The Hope Buckets

Today I was a contributing writer at Strong and Courageous Women Magazine. Below is a snippet of the “The Hope Buckets” – I hope you enjoy.

I struggle with wanting to be real and wanting to be healed. And, I realize the two go hand in hand. Yet, I shy away at times with being raw and revealing a tattered version of myself because in those moments of transparency and vulnerability – I am broken. I am not whole, and I am most definitely not healed. We do not stay there though, it is a moment in time revealing the road leading up to a certain point, not the end of the road.

The enemy wants us to see the road as a dead end. He wants us to give up and remain broken. The goal is for us to not trust, to question the intentions of those around us and to halt any progress we may be making. Those are the days we stay in bed, the days we listen to the lies and mimic an unhealthy and sometimes jealous self-talk. We tell ourselves we are not good enough, that God may have forgiven me but no one else has. Everyone is keeping tabs on my mistakes. I will never be good enough and I will always be judged.

Read more at Strong and Courageous Women Magazine.

The Weeds and Wheat Parable.

The wheat and tares parable has me enthralled currently. I never thought I would be the girl who not only enjoys reading the bible, but even more so gets personally into the word for a deeper meaning so that I can apply it to my life.

In this parable, Jesus’ is talking about his kingdom and he explains it like this:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-30 NIV

Why the botany lesson? And, how on earth does this apply to our own personal lives? Well let me tell you.

The weed in this parable is called a darnel, more commonly known as the “false wheat” because it bears such a close resemblance to wheat and is only noticeable once the ear spikes. Wheat is heavy causing the stem to bend and darnel is light leaving the poisonous weed standing tall. Ironic isn’t that the good plant, the wheat falls bending over and the bad plant, the weed remains stoic as it matures?

What am I getting at? Well, yes the bible is describing the kingdom of god and how his followers are the wheat and the enemies are the poisonous darnel. But personally speaking we are surrounded by our own poisonous weeds in our life currently. Each day the enemy attacks us, our families and our lives by sowing in these tares in the wheat we’ve planted.

Imagine that you and I are the wheat. And the people around us that want to see us fail, who hurt us and deceive us, are the weeds. We don’t see them as weeds at first because they resemble wheat, they look just like you and I. They resemble a friend, a partner or a loved one. Over time as we grow beside them we are equally given the same opportunities that will allow us to grow. It isn’t until full maturity that we realize what or who has been beside us was never wheat at all – or that others see the weed we knew was there all along.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:  a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NIV

Sure, we could pull the weeds the second we see the difference but at what cost? Is it worth damaging the wheat? If I am looking at this as if I am the wheat then I risk damaging myself and my own worth and the sustenance that was planted in me. The worth God has sown into me could become uprooted.

Now imagine the opposite. Imagine that we are the weeds. Our seed came from a poison plant. It is in our nature to grow as a strong and deadly weed. Our whole purpose is to deceive and destroy – it is all we know. That is what we were planted to do. Do you believe that a bad seed must remain as such? We both grow in the same ground, with the same nutrients and the same opportunities. Why not allow yourself the opportunity to grow as a seed that supplies nourishment?

If you are anything like me, you have been hurt in your life by someone important to you, possibly a loved one and maybe you’ve even been the weed in someone else’s wheat field as well. But God has the ability to plant a seed of goodness around the seeds of deceit and despair. And, he knows the good seeds among the poison and the depth of the root.

There are days we want vindication, days where we want the poison to be extracted from our lives either as our backstory or a current threat to our crops today. But, it is not our harvest to glean. We must have faith that he will harvest and separate the wheat and weeds when the timing is right. We need only be still in the dirt we were planted in, and keep growing in whatever season God has us in. You may be planted beside a weed for a reason you aren’t mature enough to under at this moment. We have to remember the presence of weeds can never cancel out the power of the wheat. The heaviness of the wheat leads us to bend, and when we do we pray for the weeds to be harvested and planted as good seeds instead.

Clean Slate.

I used to wish I could expunge my past like you can a criminal record. I could erase every mistake, every humiliation and every thing negative about my life. A clean slate.

At my previous job I did expungements. And I loved it. It felt like each record being erased was a gift of a fresh start, new hope and freedom. We all deserve freedom from an unpleasant and embarrassing past.

But erasing your past doesn’t erase what really happened and it definitely doesn’t erase those people who refuse to let your past go, does it?

The ones who keep a record of every fault and failure. The ones who keep a tab on your life to somehow boost theirs. Aiding in diminishing their internal hurt temporarily while increasing yours.

Oh how I know these people exist! They will always exist. But their power doesn’t have to. You weaken that power every time you remind yourself of these things:

FIRST: Those mistakes broke you down and built you back up stronger, better and wiser my friend!

If you’re like me the broken part led you to God – who forgave you the second you asked. Erasing all record of sins, iniquities & transgressions. And, restored a clean and new heart. Psalms 51:1( all of it!)

SECOND: If you had never failed you would be sooo boring and blah. No one wants that. 😂 Failures bring life, stories, lessons and experience turns into a beautiful gift of insight. And, humility. We need that.

THIRD: You’re not them. You’re healing yourself instead of hurting others. That’s brave! That’s bad-ass.

FOURTH: You’re learning and living in forgiveness. Both for yourself and others. And, learning to accept God’s.

FIFTH: You are NOT here to please man. You’re here to please God.

And, SIXTH: What other people think of us is none of our business. Their judgment matters none. There is only one Judge and he loves you completely.

Your record is clean and clear with me. Always ♥️

Prayers & Verses for when you feel evil attacking.

Sometimes out of nowhere I will get a sinking feeling in my stomach, it becomes hard to breathe and I feel as though I could slip into a panic attack if I allow it. I’ve managed to get to a point now where I recognize the signs of it coming and can usually talk myself down.

However lately I’ve realized I don’t have to do this alone and I can give it all to God who can handle these much better than I, so I pray. Today, I read these two prayers that I found online at One Christian Ministry aloud and already am breathing more calmly.

You don’t have to pray these exact words but I found the bible references helpful to as a reminder to yourself of Gods promises. But it is key when rebuking evil to speak it out loud because he can not read our minds. Go ahead and it give it a try.

Prayer #1 – Rebuking evil, fear, anxiety and stress

God the Father, Jesus the Son, Holy Ghost,
I come to You today, in need of deliverance from fear!
It comes around me daily, attempting to throw me off of my path. It lies wicked thoughts into my head. It tells me that everything is crumbling down, and that there is no hope. But today, I choose to remember and recognize: I AM A CHRISTIAN!

I have been chosen by God! 1 Peter 2:9.
I have been forgiven of ALL my sins, not just some of them!
I have been redeemed, and transferred out of darkness,
into the light of God! Acts 26:18.
I belong to God, and no one can pull me out of His hands. John 10:28-29.
I have been given authority over Satan, and his workers (even the spirit of fear). Luke 10:19.
God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of Power, Love and a SOUND MIND! 2 Timothy 1:7.
Therefore, in the Name, Power and Authority of Jesus Christ the Son of God, I beg of You Holy Ghost, bind any spirit of fear that is attempting to operate in my life.
Bind any evil that is attempting to operate in my life, and rebuke it away from me!
Rebuke it away from my home!
Rebuke it away from my life! Mark 4:39.
In the Name, Power and Authority of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior,
I rebuke it!
Right now, I choose to have faith. I choose to recognize that God is not allowing bad things to happen to me, but rather, he is the one who is there to help me through them, and to lift me up from my falls,so that I can tread on… In His Holy Name, Amen.

Prayer #2 for trusting in God and strength to overcome.

Jesus,
I have given You my soul, therefore it should come easy to give you my life, my body, and my mind. But sometimes it isn’t!
I need Your help.
Please strengthen me to overcome!
I need You!
I choose to trust in You right now, and ask that everything that my loved ones and I are facing be officially placed into Your hands.
Help me Lord!
Help me to recognize all that You have given to me!
Help me to recognize that You have done great and wonderful things in my life, even things I don’t even know about.
Without You, I am nothing.
Without You, I can do nothing. John 15:5.
Protect me Lord, so that I may “be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” – Hebrews 13:5-6.

Keep watering the dead plants.

“Stop texting first and see how many dead plants you’ve been watering”

Is this you? Are you the first friend to check in, the first to text or call and you feel exhausted as if the friendship is a one way street? That was me, until I realized what God was actually doing.

For the better part of the past few years I have made a choice to choose happiness and to be a kinder more loving person. Gone were the days of venting and posting negative things on Facebook, any passive aggressive undertones and boasting for praise and acceptance. Positive Polly was in the house and she meant serious business! Not only was I going to encourage and motivate others, I was going to love people intensely and generously without judgment. I was going to crush comparison one thieved joy at a time, and I was going to nourish and cultivate some beautiful friendships.

I’ve always filled my own heart by filling others hearts. Some may disagree with this and think I can’t pour from an empty glass. However, maybe my glass refills from another source. Making someone else happy or making them feel loved, valued and noticeable is the most incredible feeling, it’s medicine for my soul. And, giving something that personal is one of the most risky things one can do. But, I do it, time and time again. Because out of any desire in life I wanted most it has always been To love so greatly that my heart is overgrown with stretch marks. If I do everything else wrong but love correctly – I count that as win.

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

My heart has always caused me to care differently than most. To be honest, having a bleeding heart or leaking reservoir has felt like a curse at times. I’ve asked God, “why does my heart get me into such trouble, why did you give me a heart like this? It’s been broken, bruised, manipulated and yet I still continue to love others. What is wrong with me?” It wasn’t until recently that he answered me, and revealed that my heart is not just an organ with vessels, it’s a chosen vessel in a whole different sense.

As with all the good that came from my reaching out, texting first, encouraging, being a social cheerleader and defender of all, bad was sure to follow. There were days when being the one to check in was exhausting and would deplete my heart. And, then there came days when I noticed that if I didn’t reach out, I was surrounded by silence. There were days when I really needed someone to ask how I was, to check in on me, to remind me that I was important and necessary to them. But, no one did. Facebook became my lifeline of key events, life changes etc instead of my friends and that hurt.

That hurt soon turned into bitterness and the bitterness made me feel guilty. After all I knew that don’t give to receive and I knew that was not my intention. However, I was saddened that it appeared I was unimportant to so many people around me. So, one day I just stopped. I stopped texting, I stopped going on Facebook and I withdrew completely. And, you know what happened, the silence multiplied, I lost contact with many people, no one noticed my absence and I was socially a ghost. And, I felt worse because I was forcing myself to not be who I felt I was meant to be.

Sometimes, a season of silence and separation ends up being the loudest connection.

Silence in the waiting. It became evident to me that this was supposed to be a time of just God and I. This was a time for me to build and love on my friendship with God and to see things that only would be visible with my attention fully on him. I’m a social person, and I love people, get-togethers, trips, anything and everything out and about with others. My happiness comes from inclusion, and that is why I always invited and planned, because that assured I would be included as well. But, God needed me to understand something more.

God words don’t always come in a beautiful moment atop a mountain over looking his creation. Sometimes they come while floating on a $2 float in your clearance backyard pool that’s only 30″ high. As I was floating attempting to erase the tan lines from a different suit, I was listening to a sermon from Steven Furtick, Frozen Oil and Chosen Vessels. About 22 minutes in, he explains the oil only flows when you’re pouring. It is not a situation of not having enough to pour, and waiting until you have more, it is pour now and it multiplies.

You see, I’ve always poured my heart out and into people and life. You will get the same response from my enemy and best friend that I have a huge heart. And, until now I thought that was both a blessing and a curse. Because, I don’t always get that in return. BUT… God told me I was so wrong about 8 minutes later in this sermon. It was not about me, and not even necessarily about my connection with them. My heart pouring into them was from a whole other source, God. He was filling my jar of oil as I was pouring into them. Whether they returned it, accepted me, appreciated me or not, that doesn’t stop God’s need for me to keep pouring. I am his chosen vessel with an organ of vessels that loves so entirely and endlessly – for his Grace and his purpose.

As I took that in, my heart settled and swelled. It doesn’t matter if my loving a person doesn’t get returned. Or if my writing goes unseen and only helps one person – it is not about me – it is about him. And to me, that type of blind love, faith and obedience is the freedom I needed and a beautiful reminder that the oil will never run dry when your pouring from a source of love; God.

You deserve to heal.

The truthful story of a young girls’ abortion and how God’s grace restored her faith.

Abortion is not a topic people like to talk about aside from an easily forwarded meme or a hashtag. Many tweet their support or opposition much like the trending #youknowme , #shoutyourabortion #abortionishealthcare and #abortionismurder , #lovethemboth and #unplanned. Your friends are most likely divided as well and some like myself may have been torn on how they felt and throughout the years changed their minds. I’m sharing her story because we need to talk about the things no one talks about. We need to include the unknown, the uninformed and what really happens behind closed doors, inside broken homes and what can lead to, occurs during and follows an abortion.

She’s sitting there in a paper gown staring down at her feet praying harder than she’s ever prayed before, asking God to please not let her be pregnant. Pleading her case with him that she can’t be pregnant. She is too young, she is unprepared, her home-life is broken, she’s financially unstable, alone and scared. She only had sex one time, this can’t be happening. There is no possible way she can raise a child on her own when she is a child herself. As the door opens and her eyes meet the doctors eyes, she knows the result before he opens his mouth; she’s pregnant.

The nurse comes in, she is gentle, supportive and kind. The nurse consoles her, hands her a tissue and tells her she is going to be okay. Though unplanned this is not unmanageable, she has options: Abortion, Adoption, Abortion, Being a mother, or Abortion. She’s not very far along, approximately 4-6 weeks, there is no heartbeat yet, just a clump of cells – abortion is an option. And, she can have one tomorrow. She isn’t given tools for coping with the news of her pregnancy, she isn’t given time to discuss options, research options, and she isn’t offered support in becoming a mother.

This girl; she is more common than you realize. She is your sister, your mother, your wife or girlfriend. She is the lady beside you at church that cries every Sunday. She is your grandmother, your teacher, your coach, your therapist, your doctor; or maybe she is you. And, she is just as loved by God as you are. We don’t know her backstory, we don’t know what led her to a choice we may not choose or understand, and very few understand the torment that consumes her life after she realizes what she’s done.

The girl I knew was only sixteen when she found out she was pregnant. She had only had sex the one time. She was a good teenager for the most part, went to church every Sunday, stayed away from drugs and trouble. She had an unhealthy home-life which was littered with abandonment and loss, so she found “love” in relationships. She thought he would love her if she gave herself to him, but she’d find out eventually she was wrong.

When she found out she was pregnant, she was terrified. It was as if she was gifted an impossibility. She was handed something that she could never really have, and none of what she wanted even mattered, because her hand was forced. Her boyfriend wanted her to have the abortion, her father would have done worse, so her desires never entered her mind or heart. Her fear cancelled out any clarity or possibility of love, her shame cancelled out the desire for help, care or concern, and their control erased her options of breaking the unhealthy cycle of the life she was born into.

The day after she found out she was pregnant, with the help of a kind nurse and request of her boyfriend, she had an abortion. Just like that, quickly and easily accessible. A child, without parental consent or knowledge, any proper counseling, had an abortion. She was simply carrying a child who was viewed by others as a problem that their solution could solve. Her boyfriend wanted rid of any responsibility and eventually would leave her as well, once the “problem” was solved.

It would be six years later that she would find herself in a similar paper gown, this time with her husband and the hope of being pregnant. The doctor came in confirming the good news, and performed an ultrasound. This was the first time she had viewed a baby on an ultrasound. She saw a fluttering and asked what that was, and he told her it was the baby’s heart beating. She asked how far along she was and he said about 6 or 7 weeks. And, she cried. Not tears of the love to come, the joy of being pregnant but tears of regret, failure and disappointment. She suffered a loss in that moment realizing the supportive nurse from before wasn’t as honest and helpful as she had thought. And, she felt undeserving of this child too.

She revisited that day six years ago; which consisted of mere moments scattered like chaos. She remembered the emptiness. She looked back down at her feet just as she did at sixteen and remembered leaving that clinic feeling like a worthless woman. She remembered the steps from the exam room to the front door of the doctors office being heavy and long, that the hallway stretched like looking through a funny mirror and one step closer felt like 300 steps back.

She remembers that the exam room table chilled her body. That the air held a smutty dampness that was thick enough to choke you yet invisible; deceiving you into trying. That it held an ominous feeling of emptiness and an overabundance of death. She remembers the tears running like she wanted to. Running and hiding behind anything and anyone to save her. But, she had no one.  And, no one would understand or feel sorry for her.

The cramping and immense pain that started as mild discomfort gradually became the type of pain only a monster deserved to endure. It was a hell she deserved. The silence that accompanied the pain was broken by the sound of a machine being switched on. A low hum of suctioning, sounding strangely familiar to the sound she had just heard today of her baby’s heartbeat; except that this machine had silenced it.

She’s unable to recall arriving or leaving the doctor’s office that day. No idea of how she got home, how she cared for herself following the procedure or any other detail of that day. All she remembers is that outside
of that room she was an empty shell of existence and was never the same again. There wasn’t just the painful awareness and absence of what had been growing in her belly the past few weeks, but also the realization that every ounce of her soul was extracted and held captive in the same container that held her baby.

She had often wondered if the women who came before and followed after were as uniformed, frightened and tearful as she was on that day. Were they alone and there because they felt like they had no other choice? Did they feel as though God didn’t love them and that he would never forgive them? Do the tears ever revisit them, weighted with the same shame and despair as hers? Did their lives get lost without healing, did they slip into addiction, self harm, sexual or physical abuse, or did they possibly attempt suicide like she had.

She recalls being disgusted with herself the days and weeks following her abortion, even her own reflection was too much to bear. Even though the nurse told her it wasn’t a baby, she felt like it was and she felt as though she suffered a loss. A loss that others would say she had no right to suffer or grieve, thus going without any healing. And, today six years later she realized she was right, that the clump of cells was a baby, it had at the very least a heart forming and depending on how far along she really was, possibly beating.

After the abortion, she was tormented every minute by the memory of what she did, how she wasn’t strong enough to keep her baby. She knew she had let her baby, herself and God down. She wasn’t worthy of the breath she breathed, she was worthless, tainted and unlovable. She was desperate to escape her hell and trade it in for whatever hell God had planned for her. Surely she deserved it. She wrote her goodbyes, swallowed handfuls of pills and with an odd sense of calm and peace, she closed her eyes praying that they never open again.

But just as she had prayed weeks ago that she not be pregnant, God too left this prayer unanswered, or so she thought. He did not take her that night twenty-three years ago, instead he opened her eyes once again to a life she was meant to live. A life that carried consequences, pain, and anger – but ultimately filled with love, compassion, growth and understanding. She was given another chance to break the unhealthy cycle she was in, to toss away the crutch of false security and stability she leaned on, and to stand firm on her own foundation of faith, restoration and love.

What most fail to see is that our God is a loving God. He creates beauty from our ashes (Isaiah 61:3, NIV) and works all things for the good of those who love and follow him (Romans 8:28, NIV). On that awful day 23 years ago, God was with her. He held her hand the day she suffered and thought she was alone. Although he disapproved of what she was doing, he never stopped loving her, because she had never stopped believing in or loving him. Just as a loving father does. And, on the night a few weeks later when she closed her eyes praying for him to forgive her and take her life, he actually had. It wouldn’t be until six years later that she would realize that.

Failure can serve a beautiful purpose if we let it and that is why you often hear that God uses broken people to share his grace and glory. Today, I am that broken person. This girl from so many years ago, was me. And, this is my story, my truth and my testimony.

When the doctor laid my daughter on my chest six years later, and her cries were comforted by my heartbeat, I knew. It was then that I realized God have given me a new life, he had forgiven me and he showed me an endless amount of the loving grace he is. My cries were comforted by her heartbeat as well, and I named her Gracie. She saved my life in ways only God knows as that was his plan all along. She gave me purpose until I could find my own, she taught me unconditional love as I was learning to love myself and she reminded me that each child is a gift from God, perfectly planned in his image.

It took twenty-three years to heal from this and I still grieve both the act and the loss. If my sharing this either deters you or helps you understand you deserve to grieve, to heal and to be loved, then I will boast of the things that show my weakness, (1 Cor. 11:30 NIV). If you think you’re too far gone, or God’s too far away, simply say his name and know he is already there, (Isaiah 30:18, NIV).

Forced photos & Fulfilled Promises

This family photo was as forced as the smiles on our faces. Behind each of our smiles was exhaustion, disappointment, frustration, stress and the faith of the tiniest mustard seed.

This picture was taken as a reminder of our first year with steers and how we failed and took a hard hit. It was taken to be looked back on as the year that almost broke us – but didn’t. The year that taught us empathy and compassion for those who will encounter the same in years to come. We would look back at this photograph and celebrate, remembering this moment… and see there was more than five people in this photo.

We are not a family that comes from a background or even heavy support from a family in agriculture. And, financially we are your average american family that makes sure our kids have what they need, but not always much more. The decision to put our children into 4H and FFA was met with hesitation and if it weren’t for the option of a 4H or FFA loan it would have been impossible. So, when we learned early Wednesday morning that only 1 of our 3 steers made weight you can imagine our heartbreak.

Still though, I remained strong as my husband was angry and as Gracie and Cole were devastated. I told myself then that God had a plan, that “God doesn’t bankrupt a family for no reason.” And, I believed that. Bankrupt is a heavy term on such a small scale but to us this felt insurmountable. A mountain we would never be able to climb or move alone.

You can’t see in this photograph the heartbreak Gracie felt when the certified weigher called her back to see the numbers on the scale. The look on her face when he told her that her steer was 13lbs away from making weight and could not sell. There is no sign of the tears she cried feeling as though the past ten months and over five hundred hours of work was for nothing.

This photograph doesn’t show the same heartbreak for Cole who received the same news as Gracie, except he was only short by ten pounds. It doesn’t show that he worked mercilessly with a steer who weighed the least when we bought him and gained the most out of all three.

You can’t see behind Gage’s smile that he would have easily handed his steer over to his brother or sister because it’s been a rough and long ten months. Each showing or work day was exhausting. He had taken a physical beating from his steer dragging his 76lb body around the ring time and time again. And, he was done.

You can’t see the financial stress on mine or Matt’s face. The fights that followed not just during the project but once we learned only 1 of the 3 would be selling to earn a return on their hard work and dedication. Or that emotionally, I broke down the day before over what appeared to be about open-toed shoes but was really about so much more. You can’t see that I was not only upset at but also questioning God… all you see is a family smiling and moving forward.

I’ve been angry with God two times in my life and as quickly as I had remained strong for my family, I became weak and my husband became strong. We traded places. Anger and frustration took over as we had recently began tithing and making that a priority and it was proving to be difficult in general and then this happened. We do not waste our money, we work hard and try to live a giving and kind life. But here we were getting knocked down… again! What lesson was God teaching us and when would we finally catch a break?

Intermittently while being angry crosses would appear. I could easily see a cross in everything and a sense of peace would temporarily take over. Families around us stepped up and helped our children in a variety of ways to ensure we had items needed for fair, lessons in fitting, grooming etc. Things money could never have afforded, a pouring of such blessing that it overflowed what we needed or could hold. God’s promise of tithing, Malachi 3:10-11 isn’t an overpouring of just a financial blessing, it’s a blessing in all forms. In these bible verses God challenges his followers to trust him with a certain amount and in return promises to return blessings in unimaginable ways.

While my faith was hanging by a thread, behind the scenes God was wrapping it with leather and twine. As we stood and took this picture as a family of five – we smiled. You can’t see God in this picture, but he’s there. You can’t see the families, advisors and friends who loaned us equipment, property, time or energy but they’re in this photo too. You can’t see the community who stands behind and supports our youth in this photo, but they too are there. This is a photo of support and not of failure.

Within minutes of taking this photograph two men walked up and offered both our children who didn’t make weight an amount that more than covered the costs of their loans and also provided a cushion enough for next year’s project. These men were impressed with our children, their buyers letters, the way they presented themselves and their attitudes. And at the auction a local company bought Gage’s steer affording the same blessing and opportunity.

These men blessed our family. That local business blessed our family. And, we will never forget the moments that followed this photograph for all the years to come.