Do Your Words Build Up or Tear Down?

Say What Will Build Another Up

When you talk about controversial things, do your words build up or tear down those whose opinions don’t match your own? Do you feel justified in “ripping a new one” to someone you feel has wronged you? Do you share memes online that are digs at others you feel are stupid, or do you sarcastically comment on Facebook posts or tweets to show how you are right and the other person is wrong? I know I would have to answer yes to at least one of these things. We can justify it as being human nature, though, right?

A few weeks ago, I went to church with my mom when I was up visiting family, and the pastor was talking about stress.

His first point was The Stress of a Compromising Situation and how integrity is so important. The supporting scripture for that source of stress was Proverbs 10:9: “People with integrity have a firm footing, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall.” and Proverbs 23: 17-18: “Don’t envy evil men but continue to reverence the Lord all the time, for surely you have a wonderful future ahead of you.” Integrity is one of the principles that Jonathan and I have as one of the pillars of our business. It is why we also try to never burn bridges, even when the other party has lit their half on fire. You never know when you – or they – will need help.

The second point was The Stress of Conflict. I know I am one of those who hates conflict to the point that it can trigger my anxiety issues. It is worse when it is a family situation, but really, I hate all conflict. The supporting passages for this source of stress were some that I hadn’t read in awhile, but they really spoke to my heart. Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called ‘Sons of God’.” and Proverbs 18:20: “You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say” both apply today, especially when you look at the conversations people are having on social media. The other two passages are the ones that I have thought about regularly over the last month. Phillipians 2:3-6: “Don’t be selfish. Be humble. Don’t think only about your own affairs. Be interested in others too and what they are doing. Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God He did not demand and cling to His rights.”  Wow! Think about that in the context of your online relationships. Then there was the passage that I used in the photo above – but from a different translation. Ephesians 4:29-32: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement. Get rid of all the bitterness and rage and anger and harsh words and slander. Instead be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” What would happen if we all stopped to think about our words, and tried to build each other up or encourage one another instead of tearing each other down to make ourselves look good. I have been trying to put this into practice over the last few weeks, and I can tell you, it makes me feel good when I know I’ve made someone else feel good. It also makes me feel good when I don’t participate in the negative feeding frenzies on Facebook and Twitter. Let me be clear…we don’t have to “go there” when interacting on social media. We don’t have to participate in the ugly to advocate for agriculture. We don’t need to be the one to make the consumer who is asking the question feel stupid, and we certainly don’t need to be calling them uneducated or whatever the latest insult is. We don’t have to go there!

The final point that the pastor had was The Stress of Competition. I don’t know about other agriculture advocates, but I tend to listen to sermons and pull out things as they pertain to advocating, and how to do it in a Christ-like manner. The final point here was another one that correlates so well to the advocating we do. I really appreciated this passage as how it relates to the stress of competition and conversations we have online. Galatians 6:4: “Let everyone be sure to do his very best for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work done well and he won’t need to compare himself with somebody else.” Isn’t it the goal of every farmer and rancher to do their very best? If you do the very best you can on the ground you farm or with the animals you raise, you won’t need to compare yourself with somebody else. We are all unique in how we manage our resources, but we are not unique in the fact that we all are doing our very best in the work we’ve chosen to do. How’s that for a little stress relief?

My challenge to you is, before you hit the share button on a meme, or comment on a thread, take a second to decide if that meme or your words are meant to build up those you are communicating with, or if they are meant to tear them down. My hope is that your words will be an encouragement.

 

 

**Thanks for the inspiration, Pastor Rick Krasky of Anoka Covenant Church.

90 Days 9 Lessons

It was 90 days ago that my doctor showed me the results of my blood panel taken at my yearly physical, and strongly suggested I take action. His advice was to spend more time on myself, exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, and lose weight. Here are a few things I’ve learned in the past 90 days:

1. The older I get, the harder it is to lose weight.

This is the third time in my adult life that I have gone on a weight loss journey. This is also the hardest I’ve had to work to lose weight. It used to take me about 10 minutes to feel all warmed up to the point where things that were tight felt loose enough to run. Now, it takes about 30 minutes before I feel like things are running smooth.

2. Whatever gadget keeps you motivated is worth it

I love electronic gadgets, and even though I am horrible at math, I love seeing the data after a workout. I currently wear a FitBit Charge, and when I’m working out, I wear a heart rate monitor. They both keep me accountable, but in different ways. The FitBit gives me a snapshot of how active or inactive my day is, and gives me a goal to shoot for. It also feeds my competitive side when I’m competing with friends to see who walks the most in a week. The heart rate monitor makes sure I am not being lazy about my workouts. There is a huge difference in how you attain your 10,000 steps in a day. Strolling around the mall at a leisurely pace won’t help you lose weight as quickly as walking briskly outside will.

3. Numbers can be good…and bad

The number on the scale gives part of the story on your health. For too many years, I let the number dictate my self worth. That is when the numbers are bad. However, when you are trying to avoid a health issue, like diabetes, that can be influenced by the number on the scale, keeping track is good. It is more of a love/hate relationship at times, but I have come to appreciate a deeper meaning of what those numbers symbolize.

4. Diet doesn’t mean deprivation

Watching the total number of calories I take in isn’t always the easiest thing, especially when attending receptions and celebrations. I will occasionally have a cupcake or a small amount of a dessert when at an event, and I enjoy it. If I were to skip it, I know I would obsess over it, which would lead to over indulgence. It’s a system that works for me.

5. Tracking calories is critical

If I were to get injured again, I know I could still lose weight just by watching my portions. How many calories you take in a day versus how many you burn is a good number to know. I use My Fitness Pal to track my food intake, and a food scale (when I’m at home) to accurately measure the food. For me, tracking my calorie and nutrient intake is one of the major keys to my success. I’m pretty thankful that I can now take photos of UPC symbols on food packages and the accurate data for that food comes up…and that MFP does all the number crunching for me. When I first went through a weight loss program in the mid-90’s, I had to figure all of that out by hand. Did I mention how much I love gadgets?

6. Find a support system

If you need to make a lifestyle change like mine, please find family, friends, or a personal trainer who will be there to encourage you when you feel like quitting. There have been days when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel…call it good…fall off the wagon…never step foot on a treadmill again. My family has been my encouragement. They celebrate with me for every pound lost, every milestone reached, and every triumph over the “I can’t” mind game. Without their support, I don’t think I’d be doing as well as I am.

7. Motivation can come from anywhere

I mentioned above that my FitBit feeds my competitive side. That’s probably why I feel motivated by friends who compete in races. There are farmers and ranchers running for Team Beef that prove to me that there are other people with agriculture jobs like mine who find the time to train for races. Most of them have no idea how much hope they give me that one day I’ll be back to running again.

8. Farmers and ranchers need to pay attention to their health

Farmers and ranchers have physically demanding jobs, yet many of us have health issues related to our weight. While we may have bursts of intense activity, we tend to overcompensate when we eat…especially when we’re eating on the go in the tractor or combine. We eat to stay awake, we eat because we’re bored, we eat because the clock says it’s time to eat. Taking time to find 30 minutes of meaningful activity (my doctor’s words), and taking a little “me” time isn’t being selfish. It means you may have a lot more time on this earth to spend with your family.

9. Small steps are better than no steps

My goal is to get back to running, and to lose a lot more weight. Neither of those goals are going to happen overnight, so I can’t beat myself up about the fact that I am still walking for fitness, and I am a third of the way to my weight loss goal. I have found that rejoicing in the increased fitness, and for every weigh-in where I lost at least a few tenths of a pound has made this journey a lot easier to handle. I think my family appreciates the more positive attitude as well.

 

There you have it. Nine things I’ve learned from the first 90 days of my road to wellness. I hope you may find a few helpful nuggets in there!

The first 90 Days

 

 

Escape to Northern Minnesota

Jonathan and I found time to escape from the farm for 2 1/2 days this summer. This was the first summer vacation without any of our kids along, so it was pretty spontaneous. It had been awhile since we visited the North Shore and Duluth, Minnesota, so we decided that would be our destination.

Since the timing of our trip was totally weather dependent, we didn’t have advanced reservations anywhere, and ended up choosing a hotel in Two Harbors. We had been through this town on another trip up the North Shore, but hadn’t stayed there. We really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of Two Harbors instead of the frenetic pace of the Duluth Harbor area.

We left home after 6:00 pm on Wednesday evening, and arrived at our hotel right around midnight. This is what happens when you need to complete a few things on the farm before you can head out the door. Thursday we went to my niece’s house in Duluth and took her out for lunch. She recommended the Duluth Grill so we tried it out. We weren’t disappointed…but if you go, go hungry!

After walking around the Leif Erickson rose garden, and wading in Lake Superior, we took Jenni back to her place so she could make it to work in time. Jonathan and I went back up to Two Harbors, and planned our next adventure. We decided on Gooseberry State Park. The parking and falls area was free…bonus! We walked first to the middle and lower falls, then headed up to the upper falls. We went in the evening, so the light was beautiful, and it wasn’t really crowded.

Upper Falls Gooseberry State Park

On our way back to the hotel that night, we decided to go down to the harbor in Two Harbors and see what was there. We noticed people walking down the break wall, so Jonathan encouraged me to do the same. The water was so calm and the temperatures were perfect. There were seagulls swimming near the break wall, even though people were walking close by. After taking this photo, we watched a ship depart Two Harbors, which was pretty cool.

Seagull in Lake Superior, Two Harbors

On Friday, we decided to do our sight-seeing in the morning before heading down to Duluth to see my sister and brother-in-law who had come to help my niece with a house project. We headed up the shore towards Split Rock Lighthouse. It had rained the during the night, and fog was rolling in off Lake Superior in places which made the views really cool. We pulled over to walk up a look-out along a trail, and marveled that this was just as much a part of the Minnesota landscape as the prairies are that we call home.

Looking North along Lake Superior

When we arrived at Split Rock, we paid the admittance fee, and decided to follow the guided tour before heading out on the self guided portion. We learned a lot of the background history, which helped the self guided portion make sense. This is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the United States, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to take a few. Just to warn you…there are 171 steps down to the lake, which means you need to walk 171 steps back up again. It really wasn’t that bad, especially when there were places along the way where you could pause and take more photos.

Split Rock Lighthouse

Even though this was a mini-vacation, and we packed a lot of sight seeing into it, we came home feeling refreshed. It’s worth taking a couple of days to escape the crazy pace of farming to take a breather!

Wordless Wednesday – A Trip to the Zoo

Jelly Fish Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

On Monday, Jonathan and I presented at a conference in Omaha. What is the one recommendation from most people on what to do with our fun day? Head to the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. We weren’t disappointed! This is just one of the 359 photos I took at the zoo yesterday.

Cherish Your Friends and Family

family

Things have been quiet on the blog lately. We have been enjoying time with family in addition to farm work and meetings.

On June 27th, we attended the wedding of our niece and new nephew-in-law. Laura rode with us, and we met Anna and Doug at our hotel. Jonathan hadn’t seen Anna or Doug since we parted ways in Stuttgart, Germany in January, so he was anxious to see them. Christina and I were able to visit them on our way back from New York in May, but it was still so good to get hugs from them again. It was so nice to be able to spend time playing games, visiting, and laughing together.

It’s funny, as much as I cherish my friends – whether they are In Real Life friends or Social Media friends – and my family, I seem to have troubles nurturing those relationships. Maybe it’s because of my fear of being a bother, or not wanting to look foolish, I’m not sure. I think we all have those insecurities, and put up walls from time to time to protect our hearts. The thing is, when those walls go up, we miss out on the human relationships that we crave.

I think Anna and Doug’s visit, and the impromptu gatherings with family and friends surrounding their visit here have made me realize how much I need to nurture my human connections, and how, in the grand scheme of things, those relationships are the important things in life. The point isn’t to just comment on things I disagree with or where I see an educational opportunity. The point is to build the relationships so that when a disagreement happens, it doesn’t ruin that relationship. In many conferences and workshops we hear about how to advocate for agriculture by building relationships with our consumers, but I think we also need to build relationships with other advocates.

Thanks, Anna and Doug, for the visit, and for making me see the importance of nurturing my relationships!

A Bend in the Road

Bend in the Road

Sometimes, the road of life isn’t as straight and even as you’d like it to be. My road has a bend in it that I have been ignoring for a little while. It is time to make the turn, for my health’s sake.

When I was expecting daughters two and three, I had gestational diabetes. Both times it went away as soon as the girls were delivered. Since then, my doctors have gently reminded me that if I don’t take care of myself, the diabetes could return. Here it is, 23 years later, and the warning is a little more urgent.

I try to get in for my yearly physicals in the fall, after harvest is complete. This past fall, we were fostering a little guy, which meant I put off going in. That may have turned out to be a blessing. A few weeks before my appointment, I was noticing some things were different, and not in a good way. Turns out, I have two out of three issues that accompany metabolic syndrome. Combine that with the history of gestational diabetes, and I am considered pre-diabetic. It is time to admit that I am not invincible –  as painful as that may be to my ego.

The treatment for this little bend in my road is easy and difficult at the same time. My prescription is to move myself up on my priority list, and exercise a minimum of 30 minutes every day. I now watch my food portions as well, and have cut certain extras out of my diet for the most part. The goal is to lose weight through portion control and exercise, and drop my glucose and triglyceride numbers back down to where they should be. Sounds easy enough, but the week I was diagnosed, we had 8 graduation receptions to attend. Nothing like having your resolve tested right away!

I have been on this journey for just over a month now, and I feel great. I am getting to where fitting in exercise has become a priority over watching TV or catching up on social media, and I’m not constantly worried about what I can and cannot eat when I go out to a restaurant. I’ve lost some weight, and am confident I will hit the goals I can control by my 3 month checkup. The only unknown is how my blood test will be.

So, you may see more postings about exercise, eating frustrations (looking at all the fried foods out there that are calorie bombs, but oh, so tasty!), and other things I encounter on this little bend in my road. And, hopefully, you will be seeing a smaller, healthier version of me this fall.

The Impact of a Unified Voice

Speaking with a Unified Voice - Farmers to Washington

 

Agriculture is under attack by the Environmental Protection Agency, individual states, and federal judges. It is time to get involved, and make your voice heard. What is the most effective way to get your message across? By joining a farm organization.

This past March, I had the opportunity to visit Washington DC with the Minnesota Farm Bureau. This was my 4th trip to DC with Farm Bureau, but my first trip as a member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau Board of Directors. I came away with three things I think everyone involved in agriculture should know.

Every farmer should belong to a farm organization

I know, I know. We’re all really busy, and it’s tough to take on one more thing. But what if that one more thing makes your job easier in the long run? For example, fourteen Minnesota Farm Bureau members traveled to Washington DC together in March. That is a small fraction of our membership. We were speaking on behalf of all Minnesota Farm Bureau members that week. When we met with our Congressmen and Senators, they knew we are speaking with a unified voice for all of our members.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been to the Minnesota State Capitol for our Day on the Hill visits. It’s another trip that I love, and it’s an easy one day event for us. The messages we bring to our elected officials, whether state or national, are those that came from our members in the policy development and voting delegate sessions that happen every year. Your voice in your county matters.

Politics may not be your thing, but it affects everything

When I first got involved in Farm Bureau, politics weren’t my thing. I had kids to worry about, I was taking on a few more farm responsibilities, and just didn’t think my opinions mattered anyway. The more I got involved with Farm Bureau, the more I realized how much of our livelihood depended on our elected officials. I started paying attention, embraced the opportunities to attend legislative 101 type sessions at our Leadership Conferences, and learned how the political process works. Then, Jonathan and I won a trip to Washington DC with the Young Farmers & Ranchers group, where we learned how powerful the Farm Bureau voice can be. I went in to that trip pretty wide-eyed, and came home fired up…in a good way. I gained a new respect for those who work hard at getting our message in front of the House and Senate every day. I know I couldn’t do it!

Every farmer should go to Washington DC at least twice

Why go twice? Isn’t once enough…a been there done that kind of thing? As I mentioned above, my first trip to Washington DC was pretty much a wide eyed experience where I was taking in so much information, and seeing for the first time how politics affects agriculture at the national level, that I really didn’t feel like I made much of an impact. When we went on our second trip, I was much more comfortable about speaking up in our meetings, and felt that I was making a difference. In March, one of our Congressmen expressed how he appreciated how Farm Bureau speaks with a unified voice, since they represent all sectors of agriculture. He mentioned how we are a lot like Congress in that we have to learn how to take all of the different voices and come together in agreement on our policies. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. The group on this spring’s trip was very diverse, which really brought home our Congressman’s point. We had beef, dairy, pig, conventional, and organic farmers in our group speaking as one.

Whether it is the American Farm Bureau addressing the issues surrounding the EPA’s Waters of the United States rule, or the Minnesota Farm Bureau addressing Governor Dayton’s buffer strip campaign, our elected officials take note of our message, whether or not they vote the way we would like, at least they know exactly where we stand. That is the impact of a unified voice.

Wordless Wednesday – Lilies

Lilies of the Field

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”
Matthew, 6:28-29

 

The Importance of Site Specific Buffer Strips

Jonathan and I were attending graduation open houses on a rainy day this weekend, and noticed how the water was standing in fields near drainage ditches following a pretty intense downpour. There was one field in particular, where the buffer strip is about 5 feet wide at its peak. This narrow buffer is good to prevent accidental applications of fertilizers or pesticides onto the banks of the drainage ditch, but it would never be crucial in filtering surface drainage. Why? The land runs up hill to the ditch bank. The standing water shows where the low spots are.

Narrow buffers are appropriate in some locations

This photo was taken along the county road, so the ditch in the foreground is road ditch. When you follow the curve of the crops, you will see on the left hand side the strip of grass. That is the edge of the narrow buffer. Look how far back the water is standing.

Here is another view of the same ditch, and the same field, taken from a little farther down the road.

Effective buffers are site specific

The ditch bank is fully intact, and doesn’t have water flowing from the field over the crown and into the ditch. This is a good example of how site specific buffer strips make sense. I would have to agree, too, with the NRCS buffer strip study that stressed the importance of site specific buffer strips, and not having that be the stand alone way to achieve the water quality results we are looking for. As more farmers are going back to no-till or minimum till methods, implementing cover crops, and using variable rate technology, our water quality will continue to improve.

Farmers are not opposed to installing buffer strips. Farmers are not opposed to clean water. Farmers are opposed to a one-size-fits-all-one-method-will-fix-all way of thinking. We cannot forget the importance of site specific buffer strips, nor the importance of a little common sense.

 

Wordless Wednesday: Love Your Brothers and Sisters

Love Your Brothers and Sisters

I come from a pretty close family, and love hanging out with my brothers and sisters. Even though they make me mad at times, I still love them.

When we read 1 John 4: 20-21, I’m not sure that the meaning is just our immediate siblings, but brothers and sisters in Christ. This verse challenges me when I feel hurt by another Christian…it makes me not want to love them. But I must. I am challenged to love those who are not fellow believers as well…because some day they may become a brother or sister in Christ. This is one area I’m working on with my real life relationships as well as my online relationships.