A Day to Count Blessings

Carolyn's Baby Photo
My baby photo. Liked the spiked hair then, too!

I love birthdays. As a kid, birthdays meant cake, presents, and being made to feel special for a whole day. As a grown up, birthdays are still fun, but I like to take time to count my blessings as well.

A year ago, Jonathan and I were taking foster parent classes. It was a 12 week commitment, right in the middle of harvest. We made it work, and we became certified in March. At the beginning of October, we received our first long term placement. This little guy has turned our lives upside down, but I feel grateful for the opportunity to love and nurture him until he is able to go back home, or until he is adopted. Days may get stressful, and I may feel like I am failing at parenting, but I know God has a bigger plan at work here.

Jonathan and I were able to do a lot of traveling this year, and I am thankful for all of the people we were able to hang out with. We had an awesome time in San Antonio, TX at the American Farm Bureau Annual meeting, where I was able to meet some of my online friends in person for the first time. We are so happy that we took the opportunity to get to know some of our Minnesota Young Farmer and Rancher contestants better while hanging out and discussing golf one evening. These awesome farmers and farm professionals are why I have faith that agriculture in Minnesota will be in good hands for years to come.

Following our stop in San Antonio, we went a bit further south to visit our migrant workers and their families. We have two families that come up and work for us every year. One family has worked for close to 10 summers for us. They have become more than just employees. They are also our friends. We loved visiting them and seeing where they come from. I think we could all use a little of their attitudes toward hospitality. We were so warmly welcomed!

In August, I attended the AgChat Foundation’s Cultivate and Connect conference in Austin, TX. You can read about my 10 Takeaways by clicking on the link. I was pretty much starstruck the entire time. So many people I wanted to meet in real life…and so many people I hadn’t met online yet…the conference was filled with awesome people! I have been so blessed by the friendships I have made with agvocates all over the world (I now have some Aussie friends! Lol) I still think about the keynote addresses, the breakout sessions, the networking…let’s just say, I can’t wait to go again!

Probably the biggest blessing this year was an addition to our family…in the form of my son-in-law, Doug. I have been praying for him since Anna was little, and God totally delivered. I could not ask for a more compassionate, Godly man for Anna. Their wedding day was perfect, and their ceremony was filled with so much love. Most of all, I am happy to see Anna so happy.

Yes, this year has been filled with lots of good things. It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but the blessings smoothed out those bumps. 🙂

Here’s looking to year number 4(cough)!

The “new” Olson family. We welcomed Doug into the family in June


Throwback Thursday – One Year Ago

Snowy morning Oct 25, 2013
Snowy morning Oct 25, 2013

We are very thankful that field work was pretty much all wrapped up by this time last year. Jonathan and Laura were busy preparing to leave for a mission trip to Tanzania six days after this photo was taken.

This year, we are counting our blessings. We are thankful for each successful day – no one hurt, and corn coming out of the fields. The farmers and ranchers who have been impacted by early snows are on our minds and in our hearts.

If you would like to learn more about the plight of our neighbors to the west, head on over to the AgChat Foundation’s Razoo page.

Not Really Fond of Roller Coasters…

Note: This entry was originally written last Thursday…dictated to Anna, as we were heading down the road.

I was thinking this morning about the movie “Parenthood” with Steve Martin.  There is a scene where he is having an argument with his wife about accepting her pregnancy. He is not sure he can handle the chaos and uncertainty of the new child.  The grandmother comes in and starts talking about roller coasters.  She loves them – the anticipation of the climb towards the top (the clicking of the chain as it pulls the cars up), and the thrill once you are over the hill and rushing back down.  She goes on to say that some people cannot handle the roller coasters.  They don’t like the ride. They just ride on the merry-go-round.  Then she leaves the room.  Steve Martin’s character completely misses her point until later in the scene when they are attending their daughter’s school play.  The youngest son charges on stage, thinking they are hurting his sister. Chaos ensues, and the audience starts yelling that Martin’s son is ruining the play.  Then Martin starts feeling like he is on the roller coaster, and you hear the clicking and the screaming associated with those on the ride with him (the camera angles make it look as if the whole auditorium is on the coaster).  Martin looks like he is about to become sick, and is not enjoying this ride at all.  But then he turns and looks at his wife, who is laughing and enjoying the ride.  He then starts to look at things from a different perspective.  The ride doesn’t seem so scary after all.

This last month has been a roller coaster ride for our family.  We started out in May with small grain seeding and Mother’s Day. This was the exciting part of the ride.  The day after Mother’s Day, I hurt my knee while helping Jonathan with the grain drill.  I “bruised the heck out of the knee-cap” as my doctor put it, and wound up on crutches for two weeks.  A month later, I still cannot bend it all the way, although most days are relatively pain free.  I found out that I am not a very patient patient. I had too many plans and activities to have to deal with this.  I had to learn to accept help from others, which is a difficult thing for me to do.  During that time, I started to feel more anxiety and felt a little depressed because I couldn’t help Jonathan or do as much as I wanted to.  The bright spots during this time were when the girls moved home from college and the visit from our exchange daughter’s parents.  Christina and Laura were able to work with Jonathan, helping to plant corn and soybeans along with other field work. I was very proud of the way they jumped in to help.

Viktoria’s parents immediately felt like family, and we all connected like friends who had known each other for a long time.  Melanie and Ulrich helped prepare for Viktoria’s going away party. Ulrich even did some field work! Melanie jumped in and helped out in the kitchen.  As fun as this was, I could hear the roller coaster clicking…  We said good-bye to our German family on May 28th.  Many tears were shed on both sides as the roller coaster came rushing down the hill.

Things were pretty smooth for awhile, until we got word that our Pastor’s wife had passed away.  Candy was a bright spot in many lives. She had many health challenges, but she handled them all with grace.  We loved visiting with her and getting to see hints of her humor along with her compassion.  We will miss her.

The following day, we attended church, where the atmosphere was rather somber.  Late that afternoon, we were outside enjoying the beautiful evening before a game of cat and mouse broke out.  We were having a little fun with the 4-wheeler and Ranger Utility Vehicle, taking turns on who was the “cat” and who was the “mouse”.  This is a game we have played many times. You could say it is a favorite of ours.  But, you know what they say, “it’s all fun and games until someone winds up in the ER at 10:00 on a Sunday night.”   I was the “cat” on the 4-wheeler while Jonathan and Anna played the “mouse” on the Ranger.  The cat was about to pounce, when the mouse darted, tipping the Ranger onto its side.  Anna had her seat belt on and was okay (she would bruise where the seat belt held her, but otherwise was okay). Jonathan went to the house quickly after he crawled out, clutching his hand.  I went into the house to check on him, asking if he was okay.   He asked me to get him an ice pack and take him to the hospital right away.  This is never good coming from him.  He usually argues that it isn’t necessary.  I grabbed the ice pack and a towel, checked on the girls, and then we left for the ER.  After much fussing, pain meds, x-rays, cleaning and stitching, we were able to leave around 1:00 am.  The following morning, Jonathan had surgery to place two pins in his broken left index finger. They also cleaned out the cuts on his finger and stitched them up.  While he was under, they scrubbed the rest of his abrasions to help prevent infection.  His middle finger was also broken, so he now sports a cast surrounding the first two fingers on his left hand, extending up his forearm. They sent him home with pain medicine and heavy antibiotics.  He had quite a bit of pain until later in the week.  He will be in a cast until the first week in July.  Can you hear the screams as we are hurling through the loops on this roller coaster?

Today (Thursday), we attended Candy’s funeral. I am having Anna write this entry as we are driving on our way to Austin, MN to meet her ride to Milwaukee. She will be spending the summer there with Campus Crusade.  This is the part of the ride where the clicking begins again.  Friday, Saturday and Sunday I will be at the SW MN Synod Assembly, where we will spend time in worship and Bible study, business will be conducted, workshops presented, and fellowship will happen. It will be a fun yet exhausting time for those of us on the planning committee.

As much as I fear the anxiety of the approaching descent of this phase of the roller coaster of life, I am finding that it is much better than just going in circles on the merry-go-round.  I am surrounded by people who love me even though I am not completely healed. But more importantly, I am surrounded by the arms of Jesus, who is sitting on the seat beside me riding with me the whole way.

Photo: (back) Jonathan and Ulrich, Viktoria, (front) Carolyn and Melanie

Viktoria’s Parents