Wednesday, May 2, 2018

On Trials and the Master of the Field

I read Psalm 88 last week, and while I'm certain I've read it before, it really struck me how utterly depressing it is.  Often in Psalms, the psalmist will start out voicing to God his struggles, and then finish up with how his problems got resolved.  Not so with this one; there is no resolution, just pure trials and feeling abandoned by God on top of the rest of his struggles.  I won't paste it on the blog, read it on your own if you like, or just take my word for it. What struck me is when you compare them to the familiar verses in new testament the James 1:2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

That sounds much better, doesn't it?  With the struggles, the trials, when our response isn't bitterness, but trust, we actually benefit from our struggles.  What believer doesn't want steadfastness?  Who doesn't want to be perfect and complete?  I want to lack nothing! This is encouraging to me, on a number of levels.  Yesterday while speaking at church, I likened myself to an ox, pulling a plow.  This particular ox, God saw fit to bless me with a love of the feel of the strain of the harness.  I like to work, and to a certain extent, I kind of don't even really care what work it is, as long as it feels like it has a purpose. When I say work, I don't mean necessarily the paying kind of work or the job kind of work, but I mean just doing what is before me, whether it is the work of an elder in my church, the work of a husband to Herself, or as doing the work around my house.  It just gives me a sense of accomplishment.

The problem comes when I feel the trials become more or different than expected.  I'm just pulling the plow around the field, happy as can be, without any expectation that my work should be anything more than work.  I have no expectation that it should be all fun and games.  But then bam! Something heavy gets dropped onto my plow. Sometimes if turn my big fuzzy ox head just right, I can see what it is that gets dropped onto my plow.  Sometimes when I see what it is, it makes it easier to pull: Oh, I'm pulling that for Herself, the Beautiful Brynn, or That's OK, son, I can carry that to for you, or Oh, that's ok, I'm ok with pulling that for my brother/sister.  Other times it's just confusing, here are a few examples: Really, a sinus infection? Oh, I didn't really realize that strep throat was what I needed right now. Seriously, TWELVE bee stings? But really, there isn't much difference in the stressors or the trials that we encounter, it is only our attitude towards them.  If we see a trial and embrace it for the benefit of our walk with Christ, we don't turn bitter about it and we grow from it.  If we see a trial and fear and loathe it, then we get no benefit from it at all, and it is just suffering for suffering's sake, which anyone will tell you that is just plain miserable.

So the culmination and the point of all this is this: You CAN'T do it, you CAN'T pull the plow on your own when these extra loads get dropped on you, despite your willingness to accept the trials. At times, you lean into the harness so hard and you feel like the traces will snap even if you don't, but you aren't going anywhere at all, and you are tired, so exhausted.  So what do you do? Here's what I have learned when you feel something else dropped on whatever you are already carrying and you are overwhelmed with confusion and indecision: You lift your big hairy head and you let out the loudest and longest bellow you can muster from your lungs for help from the Master of the Field. On this one you can trust me, just skip right over the master of the plough (whoever it is behind you lashing you and yelling at you), and go straight to the top, the one that has the master plan for what gets planted and what gets harvested.  And then you just try to keep moving.  Pump those legs in the direction you are meant to go even though you feel you can't, you know you can't budge the load, and you do it because you know this is the direction you are meant to go.

It hurts, God knows it hurts. I'm not saying it doesn't hurt, and I'm not saying it won't continue to hurt, but what you get out of it is two things: Number one, the Master of the Field is faithful to reply to your hurting call.  In my own life, He doesn't just show up with a wand and "wish" all my problems away, but sometime after (always seems like a long time) I bellow out my cry for help I feel the hand of the Master on my flank, kind of pushing, kind of prodding, but mostly just using the pressure letting me know that He is there, and its going to be alright, that he gave me this load because it is good for me and its good for the overarching plan he has for the field.  The reason you keep pumping your legs in a forward direction is because it is way harder to start again after you've stopped. Number two is by the time you've noticed that you aren't really stuck anymore and that you are actually moving, you are a different and better person, more perfect and your faith is more complete.  And those two things combined make it all worth it.

Until the next time when you have to do it all over again.  Hey, suck it up, Buttercup, I never said plowing was easy...

Monday, April 30, 2018

One of the many reasons I am grateful for my father...

This is just one of the many reasons that I am glad to have Gary Foster as my father.  I know, a picture of a saucy little bull-calf doesn't do much for most of you, but I had the opportunity to go help my dad work calves Saturday.  I always did like "cutting" and "running" calves from the herd and down the chute, the thrill of maybe getting kicked in the 'nads, or having one of them get too far ahead of you and turning around and charging you.  Mostly they are harmless, but mostly they aren't this cute and adorable as in this picture.  Last year, they were closer to a 1,000 pounds and I sustained a limp for most of a week and ripped up my jacket.

Anyway, I have all these great memories as a kid working hard with my dad and my brother (sometimes friends like Mike or Andrew), both in the heat and in the cold, and often in the slopping mud/manure mix. We worked hard and had fun, laughing at each other when one of us got hurt, calling each other insulting names for showing that it hurt, like "Twinkie," but watched each other closely to make sure nobody actually got destroyed.  I remember one time my brother had his nose literally completely smashed flat to the rest of his face by a fluke shot from a big calf running past him.  Another time, he probably saved my life from getting crushed and trampled after I got pinned in between a rather large and upset cow and the chute for long enough and hard enough that I couldn't breathe for quite a while and would have gone down.  He had the presence of mind to jump up and lift me up from above while the cow finally was able to squeeze on past.  Still another time, a cow got in the chute while dad wasn't paying attention and charged the head-gate, knocking it shut, swinging the pipe handle right into dad's ribs. I don't ever remember another time my dad needing to "take a knee."  I can't help laughing just remembering it.

But the most rewarding part of last week was that I took my boys with me and we worked together with Grandfather.  Not that I've never taken my boys with me before to do this, but this time they both are old enough that we WORKED together.  We were a team! I had Isaiah (13) do his share of running the calves for the first time, and he was nervous about it at first, but he LOVED it after he realized you have to use your head as well as your body, gotta watch those little buggers and not get run over.  Stu (10) did a great job of keeping us supplied with all the tools and equipment and keeping track of the bull/heifer information, really watching what was going on.  Isaiah did get one calf that turned on him and tried to mow him down (the biggest one, of course) and he took on a little bruising, of which we were all very proud.  I just appreciate the opportunity to show my kids how to work, how to hustle, keep sharp, and have fun doing it. Sometimes I think, why would I put my kids in that dangerous position? Because they learn to work, and dad-gum it, they better learn to pay attention.  The danger makes it such a thrill to work with cattle, but working with your family makes it that much more thrilling.  I could go on and on about other reasons that I am proud to be Gary's son as well, but this is going to have to do for now... :)

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Marriage Made in Heaven; Making Pastrami for Sandwiches

Often, when I have the cattle and the hogs in the same pasture, they don't really get along very well with each other. They compete for food and mostly it goes like this: the hog is short and super powerful, and just noses right in there, displacing the cow. When the cow gets pushed out and then gets frustrated it takes about a four-yard run at the hogs with her head down, full steam ahead! For those of you who have never been around hogs, you will have no way of knowing that sheer volume of noise is a defense mechanism for hogs of all sizes, even down to very small piglets. So as soon as the hog gets shoved aside, it begins an absolutely astonishing assault of noise. In short, my point is that both types of these beasts, while very much noble-seeming beasts in their own way, can distill down to a truly toddler level of contention in a matter of seconds. In real fact, I feel the hogs have no real animosity towards the cows, but cattle seem to be quite aloof, maybe even just a little snobby. 

Anyway, all that to say, I have finally brokered an agreement between these two powerful animals where both are in perfect harmony and are at peaceful rest, the one never struggling against its brother: the humble sandwich. 

Yes, in this case, it's a Pastrami sandwich, something I've never before made. (The Pastrami, that is, not a Pastrami sandwich) I'm quite pleased to report that neither the pork or the beef was overwhelmed! I'm also pleased to see that while it is actually quite a lot of work, the lovely, almost iridescent sheen on the cross-grain cut of meat, the texture, the just-right "pull" as you bite it, and yes, the taste turned out quite nicely as well. The combination of the crispy homemade bacon atop some homemade bread with homemade Gouda cheese, and with just a pinch of sauerkraut (well, you know THAT'S going to be homemade!)

So how do you make Pastrami? Well, I'm glad you asked! Basically, Pastrami is the same as corned beef except after you get done corning your brisket (always beef), then you roll it in more spices (mostly pepper) and you smoke it until it gets up to 160 degrees. Technically, you could eat it raw because it is cured with real curing salts which lend it its beautiful, almost crimson color and the sheen of the meat that I referred to earlier. While I haven't tasted it raw, I'm thinking it probably tastes much better cooked.

If you are wondering how to corn your own brisket, it is much the same as ham as it involves brining it (that's just one way) using curing salts for about a week with a specific bunch of herbs and spices in the brine. This is probably way more information than anybody has ever wondered about corned beef (myself excluded), but I wondered about it, so I did my research: Why is corned beef called corned beef? What does corn have to do with it? Particularly when this ancient cured meat was named centuries upon centuries ago, even before the Americas were discovered (you know, the place from where corn originated)? I mean, how can you name something after a thing that is completely undiscovered still? It didn't even make sense to me.

But, as it turns out the ancient meaning of the word "corn" is actually more like a generic form of the word "grain." That still doesn't make that much sense, until you realize that it's the more generic sort of grain that also applies to grains of salt. Then it finally makes sense that in actuality, "corned beef" means "salted beef." But it has to be a specific kind of salt (curing salt) in order for it to work, so really what it means is cured beef. 

So there ya go, more information about hogs, cows, corned beef and Pastrami than you ever wanted to know! You're welcome!
The fully brined, then smoked Pastrami (from a beef brisket), cooked to 160 degrees over a period of 5 hours. Most of the time if I am smoking brisket, you would take it 180-185, but fiberous membranes melt at that point, making it easier to pull, or shred.  I wanted this for sandwich meat, so I didn't bring it up to shredding temp.


The Sandwich.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Basement bedrooms/bathroom completed

This momentous thing that I've been working on since September of '16 (basement remodel) needs some documentation, it seems. So here are a couple pictures of the finished product:

New downstairs bathroom.  The vanity was my dresser that I had growing up, the towel hangers are old cast iron trivets with wine bottle corks and old drawer pulls as the hangers. The sink is a .50 cent garage sale find.  Light fixtures are each a Brynn Foster Original Creation as well. I re-purposed the mirror by building a frame for it; I didn't have much use for staring at myself while upon the "throne" in my own bathroom...

Keepin' it real, here, folks. This is the family room. As you can see, it is unfinished and messy.

If you look at the ceilings in the bedrooms and bathroom, you'll see kind of an unusual ceiling. Herself didn't want a regular run-of-the-mill acoustic ceiling, so I made my own version of a suspended ceiling out of wood.  I'm sooo ready to be done with this project...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 in Review

Wow! The entirety of 2017 has nearly slipped through our fingers without so much as a single post.  I kind of blame facebook; I actually started using it since our Beautiful Daughters acquired Facebook accounts, but frankly, that platform doesn't lend itself to me posting long, thoughtful posts.

These two; jeez...

And these three got piercings at the top of their ears.

Isaiah and I caught around a dozen "Varmits" and tanned their hides, did other creative stuff with them.  Isaiah made a great Coon-Skin Cap that we think the cats absconded with.

Allergy season.  Ugh.

Can't really see it, but this was the Great American Eclipse.

2017 was a big year for "Dabbing."  Thanks to Isaiah, even lego-droids dabbed!

A good friend of ours gave or "traded for labor" his old boat that he didn't use anymore.  It took some work, but we got it running and in the water over the summer.

This is the 4th annual Grace Bible Church Men's Canoe trip that the boys and I have gone on. Very fun!

Money was a little tight this year, so we didn't ever take a "proper vacation," we just took 2 days and went exploring Wichita. There is actually quite a lot to see right nearby.

Hundreds of years old...


The Asian Market is really fun!

...And maybe just a little scary sometimes

Hat-Man Jack's! Steampunk Emma...


She's a clown...

We were saddened by our very good friends the Goerings' decision to move back to Dallas, but we at least got to play Putt-Putt with them before they left...

Yes, that is sod and turf on her head.  They obviously get it from their Mother...

So, this year I just put it out there on Facebook: "Open invitation to all; we're having a BBQ, and if enough people show up, I'll do a Whole Hog..."  As it turned out, a LOT of people RSVP'ed, and when I went out back to look at the hogs, I realized they were a lot bigger than I thought! I didn't have cooker big enough to cook it in.  Soooo, there's only one thing to do.  Make one. (See above)

And, yes, perhaps I spent a little too much time on the aesthetics of things that no one would appreciate but me... 

That is a "Whole Hog..."  He weighed about 250 pounds on the hoof.

This was what was left! It was a hungry crowd!

Giant Jenga game that Isaiah made.  The Nathers came that same weekend and helped out tremendously!

OK, we are all about the new experiences.  Yes, we ate Racoon.  It actually wasn't bad, even Herself tried it and said: "It just tastes like very red meat; it tastes beefier than beef."

Herself used our Credit Card Points and took the girls for an overnight trip to K.C.

This was a first for us; we extracted honey with our friends.

Liquid Gold!!!

This was one the last pictures of my father in law; he died just about a week after his 84th birthday. 

It seems funerals are mostly the reason we get together anymore, unfortunately...

This is me and my very good friend Seth Nininger during a very fun time with Clifford and Lacey.

These guys are soooo much fun!

The Donkey got into the pie!

Me trying to look skinny.  It's not working very well...

Then, on my birthday, we rented a cabin up at Kanopolis Lake and did a bunch of hiking, exploring, and fishing.  It was supposed to be a time of relaxation for me, but between all that, I barely had time to sit down...

Isaiah wanted me to teach him to get really good at poker so that he could win the Foster Poker Championship over Thanksgiving. His hard work paid off; he won!!!

Horse-Thief Canyon

Caves at Horse-Thief Canyon.

Our Cabin from the outside.
Our second Dairy cow, Petunia, had her first calf and so we started milking again.

Look at these two Cuties!!!

We hit October hard with making cheese; we made about 60 pounds of different kinds to store up and ripen.

In the first part of December, we went to Botanica to see all the lights. Wow!

Isaiah: we need to take a really mean picture in front of the trash can.

Emma was inspired to lead the family in the making of Gingerbread houses with Maddie and Peter (and her siblings).

Our first Christmas without Darrel. Overall it wasn't a terrible year, but it sure had its hard spots...