Thursday, February 27, 2020

Salt and Light

You are the salt of earth. ... 
You are the light of the world.
From Matthew 5: 13-16

The Scripture lesson from one of Pastor Kim's Sunday sermons has been on repeat for me. Even though it's been almost two weeks since that particular sermon, snapshots of my daily life keep bringing the words back to mind. 

In the pasture, the cows gravitate toward the salt blocks that we provide. Just like we humans, the bovines seem to want to flavor their diets with a bit of salt. As a child, I remember going with my dad on salt block deliveries. A little residue from the salt cube was left behind on my fingertips, and I couldn't resist a secret taste.
The cows also seem to crave the mineral Randy stocks in the pastures and lots. (I don't think the two calves were partaking, but they were cute models anyway.)

I certainly prefer my food with a sprinkling of salt, too, even though my doctor would recommend I limit my sodium intake. 
And LIGHT! From the time the morning creases the night's darkness ...
... until the setting sun ...
... we are reminded of the value and power of light.
Feeding hay at sunrise
Then, as if I needed more confirmation, last week's message on Transfiguration Sunday also centered around light - or, more appropriately Light. 

As I watch the sunrises and the sunsets from my country roads, I'm often reminded of that Sunday School song I learned in the Byers United Methodist Church basement, "This Little Light of Mine." I later taught it to my kids and others in my Joyful Noise choir at Stafford. Though the message is designed as a catchy children's tune with cute actions, it's just as relevant in my adult life - if only I take time to think about it.
Sunset scene looking south
In the song and in Matthew 5, Jesus tells his listeners that they are the to be the light of the world. They cannot be hidden.
We, too, are called to influence what is around us. Our faith shouldn't just remain inside. It should overflow and provide the seasoning and reflect God's light in the world around us.

Shine, people of God, shine!
Do not hide your light....
Take your worship out of these doors.
Be gracious, merciful, and righteous.
You are the light of the world. Shine! 
From our church's benediction 2 weeks ago

Ash Wednesday began our Lenten journey yesterday. While Facebook these days often seems to divide rather than unite, I saw this graphic on several of my friends' Facebook pages:

To me, fasting from these things will make more of a difference in my life than giving up a little chocolate. 

Jesus, allow my faith to flavor and illuminate every­thing I do and say every day. Amen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Flip for Pancakes: International Pancake Day

It's always a good day to flip for pancakes. But if you need an excuse to celebrate pancakes, International Pancake Day is today - Tuesday, February 25. 

Pancake Day is a moveable feast whose date is determined by Easter. It's celebrated exactly 47 days before Easter Sunday (April 12 this year).
It seems there's a day for every food these days. There are days delighting in doughnuts. There are days for sandwiches, hamburgers and hot dogs. Pie gets more than one day. But Pancake Day is especially important in Liberal, Kansas, and Olney, England. For the past 71 years, the women of the two communities have raced down the streets of their respective communities, flipping pancakes and running against the clock and each other. The race is always on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. It's the only race of its kind in the world.

"Shrove" is not a thing, but a verb. "Shrive" (shrove, shriven) comes from the Old English verb scrfan, "to decree, decree after judgment, impose a penance upon, hear the confession of," according to the dictionary. Shrove Tuesday is a day to reflect, to seek penance and get ready for Lent.

In Olney, the Pancake Race tradition dates back to 1445. Legend has it that a woman was busy making pancakes and using up cooking fats, which were forbidden during Lent at that time. Hearing the church bells ring to announce the Shrove Tuesday service, she grabbed her head scarf and ran to the church, with pancake-filled skillet in hand. In following years, neighbors joined the race to the church. The first to arrive collected a Kiss of Peace from the bell ringer.

Photo from the International Pancake Day Facebook page: Liberal's Billie Warden crosses the finish line in 1950. Billie won the local race with a time of 1:18 but lost to Olney's Florence Callow, who finished in 1:10.4.
The international race with Liberal began in 1950, when Liberal Jaycee President R.J. Leete saw a photo of the English race in Time magazine and then contacted Olney, challenging their women to race against the women of Liberal.

Racers must still wear a head scarf and apron. Each runner flips her pancake at the starting signal and again as she crosses the finish line to prove she still has her pancake after running the 415-yard course.
Photo from the International Pancake Day Race Facebook page
 According to the book, America Celebrates! A Patchwork of Weird & Wonderful Holiday Lore, some superstitions have evolved among Liberal racers:
  • It is considered good luck to carry a past winner's skillet in the race or wear a past winner's apron.
  • One year, the stack of concrete pancakes marking the starting point of the race was stolen. This was considered a bad omen, but the stack was later returned.
  • Although the women practice running 415 yards, it is considered bad luck to run the official race course during the practice sessions.
I flip for pancakes anytime, not just on International Pancake Day. So I decided to try out a new recipe when Kinley and Brooke were here last week. I love to eat out for breakfast, but we don't get to do it all that often. (Let me re-phrase that: I don't eat out that much for breakfast. Randy meets his buddies at Joan's Cafe at least once a week.)  
I'm an advocate of breakfast-for-supper and so are the girls, so if you want to celebrate Shrove Tuesday in a way that's been a tradition since 1455, here's the recipe. And you don't even have to wear a head scarf or run a race to enjoy them!
Whether you make pancakes or not, I'll leave you with the traditional blessing bestowed upon the winner - whether it be in Liberal or Olney:

The Peace of the Lord be always with you.
 Banana Oat Pancakes
Adapted from Food Fanatic 
Serves about 6
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
2 medium bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped pecans (opt.)
Butter for griddle or skillet
Syrup, additional nuts and fruit for serving, if desired

In a medium bowl, combine oats, bananas and milk. Set aside to let the oats soak and soften.

Preheat pancake griddle or skillet over medium high heat.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat the egg and oil into the wet oatmeal mixture, then pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Add nuts, if desired, and stir until just combined.

Butter the preheated surface of the griddle or skillet. Use about 1/4 cup batter per pancake. Wait until the entire exposed surface of the pancake is bubbly and the edges start to look as though they are set, then flip the pancake. Cook the second side and remove pancakes to a plate or a chafing dish to keep warm.

Garnish the pancakes with more chopped pecans and/or fruit and serve with your favorite syrup. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Life is Amazing ... And It's Awful

Life is amazing.
And it's awful.
And in between the amazing and the awful,
it's ordinary and mundane
and routine.
Breathe in the amazing,
hold on through the awful
and relax and exhale
during the ordinary.
That's just living.
amazing, ordinary life.
And it's breathtakingly beautiful.
L.R. Knost

Not too long ago, I saw the prose by Knost on a friend's Facebook page. And I thought about how it so poetically describes this season of life - and death - on the farm.
We are in the "heart" of calving season on The County Line. (And, yes, the pun is intended with this cute little calf who sports his own heart - not on his sleeve, but on his chest.)
There's not a whole lot cuter than baby calves - except granddaughters, of course.
We are about halfway done with the population boom along The County Line.
Most of the baby calves and their mamas do well.
It's a delight to watch the babies scamper across the lots or pasture, kind of like kids playing tag. It's a miracle to watch the mamas instinctively care for their babies.
In the scheme of things, I suppose we take that for granted.
 But sometimes there's a back story - a story that doesn't have a happy ending. Or it may take a whole lot of extra work.
This guy was born at our Peace Creek pasture.
The mama tried ...
My favorite cattleman tried. I helped, too.
But, despite the teamwork, the calf didn't make it.

Today, I'd planned a blog post about how all our efforts for another baby calf were paying off. But, the story has a different ending than we'd planned.

We were trying to save the surviving twin born to heifer No. 880. One of the twins died at birth.
The surviving twin was smaller than normal. And because the calf was having trouble sucking, Randy milked the heifer.
Thankfully, the mama was patient. After a few days, she pretty much directed herself into the head gate in the calving shed to be milked.
At first, we had to tube feed the baby.
Getting a little warm milk in its belly helped perk it up a bit, but it still just wanted to be lazy.
It was finally strong enough to get up on its feet. But it still had trouble finding the right end of the heifer for the "faucet." It still didn't have much power - or interest - in sucking.
It progressed to bottle feeding, so it was getting better at sucking. 
Each morning, we'd let the mama out into the heifer lot for feed and water. Then, at night, we'd bring her back into the calving shed to try again. 
Kinley and Brooke will be here later this week and then the whole family will be here this coming weekend. We thought they'd enjoy the bottle-feeding process. We had planned to continue to bottle feed the little calf through the weekend, then take it to the sale barn, where we hoped a little 4-Her would need a bucket calf project. I laughed and told Randy that he was letting family influence his cattle management decisions.

But, Monday morning, Randy found that the calf had died overnight. So the hopeful story - contrasting life and death - suddenly became a lot less joyful.

I realize the death of a calf does not come close to the death of a beloved family member. We learned about the death of such a father and much-respected community member to cancer that same morning. Another rural family I know of via the blogging world is dealing with their son's paralysis after a skiing accident. There are many others recovering from surgery or facing other challenges - whether they be physical, mental or spiritual. This little story about a calf can't compare to these human trials.

But as I read the tributes to the man who lost his battle with cancer and I saw more posts of support for that family as their son continues rehab sessions, I thought more about it. Life is amazing. And it's awful. And then it's ordinary and mundane.
God calls us to all of it in the different seasons of our days and lives. He also calls us to keep our eyes on the amazing and beautiful - even in the messy, awful parts of the journey. And He asks us to help carry the load for others along the way.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

It's A Snow Globe World

The world looked like God had a snow globe in the palm of His hand, then flicked His wrist and gave it a little shake. And the big flakes of snow fell softly and silently back down to earth.

Snow globes remind me of my Grandma Neelly. She didn't travel a great deal. But, when she did, she'd raid the souvenir shops for snow globes or crinkly neon-colored coin purses showing the Grand Canyon or some other American landmark. She was a classy woman, but you couldn't tell it from her souvenir choices.
My 8-year-old self loved the snow globes as the snowflakes danced their way from top to bottom, catching in the crevices of the plastic Golden Gate Bridge or some other attraction.  Shake them up, and a kaleidoscope of snow would obscure the plastic figures inside.
So, it's no wonder that I upended my to-do list yesterday with as much fervor as I'd shake a snow globe. The flakes - from infinitesimal to ginormous - were calling a silent song as my world became a snow globe, too. 
Yesterday, instead of Empire State Buildings or the White House, the cows and calves in the heifer lot and in the pasture south of the house were the the figures catching the snowflakes' descent.
But then, as I returned to the house to make dinner, flashes of red darted through the snowscape scene in my backyard.
After patiently sitting on the back steps, trying not to make any sudden movements, I captured a few photos of our backyard troubadours.
After many other days when my efforts were less successful, I was pretty excited.
But it was my reliable "models" who were most ready for their close-ups.
It's rare that snow falls in Kansas without a gusting wind on the side.
I think 002 has the sweetest face!
Even though the wind came up as we checked the lots and pastures before dusk, most of the day was uncharacteristically calm and still.
 Our little friends had plenty of straw ...
And their own personal milk machines dispensing warm beverages. 
We had six new babies yesterday at various pasture locations. But the human in charge did his usual good job as steward. Honestly, the moms were the rock stars yesterday.
I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields that it kisses them so gently?
 And then it covers them up snug, you know, 
with a white quilt. 
And perhaps it says, "Go to sleep, darlings,
till the summer comes again."
-- Lewis Carroll 

And from author Mark Haddon (below):

Snow blobs and softens the top of every object like cream on a plum pudding. 
Hedges, telephone wires, cars, postboxes ... The world is losing its edges.
Look upwards and it seems as if the stars themselves are being poured from the sky and turn out not to be vast and fiery globes after all ...

 ... but tiny, frozen things which melt in the palm of your hand.