tiffany's funeral

I think one of the greatest earthly gifts we are given as Christians is the hope we have in eternal life as we celebrate at another Jesus-follower's funeral. I can think of many funerals that served not just as a time to grieve a great loss, but also as a motivating encouragement, a time to remember my own calling, my own mortality, and the whole point of why we are running this short race.

Tiffany's funeral was exceptional. There were 1700 people there and the service lasted 2 full hours. Her parents both spoke, as well as her two sisters, her brother-in-laws, her children and her husband. And every single one of them deserved the microphone. They each added something powerful to the life story of Tiffany and though there were so many tears, there was way more hope in the resurrection. I left feeling filled up and grateful.

I know you would likely never watch a stranger's funeral, but if there ever was one to put on and play in the background, I think you'd be drawn in. Every person has something worth listening to. Her husband speaks at about minute 55, and the words he speaks to his kids are so powerful. And the pastor who closed the service was really powerful too. And the music is great. If you're interested at all, you can watch the service here.

And they showed this video in the service too. How incredible.
2018 Thrive Conference - Story Video: Tiffany from MDC.AG on Vimeo.

this is a hard teaching. who can accept it?

On Sunday night our family read part of John chapter 6. Jesus is telling his followers that he is the living bread that came down from heaven. "If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." He continues to tell of eating his body and drinking his blood, explaining communion for the first time. When he is done many of his disciples say, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"

Jesus hears the grumbling and calls them out, "does this offend you?" And in that moment, many of his followers turned away. He turned to the twelve and asked if any of them wanted to leave too.

And Simon Peter answers, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

***

About the time that we were reading this passage, our friend Tiffany was taking her last earthly breath.

Her death feels like such a mighty blow. She is my age, mother of five, partner in everything with her husband and spent her last eight years planting a church, building community and leading many wandering hearts to the Lord.

But her life was not spared.

This is a hard, hard teaching. Who can accept it?

The reading from John 6 has been such a comfort to me these past few days. Because I appreciate Simon Peter's response so much. In the midst of confusion and not understanding, trying to make sense of something that utterly did not make any sense he says the most honest words, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

I've seen too much. I know too much. I've heard too much. I've experienced too much. I believe in Jesus with my whole heart and have seen his power transform hearts and lives. To whom shall I go? I know the one who is the way to eternal life.

My heart is so heavy and grieved. Those kids. Her husband. She wanted to be raising her kids today. She wanted to be cleaning up breakfast right now. I have been convicted many time this past week not to take a moment for granted. Tiffany herself used to say frequently from up front, "If you have breath in your lungs and a pulse on your wrist, you have been given a gift today." And then she'd go on to tell of The One who gave that good gift.

The other thought I continue to have is that Tiffany, herself, would at this moment testify that Jesus is more real to her right now than ever before. She would nod and say, "Amen" to those words, "Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

And now with full trust in God to be the comforter, we pray for Jeff, her husband, Bo, Finn, Sally, Noah and Jack. Ages 4-14. What a grievous loss. 

praises and prayers

Well hello again! I don't usually take a full month off of blogging, but what a month it has been! Farm Camp sort of took over our lives there for the month of June and it was worth every minute poured in. I can't wait to write at length about how that week went and how it has shaped our vision for the future. We are really excited about all that is to come based on all we experienced those five days.

Then we were off to Lake Geneva Christian Center for a few nights of family camp with the Groves family. It was a joy to be together and to play, rest and have all meals prepared each day. It was a well-timed, wonderful get away. And now we are one month out from the arrival of our fifth child. We have a work project list that is as long as ever, but I told Rory I really want these weeks to be shaped by the words Rest and Play. As always he has lots of work stuff happening, but I really want the priority to be to Rest and Play. So we've been adding family day trips and surprises into our calendar, as well as working hard to be sure not to fill up our calendar! Yesterday we read books out in the yard for a while and that felt perfect.

But we do have quite a few things coming up! This week we have the county fair, where Ivar will be showing his rabbit Hershey for his very first time as a 4H Cloverbud. It's all very exciting and there is a lot to learn about the ins and outs of 4H! Rory will be working in the malt stand, representing our family well. The rest of us are either too young, or too pregnant... On Friday, Elsie turns 7. She is thrilled by this fact, and I am trying to make sure I know her expectations and then either meet them, or let her know what she can expect. She's not hard to please though. Uncle Kyle is taking her out for dinner on Tuesday and had me ask her where she would want to go. She barely breathed before she screamed, "The Subway by Menards!!!" And danced and squealed how she loves Subway and can't wait for Tuesday to come.

Our family went to Lake City on Thursday after Alden woke up from his nap. All told, I think we were there from 2:30-6:30. But it felt like we were on an actual vacation. We got our ice cream cones, played at the park, walked out on the pier and drove to check out Frontinac State Park. It was a glorious day and ended with a bald eagle flying to the tree right above us to each his fish supper while we at our whopper juniors. 

When we were just loading up we got an email and a text that friends were gathering to pray for our friend Tiffany outside of her house. Tiffany beat breast cancer two years ago and just this week we found out her latest body scan showed that her body is riddled with cancer. She had just learned this news seven weeks ago, herself. We are the same age, she has five young kids and pastors with her husband at a church in town that Rory and I attended for three years. I used to teach women's Bible study with her for years and I love this lady to pieces. She is the real deal, fully alive and fully committed to the people of our town, ready to be sure that all know Jesus and the new life he has waiting for each one of them. 

So we drove our family from Lake City right to Jeff and Tiffany's house where we found hundreds of people standing in the street, singing and praying. For the next two hours we prayed for a miraculous healing of Tiffany's body. Her husband made clear that he wasn't asking for plan b prayers. He wanted bold prayers pounding at heaven for a full healing and miraculous recovery.

So I have been praying with belief and faith, reading through miracles in the Bible, where nothing made sense in the natural. I refuse to feel sorrow or grief. Those are not called for at this time. Right now I want to be sure I am standing on the side of healing power and hope in all things.

But with all of this comes so many emotions. And in an incredible twist, just as I was beginning to feel fear creep in, someone posted this sermon (below) that Tiffany preached on Mother's Day. Just two months ago. 

If you deal with fear or anxiety or unanswered questions or hopelessness or chronic pain or illness, I really encourage you to listen. It starts out light-hearted, but please listen to the very end. Clearly God inspired this sermon and where she concludes is remarkable and comforting. Even in the midst of this new story.

And please pray for Tiffany. For a full healing of her body, for a miraculous recovery and for God to be glorified. I know what I am asking, but I am not standing in a place of trepidation. I am standing in a place of belief and promises. And pray for wisdom for her husband Jeff as he navigates this road with five young children, ages 4-12. 

I am laying hold of a vision of Tiffany healed, and what that would mean to all around her. I can think of no louder mouth piece to proclaim the goodness of God. She would blast her testimony to the moon and back. She already has, though I am holding on to belief that her story is just getting started. 

So enjoy this sermon. It is worth your hour. 

it's all getting done!

These pictures are about a month old now, but they basically sum up what we have been doing in the for a month straight. Last night Rory told me that he thinks we are now ahead of where we were when the tornado came through. Our yard has been decluttered, the barn and stalls are getting back in shape and our garden is looking fantastic. We have had a few burn piles and just a few moments ago Rory took the big kids with a truck and trailer to the dump. For a girl who LOVES getting rid of stuff, a trip to the dump makes for one fantastic day. I was up early this morning, finding more things in the barn to throw into the trailer before they left.

I have been posting on instagram again. You know how I go in waves! I took an 18 month break from that form of social media, but I want to be able to post quick pictures from my phone, and that is the swiftest way to do the job. And I wanted to post pics there from Farm Camp (coming up in just another week!)

So click on over to instagram @thegrovestead for more updates. I have a feeling I will be quiet here on the blog for a while until Farm Camp is past. :) Until then, soak up this summer fast! It is flying by already!!!

springtime work days

The last two days have been glorious here, which means everything that we have been waiting for nice weather, is now at the top of the to do list. Which...is everything on a farm. I am going to write out the following because I think it's remarkable and needs to be documented. But I also want you to know that these long days are not the norm all year long. But in the springtime, when a nice day rolls around, they are actually pretty typical.

So yesterday I woke up with a shot. I was seriously excited for the day because I knew how much we wanted to get done, and the sun was out and I felt happy to finally be working. I started the day by clearing off the kitchen counter and then we all headed to the garden to plant the starts we had begun in March under grow lights. We planted 17 tomatoes, 5 kale, 5 broccoli, 5 egg plant and 5 jalapenos.
(Yesterday was the last day I'll wear my overalls before baby. I couldn't button a thing!) At 11:30 I took Ivar, Elsie and Hattie to Ivar's Art Show where he stood up front and told about his favorite art piece he created and what he liked about it. Rory stayed home with Alden napping and to be here when the guys from Lampert's arrived with all of the sheet rock for the upstairs of the barn. Four guys (Rory included) loaded it off the truck and to the top of the barn and it looked terribly hot and exhausting. I brought them water when we got home.
Then Rory began moving woodchips around with the kubota, bringing piles up to the house, dropping piles by all of the berries and in the walk ways. Meanwhile I listened to Alden scream, "Daddy! Bota! Tractor! Daddy! Bota!" And then I pruned the raspberries. Next Rory and I spread out the wood chips with rakes and then lay down black plastic sheeting on half of the garden, after weeding it...which was a huge job. I made a fast dinner of rice and chili beans (a family favorite and the easiest ever..) and our good friends came by on their ATV. Rory began building a new chicken tractor, as our old one was leveled by an oak tree during the storm last fall. He came in the house to eat rice and beans for maybe 8 minutes. The man just needed calories and to get back at it.

He continued to build the chicken tractor (it is time to get the 60 chicks in our garage out of our garage. They are ready to free range!) while I weeded the kitchen garden. This was another huge job (every inch was covered in weeds!) but I kept thinking I should just push through because soon we will have bugs, and it's just so much better to weed without mosquitoes. So I did.
Rory came in for family worship and we sang and read and prayed and then he went to get non-oxygenated gas for the John Deere and then to Menards to get more black plastic for the garden. All four kids got baths/showers and I got everyone to bed just in time for Rory to text, "Are you ready?!!"

Because even though it was 8:25, we still had to put the fence up around our garden! He zoomed up the drive and picked me up for a ride to the barn. At this point he handed me a box of dots, my favorite candy. That was a good move. We pounded in t-posts as the sun began to set, lay down another length of black plastic and then, in the light of the truck headlights, we attached reused chicken wire to each t-post. It was terribly tedious in the dark. And because it had been used before every length was off and made for a lot of guess work. And it took a long time. And I ate the whole box of dots.

But then at 10:26 we were done. I came back in the house and decided to blog. I don't really get that part either. But I think I had wanted to do that all day, so I was just going to make it work. And then I took a shower, read a book and went to bed at midnight, only to be awakened many times by a screaming Elsie who kept waking up with leg cramps. But eventually we all slept. And you know what? I woke up this morning ready to hit it again! I have no idea why. Or how. But today we went right back at it.

I have another laundry list from today, but I'll spare you. Mostly I just wanted this recorded, because one day Rory and I will read this and I'll say, "Good Grief! We did all that and I was 29 weeks pregnant!" And then we'll shake our heads and wonder how we did it...

And future self, I don't really know what to tell you. Except that many, many times a day I say aloud, "The Joy of the Lord is my Strength." And I believe it with my whole heart.