Applause

You know those moments when you are just hum-drumming along in your day and suddenly you are catapulted into a glimpse of the eternal?  Sometimes it’s one of those majestic Texas sunrises or sunsets that literally takes your breath away.  Sometimes it’s a great conversation with a trusted friend or a song we love.  Little foretastes of Heaven that remind our feeble hearts that this isn’t all there is to The Story.

I had one of those moments the other day with my toddler.  The day was progressing pretty normally…breakfast, see daddy off to work, diaper changes somewhere along the way, reading, play time.  My son was playing with a sound machine that has various nature noises and when it came to “Rain” – he started clapping…then he pressed “Ocean” – more clapping.  I was instantly jarred out of my routine thoughts of the day and caught up into the realm of the bigger Reality…that while I sit playing with my toddler all creation is singing God’s praise.  ThatThe heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words…Yet their voice goes out into all the earth.” 

What an innocent and appropriate observation my son made.  Of course the rain sounds like clapping….of course the ocean waves crashing upon the shore sound like clapping to his little mind.  “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Jesus)  Ah, but how often I miss out on truly hearing.  So caught up in this life that I don’t take the step back to see beyond the veil.  And in moments like these, a gentle reminder jars me back into the real Reality.  The one where my God sits enthroned with my Savior Jesus at His right hand interceding for me.  The reality where all of my prayers are being heard…in fact they rise before God’s throne as incense…a sweet aroma.  The reality where legions of angels literally utter “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty” without ceasing.  The reality where all of my tears…EVERY…SINGLE…ONE…is bottled up and accounted for by my God.  The reality that promises every tear will be wiped away and everything held into account by my King, the one true Judge.  The reality where Good vs. Evil play out on a grand stage each day in the battle for my heart and my mind.  The reality that if I keep silent about, even the rocks will cry out in praise.

May these moments come with increasing frequency in my life and yours until the day at last we behold our King.  And may we, along with the rocks, the trees, the oceans, and the rain, proclaim His glory until the end.

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Unexpected Joy

I named this blog Unexpected Joy because that has been a theme in my life over the last couple years & something I want more of in this season of being a stay at home mom.  Unexpected joy that comes from a life that is desperately dependent on Jesus.  It’s seems counter-intuitive that desperate dependence would lead to joy and that’s why it’s unexpected.  Joy that takes us by surprise because it springs up right alongside of pain and frustration and hardship and monotony.  It transcends circumstance and keeps our eyes looking onward and upward.

Even just today as I watched the rain pouring down outside and looked at the clock…two more hours ’til lunch time…I felt a sense of heaviness as the day’s monotony weighed on me and my inner monologue turned negative.  Is what I’m doing each day really purposeful?  It’s easy to get discouraged when I look at my life through the lens of dishes…diapers…laundry…dinner…repeat.  But then my eyes caught a glimpse of a verse I strategically placed in my kitchen for days like this: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Col 3:23)

And right then and there, my heaviness lifted when my eyes refocused from myself to my Savior. Unexpected joy sprang up right there when I remembered that the repetition of my days and my tasks all belong to Him and if I will offer them up with open hands, He will change me in the process.  Most of all He gives me perspective and a freshness each day that helps my eyes to stay focused on obedience rather than outcome.

If my eyes will stay focused on obedience, one day at a time, my stay-at-home-mom syndrome will be transformed by thankfulness and joy.  And just like any good parent, God’s rewards for my obedience are always so sweet!  I got a real life visual of this last night as I was feeding Sam his dinner.  I had already decided on a little treat for dessert if he ate well.  I couldn’t wait to bust out the cookies he had been asking for for over a week! But things were not going good at first…he was resistant to eating the part of his dinner we were asking him to.  I was bummed thinking I would have to hold out on the reward because he wasn’t obeying us.  But then something clicked and he finished his meal like a little champ.  Right after his last bite I excitedly busted out the cookies and let him know they were a reward for his obedience.  It was fun to be able to give him that little gift and I’m pretty sure I was more excited about it than he was.  The hubs and I dialogued about what a great picture of God that is.  He is the perfect parent, wanting so desperately to bless us and for us to experience the reward of our obedience (even if that reward is not experienced in this life)…. if only we will choose to obey Him.

But how do I obey Him?  Jesus shows me how.

“For the joy set before him he endured the cross.” (Heb 12:2).

If Jesus’ death had the final word, there would be no joy.  But he looked forward and saw Heaven.  And he rose from death, now interceding for us in Heaven so that we too can look forward and see Heaven.  So that we too can experience joy, even in death.  We have a Savior.  He is victorious.  Death has lost its sting. Today I can choose obedience for the joy set before me.  Thank you Lord for your good gifts along the way that encourage me to keep my eyes heavenward.  What a sweet parent you are!

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“What The World Needs Now…”

Sing with me: “…is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”

Well, sorry Jackie DeShannon but I beg to differ…well sort of.  True that what we all need is love – to know we are deeply & intimately known and loved.  But false – there is no shortage of that kind of love.  God is love and from his abundant supply – he can fill us all to overflowing – “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over” if we will look to him.

But we don’t (I often don’t) look to Him to be filled.  I look everywhere else – comparing my life to some version of life I think I should have.  I invite discontent into my life as if it were a dear friend as opposed to what it really is – a thief…an enemy.

By nature, I like to improve things.  It’s how I operate.  But if I’m not careful, this personality trait of mine can bleed over into my soul in a negative way.  Viewing my life through a lens of what can always be improved can keep me in the company of Discontent and Comparison.  And they aren’t very generous companions.  In fact – they don’t give at all – they just take.  They steal my time, my joy, my peace, my love for others…and the list could go on of all they take when I invite them in.

So, the question for me..for us…is “how do we uninvite them?”  Gratitude is a first step.  Another is focusing on truth.  And the truth is we have a Good Shepherd, we lack nothing.  He cares for us, he watches out for us with constant vigilance, he provides for our needs, he guards us, he fights our enemies, he lays down his life for us.  He leads us to green pastures and beside quiet waters.  He restores our soul.

A picture of this Good Shepherd is found in Psalm 23.  This happens to be the MOST SEARCHED verse throughout the world.  People all over the world who are seeking to know God, are finding refuge and comfort in the same portion of scripture.  I find this in and of itself comforting.  We are not alone.  We are all seeking a love to fill us and the Good Shepherd meets us in that place of asking…seeking…wandering – and he restores our souls. He leads us to green pastures and beside still waters. We are truly known and truly loved.  What the world needs now is love, sweet love.  It is found in Jesus, our Good Shepherd.

May we believe it and make it known.

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Fan or Follower

Sitting at the IF Conference back in February with hundreds of other women we sang together these words :

…Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior (from “Oceans” by Hillsong)

As I sang these words alongside my sisters, knowing that in a month I’d be moving to a whole new town and exchanging city life for small town, rural life – I had no idea what was in store.  And honestly I still don’t.  But I know this : the work God began in me He will carry out until the day of completion…until the day when I am whole – when I see Him face to face.  He’s at work and even though I don’t know what that means for me or what His plans are – I sang these words back in February with a desire to follow Him with a trust that was without borders.  Without the borders of my own control & my own comforts that I so quickly hold tightly to.

In the space of time since I sat singing those words with a vulnerable heart before the Lord to “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander…and my faith will be made stronger”, a lot of life’s little comforts have been stripped away.  Within weeks of moving to a new town & waiting on our home to arrive, we found out we were expecting.  Exciting, but not exactly clutch timing.   My now constant state of nausea didn’t lend me much bandwidth to be of help around the ranch like I had grandly envisioned & getting out of boxes took well into the second trimester.  I’d leave a friend or relative’s well-decorated, Pinterest-inspired house and return to my bare walls with a sense of desperation if not embarrassment. Settling in wasn’t exactly going the speed I had pictured in my head.  In fact, life had really slowed down for me.  And in the slower pace, God was speaking.  He was working.  As He always is.  But over my own plans and nesting instincts of what all must get done before baby #2 arrives, I had a hard time hearing Him in the day to day.  Don’t get me wrong, there was much joy for us in this season – but these are the honest struggles that accompanied the joy.

Just as the nausea of the first trimester was beginning to wane, the news came that we were expecting not just one new baby but TWO.  Twins.  Yep.  It came on the heels of a scare during my pregnancy so we were thrilled to find out that not only was the baby okay – BOTH babies were okay and thriving!  We decided to take the rest of that month and just praise God for these gifts – because we knew the moment we began researching, reading books, etc – the Enemy would swoop in with a host of fears & arsenal of lies to steal, kill & destroy our joy.  And even knowing that, it still happened.  May came to an end and we bought a book on Expecting Twins recommended by another twin mom.  It was great and practical and SCARY…would I ever sleep again?  How on earth would I keep up with my toddler and not just one but TWO newborns?!!!  Why did God think I would be trustworthy for this task?  Would my marriage survive?  We just learned what each other’s love languages are for crying out loud.  And keeping my house clean & tidy and family fed – well, that would be a straight up miracle.  My joy became increasingly mingled with anxiety & my internal monologue frequently began to drift towards doubt that God really knew what He was doing when He entrusted me with these lives.

And then in the last week, He reminded me of the words I sang back in February.  I sang with passion about the opportunity to trust Him without borders and when the opportunities came, I began to falter.  Would I really take His hand?  Would I really follow Him upon the waters?  It was much easier just to sing about.

A book I am reading called Not A Fan captures this well:

It may seem that there are many followers of Jesus, but if they were honestly to define the relationship they have with him I am not sure it would be accurate to describe them as followers.  It seems to me that there is a more suitable word to describe them.  The are not followers of Jesus.  They are fans of Jesus….But Jesus was never interested in having fans. When He defines what kind of relationship he wants, “enthusiastic admirer” isn’t an option….The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ.  They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything of them.  (Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman)

Ouch.  That hit me right between the eyes as I reflected over this season of my life.  I sang about wanting to follow Jesus upon the waters of trust but when it came down to taking His hand in the midst of my circumstances, I held back.

Jesus, help me to take your hand.  To be a follower of You and not just a fan.

 

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I Love My Kids By Loving Their Dad

I tend to measure my role as “mom” by the things I do for my little.  Read to him today & limited TV time…check….fed him nutritious foods for every meal & successfully avoided sugar…check….practiced alphabets while simultaneously changing diaper…check.  The mental check list goes on and I’m sure you can enter your own here.  But nowhere on that checklist of mine is: Love Sam by Loving His Dad.  And of course I do love my husband…deeply…but I simply just don’t think to view my role as “mom” through the lens of my more important role as “wife.”

I say more important role not because my child is any less important to me than my husband but because God’s design for a healthy family is, first, a healthy marriage.  The family unit falls apart quick when the relationship of husband and wife is strained or broken.  The best way I can invest in my kiddo is by investing in his dad.  Making him my first earthly priority.  Sowing seeds of love & respect into our friendship & partnership. Submitting to him out of reverence for my Savior.   Bringing him good and not harm with my words and actions.  Being his ally, encourager and crown.  Building him up instead of tearing him down.  Being his ezer kenegdo, or “sustainer beside him”.  Walking out in the role of wife that God so sweetly entrusted me with and gave me a blueprint for.

And that’s hard.  Because at the end of a long day as “mom”, there is sometimes little leftovers when I grab for the “wife” hat.  How do I make my husband my number one earthly priority in the midst of daily demands as “mom”?  How do I allot mental space to him in the midst of the loudness of baby cries and temper tantrums?  How do I fill up his physical touch love tank when being touched or clung to one more time today might just drive me to insanity?

In other words, how do I engage with and love my hubby without feeling like I’m always serving up leftovers?  I’m not sure, but I do know this: obedience to my Savior means making the hubs #1 on my list of people to love.  My disregard of this is really a spiritual matter more than anything.  If I love Jesus and I say to Him, “today I follow You” than that love is evidenced by my obedience to His precious plan for me.  I cannot confess with my mouth that He is Lord of my life and then live life by my order of things where “wife” role often ends up nearer to the bottom of the list than the top.  It comes down to obedience.  As Jesus sweetly reminds me: “If you love me, obey my commandments.” (Jn 14:15)

Help me, sweet Jesus, to love You & view my role of wife out of obedience to You and Your great plan for my life.  And to choose each day to love my kids by loving their dad.

Thank you that I love because you first loved me.

 

 

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Worry

I was convicted this morning as I sat writing out my to do list and began plugging away. Quiet time…meh…I’ll get to that later…this stuff just can’t wait!  The Tyranny of the Urgent strikes again!  I think part of my daily dying to self is dying to my to-do list!  Prying my fingers from my to-do list in exchange for my Bible can be [almost] as difficult as getting my toddler to brush his teeth.

And yet…when I set down the million of things I feel like I need to accomplish – there is always great blessing.  At the very least, a measure of peace that anchors me and readies me for tackling what’s on the list in a little bit less of a frenzied, crazy-woman pace.  It puts things in perspective and brings order to my chaos.  It lights my path.

Maybe that’s why Jesus said “do not worry about your life”.  He didn’t say don’t think about it, don’t plan, don’t prepare.  He said don’t worry.  And He followed it with “…BUT seek first His [God’s] Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” {Matt 6:25-33}

My Bible commentary sums this up nicely:

Worrying has the connotation of dividing, separating and distracting.  A woman cannot worry and trust God at the same time because worry destroys the single-hearted devotion Jesus described.

So why do we worry?  Sometimes we don’t even call it worry – we exchange “worried” for “stressed” or “busy” because that’s a. socially acceptable and b. makes me look cooler than I am that I have so many things on my plate – I must be in high demand.  If we were to give an honest answer when choosing worry, we should say: “I’m choosing disobedience right now”.  Ha, wouldn’t that be funny.

But funny aside, worry is disobedience.  It’s a choice.  That’s what Jesus said.  So, do I take Him seriously or will I keep choosing worry and be divided in my heart and mind?  What about you?  What choice are you going to make?

Worry divides me
My mind wanting peace
But tethered to other things
My heart wanting rest
But tethered to stress
So much of accomplishing
Is all about me
And in that place
I am not free
Because freedom only comes
When I get lost in You
My eyes can’t focus left or right
And gaze at You too
So I must choose
Lord, help me to fix my eyes on You

{Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.}
Hebrews 12:1-2

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Texas Longhorns

And no, I’m not referring to a certain university in Austin where burnt orange is welcomed and the words “Aggie” or “Sooner” might get you punched in the face were you to say them at the wrong time, wrong place.  I’m talking about the majestic beasts you see pictured below.

To some degree, those of us here in the West should pause for a moment to tip our hats/raise our glasses to these incredible creatures which were primarily responsible for the cattle drives that developed much of our nation.  For the history buffs reading who might enjoy geeking out about the rich history of the Texas Longhorns, THIS is a great article. I wanted to dedicate today’s blog to why our landscape here at Ramsay Hill is dotted with a colorful array of these picturesque animals.  When we started our ranch with the intention of raising wholesome food for our family and yours, we did a lot of research into breeds.  Examining all aspects: heat tolerance, size, blood lines, disposition, calving abilities (how well the momma cows carry & give birth to their calves), hardiness, intelligence, and many other criteria – the Texas Longhorn came out on top.

Many breeds of cattle (and other animals) have been genetically altered so much since the introduction of factory farms with the primary purpose of gaining as much weight in as short a time as possible.  And while this is is beneficial to the wallets of Big Ag executives, it is detrimental in many ways to the animals.

Pure-bred Texas Longhorns are descendant of the Spanish cattle first brought to America. Because of their twisty horns, medium-sized stature & other factors – they were not a conducive breed for the tight-quarters of feedlots or altered genetics of “bigger-faster-better”.  But these factors were ideal for us as we set out to raise 100% grass-fed beef.  The smaller stature (and by smaller I mean still massive animals just not quite as massive as the breeds genetically altered to be Goliaths) means that it takes less energy from the land to support each cow.  In other words, it takes less grass to fatten a longhorn. This means our acreage can support more longhorns than it could, say, Angus cattle.

Hardiness and intelligence were factors that played a big part.  Think of longhorns as the Star Trekies of the cattle world.  They are known to go where no other breed has gone before….in the sense that they will wonder into the woods and forage for roughage that other breeds would not ever consider.

Their mothering abilities were also among the top of our decision-making.  Not only will longhorn momma cows often breed (have babies) up until an older age than other breeds but they will also breed in drought conditions.  In Texas where our summers have the potential to consume nearly half of the calendar year this is important.

I hope you have gotten a little glimpse into the wonderful world of the Texas Longhorn.  Come visit us sometime and meet the cows we raise so that we can provide you with the freshest, most nutrient-dense, humanely-raised food to put on your family table.

For your viewing pleasure, see more pictures of our Texas Longhorns on our Instagram or our Website.

From Our Family Ranch to Your Family Table,

Jordan, Brooke & Samuel Ramsay

 

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