Sunday, January 14, 2018

Rest, Reflect, Refreshed, And Ready

Last week we talked about working at making 2018 an exceptional year. Your year will be full of planned and unplanned events. Many of those events will take energy, encouragement, and effort. At our house winter time on the farm can be a time to mentally and physically slow down a little. To evaluate the previous, to enjoy the present, and to look forward to and plan for the coming season.
Jan and I are blessed to be able to spend some time together on Cayman Island 200 miles south of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea. Since my phone doesn't work outside the USA it has been a week of idling down, shifting to neutral, and relaxing. 
I know many folks enjoy a vacation on a cruise ship. Even though I have never been on a cruise I don't think I would like to be on a boat with that many people for a week. Here in Cayman as many as 4 cruise ships come in dropping off from 11000 to 17000 folks every day. By mid afternoon those folks after standing in long lines load back up and head out. 
I enjoyed our flight. I was invited to sit up with the pilots. We talked about how they used GPS to make an AB line just like we do on the farm. I was able to see many other planes in the air and was able to see Cuba while we flew over it.
We stay at the London House on Seven Mile Beach. We are with other farmers. We drove around in a rental car. Since this is a British island everyone drives on the wrong side of the road.
We share a kitchen, living room, and balcony with another couple. We each have our own bedroom and bathroom. With the beach and ocean right in our back yard we spend much of our time swimming, reading, and going for walks up and down the beach. Believe it or not I spent all week in shorts.
Jan and I drove to the farming area of the islands where they grow mostly vegetables. It was a stark contrast from the condos on the beach.
Their cemeteries are interesting. Obviously if you would dig a hole you would soon hit water so they put the vaults half in and half out of the ground. This was a beautiful cemetery with palm trees and ocean.
Jan found a nursery and we had to stop. Of course we couldn't buy anything however it was fun to hear her tell me the names of all the plants and which ones she grows at home outside in the summer and inside in the winter.
The main market is in downtown and only open when the cruise ships come in. We were able to browse around while the cruise folks were reloading and enjoyed visiting with the home folks about their families and their jobs here in Cayman. 
Everywhere you go there are chickens running around. Last evening Jan and I had supper at Brooklyns in Cabana Bay. Our waitress was Anna from the Czech Republic and yes there were even chickens in the shopping mall.
All my pictures from back home I received from snap chat and enjoyed everyone of them. The crew moved the dozers home and they will soon be in the shop getting ready for next spring.
It looks like Kurt is taking advantage of a warm day and is cleaning up the honey wagon that we didn't get finished last fall.
Alex sent me a snap of the Cat 865 all cleaned up and serviced.
Because of slick roads school was cancelled on Thursday. Looks like the boys came with their dads to the shop. 
Kurt and Emily went to an awards banquet in Des Moines Friday evening. Kurt was asked to give the blessing before the meal. Thanks to Dana and Austin for their efforts.
The guys have been hauling beans from south of Eddyville to Quincy, Illinois for Brent.
God created this beautiful land and oceans. Then plants. Then animals. Then people. And after six days of working and seeing it was good, He rested.  Jan and I always keep our eyes open for a church to go to while on vacation. This church was the first one on the island and was started in 1846. It sits in the middle of Georgetown near the ocean.
God also told us to rest. Today is Sunday. A day of reflection in church and rest with family and loved ones. You may not have the opportunity to leave the country this winter. Maybe not even the community because of family, work, etc. Give some thought however as to how you can find time to fill your tank so to speak. So you can be ready.
Ready for another year. Ready for work. Ready for family. Ready for opportunities God has planned for you. Ready for others. Solomon said, "Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed". Proverbs 11:25. The footprints we make in life today will be our story to those who come behind us. May they find us faithful. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018


Think about a person you truly respect. Think about a leader you admire. What sets that person apart? What makes them exceptional? Chances are they give without expectation of return. They give advice when asked. They give encouragement and affirmation. They give opportunities.
Exceptional folks don't promote themselves. An exceptional leader gives others a sense of meaning. Their success doesn't come from a post of achievements. Their success and happiness come from other's success and happiness.
Exceptional folks move beyond good intentions and discussions. They act. They take a risk and put things in motion. They zig when others are zagging. They are tough and tender at the same time. They selflessly care and dive into another persons life or situation if asked.
Exceptional people give the gift of respect even when others make mistakes. They teach rather than criticize, condemn, and complain. They resist the temptation of going to the dark side and hoping others fall or fail. They refrain from backbiting and pointing out others weaknesses. They stay clear of hearsay and gossip. Exceptional folks stick up for a poor soul that's the subject of a dark conversation.
Well, yesterday we ice fished and raced motorcycles on the same pond at the same time. The bikers said they were waking the fish up. The fishermen said they were chasing them away. :) 
These motorcycles belong to Mark and his son's, Ethan, Elijah, and Anton, and go down in size according to age.
 Karl, Mike, Gideon, and I drove to Webster, SD to pick up a semi we bought on an on-line farm auction. It was -25 degrees in western Iowa early Tuesday morning on our way out. It was +20 degrees late Tuesday evening on our return, a 45 degree warm up.
I am blessed to be able to work with exceptional help. This past week's weather has us working inside after chores getting equipment ready for next spring. 
I am blessed to have exceptional friends. We got together Friday evening for supper and conversation at Wayne and Sue's new home. We grew up together. Our kids grew up together. Now when we get together we talk about grandkids. Wow. How time flies. 
 I am blessed with exceptional children. Last evening they got together and went to Des Moines as a Christmas gift to each other. The dictionaries definition of exceptional is uncommon, unique, extraordinary, above average. I could add many more superlatives to this group.
I am blessed to be married to an exceptional wife. I was in eighth grade and attended a tractor safety course in order to work out for neighbors. Jan was the only girl in that class. Four years later we were introduced by mutual friends at a church softball game. I would be nothing without her. We are looking forward to spending extra time together this coming week. 
I am blessed with exceptional and incredible grandkids. Although I'm not good at remembering their birthdays and often miss their sporting events I pray individually by name for them every morning. Their ages range from 4 months to 16 years. It is truly a gift that they all live in the community. Some of my favorite times are when we spend time together on an individual basis on projects or when Jan babysits. 
I serve an exceptional God who is in charge of my life. It would have been impossible for me growing up to think of or even dream about His plan of my life. Wrapping up the year last Sunday at our church Tiffany, Dan, Deb, Irv and Anne, and Paul all shared testimonies. Thank you so much for that. We shut down work here on Sundays to go to church. To spend time with family and friends. To rest. But mostly to honor and thank God. We remember to thank Him in the good times. We totally lean on Him in the hard times.
Last Monday we started out another new year. Our clean, blank calendars will again fill up with events and happenings. Some of those happenings are planned. Many will be unplanned. Remember to thank God for the exceptional people in your life. Be an exceptional influence in other's lives. Make 2018 and exceptional year.


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Remembering, Saving, And Spending Time

Sydnie is four months old. One morning this week she helped her dad, Karl, while her mom, Kristin, ran some errands. At four months old you have all the time in the world.
 Well, winter finally came and it looks like it's going to stay for awhile. We have had three or four snow events since last Sunday and the temp is below zero.
 Cold weather has made the ice on the pond thick enough for Mike and Cody to fish. It won't be long and the studded tires on the motorcycles will be going on for racing on the ice.
On Christmas afternoon Mike, Cody, and I helped BJ's family cut firewood. My job was to dump the cut firewood from the skidloader bucket into the dump truck.
Marketing and delivering crops in the winter time can be a challenge. Especially when the prices don't move more than a dime a bushel in months. However as many of you can relate year end is a time of getting things paid for the next crop.
So a few weeks ago we negotiated the basis and promised to haul corn between Christmas and New Years, generally a time when the corn hauling business is slow. Basis is the difference between the Board of Trade and the local delivery price. Depending on supply and demand basis can range from 10 to 40 cents a bushel under the board.  
To say communicating has changed would be an understatement. Do any of you remember one of these? This phone has a reminder on it to wait for dial tone. We used to have to wait for neighbors to finishing conversations when we had party lines. Today we don't have time to wait for anything. We can text or snapchat or email from anywhere to anywhere in the world in seconds. Sometimes though these modern forms of communicating seem to miss reading body language during a face to face conversation or hearing the happiness or sadness in the tone of a friend's voice.
Farm equipment auctions have equally changed as a result of the ability to communicate long distances in real time. Back in the day farm auctions were the social highlight of a farmer's winter. I remember spending many a winter day going to a farm sale with Ken or Cal or Doug in our four wheel drive pickups. Today that arriving, bidding, and buying can happen in minutes on a smart phone. This past week we watched and bid on equipment in Hamilton, Ill. and Webster, SD. from our shop office.
Aunt Marilyn celebrated Christmas and her birthday at the cabin this past week with her children and her brothers and their families.
Centuries ago it seems like my Dad and Uncle Cornie farmed together and our families lived on the same yard east of Lacey. So I remember as a little kid hanging out with Sandy, Dave, Phil, and Chris. Joni wasn't around yet back then. One day a half a century ago Uncle Cornie sent us all to the bean field to pull weeds promising to pay us a penny a weed. Well since I was the oldest everyone asked me to keep track of their total weeds pulled. I remember coming back to the house and proudly announcing the hundreds of weeds we had each pulled. Uncle Cornie said, "I think I will just take you all out for ice cream instead." I remember being bummed as a little kid. :)
My parents and my brothers and their families got together for soup and visiting this past Thursday evening.
 Rosie and her late husband Daryl were landlords of ours north of Rose Hill for more of our lives than they weren't. Thirty years ago we spent half the planting and harvesting seasons at their farm. During those busy years they took us in as family. We often had two to three meals a day with them. Rosie has lived in assisted living now for more than a decade. In assisted living you have all the time in the world.
 Well, we've visited about being very young and being old and having all the time in the world. What about those of us that are in-between? What and who are we spending time on? What do folks see and remember when they look back at our 2017? Will they have seen us focusing on ourselves or others? Were we busy enough? Were we too busy? What's the correct answer?
In the Bible Jesus says at the end of time we will be judged for our actions or lack of them. To the ones on His right He will say, "Well done good and faithful servant. When you helped the least of these my brothers, you were helping me". He didn't say good and successful, or significant, or prominent, or prosperous, or even religious. He said faithful. Faithful first of all to our God. Then to our family, our friends, our work.
I am looking forward to next year and I hope you are as well. As we go out the door so to speak tomorrow starting 2018, let's have goals. Let's plan. And let's accomplish. And let's think about how we save and spend our time. Let's be faithful and with God's help let's make 2018 a year we'll remember.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Unwrapping Christmas

Christmas is about gifts. Anticipation. Joy. Giving. Receiving. However the excitement of those wrapped boxes are when they are given, unwrapped, showed to others, and even shared.
Christmas is also about making a plan. Jan spent the day preparing. As I was helping move gifts to the cabin, lighting the fireplace, and helping set the table, I couldn't help but think back some 40 years. I had no plan. But God did. And over the last 40 years He has steadily and deliberately unwrapped His gift to me here on earth of life and family. I started our evening by reading a Christmas letter I had written 30 years ago for Jan.
 Karl and Malaki took advantage of the warm weather and formed up a cement pad for their new generator.
With cold weather in the forecast we decided it would be easier to put machinery away a day early rather than a day late. We filled a machine shed northwest of Pella with machinery used in the fall like grain carts and chisels.
Some machinery needed attention before it could be moved. Matt helped me put on a new walking tandem on a disk ripper.
 Pablo is the best at cleaning up equipment and making things look like new again.
 One day Karl stopped by our Pella farm on his way to Colfax to pick up a load of seed corn while I was re-emptying hog pits. He helped me move the chopper pump and stand to our last pit. We re-emptied 7 of 10 hog confinement pits.
 Mike worked across the road from our home this past week building terraces and burying stumps.
 Our warm weather late November through late December has truly been a gift. Sunrises and sunsets are also gifts.
Friday evening was our family Christmas. I'm so thankful for Jan, children and their spouses, and grandkids. We shared memories. We let grandkids open a gift before a delicious supper. We enjoyed each other's company.
Remember once we visited about Hatchimals. They are kind of unique Christmas gifts. Natalie and Allison each unwrapped one.
Actually they kind of unwrap themselves. After being handled for awhile they light up, start to make noise, and hatch out of their shell.
A pair of fury little animals with wings is the unwrapped result. Interesting someone thought up not just a gift but an experience that goes along with it.
 Rachel and Sydnie are our oldest and youngest granddaughters. We are so blessed to have all our family intact another year. I want those that are spending their Christmas with an empty spot in their lives to know I am thinking about and praying for them. Like Matt and Megan, Bill and Julie, and Marv and Carol without Ryker. Connie without Steve. Judy without Brent. Rose without Larry. Diane without Calvin. Kathryn without Denny. Dennis without Jill. Shelly without Rusty. Darla without Grandpa. I so apologize for the ones that I've forgotten.
Families grow in more ways than one. They grow in numbers. They grow as the kids get older. They grow as they become part of their individual families, at school, as they develop friends, as they work and do business in the community, as they become assets in God's kingdom. Jan and I had grandkids in four different Christmas services last Sunday.
I'd like to wrap up by encouraging you to follow the example of the wisemen those many years ago on that original Christmas. First they followed the light of a star believing something good was happening. As we enter a new year let's be a positive influence, believing our unknowns are in God's hands. 
Second, the wisemen bowed down and worshipped the baby Jesus. Let's honor God as our King and surrender our lives to Him and His purposes for us.
Third, the wisemen brought and gave gifts. Let's be generous to God and to others with our treasures, our talents, and our time.
Finally after they met Christ the wisemen went home by a different route. You can't really meet Christ and not change. Set new goals. Dare to make different priorities. Take a different route for other's good.
On this white Christmas Eve in southern Iowa Jan and I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas. Thank you for your friendships. Thanks to those of you that encourage me by letting me know you are part of this visit. "Come, let us adore Him" as we finish unwrapping this Christmas.