We had a long full day on the ranch yesterday. Some pictures will tell bits of the tale.
Today was Good Shepherd Sunday at Church. Worship revolved around the image of God as a shepherd and the 23rd Psalm was a real focus text. That is the one that starts, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…..” I was the vocalist for three of the hymns and I read the Gospel lesson. A few things really jumped out at me through the service. The first came early on when Susan our minister used a Children’s Bible to explore the 23rd Psalm. The translation included the phrase, “I love being part of God’s flock.” I am not sure why that jumped out at me, except maybe that it resonated inside of me. I do love being part of God’s flock and if I wasn’t part of it I am not sure what flock I would want to be with. Where else would I be invited to see and know myself as beloved, where else would I be challenged to live for others as well as myself, where else could I wrestle with my demons and find new beginnings, all with a promise of living water which to me means that mercy and compassion and unconditional love is running through my veins, and I don’t have to whip it up, its simply offered by the Good Shepherd. I do love being part of this flock.
Another thing that jumped out at me was an observation Susan offered. It was that the 23rd Psalm is to the Christian what a paring knife is to a cook or a …..what was the other illustration…..hmmmm……I can’t remember but it was something like, a rope to a cowboy. You can do the job without it but why would you want to? To anyone who takes it in their toolkit this psalm can provide both comfort “he leads me beside still waters” and challenge “The Lord is my Shepherd….I shall not want”……but oh my do we ever want for many things in this life!!! …… when we already have so much. I really enjoyed the mental imagery of tucking a copy of the 23rd Psalm into the kit of favourite tools in this house, which includes many great cooking/baking tools and much cowboy paraphernalia.
One other major thing was just how much the contents of the service today match my own life. I found myself thinking, “of all the people who hear this text today, all over the world, how many are living it in their everyday experience?” (I don’t think this makes me better than others, its more like a “wow, today its my turn to really see myself in this story!” kind of moment). A picture popped into my head that Liz Griffin took, of Russell, with his shepherds crook, my husband the herdsman. Russell gave me an illustration of what it might mean that God is the Good Shepherd just about as soon as I got home. He was telling me about interacting with the cows and that he came up to a cow with certain markings and he said to himself, “Oh there’s Costco” (a few years ago we did a set of replacement tags with names of food brands we enjoy, like Dare, Co-op Gold, Kraft) (replacement tags are necessary because cows can rub their tags out if they scratch up against trees and bushes). When he drew near he read the tag and found out that it was “Gilligan” (we did some replacement tags with names from “Gilligan’s Island” and while we are talking about that group, currently the cow ‘Minnow” (remember their boat?) has mastitis and is causing Russ some extra work…..). Russ had not wrongly identified the cow, in fact Costco had lost her tag and Gilligan was her replacement. I said, “Wow Russ, you remembered Costco’s markings that well?” “Oh yeah” he said, like it was no big deal. I think one of the most remarkable things we are asked to have faith in and take comfort in is that God knows us through and through. Russell’s easygoing knowledge of our cows strengthens my faith that this just might be so.
I used the idea of keeping house in the title for a couple reasons. I wanted to do some “housekeeping” with you who read the blog. I had someone tell me today that they wanted to share a previous blog on social media but didn’t think they should. My feeling about that is that I have chosen a public venue for my writing, it is accessible to anyone who would look for it, if there are things I don’t want the general public to see I won’t share about them here. If you feel like sharing something that is fine. Having the chance to have writing more broadly shared is kind’ve cool actually. WordPress keeps detailed stats about numbers of visitors and views of each post, it is a really nice feature because even if comments or likes are not happening in a big way it is easy to see that readership is steady.
I hope you enjoy these pictures, they are really special to us. Thanks to Liz Griffin who took them all!
Part way through the day yesterday I found myself thinking that a title for a blog about the day would include the idea of a rollercoaster. Later on I realized that just wasn’t accurate. A roller coaster goes up and down several times. That wasn’t the shape of the day. It was something else, but what? As I pondered that I had that very familiar verse of Scripture rise to my mind, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”…..and for a while yesterday that was how it felt. We started off in wide open places, and without warning came upon that valley, it was pretty rotten in there, for me at least (grief triggers, etc.), and then I/we found ourselves being lifted out of the valley. The possibility of returning to the valley meant a roller coaster was in the making as the day wound down. I find myself pondering the verses I read first thing in the morning, a Christmas text, “he will be Emmanuel which means God with us” and noting how that echoed with Psalm 23, “yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” I don’t have the time or mental power to untangle exactly how “God with me” shaped this day but I made it through a painful valley, I was not alone, I am thankful for the people and gestures and currents of grace that proved to be the elevator out of the valley. I took lots of pictures yesterday, it was that kind of day, but none of the valley, so have no fear about seeing something hard, I will just tell you about it.
It was after this that things went south. The calf that had been pulled in the morning was not doing well. There is a disheartening reality to this. Russ intentionally left the heifer and calf to lie and rest after the pull. He understands this is needed given all that they have each been through. The trouble is that things got super challenging for Russ after this. He was not able to get back to those animals as quickly as he should have. Everyone else was under experienced or busy or both for the assessment and retrieval that needed to happen. Its kind’ve complicated. Fast forward to late afternoon, Russell brings me Like’s calf, it is not doing well and there is a sign that another cow stepped on it. He headed out to get to other things. I was left alone with this beautiful but struggling calf. I rubbed it and rubbed it, trying to dry it and to get its circulation improving. I was assessing what I was seeing and hoping for the best, leaning over that calf and pouring every caregiving instinct I have into it, and it died, right in front of me. I couldn’t give up, partly because a bit of spontaneous movement would give me fresh hope. You know where this is going right? Flashback and emotion. Damnit. I couldn’t save my Mom and I couldn’t save this calf. It was overwhelming. It was the deepest and darkest part of the valley. I called Russell, washed my face, changed my pants and called Grandma Shirley. Despite being late I was coming for tea. This is where the elevator out of the valley started this time around. Russ was so sorry to have put me through that. Sympathy helps. I got to Grandma Shirley’s, who is in our Covid bubble, and she said to me, “dear, at Christmas I put four shortbread cookies away in the freezer knowing there would be a day that I would need them, I think today is the day.” Her delicious tea and those beautiful cookies and just getting off the #*#* ranch were a bit of ointment on my wounds. While there I got an odd picture from Russell and Morgan. Shirley and I thought Morgan was holding a baby deer on his lap in the jeep. That wasn’t it. It was a second time in the day that animals elevated our experience and brought wonder.
As we went to bed there was the possibility that Diane the rabbit was going to die in the night. Russ said, “she is either going to wake us up at 3am lunging out of her box (by that point located in “the company bathroom”) or die.” The valley of the shadow of death lingered near once more.
Thats all for this day. I think that is the end of this storm too and future posts won’t be such a long read. I hope.