Twins + Toddler = contentment

In about a week my twins will be 4 months old.  Which simply means that ‘normal’ is a very fluid term in our house. It also means that the last 4 months can be summed up with one word: challenging.  Everywhere I go people ask me how life is as a twin mom and then proceed to tell me things like : “I used to think it would be fun to have twins until I had a child.” or “I think twins would be so much fun…once they’re 5.” or “Wow…that must be hard.” I grin as my inward dialogue defaults to sarcasm (i.e. see below) :

But sarcasm aside, I am grateful for this double portion that God bestowed on our family and for this task He prepared in advance for me to be faithful with. This season has brought out the worst in me and the best in me – sometimes in the same 24 hour period!  It has challenged me far beyond I ever thought I could go and it’s teaching me lessons I’ll be learning the rest of my life.  And through all the sleepless nights, moments of despair, feeling like there isn’t enough of me to go around, cabin fever (cooking is a great cure), physical pain of recovery, attempts to be patient with my toddler in midst of baby [babies] crying, attempts to discipline said toddler while nursing one babe and rocking other babe in bouncy seat, and all of the other moments that have filled the space of the last 4 months…my take away is this: only God can turn my chaos into contentment.

Because the Lord is my Shepherd – I lack nothing. NOTHING! He will lead me beside quiet waters and provide all that I need – that is His promise. He has assigned me my lot and my portion – these are different than your lot and your portion. The boundary lines have been set for my life by His hand. He knows me better than I know me…and He knows what I can handle…in His strength. He has hemmed me in.  And because I trust that my God is who He says He is and that His words are the truest thing I have to hold on to: contentment becomes louder than the chaos of 3 in diapers.

His contentment anchors me on the days that showering doesn’t happen until 4pm…eating is ‘to be continued’….socializing & adult conversation seems like a lifetime ago…getting everyone fed is a sheer miracle…and date nights with husband involve picking up toys, sharing some dark chocolate and going to bed early.  And it’s His contentment that beckons each of us right where we’re at…right in the middle of whatever chaos you find yourself in…right in the middle of whatever season is stretching you beyond what’s comfortable…it’s available. May we take hold of it by trusting that Jesus is who He says He is: the Prince of Peace who changes contentment from something elusive into something tangible.

Praise Him.

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“enCOURAGE one another daily”

I read a blog recently that stuck in my mind:

“I like to think of EN-courage-ing as putting courage IN to someone. There’s so much we’re afraid of these days. We’re afraid of what people think of us, or whether we can measure up, or what’s going to happen in the future. But in Jesus, we find security knowing that we are loved, forgiven, accepted and valued.”  – Nick Vujicic (Life Without Limbs)

What a great illustration of the power of encouragement.  In our moments of weakness, our seasons of heartache & trial and our daily struggles, encouragement acts as a catalyst of courage in our lives.  I love this word picture because in times of discouragement, it’s easy to feel small and powerless.  But encouragement comes along and has the ability to build us up.  For some reason, I get mental pictures of European architecture with large pillars like the Roman Colosseum.  Words are powerful!  And with them we can tear down or build up.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  (1 Thess 5:11)

“..Encourage one another daily.” (Heb 3:13)

Let’s go build some buildings – one word of encouragement (one building block) at a time. That the people in our spheres of influence might stand a little taller because of the words we choose.  Who in your life might need some courage put in them today?


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Do Not Worry

In stark contrast to what we see across evening news channels, social media pages and newspaper headlines come these words of Jesus “…do not worry about your life…” (Matt 6:25) In light of the ever-widening fear and emotionally-charged hysteria surrounding current events such as Ebola these words of Jesus can seem offensive at worst and as irrelevant as a Bob Marley song at best.  “Don’t worry…be happy.”

So for those of us who say that Jesus is our Master, do these words of His have any mastery over us?  Do they carry with them a weight in our lives that makes us stop and examine our perspective on the current events?  Or, as we read them alongside the day’s newspaper, do they seem weightless as the heaviness of fear threatens to settle in our hearts?  After all, these are not Jesus’ suggestions on how to deal with the daily fears/anxieties/worries/stresses we face; they are His commands.  Jesus is not a personal consultant we seek advice from and then weigh the options and make our own decision.  He is either Lord of our life or He is not.  So if He is the One we follow, our Lord, how do we heed His commands?  It may help our perspective to examine these words of His within the context of the culture at the time Jesus spoke these words and who He was speaking to.

These words of Jesus come at a time in history when Roman oppression and political instability had peaked for the Jewish people.  Their long history of foreign invasions and terrorist threats and the mixture of current social and religious ideologies created a diluted and threatened sense of Jewish identity that left them longing for a leader that would strengthen this sense of identity in the midst of Roman occupation and oppression.  When Jesus arrived on the scene and began his ministry, many people recognized him as the promised Messiah that had been prophesied about throughout Jewish history.  And while they recognized him as this Messiah, their hope largely rested on Him leading them into political, religious and social freedom.  They wanted Him to be their earthly king who would “fix” their current state through legislation.

But good news for them and for us, Jesus didn’t come to “fix”.  He came to save.  And the salvation He offered/offers was and is far greater than any political reform or social freedom.  He didn’t come on the scene campaigning for a change in policies.  In fact, He very rarely addressed the political climate of the day (though He had every right to).  No, instead, He came on the scene fighting for a change in people’s hearts.  And He didn’t just fight for that change, He died for it.  He took on the despair and the darkness we face and He conquered it once and for all.

In light of this, we return to His words “Do not worry about your life.”  Jesus and Jesus alone can command us with these words…because in Jesus alone worry is absolved in Hope.  True and lasting hope – no matter what comes.  Be it Ebola, terrorism or social injustice.  We all want some glimpse of hope in the midst of current events that seem to threaten our sense of security.  No politician and no legislation can afford us the security we long for.  And while we are to remain active in the political arena upholding our convictions, our hope must be in something beyond.  And what we fight to change is not one law or protocol at a time, but one heart at a time.  We fight for people not policies.  And we choose to heed the words of our Lord and Savior who left Heaven for us to conquer the darkness:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”   -Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34)

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Rotational Grazing vs. Continuous Grazing

Rotating Cows to Fresh Pasture

We rotate our cows around the pasture here at Ramsay Hill.  This is the most economic and healthy way to raise animals.

So what do I mean by rotate?  Let me start with a couple definitions. There are two broad methods to manage animals on pasture:

Continuous Grazing: allows animals to have access to all the pasture at once

Rotational Grazing: controls the animals’ access to the pasture by dividing the acreage into parts using internal temporary fencing.

Each method has advantages and disadvantages and requires time and money.  Which method you choose depends on how you want to spend your time and money and in the end, how profitable you want to be.  Since this is our family business that we hope to be able to do full time one day, we want to employ the grazing style that is most profitable.

Continuous Grazing requires less time on a day to day basis than Rotational Grazing, in fact, almost no time is required on a day to day basis besides observation of the animals. Rotational Grazing, depending on how often you rotate, requires the time it takes to move the animals from one area to another.  We rotate on a daily basis and it takes me roughly an hour to move the cows each day. The time per day is the only real advantage of Continuous Grazing, in my opinion.  And even this “advantage” is a short-term advantage. All of the other differences in the two grazing methods are advantages of Rotational Grazing.

For instance, with Rotational Grazing far less money (if any at all) is spent on medication for your animals than with Continuous Grazing. The reasons for this are that the animals are less exposed to parasites and less stressed out, so they get sick less or never. When you rotate the animals around the pasture, they are not allowed to wallow in their own filth. Cows, like the rest of Creation, do not like grazing among their own poop.  In the wild, the buffalo and other herd animals were always moving to fresh grasslands.  However, cows are also creatures of habit and when in confined acreage that they are allowed open access to day in and day out without being rotated, they begin to form patterns which are detrimental to them and to the land.  Their access to the land needs to be controlled…in other words they need a shepherd…who will lead them to fresh grass each day and limit their access to the land they have just been on so that they do not get sick.

Continuous Grazing not only exposes them to parasites that will make them sick, it kills the grass that they walk over every day, makes ruts in the land and compacts the soil in their favorite spots. In every pasture that the Continuous Grazing method is employed, you will find dead spots of ground where the grass will no longer grow.  The land needs rest and only Rotational Grazing allows it the rest it needs to recover and increase in fertility.  Another advantage to Rotational Grazing is that poop will be more evenly distributed across the pasture, thus breaking down much quicker.  With Continuous Grazing, there are some areas where there will be large amounts of poop and other areas where there will be none.  The areas where there are large amounts will break down a lot more slowly, making the land less fertile in those spots and also making parasites an even greater threat.

I’ll end with one final advantage of Rotational Grazing: grass growth.  When the animals are rotated around the pasture, the plants/grasses are given the time they need to recover and fully grow until they are grazed on again.  Over time, this creates higher yielding and more fertile pasture.  In contrast, when animals are allowed to continuously graze they will eat their favorite grasses to death.  Literally.  Just like us, cows’ taste buds are preferential.   There are “ice cream” grasses and grasses they don’t prefer.  Fortunately for cows, the ice cream grasses are also good for them.  Too bad the same philosophy doesn’t work for us & we could just eat a steady diet of ice cream!  Where this becomes detrimental for the land is that when they eat the same plant again and again over a period of time, eventually that plant/grass won’t re-grow -or- it will be seriously stressed and send a seed head up far to early in its life or season.

Those are just a few of the advantages of Rotational Grazing. I love sharing this with you and even more than that, I love not having to spend money to buy antibiotics for my cows.  Additionally, I love knowing that the meat we eat and the meat we provide to our customers is antibiotic-free and produced in the healthiest way possible for the cows and the land. The opposite is true of Continuous Grazing: the land suffers and the meat quality suffers.  You can see the difference in the land, but the difference in the meat would be easy to miss until you find yourself at the hospital or the doctor.  Traditionally grass fed meat that is also hormone and antibiotic free is more expensive than other meats.  I believe that will change due to the rising cost of beef, but even if the price difference continues the consumer still has a choice to make: should I eat a higher quality meat that costs me more today or a lower quality meat that will cost me more down the road in medical bills?  The environmental costs of continuously grazed, conventional (feedlot) beef are a whole other subject alone.  You see I have the same choice in grazing: do I spend the time today to rotate the cows -or- do I wait until the cow’s health is failing and spend all day doctoring it?  An hour a day is not costly in comparison to a whole day when I can’t control when it will be or the cost of the medication.

I believe rotating my cows is a no-brainer.  I enjoy being outside and I can do it on my own time.  Because we rotate at Ramsay Hill we can offer a product that has not had any medications, hormones, antibiotics or any type of grain/feed.  Although on a day to day basis it costs us more time, the time spent actually adds value to the land, the animals, the products we sell and our overall business model.  To sum it up: Keep ‘Em Mooooving and they’ll keep happily Mooooing!  Thanks for reading!

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The “Shoulds”

At first glance, the word “should” seems innocent enough.  But even its definition exposes its critical nature: “used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.”  Taking it a step further, let’s be real with each other for a minute – how many times a day do we hear this menacing word in our heads…or, for that matter, even speak it out loud?  I think it’s safe to say that this little word causes big turmoil in the battle of our minds each day.  I should be taking care of me and working out more ~ I should be taking better care of my kids – I should be a more involved mom.  I should be more involved in my community ~ I should be more involved in my church.  I should be doing a better job meeting my husband’s needs ~ I should be a better friend.  I should be less emotional ~ I should be more compassionate.  I should keep a cleaner house ~ I should be more carefree to embrace the mess.  I should be more goal-oriented ~ I should live more in the moment.  

In other words: I should be a perfectly patient mom while simultaneously being an adoring wife all while serving my community, pursuing my career goals, and maintaining a pinterest-worthy home.  OH…and I should be making dinner instead of writing this blog post.  

When I write all that out, it sounds ridiculous.  And that’s just my short list.  But that’s exactly the point – exposing our “shoulds” shows us the insanity of our thoughts.  I intentionally paired contrasting thoughts because it’s comical (& sad) to see the guilt we embrace in our lives when we listen to the “shoulds”.  I once heard a woman speak on the subject of Mom Guilt.  A common thread that most all of us experience to some degree as moms.  She said that we need to learn to “stop should-ing on ourselves.”  Ha – I love that.  It’s true.  Should-ing on ourselves is a lot like another familiar sounding phrase – both of them stink!  And both of them leave us in a big, hot mess!

So how can I quiet the loudness of the “shoulds” in my life?  What other word can hush their influence?  What has the power to calm the raging seas of my mind?  One word: Jesus.  “Even the wind and waves obey Him.”  If even the elements of earth calm at the very instant of His command, how much more so can His word, His promises calm my anxious thoughts.  When my thoughts are focused on the shoulds, my eyes are focused on me. When my thoughts turn to Jesus, my eyes are re-focused to Him.  I become less concerned with what I should be doing and more concerned with what He’s already done for me.  I become less consumed with checking things off my list and more consumed with His kingdom advancement in my life. I become less aware of where I feel like I am falling short and more aware of His great power despite my weakness.  I become less interested in having it all together and more interested in having Jesus by my side.  In other words, I become less ~ He becomes greater.  And that’s exactly where I want to be.  It’s there that I’m content.  See you later “shoulds”.  Just give me Jesus.

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Rain and Rotating

Here at Ramsay Hill we rotate our cows every day.  By rotate I mean the cows are moved to fresh grass each day.  This is called rotational grazing.  The acreage is divided up by internal fencing into one acre paddocks and the cows are rotated through all of the paddocks every 30-40 days.  In other words, on any given day, whichever paddock the cows are currently grazing on has been resting for the previous 30-40 days.  In the future I would like to fluctuate each paddock size throughout the year based on how much rain we get.

There are several variables that a cattle farmer, or rancher (whichever title floats your boat), has to deal with. These variables determine how much food, in this case beef, can be produced. Those variables are land, water, soil fertility, and time. This is not an exhaustive list. All other variables constant, each of these variables is directly proportionate with the amount of food that can be produced. For example, the more land you have the more cows you can have. For this post we will just focus on water.  Water, in my case, is only provided to the land through rain.

Rain determines how many cattle I can get per acre of land that I have because it determines how much the grass will grow.  This is important because all our cows eat here at Ramsay Hill is grass! The more it rains, the more the grass grows and the more weight my cows gain.

In seasons of drought I will have to make a decision to reduce my herd size…i.e. sell cows. Quick side note: one option ranchers have in drought is to feed hay.  Hay is an extremely expensive way to get through seasons of drought.  That is all I will say about hay in this post, but I may write a separate post on that subject alone so check back!  Back to our topic: in order to make the decision to sell cattle after a prolonged period without rain, I have to know how much grass I have. When I am rotating the cows daily I can see clearly how much grass the cows will have tomorrow. With that knowledge I can see how much grass I have and I can estimate how long it will last.

I will pull this all together now: rotational grazing, monitoring grass on the ground daily and monitoring rain fall, all provide me with a plan for drought.  That plan takes away the guess work and allows me to know exactly when and how much of my herd to liquidate.  This knowledge allows me to act swiftly in times of drought instead of delaying the hard decision to sell.  An unsure or delayed decision to sell often results in ranchers suffering great loss down the road.

In conclusion, rainfall is in God’s hands alone.  But rotating my cows gives me a measure of control and foresight that I would otherwise not have.  It allows me to accurately estimate how much grass I have, how long that grass can support my herd size, and when it’s time to sell.

-Jordan Ramsay, The Cow Whisperer

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Rain Puddles

Our morning began with some epic rain out here on Ramsay Hill.  The kind that means soft blanket…curled up on the couch…coffee mug in hand.  Or, if you have an almost-two-year old, the kind that means “let’s go play!”.  So after some of the clouds had parted, Sam & I geared up to go outside and see how many rain puddles we could find to splash in!  A dozen puddles later we found ourselves 1/4 of a mile away from home when it began to pour again.  We were drenched and laughing and I will forever hold dear the sweet memory of walking back home with my boy in my arms as the cool, fall rain soaked us both.

It was such a wonderful reminder to me of God’s provision and refreshment.  My heart is so easily divided when I yoke myself to worry about the future.  But choosing trust over worry yokes me to His goodness and His provision…His yoke is easy and burden is light! Friends, let’s be brave and choose trust today…and laugh without fear of the future as the rain soaks us.

    “…He supplies the earth with rain and makes the grass grow on the hills.  He provides food for the cattle…” (Psalm 147:8-9)

Rain at Ramsay Hill

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