A Single Grapefruit

After marrying Taylor, I quickly learned that food was a big part of ranch life. Not so much cooking and eating, but being prepared to cook. We would often have work crews to feed and that typically took place at odd hours. Planning meals that could be made ahead of time and be ready to serve at a moment’s notice was a necessity. I’ll never forget bringing burritos out for lunch one day as a newlywed. The men who had been working hard since sunup sat down to eat them, kindly thanking me for the meal when Taylor came over, took one bite and exclaimed, “These are cold!” Similar experiences happened with a bag of chips that had gone rancid and more than one casserole I had seasoned with a heavy hand, men politely eating what I had prepared until Taylor confirmed that it was indeed gross.

My skills in the kitchen did improve as it seemed I was always needing to throw together a meal. What improved even more was my organization when it came to keeping our pantry and deep freeze stocked. Living outside of town can be difficult when you are a 30 minute drive from the nearest restaurant or grocery store. It is even more difficult when those establishments all close by 9pm. It was not unusual for Taylor to give me a call around 7pm when he was heading home and back in service to let me know that he would need to feed a work crew the next day or that a friend was driving through who would be staying with us and to have something good ready for dinner.

I honestly never minded these last minute requests as the company was always welcome. I enjoyed trying new recipes that I wouldn’t normally make for just the two of us. I enjoyed making a shopping list, trekking through Sam’s Club with a full cart and meal prepping until the freezer was full and ready for the unexpected. Taylor was the type of person who thrived off the unexpected and I am the type who thrives by being prepared for it.

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.”

Romans 12:13-16

The other day I was standing in line at the express checkout of the grocery story with my girls which is a rare occurrence for me to be in a 10 items or less lane with children in tow. The girls were talking non-stop and I was already mentally done for the day. I was wishing for a moment of peace when I noticed the woman in line in front of me. She appeared to be in her golden years and calmly held her grocery basket that contained two small boxes of rice or something like that and a plastic bag with a single grapefruit. As I analyzed the other shopper’s grocery haul, I tried to remember if I had ever purchased a single piece of produce before. I always buy a bagful of bananas or cucumbers even if half of them rot before being consumed. All I could think was that her life must be quiet. Her meals probably simple to prepare without little ones whining about vegetables being on their plate or asking over and over if they can have dessert. All I could think was that I don’t ever want to be the lady in the grocery store with a single grapefruit in my basket.

God designed us for community. He designed us to need the whole grapefruit orchard. I don’t think it is a coincidence that some of Jesus’s best known miracles involve food and community. During his time on earth, the Lord showed us by example that celebrations and fellowship are just as important as healing the sick and the blind. I’ve been living in a season where my little family doesn’t even fill up a small dinner table but it is important to remember, especially with Mother’s Day right around the corner, that we have a community to celebrate with that is so much bigger than just the three of us. Designated calendar days for honoring mothers can be hard when you are missing your own, longing to be one, or mourning a loss as a mother. I think that’s why it is important to focus on all the relationships we do have, offering hospitality to others and celebrating that God has promised us eternal community in Heaven to those who accept the invitation. If greeting card holidays are triggering in any way, look to the people you are blessed to have in your life, the ones we mourn and rejoice with, and remember that you are not alone.

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2023, M. Marley, LLC.

Personal Belongings

Walking on the beach in Santa Barbara,CA in a trusty pair of cowboy boots

My late-husband, Taylor, was a rancher who worked outside almost everyday performing manual labor of some sort depending on the season and the chores to be done. His footwear of choice was whatever pair of square toe boots were stocked at the local feed store whenever he was in need of a new pair, which was often. I was always amazed at how quickly he would wear out a pair and, I think, even took some pride in those visible signs of his hard work. When necessary, Taylor would wear a pair of nice dress boots or loafers, but not without complaint, and didn’t see the need to take up closet space with any other type of shoe.

Taylor did not have much of a need for tennis shoes beyond his days of college intramural basketball and they were an item he could never keep up with when he did wear them. I must digress for a moment because I know Taylor would like me to take this opportunity to interject that senior year his intramural basketball team, “The White Legs,” composed of his ranch management classmates that never went in the sun without jeans on, won the Texas Christian University Intramural championship that year. Also not one to replace workout clothes, he played in t-shirts and what I would assume were the same shorts and tennis shoes he’d had since high school.

Not long before we married, we went to Ruidoso for the wedding of our dear friends. We made the drive from Roswell and were going over the weekend plan when Taylor remembered that he was golfing with the other groomsmen the next day and didn’t have anything to wear. We made a detour to the local Walmart and picked up the one pair of shoes they had in his size that would work on the golf course that weekend. They were the ugliest pair of white men’s tennis shoes. We laughed about the “dad shoes” he was going to sport the next day, but I wasn’t laughing when he thought they were really comfortable and would choose to wear them whenever he wasn’t working. I bought him several pairs of better looking tennis shoes throughout the years, but they would never last more than a couple months. Taylor and I would go somewhere for the weekend or he would take a hunting trip and the more stylish pairs would never make it home as my husband wasn’t used to packing tennis shoes in his bag.

“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”

1 Peter 3:8

Somehow he never forgot those white ones. Eventually they weren’t even white anymore. They became splattered with a terracotta concrete stain we used on the front porch patio of our first home–they survived the moving purge and made it to the new house. Over the last three years since Taylor passed, I have slowly cleaned out and gotten rid of things, but those ugly white tennis shoes still have a place in our once shared closet. I was recently talking with a group of other young widowed people and, without telling their stories, it turns out we all had some item that belonged to our loved one that we hated them wearing or using, but now that they were gone we just couldn’t part with. We all shared these sweet memories and questionable wardrobe choices through a lot of tears and laughter.

If there’s one benefit of being a widow, it’s that I don’t have to pick up after another adult these days. This might have something to do with the fact that I have an especially low tolerance when it comes to cleaning up after my male coworkers or family members (sorry, guys). But trust me, you will miss the dirty clothes left on the floor and having to wipe someone else’s toothpaste from the sink when they are no longer here to leave the mess. You will miss shaking your head at their outfit choices. You will miss all the things you struggled to be sympathetic, compassionate and humble toward. 1 Peter 3:8 instructs us to be of one mind. This seems like an impossible request these days, but we can trust that God’s instructions are always for our benefit and we are more than capable of finding a like-minded harmony and loving one another.

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2023, M. Marley, LLC

Rest From Distress

Taylor taking a quick break on a bag of fleece during shearing.

Spring is a busy time. It seems that no matter what season of life people are in, the spring season of the year is consistently bustling for everyone. It is the figurative race to the finish line. Only when we get to the finish line, the busyness usually starts all over again. For those who are seeing their friends’ posts from spring break trips and feeling envious of the days off, you are not alone. If you were fortunate enough to get a spring break and are returning to your normal routine feeling less rested than before your days off, you are perfectly normal.

When I first married Taylor, spring always meant it was time for shearing. It was a season of long days working through exhaustion, but lots of fellowship as we would break bread daily with the shearing crews, extra hands and family who came to help out. As someone who was minimally helpful when it came the actual labor, I can also say it was a lot of fun. In our area of eastern New Mexico, it was common for ranches to run large herds of sheep. Shearing would begin with a roundup to bring the herd into the shearing barn. If you have ever worked or been around sheep, you will quickly understand why the Bible compares humans to them so often. We would be lost without our shepherd. It makes me laugh to think of God watching us make mistake after mistake, needing to widen his circle to bring us back to safety, and at the end of the day still wanting us as part of his herd.

As other ranches in the area began to get out of the sheep business, we also started downsizing our herd until we eventually had our last shearing a few years ago. When neighbors had the same vested interest, there was support to fight against our common enemy, the coyote. With ranches changing hands or passing to the next generation, the sheep population began to dwindle and predator control became a solo job rather than a community effort. The rancher had an identifiable enemy, but many were left lacking the backup to fight it.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

1 John 4:4

In any battle, it is important to not only train and prepare yourself, but to also know your enemy. the Bible clearly identifies our enemy and tells us that Satan is a wolf trying to attack God’s flock. He is the adversary that comes to steal, kill and destroy. Satan is the enemy that brings out our anxiety, jealousy, self-doubt, and every other ugly thought or emotion human beings are capable of. After acknowledging the power of our enemy and understanding his tactics, we can now focus on our game plan.

1 Peter 5:7 invites the Christian to “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” God personally invites all of us who are weary to call on Him because he cares about us as well as the things that are troubling us. We can be confident in this call to cast our anxiety on the Lord because we know that he is greater than the enemy. If you are looking at your week ahead and finding yourself facing stress and exhaustion, take refuge in the Lord. You may not be able to relax on the beach this week, but you can still rest assured by giving your anxieties to God and relaxing in His presence.

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2023, M. Marley, LLC.