DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?

By Lisa Huddleston

11710000_10207014882917226_657832549666094067_oI love living on a Century Farm here in Middle Tennessee. It is green and private and lovely, but there are occasional drawbacks. It’s hard to find a good restaurant that’s worth paying for anywhere nearby, it’s a very long drive on the Interstate to many of the events we choose to attend—including our church—but one of the worst things about living here happens when the young man who owns the cattle who share this farm with us takes away the older calves to sell.

The mommas are just pitiful. They holler all day and all night—and I can only imagine how bad the calves feel. Separation from those we love really sucks, kind of like a calf on an udder or an udder that misses its calf.

Anyway, today there was a big, black cow looking directly at me over the back fence while I drank my morning coffee on the porch. She bawled and looked. Bawled and looked. I really felt guilty as though she thought I knew where her baby was and if she just asked nicely enough I would return it. To make matters even worse, old Dottie Pigbody had to get into the act by ferociously barking at the grieving mother and running her off.

No, I don’t make a good farmer, and, yes, I cried. And that experience set my mind off and running down a sad trail.

11227401_10207349081111972_7173172355244987238_oNext, I saw the bright, red cardinal who daily frequents our bird feeders—most often with his less colorful mate. I imagined one saying to the other, “Where would you like to have brunch today?” and then flying in to light on the chosen feeder. I told Chuck that it makes me sad to see birds who are always with mates because I worry that something will happen to one of them and then the other will grieve. He laughed and said, “Well, let’s just shoot both of them now then and get it over with.”

Of course, my tender-hearted husband was just kidding, but part of me agreed with that plan. Wouldn’t it be better to take them out together? I sure don’t want to hang around if Chuck goes before me.

And that is part of my problem. (“Aha,” you say. “We definitely knew you had one!”) I see everything through a filter of impending death and separation. Sad but true. The beauty of spring inevitably leads to winter. The puppy you fall in love with turns gray before you turn around. The kids you plan and hope for grow up and move out. People leave and seasons end and everything eventually fades.

My therapist laughs when I tell her that I know I’m the one with depression, but I really think it’s everyone else who is suffering from delusions. My preoccupation with death is only realistic thinking. If you’re living, you’re dying, and vice versa.

11887989_10207341387999649_4245004405750835629_nSome days this truth helps me to appreciate the value found in moments. Beauty in a golden leaf hanging suspended on the breeze for seconds before gently floating to the ground. White clouds in blue skies. Calves skipping and playfully butting heads. Unexpected fish fries that bring the kids home. Countless millions of things for which I am truly thankful, but which also carry with them the knowledge that too soon they will be over.

No pretty bow or cherry on top of this post. Just my observations.

I see you, sad Momma Cow, as you look to me for answers, and my heart goes out to you because I have none. Hopefully new babies will be born to you soon, and I pray that you will not see what’s coming.

COLD WATER ON A HOT DAY

By Lisa Huddleston

This summer, Wednesday has been the day to mow the grass—several acres of it. In the good ol’ days, this job belonged to my sons, more recently we hired my nephew to do it, but this year I chose to make it mine. It’s one way I can contribute to the unified good of the family (now just Chuck, Mom and me), and I usually don’t mind doing it. But today was hot! With the weathermen calling for a heat index of over 100 degrees and the humidity dripping, yard work was really the last thing I had on my mind. But today was Wednesday, and I knew Thursday wouldn’t be getting any cooler.

Since I’ve been handling this job for several months now, I have a pretty standard routine down. I start at the far end up by the gate and work my way down to the garden where I have to weave the large machine between the berry canes and the fruit trees and the two rows of vegetables. Next I move to the small sections on either side of the front walk and then head around to finish up in the back yard.

imagesBut today I had an unexpected interruption. As I made the first sweep along the long, plank fence between the yard and the pasture, my eye caught something stirring in the tall “yellowtops” that paint the field. I kept the mower going but tried to see what was struggling to stand up to my right. Then I saw the poor newborn calf tottering on shaky legs and looking at me. “Oh no—not this again,” I literally moaned.

Although I wasn’t raised in the country, this ain’t my first rodeo down on the farm. I have come to face the dire truth that every year there are one or two calves who don’t make it; but, I still hate it when I see a baby left alone to suffer. And today it was just so darn hot! But after shedding a few tears, I deliberately hardened my heart and just kept mowing. I knew from past experience that my efforts would be for naught. The cows weren’t mine, and I didn’t have any way to help. I steeled myself and kept mowing. Back and forth I went and up and down the poor calf went. When he lay back down I couldn’t see him in the weedy flowers, and I tried to put him out of my mind. I even prayed out loud for God to harden my heart. What had happened to me?

There was a time when my children were small that we would call the owner of the cattle to come help—but I had long since given up hope there. He was a busy man with a full-time job and cattle on several farms. He wouldn’t be coming, I knew. Another time the kids and I had followed a calf with an eye infection all over the field trying to give it some water to keep it alive. He ran away from the help I offered, and I never did reach the poor thing. But at least I had always been tenderhearted toward suffering animals. What was wrong with me now?

But, no, I had a job to do, and my previous efforts had been in vain. It was useless. Period. But I did change my prayer to, “Please, God, send his mother back to get him!” I pleaded as I mowed. But my prayers, too, seemed vain. Finally, I couldn’t keep going. It had been over an hour and the poor thing was still lying there in the stifling heat. I parked the mower in the shade, walked down to the garage, got a towel, and filled a bucket with cool water. At least I hoped to ease his suffering—although I knew I didn’t have what he really needed. I had to do something.

Slipping in wet flip flops, I lugged my bucket through the yard, out the gate, and into the dry, crunchy field. The calf, a little boy, was standing now and watching me come toward him. I talked in a soft, sing-songy way thinking that might make me seem less scary while he just stood and stared. I slowly walked right up to him, dipped my hand in the water, and reached out to let it trickle down his nose. He looked surprised and then kicked up his heels scampering a few feet away. He didn’t look so bad after all! He watched me for several seconds then headed off at a trot—a good, healthy-looking trot—toward the shade of the woods.

I knew I’d never catch him, so I smiled and emptied my bucket in the dirt. At least the “yellowtops” at my feet would get something out of my attempts to help. I still wished I could see the calf’s missing mother, but I was glad to know that he was healthy and strong enough to run. The cattle would be back, and I hoped that he would be okay until they returned on their daily rounds.

Relieved I put the bucket away and walked back to the mower to finish my work. Was I disappointed that I’d given in to my emotions? No! Even though, once again, I didn’t manage to do any good for the calf, I was glad to know that I still cared enough to try. And isn’t that what really matters—caring enough to try? Faith and works. Yep. I think so.

As Jesus said, “There will be poor always.” But I hope that I will always care enough to at least try to ease the suffering in the world. To give a cup (or bucket) of cold water in Jesus’ name is a powerful thing changing the lives of the thirsty as well as the one who extends the cup.

I’m thankful you didn’t give me the hard heart I requested today, Lord. Keep me soft enough always to care even though that means there will be more tears and pain. But I wouldn’t mind your answering my prayer about that little calf’s momma. Please, send her back soon and strengthen her little boy. Amen.