The impact we have on others, whether through a brief chat in a checkout line, or serving on a committee together is something I’ve been reflecting on a lot lately.
This past summer, I took the opportunity to participate in some Life Coaching. I’m approaching a milestone birthday at a rapid pace, and I want to go into this next decade feeling better about life than I did when I entered the current decade.
A couple of things really stood out to me when I looked at the results of the various assessments I took. Leadership is a pretty strong theme. Along with leadership, the threads of communication, empathy, fun, extroversion, harmony, and passion (to name a few) helped me to see how uniquely I am made. They have also been a source of contemplation…how can I use this information to be the best me?
Following my coaching sessions, I have focused on the impact that I have had on others…good and bad. As part of the leadership focus, I have also been observing the behavior of others as mental note taking on how actions directly affect those we encounter every day. I have witnessed some pretty awesome encounters in the checkout lines at Walmart, where people have been kind to strangers, and patient when the process is taking a bit. There have also been some pretty negative experiences where I wonder why I am volunteering for certain groups, or why I try to share my farm story online.
This leaves me with the question: What kind of an impact are you leaving on others? Are you making sure that those you encounter leave with a positive impression of you…or are you making sure you win the argument at all costs? With all of the division, hatred, and violence in the world today, my challenge to you is to make sure you are leaving a positive impact on those you encounter every day. Doesn’t matter if it is in person, or online. You don’t have to agree with everything a person does or stands for to have a positive impact. If nothing else, be kind. Always.
The way each of us sparkle and shine in the world is different, just as each firework in a show is different.
In the age of social media, it’s tempting to try being like those who are more “liked” or to “go viral”. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it dulls your sparkle.
It’s okay to be different, to have different opinions, to use your gifts in a unique way. That’s what brings joy to life. Those that tell you that you need to act like them, or agree with them are just dulling your sparkle.
This past September didn’t go exactly how any of us predicted it would. We were sure that I would be spending about two weeks in Kentucky after Lydia was born, but there were also many unknowns. I had a bit of time to contemplate the month as I drove home from Pikeville on the 27th and 28th – about 2 days worth of time – and I kept coming up with the same theme. I have so many things to be grateful for.
Anna, Doug, and Lydia
If it weren’t for Lydia’s arrival on September 1st, I wouldn’t have gone to Kentucky in the first place. I was so excited when they asked me early on in the pregnancy to spend some time with them after their bundle arrived. I am grateful that they didn’t kick me out after spending 24 days with them. A new baby is stressful enough when you are first time parents, but Anna and Doug also have her multiple sclerosis and his medical school schedule to deal with. We were a bit concerned when Anna had to be hospitalized for a few days due to an infection, but at the same time, I was thankful that they put Anna on the labor and delivery floor so Doug could bring Lydia to spend the days as a family of three. Anna’s infection triggered a MS relapse, so I was asked to stay a little longer to help care for Anna while Doug’s mom was there to take care of Lydia. Two moms in the house for a week, and we all survived! It was good for Karen and I to get to know each other better, and I liked that it helped me to understand Doug a little better as well. It wasn’t always easy being patient with each other, but looking back on our time together, I am grateful that I was able to stay and help as long as I did.
I know it’s pretty sappy, but I have to say, I am so grateful for Jonathan. He was so understanding and encouraging when I was homesick. I left home on September 1st, and arrived back home on September 28th. That is the longest we have been apart from each other in the 28 years we have been married. Jonathan and Laura did come to spend a couple of days in Pikeville during my time there, but most of that time was spent oohing and ahhing over our granddaughter.
After I arrived home, Jonathan has been kind enough to let me ease back in to “real life”. There are many things I need to catch up on before harvest gets super busy, and I am thankful that he has been so patient with me.
I am grateful to be part of an organization that understands the importance of family. While I was in Kentucky, I missed a few county annual meetings, a state board meeting, and an event with the American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall. I felt bad about missing the meetings and event, but I was assured that family is first. There are many organizations that are not as forgiving when it comes to family events. That is another reason why I am thankful to be a member of the Minnesota Farm Bureau.
Family and Friends
I have a pretty awesome family, and an amazing group of friends. I am so grateful for the prayers offered when we asked for them…and for those offered when we didn’t ask. I also received texts, notes, and messages that seemed to come at just the right time. Thank you to the family and friends who lift my spirits constantly.
Living in a different region
This is a view off of the front deck at Doug and Anna’s house during a rain storm. They live in a hollow (pronounced “holler”) in the hills. You can see the road winding up the road. They basically live on the side of an Appalachian mountain. I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, and I’ve lived on the prairie of Southwestern Minnesota for 28 years. After awhile, the mountains seemed to close in on me…but at the same time, the views were breathtaking. I am grateful for the opportunity to live in a different region of the country for a month. I fell in love with the Food City grocery store in Pikeville, and even brought home some southern versions of foods we like. I’m pretty sure that if I wasn’t bringing home some boxes of Anna’s, I would have tried to bring home many more groceries from Food City! Anna and Doug have some pretty awesome friends as well. I had the privilege of meeting some of their medical school friends this trip, and am thankful they let this “granny” hang out with them. (Yes, I was totally called granny at one of Lydia’s pediatric appointments…I don’t have a bun like granny in Beverly Hillbillies, or the granny in the Tweety cartoons…yet.)
My trip to Kentucky contained a roller coaster of emotions…heck, I cried all the way through it on my way home after leaving sweet Lydia…but the overwhelming emotion is one of gratitude. Thank you for all of the thoughts, prayers, well-wishes, and friendship. It’s good to be home.
Have you ever given any thought as to how you want to be remembered after you’re gone?
Listening to the memories that people shared at my father-in-law’s visitation and funeral got me to thinking about what people would say at my funeral. While that seems a bit morbid on the surface, and thinking about my own funeral is not something I dwell on, it was good to reflect on how our actions speak so loudly in how we are remembered.
Many of the memories shared were not about specific conversations, but about the way Kenny made them feel welcome when they visited, or about watching how he cared for my mother-in-law in her advanced stages of multiple sclerosis, or about things he did to help them out of a tight spot. It wasn’t his words, but his actions and attitude that left an impression.
I came across this quote from Oliver Goldsmith while working on a communications presentation. “You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.”
So, how do you want to be remembered?
In our daily interactions with others, are you treating them in a way that will leave positive impressions, or negative ones? Will they remember you fondly, or will they leave feeling hurt?
We can choose how we treat others in every single conversation we have, whether it takes place at the grocery store, at church, at school events, on Facebook, on Twitter, on our blogs, or wherever. The attitude you bring into the conversation will leave an impression, good or bad.
While words may not be what is remembered the most, they can convey an attitude. Using negative adjectives to describe people who don’t share your opinion isn’t the best way to sway their opinion of you or your cause.
When advocating for agriculture, or for a cause close to your heart, it is easy to get lost in the emotions of a conversation. These situations can make or break how others will see you, or how they value your opinions in the future. How will you be remembered after an interaction with someone who has a different opinion than you do?
My challenge to you is the same as my own challenge. Be someone that others want to know because you make them feel good about themselves. Treat others in such a way that they will remember you fondly as you go.
“If you go out looking for friends, you will find they are very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you will find them everywhere.” – Zig Ziglar
My father-in-law, Kenny Olson, passed away on January 22, 2016. I have been mulling over ways to pay tribute to the man who taught me so much about farming, about living out your wedding vows so faithfully, and handling life’s difficulties with humor and grace. In essence, he showed us all how to live out our faith.
These verses in 1 Corinthians 13 really sum up much about what I know about Kenny.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
When Jonathan and I were dating, we lived 3 hours from each other. This meant visits to the Twin Cities for Jonathan, or trips to the farm for me when we wanted to see each other. I was pretty nervous the first time I came to the farm and met Kenny and Lois. Thankfully, they were both so welcoming that I felt better immediately. I think he was pleased when we were engaged on his birthday in 1988.
Kenny and Jonathan were so patient teaching this city girl how to drive tractors, pick rocks, hoe weeds, and run to town for parts. If he was upset at me about mistakes, he never let it show. There was a time when Kenny and Lois had guests stop by for an evening of visiting while we were still working the ground after harvest. I volunteered to take the evening shift in the tractor to chisel plow so Jonathan and the girls could hang out at the farm and visit with the guests as well. I was on the far end of the field when all of a sudden, the chisel plow fell off the hitch, hydraulic hoses flying. Neither Jonathan nor Kenny had their two-way radios on, so my only choice was to drive back to the yard, leaving the chisel plow where it was. The guys were a little surprised when I drove in to the yard, and were happy I was not hurt, and that the hydraulic hoses had pulled cleanly out of the outlets on the back of the tractor and were in one piece. Neither one of them were upset over that incident. They just made sure the large pin was held in place with wire after that, so it couldn’t get jerked out of the hitch again.
My mother-in-law, Lois, lived with Multiple Sclerosis for 30 years. Kenny lived out the wedding vows, “in sickness and in health” so beautifully. He wasn’t real fond of driving into the Cities to take Lois to medical appointments, but he did it anyway. When Lois needed to use a wheel chair, he had a ramp built to get her in and out of their home, and made other modifications to make her life easier. When it came time for Lois to move to a nursing home in a neighboring town, he drove the 22 miles to pick her up for church every Sunday morning, then brought her to their house in town for the day before returning her to the nursing home in the evening. He spent many days visiting her when he wasn’t helping on the farm. I know it wasn’t all sunshine and roses dealing with Lois’ illness, but he chose to live out his love through patience and devotion to her. That has been a great example to all of us.
Kenny had a wonderful sense of humor. When we were looking for photos for our farm’s 100th anniversary celebration, we found many photos of Kenny and his brother having fun. Apparently, they liked to pull old Model T cars, without engines, behind other cars and run them up and down the road ditches. Kenny also enjoyed telling stories and having fun, even while hoeing out weeds in the soybean fields. He found a way to make the unpleasant tasks more tolerable with humor. The last month of his life, even after the dementia caused him to no longer recognize his family, he would still make people laugh with self-depreciating humor, and joking. He had such a pleasant nature, that everyone who worked at the memory care unit where he lived loved him.
Kenny has been such a great example of living out your faith, even when life gets hard. I feel so blessed to have been able to be a part of his family for the past 27+ years.
My Dad Kenneth Olson was stationed in Germany for part of his Army service. From time to time he would share stories from those Army days with his family. Here is one we listened to and enjoyed, and now we want to share it with you.
It was Christmas Eve, 1958. All of their duties were done for the day, and the men in the barracks had the rest of the day off. It was a calm, quiet night. There were a couple of guys complaining about being stuck here on Christmas. It wasn’t quite dark yet, so Dad and his army buddy decided to head into the local small town to eat out. They went into a little restaurant managed by some immigrants. The wife was friendly and serving as the waitress, and the husband was in back cooking. There were very few people eating out that night, so the place was fairly quiet.
There was a little girl playing on the floor with a few small toys. She was the daughter of the couple running the restaurant. It was apparent they didn’t have much extra to live on. Christmas would likely pass with no fanfare for them.
As Dad and his buddy finished eating their meal, they talked over an idea they began to get excited about. They paid for their meal, left a tip, and went for a walk. They found just what they wanted–a store still open. They went in and did not have to look long before they saw what they were looking for. . . a huge teddy bear. They bought it plus some other things for the family. They returned to the restaurant and gave the teddy bear to the little girl playing on the floor. She was so excited. She hugged it right away. The mother, with tears running down her cheeks, thanked Dad and his friend. They then gave the wife and husband a bag with some gifts for them. They were so thankful. They admitted there wasn’t enough money to get their daughter anything special, so the gifts for her were very kind.
The husband insisted that Dad and his friend have some complimentary dessert. They did enjoy a bit of dessert, but the real enjoyment was watching the little girl with her big new teddy bear. She was still beaming with her huge smile. Soon the desserts were finished, and it was time to head back to the barracks. As they walked in the door, they heard one guy say, “this is the worst Christmas ever.” Dad looked at his friend and they both smiled. They were thinking to themselves “it is a pretty good Christmas.”
May the joy of Christmas be with you and your loved ones today and every day!
This song has been on my heart today. I will let it speak for me.
“Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.
Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.”
As I was trying to decide how to write what was on my heart regarding all the arguments around food choices, I came across this passage which pretty much summed up what I was feeling. I would encourage you to read the whole thing, even though it’s a bit long. This version put it in everyday language, but the basic meaning matches the 3 other translations I read.
Romans 14 (The Message)
Cultivating Good Relationships
14 Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
2-4 For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ’s table, wouldn’t it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn’t eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.
5 Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.
6-9 What’s important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you’re a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It’s God we are answerable to—all the way from life to death and everything in between—not each other. That’s why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that he could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other.
10-12 So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother? And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister? I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly—or worse. Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in Scripture:
“As I live and breathe,” God says, “every knee will bow before me; Every tongue will tell the honest truth that I and only I am God.”
So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God.
13-14 Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.
15-16 If you confuse others by making a big issue over what they eat or don’t eat, you’re no longer a companion with them in love, are you? These, remember, are persons for whom Christ died. Would you risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet? Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!
17-18 God’s kingdom isn’t a matter of what you put in your stomach, for goodness’ sake. It’s what God does with your life as he sets it right, puts it together, and completes it with joy. Your task is to single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and you’ll kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.
19-21 So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.
22-23 Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.
I encourage all of you to really think about how we treat our family and friends when it comes to their food choices. If we ridicule them, or shame them, or make them look bad on social media or at the coffee shop, we are not pleasing God. He knows what’s in our hearts, and certainly knows what comes out of our mouths…or keyboards. As it says in the passage above, “Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit.” Let’s work on building each other up, and showing Jesus’ love through our words and our actions.
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!