Made for More

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I have not written on my blog or anywhere else for quite a while.  In fact, I was surprised to learn that this site was still active.  That’s how long it’s been! Thank goodness for auto renewal, I guess!

It’s been a long season of grief, depression, a lot of anger and quite frankly –  all was not well with my soul.  Maybe that is why I avoided the blog.

I know what brain fog is and what it means to not be able to get outside of your own head.  I felt like I was stuck in the mud and not able to get out – no matter how hard I tried.

It seemed like the harder that I worked, the farther away I got from my goals.  The farther away I got from God. There seemed to be a barrier around every corner.

I was pretty sure that although I didn’t know what a mental breakdown felt like, I was going to have one.

Don’t misunderstand, I wasn’t curled up in bed in a fetal position, although I wanted to be.  Life went on around me and I just kept doing what needed to be done.  It was so hard!

I could go on a rant and list all of the injustices, frustrations and negativity in my life during the past months, but what good would that do?  I was raised to pull yourself back up and move on.  I’m guessing that a lot of you were too.  You tuck away emotions and anger for the good of the cause only to be left feeling unloved, rejected and devalued?

Some call it perseverance, tenacity or grit.  Some might say it’s an attitude or a spirit of that won’t allow me to give up.

I thought, on some level that everything that I did must be a calling, but I think that made me even angrier.

How could God allow my life to be this challenging?  Why am I working so hard?  I remember praying “God, I’m so tired, please help me!”  And He has, but then a friend asked me if I felt I was under spiritual attack.  I hadn’t thought about it, but yes!

Even as I write this, I feel very vulnerable.  “What will people think?” keeps running through my mind.

But as I was reading, researching and praying, I found a blog post by Susan Nelson on her blog:  Woman of Noble Character. ( https://www.womanofnoblecharacter.com/armor-god-women/) “If you are a living, breathing human, (and I can be pretty certain that you are if you are reading this post!), you are going to experience spiritual warfare and face the evil one at times during your life. Satan makes it his business to try to thwart us from living our lives for God. He wants nothing more than to hinder us from fulfilling God’s plan for our lives.”

Wow!

But today I feel like I’m healing.  My mind is clear and ideas are flowing for the first time in months.  Even in the midst of all the uncertainty that is happening around us with Covid-19, I’m healing.

I know I was made for more than to be stuck in the pain, anger and depression that I had been living.  Somewhere deep in my soul, I know that my purpose is to share God’s love for His people through my writing.

I will not live in fear or walk in shame any longer.  I am made for more.

I was not having a nervous breakdown, it was more of an awakening.

So I am committing myself to a blog post at least once a week.  I hope you will share in my journey of purpose.

 

 

 

 

Planting, Cultivating and Harvesting Our Fruits of the Spirit

corn plantUntil a few years ago, I had never taken into account the faith that is a part of farming.

My family, and every farmer that I know, plants tiny seeds every spring in hopes that it will produce a harvest in the fall.  Corn, beans, milo and sometimes sunflowers.  The crops produce feed for our cattle or finances to provide for the family.

When we plant these little seeds we know that there is a possibility that the seeds may never come up out of the ground.  Maybe the plants will be harmed or destroyed by hail, insects, flooding or drought. But we have faith that God will provide if He has called us to be farmers.

Farmers don’t stop caring for the seed after it’s planted. We prepare the land and cultivate the soil to help the seed grow.

Our gardens are the same.  If we stopped caring for our plants, our space would become overwhelmed with weeds.

Spiritual Farming

Our spiritual development is not much different.  After we become Christians we will only grow if we cultivate our faith.

That looks different for everyone.  Maybe it’s taking the time to read and pray.  Possibly you are encouraged through worship with other believers at church.  Some believers grow through listening to books and podcasts or maybe you belong to a community of believers that focuses on spiritual growth.

Maybe it’s planting seeds in others by mentoring or being a leader.

Fruits of the Spirit

As a Christian and as a farmer, I have always found some comfort in Galatians 5:22-23.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

I had to stop and consider if I was cultivating the seeds that my Fruits of the Spirit grow?

  • Love: Do I seek the highest good of others?
  • Joy: Do I possess a gladness that is not based on circumstances?
  • Peace: Is there contentment in my heart and unity between people? Do other people ask “What do you have that I don’t?”
  • Patience: Am I slow to speak and slow to anger?
  • Kindness: Am I merciful, sweet and tender?
  • Goodness: Am I generous and open hearted?
  • Faithfulness: Am I dependable, loyal and full of trust? In Luke 17:10, it says “What we were told to do, we did.”  Faith is doing what God has told you to do.  Have I?
  • Gentleness: Am I humble, calm and non-threatening?
  • Self-control: Do I behave well?

Avoid Stinky Fruit

Fruit of the Spirit is perishable.  It must be shared with others or it will spoil.

I find myself thinking about those fruit of the month clubs.  Thankfully, no one has ever gifted me with a subscription, but I’ve heard there is a lot of fruit and if you don’t share it with your neighbors, it becomes a box of stinky, rotten fruit.

Seasons

God says in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.”

I don’t know what season you are experiencing right now.  Are you planting seeds or harvesting fruits?  Maybe both.

I am in a season of growth largely because of my work with the Women of Faith Ambassadors.  You can learn more at https://www.womenoffaith.com/ambassadors .  I hope you will consider becoming an Ambassador.  We are growing in spiritual strength, life leadership and real relationships.

Even if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, God will produce fruit in your life.

Matthew 17:20 “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

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It’s Not About ME! It’s About Experiencing Peace – A Fruit of the Spirit.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a virtual dementia demonstration. I went expecting that I would learn something about my mom’s behavior that could benefit me as a caregiver, but instead I learned far more about how I could change my own expectations and behaviors.

For example, did you know that people with dementia and Alzheimer’s can only process one thing at a time. What happens if that task becomes interrupted?

As caregivers we should communicate in seven words or less. We need to slow down, be compassionate and help them be successful.

As in most things in life, it’s not going to do any good to yell or get frustrated. It is up to us to change the story, because all we can do is change our level of understanding. Listen and look at it in a different way.

All good advice for life, don’t you think?

This awful disease and the way it effects our family is not about me!

My natural instinct. I want to stamp my feet and scream “It’s not fair!”

I want life to be easier and I long for peace, but was reminded in my Women of Faith Ambassador group that I will only experience the fruit of the spirit – peace – when I trust in God and in His plan for my life.

It’s about surrender because this life is not about us. It’s about what we are called to do.

I’m pretty sure God is working overtime trying to get me to understand this concept because I was reminded again when I went to Sunday School and then Pastor Brett’s message at church.

We were discussing “How is God working in our life?” and “Making God an active verb?” But before we can answer that we discussed being obedient to His calling. Are we surrendering? Are we modeling unity, peace and reconciliation as Christians in our behaviors?

Pastor Brett reminded us that Jesus is clear in saying life is not always going to be easy and it’s going to look unfair sometimes.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about comparisons and how glad I am that God doesn’t compare one person to another. He doesn’t love one person more than the other. He calls each of us for a different purpose and our only job is to surrender to his calling. Not our neighbor’s purpose, but our individual calling.

In John 21, Jesus even says “What is that to you?” when He was asked about other the disciples calling.

It’s none of our business what someone else is doing, only our behavior and again, it’s not about me.

That’s hard for me to swallow when I’m ten minutes late to my next appointment and my client is telling me every past sin of their ex to justify their own behavior.  Love them and be kind anyway.

Or when I’m trying to herd cows and I have thirteen animals going fifteen different directions. Cows don’t care, but it’s not about me.

I feel like God wants me to tattoo this message on my arm because He reminded me again in my Mother’s Day gifts. On the day that was made to celebrate moms, I needed to be reminded that it’s not about me.

My daughter knows that I’m always seeking peace and contentment in my life. I’ve always thought I might find it in a good nap, but she gave me a 90-day Contentment Journal and a leather, zippered journal with her life verse on the cover.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 29:11.

This week I was reminded repeatedly that it’s not about me. It’s about me being obedient to His calling for me. It’s about listening and understanding true peace when I surrender that to Him in His timing.

I am growing in spiritual strength by being involved in Women of Faith Ambassadors.  Please consider joining a program that focuses on building life leadership, real relationships and spiritual strength.  You can learn more at:  https://womenoffaith.com/ambassadors/

(This is where I experience peace most.  It is the highest point of our farm and I can see a lot of what God has given me!)

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So Glad God Doesn’t Make Comparisons

I spent my weekend helping with a NATRC Competitive Horse Trail ride at Kanopolis State Park in Kansas.  The riders traveled with their horses from Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas to compete.  Teams ride thirty or more miles in two days on a mapped out trail.  It is not a race, but it is a timed event.  The riders are challenged with obstacles throughout the course and the horses are checked regularly for soundness and pulled from the competition with any sign of distress.

As I watched the awards presentation on Sunday afternoon, I was amazed with all of the riders and horses.  I realize it is a competition, but in some ways it seems wrong to compare one team with another.

These folks take on the challenge of a difficult ride and they all work so hard to care for their horses.  Again, I know they are all competing for national points, but I admire each of them.

Before I was pregnant with my son, I participated in this sport for several years.  I remember struggling with each ride physically, but also mentally.  I was a good rider, but in comparing myself with others, I didn’t always feel like I was doing all that great.

However, when I learned to compare myself against my last performance or my horse to our last ride, I began to feel like I was winning.  Actually, anytime that I was able to relax and ride with my friends in the beauty of creation, I was winning.

Comparing yourself to other people is not always beneficial, but it’s almost human nature to go there.

How often do you compare your physical appearance to another person’s?  Do you ever compare your bank account balance to someone else’s?  How about ability or gifts?

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” (Unknown)

My husband and I have been saying “I love you more” for almost twenty-four years.  Some days it is a true comparison, but in the end, we both win.

For example, I know he loves me more when he cleans up after my dog or on the occasion that he has stepped out of his rubber boot while helping me do chores.  Just the thought of this “city boy” landing his foot in the cold, slimy mud while helping me, proves he might love me more.

He also puts up with my “crazy” and has not once refused to forgive me when I have offended him.

In exchange, I don’t complain when I have to sleep on the couch because he is snoring.  I have even grown accustomed to another Jeep finding it’s way to our driveway.

Isn’t it a good thing that God does not compare his people?  He doesn’t love one of us more than the other.  He just loves us.

“Stop comparing your faith to hers.  There is no such thing as good Christians.  There are only saved Christians.” (Soulscripts)

Some people believe that comparison will not only divide people, but it causes disillusions and destroy.

“The only true antidote to comparison is contentment, which begins with a thankful heart. The comparison trap compels us to turn inward, to focus on ourselves, what we lack, what caused our discontentment. Thankfulness, on the other hand, compels us to turn our attention to others. It’s like a salve over a fragile or damaged heart. When we are thankful, we don’t see what we lack. Instead, we see the generosity and faithfulness of a good Father and are compelled to meet the needs of others.”

“The best thing you can do to cure yourself or someone else of the comparison trap is to consistently serve others.”  (Arielle Vogel / https://www.crown.org/blog/what-does-the-bible-say-about-comparison/)

How are you serving others this week?

If you error, error on the side of grace.

This article also appears at https://beatricedailysun.com/opinion/columnists/the-problem-with-comparisons/article_dce7f4c3-96e0-599d-a34f-b180d06b5f04.html .

The Best Man’s Speech

Keri and LarryThis was my speech at my brother’s wedding reception last Saturday.

Hello and Welcome.  Thank you for being here to celebrate Larry and Keri!

I’m Christina Lyons.  I’m the Best Man.  It’s a new title for me, but I’ve been Larry’s sister for almost 45 years.

I have to admit that I haven’t always been my brother’s biggest fan.  You might find this hard to believe, but Larry was an annoying little brother.

He used to terrorize my cats when we were kids.  Our cousin, Troy, helped.

I also remember beating him, on at least one occasion, because I thought he was breathing funny!  He probably had a cold.

I stopped beating him up a few years ago and somewhere along the way, I think we found a comfortable niche.  We saw each other for holidays and family events, but we always knew we could count on the other.

But then, about six years ago, we lost our dad and in our brokenness we found grace and mercy.

Without really even talking about it, we became farming partners.  We have fixed fence, put up hay and cared for our cattle together.  We’ve weathered heat and humidity, freezing cold with snow and most recently, mud.  Lots of mud.

We don’t do things exactly how our dad would have, but it works for us.  Even if the neighbors are talking about “what are those crazy Kendall kids are up to now?”

We even started having the same thoughts!  Spooky!

Something else happened six years ago.  I started praying for both of my brothers.  When you pray for someone, it changes you.  Well, it changed me.

And while I didn’t know it, I was praying for Keri too.

I asked God to send someone into Larry’s life to complete him.  To be his soulmate and for him to cherish, as much as I do my husband, Dave.

I knew Keri was that person when she came to the farm to help us fix fence in 110 degrees.  Wearing sandals.

And I’ve known it a thousand times since then.  In the mercies we’ve shared.  The challenges, tears, celebrations and prayers.

I am truly honored to be here today and stand with Larry as we welcome Keri and her family into our family.

I would be remiss, as the older sister, if I didn’t give you some advice.  First and foremost, I pray that you will continue to put God at the center of your marriage and your family.

Remember to say “I love you” everyday, even when it’s a challenge.

Keep talking, sharing and celebrating your life together.

May you always remember this day and that your friends and family are here to love, support and encourage you both in your life together.

I love you both.  IMG_0105

Love and Support

It is finally here! The week before the wedding and it will be a busy week, but it is full of excitement and celebration.

My brother, Larry, and his fiancé, Keri, or the person I have referred to as my “some-day-sister-in-law”, will be married on Saturday.  I will have a sister.

I am honored to be the best man – although that title is not quite right. Best woman? Best friend? I’m really not sure about the title, but I am certain of my role in the ceremony, but also in their marriage.

Yes, I know that I am holding the rings, signing the certificate and making a toast at the reception, but it is after the formal wear has been put back on the hanger that the real job begins.

The people they have asked to stand beside them as they take vows to love each other for the rest of their lives, as well as anyone that is attending and celebrating with them, are tasked with supporting them in their marriage. It is a privilege, but also a responsibility.
This thought occurred to me on Sunday during the dedication of a child at church. The parents were pledging to love the child unconditionally and promising to teach and guide her in the church and her faith.

Extended family promised to love and support her and her parents as she grew. The congregation vowed to keep her and her family in prayer and be her church family.
That is not much different than a wedding ceremony, in my mind. There are different rituals and initiations that we have in our families and in our culture to welcome new people.

In fact, I also learned that during the early church, if a person were to become a Christian, they needed a sponsor. Since there were no church buildings that were open to the public, they had a process called “The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus.”
The four stages included Evangelism, the Catechumenate, Baptismal Preparation and Baptism. This initiation process extended over the course of three to four years.

It began with noticing that your friend or family member was acting differently. They weren’t going to the gladiators and maybe they seemed to be experiencing more peace. If you wanted that type of life and wanted to be accepted into the church, you would have to learn a new way of living which included a sponsor advocating for you with the church leaders.

Make changes or be rejected.

The gladiators and men in the military were often killed when they tried to make the changes required of the church.

In the second stage converts would learn the Bible, the art of prayer, visiting the sick and communion, but it wasn’t until the third stage that you would prepare for Baptism. This stage usually lasted six to eight weeks which was during the Lent season.

The sponsor was involved throughout the process which culminates on Easter Sunday with a completely disrobed Baptism. Early Christians were distinct.

Every new child and every marriage is different and distinct, but I believe we should all act as sponsors and support to the people we love. It is a privilege and a responsibility.

And who should we love? Every one. But that is another column.

This week as we prepare to celebrate Larry and Keri’s wedding, I hope they know how much they are loved and supported.

But just in case my “best man” toast falls short of conveying that support, I hope they will remember that the rituals could involve something more difficult than planning a wedding ceremony. You could be nude.

Finding Your Authentic Self in the Face of Devastation

53926443_10155823019327046_7179800900628643840_oSeveral of you have asked about my adventures in calving during the past couple of weeks. I still have four cows that are holding out for better weather or a really inconvenient day, I suppose.

Klinger, a little bull calf that has worn a hat and a coat, has tried to die on several occasions. My brother said “Well, it’s Klinger. He’s looking for a section eight.” He spent some time at the vet clinic and has had the best care that a calf could have during the first three weeks of life. I am happy to report that just yesterday he started running away from me so he must have decided to live. I guess he is tired of all the shots and manhandling.

It also occurred to me yesterday that we are incredibly blessed.

My heart aches for the people that have been affected by the flooding and the blizzard across our state during the last week. The images that have been posted included loss of life, devastation of property and the unbelievable amount of snow, ice and water. With every new report I found tears forming in my eyes and a heaviness in my chest. It’s hard to watch.

I was not personally affected by the destruction, only inconvenienced by the closing of bridges in Beatrice. I simply can’t imagine that kind of loss.

But as I was told a few years ago, whenever there is some type of a disaster, “always look for the helpers.” It’s true every time. There are always people that have stepped up and helped with sand-bags, moving horses and cattle or clean up and rebuilding.

There are plenty of those stories.

I’m reminded of the image of the State Trooper who stopped to aid a calf that was frozen to the ground in western Nebraska saving the calf’s life.

A friend posted this yesterday on her Facebook wall:
“If I am ever stuck in a natural disaster, I pray to God it happens in Nebraska. Being surrounded by farmers, ranchers and other individuals raised with that in their blood is the safest place in the world. The don’t strive to be heroes. They just are. God has led them to care for his creatures, his animals, his humans and his soil. He stuck them in the middle of the United States for a reason. For the same reason the heart is found in the center of our bodies.” (J.M.W)

I love that because I see how true it is from my perspective and such powerful, healing words.

By doing what God has called us to do, we are living the version of our most authentic selves.It may not be convenient or comfortable, but if we are working from our strengths with purpose, we are living our calling during that time.

I heard a Christian radio evangelist say that one of the ways that we can all live as missionaries is to live our lives authentically.

Not everyone can help clean up debris or shovel mud, but maybe you can donate supplies or possibly cook a hot meal for volunteers. There will be a lot to do to recover from the loss that many people in Nebraska has suffered, but we are community. It’s just what we do.

A friend asked me a few weeks ago, “How are you living victoriously in Christ?”  (PS – I think we all need a friend to ask us that!)

I stammered and said something like “I think I’m just beginning to.” But she gave me examples of what she saw that made me think about it more.

I’m the first to volunteer to help if there’s a need I can fulfill.  I use my strengths as a writer and grant writer to build God’s kingdom and, as she pointed out, I don’t ask for anything in return.

“People don’t do that!” she said.

Well, most people don’t, I guess, but God gave me a servant heart and by living authentically, I am living victoriously.  It’s just what I do.54433450_10155825698787046_4804068938033922048_o

I’ve known for years that my most authentic self is found on my family farm caring for the cattle or land. While most people see it as chores in the mud and working in the cold or extreme heat, it is more to me.  It is a portion of what God has called me to do. My purpose.

Where is your most authentic self?

You can find your authentic self by understanding your human nature, what you can change and what you cannot, your personality traits and learned behaviors. Your values, beliefs and strengths.

You have a purpose for which God has called you!

Psalm 1:3 – That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever they do prospers.

Proverbs 27:19 – As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.

Isaiah 58:11 – The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

 

Photos by my husband, Dave Lyons.