The intended “I’m going to post every other day in 2021” hasn’t gone as planned. I purposefully avoided calling it a resolution thinking that would help. Resolutions are a set up for failure in my book. major life changes – stopping bad habits and starting new ones – rarely come to fruition no matter how strong my resolve. Besides, the little committee between my ears loves it a resolution falls by the wayside – they love to remind me I’ve failed again. I’ve learned not to give them ammunition to use against me. My brain is often not my friend…
I don’t want to make excuses, but it has been a hectic start to the New Year at Opal’s Farm. We’ve increased the production area by 66%. Planting for early Spring crops is almost completed. Evenings are filled with virtual conferences, classes, and the office “To Do” list. Winter hasn’t slowed us down. Rain is predicted for the next three days. Maybe we can take a breather…
Late last year, we plowed, tilled, and planted an Elbon Rye cover crop on a new 1/3 acre. We’ve been able to take care of a bigger area thanks to the Kubota tractor provided to us by Zimmerer Kubota and a 48” tiller implement purchased for Grow SE growers by Blue Zones Project Fort Worth. WE realized that the tractor would free us up to do an additional section. We added another 1/3 acre and have completed most of the beds. Spring is looking good.
Winter is the time to plant cold friendly spring vegetables. We already had several winter crops in that will produce through early Spring. Now we have our cilantro, snow peas, kale, and onions in. I’d still be planting onions if the Paschal High School Key Club hadn’t been there Saturday morning. The young people were a planting machine! They got in over half (approximately 1500 to 2000 onions) in less than two hours!
We intend to be at Cowtown Farmers Market this Saturday. Come on down shop local!
The sun hasn’t yet begun to rise. The darkness is silent and still – “not a mouse was stirring”. Even the freeway sounds are absent this morning. The temperature dropped below freezing last night in honor of Christmas I’m sure. It was seventy degrees here in North Texas last Monday and the weekend promises more of the same: but that’s tomorrow and this is today. I’ll pull my coat a little tighter, have another sip of steaming coffee, and relish the quiet.
I think back to Christmas 1982. At 4:00 AM my ex (she wasn’t my ex then just so you know…) shook me awake. “I think I’m in labor”.
I turned over and asked, “how far apart are the contractions?”
“I haven’t timed them yet”.
“Oh okay. Let me know when the next one comes”, I said sleepily.
I had awakened enough to know I needed to head upstairs to the bathroom. As I walked past the picture window along the stairs, I saw the snow coming down hard. Only about half of the chain link fence was visible. “This is not good”, I mumbled. When I returned to bed, she told me she thought it was a false labor. I crawled back in bed and fell back asleep.
I awoke a couple of hours later and once again slid out of bed and headed upstairs to make coffee. As I passed the window once again, I noticed that only the pointed tops of the four-foot fence were visible. I opened the back door to check on my car. All I could see was its blue roof poking through the snow. The driveway and the alley were covered in three feet of snow and even larger drifts. This really wasn’t good…
Adrian, our oldest, woke up and he and his Mom came in the kitchen. She put down and he promptly ran to the living room to see what Santa had brought. I poured the coffee and went into the living room. My Christmas morning excitement was tempered by the realization that my ex might really be in labor.
The snow continued to fall – and fall and fall and… You get the idea. Denver was in the middle of a “hundred year” blizzard.
About 9:00 in the evening my ex looked at me and said, “I really am in labor now”. The contractions were now seven minutes apart. I knew there was no way we could get my car out of the drive. I called 911 and explained our situation. Apparently, labor is not an emergency. It would be a four to five hour wait for an ambulance and we were told to go the nearest hospital labor and delivery rooms. I figured I’d been through one birth already. I mentally prepared to deliver a baby at home. I prayed – a lot!
There was a knock at the door about thirty minutes later. A gentleman had responded to the pleas for citizens with four-wheel drive to ferry paramedics around. Three paramedics greeted me as I opened the door.
We gathered go-bags and our son together and filed out through the path the paramedics had made to the door. They assisted my poor wife who, at 5’3”, was trying to make her way through the four feet of snow. Once to the care, the 6 of us (and all the paramedic kits) piled into an old Jeep Waggoneer. The driver informed my very pregnant wife that between contractions she would have to reach outside and keep the snow of the windshield as the wipers didn’t work. Of course, they didn’t…
We found ourselves in a strange hospital with a strange doctor who had obviously been there long past hi original shift (he was a bit cranky). We were just getting settled into the labor room when the nurse said, “it’s time”. My wife was wheeled down to the delivery room and I changed into scrubs. Less than an hour later I was holding a brand-new bundle of joy – Jeremy Alan Joel.
I slept in a nurse’s lounge that night. When I returned to my wife’s room, I was greeted with a Christmas gift that I’ll never forget – Jeremy in a red stocking with a Santa hat on.
When Adrian, my oldest son, was born, parenting didn’t seem as difficult as we thought. Then we had Jeremy. We’ve often joked (kind of…) that Jeremy made his appearance in the world with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other demanding to be fed NOW. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
Sitting here on Christmas morning I’m reminded how blessed I am. For thirty-seven years I was given the gift of a son I miss dearly today. I was also given a Savior – God With Us – to walk me through the grief I have today. I’ve been fortunate to have people in my life who know what losing a child is like. I have a God that knows my grief even more so – “This is how much God loved the world: He gave His Son, His one and Only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in Him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to the trouble of sending His Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help and put the world right again” John 33.16-17 (The Message).
My son was a brilliant artist (our first home had the marker and crayon marks to foretell this), but his greatest achievement was threefold – Baillie, Izabella, and Lucas. Today I will think of the wonderful gifts he left us. The gift I offer him is honoring his gift to me.
One of my recent Advent meditations was about twisted bowels. Before you think “too much information” and click on please let me explain. The author, John Pavlovitz, goes on to say that the root word for ‘compassion’ used in the Gospels is from the Greek word splankhnon meaning bowels or principal organs. The ancient Greeks believed this is where passionate emotions such as love and anger came from. Have you ever had “Your stomach in knots”, “twisted off”, or been “sick about” something?
He goes on to say that the same word is used in Matthew 9.36 where Jesus “saw the crowds and had compassion on them”. Then Pavolvitz asks “Where is the burden? What bothers me…to the point of sickness?”
I turn at the stoplight on the corner of Lancaster Boulevard and Riverside Drive each day as I head to Opal’s Farm. For those unfamiliar with Fort Worth this is close to the missions and night shelters for Fort Worth’s homeless citizens. I’m usually confronted by two or three panhandlers when I stop at the light. I don’t carry cash most of the time, but I can usually spare a cigarette or some of my lunch snacks if they want. I have my “favorites” and tend to reserve my small resources for them.
Many times, I find myself trying to get through the intersection as quickly as possible. Some days I feel overwhelmed by the scope of the problem and, if I’m honest, other days I simply don’t want to be bothered. It often feels as though I can’t go anywhere – gas stations, grocery stores, the convenience store down the street – without running into someone begging for “whatever you can give”. The number of such encounters has grown significantly this year. I stop “seeing” their faces after a while. I avoid eye contact in hopes that they’ll pass me by.
That’s not the person I thought I was or want to be…
The other day I had to run up the street from the farm for gas for the tractor. I was in a hurry. I wanted to get back and refuel as there were volunteers waiting on me. I jumped out of the truck, swiped my credit card, and began filling the gas can. There was an older African American man standing by the door to the store. I’d seen him several times before on the corner panhandling with a 40 oz on the ground beside him.
He began moving in my direction. I silently prayed the gas would flow faster.
“Hey, can you help me get something to eat?”
“Crap” I said to myself. Then I told him all I had was my credit card (which wasn’t true).
“You can’t get me a little something?”
The gas can was full. I seized the opportunity to make my escape from this uncomfortable situation. “No man, all I have is company money (again, not true). I hastily got in the truck and headed out, leaving him mumbling in the rear-view mirror.
I got back to the farm, gassed up the tractor and tried to get some work done. I wasn’t successful. I kept being distracted by the man’s face – grey matted beard and hollow yellow eyes. My stomach began to tighten up and twist. I heard a voice as clear as a bell telling me that I was once that man and that I’d better get back to the gas station as quickly as possible.
The Holy Spirit convicting my spirit. I told my volunteers “I’ll be right back” and hopped in the truck. I hurried back to the gas station. By the time I got there he was gone.
It’s easy to stop ‘seeing’ the pain and brokenness in my world. I get so caught up in my little routines that the big picture gets awfully small. Sometimes the problems seem so overwhelming I put on some serious blinders. I don’t want to have my “stomach tied up in knots”.
I tell everyone that food is a basic human right and then deny it to someone in need because I’m busy? My email signature for work includes Mother Theresa’ admonition that “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one”. I can be blinded so easily.
My prayer today is for better vision to truly see God’s kids. My prayer today is that I’m sick to my stomach when I see ‘the crowds’, the pain and brokenness around me. My prayer today is to find that old man and buy him lunch…
My sons and I went to an Arbor Day festival back in 1992. The concert that day featured Jimmy LaFave. It only took two songs into the show to send me hurrying to the table where I could purchase his then-new release, Austin Skyline. I’ve been a fan ever since.
I was tinkering around the house when I heard his familiar voice come over the stereo. I remembered that day long ago and how much fun the boys and I had. Today it brought a sadness I can’t put into words no matter how hard I try.