It was fall and the start of my freshmen year of High School. Excitement filled me literally from head to toe as I zipped up my new, blue, corduroy FFA jacket perfectly embroidered in gold with my full name. This was a big night calling for “official dress” which meant no blue jeans! Mom and I had gone shopping to find the appropriate length of black skirts; one went all the way down to my ankles and the other just past my knees. Tonight I was wearing the knee-length one. We also purchased black hose, professional black dress shoes and a crisp white button up blouse. For years I had dreamed of putting on my “official dress” and rushing out to win some contest or represent the local chapter as an officer just like my dad, older sister, brother-in-law, older brother and older (by one year) best friend had done before me. I had waited and waited….and waited while sitting through countless FFA banquets, speeches and waving at them in parades. It was the fall of 1998 and it was my turn.
The older classmen, as tradition calls for, dipped our hands in John Deere green paint and we recited the FFA Creed … “I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds…” and just like that I was a Green-Hand in the Salisbury FFA Chapter. Secretly I hoped the paint would never ever fade.
(That’s my sis as a MO State FFA Officer in the second row far left!)
My grandpa surprised me with my dream SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) project when he pulled into the drive way with the five prettiest Hereford heifers you have ever seen! I had them eating out of my hands in no time and my dad helped me keep track of everything in my Record Book. I had so much fun learning about entrepreneurship. I also teased dad about how Mary, Laura, Carrie, Grace and Nellie (recognize those names?) stood out beautifully against my dad’s Black Angus cows. Remind me later to tell you about how God answered my prayers twice when Dad bred them to his Angus bulls! My dad couldn’t believe it!
(Here’s a hint! Hee hee!)
When my dad was in the FFA as a high school kid, the rules were different and their blue and gold corduroy jackets were seen as perfectly warm attire to do chores in! That was also back before women could join the organization….
Over the course of the next 4 years I was blessed with many opportunities to compete in contests including Livestock Judging, Sales, and Public Speaking. I zipped up my jacket to give a speech about the joys and trials of raising sheep to the MO Sheep Producers judges. One year later I zipped up my jacket and stood before the MO Farm Bureau Conference to speak on the importance of the Farm Bureau and how it had benefited our family farm.
I packed my jacket when our chapter went on float trips, traveled to both Kansas City and Louisville for the National Conventions (where I got to hear Danny Glover speak), and when I toured with the MO Agri-business Academy. Through these travels I met kids in other blue and gold jackets from across the country that I would have never known existed let alone that they had a common background or interests as me. All through High School you could find me in the Ag Department before, during and after school as well as on most weekends! The athletes were lifting weights and I was carrying feed buckets. They were memorizing plays while I was memorizing speeches. We both had important goals in mind; and we both knew it would take hard work and discipline to accomplish them.
My senior year had come and it was time to try for a State FFA Office to represent our Area. Once I knew I was on the team I would apply for Mizzou and study Ag Education. I had dreamed about becoming a State Officer since I was 8 years old.
(The only reason I share this is to encourage another young dreamer.)
This interview called for “Official Dress” of course so I zipped up my faithful blue and gold corduroy jacket, prayed with my parents and headed off with my Advisor for what was sure to be the biggest night of my life to that point.
However… God had a different plan in mind. I soon learned that HIS plans are not always ours and His ways are actually higher than ours.
When they announced the girl’s name next to me as the new State FFA Officer from our area I was beyond devastated. We hugged, I said a brief “congratulations” and faked the best smile I could and then with a knowing look my advisor quickly rounded up our crew and we headed to the local McDonalds for milk shakes. I couldn’t go inside though…I couldn’t move. My heart was broken. Mr. Scheiderer sat with me in the car while I cried and cried and he cried with me. He told me how proud of me he was with such sincerity in his eyes. I then called my sister knowing that she had been praying for me. When I told her through tears that I had let everyone down, she lovingly assured me that I did my best and that God simply had other plans that are good and perfect. She reminded me of my favorite verse,
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)
It meant that through His strength I could get through this moment, this change in direction and this sudden uncertainty of the future.
God did give me strength and it wasn’t long before HIS plans became clear. He showed me that Ag Ed wasn’t the plan for me and gave me a peace and a place to call home at HLG-U where I studied Communications (which I use daily with my job) and met the love of my life, Ryan. I had been so focused on MY plans that I didn’t stop to see if they aligned with HIS plans. This trial taught me humility, gratitude and perseverance.
I put on my “Official Dress” one last time for our Spring FFA Banquet just before graduation and the Lord gave me the words of a popular Michael W. Smith song to include in my farewell speech. It encourages us to focus on the time God has given us to “drink of the deep and unlock the mysteries of all we can be.” We may not know His plans, but we can always trust they are good and perfect. Another favorite verse comes from Jeremiah 29:11…
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.”
That blue and gold jacket which now hangs proudly in my parents front closet means true, life-long friends. It also means an Ag Advisor who believes in his or her students and parents who sacrifice so that their children can be at every activity and cheer loudly with each achievement. It represents to me the many members of the community who attend the FFA breakfasts and football game BBQ’s, provide scholarships from their businesses, serve as “mock judges” when students practice for contests and faithfully purchase fruit baskets so that the local chapter can travel to the conventions.
(Ryan’s cousin Michael and his fellow team from the Silex, MO FFA Chapter)
FFA jackets then and today represent hard work, respect, leadership and first and foremost, an appreciation of agriculture.
…”I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds…”
(Written by guest blogger and our youngest daughter, Kara Edwards)