Servers, Daughters and Dealing with Stuff

One of my egg customers invited me into a small prayer group when our daughter was diagnosed. The prayer group recently shared that a friend’s father had been diagnosed with cancer. I’m sure you, someone you love or someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer. And I’m equally certain you are acutely aware of the deep anxiety that accompanies diagnosis.

I took a moment to write out some encouragement for the friend. This slightly edited version may serve to encourage you as well.

My name is Chris Jordan. My daughter has a rare form of cancer but an excellent prognosis. We spend a lot of time in Children’s hospital and meet a large number of children and families. We seek to counsel and comfort them as we also seek counsel and comfort. In part, this is because the apostle Paul didn’t ask God why he was in prison. He asked God what he should do while he was in prison. Then he went to work.

I don’t know why my beautiful daughter has cancer. That’s really none of my business. I have seen a lot of children and whole families in pain in Children’s. It is tempting for me to ask God “Why?” But that is not what I need to do.

I don’t need to seek answers. I need to seek closeness with God.

And I am not alone in this need.

So I go out of my way to introduce myself to parents I run into. My daughter takes her dance partner (her IV stand) with her to deliver cards to other kids on the floor and invites them to play video games with her. We seek out opportunities in the elevator and hallway to pray for or pray with desperate parents or just to listen to them talk. And sometimes we all really, really need to talk.

Listen, I know how you feel. I know what you are going through. And I want to encourage you, as I encourage other families I meet, not to ask God “Why?” It doesn’t matter why. Asking Why makes you a victim. You are not a victim. You are a treasure and were created for a purpose. It only matters what you do. And what you need to do is pray. Ask.

Jesus didn’t walk around randomly healing the blind. In Matthew 20:32-33 Jesus waited for the blind men to ask. In Matthew 9:20 the woman reached out to touch Jesus. She had to reach out! In Matthew 8:8 the centurion asked Jesus for a simple word.

God is infinitely larger than your largest problem. Do you believe that? But you have to ask, just as Moses had to hold his arms out and the widow had to pour the oil. We have to ask. We have to pray. We have to draw close to the Lord and, I strongly suggest, PRAISE HIM for our time of need…a time that reminds us to seek Him out. A time that reminds us to seek his strength and remember that the angel of the lord encamps around and delivers us! Great is the Lord and Greatly to be Praised! Even if, like David, we don’t always feel it and we have to give ourselves a pep talk. Bless the Lord, Oh my soul! And all that is within me praise his holy name!

Please don’t waste your time seeking answers. Desperate times call for desperate measures. There is no more desperate act than praying hard. (This is a note I made in my prayer journal as I was recently reading The Circle Maker.)

One more thing. In Genesis 1:3 God spoke light into a dark place. I have been to dark places. In fact, I have been to dark places trying to balance my daughter’s illness, my job, my marriage, my farm…The light of the word of God brought me back to the path. Lean on the word of God now.

Feel free to reach out to us anytime.

Chris Jordan

Now let’s be real. We are friends here, you and I. Let me be completely honest with you. I wrote that for myself as much as for anyone else.

On Friday I was talking with my boss and discussing the issues I was facing that day. I needed to replace a mission-critical server and my daughter needed a blood transfusion. When discussing the issue with the server I was pacing, moving my hands excitedly and clearly expressing my anxiety. But when discussing my daughter I was sitting calmly on a chair and speaking matter-of-factly.  My boss pointed this out to me. He was concerned that I was worked up about the wrong thing.

ChemoDay

Do you know how much time I have spent praying about that server? Very little.

Do you know how much time I have spent praying about my daughter?

Heck, I have hundreds, if not, thousands of people praying for my daughter. I kinda think that’s covered. But the server is unprotected. So I got a little worked up on Friday.

Yes, I am extremely concerned about my little girl but somehow, it is different. Most of the time.

Most of the time.

But some of the time? Well, I think it is understandable that some of the time I go to pieces. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I wonder why my little girl got sick. Sometimes I worry about her future. She will be screened for cancer at regular intervals for the rest of her life. Why? Because there is a good chance this cancer will return or another cancer will appear. Or she will suffer side-effects of the drugs used to beat her cancer…like heart failure. What will her medical expenses be in 10 years?

Do you see how easy it is? We are facing real problems. But it is all a lie.

I can’t live my life in fear and anxiety. I can’t love my daughter that way. Even without cancer there is no guarantee that she will live to be 50. My job is to love and guide her. And I can’t love and guide her in the present if I’m crying about a tomorrow that hasn’t come yet…and may never arrive.

Awesome.jpg

The server issue at work is resolved. No big deal. You make this thing point to that thing and do some stuff so the servers know and trust each other…blah, blah, blah. What is the worst that could happen if server replacement failed? I would probably have to put in a couple of long days. Would I lose my job? Probably not. But there are worse things than losing my job.

But I wasted a lot of emotional energy on that issue.

I have wasted a lot of emotional energy worrying about my daughter too.

So I have to remind myself. I was created for a purpose. I am not an accident. I am a treasure. I have a Father in heaven who loves me…who wants to bless me. And I need to bless Him. Bless the Lord! O my soul! Especially if I don’t feel like it today.

Advertisements

Reflections at 5:45 am

545am

I have been awake since 5. The alarm clock roused me from a sound sleep. I always sleep better on cold nights. Maybe it’s the feeling of security I get from a pile of blankets pressing down on me.

By 5:45 I have finally gotten myself dressed, got the coffee brewing and have prodded myself to go outside. I beat the sun today. Point for me.

The moon provides the majority of the illumination as I begin my work. I have a busy morning so I moved the chicken house last night. This morning I just need to stand up their fence and fill their drinker.

The white fence posts are barely visible in the dim light. As I pick up each one I am increasingly covered in cold dew. My long sleeved t-shirt and hoodie are not quite enough. But it has to be done. A little after 6 Julie joins me and we finish up just before the sun rises.

We had a rough week on the farm. It seems so much of what we do is just a struggle to keep things alive. I often write about my struggle to express my love to Julie instead of just nagging her to death. When your crying wife says to you, “Nothing is ever good enough for you!”….well, those are the moments you should just shut your mouth and become a little more introspective.

When things go wrong I spend a lot of time reviewing what happened. What went wrong? How can I avoid it going forward? I really want to explore it from all angles, find a solution and bring it to fruition. You might say I dwell on things.

I kicked myself for days when a goat named Shivers died. our nanny goat gave birth to quadruplets including Shivers. We were new at goats and livestock and were just glad to have 16 hooves on the ground, not knowing we needed to wait to see if all 4 could latch on. Not even imaging that we might be better off raising them on a bottle. Never suspecting a massive storm was going to kick up in the night. In the morning there were two baby goats latched on, one laying dead at the edge of the shelter and poor Shivers…shivering…cold, wet and alone. From that moment we were bottle-feeding goats. It wasn’t easy. At all. But with some help from some experienced friends (who must have thought we were idiots (we were (are))) we got them drinking from bottles. But Shivers never ate much. I made her a little sweater from the sleeve of a sweatshirt and we fought with her for a week trying to keep her alive. We even tried tube feeding her. But we failed. She missed the colostrum, got off to a bad start and that was that. Wasted effort.

Oh, the things I would do differently today! Geez. But I didn’t know.

There is an endless supply of things I don’t know. Things I can’t know…but maybe should. Do you know what this is?

WhiteSnakeroot

It is White Snakeroot. It is death incarnate and this week it killed a bull calf. I had no idea it was even out there. Acres and acres of it. Anywhere the canopy covers and mowers can’t mow. Steep hill sides and creek banks are covered with it. And I had no idea. The kids and Julie and I now spend our evenings pulling it up by the root and making piles for burning. Bushels and bushels of this stuff. You just would not believe. But it gets worse.

The cows rarely eat it. If they do it’s just a nibble here or there. How do I know? Because I went through the paddocks they have grazed over the last 10 days or so. The grazing pattern is clear. Except for one day. One paddock. One place I left the herd a little too long.

This morning, instead of dwelling on my many failings as a husband and father I was thinking about my calf Curly. I didn’t know I had snakeroot. I didn’t mean to leave them so long, I just gauged the forage incorrectly. And I found Curly laying on his side in a ravine. My mistake. My fault. My responsibility. My loss.

We do everything we can to protect out livestock but it doesn’t always work out. And it isn’t always our fault. But it is always our loss.

This farming stuff can be hard. But I can’t dwell on the bad things.

This morning my fourth child will be baptized at our church and I get to baptize her. She need no longer to fear death. No rainstorm, no random weed, no enemy has a hold on her eternal life. She is free. Born twice to die once. It’s not just another day of working to hold death at bay for a little while longer. This is a day of celebration.

We live in a fallen world, besieged by an enemy who seeks to kill, steal and destroy. It is unfortunate that we lost a calf this week but we will work through it. I can’t dwell on that small loss…letting the enemy steal my joy. I live a blessed life. I get to live on a farm with hills and trees and grass and ponds and streams and chickens and pigs and cows and milk and honey. My children are strong and happy and we have planted the Word of God in their hearts. I have every reason to rejoice!

So I stand. Watching the light grow in the sky and wrestling with my thoughts. Why am I in such a funk? David must have felt this way when he wrote “Bless the Lord, O my soul!” That’s a strange way to talk to oneself. He must have been in a funk too…giving himself a pep talk. “All that is within me bless His holy name!” He has to be rooting for himself.

This morning I spent time reflecting on where I spend my reflection time. My hands were busy and my mind was active. But neither were always productive.

645am

What are you dwelling on? It is easy to focus on your faults…to blame and berate yourself endlessly. Isn’t it better to remember that the sun is rising? That today is a new day? That THIS is the day the Lord has made and we will rejoice and be glad in it. Even if we’re just trying to talk ourselves into it, isn’t it better to talk yourself into life? The sun is rising. My daughter is being baptized today. Death has no hold on her. I will rejoice.

But I will also stay busy pulling white snakeroot in the evenings.

Totally Faking It Every Day.

I seem to have them all fooled…at least for now. All of them. My employer, my wife, my children, my dog. Maybe even you, the reader.

We have a bumper sticker that came with our van that says, “Lord, let me be the person my dog thinks I am.” Wow does that apply to my life.

My livestock expect me to be the kind of man who gets up in the morning and meets all of their needs. Not just safety, respect and high-quality feed and forage but opportunity to express natural inclinations. But I don’t know what I’m doing. I just look at the animals and their poop and make adjustments until things look like I think they are supposed to. Then I write a few notes about my cow’s poop, include a few pictures and publish it for all of the internet to enjoy…because apparently there are a few people out there who enjoy gritty stories of farm life from the trenches.

Lord, let me be the person my cows think I am.

I wouldn’t have a farm if I didn’t have a job with a fairly significant income. We just wouldn’t be here. So I have to keep that job. I have done my job for 10 years but with side jobs and extra hours I have at least 15 years of experience. Most of my work time is spent being proactive about problems. Being intentionally vague (cause my job is nerdy and boring) I work to find issues before they impact customers. I also dedicate a portion of each day to learning about new technologies and new trends in my field. I do a bit of firefighting but if I’m really on top of my game I look like the Maytag repair man…but I have to look busy or I’ll lose my job and, potentially, my farm. Management doesn’t seem to appreciate me when everything just “works” regardless of how much work it takes to look effortless.

Lord, let me be the employee my employer thinks I am.

Being completely honest, I couldn’t do my job as well without the internet. I don’t have to discover every solution. Somebody else has already done it, blogged it and moved on. Same with cattle. Where would I be without Joel Salatin’s books and the generations of farmers he has inspired (at least 2 generations now, maybe 3). I wonder if Salatin every prays, “Lord, let me be the farmer they think I am.”

That takes me to my family. I don’t know who they think I am. I have no idea why Julie married me. I wouldn’t marry me. Not only that, but she married me and stuck with it. Weird. And she intentionally and voluntarily created children with me. Is she on drugs? Is this all a dream? What if she finds out? After everything that Julie and I have been through I’m really not as insecure about our relationship as I’m pretending to be but still…I have no idea why she is still there every night when I get home. It must be the exciting and frequent conversations we have about cow poop.

Lord, let me be the husband my wife needs me to be.

Kids, though…kids. In some ways you could liken them to inmates. They have an 18-year sentence before we’ll let them loose. By that point they may be so completely institutionalized that the freedom will drive them crazy or they will break down the locked door to get back home. Hopefully, though, they will grow to be self-assured young men and women who live each day with purpose and vision. But who is going to teach them that? Me? LOL! I don’t know what I’m doing. I have never raised children before! They are more complicated than dogs. Messier too. Fortunately the conversation is so much more meaningful. But what do I talk to them about? I can’t talk about my job. They don’t care about cow poop. I think the older boy is catching on to me. Maybe I should wrestle him in the grass, throw a ball and end the day with a meaningful life lesson, “Son, life is like cow poop. Sometimes it’s runny and messy and sticks to your tail. Other times it’s firm and hard. Either extreme is too much. You want it right in the middle. That’s all of life right there, son. If cow poop comes out soft but doesn’t mess up the tail and has a depression on top, you’ve done everything right by your cows. You think about that, son.”

Lord, let me be the father my children think I am.

I have no idea what I’m doing but I have an idea of what I need to do each day. I wake up, make a plan and execute that plan…or at least chip away at it. The phrase “Fake it ’till you make it” indicates that someday I’ll finally know something about what I’m doing and can stop faking my way through. But someday isn’t here. I have heard grazers say it takes 20 years to learn anything about grazing livestock so I’ll be faking for at least another 15 years.

To be more serious for a moment, I really don’t know where I’m going…where my wife and I are going. We have direction. We are obedient. We work hard. I have a vague idea of the next destination but I can’t for the life of me comprehend how to get there. So we focus on our relationships, we do our work, we study, we take one step at a time and we pray a lot. I don’t know what else to do.

I don’t know how you do what you do or if you share any of my insecurities but I do thank you for reading this and hope you will come back again.

Lord, let me be the person my blog reader thinks I am.

Living in the Light

The days are pretty short in December. We don’t trust our solar charger to stay charged. The chickens are laying few eggs as we don’t provide artificial light, preferring to just let them have a little time off each winter. Before long they’ll be laying eggs again. It’s just part of the annual cycle.

Another part of the cycle, for me, is depression. Right now, I get up around 5, get a little housework done then head to work. Sometimes the sun peeks at me while I drive but not enough to make an impact. I sit in an office all day (well, not an office…a cubicle. Well, not a cubicle, a shared work space.) Anyway. I sit inside all day and pack my lunch most days. I don’t get out. I don’t see the sun for days on end and it gets me down.

Let me describe what a week looks like for me right now. We’ll start on Saturday. Saturday morning I reluctantly get out of bed and begin doing chores outside. Then I find place to cut some firewood or some other irregular outdoor chore to occupy my day and end up staying outside all day long. By the end of the day I feel …recharged! energetic! Sunday I often realize I overdid it on Saturday but spend a significant amount of time outside again. On Monday I get into the office feeling good but lose a little of that energy. Tuesday I’m still functional. Wednesday is the third day of living in the dark and I begin to get snippy with the children. By Friday I only talk to my co-workers, only when I have to and only because I am paid to. Everyone else needs to leave me alone.

5 days in the dark and I’m a wreck.

You know those voices in your head that compete for your attention? Picture the little angel on one shoulder saying, “You can do it!” starts losing to the devil on the other saying “You are a loser!” By Friday I can only hear the little devil and I’m ready to sell the farm, move to town and do something crazy like register to vote. That’s right. I said it. By 10:00 on Saturday I’m “me” again.

Sunrise

I am not made to live in the dark. I have to take specific action for my health to prevent this from happening. And, really, I believe the light specifically has to shine on my eyes, not just my skin.

It is Sunday and I have categorized this with the rare “Sunday Devotional” category so let me bring this around. All of that stuff above addresses my physical needs. But I am an eternal creature. I will only have physical needs for another 40 or 50 years at most. The eternal me has needs as well. And that “eternal me” is the real “me”. So what do I really need?

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”

I need to see and follow that light. On a daily basis. I can’t walk for 6 days in spiritual darkness.

By February I’ll be back into healthy day length cycles. Between now and then I have to make it a point to see the sun for physical and mental health. My spiritual self has similar needs but less seasonality. Church is entirely optional. Voluntary. Not only do I have to get myself there, I have to study daily on my own. I have to get the light in my eyes. I have to walk in the light. I have to BE the light. If not, I walk in darkness. And I don’t like what happens to me there.

From Ephesians 5:

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

Singleness of Heart. Planted in the Land.

Jeremiah 32:38-41 says:

They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.

We must remain a family unit. Each of us has a different calling but all of us have one purpose. I am a Steward. Caring for the Earth is not an end…it’s an occupation. I hold my portion, working it to honor my Lord.

What will my children be granted stewardship over? I don’t know. But I do know that I would rather continue my work with my children as they grow than continue my work without them. I do hope and pray that my kids will find meaningful, rewarding work here on the farm when they are grown. Sometime I’ll share the vision we have for our family over the next 65+ years. I hope you have a vision…a preferred future. A dream. A goal you are working toward. It’s not much fun just putting in your time and using oxygen.

With the verse at the top in mind, Julie and I frequently pray, “Father, we honor your name. All that we have is yours and we thank you for the blessings you have entrusted to us. I pray that you will give our family a sense of unity as we live out your purpose, helping us to follow you day by day. Lord, we need your continued blessing. You promise in Jeremiah 32 to never stop doing good to us. Lord, we stand on that promise. Grant us wisdom to fear you and help us to continue doing good for your glory…plant us in this land, Lord.”

What do you dream of? What do you pray for?