I have countless friends on facebook who have taken up the November monthly challenge of posting a statement of thanksgiving each day.
"It's a simple thing," I tell myself.
"Everybody is doing it, so I guess I don't need to.
It is just a few words...
random moments of gratitude.
What is it worth, really?"
"Is he still bleeding? Is that normal for a cow's horn to bleed that long," I ask my farmer.
The steer had broken his horn on Friday and on Sunday, there was still a steady dripping coming from it.
"Yes, they can bleed a lot," he responded from the side of the trough where he was distributing hay.
He'd dusted some blood stop powder on it, but it was still a nasty mess.
Normally, we'd chase him into the headlock and try to get something wrapped on it,
but we had a bull (the result of a fowled clamping attempt when he was younger)
in that pen and it was a pretty risky business to try to get the bull out of there to work on the wounded-horn steer. We figured the horn's bleeding would stop.
Monday, the steer was lying out in the field and didn't look too well.
My farmer decided to call the vet in the morning on Tuesday as he was still looking pretty forlorn.
When the vet arrived, it was looking as if the steer was in pretty bad shape.
He commented on how the steer's gums and the pinks in his eyes were pale,
like he was near death.
The vet said he had never heard of a cow bleeding to death from his horn,
He checked him for worms, and, although he had some, it was not a bad case.
His blood showed he was anemic, which pointed to blood loss being the cause.
It is hard to watch an animal suffer.
It is hard even when it is an animal that is destined to provide meat.
When you get animals as babies and bring them up:
have to keep their pens cleaned out,
keep their water fresh,
feed them twice each day,
fertilize the hay fields,
buy the hay seed,
plant the hay,
pray for rain to make the hay grow,
ted the hay,
pray the rains will stay away until the hay is baled,
move the hay
stack the hay,
and then feed the hay...
it is a consuming process.
However, there is nothing like watching your animals grow,
enjoy their meals of hay,
watch them stroll out through the green pastures of summer.
Care-taking brings a unique delight.
Certainly the time and commitment
and the money wrapped up in the whole process
makes for a relationship with these animals that is dependent upon each other.
"Will he make it,"
I ask the vet, not sure that I want to hear the answer.
"It is a 50/50 chance. He has pretty severe anemia."
He explained to me something about the red blood count and some numbers I didn't understand.
He said something like
"35 is normal.
6 or 7 is at death's door.
This steer's number came out at 9.
It isn't looking good, but he does have strength still,
and we've done what we could."
It is never good to feel like there is only a 50 percent chance of hope.
Half of the time, he would die.
Half of the time, he would live.
I am more of a high-hopes kind of person.
High hopes are easier on the mind.
I don't like half-hopes.
I trudge down from the barn, looking up into the clouds and thinking a prayer.
Sometimes it seems strange to live on a farm and pray about animals,
rain for the harvest,
longevity for the equipment,
strength and time to get it all done,
the constant battle against the curse of sin on nature.
Still, with all the verses in the Bible about farming, ripe fields,
gardening and vineyards,
I remind myself that God cares and understands.
The next morning, unsure of what will be found in the barn,
I opened my Bible next to my breakfast and skim over the words in the passage for that day.
I come up to these words:
Her head peeked around the corner as my knife slid down the side of the corn cob.
It was an evening in September.
We had spent the day at a fair and her flip-flopped feet had done too much walking for her growing body's appreciation.
We had done this before, this crying over growing pains in the feet and legs,
so the hot water bottle was a friend she could trust.
Because we shut the heat off in our house when we don't use it,
the easiest way to have hot water for the hot water bottle was to fill the teapot and turn it on.
She sat at the table while it heated.
I had been given fresh corn from a generous farming neighbor,
and so was blanching and then cutting it off the cobs to freeze for winter.
As she waited, she asked a question about somebody she had seen at the fair.
Why would they want to look as they had?
People at fairs can seem bold to unprepared eyes.
Do we as adults really know how much we do that is teaching the little eyes that watch us?
I gave her a list of possible scenerios and reasons people do the things they do,
how they get to where they are when they were actually kids at one time too.
Sometimes the pain of life creates a person that is lost inside of their body.
Sometimes people think that the best way to call to the world around them is through a visual demonstration of what they think will attract the attention they long for,
or perhaps they didn't like who they were and want to find a way to change.
Sometimes they are angry.
Sometimes they are confused.
Sometimes they just want somebody to notice them,
to love them.
I hope she will see that we all have choices in life, and those choices lead to what we become,
although at any time we can change.
I hope she will see that wrong choices don't bring lasting happiness or freedom
but a haggard search for something to fill the void in the heart.
I pray she will see that happiness is peace with God.
At any time, we can call out to God
and He can give the healing,
fill the need that is there.
The discussion leads to another question,
another turn of ideas, emotions, destinations on the path of life.
We laugh about something, and her pretty smile interrupts the pain her feet were giving her.
When the teapot whistles and reminds me that our talking has filled the wait,
I wipe the corn from my fingers and fill the hot water bottle.
It was unplanned, this time of discussion.
It was an important moment created by a painful experience.
I thanked God for the way He does that,
trickles the unanswered questions into a night of a heating teapot and a cutting board of corn kernels...
"Why is she locked up inside the attic like that?"
Violet's words came from the couch as she sat watching the movie.
"She's insane, so he keeps her up there so she won't hurt anybody;
he has a care-giver up there for her so she won't hurt anybody or herself,"
I answered from the ironing board.
"What makes a person go insane like that?"
her questions seemed to come one right after another.
She had watched this movie already and was watching it again,
better understanding it this time, but wanting to understand those parts that had bothered her.
"There are different reasons for a person going insane,"
I paused as to which direction to go with this.
I always try to find ways to condense information so that I don't lose my kids in big dialog. It is a tricky conjuring up of rapid, precise information.
"Sometimes it is genetic, like in her case. That means it was in her body from her mom or dad.
Her mother was insane, and they didn't tell him that when he married her.
Sometimes it can be caused by environment or things we eat or drink.
Eating too much junk or not getting the right nutrition for the body can make a person's body go off track."
I stopped for a minute to hand a crayon to Lillie who was asking for a pink one.
I could see it had fallen and rolled by my feet.
Violet took this momentary lapse to ask another,
What do you mean by that?"
The hot iron was picked up again and swept the material as I answered,
"Environment means the situation or surroundings around you.
It's like the Romans that we are studying in history right now.
Some historians say many of them got lead poisoning because of the way they cooked in certain pots and pans or because of the piping that they used for their water.
When a metal in the body or even minerals become out of balance by having too much of it,
it can cause the brain to not function correctly."
"Another example is that there used to be a lot of lead used in paint."
People who inhaled the dust from the paint that chipped off,
or little children who ate the paint chips that would flake off the windows were beginning to have problems and they linked it to the lead in the paint.
Aluminum pans is another one that can cause problems in the brain.
All of these large amounts of minerals and metals and different substances can cause problems in our bodies
because God made the body sensitive and we need to be careful what we put into it.
Sometimes, insanity can even be a spiritual thing, if a person fools with things of the devil.
There are different reasons for insanity,
but the thing was, he took care of her as best he could.
Others in that situation might have sent her away or even let her starve since she couldn't understand much of what was going on."
I could tell by the silence that she was thinking again.
"Why wouldn't Jane marry Mr. Rochester? Why did she leave and not let him know where she was going?"
This was a hard question, to try to sum up a person's hard choice to do what was right
even when it seemed so hard.
"She was not willing to go against her conscience." I summed up.
"Once she found out he was married,
she knew she could not marry him. She knew that deep in her heart,
she had to do what she knew was the right thing to do because she didn't want to live with the consequences of making a wrong choice.
Happiness doesn't come from things, or a big house, or jewelry,
or even marrying a man who loves you and you love him.
Happiness comes from doing what is right, even when it is really hard to do that.
That takes courage. And she chose it."
"We all will have hard choices and you have to choose at that time what you will do.
We all make mistakes and God will always forgive us, and that is something important to never forget;
but there are consequences to the choices we make."
"It was hard." I agreed. "It made her sad for a long time.
But God sees when we choose to do right and eventually she did end up happy again,
far happier than she would have been had she chosen to go against her conscience.
Sometimes, we may have to go through being sad,
but God sees the future and we have to trust that.
Back then, marriage was seen differently than today.
People who were married were married for life. That is the way God intended it, even though that may be hard to have to live with sometimes, like it was for Mr. Rochester."
I hadn't ironed for very long before she piped up again:
"That woman that liked Mr. Rochester, the rich one, she was so pretty,
and Jane is so plain. I thought men liked beautiful women. Why would he love Jane over her?"
I smiled at her thoughts, the heralded praise of beauty that is so often pushed on us,
all around us,
was being challenged by this story.
"The truth is, Violet, beauty is much more than what a person looks like.
What would be more pleasant to live with:
a plain person who smiles and sings and laughs and plays and is kind,
or a beautiful person who is mean and angry and hurtful?
Ugly manners and choices makes a beautiful person ugly.
Right character and choices can make a very plain person beautiful.
Men see that too, usually, sometimes not right away, but usually, eventually.
It is tricky because men are created to be drawn to beauty
because that is the way God made them,
but they have to balance that with seeing the person on the inside,
or they may be stuck for the rest of their lives with a woman who makes their life unhappy."
Later, as the segments continued on, she came and said,
"Did you see how Jane acted when she found out she had inherited all that money
and she wasn't poor anymore. She acted like it wasn't important.
But when she found out she was cousins of the people at Gateshead where she was staying,
she was so excited and happy.
Why would she be more excited about having three cousins than about being rich?"
"Well, let me ask you." I responded,
"What would you feel like if you didn't have any relatives at all:
no sisters or brothers,
no aunts or uncles
(besides the really mean ones like she had lived with as a child),
not even any close friends,
You were completely alone in this life.
What good would money be to you if you had nothing much to do with it,
nobody to do anything with or use it for,
except maybe to strangers who might need it more than you?
It would just be paper that could buy you stuff.
What if you found out suddenly that you had family,
that the people you were living with and had grown to love were actually cousins.
You would go from having absolutely nobody,
to having family.
That is something that money cannot buy or fill.
Money may seem like everything to people,
but when you really sit down and think about it,
it is just paper,
just something to get you things,
but it can't buy you love, friends, or family.
Honestly, it cannot buy happiness;
it cannot buy peace with God."
Later after she'd gone to bed, I thought of these and other conversations this story had brought up:
a movie...from a classic.
Jane Eyre was a book I had to read in one of the teen years of my schooling.
I remember it very well because it stirred up in me many of these same questions,
issues that challenged so many different elements in life.
I thought of all the different things we had covered in just a few hours of a movie based on a classic
and I thought about our current educational dilemma.
So many of the classics are being pushed out,
seen as being 'out of touch' with the current generation
and it made me wonder:
can we ever really be out of touch with these things
or will we cause our future generations to fall below the richness of finding the simple truths to true happiness?
Are we fooling ourselves into accepting a faulty counterfeit to happiness.