"On belay?" a climber asks of her partner on the other end of the rope. They're both still on the ground. The climber is asking, "are you ready to catch me if I fall when I'm up there?"
This brief exchange opens the line of communication between the climber and her belayer. The rest of the commands will be single-word shouts, rope tugs, and hand signals. The rope is in the belayer's hands, but she is in control of what happens next.
"On belay," the belayer assures. This "on belay" is a touchstone. It is when the climber decides if this security is enough, and if it is, she answers, "climbing!" This is the moment when the ascent begins.
For me, this also is where I have to stop thinking about what could happen to focus on what is happening. Being belayed is not meant to be the hard part. The climbing is the hard part. I switch gears to be intentional about what I'm going to do to not fall off this wall. The word "fall" has to remain on the ground too, or so will I.
Because climbers have one job. Don't fall.
That looks a lot of ways: careful footwork, redundant anchors, calculated gear placement. The most important thing is trusting the rope to my belayer. I won't ascend if I'm unsure the rope is what is going to break my fall.
Climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado. Photo credit: The Evoke Group
I still fight security. I wrestle with safety. I suppose you may not believe that if you heard of the thousands of vertical feet I've climbed over the years, but it's true. I'm a chicken. I'm not a hardcore climber like my husband, Lane. But I am hardcore into the lessons of faith and endurance and growth that climbing imparts to me.
In this way, I think climbing and life are the same: we are held, even when we think we're falling. We can know we will be caught before we even slip up. We have assurance this gear system will not falter or fail no matter what mountain we've been asked to move or which walls we've been asked to climb.
We are always asking, "are you going to catch me if I fall?"
Rappelling in Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.
I spent the first two decades of my life "climbing" without a belay. By that I mean I was just going about life without real purpose or intention. Without security. Never really safe. When I was 21, I met my Creator and realized I was already tied in. I finally got to stop second-guessing that I was being belayed on any real lifeline.
And so, I got to get on with climbing. REALLY climbing. I don't have to waste precious time and energy wondering, "on belay? will You catch me when I fall up there?" The answer now is always, always of course. This security is enough.
Climbing in Smith Rock State Park, Oregon.
Even when I'm scared, I'm secure. Even when I do slip up, the rope's tension will find me eventually. I can hate, hate, hate the sensation of falling and failing, but I'm trusting my Belay. Even when I can't see Him, He's got me. Even when I can't see the anchor above me, it's still my aim.
When I'm already on the wall now, I can triple and quadruple check that my knot is still secure on my harness. I can check my end of the system. But I don't get to control it all. I don't have to. My one job now is to not fall and to cheer on the climbers to my left and right to keep putting one foot above the other, reminding them they can do hard things and may fall but will be held.
So now, "on belay" is my prayer. "Climbing!" is my baptism into trust and surrender. And so we climb.
I hope you'll join me at this little crag over here every week where I share how I'm learning to be intentional to not fall off my walls, trust the great Belayer, and use too many climbing/life metaphors!
Climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, Colorado. Photo Credit: The Evoke Group
Our first sheep of the year was born to TAMARIND. Her name is TRIER. (We are naming all of our females famous cities this year.) Since her birth we have added three more girls: Sydney (to mom Snowball) and Lisbon (to mom Lavender.) We've also added five males!
On Thursday, our very favorite sheep, Snowball, was the first to deliver. And, she had twins! One was a boy (we don't name boys) and one was a girl. We named the girl Sydney.
Our first season of sheep were all named herbs (except Snowball who has just always been Snowball to us.) All of their babies have the same letter in their name but were named virtues. And this year we have decided to go with famous cities.
So, for example ...
Tamarind (herb) had a baby last year which we named Truth (virtue). The year Tamarind just had another baby and we are going to call it Trier (famous city in Germany.)
Okay back to Snowball. Unfortunately Snowball rejected the male twin. Our current wwoofer, Nico, captured the exclusion on video.
No one is really sure why this happens. Some say "the sheep know best" and there might be something wrong with the baby. Either way, this means that the little sheep that is rejected needs to be pulled and bottle fed. The only other option is to leave it to die. (I just can't bring myself to do this!)
We decided long ago we didn't want to bottle feed baby sheep. At least not right now. It's just too much work for a busy farm. I had already arranged with our awesome friend, Anni, that if we had any bottle babies this year, she'd take ownership.
Anni took "Kenny" home with her. (Anni chose to name the sheep. Since it belongs to her now, she can do that.)
Kenny leaving with Anni was a lot harder than we thought it would be, especially for Abigail. The kids had spent the evening bonding with the little guy, and they did not want him to leave the farm. Abigail cried really hard Bottle babies are notoriously friendly and truly do become like pets. You can see from the pictures below how much "Kenny" was fitting in:
But like I said, our life is already packed full, and bottle feeding a sheep was not on my priority list. So Anni took Kenny back to her house. She had a goat with twins who has a TON of milk that Anni will be using for goat milk soap. She actually managed to get Kenny to latch onto the goat mom. She had tons of milk from the goat that she could use in bottles for the little sheep which was great for all involved.
Anni actually was going to her vet for something else and managed to get little Kenny weighed. We've often wondered what our little lambs weigh. This tells you!
Today was Saturday, and Anni often comes to hang out with us on the farm on Saturdays. So she came today, and she brought Kenny with her. Oh were the kids excited. We housed him in a little kennel behind the garage, and the kids got to spend the whole day helping feed and hang out with Kenny. They had an absolute blast!
Giving him a kiss!
Hard to see but that's our Hannah!
We have decided through this experience that the kids are getting close to old enough to bottle feed a lamb. The first few days can be a little tricky, but once the little lamb has settled into a routine, it's pretty easy. In the future, we may allow the kids, if we don't have any vacations or trips planned, to take "ownership" of the lamb.
However, there are some things that are challenging about this. In the case of a boy lamb, the whole point is to raise him for food. (So hard when it becomes a pet!) And in the case of a girl lamb, we have decided not to breed bottle babies which means we would process her for food as well. While there are different schools of thought, John's is that it can mean more bottle babies in the future genetically.
This is our third season of having sheep. We had one bad delivery last year, but otherwise, this is our very first bottle baby. We hope we don't have anymore, but man is it fun to snuggle with little lambs!!
P.S. Since Snowball delivered her twins we have had three more sheep born. I'll write more about them tomorrow.
Well we still aren't officially moved in upstairs. John prepared me for the possible delays right before you cross the finish line, but my heart still has trouble wanting so badly to utilize our upstairs. Either way, while it isn't cleaned and isn't officially ready, it is basically done. Check it out folks! It truly is a whole new house!
I took Arabelle to the vet today where they did an x-ray to see how many pups she is having. This is suggested so you can know if she is finished or having any problems. She is due sometime around April 27 (from the best we can guess) and after you watch this video, you will join us in knowing how many puppies we will be welcoming to our farm.
P.S. We will NOT be keeping ANY of the puppies. We are selling them and already have 3-5 spoken for. If you are interested in a puppy, please email me (email@example.com) or Facebook message me ASAP! I can give you tons more information via a personal conversation.
P.S.S. Our reason for having puppies was two-fold. The first was to recoup some of the money that buying two of these dogs for our farm cost. The second, however, was to experience this event with our children on our farm and to get to experience puppies for eight weeks. We are excited to place the dogs with families we know (we hope!) so we can continue to follow their lives in months/years to come.
We totally appreciate that there are shelter dogs who need good homes, and we will not be irresponsible breeders. We welcome different opinions on whether breeding is ethical, but we decided that good Aussies are worth it to the families that love them! If you disagree, you are welcome to that opinion.