Separation Anxiety


Our two horses are about to be separated from each other for a short while. We’re practicing. They are NOT happy.

Horses are herd animals, meaning they need each other for companionship and safety. Rio and Zaina spent the first 4 years of their lives together on another farm before they came to us, and have continued to be together here. When we take them out to pasture in the morning, we usually take them out one at a time. Whomever is left in the stall for what, 2 minutes??, whinnies, paws the floor, bangs her hoof on the stall wall and in general makes a ruckus. The one put in the pasture, when she realizes she is alone for what, 2 minutes??, does the same thing. She’ll whinny, toss her head, and check the hot wire with her chin whiskers. Where, oh where is my BFF!? You’d think after a year of this ritual they’d figure out there’s nothing to worry about.

See, Zaina is getting ready to spend spring break at a training facility, with her actual owner, our son’s girlfriend Kaylie. We thought it might be a good idea to get them used to separation before the big split. So far, not so good. Rio is in the paddock by herself this morning, and although I know she’s hungry, all she can seem to do is pace back and forth, whistle and snort every time she hears Zaina call from the barn. Hoping to be a smaller although, human substitute, I took Rio an apple, one of her favorite treats. She ignored me. I came closer, holding the apple out to her where I knew she could see it. She turned her big rump to me and looked away. Wow. Normally she can’t wait for me to get over the fence with it and she’s nosing my coat pocket. She finally came over and took a bite, then sulkily finished it, her ears turned totally toward the barn and the unseen (but not silent) Zaina, oblivious to my sweet talk. I guess there’s just no substitution for a BFF.

It’s hard when you don’t understand what’s going on.


Father knows best

I once asked my daughter if I talked too much and expounded on my opinions about this that and the other thing because I noticed that when I got on a rant! about anything! it seemed all the people in the room got very quiet and became still, as if any sudden move might make me pounce on them like a cat. She thought for a moment and said very carefully, “Well…you are pretty intense.” She’s right. But I have to blame my genetics.

See, I come from a long line of intense people, which is really just a nice way of saying “Steamrollers.” My father’s side is German. My mother’s side is Scotch/Irish. And we’re Lutherans. We’re all loud and opinionated and Mitch is just sure we’re arguing when we’re really just discussing things with severe passion, which is probably just another word for arguing, but it feels more Christian. Unfortunately we all came out of this family insisting that each one of us is right and everyone else on the planet is simply mistaken. My mother even used to say, “I was wrong once. But that was the time I thought I was wrong.” Long after when you give up and concede for the sake of peace, we find the need to expound into the wee hours of the morning beating the proverbial dead horse simply because we have more to say on the matter. This has proven very hard on the in-laws. But there’s also much laughter (and beer) and more beer. It’s a fun time. Mostly.

Recently we 5 siblings ran cross ways with each other over some issues with our aging parents. It took a nasty turn and we ended up with 4 lawyers trying to explain to 7 people how to resolve issues that had roots 80 years long. We all had loud and intense opinions about every detail, and of course each of us was correct and everybody else (including the lawyers) were blind, but after 5 months of frustrating emails, irate phone calls, expensive court appearances, and documents after documents, here, in some immortal words of our father, are some things I learned:

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Life is hard work. Preparing to die is hard work. Settling accounts with your family when you all carry such heavy, invisible loads of wounds, expectations and demands takes work. Get used to it: life is hard, and Jesus promised we’d have trouble. Why are we always surprised?

Where does it say life is fair?
Although a bit pessimistic, Dad was not far off. So I’ll add “Don’t expect your brand of justice from the Justice System.” Lawyers, judges, and mediators don’t know your family history, nor do they care about your sibling rivalries. They are tired of the parade of human debris that flows through their courtrooms, and would rather you all get some therapy, have a few beers, and work it out at home. Of course if you don’t, they are more than happy to siphon off all your cash.

If it doesn’t belong to you, don’t touch it.
“STUFF” causes problems. A house-full (and bank-full) of stuff can make you rationalize your choices, be blind to your motives, ignore your scruples, and underestimate your capacity for, well, let’s just call it evil. We all struggle, it’s in our nature. But our job is to pay attention to that little Jiminy Cricket voice (aka Holy Spirit) and step into the Light. Hey, the shoe fits us all sometime.

In my 50-something years, I’ve steamrollered over enough people of my own, some on purpose, and I (and they) won’t always get complete justice until the Resurrection. That’s the Day that every knee will bow to Jesus, who really IS never wrong. Everyone will have to give account of what they’ve done. I believe that means we ALL have a lot of apologizing to do. We’ll all stand naked with the God of the Universe before whom nothing remains hidden, and we’ll KNOW, to the depth of our souls, where we’ve hurt each other. Humility will reign. Our apologies will be real, and honest, and gut wrenching. And relationships will be restored.

I read one time, that when we stand before God, He’ll say, “Welcome, my beloved child! Now go clean up your messes and come inside, because we’re all waiting dinner for you.” That’s justice. That’s grace. That’s heaven. Obviously we’re not there yet.

Apologies to Marcus – you’re one lawyer who truly did NOT want to spend all our cash, but urged us to protect the important things and to reconcile. Thank you.


One Seed at a Time

It’s early December in Michigan. We’re enjoying one of those rare winter days where the sun shines gloriously after a snow and everything is glitter. The birds seem to be encouraged too, and sing from the bare branches, believing this day is a hint of spring.

They’ve finally discovered the new feeder I put out on the back deck, hoping to entice them close enough for me to watch them as I have my morning coffee. They’re so beautiful in the sunshine, their plumage glowing in the thin crisp air. Today the charcoal and white juncos are busy, hopping back and forth on the deck rail, picking seeds that I spilled when I filled the feeder this morning. A male cardinal stops by for a peck or two, his red presence unmistakable amid the gray and white of winter. Then a handsome little male, golden brown as buttered toast flits back and forth between the feeder and some far off destination. He is so quick it takes me a while to really decide who he is. Then his little narrow beak gives him away: a nuthatch. As I watch, I can begin to see his pattern. A quick stop to choose a single item, then off to the big maple, not to eat, but to search for just the right crevice in the bark in which to stuff the little seed. Back to the feeder, one seed, select the perfect hiding place in his larder, fly, and repeat. So busy. But so wise…

What are you saying, Lord?
“She sets about her work vigorously…when it snows, she has no fear for her household…she can laugh at the days to come.” (from Proverbs 31)

I must admit, on a rare sunny day like today, I’m tempted to curl up by a warm window and read for hours, or just laze away the morning in my slippers content to make my way through another pot of coffee. Enjoyable, but not very profitable…or wise. It’s a good day to choose outside chores. I could get some Christmas lights strung outside for a change. I could hang my clothes on the line today and later bring that wonderful sunshiny fragrance into the house with me, savoring it long after the sun has disappeared. I’ll open up every curtain and blind to allow all the glory in while I clean. One task at a time. I’ve learned before that putting them off only makes the jobs larger and time smaller resulting in frustration and little peace.

The nuthatch has completed his shopping and his groceries are packed away. He has no fear for his household and can laugh at the days to come. Now he has time for other enjoyments, perhaps singing a song of praise to his Creator. Wise little bird.

the Queen

This year's pumpkin: by Mom.

This year’s pumpkin: by Mom.

I tried so hard to avoid saying, “Because I said so!” when my kids kept asking “WHY???”

One morning after exasperating efforts to cajole them into cooperation I finally answered the “why?” questions and yelled, “Because I’m the Queen!” That didn’t go over so well either, but it least they stopped in their tracks long enough to get some chores done without whining. I used the phrase often after that, realizing that Moms get to be the boss, the top dog, the head honcho, the Queen for no other reason than because I said so, but really because I have to answer to God one day for why I didn’t wield my positional powers well enough to raise decent human beings. Releasing selfish renegades into the world isn’t very fair to everybody else. They had to learn that the buck stops someplace, not to ruin their fun, but because the Mom on top answers to a Higher Power too.

I whine and ask “Why?” far too often myself. Usually God is patient with me and teaches me as I learn to grow up and be a responsible and caring person in this world. But once in a while, He just pulls rank. Those are the times that I wish I could say I always drop my head and humbly say, “Yes, Sir.” But it doesn’t always go that way. I want to understand all the details. I want to be involved in the whole process. I want to know what’s coming next. I want…to know “WHY”.

I learned while raising seven kids that it’s okay not to answer every “why?” A bit of the unknown teaches you to trust the someone (and the Someone) who loves you and would never do anything to harm you, or trick you, or steer you wrong. Even when it doesn’t make sense to you, or you don’t understand all the details, you can just do what you’re told and depend on your leader, or in my case…The Queen.

“I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Because He said so, that’s why.


Vinny our Bantam rooster - king of the fence if not the coop.

Vinny our Bantam rooster – king of the fence if not the coop.

We named it Serendipity Farm because it’s just been full of sweet little surprises.

I grew up in the city. My first taste of farm life came after I married and we rented a farm house in central Nebraska while we finished college. I planted my first garden, learned how to can tomatoes and make jam, and realized the peaceful joy of sipping my morning coffee and journaling, while absentmindedly gazing out the window at the old barn and open fields. I fell in love. Fifteen years later, we were building a house out on 20 acres and raising seven kids, homeschooling, gardening, and dreaming of cows and horses. Chickens and ducks were all we could manage on one teacher’s salary, but we gardened like crazy, built tree forts, caught painted turtles in the pond, and played with the waxing and waning numbers of cats and kittens. It was heaven.

Then the economy tanked.

Job changes and the need to move closer to work forced us to sell. I cried while signing the  real estate papers. We dragged the kids through four more  cities and homes, two got married, three more moved out, and the last two are seniors in high school. But God did not forget the longing in my heart. Last October, we moved into a restored 1880 farm house on five acres complete with a huge barn with horse stalls in one half, and a workshop in the other (his and hers!) I continue to be stunned by the way God held the desires of my heart, large dreams and small, and has poured them back out to me here in central Michigan. Our family has grown to include five grandchildren and the farm draws them all back “home” to visit the chickens and ducks, dog, horses, and the ever waxing and waning numbers of barn cats. And in November we will be joined by our first dairy cow. The barn is filling with hay, I’m selling organic eggs, and we’re getting ready to fence some new paddocks for grazing. Join me in my journey?

Now, where could I put some Shetland sheep…?