Sunday, November 25, 2018

Gratitude in Each Day

We have all experienced a time when we receive a gift, whether it’s a holiday, our birthday, or another occasion. Our family gathered around and watching as you unwrap the final gift. From the other side of the room we hear, “What do you say?”
With an automatic response, we say, “Thank You.”
Whether it’s a gift, an act of kindness, or a compliment, we always respond with “Thank you.” Well, of course, it’s the right thing to do. The problem, though, is that we are so used to saying it. The response is so automatic that often times we do not realize how grateful we really are.
As the holiday season is in full swing, it is easy to catch ourselves doing this. Even so, let’s remember to show our gratitude for each and every moment and focus on what really matters this season.  

This semester, I have been reminded several times how precious life is. Yes, I am thankful for faith, family, and agriculture. But taking a closer look, I am thankful for all the in-between moments. Often times these are overlooked. We take the little moments for granted as it is so easy to pass over them and move onto the next thing in this fast-paced world.
As my niece sits on my lap each Sunday at church, I am thankful for the faith we share and the time we can spend together. As I look out the window to our barn, I am thankful for the passion of agriculture that was instilled in me through my family. I am thankful for the people of the livestock community who are always there to lend a helping hand by holding a tent over a show-ready animal as it heads to the ring in the pouring rain. I am thankful for my cousins and our annual game of big base kickball. I am thankful for the moments spent with friends at school when we can just share stories and laugh. I am thankful for all the little moments that add up to form the greater things.

Living a life of gratitude is much different than simply exchanging words of gratitude. Moving forward, I challenge each and every one of us to really think about what we are blessed with as we exchange the words “Thank You.” Instead of just saying the words to be polite, focus in on what really matters. We are blessed countless times each day, but without taking the time to show our appreciation, it all passes by. Let’s take time for gratitude as it will bring us greater joy and help us shine light into the lives of those around us.
How will we take time to give thanks each day? How can we ensure that the words “Thank You” have a deeper meaning?
Stationed by the Ear of Corn,
Laura Church

Monday, November 19, 2018

Thanksgiving…the Understudy

Thanksgiving…these days it seems like Thanksgiving is the very underpaid, under-noticed understudy to Christmas.  Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas; it’s the most amazing holiday where every light seems brighter, food tastes better, and everyone is so jolly and generous.  I repeat…I love Christmas!

However, I really LOVE taking time to be thankful, and I feel like the best time 
to do that is Thanksgiving (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a turkey
farmer)!  My family has loved Thanksgiving from before we even began raising 
the proverbial “bird of honor.”

Nigel Hamilton said, “Thanksgiving is a time of togetherness and gratitude.” 
Thanksgiving has been a rich tradition in my mom’s family her entire life.  
Her mom hosted a traditional Thanksgiving feast most of her adult married 
life, then the torch was passed to my aunt who hosted an amazing feast for 
my mom’s side of the family for many, many years.  It was at some point 
after my mom’s parents (my grandparents) had both passed away that my 
parents took on the tradition of hosting the Thanksgiving holiday gathering.  
I don’t have many memories of the Thanksgivings before the ones hosted 
by my parents, but when I hear my relatives talk with the fondness of the 
tradition and the memories of the holidays past, it’s almost like I was there.  
I can see through a slightly foggy lens the smiles and almost hear the muffled 
laugher; I can almost smell the aroma of the turkey cooking. I can actually 
feel their time of togetherness and gratitude in my heart. I’m thankful for the 
traditions that were laid before me.

“Be present in all thing and thankful for all things” – Maya Angelou.  In my 
memories, it’s the happiness I see in my mom’s heart as she begins 
preparations for the big feast.Yes, for sure it’s a lot of work to host 35 
people for dinner. I’m going to be honest and tell you, our house gets dusted 
so well on the week before Thanksgiving; every square inch of the floor gets 
vacuumed and windows and light fixtures get washed, twice.  There are not 
always my favorite tasks, and it’s fair to say my mom is a little drill sergeant-ish. 
The shopping gets done, the groceries are carried in and the meal is prepped.  
Although the tasks are many, I am so grateful to have this opportunity and 
that I can be present and in the moment to help prepare for all the things that 
continue to make our tradition (and I don’t mind drill sergeant mom that much).

Melody Beattie Said, “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.”  So after all the 
cleaning and shopping is done, then comes the preparing, cooking and setup. 
At my house, it’s a tradition to help prep the food on Wednesday night. My 
siblings and I chop vegetables for stuffing, slice apples for pie and take out the 
buns to rise.  We wipe down the good silverware ,and we get the fancy water 
glasses out of the high cupboards. We set out tables and chairs, and we 
watch my mom iron tablecloths (she doesn’t trust us to iron).  We are lucky 
to have a life full of learning how to host a family tradition. My siblings and 
I don’t take these life lessons for granted, even if we argue over who has to 
carry up all the folding chairs.

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage”- Erma Bombeck.   
Me too, Erma, me too.  I can’t even tell you how delicious our meal is.  
I know I am really, really blessed to have all of these traditions.  
I know everyone may celebrate differently, and some families may enjoy 
a vegetarian meal, a pizza supper or a grilled steak on Thanksgiving.  
But that’s the key; it’s not what you eat, it’s who you are with and what you 
remember to be thankful for.  At my house, I am blessed because my mom 
knows the secret to making AMAZING gravy.  I hope someday I will be able 
to duplicate her recipe, and I’m thankful I get to be by her side each year 
and taste test her “best gravy yet.” Oh, and our turkey is pretty amazing too!

“Thanksgiving day is a jewel, to set in hearts of honest men; but be careful that 
you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.” – E.P. Powell.  Don’t get 
caught up in the hype of big three:  Food, Football and Family. Don’t let the 
gravy, pigskin or baby cousins deter you or hold you back from taking time to 
be thankful or showing your gratitude.  And don’t just do it in one day. Make it 
season of your life - show gratitude daily!

And so, Thanksgiving…What a tremendous holiday, so many things, how do 
we know what to be thankful for?  I’ll close with the words of Charlie Brown: 
“What if today, we were grateful for everything?” Friends, as I wish you a very 
Happy Thanksgiving, I challenge you to take a minute.  A minute to show 
others your gratitude. A minute to tell someone you’re thankful for their 
friendship. A minute to pay your blessings forward.  A minute to be grateful 
for everything.

Minnesota FFA, I am grateful for you.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Stationed beneath the Rising Sun,
Grace Taylor

Sunday, November 11, 2018


Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Heron Lake – Okabena FFA Chapter for their greenhand night, where I got to see 25 members receive their greenhand degree! I was asked to give a speech to the members and guests present, but leading up to the event, I wasn’t sure what to speak about. As I sat in an airport the afternoon before, my mind wandered, and I kept asking myself what idea I could share to help these members succeed in the FFA. Each one I thought of didn’t seem like “the one.”

            Regardless of if I’m in a quiet space in my room or in a busy airport, I can never seem to focus on actual work. Instead, I often end up visiting is the TED website when I need inspiration. For those of you who have never watched a TED Talk, they are speeches given by people from around the world, bringing together years of thought and research for the audience. It’s like having access to thousands of retiring addresses all in one place! While I end up watching TED Talks on many topics, I love the underlying slogan of “Ideas worth spreading.”

Sitting in the airport, I visited my trusty inspirational website. A couple TED Talks later, my ideas were finally flowing. I had a little more confidence that I did have an idea worth sharing with the members of Heron Lake – Okabena FFA. Driving to the event, I went over why I wanted to share this idea and how it would help these members succeed in FFA. By the time I arrived at the school, I was emotionally invested in this speech, and I was ready to talk to members and share my message.

After being introduced, I began talking about my experience going shopping with my family on the weekends. I loved going grocery shopping, but hated putting away the groceries when we got home. As a solution to doing all this work, I decided to pretend to be asleep when we got home in order to get out of putting away groceries. This worked, until I realized that my parents had a stash of snacks hidden in the house that I didn’t know where to look for because I never helped put away the groceries. I looked at it like it was work, but it was really an opportunity. Needless to say, I benefited from knowing where the snack stash was until I graduated last spring. It is amazing the benefits we can find when we look at work as an opportunity. After the event, I could tell I had done a pretty good job and brought my idea to life, however, I was still thinking of the “Ideas worth spreading” slogan from the TED conference.

          Often, when we are asked to be creative, we doubt ourselves. The truth is, even if it’s not “the one,” we all have ideas worth spreading. When it comes down to it, people connect with the ideas we believe in so much that we bring them to life. Really, there is no difference between you, a TED speaker, or me; bring your ideas to life!

Stationed by the plow,
Kegan Zimmermann