Ridge Haven Project Complete

The last three weeks have flown by and our project here is complete.  Some more SOWER couples will be coming in next week and we will be departing soon.  What a great team we had here and we feel like our mission was accomplished.  Each couple comes with their own unique talents and giftings.  It is such a delight to see how God assembles each team.  Our General Leader couple were such a success in guiding this ship.  Wendy planned some really fun times for the ladies and for the couples too.  It was not all fun and games though as we really worked hard to do our best for the Lord and for the ministry here.  

Still in the Toilets

Some couples are leaving tomorrow and some on Monday and Tuesday of next week.  Some are going home to check on their own livestock and some are on their way to their next project.  One couple is full time in their RV and one has been on the road 16 months and will have completed their 25th project by the time they arrive home.  That is the wonderful thing about SOWERS is that you can do it most any way you would like to.  

Now That’s and Anvil!

The farmer and I are ready to get back to our farm and see what is happening on the home front.  I have several groups of girlfriends I need to have lunch with and catch up on their last month.  A neighbor needs the farmer to drive a truck.  We will have cousin camp for our 13 grandchildren in a couple of weeks so we won’t be bored.

Smell That Bacon!

Iowa has treated us well.  The weather has been beautiful, the camp staff delightful. The new friends are so very special. There is nothing like sharing work and life for a few weeks together on a mission. It is hard to leave but home is calling.  

We will miss these new friends.

Tornado Activity Near Home

Three inches of rain today and more predicted.  Tornadoes near our hometown.  The news around the world is concerning and the weather is unpredictable!  The pictures of the tornadoes near home were unreal and yet very real.  Thankfully no damage was done as they touched down in open fields.  At least that is the report that I received.  No tornadoes here in Iowa.  We do have a storm shelter nearby in case.  A camper is not a great place to be in a bad storm.  

The men worked on several indoor projects today with all of the rain.  They did some destruction as they tore out unwanted old cupboards and some moldy sheet rock.  The women worked on thoroughly cleaning one large building with a gym.  We will continue on that tomorrow.  We washed walls, stalls, windows and chairs in locker rooms and meeting rooms.  

Last Friday on our day off we had a group outing to the Amana Colonies.  It is a National Historical Site.  In the 1800’s the pietists came to the United States to escape religious persecution in Germany.  The lived communally until 1935.  Their history and story is quite interesting.  We ate at Ronnenburg Restaurant and enjoyed seeing the shops, eating bakery goodies and chocolate from the chocolate shop.  

Our SOWER crew at the Ronnenburg Restaurant in Amana, IA

Saturday we stayed home in the morning and did some chores around the camper.  It rained and made it difficult to do the farmer’s favorite hobby–taking pictures of barns.  In the afternoon we got a few pictures and traveled a few miles to Brandon, IA to see Iowa’s largest skillet.  Since we love dutch oven cooking this was a fun trip.  We got back to camp in time to make BBQ Meatballs in the dutch oven, grilled veggies, mashed potatoes and sourdough biscuits.  It was all pretty tasty.  All the couples came to our yard for patio night.  We had a great visit and were pretty tasty to the mosquitoes.  

Big Cast Iron Skillet
Cooking up some Dutch Oven Goodies

Sunday following church our group had a tour of Cedar Rock.  The well-known architect, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the home for a local couple on their property right on the Wapsipinicon River in 1945.  It is a well designed home that brings the beauty of the outdoors right inside.  All of the original furniture is still in the house and the view is outstanding.  Our tour guide played the grand piano for us and gave us lots of interesting tidbits on the couple who are no longer living. 

Cedar Rock

God of Miracles

Week Two in Iowa:

This has been a busy week but much was accomplished for Ridge Haven Cono. We experienced some beautiful days and we ladies spent some time pulling weeds out of the flower beds around several buildings, painting some more floors and stairways, transplanting day lillies and spreading out hostas. Windows were washed and floors were cleaned. The men cut down dead trees on the property, hauled rocks, rototilled, and rented a stump grinder for 40 stumps. That was a big day and the men were exhausted at the end of it.

Catching a Ride

Someone in our group leads devotions every morning at 7:30 before we head to work.  We had lead the devotions that morning on 2 Chronicles 20. This is my favorite story in the Bible.  The farmer and I talked about the importance of gratitude to our Lord even before we see the answer. Jehoshaphat and the country of Judah  had a big problem. They were fearful and didn’t know what to do. (Does this sound like our country today?) They sought the Lord and asked Him for the answer to their problems.  They received the answer on what to do through a prophet. They thanked God and worshipped Him even before they won the victory. The Lord told them that the battle was not theirs but His.  They sent out the praise and worshippers into battle first and a great victory was won and they didn’t even have to fight.

Later that morning, while the farmer was in a 10 acre field with knee high grass and he lost his glasses. These are bifocals and are a little pricey to replace. The farmer and I prayed and we headed out at lunch to go walk that field to see if we could find them. I thought I should maybe practice what we had preached that morning so I began to praise and worship while walking the field. I walked that field for an hour and pretty much gave up. When the guys finished their day of working one of the workers said he could go with them and they would all look, Ryan the young man that works at the camp here found them in the first 10 minutes! Praise God who cares about lost glasses.

Working Together

The girls had an afternoon out on Thursday and we hit an ice cream store, quilt shop and thrift store. It was fun to get more acquainted. Our general leader grew up in this area so we saw the farm where she lived and we went to a Farmer’s Market. I had strawberry/rhubarb ice cream. Lots of rhubarb desserts here. The farmer loves rhubarb!

Bicycle riding was an evening activity for some of us girls. We had so much fun!

Do you see a woman painted on the roof of this barn or not? Help settle the argument.

I see an old woman on the roof of this barn but the men don’t see it. Some of the ladies see it and some don’t.

Gearing up for week three.

Ella, Amish Quilter

Beautiful Dress and Bonnet

I was privileged to meet Ella yesterday on our drive west of Hazleton, Iowa.  We went in search of barns that needed their pictures taken.  The farmer/windmill man and I love old barns and windmills.  When our children were young they helped their dad work on windmills.  When we traveled we didn’t play the usual car games like I Spy or Alphabet sign games.  We played what kind of windmill was that?  Was that windmill a Dempster, Aeromotor, Monitor, or Fairbury or Woodmanse?  The children were experts at this game.  The windmill man and I still play this game as we travel and we reminisce of times when we had the four children along with us.  It’s a lot quieter in the car now.  It was our day off as retired folks only have a four day work week with this SOWER group.  

Round Brick Barn and Windmill on Amish Farm

As we traveled west of Hazleton, IA we discovered we were in an Amish neighborhood.  A community auction was just completed and horses and buggies were everywhere.  The farm homes were beautiful and huge!  The clothes on the lines were impressive.  Some of the clotheslines went to the top of the barns.  There were large barns and we even saw a round barn.  

Mowing Hay

We saw farmers mowing hay with horses and several others were cultivating the corn.   Children were working in the gardens and helping around the farmstead.  Of course an Amish bakery was discovered and rhubarb pie, cinnamon rolls, and jams and jellies were relished.  After enjoying some delicacies and getting filled with sugar we headed south.  

Friendly Folks

There is where we saw a sign for “Quilts, Crafts and More”.  The farmer was instructed by his bride quickly to turn in.  As we pulled into the drive a beautiful lady with gray hair was walking over from the nearby house.  Two dogs were in the lead though.  As Ella led me into her quilt sanctuary, my breath was taken away by her lovely quilts.  Gorgeous colors and perfect stitches.  Her machine was a trusty treadle machine.  No electricity here to take away the quiet, contemplative nature of the place.  Aprons, pot holders, painted saw blades, and other crafts were readily available.  Ella and her husband were unable to have children but they have lots of neices and nephews to spoil.  Her grandparents were from Yoder, KS.  She sends her quilts to Yoder for their big quilt auctions.  She would love to visit Yoder some day.  It would be a long trip to Kansas by horse and buggy.  

I remember my dad talking about the long trip from Quinter to WaKeeney with his grandpa.  The trip was made by wagon.  Oh the visits they had as they traveled that way.  No time for ipods, ipads, video games; only talk.  Grandpa’s had lots of stories to tell their grandsons.  And grandsons had time to listen.  

Big Barns needing their Picture Taken

My short visit with Ella, the quilter made me reflect on the noise of our society.  What if we sang our own praises to our God instead of turning on the radio? What if the TV was off and birds could be heard singing?  How about shutting off the news in this world gone wrong and enjoying peace? I feel the stress of this world lifting when I still my heart and listen to the still, small voice of my God. Not even the sound of an electric fan or motor but the birds and His creation. I wonder if Ella would let me stay?

Be still and know that I am God!

Psalms 46:10

Tin Man

Tin Man in Stanley, IA
Community is working to get the Tin Man upright again.

I shall take the heart. For brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.

Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz

As for you, my galvanized friend, you want a heart. You don’t know how lucky you are not to have one. Hearts will never be practical until they can be made unbreakable.

The Wizard of Oz

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  

Proverbs 23:26 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes delight in my ways.  

Psalms 73:26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalms 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  

Our wonderful Lord and Father says to give Him our hearts and let our eyes delight in His ways.  The Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz stepped on a beetle and cried because he hated to hurt any creature.  Hearts make us care about others and put others before ourselves.  Hearts full of compassion and kindness are what truly make the world go round.  

As we have seen in our world today, with all of the news and troubling times we live in, we desperately need more hearts full of compassion.  From other sources we are learning of some hearts full of compassion that are reaching out in these times of uncertainty with love and random acts of kindness.  Hearts that are surrendered to God to serve others and show love and support to people of all races and colors.  All lives matter to God.  All creation matters to God.  All hearts matter to God!  

Here in Iowa we have been able to do some manual labor with our hands to try to show the love in our hearts for Christian camps and other non-profit organizations.  There are four SOWER couples here.  The women are painting some rooms in a cute bunk house and painting floors and cleaning.  They are hoping to be able to reopen in July following the COVID-19 precautions.  We just heard that the state of Iowa is now fully open, 100%.  The men have been cutting down dead trees, moving bunkbeds, removing old furnaces, and servicing the facilities vehicles.  

Power tools come in handy.

This first week went by so quickly as we got acquainted with the great staff here and with each other.  As we visited we began to understand each others hearts and passions.  We all love the Lord and want to give our best to the Master.  Game night was a fun time and our hostess Vickie has a bonfire every Thursday night.  We seem to find time to relax and refresh.  

Game Night.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched- they must be felt with the heart.       

Helen Keller

Toto, we are not in Kansas Anymore

Toto, I’ve got a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore.”

Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ
Ridge Haven Cono

The farmer/windmill man and I are not in Kansas anymore.  We arrived at Ridge Haven Cono camp in Walker, IA yesterday.  We are on another one month mission with the SOWERS (Servants on Wheels Ever Ready) group.  We have met the great couples we will be working with this month and are delighted with the range of experience and talents.  The Lord knows how to put together a good team.  

Camped with the other SOWER couples.

This country is beautiful farmland.  This is right up our alley.  The farmer/windmill man loves to take pictures of barns.  This area has an ample supply of models for his creative juices.  The camp is located next to a soybean field and across the road they are raking hay.  

Barns are Beautiful!

Today we learned the interesting history of this camp as it began as a school and took in lots of missionary kids for their education while parents were overseas.  International students were also educated in this place.  They have a sister camp in the Smokey Mountains.  The differences in these camps and terrain is extreme.  

“If we walk far enough,” says Dorothy, “we shall sometime come to someplace.”

Dorothy from Wizard of OZ

Our time during shelter at home was productive and enjoyable.  I spent time putting together quilt blocks and finished a quilt top while the farmer was also assembling pieces of wood to make a butcher block for his bride and a long work table for himself.  We were finally able to see most of the grandchildren (not all together but a few at a time).  We had four of them spend a week with us before we left and we camped with some of the others.  We were so thankful for Facetime and other means to keep in touch.  

Our church family was able to start attending together again two weeks ago with several precautions and I didn’t realize how much I missed worshiping together with fellow believers in the church setting.  Tears flowed the first Sunday we were able to have some of us gather again.  

“Toto did not really care whether he was in Kansas or the Land of Oz so long as Dorothy was with him; but he knew the little girl was unhappy, and that made him unhappy too.” 

Dorothy of the Wizard of OZ

2020 has been an interesting year full of surprises and troubling times.  Maybe this year has taught us much.  Maybe it has shown us that faith, people, family and friends are more important than anything else.  Maybe being with those we love no matter where we are, is more important than where we are on the ladder of success and that the happiness of others makes a huge difference to our happiness.  

“A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” 

the Wizard of OZ
Drive In Church

We attended church this morning with a delightful flock at a drive in service. The pastor had a powerful message for us all. The farmer and I decided we could come to this church again and hope to while we are in the area. It is so precious to be with like minded people who love the Lord.

When Things Go Wrong

Be Happy with Simple Pleasures

Have courage when things go wrong! A pandemic in these days is something gone wrong. Probably not one of us thought that we would be where we are today earlier in 2020. We had no clue as to the changes that would happen in our lives or the pause button that would be pressed. The giant PAUSE button. But as this quote says, “The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful, to make the most of what we have; to be happy with the simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” All of that statement is still very true. Maybe this pause in our lives has helped us to get back to some of the simple pleasures of life.

Here are some of my simple pleasures that have helped me to focus on the good and the many blessings that the Lord has given me in these days instead of focusing on the chaos and the difficulties in this world. And instead of focusing on the realities of missing friends, gatherings, church, and grandchildren.

Hand prints in the Garden

Hand prints of some of the grandchildren from seven or eight years ago. Thanks to their momma for capturing their sweet hands in this clay so those hands could bless me today. As I cleaned out the flower beds to prepare for spring, I uncovered this cherished gift. This is a reminder of great memories of the grandkids coming to our farm and playing in the dirt and with kittens and building a fort in our tree row. I love hearing their shouts of fun as they run through the sprinkler or slide on our makeshift water slide. (Tarp and water hose and a slight slope.) Hills are hard to come by in this part of the flatland. One of the simple treasures.

Spring Buds

Spring is beginning to bud out here on the farm. Oh how we love the songs of the birds. The meadowlark song is beautiful as he sings to his mate. Then we hear the sound of the Bob-white quail as he says over and over “Bob white! Bob white!” The trees are beginning to spring out their leaves and make shelter for our bird friends. A female pheasant hen is inside the yard fence and I worry that perhaps she is caught but she slides right under the woven fence like she does it daily. The bunnies play their bunny games and chase one another around the tree trunk. Yes, there is new life everywhere and that is one of the simple pleasures.

Baltimore Oriole
Old School Outhouse

I imagine Laura Ingalls Wilder used an outhouse like this behind her school. The left one is for the women and the one on the right in the open is for the men. I am so grateful for the simple pleasure of a flushing toilet and running water.

Old Farm Machinery
Bridge at Antelope Lake

A nice drive around an old fishing lake close to our farm has us driving over this bridge. All of the shelter houses and bathrooms around the lake were built in the 1930s by the WPA program. We are so thankful for those workers and those programs that still leave us much to enjoy today. This lake was bustling with activity and many boats and campers were enjoying this day. Social distancing and a nice quiet lake go together well. Many dads were showing their boys how to fish and it appeared there was some great family times happening. Oh the simple pleasures.

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in our hearts.”

Winnie the Pooh
Chocolate Chip Cookies out of the oven

One simple pleasure is doing something for someone else. I was able this week to prepare a meal for a friend who is really going through a difficult time. Those struggles that are so hard are even more magnified in a pandemic with social distancing when what they really need is all hands on deck to hug and carry them through this. It is such a pleasure to come alongside others that are dealing with tragedies. It is also a pleasure to make a batch of cookies and put many in the freezer for when the grandkids can come again and share with a neighbor who has adopted three little ones. She is teaching online and homeschooling five children. There are so many unsung heroes in this time. When we get down in these days nothing lifts us up quicker than doing for someone else.

So as Laura Ingalls Wilder says, “The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful, to make the most of what we have; to be happy with the simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.” Our God is still the same, yesterday, today and forever. Our faith is still in Him and our trust is focused on Him. It is still best to be honest and truthful and ahhh those simple pleasures. Lets look for them. They are all around us.

If you sense you are losing all hope as David shares in Psalms 143:4, read that full psalm and let me know. I would love to listen and visit with you.

Psalms 143:4 I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear. I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done.

verse 6 I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirst for rain.

verse 8 Let me hear of your unfailing love every morning, for I am trusting in you.

verse 10 May your gracious spirit lead me forward on firm footing. Because of your faithfulness bring me out of this distress.

Times of Trouble

Troubled Tree

I wonder why this tree grew in this particular way. I wonder what happened in the early days of the life of this tree that caused it to grow sideways. Was there another tree in the way? Was there another obstacle of some kind? It is a beautiful tree except for the trunk that did not grow straight up as most trees do but headed across the ground until it could find a way to reach the sunlight of encouragement. Until it found a way to bloom and bear leaves and be useful.

Life sometimes can also throw us a curve ball. We can be side tracked, derailed, frustrated, and overwhelmed. A diagnosis, a death, a relationship issue, or a pandemic can all derail our lives even in just a few weeks. Most of us could not see something like this happening to our country even just two months ago. All of a sudden shopping became a hazardous venture, supplies are in short supply, wearing masks and gloves into stores and banks is now encouraged, and hugging is taboo. This happened overnight. This fear and anxiety and a whole new normal caught us all off guard. Did our trunks grow sideways too? Aren’t we too searching for the sunlight and the encouragement to grow upright and bear fruit and bloom?

There is good news even in this day. Deut. 20:4 For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will give you victory! We have someone on our side in these times. Psalms 18:2 He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. Wonderful news that He is our place of safety. Psalms 59:16 But I will sing of Your power; yes I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning, for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble. In times of trouble our Lord is with us, protecting us and He is our refuge. He leads us to the sunlight. He calms our fears and gives us His peace. He is available to all who fear. He loves His people and cares about all that concerns them. He has a good plan for our lives, to prosper us and to help us to bloom and be useful even in times of trouble.

The tree was encouraged and determined to find a way to live in the sunlight and do the work it was called to do. The tree stretched its branches and fought for life no matter what the obstacle was. The tree found a defense and refuge in the times of trouble. Possibly we can grasp much from the life of this tree in the face of trouble.

We are in Kansas

The Little House on the Prairie is calling us home.  This is the longest time we have been away from the farm.  We’ve been gone two weeks in the past but not four. What an interesting time in history to be away from home as everyone becomes more distant from one another and more things are closing.  We are incredibly thankful for this time at this camp and with these special new friends but are grateful that the Lord has shown us in many ways that now is the time to get back and experience spring time on the farm.  

Psalms 59:16 But I will sing of Your power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.  

Loading for the trip home.

Yesterday we picked up a few items to get us on home at the store here.  A young man checked us out with his gloves on. He looked a little out of place and said he was learning on the job.  He regularly worked in the tire and lube department but they had closed that down and now he was a cashier. He had a wonderful attitude as I know his job has not been easy at this time.  He expressed his gratitude to have the job and grateful they did not send him home. What an inspiration he is to us all. I’m sure he has a young family and he is grateful for his work.  

Cooking in preparation for the trip home.

We are grateful to have a house on the prairie to go home to.  Having the grandkids come see us would make it even better but they need to stay at their own homes right now and not travel.  I’m hoping for some new kittens and a small garden and to find my sewing machine again.  

I know many of you have been stuck at home for several weeks already and getting away from home would be wonderful.  Home means so many different things to so many people. Homes can be a cardboard box like I saw in Ethiopia, or a 19 foot camper trailer, an apartment, a house boat, or a farm.  Home means an enjoyable, happy place where you can live, laugh and learn. It’s somewhere where you are loved, respected, and cared for. (taken from Meaning of Home contest).  

Interesting home.

In the word of God, the home has both a physical and spiritual meaning.  We must build our home upon solid structural and moral foundation to ensure its sustainability over time.  Scripture gives us guidance for creating a good home.  

Is. 28:16  So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic. 

Joshua 24:15 But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. 

I always stock up on supplies living on a farm so we are in good shape for a 14 day self quarantine. Good to be home.

Little house on the prairie.
Sunsets in Kansas are remarkable.

Drive By Vacation

The State and National parks are closed.  Restaurants are closed. Social distancing and self quarantine are open.  We wanted to do some touring of the area while we are here but our plans changed dramatically just as all of your plans have changed.  We decided to take some scenic drives, pack our lunch in the pickup and see some sights from the pickup. Just the two of us and “looking at the world through our windshield.”  I think that is a truck driving song. We did get some nice photos but the weather was overcast and cloudy. Truthfully this was a special time just being together and seeing God’s beautiful creation.  

Check out some of our pictures below and do a virtual vacation with us.  

Bluebonnet Trail
Beautiful Flowers
Lots to eat for the buffalo
Still love green and red berries.
77.7 foot Empty Cross in Kerrville, TX Very inspirational
Sculpture in Kerrville, TX
Ranch Wagon