Zechariah 13:9

And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God. Zechariah 13:9

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Season of Change

The following was a previous blog post.  Thought I would repost it and then add to it.  

Thursday, 19 May 2011

  • Our Farm Life Beginnings

    Dave has always had agriculture in his blood.   He did not grow up on a farm, but helped neighboring farmers either grow produce or milk cows.  I, also, did not grow up on a farm and never dreamt that I would ever live on one.  Dave eventually started working in construction.  After we got married and were able to live in the country on 2 acres, Dave was able to satisfy some of his agriculture longings by growing produce and selling it to local stores and going to produce auctions.  At the beginning of 1998, we opened a small bulk food and produce store.  We were only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  It started out looking like this.....but we quickly built shelves and counters....
    We raised what we could for the store and also purchased wholesale from Bill's Produce. Around the time we were getting ready to open this, Dave fell 13 ft. through a barn floor at a construction site.  He hit his head, needed stitches, had a concussion, broke some ribs and twisted his knee.  We also learned that I was pregnant with #4.
    He was off work for about 3 months, which allowed him time to do what he could in the store.  We LOVED having him home and it was during this time that we decided to seriously pursue a career that would enable us to work together as a family.  The day he returned to construction there was not a dry eye in our family.   The store thrived all summer and we were loving it, but we reached a point where we either had to get bigger and hire help (our children were not old enough to run it), or quit.  It did not have the income for Dave to quit construction.  I became very restricted with my pregnancy and eventually had to be on bed rest.  Taking all things into consideration, we decided to sell the store.  Sad, but a necessary thing.  However, our goal remained to look for another family opportunity.  We heard of a local farmer who was looking for tenants to rent a farm he just purchased.  Our goal was met and in January 1999, we started milking 98 cows in a parlor.
    We could write a book about the adjustments to dairy life!  Ben was 10, Kelsey 8, Solomon 5, and George 3 months.  We were not able to move into the house on the farm yet, so we had to travel about 1 1/2 miles back and forth to the cows.  Oh my, did we learn alot!  We still talk about the time when we learned that we were going to be dairy farmers and we would be able to work together as a family.  Dave's comment still rings in our ears "this is going to be great!".  That "great" soon, and very soon, became harsh reality!  To some people, dairy farming looks like this gravy occupation where we leisurely milk cows and have part of the day off.  Not true!  Those cows needed to eat and they eat LOTS, which mean they also produce alot of manure, which needed to be cleaned up. We had heifers and calves that needed care and milking took about 2 1/2 hrs. every AM & PM.  We had to have hired help.  Our days became a blur and we realized that our idea of farming was not farming like this.  We didn't want this many cows, nor hired help, nor someone else in control of the feed (we had a deal with the farm owner - he raised the feed for part of the milk check - don't let anyone do that!).  We started looking for a smaller farm, with tie stalls, and one day we saw an ad in the Lancaster Farming that a farm was for rent in a neighboring county.  The barn had not been milked in for years, but could be set up again for dairy.  We took the plunge.  Our family and friends came along side of us and helped to get the place ready for us to move in.
    That is it!  The picture was taken at the door, so that is how small the barn was.  It was only 28 stalls, so we sold 1/2 the herd.  We would milk all the cows in the barn and then let 1/2 of them out and bring more in.  It was still alot of hard work, but after 2 years of adjusting to the new place, we loved it!  We loved our neighbors, the community, and the farm!  We got to the point where we did not need a hire hand.  Dave had to work away a few days a week, though, but it was still good.  We have many fond memories of the place on Schwartz Valley Rd..  We had signed a 5 year lease and had a very good relationship with the landlord (no, he did not raise our feed).  However, about 1 year before our lease ran out, he hired someone else to oversee his properties, and things started to go downhill.  Our rent was to go up at the end of our lease and we felt it was not worth it for how small the barn was.  So, once again, we started searching for another place.  It is one thing to move your family, but another thing to move your family, a herd of cows and equipment.  We searched state wide, and in surrounding states, for a farm.  None seemed to be the place for us.  By March/April 2004, we had much of our belongings packed away in a tractor trailer, but nowhere to go.  We were considering selling the cows and even had a cow dealer scheduled to come look at them.   Then one of our feedmen brought a flyer of a farm for sale back in the area we came from.   God had His hand in it, some deals were offered and we decided to buy it.  However,  it would not be ready to move into by the time we had to move out of our farm.  A wonderful friend of ours had a barn that we could use, so he fixed it up for us to move the cows there.  Ok, the cows now had a place to move to, but where do we go?  In June, we moved into my mom's basement.  We thought is would only be for about 3-4 weeks.  It turned into 3 months!  During that 3 months, we were able to move the cows onto our farm, but the house needed much attention and we could not live there while working on it.  Let me tell you, it was the most difficult 3 months for our family.  Oh, we were very thankful to my mom for putting up with us, for friends who came and helped us each week, but traveling back and forth, spending all summer working our heads off trying to get the house ready to live in took it's toll on our family.  Uriah and Oliver were just small and I remember Uriah wondering where his home was.  In September, we moved into the house, although it was not finished, it was a necessary thing to do.  This year marks the 7th year that we will be here.  Wow!  That long already?  Alot has happened since we moved here, but for some reason whenever May and June rolls around, memories of those uncertain times in 2004 flood back.  One obvious thing sticks out to us and that is how God knew where we were going to move to, but He choose to surprise us with the answer at the last minute.  We see His hand in all our farming days.  It has been a test of faith.  It has been a journey, a journey with a lot of trials, but a journey necessary for character building and our spiritual growth.   The journey will continue and I am sure it will hold it's share of trials and lessons, for you see, that is what life is all about - trials, triumphs, lessons, learning and growing, always learning and growing.  It will end with the grave and meeting the One who has traveled the journey with us. 
    Until next time...........  
And the journey had continued to 2013.  It will be 9 years this year that we are on this farm and the trials and character building had continued on since the above post.  Most of the difficulty that we faced with the farm were due to circumstances that were out of our hands.  Rising feed prices due to corn going for ethanol and low milk prices.  With us having to purchase feed, this became a losing situation.  Toward the end of 2012 we started to slowly sell, or butcher, cows.   Today, we are only milking 7 cows once a day and their milk goes to feeding a few heifer calves and for our daily consumption.  In the near future even that number will dwindle.  January 18th, 2013, (exactly 14 years from the beginning) marked the definite end of our dairy days and a new beginning.  Ben & Solomon bought part of the farm, working full time away and Dave is now a full time mason.  Our goal for the farm is to raise beef, chicken and pork and to forget the days of getting up before the sun to milk. 
We are looking forward to this new beginning and we would like to thank all our friends and family for praying for us and encouraging us through a few years of uncertainty here on Summer Hill Farm. 
Until next time..............     

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Somewhat of a Secret

Oh, I just couldn't tell some people what I just had done.  No way!  I would be judged and criticized for my lack of faith.  And on top of that I felt horribly guilty and incomplete.  Over many years, the event grew dimmer and settled more into the back of my mind, until Monday the topic came up in a conversation with a friend.  The memories rolled over me and the guilt once again wanted to settle on my shoulders.

Almost 10 years ago, Oliver was born by C-section.  He was our 6th child - my 6th C-section.  Due to Ben being born emergency, the Dr's had given me a vertical incision and informed me that I would never deliver a baby naturally due to contractions possibly rupturing the incision.  For the next 5 babies, a horizontal incision was used, which created an intersection of scar tissue.  For our last 3 children, we had an agreement with the Dr's that they would give their "medical" opinion on whether we could have any more children.  All was fine until I carried Oliver and upon delivery they discovered a "window" in my uterus at the intersection.  We had prayed that the Lord would speak through the Dr. and she strongly advised us to have no more children.  With Dave by my side, we mutually agreed and gave consent for them to give me a tubal ligation.  The risks of another pregnancy could mean the lives of me and the baby.  Dave was not interested in raising our 6 children alone and had total peace about our decision.  However, later that day, the reality of what a tubal ligation really meant hit me hard, REALLY hard.  A stage of my life was over at the hands of a Dr.. An amazing part of my female body would no longer function properly.  Oh, the Dr. did not warn that the side effects would be emotional turmoil.  In their minds, and in their books, this procedure is simple, convenient and side effect free.  Not for me, nor my dear friend who, I discovered Monday in our conversation, had the same procedure.  At the time of our procedures, we both knew that there were people out there that stood firm on the thought that God controls the family size - you don't intervene, and faith brings you through any hardship.  Those beliefs are facts.  God does want us to have children and faith does bring us through hardship.  But what about a situation like the ones we faced?  Did we not have faith?  Did we not trust Him?  Years ago, I had decided it would be best to keep our decision secret from certain people than to face the criticism.  However, it had taught me not to judge others in their decisions, for unless I walk in their shoes and they in mine, we cannot fully understand each others decisions. 

A few years after Oliver was born, I had looked into having a reversal.  It was possible, I found a Dr. who would do it, filled out necessary forms (to the dismay of my OB GYN, who firmly reminded me that I was extremely high risk and do I seriously want another baby)?  No, I really didn't, but I felt like I had to undo what was done, or maybe I should say redo what I had undone. We needed $5,000.00 and I prayed, "God, if you provide the money, I will have it done."  I soon found out our insurance would pay for it!  However ............  I chickened out ...... I drug my feet ...... what if I do get pregnant ....... what if I die ...... what if the baby would need heart surgery too ....... I feel too old .......
Soon, the insurance no longer covered it and we didn't have the money.
Life moved on, but then I secretly carried another guilt.  I lied to God!  I said I would and I didn't.  Does God forgive that?  

So, Monday's conversation brought back all those feelings and questions.  And once again tears flowed.  "Lord, am I forgiven?"  I know I serve a loving, forgiving Father, but I deliberately did not follow through on my deal with Him.  Then this small voice whispered....... remember Peter?  Ahhh, my Peter! My favorite disciple in the Bible! 

"Though all men shall be confused because of thee, yet will I never be confused," says Peter to Jesus.  "Verily I say unto you, That this night, before the cock crow, you shall deny me 3 times," answers Jesus.  Peter said back to Him, "though I should die with thee, yet will I NOT deny thee," 
Further on in Matthew 26, you will soon find that Peter did not follow through on his deal with Jesus.  He denied Him 3 times, the cock crowed, Peter heard, remembered and wept bitterly with repentance.  Jesus forgave Peter and in John 21:15, you find the proof.  The lie that he told Jesus and then the 3 lies of denial, were buried way down in the depth of forgiveness.  And so is mine!  I am set free from the guilt of the past, my secret is no longer a secret, and my body is whole even in it's brokenness. 
  Thank you, my sweet Heavenly Father!

Until next time........        

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Our Ben.....

....just turned 24 years old!  Every time his birthday rolls around, I am filled all over again with thankfulness for his life.  Ben was born at 27 1/2 weeks gestation, 3 months premature.  He was due on March 30th, but arrived January 1st instead, weighing in at 2# 4 oz. (he went as low as 1# 14 oz).  The reason for his prematurity is because I have an incompetent cervix, which we did not know about until I went into labor with him.  An emergency C-section was performed after a weekend of trying to stop my labor.  Ben spent 98 days in the NICU at the Reading Hospital, during which time he almost died several times.  This NICU had only opened in Sept. before Ben was born and he was the 2nd preemie who was born there.

Day he was born....

Because the NICU was new, we were featured in the Reading Eagle.....

This is the day he was finally able to come home, weighing 4# 14 oz.  He came home wearing a monitor for a few months, because he still had trouble with his breathing.

One year old....

The NICU had a 1 year reunion.  This was Dr. "K", who was Jewish and gave the best of care to Ben.  On several occasions we would find him sitting and holding Ben when we came in for our visit.  Him and the rest of the staff became our family.

Life moved on, Ben had his health struggles, but seemed to eventually outgrow them. We could write a book on his journey, but to tell you the truth, while writing this blog and looking through his pictures, sobs want to rise within me.  The memories are very alive.......   Ben has grown into a man, a man who is sensitive, caring and extremely positive.  You will never hear him complain!  and he is the one who usually lifts us up when life gets us down.  Thanks, Ben, for who you are and for what you teach us.  God has a plan for you......
We love you and Happy 24th!  We celebrated with family, straw hats, waffles and ice-cream. 

Until next time...............