May Daze 💞

As if on the strong, silent wings of an eagle, my spring has glided past. I told Mother that my heart is drinking these days in like a parched desert rain. Maybe I’ve just forgotten. Or maybe this spring is more beautiful than most. Regardless my days have been filled to the brim with my favorites: family and farming. These are the best days and while I’m not spending a pile of time regaling them on the blog, it doesn’t mean I’m not savoring them to the very last drop. So without further ado- here’s a few of my favorite pics from this spring:

Something about that first burst of sunshine the morning after a rain is breathing.💞

And the sun setting on the harvest crew is equally as beautiful…

And a storm rolling past while the planter flies through the field… I guess the challenges from ’18 taught me what a gift sunny weather is… so thankful to have the planter parked in the shed until after wheat harvest.. 😅

Let’s just say that one of us was a lot more excited about our meeting than the other 😉 Em and I found this Mama Killdeer during rock picking shenanigans…

And my pond project… I’m so excited with the progress that’s happening at our pond… stay tuned for more info.

And finally… these dumb dogs 😂 insist on traveling along… but get all stressed when I use the back of their pickup to haul anything other than them. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Apparently they are feeling a little crowded today 😂

Yes these are the days. I’m celebrating Thanksgiving in May this year.

Gratefully,

Kendra

Inspiration for the Workday Blues

My dad called me last week, as I sat in a motel room watching the snowflakes hit the Mississippi River. “I’ve got something to read you, Ken” he stated. “Do you have a minute?”

I actually had more than a minute. I was in the middle of a 3 day wait in La Crosse, WI, while my passengers attended a dairy conference, and I welcomed any diversion.

I love the random adventures that my job as a taxi driver brings. But honestly, there are days that really aren’t that much of an adventure, when I question why I so willing head out for a grueling day on the road, and if this is really where I’m supposed to be. Recently, I’ve been verbalizing my questions quite frequently. (My family is the real MVPs for putting up with the roller coaster over here…)

So I guess that was what proceeded my dad’s phone call. Years ago, someone gifted us “The Old Country News” a monthly magazine that has been a standard of my dad’s reading material ever since. And so he read:

“MY WORK    -Author Unknown

Today this is my work. No special skill, no talent great is needed. No mountain-shaking task is mine, so small it seems, so very insignificant, yet let me feel that it is heaven-sent.

Oh, may I be calm and kind! May my irritation be replaced with assurance that I am an instrument through which God’s hand may move, His voice may speak. Perhaps my task is humble, but the way I do it may inspire some other one to do his well- a task that’s greater far than mine.

Or, I may greet a man or woman, boy or girl, who yearns for just a word of hope, a smile of cheer. These may I offer as I hurry by. Just one am I, but one of millions strong.

May what I do reach out and touch the good of them until in unity we stand, arms linked around the world. In my small niche may I love and serve well- through this, my work. ”

(Wisconsin has really missed the memo that April=springtime)

I don’t know what line of work you’re called to- whether you’ve secured your dream job, or not. But when the glamour wears off and your assignment threatens to be an overwhelming taskmaster- may you join me in finding Peace in the niche where God’s led you. After all, we are MILLIONS strong, being faithful to share God’s love with those in our world.

 Blessings,

Kendra

Bonus Pics:

The evening before the snow, I strolled along the flooded waters of the Big Muddy, watching a lone eagle soar up and down the river. A frequent train whistle split the silence, as soft sunset colors lit the horizon, and my heart was at peace with the world.

Wisconsin might be confused about which season we are in-but they sure know what’s up when it comes to cheese.

I enjoyed a tour of Organic Valley’s Distribution Center and one of their processing centers during one of my free days.

Also Organic People’s idea of a snack takes an entirely different way of thinking. 🙈

And finally- finished off my week with a tour of the CNHi Racine Plant. Who am I anymore? 😂

A Farmer’s Daughter’s Calling

The couple in the corner watched as the parents in my group herded their children through the welcoming doors of Chick-fil-A. We smiled and nodded as I took note of the man’s trimmed beard and the lady’s neatly folded black veiling- instantly I had a conclusion on their church affiliation. I’m sure they ran a mental checklist on me too. And since we were north of the Mason Dixon Line, I figured that we would both return to our waffle fries and that would be the end of our exchange.

With all due respect to my friends in PA- y’all are great, but the friendly, chatty, “hey where are y’all from” southern hospitality conversations rarely happen this far north. I don’t know why- culture, I suppose. Plus if you took time to interview every Mennonite you see… I guess there’s just not enough hours in a day! So I was surprised when the friendly man and his wife came over and started chatting with our group. His wife’s cousin was a feed salesman somebody knew, and knee replacements and last names were another conversation piece. And then he looked at me “So are you family to this group too?”

“No” I laughed “I’m the driver”

“Really? So you drive for a living?”

“Well, part time. The rest of the time, I’m a farmer”

This news seemed to startle him. “You farm?!”

“That’s right. I grew up on a dairy farm, and we are crop farmers, as well as do some custom harvesting”

Still startled “You run equipment?”

“Yeh some”

“So you work with your husband?”

Again I laughed “Oh no, I’m single- I help my dad.”

And then it was my turn to look startled with his next comment “Well, we know that ladies can do many things as well as men, but we also know that is not their calling. Yes it certainly is not a lady’s calling.”

My eyes probably bulged as I picked my chin up off the floor and rapidly mumbled out an excuse about God leading my life and feeling certain that if His calling on my life is something different, that He will open that door.

In my minds eye, I was seeing headlines in the Public Opinion “Mennonite Woman and Bearded Man Get into Heated Argument at Local Chick-fil-A.” Thankfully (maybe I’m learning 🙏🏼) I didn’t tell him exactly what I had to say. The conversation went back to knee replacements, and I breathed a sigh of relief.


My parents did a wonderful job at recognizing/accepting God’s perfect plan for our family as giving them only daughters. My dad has had nerves of steel when it comes to trusting his daughters with his equipment, and sooo much patience. And my mom has sacrificed continually by having her daughters in the field, instead of in the house. While I understand it may not be completely the cultural norm, it’s worked just fine for us. And furthermore, I know/respect a lot of hardworking ladies in agriculture- our family is definitely not alone in this.

So I came away from that conversation with a reminder of a valuable lesson: Extend Grace.

I am so thankful for the beautiful people in my life who laugh and roll their eyes and love me just the same when I’m more comfortable talking about travel itineraries than canning secrets, or tons per acre and yield maps than dress patterns.

Archives photo from 2013

But mostly, I’m thankful for a Heavenly Father who pays attention to every detail- including the welfare of sparrows- and who continues to patiently lead my life one step at a time.

I don’t know why He placed me here, but I’ll tell you what I do know, Mr Beardy Man. I KNOW that my calling is to continue to faithfully walk through open doors as the Lord puts them in front of me, and for now that means farming with my family, and enjoying every minute.

Prov 3:5,6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

A life of faith and trust in God’s leading- isn’t that the calling of each of us?

Kendra

Bonus Pic:

I spent more of my week in PA than I did in the Valley. We thoroughly enjoyed watching the farmers in the fields of Lancaster Co.

It is Well

We probably sounded like a group of excited school children as we trooped down the hill to the excavation site. School kids or a flock of clamoring magpies. Either way, there was no silence in our approach. Questions fired back and forth. And slowly we pieced the few facts we knew together.

Shortly after my grandparents moved onto their farm in Cooks Creek (approx 1963), my 11 year old uncle commented that a cow had stepped into a sinkhole in the pasture. Further investigation discovered a hand dug well, so a neighbor brought a tractor and pulled a huge piece of concrete into position over the hole. The site was covered with dirt and soon became a fertile truck patch for the Rhodes family.

Somehow my cousin Ellis (who rents the farm) learned about the well and took the initiative to uncover it. Grandmother, with her keen 90 year old mind, helped him to find it on the first attempt.

And there it was.

20 feet to the water’s surface , and probably 20 feet of water to the floor. Huge limestone rocks lining the complete hole.

We cautiously peered over the edge until our faces reflected in the pool of water below. There was no end to the words of cation. Everyone was convinced that someone or at least a dog was going to slip and disappear into a watery grave. The constant shower of dirt being kicked over the edge did nothing to ease the fears.

Then we started the fun of surmising. Who was responsible for digging this well in the rocky terrain? How had the rocks been lain in this deep, massive hole especially after the hole started filling with water? Was it the well or the huge hill that was responsible for saving the bank barn during the Valley’s burning of the Civil War? Why did they quit using this well? Is it possible that it’s only full of water thanks to last years excessive rain?

Again we all stared into the reflections in the bottom of the well, as if expecting answers. . But all was silent.

I’m reminded of another battery of questions that took place around a well. This time the questions weren’t centered around the one responsible for digging the well ( our father Jacob gave us this well, and drank this water with his family, and all of his flocks and herds)

Instead the conversation was about the source of water.

Jesus met a lady at the well and after asking for a drink, told her about His gift- a spring of water overflowing that leads to eternal life. Could she believe that He was who he said He was?

The lady hurried away and returns bringing her people and after Jesus spends 2 days with them, they say “NOW we believe, not just because of your story, but we’ve heard him ourselves. This is indeed Christ, the Savior of the World!”

I love the response of the crowd. This suddenly went from being her story, to being personal for each one who met Jesus that day.

How personal is my encounter with Jesus? Do I take other peoples word for what is truth? Or do I pursue it for myself?

I hope the water in my well holds a clear reflection of my Savior- the one who gave His life for me.

Blessings,

Kendra

Bonus Pic:

Spring is the most optimistic time of year ☺️ super thankful for every sunny day

Lessons on Trust through Unexpected Open Doors

I stood in the middle of the room- my heart nearly exploding with praise. This was my room-perfect for me. It was the best size-Housekeeping was a breeze. Sunshine danced across the floor and played on the walls, illuminating the fact that this room was even my favorite color. And the wall art reminded me again and again how well God was caring for me- scenes of a lazy river and number of geese framed the walls. P. Graham Dunn’s carefully selected scripture reminded me of the journey of faith and the lessons learned before my path led me to this room. Yes! Hallelujah! This is right for me.

But suddenly in the middle of my praise session, a door opens and quite clearly the path for me leaves my favorite room behind. I stand on the threshold wavering in the moment.

But only for a moment. It happens quickly- and I’m back in the hallway staring at all the doors ahead of me. Waiting on the One with the Master Key to open the one that’s best for me. I am not very good at waiting.

There are lessons the hallway teaches me that can’t be learned elsewhere, but it’s a tough place to be.

Waiting, praying, trusting. And honestly worrying too often in between. I thought I learned deep lessons in faith/trust the last time my career met a crossroads. That was 5 years ago. Clearly I can benefit from this refresher course.

Praise to our Almighty God who opens and closes doors at the best time; who knows the future as well as the past; who is patient with me when I’m slow to trust His plan; and who brings random people to buy land even when it wasn’t for sale .

May you feel His presence guiding you in your hallway too.

Have Faith in God,

Kendra

Bonus Pic:

Because snow days need some humor… this Pennsylvania snowman made me laugh

Guatemala- the land of eternal spring

“It’s so dry and dusty here” I stared out over the brown terrain around me and let my heart soak in the blue skies and sunshine.

The last 10 days found me enjoying dry season in Guatemala with every ounce of me. The reports of the continuation of rainy season along the east coast made me smile and bask a little more. Guatemala was lovely. Dry, brown, deliciously warm, and lovely.

I was privileged to join a group from MD and PA for a work week with Mennonite Air Missions. (Here we are, in all our glory at a train museum. Apparently Guatemala’s rail system completely closed in 2007, but they have a nice museum remembering when. FYI- I only know when it closed because I googled it once I found WiFi- a museum in another language isn’t but so informative. Lol)

Most of the week we spent out at “The Farm”. MAM is holding the Central American Pastors Meetings this year, and were adding some facilities.

The guys slaved away mixing concrete by hand, putting in drop ceilings, adding electric to the projects…

And we ladies attempted to throw together a few meals, and caught a bit of leisure time (only occasionally😝) in the hammock. The Farm’s residents were busy with corn harvest- here they are husking the ears before the corn is shelled and used for tortillas.

If you look closely you’ll see an ear flying through the air, as the Farmer works diligently at sunset…

Have I mentioned how much I love learning about agricultural practices in different cultures?

This friendly Farmer was chopping hay for his horse. (Cousin Merv’s wife Deb’s Spanish was such a blessing on our adventures)

On Sunday, we attended a cottage meeting for the farmer who lived here. He talked and laughed and we noted that he only had one tooth. They brought out juice, coke, and Guatemalan bread for a treat after the service. I wondered why the locals waited until after we ate, to get their food; then I realized that there were only 5 cups on the property. It got a little awkward when they served the coke after the juice and bread and there were unmistakably bread floaties in Deb’s cup from the previous person’s treat. 🙈

This super rocky ground had been cleared by hand, one piece at a time. I marveled as I imagined the work that had gone into the property.

And the most noteworthy sight along the way- well one of them 😝:

A cabless Gleaner running small grain. I couldn’t believe that the buddyseat was occupied even in all the dust-but there they were rolling thru the field.

And a few more of my favorite sights include:

Guatemala City and piñatas as big as the store owner. (For my next birthday I’m thinking I want the lifesize cow piñata full of chocolate, please)

We caught a chicken bus (which was a complete story in itself) to beautiful Antigua and spent the day exploring. Walking and walking and walking. We put on somewhere between 6.5-8.5 miles- me and all my souvenirs trudging along with the group. 😅 So much culture, so much beauty.

I’m so amazed by how many of the Indian people still wear their traditional dress. Their outfits with all the handwork are so elaborate.

I noticed Christy on our bus traveling from the City, and was surprised to find her drawing in Central Park. Her work was amazing, and I was happy to buy a card from her-so inspiring!

And the guard dog. Seconds after I snapped this pic, it’s lips curled back and all I saw were fangs as it shot along the wall in quest of some gringa blood. My heart still stops, remembering. I beat a hasty retreat, and all’s well that ends well- but that was close.

Random roadside stands… the church people heading home after Sunday’s service…

The Volcano Fuego puffing away in the distance…

And that pretty much sums up my latest escapade. Huge thank you to our group for a pile of good laughs and a wonderful week!

But mostly thankful that there is no language barriers with God and that He knows exactly how to bless me with a downpour of adventure/ change in perspective when I need it most. 💞 Let it rain.

Dios le Bendiga, [God bless]

Kendra

Ice Roses 🌹

By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. Job 37:10

I’m pretty sure the ice this week was a special gift from Heaven straight to me…

And if that wasn’t enough, God took the time to etch roses all over the pond. Dozens of them all over the ice.

And sprinkled a few snowflakes on top…

With the special delivery of flowers came the reminder of the promise- if God takes the time for all these details, how much more does He care for you and me?

So blessed,

Kendra

Story Collecting in a Waiting Room

“So you went to Dale Enterprise School? Have you seen the book that was published about that school?”

My mom’s conversation soaked into my brain, interrupting my reading. I had to laugh. On a whim, I bought Daughter of Promises “Story” issue, and since it arrived the day before, I threw it in my backpack for the long wait. I was currently reading an article on the best way to engage people in conversation, including a list of questions to ask. I should’ve just put down my magazine and followed my darling Mother around.

Mother takes a break from project “glean lifestory of everyone in the waiting room”

My mom is an angel, and she has the ability, and the drive to strike up a conversation with everyone. “What time did you get here this morning?” She asked the first people we sat beside. And soon she was looking carefully at the swollen finger that was heading for biopsy. The scene repeated itself again when she was comparing notes with a man who was waiting on his wife- I watched as mother and the camo clad man stood side by side staring at their similar carpel tunnel scars in the palm of their hands discussing the pros and cons of different surgeries.

“See, I made some friends” Mother commented as family after family was called downstairs to meet their loved one coming off of anesthesia. As each one left, they’d wave at us in our little corner. Me, deep in my magazine learning how to collect stories, and my mom, waiting to chat with the next stranger who needed a friend.


I’m not sure where to start on my sweet sister Emily’s story. I guess the first chapter was probably about 24 years ago when an irritated, much bigger, much stronger, older sister, decided it was time to deposit a persistent Emily outside the bedroom door. 😔 I remember how bad I felt after I yanked her by her arm, dislocating her elbow and earning her first trip to seek medical attention. There was no question that I was in the wrong. But what I didn’t know is how this would become Ems story. Dislocation after dislocation, surgery after surgery. Which brings us to the current situation: Em was in surgery for the 6th joint repair, while we waited.

When the doctor told Em that her “good knee” looked like a 75 year old knee, and that she needed surgery immediately, if not before. We balked at the idea. She had just completed therapy from the last knee. The fact that the same week as the doctor’s news, the hospital made a mistake and old bills from the last surgery started reappearing in Ems mailbox, did nothing to soften the blow.

So she moved forward, slowly, wishing for other options. And we stormed the gates of Heaven, and grieved for her pain.

Finally the 220 minutes scheduled for her surgery were over and we were ushered to her room. Mother (who discovered that volunteer who was taking us to Em’s room had broken her femur in August) briefed her on Ems history and said “this certainly isn’t our first rodeo” and behind the curtain, a very familiar, slightly slurred voice stated “this ain’t my first rodeo!”

I was not prepared for Emily on pain meds coming off of anesthesia. What a trip! She kept up a very animated conversation-that she basically remembers nothing from. She kept seeing us for the first time “Mother! You’re here! And Ken! Where’s Kerry?” And so many puns “I have so many crutches” she bragged “I’m practically Crutchfield”. Find Emily’s pain med induced opinion on drugs here

All too soon, the Outpatient Center was ready to close for the night and we were hurried towards the door.

The lights of home never looked so good, as we wearily headed up the lane, bracing for a painful night.


But the story doesn’t end there. Some of the things we dreaded most about this surgery we are breezing through- like the post op nausea. Some might say that it was because of the IV anesthesia, but I think it’s a credit to all the prayers from our sweet friends. Thank you. And please keep them coming.

We aren’t home free, but we are surviving.

Thank you Jesus,

Kendra

P.S I’m trying to keep Em entertained (I got her up to see the lunar eclipse even if it was 5° outside 😉) but I know she wouldn’t mind to have a different entertainment committee on board-she’d love to hear from you. But be warned if you come to visit, we just might ask the correct questions to get you to share your story ☺️

Bonus pics:

A very talented friend from Jul and Sherms church took a Cedar log that we discovered, and turned it into a masterpiece. I could bearly believe how good it turned out 🙂

Snow Fun

To all of you who are weary of fighting the weather: just walk on past this post and pretend you never saw it.

And to the rest of you brave souls who continued reading… Can I just say that the winter weather we’re having makes me so happy? Last weekends snow was perfect.

We went to the dairy and most of us spent the night (KJ and Em were on chicken duty and didn’t arrive until Sunday) But having the entire family on Paradise Land watching the snow fly did my ol heart good.

We had so much good food. ( the recipe to these pretzel bowls is here Such a fun treat!)

Mr Kennell was the chief charioteer when it came to the four wheeler/sled combo. We tried insisting the dogs each get a ride, but were only able to wrestle the younger dogs onto the sled (notice how Pagosa has her paw hanging onto Deb for dear life) The older/wiser dogs could not be forced into submission no matter how hard we tried. 😂

Deb brought cotton home from Alabama so part of the afternoon was spent creating.

The bonus to my weekend was the frost tipped mountains on Monday. I conned a few ever patient victims into exploring with me. And wow! The frosty world nipped at our faces and mesmerized us at the same time.

I love these people. 😍

If I could choose one experience and keep it forever, I think I’d choose a snow weekend. When my fam is all together, remembering days gone by, drinking coffee, dreaming of days to come. Laughing and crying together and loving each other the best way we know how.

These are the days.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for designing such luxuries as a snowy weekend, that causes us to pause in our various schedules, and allows us to enjoy the best gift. Family. 💞

Gratefully,

Kendra

Annual Review// 2018 Christmas Letter// Great is Thy Faithfulness

Dear friends,

As always, I started making a mental list of things I wanted to add to the annual Christmas letter. But I ran into a terrible problem. My debate went something like this:

 1. Travel. I don’t know- basically all I did was travel this year. It was a little extreme. Maybe I’ll skip mentioning that this year.

2. Ulcerative Colitis. Everybody has aches and pain. Let’s skip that. 

3. Weather. The constant rain challenge has had lots of people scrambling. Plus it sounds like I’m complaining and I really don’t intend to complain.

 Wait I’m already most of the way through the year and haven’t found anything to write about. Maybe I’ll skip the letter-but I love reading everybody else’s, so turn around is fair play. And since I don’t have my children’s school projects or my husband’s job to write about- I guess I might as well go back to the beginning and write about my year.

So brace yourself- Kendra’s 2018 Travel Extravaganza and Other Activities:    

My 2018 started out dry and cold. In fact we ice skated in the full moonlight to bring in the New Year. So bitter cold and so gorgeous. North River froze for the first time in 55 years. I skated on it at night and as I met small groups of people skating in the opposite direction – I envisioned myself over in Europe meeting other villagers as we hurried through the cold on our various agendas. Silver Lake was also frozen for the first time in years. And late one night found Nate on one knee asking Deborah a very significant question. Her answer largely impacted my activities for the next few months. 🙂

The adventure of my February was accompanying Deb to Nicaragua. Our trip included lots of fabric shopping (thanks to the aforementioned significant question), time at the beach, catching up with our friends there and just enjoying being back. 

Somewhere around the middle of March the rains began with a vengeance. It’s incredible to remember the rain through each season. We assumed it would be short lived, and yet they continued.

And my health… I really had some down time this spring. I am thankful everyday that I found meds that have me alive again! Good health is such a blessing.

Once the spring finally warmed up, we dodged rain showers, covered a number of acres and hurried towards May 26. Deborah and Nate’s wedding week was a beautiful whirlwind full of out-of-state visitors and long hours and fun memories. And it was a success! They both said “I do” as this big sis watched from the sidelines and begged herself not to cry. Gaining family is so much fun.

Summer sloshed its way onto the calendar as we waited for the rains to clear enough to proceed with grain harvest. At the last possible moment, the clouds parted and we pushed as hard as we could to secure harvest ahead of July 7, the magical date when half of our crew disappeared into the wild blue yonder. (more details in the next paragraph)

Emily and I were privileged to spend 2 whirlwind weeks exploring the Rocky Mountain Region with 6 Amish ladies from Lancaster. Our travels stretched from the Grand Canyon to Glacier Park and a number of stops in between. We have a number of stories to report from that adventure.

Another highlight was the annual Family OBX week.  Julia, Emily, and Kerry all made appearances- hopefully, next year it will suit all of the crew.

Chopping season was slow in arriving thanks to the unusual year, but we ended up having a really strong season. The constant rain kept us on our toes, dodging showers, and got us familiar with pulling out tractors and carts (the saturated ground produced wet spots even on hillsides) I washed the last of the mud off of the cutter and parked it in the shed with an extra grateful heart. A safe season is such a blessing!

The harvest game shifted to bean harvest and again found part of the crew deserting again. This time I took the food committee with me- MOTHER! We adventured through the New England States and part of Canada- traveling the Cabot Trail and through Prince Edward Island. The leaves were so breathtakingly beautiful. I added a number of states to my life list- taking the grand total to 47.

December found us still waiting for the sun to shine and the beans to dry, so we could return to the field. And finally with extra grateful hearts, we secured the final field of soybeans. This year has been such an incredible challenge weatherwise. Every rainy day from now until springtime, will find me rejoicing.

Through it all, this year has created an anthem that follows me every day. It echoes through my mind during every late night ride from yet another trip to PA, or OH, NY, or wherever. It follows me through the field as the rain clouds come and go. I’m reminded of it as I celebrate milestones with my family (Julia turned 30 this year, Father turned 60) I hum it as I grieve the hard things with my family like the approaching date of another knee surgery for Emily… Over and Over and Over:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lam 3:22-23

Happy New Year,

Kendra