Beauty

Thoughts on Returning Home

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I’ve been here in New Jersey, having cups of morning mushroom coffee barefoot with the Black Eyed Susans in my parents’ backyard while Steven holds down the fort back home at the farm. I so wish he could be here with me and the girls, because life is generally just more wonderful and exciting with him around, and my girls sorely miss their daddy.

But we decided to come anyway, because we haven’t been here in three years, and I wanted my youngest little gal to make some real, lasting memories in this place like her older sister has. I wanted her to know more about her heritage and have a visual of where her NJ grandparents live when they’re not visiting us. And, of course, to meet all of Mimi’s crazy, pampered cats - Brandon, Suzannah, and Melanie.

Returning to your childhood home is surreal. It can be great, and it can be weird. I notice how some things never change - like the collage frame of my yearly school photos from K-12 and the macrame plant hangers that have been in the living room window my whole life.

Yet, so much has changed. I’m not even close to the same person who took her first steps in this backyard, who played badminton under the oak trees so high you can no longer see the tops. At times, I feel like I can reach out and touch scenes from childhood and adolescence in this grass and driveway and along these neighborhood streets - a first bee sting on my foot at my best friend’s house, a first time jumping off the high dive, a first kiss in Summerhill Park. But really? Even though those things are all a part of me, they happened so long ago.

It’s okay. I know who I am now. I also know distinctly who I’m not. This trip has been low-key and freeing to know I can go back to my childhood home now and not expect it to fill me or complete me as a human being.

This quote by one of my favorite authors has inspired me so much over the last few years, and it continues to gently prod me as I face each day:

“The world will tell you how to live, if you let it. Don’t let it. Take up your space. Raise your voice. Sing your song. This is your chance to make or remake a life that thrills you.”
~ Shauna Niequist

Yes, I’m so thankful for the girl who began here on this New Jersey soil and for the faith and love of learning, beauty and simplicity it rooted in me.

And I’m thankful for where life has led me away, by way of Nashville and Houston and Dallas and back to Tennessee again to Kindred Farm where I belong. Where, finally, I feel completely and fully myself.

Summer Favorites

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I was inspired by this post to share some of my summer favorites with you. I love hearing what other people are into right now, so share yours too, pretty please!

Here are a few of my summer favorites:

  • Rainbow colored zinnias. Yes, I’ve taken approximately 8,000 photos of my zinnias this summer. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

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  • High rise button-front denim shorts from GAP. Yay for 40% off sales so I can replenish my jorts stash after my old ones were surrendered to “farm clothes” status. I got these button-front denim shorts in the vintage black color, and I’ve worn them almost every day. They’re perfect for tucking in shirts and are just the right length for me with the cuffs unrolled.

  • Birkenstock Gizeh EVA sandals. These pretty much haven’t left my feet since I got them in early spring. They cost less than regular Birkenstocks but are still great, thick quality. Mine are metallic bronze, and they’re waterproof but nice enough to wear with skirts. I slip them on to go swimming, or to check on things on the farm when I don’t need boots, or just whenever. They’re the only thing I wear besides my red Saltwater sandals.

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  • Harvesting calendula to make my own calendula salve. This is the one thing that helps my dry, cracked farmer hands. These bright orange blooms are currently bathing in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and will be made into salves at the end of summer.

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  • Against All Grain Almond Flour Zucchini Bread. For when you harvest zucchini as big as your leg (oops!). I added some Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, and everyone in our family loved it.

  • The perfect summer smoothie = bananas + peanut butter + almond or coconut milk + hemp seeds + stevia (or honey or maple syrup) + kale + 1 drop doTerra peppermint oil. The secret is making sure the frozen fruit sticks out a little above the liquid - this makes for the best consistency. I can’t think of anything that tastes more nourishing after I’ve been working outside all morning. My girls love it too, with a little twist…I sprinkle some Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips in the bottom of the glass for when they get to the bottom. :)

  • Blasting my “Top 40 Songs of All Time” playlist while singing at the top of my lungs and driving country roads. “Galileo” by Indigo Girls, “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips, and “Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay are a few on my list. Have you ever tried to whittle down your favorite songs into a Top 40? It’s so hard but so delightfully nostalgic.

  • Swimming in waterfalls + lakes + creeks more than pools. Rock Island State Park has been a favorite this summer with its multiple waterfalls, rock jumping, and magical swimming holes. P.S. It’s made our lives so much easier to have a swim bag packed at all times, for either pool or state park. It always has shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, towels, clean swimsuits, bug spray, sunscreen, goggles, sunglasses, and a wet bag to store wet things until we get home. Gamechanger.

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There’s still so much summer left - let’s soak it up while we can without trying to look ahead too quickly to fall. What are some of your summer favorites?

The Liberation of Lake Life (A Body Image Manifesto) - For The Art of Simple

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“So, as I put on my swimsuit in front of the full-length mirror in our room on the houseboat, I decided to choose life and freedom, not just as an example for my daughters, but for myself. I decided that to really soak up the moments and gift of this trip, I was going to have to leave behind the self-absorption and appreciate my body for the strength and beauty that it is.

I was indeed going to walk around for four days in nothing but a swimsuit and believe that it’s okay not to look like someone else; it’s okay to look like me.” Continue reading….

In my latest post for The Art of Simple, I’m sharing something deeply personal: my struggles with body image. This was a tough one for me to share, but I know I’m not alone! As summer approaches, let’s encourage one another as we live in freedom and embrace our bodies as they are, with all their beauty and scars.

Have you ever struggled with this? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

11 Things I Learned This Spring

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Have you tried to actually sit down and reflect on what you’ve been learning? It’s not that easy. We go through life so much on autopilot without taking time to reflect. So I’m loving this new practice, joining in with author Emily P. Freeman to look back on each season and notice and name some of the things I’ve learned. Join me - I’d love to know what you’ve been learning too…

1) How to slow down time.

Oh, don’t we all wish we actually could? But I’ve learned a little secret while writing this post for Art of Simple that’s become my new daily motto: Today, I will log more moments in the present so time feels longer. The more moments we log in the present, time actually does feel slower - and more full of the good stuff. I still look at my two growing daughters (5 and almost 9) and see that “the little years” are mostly behind us (lump in throat), but I honestly don’t feel time slipping out of my hands. While we’re entering a new stage, I know I squeezed every drop of life I could out of the previous one.

2) “God will not let you miss your own future.”

HUGE exhale. This line is from Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing podcast (episode 76), and it’s one of the best things I heard this spring. It really is such a relief to know I’m not responsible for it all. I say I believe that, but to live like it’s true is another thing entirely. I’m working on doing more of that.

3) I prolly shoulda started farming at age 25 instead of 39. #ohmyachingbones

But seriously, I’ve learned this spring that it’s just gonna hurt and be uncomfortable, and the more I have that expectation, it’s a wee bit less hard. My husband Steven always says, “High expectations lead to much frustration.” So I’m setting the expectation: there’s gonna be mud caked under my nails. I’m going to feel gross and need to take like 10 showers a week. And to save myself some frustration later, listen to my gut next time and always add at least 2 irrigation drip lines to a new row, no matter what anyone says. There were some definite choice words involved in pulling up those rows and re-doing them. Oy.

4) It’s important to keep a childlike wonder, no matter my age.

Every single time a new seed sprouts, I have the same feeling of awe: it actually worked!

And a new discovery: apparently birds really like to nest in ferns. This may be old news to many of you, but this was my first time seeing it when I took down my hanging fern to water it, and I literally gasped.

The other evening, I was walking back to the produce washing station after feeding the chickens, and this sight of our barn with the almost-full moon stopped me in my tracks (look closely for my oldest daughter in the rye grass). The best part is that I texted it to my husband, and he said he didn’t even know where that was at first - sometimes we see our own surroundings with fresh eyes.

5) It’s good to accept others’ help.

A few weeks ago, on an ordinary weekday, my girls ended up staying the night at my close friend’s house. It was totally impromptu, and Steven and I found ourselves kid-free for the night at our own house, which we’ve actually never done. He finished his chef work in the barn kitchen, and at 8:30pm, we went on a random but much-needed date to one of our favorite local restaurants, Vanh Dy’s, in our little nearby downtown of Columbia, TN. It’s shocking how hard it was at first to accept that help, that another mom was willingly watching my kids all night while we got to have a date, but I realized how freeing it is to accept people’s help when they offer. It actually blesses others to let them help you - it’s done the same for me when I’ve been on the other end.

6) Sometimes God removes the storm, and sometimes He’s with us in the midst of it.

Photo by KT Sura

Photo by KT Sura

On the day of our spring Kindred Dinner for 150 people, it was predicting storms all evening. This was our 5th farm dinner, and we’ve never had to go with our rain plan. I was so worried, y’all. These people bought tickets and were expecting an amazing, memorable experience. In my shallow vision, I thought our best-case scenario was that it wouldn’t rain, but instead God wanted to show me - and so many others - how beautiful and intimate and nourishing breaking bread together can be in the very midst of a storm. I’ll hold this experience close for a long time.

More thoughts and photos on our Kindred Farm Instagram. My favorite part of this photo is all the umbrellas leaned against the side of the greenhouse!

7) Intermittent fasting is how I should eat most of the time.

I started the practice of intermittent fasting in January, thinking it would be temporary. It feels so good and freeing that I think this is a new longterm pattern in my life. I wrote all about it here.

8) But feasting is just as important.

I’ve learned that feasting is so much more meaningful when you’re not doing it all the time. We were made for both feasting and fasting - there’s a time to reign things in and go without, and there’s a time to let go and enjoy. One of the best things about a collaborative feast is that each person gets to bring something - so be sure and let others help even if you’re hosting. Here are some amazing feasts we’ve had this spring:

Easter Sunday with dear friends and alllll the colorful spring goodness...

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Then, a heavenly little outdoor charcuterie board feast with friends on a Saturday evening, where we just cut up a bunch of pretty things and put them on cutting boards (no cooking!). Add some wine and sparkling water, and you have what feels like a very fancy dinner with no cooking. Bonus for fun patterned tablecloths I got over a decade ago in India, twinkle lights overhead and fireflies all around.

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And here’s something different…we put a little propane tabletop grill in the middle of our dining room table and had some friends over for a Korean ssam (lettuce wraps) feast where everyone got to grill their own meat and assemble unique, colorful lettuce wraps to their heart’s desire. All the lettuce, cabbage, Asian greens, and radishes were harvested from our farm a few minutes before. And I’m pretty sure we used every plate, bowl, and pair of chopsticks in the house.

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9. I still know every word to all the classic NKOTB songs.

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My 11-year-old self would have completely passed out to be this close to Joe McIntyre and New Kids on the Block, but 30 years later it was just a lighthearted blast of a night with my best college gals (and New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Salt N Pepa and Naughty By Nature!). We sang every word to all the classic NKOTB songs like “Please Don’t Go, Girl” (this was played at every middle school sleepover), “Tonight”, and of course, “Hangin’ Tough.” I reminisced about recording mixtapes from the radio, Aqua Net hairspray, claw bangs, BOP Magazine, posters in my locker and plastered on my bedroom wall, and Electric Youth Perfume.


10. It’s best to relax a little and give my girls space to learn some things on their own - this works better than pushing.

After playing Monopoly on and off for several days, my oldest daughter is a master at mental math and being the banker, and my 5-year-old just learned how to ride on two wheels on her own at my friend’s house in her gravel driveway. I so often try to control and feel like everything is my responsibility. Letting go - and seeing that everything is okay - helps me grow so much in this area. I’m also learning to let them help more, even if it’s not how I would have done that particular thing. Plus, I don’t want to miss out on hilarious sights like these:

Well, that’s ONE way to seed a new row of beets…

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11. My husband is an incredible podcast host.

I knew he would be. This man is one of the most compelling communicators I know, with an ability to cast a vision and share stories like none other. Check out Steven’s brand new The Korean Farmer podcast here or on iTunes, where he shares meaningful conversations about life, business, food, and everything in between. We record right here on Kindred Farm in our barn studio…and maybe we’ll be doing an episode together in the near future! :)

Photo: KT Sura

Photo: KT Sura

YOUR TURN! What are some things you learned this spring? I’d love to hear!

Nostalgic Smells of Childhood: Lilac

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If only you could scratch-and-sniff this photo. Our white lilac bush in our yard has been blooming, and it’s bowling me over with its scent, taking me straight to the backyard where I grew up, in Madison, NJ. Except our lilac bush was actually lilac and bloomed in May, right around Mother’s Day. Tucked away in old photo albums in my parents’ living room closet are years and years of Mother’s Day photos in front of that tree. I vividly remember one photo from my preteen years with my older brother wearing a white suit, my mother, of course, in a striking dress with fanciful hat and strappy high heels, and me in some kind of flowery getup with a square lacy collar and puffed sleeves (“Life isn’t worth living without puffed sleeves!” ~ Anne of Green Gables).

Now I can’t even smell a lilac without being transported to standing in that cushy grass inside my childhood self.

What are some smells of your childhood that take you back to the best memories? If you have children, what are some of the scents you think they’ll remember?

My Good List - For The Art of Simple

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A few months ago, I got to share My Good List for the first time on the Simple podcast. It was fun to revisit that idea and ponder what’s making my life better right now in this new season. Here are 4 things—an item, a habit, a work of art, and a philosophy—that are currently life-giving to me.

What’s on your Good List right now?

A Day In The Life - For The Art of Simple

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In my latest post for The Art of Simple, I’m sharing a typical day in my life right now as a homeschooling mom, wife of a chef, writer/creative, and organic produce farmer. If you’ve never taken the time to record a typical day in your life, I highly recommend it - it was quite an eye-opening experience!

“Recording my day in the life helped me recognize that slowing down time is important to me, as much as it’s in my control. The more I pay attention in the little moments, the more I’m able to pull back the reins on time. So, after I wrote this, I came up with a new daily motto that I’d like to share with you…”

Continue reading…

A Woman Who Changed My Life

"This is my work, my mission."

The words flowed from her mouth boldly yet humbly. Over the course of 10 days in the village of Ongole, India, I watched Prabhukumari clean her home, cook from scratch for multiple people, mother two young boys, take care of her duties as a pastor's wife, and host a guest from America (me) that spoke a foreign language, all with joy and a peaceful smile.

Today is International Women's Day, and as my Instagram feed fills with photos of women from all over the world, my mind is occupied with memories of this woman who changed me forever, whose strong and gentle hands I can still feel on my back.

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Fourteen years ago in January, I did one of the scariest and bravest things I've ever done - boarded a plane alone, with a back injury from falling down the stairs a few days earlier, and flew 21 hours across the world to Chennai, India. There, I waited to be retrieved by Prabhukumari and her husband Pastor Samson, both of whom I had only ever seen in photos. I had no cell phone or way to reach them. All I had were desperate prayers whispered under my breath, “Please let them be here…please let them be here...”

After I finally spotted Samson in a crowd holding a sign with my name on it, we then traveled another 5 hours by train to the town of Ongole, which was my headquarters for the next 10 days working with the organization Peace Gospel, visiting children in an orphanage, embracing the culture, helping tsunami victims, and basically being stretched in ways I never knew possible.

When I think about that trip now, I can't believe I did it. I barely got on the plane. I remember crying the night before on the phone to Steven (who was my fiancé at the time), declaring that I was too scared to go. But the ticket was bought, and I went. Turns out it was one of those watershed experiences - I was humbled every single day, seeing firsthand just how far-reaching the love of God is.

One day, we traveled further to a tiny, remote Indian village near the coast, where the tsunami had just taken the lives of many of the men who were out fishing the day. We delivered food, Bibles, and clothes to the widows.  Their vibrant smiles, their colorful garments, the way they clung to their babies, their shyness mingled with strength...I couldn't get enough of these stunning women.

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During my last few hours in India, Prabhukumari, Pastor Samson, and I spent several late night hours in a hotel room watching Indian television and resting before it was time for them to take me to the airport. I was wearing my sari, lying face-down on the hotel bed with my head resting sideways on my elbows, drowsily watching TV. 

Then, without a word, Prabhukumari reached out and touched my dirty, frizzy hair, and ran it through her fingers. She placed her hand on my back and ran it up and down over and over gently, sending shivers throughout my body. She must have done this for a solid hour. 

At first it felt strange to be accepting so much physical touch from someone I was supposed to be serving. It felt shocking, even. But my injured back began to feel like it was healing, and tension and tiredness from this scary, wonderful trip began to leave my body. Her touch was absolutely the hand of God to me in that moment, and I didn't want to leave her. At the same time I was tired, homesick and desperate for home. From this point on, a part of my heart would be left among these people in India. And she would always be my sister.

Today as a mother and a wife, I think of Prabhu's words often.  On days (all too often) when I'm anxious and grumbling and overwhelmed by everything that's on my plate, I hear her voice saying, "This is my work, my mission," and I stop in my tracks.  I feel her love and encouragement radiating across the oceans that separate us. If she can do hard things with joy and a smile, certainly so can I. 

We’re all a part of this tribe of women that traverses the globe. Who are some women - where you live or abroad - that have inspired you?

And The Two Shall Become One, Separately - For The Art of Simple

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Here’s my latest post for The Art of Simple - And The Two Shall Become One, Separately. For some reason, this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. Maybe because the topic is so important to me, it’s a crazy story to weave together, and our marriage really has been hard-won through a lot of challenges and trials. But I can honestly say today I couldn’t be more thankful to be a on a team with the Steven Bailey and also for the ways we are wired completely differently.

People often ask how we’ve been able to handle working together in addition to the challenges marriage brings. But the practices that help us work together successfully are the same ones that bring freedom to our marriage—we strive to be a team, and we celebrate and respect our separateness within the team.

Keep reading…

I’d love to know your thoughts!

Moments Of Connection - For The Peaceful Press

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“Those things you learn without joy, you will forget easily.” (Finnish proverb)

After seeing this quote recently on Instagram, I decided to rephrase it a little:

“Those things you learn with joy, you will remember.”

Ahhh, there you go. Wrapped up in that sentence is exactly what I deeply desire for our little homeschool, which my two daughters (5 and 8) have decided to name “River Lake Sunshine.” Who wouldn’t want to enroll there, right?

Read the rest in my guest post for The Peaceful Press, who creates beautiful and thoughtful learning resources that our family loves.