porrige). Karish is an 8 yr old fellow with severe hearing loss due to having malaria or some illness go untreated. Abinash is an 8 yr old fellow with a serious head injury. His father was murdered by the Khandamal rioters. They went house to house, hunting down pastors. Beheaded some. Burned some others to death. They rounded up families and poured gasoline on them and set them on fire to burn to death. Abinash tried to run into the jungle and was caught and hit on the head with an ax. So was his mother. They were left to die, but miraculously survived. He is such a clever boy. His scar is healing nicely. He and the other children will be starting back to school in March.

These kids were brought out of the relief camps. Their parents are in shelters or camps. The camps have no running water or even latrines. Very little good food or meds. People are still dying of dysentery. They have scurvy. It is such a blessing that people like Rajesh and Bobbi are taking in kids to give them a clean, safe place to recuperate while parents try to find a way to start a new life. It is still too dangerous to go back to their homes. Even when they do go back, there are no jobs. All their furnishings and homes are completely destroyed. There are others just like Rajesh and Bobbi.

I am thinking of my dear little friends this Valentine's day:
Jablal (5yr old boy),
Roshni (7yrold girl)
Nsumon (6 yo boy)
Shantimayee (7yo girl)
Pritem (7yo boy)
Umez (5yo boy)
Elin (6yo girl)
Sagarpradhan (7yo boy)
Karish (8yo boy)
Abinash (8yo boy)
Marvin (9yo boy)
Bhumika (8yo girl)
Uttam (10yo boy)
Swabesh (10yo boy)
Amiya (12yo boy)

Just a few of the new friends I made on our journey. So many more. Maybe I will share their stories later. Right now these guys are on my mind. I wish I could give them a big kiss. I can't send them a puppy but I might be able to locate a book on Abraham Lincoln. If anybody has a good recommendation, let me know.

Please pray for these guys. Also for Rajesh and Bobbi who are working hard to give them a safe clean place to stay, with good food and love. Also for the other families who have taken in refugees. Especially for the children and families who are still living in the camps. They need medical care, food and water. And a chance to get back to their homes and their lives.

And here's a special note to Philip:
Happy Valentine's Day! I love you. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to go and do when it seems really important. Thank you for backing me up and for learning how to milk a cow and for bringing us here to this farm. Thank you for all your hard work. You are a man I admire. You are so very smart. You are an amazing dad. I am glad you pursued me. I know it was a huge sacrifice for you to send me off to India for 2 weeks. I am glad you did.

And to the kids:

I LOVE YOU SOOOOO MUCH! I wanted to cry almost every day when I was away because I missed you so much. But I knew you were safe and sound and now we are all back together. Thanks for being willing to sacrifice so I could go and meet new friends and give them vitamins and milk and other good stuff. Don't you wish we could bring all our new friends here to the farm for awhile so we could give them big glasses of Coco's milk and scrambled eggs?

And to my blogging friends:

Happy Valentine's Day to you, too. I enjoy sharing our world with you. I wish you all love.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres.
Love never fails." I Corinthians 13:1-8a

Happy Valentine

Friday, February 6, 2009

More News from Afar

We had an amazing time in Gopalpur. In the future I hope to post a story or two shared by our friends. There are many heartaches. Even so, there is joy and life.

The conference where we were working was for pastors from the state of Orissa. During the height of the persecution last fall, YWAM arranged for this gathering as a time to encourage and serve the pastors of the state.

Over 60 Orissan pastors from the Khandamal district were killed last year. over 250 people were murdered and more have died in the relief camps. There were around 90 pastors who were able to come to the conference. There were many denominations represented. Pentecostal sang alongside Catholic, next to Baptist and Church of Christ. They shared stories. They sang together. They sang many traditional-type songs in the Oriya and Kui languages.

The Khandamal District is where the Kui people live and this is where the persecution took place. One night after the training time the men started to sing and all of a sudden they were dancing together in the room. I weep just remembering that powerful moment. It brought to mind the scripture "I will turn their mourning into dancing." Indomitable spirit.

The first morning we were there I was praying. I asked God to show me what my role was supposed to be during our time at Gopalpur. That afternoon I got a minor headache. As I went to the room to snag a couple of ibuprofen from my huge stash of meds I wondered if anyone else might be able to use some advil. I took my bag of stuff down to the general area and started to let people know I had some basic drugs available.

I now had a role!

The men and young people were lining up, some with headaches. Some with backaches. Some had diarrhea. Some had a cold. I brought all sorts of stuff for headaches and backaches and diarrhea and colds! So after my stuff ran out and the line grew longer, I realized I better run to the Medicine store down in the village. For a few ruppees, I got the medicine cabinet (my ziploc bag) replenished and ran back to the dispensary (the chair in the back of the chapel). So many people with basic aches and pains and no money for running to the store to get some relief. The whole conference I got to hand out pills and vitamins. Many of the people staying at the camp are malnourished and have scurvy. Believe it or not, in this tropical region many eat no fruit. They have no money to buy it.

I prayed with many people and chatted and smiled and learned that loose motion means many trips to the bathroom and slow motion or no motion means they wish they could go to the bathroom!

Now we are in Cuttack, working with the DTS kids who are all refugees. They have looked so sick. A few have dysentery. They are passing around a cold with a fever. Some have lice. The program is giving them scholarships for their food and lodging (blankets on hard floor) but has no $ for a first aid kit. With some of the $ people donated for my trip, we went to a medicine store and stocked up with all sorts of basic meds: antiparisite, cold, cough, bandaids, lots of vitamins, lice treatment, stuff for dysentery, stomach aches, tylenol, hydrogen peroxide, etc. I hope it will last for a couple of months.

I am so grateful for the chance to do a teeny little bit to help make someone feel better. It makes me think that if we all did our teeny little bit, wherever we are, we could make a whole lot of people feel a whole lot better.

BTW, it was pretty funny, walking back to our place from the medicine store. Ayangala, one of the women leaders, walked with me to get the supplies. On the way home we were chatting and trying to avoid being hit by bicycle rickshaws, motorcycles, trucks and motorcyclists. I saw the nice fresh pile of manure and thought she did too. She didn't. I guess Ayangala did not think it terrible funny at the time, but I told her that typically we have people step in manure accidentally while visiting the farm. Not while visiting a city of how many million?

So, please watch your step. You just never know!

I have to tell you that I am LOVING the delicious food. They serve so much of it. I have eaten more rice in the last week than I have ever eaten in my life! The puris, the masala, the vegetables are wonderful. We have had many little cups of thick sweet chai. I am trying to learn words. Little to no success with instant language acquisition. The girls seem to get a kick out of my efforts! They definitely do better with English. We do lots of sign language. The pictures of the farm and iceskating and the animals are a great ice breaker. The girls think that Philip is one handsome guy! Everyone thinks the kids are adorable. Of course!

Will have more stories when I get back to the farm. Thanks everyone for your prayers. Please remember the Kui tribe, especially the pastor's and families in the Khandamal District who are still suffering greatly.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Holy Cow!

Sorry! I just couldn't help myself with that cliche!

I am in an internet cafe in Gopalpur by the Sea, state of Orissa, India. It is very warm at 7:30pm. We are in a retreat center, ministering to pastors and students who are going through some training. After +24 hours flying and 18 hours on train, we got to our destination around 4am this morning.

Cows are everywhere, Coco! They are mostly grey and white, with an occasional baby in tow, having their dinner in the middle of the street, cars and bikes and buses streaming around them. They seem nonplussed. So do the skinny little goats and dogs. It was nice to hear roosters and ducks this morning. They love to clean up the scraps leftover from our curry and rice and potatoes. Not a bad life...

I saw huge piles of hay from the train window. Men loaded it onto trucks with pitchforks. No big tractors or balers here. You can see big piles of hay right on the street corner. But that seems to be the exception. I am not sure how all those cows get much too eat. Guess they pick through the garbage.

It is a different world here. I am so happy to have made it. It is challenging eating wet rice and curry with fingers, but should get better with a little experience. I hope to hear more stories from the people we are getting to know. One lady told me that their family lost everything last fall. Property, home and belongings. They are just coming back from a refuge camp out of state. Another lady told me she is afraid to go back because their neighbors consider them enemies since they are christians. They are happy to know that we are praying for them and that we care for the suffering they are experiencing. They are especially happy to see pictures of Thomas and Patrick, Maggie, Rose and Nora. And of course Philip, too! Our world is shrinking.

Much love to everyone who helped get me here. Will touch base sometime later. Try to stay warm! Wish you could smell the salt air and fell the warm breezes and come share some cups of chai! Get to know our Indian brothers and sisters. Don't forget to pray for the persecuted.