Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13
Last week, we had a cow freshen the night before we wanted to rotate the cows out of the pasture.
We do things a little oddly on our farm (I think that’s a trait that is common to farmers—we do things oddly. : ). When we want to move the cows, we throw two bags of feed on the four-wheeler and drive through the herd, so they can all get a whiff. They start to follow us—our cows are not wild (except when they have a newborn)—and we can basically lead them wherever we want them.
Hey, some people herd their cows, some people…don’t. : )
Anyway, once we get them where we want them, Watson breaks a bag open, and I drive the four-wheeler slowly while he dumps it out on the ground, and they get a little reward for following us.
Last week, we had a new mama and her baby that were back in the far corner of the field, so after we moved the rest of the herd, while Watson was petting his ladies, I took the four-wheeler across the creek and went to get the new mama, along with a few calves that were hanging out back there with her and her newborn.
I’m gonna interrupt this story to say that when I was young, when we chased cows [and I think I might have mentioned a time or two before that we did that a LOT—and I got pretty good at it. : ) ] we always did it on foot [and uphill both ways, just to make the story authentic. : ) ]. The last several times I’ve chased them, I’ve done it on the four-wheeler, and man, is that way fun. ; ) (Although the girls and Watson make fun of me—I’ve mentioned that I’m a bad driver—and they say, every time, that I’m too reckless and am going to wreck. Haven’t yet, and just know, if I do, I was having fun. : )
Okay, so I brought the mama and her new heifer across and into the new field. Watson had gotten the ear tag applicators and a tag, and after he shut the gate, he said we’d just go ahead and give the new lady an earring. (It’s a tag, but we say earring—you do pierce their ear just like a human getting their ear pierced. : )
I think I’ve mentioned before that new Angus moms are VERY protective of their babies and will charge you like a bull if you even look like you’re looking at their baby. If you make it bawl, holy smokes, I’ve seen them go over a 4 1/2-foot gate. (I am not joking about this—although she did get hung up on it, but that’s another story.)
They’re serious about protecting their calves—they will kill you. Even the nice, friendly cows who love to have their backs scratched and will eat feed out of your hand turn into man-killers when they calve.
Anyway, the plan is always get the four-wheeler between the cow and the calf. Watson bails on one side, catches the calf (no small feat), puts it on the ground, and tags it while I bail on the mama’s side and distract her while he does it. LOL.
And before you think that I have the worst job, just remember that the ear tag applicators are sharp, and I would end up with a tag in my hand (or foot or kneecap or nose), not to mention Watson isn’t half as good as I am at distraction. : )
So, anyway, we got the cow and calf up by the fence and split them with the four-wheeler.
Watson bails. I do too. He catches the calf, and my job starts.
We’re at the top of a hill with the fence behind us, so I have a half-circle to work.
Let me give you a few tips about chasing cows. (Just in case you ever find yourself married to a man like mine, LOL.)
First of all, you never go at them head-on. Especially a bull.
We have a bull in the pasture right now that’s probably pushing a ton, maybe 1800 lbs. He’s a big boy. I’ll chase him all day long, anywhere—as long as I’m on his side or, preferably, behind him. Just stay out from in front of him, no matter what—even if he’s going the wrong direction, you turn him from behind.
Same with a new mama cow. Don’t go head-on. Now, since I was trying to keep her from going to her calf, I was kinda in front of her, but the trick is to stay a little to the side and be even with her front legs—keep her moving, and don’t let her turn sharply. Watch her eyes, and you get an instinct for when she’s going to turn or speed up.
Anyway, as I moved around the semicircle, I glanced back. Watson had the calf down and was wrestling to get it into position. He was facing the fence—his back was toward me, totally trusting me to keep the cow away. He’d be blindsided and probably crushed against the fence if she got her head down and rammed him.
So, I’m doing okay, but like I said, we were at the top of the hill, and I got a little lazy as the mama trotted in a big arc, going way down the hill, and I didn’t stick with her like I should have, because I didn’t want to go down the hill only to trot back up.
Like I said, lazy.
And I knew it.
I also knew I was in trouble when she turned—not a gradual turn that she would have made if I’d been where I should have been but a ninety-degree turn, which had her facing me head-on.
That’s when she floored it. Forgive my trucker talk. : )
Isn’t it funny when these things happen that it seems like it happens so quickly, but you still have time to think about a thousand thoughts, too?
I knew my husband was behind me, trusting me.
I also knew that cow would plow me over, happily, before she did the same to him.
And I have to admit I knew as well that I had enough time to throw myself to the left and avoid her charge. There was probably ten feet between us, and unlike a bull that would follow me as I moved, her interest was in protecting her calf, and if I was out of the way, she’d blow by me and ram into Watson.
If I were writing this in a book (anytime anything happens around our house anymore, my kids are all like, “Mom, you can put this in your book.” And I’m usually like, “I need a few days before I can find it funny.”) If I were writing this in a book, here is where I would talk about my hands sweating or my stomach clenching or my heart jumping into my throat…it’s doing all that now as I write this, but at the time…I don’t remember feeling any of that.
I’m very much a “go down with the ship” kind of person (haha, you guys knew that already, right? LOL). When I commit to something, it’s a to-the-death commitment. Maybe it’s a loyalty thing, or maybe it’s just pure stubbornness. (Probably the latter.) Whatever it is, if I’m in, I’m all in, and I can’t seem to stop myself from putting my whole soul into it. So, if my job is to pick blueberries, I’ll pick from the time I get up until dark, and if someone will put lights up, I’ll pick in the dark until I can barely walk and get up and do it again the next day until the picking is done.
And if my job is to keep the cow away from my husband, well, yeah. I’m gonna do that unless I’m a limp heap on the ground. Unfortunately.
He knows that, which, I’m sure, is why he was comfortable putting his back toward me.
You know how things kinda all happen at once?
The calf bawled.
My husband said a word I’m not going to put in my newsletter.
And the cow put her head down and gassed on it.
When that mama charged me, I had all those thoughts in my head, but I was already completely committed to protecting my husband, no matter what. All in. So, there was only one thing to do, and I did it without hesitating and, obviously, without thinking. LOL.
I charged her back. : )
I threw up my hands (make yourself look bigger, right?), yelled as loud as I could, and ran straight for her.
(I know, I know, some of you are reconsidering whether or not you want to read books written by a woman who is obviously NOT in her right mind and who actually might be in a completely different country than her right mind. Sorry.)
My kids always said I have a very scary mad face. Maybe I looked angry (rather than scared). Or maybe I’m bigger than I think I am. Or maybe that mama cow is scared of crazy people. IDK.
But it worked. She veered to my left, and I got back in my place beside her front leg and pushed her out around the semicircle. I didn’t take my eyes off her, but I called to Watson over my shoulder, “Did you get her?”
“No. When you yelled, it startled me and I missed.”
Seriously? (I scared my husband. LOL. Cool beans.) Actually, when he said he missed, I was picturing him with a yellow ear tag pinned through his thumb.
Actually, that might happen to me, but that would never happen to my husband. He’s much more coordinated than I am.
“Just do your job, George.”
The calf bawled again, followed, this time, by my husband saying, “She’s done.” A little black streak goes by with a bright yellow tag in her ear. Mama and daughter are reunited, and I just proved that I love my husband the mostest. [John 15:13 : ) ]
This has been a hard year for a lot of people. Me too. Normally, I am an emotional flat line. We joke about it. I don’t get upset, and I don’t usually get super excited, either, and I never cry.
But I’ve been thinking of 2020 as “The Crying Year.” I’ve cried more this year than I have in my whole entire life put together. Even when I was a baby, I didn’t cry, according to my mom. She says I slept all the time, to the point that she got so worried that I was mentally handicapped she actually took me to the doctor and asked if my lack of crying and tendency to sleep all the time was normal. : )
I know I’ve already mentioned this—that mid-April and early May was tough for me because of different things. It was hard and my heart hurt and the Charles Swindoll quote below really struck me because “crisis” really seems to be a good word to describe what was happening in my life as I had given the Lord the big thing, but I still struggled to hold onto little things, wanting my way, not wanting to surrender everything, feeling like I needed to be in control of something, and hurting because so often people are mean and unkind and others just don’t do what they say they’re going to, and I know this, and I also know that I need to respond correctly, but I struggled pretty hard through this time. God knows all the bad things that can happen and can change it if He wants to, and if He doesn’t, it’s my job to let go and love folks anyway, trusting God to love me, to give me what I need, even if it isn’t what I think I need or want. It’s hard and it hurts, and like I said, I did a lot of crying.
If you’re in the Reader Chat, you’ve seen the pic of my library. The coffee table in front of the fireplace is the perfect height for an altar, and I did a lot of kneeling there and probably spent more time flat out on the floor beside it telling God I really wanted to walk through this and not be taken out of it, but sometimes, the hurt made me feel like life was too hard. Praying for strength to act right and grace to BE right and some kind of supernatural power to SHOW love to people who have been unkind and who have not kept their word and who have given me this terrible heartache.
In the flesh, I want to be the meanest—NOT the nicest—but there are eyes watching me, and I want so much to set the right example.
It was through this time that I was writing A Secret Baby in the Show Me State, the one that just came out last week. Ha. When I was done with that book, more than any other book, I felt like it was the worst book I’d ever written. Dark and sad and boring and no romance and no cohesiveness to make it flow. I felt like it was a big puddle of disgusting goo, which was EXACTLY the way my heart and spirit felt.
Pretty much every book I write, I feel like it’s a mess. So, that wasn’t new, but this one felt WAY worse than any of the others, and I knew how much struggle I was going through as I wrote it, and I felt like that bled over into my writing.
I prayed, like I always do, that God would take the mess I’d written and turn it into something that people can use or be encouraged by or that will speak to even just ONE heart, and it would be worth it. This time, though, I was discouraged, because the struggle was so hard and the battle so real. It felt like I was losing, and I also felt like I was asking for a much bigger miracle for this book anyway.
So, in the past week as I grabbed a few minutes to read some reviews, I was shocked and floored and flabbergasted (funny how we pray and ask for something, then are shocked when God answers, right?) at what many of the reviews said—that this was their favorite Gussman book, that this book was one of my best, that this book spoke to them and challenged them and uplifted them, and that the romance was sweet and satisfying…so, yeah. I was crying again this week because I thought this book was awful and God managed to make it into something that was a blessing to a few people.
Also, as I was thinking about all this—the cow I charged and the love that God wants us to show and give, without reservation and without counting the cost—I thought that maybe the abandon with which I charged the cow is the kind of abandon with which we’re supposed to love other people.
That was convicting for me, because after the weeks I’d had, the pain and the tears and the dark misery—all instigated by the actions of others but totally and completely caused by ME, because I allowed myself to be upset about them rather than surrendering to God and what He was allowing in my life—I wanted to protect MYSELF, which meant balling up and shutting the hurtful things out. (Even though it was my wrong responses that caused all my misery—it’s easier to blame others, right?)
Because isn’t that why we don’t love the way we’re commanded? We’re afraid. Afraid of the pain, because it hurts to love someone who doesn’t love you back (I’m not necessarily talking about romantic love here, although that hurts too). Afraid of the risk. It hurts to have your kindness returned in unkindness or apathy. Afraid of looking foolish. We feel like we’re being used if we keep loving people who don’t appreciate it or who return our kindness with unkindness or our honesty with dishonesty or our humbleness with arrogance.
Isn’t that why it’s hard to be a Christian? Because we’re called to do the hard things. (Think of Christ’s sacrifice and how many people throw that back in his face, not wanting to have anything to do with “religious fairy tales” or whatever they call it. That’s a sacrificial love that has to hurt. And we’re called to be like Christ.)
Just some food for thought, for me more than anyone, since after those hard weeks, I certainly don’t want to lay myself out, charging forward with complete loving abandon and no thought for the inevitable heartache.
But I also don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize I only lived it for me.
Just an endnote—I’m sure there are more ahead, but that struggle is behind me and I feel like maybe I’m not a better person, but I’m holding tighter to God than I was before.