Finding faith in the straw

originally published by Emjayandthem on December 23, 2010.

I was a college student, home for Christmas break.  Mid-terms over.  Days off and did it ever feel good to be home, home on the family farm where everything was cozy, comfortable and familiar.

Mom had the house glimmering, the fridge and freezer stuffed with baking, cheese ball, lefse, and assorted delights, and, as the youngest, it was just going to be the 3 of us until the rest of crew arrived for supper Christmas day.

It was Christmas Eve and Mom and I spent the better part the day cooking and singing along to Bing Crosby on CJWW.  We noticed the wind start to pick up, but, we weren’t alarmed or surprised, after all this was a prairie winter’s day.  Cold, always windy and a storm at a moment’s notice. No newsflash there.

When 7:00 rolled around and Dad still hadn’t come in from doing chores, Mom dispatched me to find him.

image from

image from

Great, I thought, with the insolent huff that an 18-year-old girl has perfected. I put on my snowmobile boots, parka, toque, mittens and scarf and, accompanied by the family pooch, headed out towards the barnyard.

Stepping out into that bitter air I nearly lost my breath.  Soon I realized it was much worse then I’d realized.  A pinch of dread gripped my stomach.  Boots, our yellow Lab, stayed close, stopping often and looking back as if to say, “you coming?”  It seemed to take forever to reach the barnyard, a distance of oh, 8 car lengths.  A distance I’d walked many times, nearly every day of my life.

Bunching my scarf up against my face and thrusting my shoulders forward, we trudged  through the snow.  I could make out a light in the distance and I assumed Dad was in one of the cow barns.

my Dad, Lloyd

my Dad, Lloyd

As we got closer, I heard a strange noise. The wind was whipping at me, making biting attempts at my face, while the dog pressed his flanks to me as if to press me forward.

As we neared the barn entrance, I heard that sound again.

A high-pitched whirring.

What the ?

Battling the winds, I braced my shoulder against the ancient door and gave it a shove with everything I had. It moved. Barely. But enough that me and the dog could squeeze through.

I stepped into the warmth of the barn to find Dad there, kneeling in the straw.  Hearing that weird whirring sound again, I finally figured out what it was: a hair dryer.  A cow stood just behind him, watching as he calmly defrosted the ears of a calf who’d been born head first into the snow.  She licked her baby as he cooed comforting words, gently blowing warm air all over the shivering tyke.  The light of the barn shone down on us and Dad gave me that shy grin I knew so well.

“Well if you’re gonna stand there you might as well be useful.” And, with that, he handed me some towels.  I moved a little too quickly and the new mother stepped forward, unsure of my intentions. Dad put his hand up to steady her.. and me.. and with a “shhh … it’s OK now, we’re just here to help.”  I waited …then slowly moved into place, joining him in the straw.

A few moments passed before he stopped and said softly, “You know it was a stable like this where the little Christ child was born. There was no room in the inn and guess where they had to make their home? Out in the barn with the cows and other animals. And no one ever talks about them, how they provided the heat and how they helped make sure He wasn’t cold.”

My Dad.  The man who tended to the animals and who kept us all safe and cozy.  The man who worked the farm every day of his life;  the man who tidied up and went to church to appease my mother but really .. . he already knew God.

He found Him where he was.

No Christmas Eve has ever impacted me like that one did.

* * *

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

Categories: Animals, Faith, Life, Relationships, Seasons, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

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32 thoughts on “Finding faith in the straw

  1. Oh my goodness, MJ. I need a LOVE button for this post: “like” isn’t strong enough! I finished reading your post with tears streaming. What a wonderful, wonderful story! Thank you for sharing it with us. Such a special moment for you, and I know you’ve relived that evening in the barn with your Dad over and over again.

  2. yourothermotherhere

    I was raised on a dairy farm and the barn is nice and warm in the winter, I think more than people who’ve never been in one realize.

  3. I loved this the first time I read it and it still brings a tear to my eye. Thank you MJ.

  4. growing up on a farm as well, this stirs some rich memories. you are a wealthy lady!

  5. Wealthy, indeed. You are rooted and well grounded under your straw.

  6. How beautiful, MJ. And what a precious memory! Merry Christmas to you and your family–and big hugs too! Stay warm, my friend!

  7. Simply wonderful! Love, love, LOVE!

  8. I love this story MJ!

  9. I’m grinning from ear to ear! What a beautiful memory!

  10. cooper

    Great xmas story. That’s one of those “Most Unforgettable” things one would find in Reader’s Digest or Guideposts….

  11. This is one of the most beautiful Christmas stories I’ve ever read. Thanks, MJ!

  12. Your dad sounds like an amazing soul. What a cool memory to carry with you.

  13. Very beautiful! Most of the best life lessons are found in nature, I think. What a perfect story to share…I must have missed it when it was originally posted. Glad I caught it this time! It’s easy to see the source of some of your wisdom. Blessings! ~ Sheila

  14. This post definitely tugged at my heartstrings. Your dad passed down such a rich legacy of love and mercy. Thank you for sharing this story with us, MJ. It was a timely reminder of the real meaning of Christmas.

  15. What a wonderful man your dad was! What a beautiful story!

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