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Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. That may seem strange as the events surrounding Christmas and Easter are far more impactful eternity-wise. Yet, I just so greatly appreciate the fact that there’s a day for focusing on gratitude.

And, while I’m grateful many choose to intentionally give thanks on Thanksgiving Day, sometimes I wonder what it would look like if we chose to live with gratitude. As I reflect on this year, it just seems like there’s increasing divisiveness, uncertainty, fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. Life is so short and not guaranteed. Relationships are so important and can be fragile.

If we chose to live with gratitude, how would it change us and our perspectives? Would we be less prone to complain and get discouraged when things go wrong? Would we be less likely to argue and more likely to extend kindness and grace to others? How would it impact the divisiveness we see in our country, our communities, our families?

Gratitude can produce joy. I think that’s something we all could use more of! It can allow us to find joy in everyday moments and also share joy with others.

So how do we choose to live with gratitude? A start can be to intentionally seek at least one thing each day for which to be thankful. At first it can be difficult and perhaps awkward. For some, it’s hard to even think of one thing. Perhaps a starting point can be gratitude for one’s home, bed, food, vehicle, job, friend or family member, etc.? Over time of practicing this, one’s perspective can change to even finding gratitude as things go wrong. For example, I drive a lot and had several vehicle problems this past year. For the situations when I chose to find gratitude instead of discouragement (such as thanking God that He allowed it to happen where it did instead of elsewhere or thanking God for the times a farmer was in the area to help me), it helped my mindset and provided peace instead of being upset. I’m not good about this all the time, but it sure helps my mindset and increases my perspective when I choose gratitude even when things go wrong. Perhaps others can relate to this?

Ultimately, my hope is that we can experience more joy each day in the everyday moments as we intentionally seek to live with gratitude. And, that this joy can be extended via kindness, grace, compassion to others around us. Wishing everyone a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Food Resources: For your Thanksgiving meal check out https://go.unl.edu/turkey-time for turkey preparation, food safety questions, recipes, and health/wellness topics!

Returning to the Farm: This workshop series is being taught for families that have the next generation of farmers and ranchers coming back to their operations. The workshop helps multi-generations traverse the challenges of successfully succeeding the operation to the next generation. The in-person session will be held Dec. 10-11 in Columbus with follow-up virtual sessions on Jan. 13 and Feb. 10. More information and registration at: https://cap.unl.edu/rtf21.

Ag Budget Calculator (ABC) User’s Workshops (For New and Advanced Users): It’s important to estimate cost of production for our agricultural enterprises, but now with the volatile input and crop prices, it’s even more critical. Knowing your estimated cost of production can assist you in making important management decisions. Ag Budget Calculator (ABC) is one tool to help you enter this information for your ag enterprises. There’s guided virtual workshops from now through February that allow you to be in the ABC program entering your data as instructors demonstrate how to use it and answer your questions. More info. and registration at: https://cap.unl.edu/abc/training.

Reflections & Thanksgiving 2020

This article has been on my heart for several months. It’s reflections from a compilation of conversations. Honestly, it’s been a hard year at times for most, if not all people. Interweaving this with Thanksgiving, there’s perhaps a variety of thoughts, perspectives, and feelings as we approach the holiday. It may be tempting to want to skip it and perhaps be easier to complain than find gratitude or feel thankful!

The challenges with COVID, markets, livestock harvesting facilities, trade, weather impacts to crops, online schooling and virtual meetings, societal and family tensions and divisiveness, the election, and many businesses and farm operations hurting financially added much stress to 2020. (Insert a deep breath after reading all that!).

With these above-mentioned challenges come the feelings and realities experienced. I’m so blessed with individuals’ trust through conversations and the vulnerability in sharing…conversations around mental wellness, stress, family and financial struggles…

So many hurting. So many conversations involving hurt, anger, regret. Common threads have included ‘just wanting to be seen’, ‘be heard’, ‘be appreciated’, ‘be useful’.

We often don’t know what’s going on in others’ lives. If you are struggling right now, please know you’re not alone and there is ALWAYS hope and help! Please do reach out to someone. It would be wise for us all to program the following in our cell phones: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 and Rural Response Hotline: 800-464-0258.

This isn’t a direct quote but had recently read something along these lines: Why is it that we often wait till people’s funerals to share gratitude of how a person impacted us? Made me think.

For me, perhaps a blessing this year is a renewed realization of how quickly time passes and each day is not guaranteed. Been processing and praying through all this.

Who are the people who’ve positively impacted my life that I need to tell?
Who are the people in my life I tend to take for granted and don’t thank enough?
Who haven’t I connected with recently?
Who could benefit from intentional encouragement during life’s difficulties right now?

Perhaps questions others wish to consider?

We may never know how greatly a smile, kind words, a visit, a genuine ‘thank you’ can impact another person’s life, especially since we often don’t know the struggles others are experiencing. But these simple acts may just help someone in the midst of a dark or difficult time. They may also save a life.

Last November I mentioned there’s been a lot of research on gratitude. Harvard University shared, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.” Summarizing several studies I read, most would say finding a way to count one’s blessings or focusing on gratitude greatly improved a person’s sleep, health, attitude, focus, and relationships.

A simple way to start is to write out or send a text each day of 3-5 things for which you are grateful. If that’s hard, start with one! For example, what are the ordinary every day things we take for granted (ex. bed, food in pantry, vehicle, etc.)? I’ve found the written account helps me with remembering my blessings and is encouraging to re-read in the difficult times. And, over time, it becomes easier to find gratitude even in the things that go wrong! I’ve also found one of the best ways to help my heart when feeling down is to find a way to encourage someone else. Additional ideas for expressing gratitude, particularly for those with children, can be found at: https://go.unl.edu/q04v

My hope and prayer in writing this is that we seek kindness, seek connection, choose to more intentionally seek gratitude, and share with others how they’ve positively impacted our lives. Also hoping something shared here helps if you find yourself struggling today. Wishing everyone a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Food Resources: For your Thanksgiving meal check out https://food.unl.edu/article/thanksgiving-central for turkey preparation, food safety questions, recipes, and health/wellness topics!

JenREES 11-24-19

I’ve often thought about two words the past few months: Grief and Gratitude. It’s been a hard year for many with grief coming in the form of various losses. The stories I’ve been blessed to be entrusted with this year included losses in the form of livestock, land, fences, feed, finances, crops, homes, health, relationships, family members, pets, farms, jobs…

It’s important to take the time to grieve and acknowledge the losses while not getting stuck there. I think sometimes we want to push forward and avoid the mess of grief, but there’s healing in acknowledging it. At our Extension Fall Conference, we spent time talking through 2019 and the experiences we had as Extension faculty with boots on the ground serving people. While it was uncomfortable for many, there was healing in the discussion and sharing, in the tears and triumphs of helping others during a really difficult year. I would encourage us all to acknowledge losses we’ve experienced and ultimately keep talking with others instead of isolating.

Our keynote speaker at our conference was David Horsager who wrote the book The Trust Edge. One thing he asks his audiences, “What is the most endearing quality a person can have?” What do you think? Often people say kindness, compassion, generosity, being positive, humor, etc. His company does a great deal of research and they’ve found the most endearing quality is…Gratitude…sincere gratitude. According to Oxford’s Dictionary, gratitude means “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.

There’s been a lot of research on gratitude! Harvard University shared, “In positive give thanks.PNGpsychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.” Summarizing several studies I read, most would say finding a way to count one’s blessings or focusing on gratitude greatly improved a person’s sleep, health, attitude, focus, and relationships. Many of those studies didn’t involve individuals who struggled with mental wellness. However, one study in Indiana focused on 300 adults who suffered from anxiety and depression. The researchers wanted to see if focusing on gratitude could help with mental health concerns. Adults were split into three groups and each group also received counseling. One group wrote a letter of gratitude to someone each week (but wasn’t required to share it). Another group wrote down negative thoughts and experiences while the third group didn’t do any activity involving writing. Individuals who wrote the gratitude letters were found to have significantly improved mental health 4 and 12 weeks after starting the activity (in spite of only 23% actually sending the letters). The gratitude activity on top of receiving counseling resulted in better mental wellness for the individuals than counseling alone. Regardless of if one is in the midst of a difficult time or not, research ultimately shows the benefits of seeking gratitude!

Grief and Gratitude. With Thanksgiving this week, for what are you and I grateful? Perhaps there’s someone who came alongside you this year during a difficult time or someone who showed you an unexpected kindness that you wish to thank in some way? Perhaps you choose to make a list of things for which you’re thankful or jot a few things down each day? Perhaps you choose to write one letter or note to someone each week expressing thanks? Or perhaps your family starts a tradition of expressing gratitude in some way during Thanksgiving dinner? Additional ideas for expressing gratitude, particularly for those with children, can be found at: https://go.unl.edu/q04v. Here’s wishing everyone a blessed Thanksgiving!

UNL Thanksgiving Food Safety Resources:  https://go.unl.edu/ji8p
UNL Thanksgiving Food Preparation Tips: https://go.unl.edu/7rwi

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