The kids came home from Christmas shopping with their dad the other night excited with lots to tell me. At ages five, three and one, the concept of keeping a secret is a foreign one.
No sooner had they torn off their winter coats and snow pants were they spilling the beans on what they bought me for Christmas.
“Mom! We got you presents!”
“Dad says it’s a secret, but we got you muck boots!”
“And kitchen scissors!”
“And pots and pans!”
With big blue eyes and toothy grins, they waited for my response.
In my head, I thought, well, Tyler helped the kids pick out some practical things I didn’t necessarily ask for, but it’s so nice he noticed that I needed these things. The pans are worn out. The kitchen scissors ended up in the barn last calving season. And my current chore boots leak.
They certainly aren’t gifts I would brag about at coffee with my girlfriends, but they are the perfect, thoughtful gifts from the people who mean the most to me.
“Oh, I love the presents! I can’t wait to open them at Christmas!”
Not realizing they had spilled the beans, they urged me to close my eyes while they scurried into the house with my presents.
These are the moments I hope I never forget. The beauty of this season is not fancy presents under the tree, or Instagram-worthy home decor or perfectly matching Christmas pajamas — it’s in the simplicity and quiet moments shared with those we love as we reflect on the birth of our savior, Jesus.
I saw a meme the other day on Facebook that read, “The first Christmas was pretty simple, so don’t feel bad if yours is simple, too.”
For many agricultural families, this holiday season may be more simple than most. With ongoing trade wars, market uncertainties, internal industry fighting, crazy weather and other challenges, 2019 was marked with many battles.
As a result, the disposable income for lots of presents, family outings and hosting lavish parties may be much less than normal.
However, when we look at things from a different vantage point, we are very blessed indeed (yes, even when the markets aren’t cooperating in our favor).
Consider how blessed your life on the farm might look to a child born into a much harsher world.
Tyler and I became foster parents in August of 2019. We received our license on Aug. 1, and by Aug. 2, we had our first sibling set of endangered youth come to stay with us on the ranch.
Since then, we’ve welcomed six kids into our hearts and home, and we’ve also had bittersweet goodbyes as they’ve come and gone.
And while it’s our hope that we can provide a safe, loving, secure and stable environment for these kids when they walk through our front door, Tyler and I have been surprised about how much we’ve learned about ourselves as we take in these kids.
First, we’ve noticed how healing the farm can be. These kids get to spend time with the animals, and it’s definitely therapeutic. I love watching their chubby toddler fingers gripping blades of grass they picked to feed the cattle through the fence. And it’s incredible to watch our biological children show them the ropes of the farm.
Second, we’ve seen our own lives much differently through the eyes of these children. They’ve made comments about our “huge” backyard or the “castle” we live in or how “fancy” our Christmas tree is.
And those innocent observations have been a wakeup call indeed.
A huge backyard? How many times have I lamented about the weeds overtaking my yard and that I can’t keep any bushes or trees alive because of the deer and rabbits that love to munch on them? But to these foster kids (as well as our own), it’s a place to run and play and explore.
A castle? How many times I have been green with envy about my friends who have built new houses while I live in an old farmhouse with plenty of cracks and problems that never seem to get fixed? Yet for these kids, our home is warm and cozy and inviting — a place to spend time together, doing crafts, building with blocks, jumping in our bouncy house and making memories.
And our Christmas tree? It’s a 30-year old hand-me-down from my Grandma — wobbly and tired — but to these kids, it’s the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen. Perhaps because for some, it’s the first real Christmas they’ve ever experienced.
So, as we celebrate Christmas 2019, I’m being more mindful about the many blessings we can so easily take for granted — our health, our happy family, our warm beds, our bellies full of food, our community and church, to name just a few.
And I’m trying to be less stressed about the things that simply don’t matter — perfectly wrapped presents, the trendiest Christmas decorations, a designer table for our Christmas dinner, and much more.
Today, I will pause to reflect on the simplicity of this day — cattle quietly munching on hay, my new muck boots softly crunching in the snow as I check waterers, my kids’ laughter as they play and make messes throughout the house, my husband’s smile as he chases them up and down the halls.
These are the moments that make a life worth living.
And for me, this Christmas, what matters most of all is gathering our family at church and teaching our children about the life of Jesus. Today is a day to marvel before our King and be reminded of the ultimate sacrifice Jesus would go on to make for all of God’s children.
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:11
Merry Christmas from my ranch to yours! Let us rejoice and be glad today and every day!
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.