Books

Be More Scrappy

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From the Urban Dictionary:

Scrappy:

Someone or something that appears dwarfed by a challenge, but more than compensates for seeming inadequacies through will, persistence and heart.

Have you read Chip Gaines’ book, Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff? I read it last year and expected a funny, lighthearted read. And it totally was. But it was so much more. What I didn’t expect was for it to completely change my life perspective. I didn’t realize this book would shake me awake out of fear, into freedom and bravery, and…scrappiness.

By “scrappy,” I don’t mean argumentative, or in a constant stage of being ready to punch someone in the face. I mean exactly what the above definition says, because “appearing dwarfed by a challenge” is the story of pretty much my entire life.

Time and again, I’ve shrunken down from challenges, or I’ve walked away from them altogether saying, “It’s just too hard.” I wasn’t good at hitting in softball? I’m done with that. I’m slow at running track? Bye bye. I even quit a job as a hostess at Houston’s Restaurant one summer during college because it was JUST TOO STINKIN’ HARD AND PEOPLE WERE YELLING IN MY FACE ALL NIGHT. After the final straw when a lady chewed me out during the busiest dinner rush one evening, I lied and told them I was going back to college sooner than I thought and then got a job folding clothes at Old Navy instead. True story.

After college I started to hone in on my gifts just a little bit, and I took initiative to go after my goals and dreams of working in the music industry, but I still struggled with being in leadership roles or pushing through hard times. I didn’t know then that God had already begun leading me on a journey to becoming more brave, as He’s called me to be.

I was soon paired with a headstrong, forward-moving, autonomous, inspiring, visionary man for a husband. We couldn’t be more different, and that’s wonderful, because we each have our own unique gifts. We stretch and balance each other in good ways. Steven (enneagram 8w7, “The Maverick”) will always be an entrepreneur at heart who’s extremely driven, fast-paced, optimistic, living life full-tilt. As an enneagram 9w1 (“The Dreamer”), I’ll always be the calmer, slower-paced, more grounded force, considering the details and others’ perspectives.

Steven is honestly my biggest cheerleader, believing in me as a writer and podcaster and farmer and homeschooling mom. And over the last few years particularly (becoming a farmer and turning 40 helped!), I’m learning how to actually be brave and face challenges on my own, not just because someone is prodding me. I’m finding my own voice and learning to be a fighter in the best possible way.

I’m learning to be more scrappy.

Admittedly, will and perseverance just don’t come naturally to me. But i desperately want - and need - more of it in my life. Here are some parts I underlined in Chip’s book…

“Life isn’t safe, remember. But life can be wonderful if you choose adventure rather than fear.”

“When others bail from challenges, we’re just getting warmed up.”

“When something seems insurmountable to most, we shrug, because we eat ‘insurmountable’ for breakfast.”

Hmm, that sounds familiar. Just a few days ago when we were moving our chickens to new pasture and I was worried about ticks in the tall grass, Steven said, “Whatever. I eat ticks for breakfast.” Meanwhile, I was obsessively dousing myself with essential oil spray.

Seriously though? On the farm, without scrappiness, you just don’t survive for very long.

Yes, this whole 17 acres of land might seem too much for two people to handle.

We might sound crazy to sell tickets for 150 people to come eat dinner on our land.

It might be insane to get up every Saturday morning at 5:30am and sweat down to our underwear by 7:30am, planting 100 feet of lettuce while most people are still sleeping.

The blisters, aching muscles, the multitude of bug bites and mounds of not just dirty, but muddy laundry - all of it sounds TOO HARD, right?

But we’ve made a simple choice to do it together and to rise to the challenges. We’re not going to let them dwarf us. I’m not going to let them dwarf me.

And at the end of the day, I’m rewarded with pockets full of tomatoes, armfuls of zinnias, children catching fireflies and harvesting bouquets barefoot. There’s no lovely without the contrast of the hard. There just isn’t.

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This morning was a true test. I found myself in the position of having to lift an enormous, bulky 50 lb bag of pelleted chicken fertilizer, which, I promise, you don’t want spilling on your clothes. Steven had left for work to cook for one of his clients, and no one else was around except for my 8-year-old and 5-year-old daughters, and we know they weren’t going to be much help when it comes to heavy lifting. This was a crucial step in laying a new lettuce row, so I had to get it done.

So you know what I did? I dug deep, I channeled “scrappy,” grunting louder than was probably necessary, and I lifted that sucker.

I propped the unopened end of the colossal bag on a bucket which helped brace it while I used every muscle in my arms and abs to slowly position the opening to pour the fertilizer into another bucket.

My arms were trembling when it was done, but it worked! And I actually yelled, “HECK YEAH! GIRL POWER!” really loudly in the middle of our produce field, although no one heard it but me.

And that action that I overcame will make all the difference in the way the lettuce grows.

Will. Persistence. Heart.

Three things I really want more of in my life. What about you?

~ ~ ~

P.S. Here’s Chip’s book on Amazon - this is an affiliate link, so if you purchase it, I get a small commission. :)

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?

3 Reasons Why I Love Juvenile Literature (+ Book Recs!)

Dancing Shoes
Bridge to Terabithia
Wonderstruck
The Marvels
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street
Wonder
The Magic Summer
The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy
The War That Saved My Life
The War I Finally Won
A Single Shard
Little House on the Prairie
Little House in the Big Woods
Farmer Boy


Christine's favorite books »

At our little small-town library in Columbia, TN, the children’s area delightfully encompasses the entire basement. It’s all warm and carpeted and vintage-feeling down there, with aisles of classic books and plenty of copies of titles I often can’t find at other local libraries. I feel myself exhale when I walk down the stairs and see my girls run ahead of me to go off exploring the shelves.

Over the last year or so, I’ve found myself browsing the juvenile literature section, not to choose books for my children, but for myself. When I say “juvenile literature,” I’m gravitating more towards the books for middle grades (ages 8-13) rather than the older young adult (YA) titles (for a great list of those, check out this post). Finding myself at home in this section of the library has opened up a whole new world of reading that’s perfect for me in multiple ways. So I thought I’d share them with you…

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3 Reasons Why I Love Juvenile Literature:

  1. There’s less heaviness, but still great, deep story lines. I’m definitely a Highly Sensitive Person - things affect me deeply, like too much violence in books or movies. But I don’t want to just read fluff, either. I love how Juvenile Literature still contains real-life struggles and situations but without the violence, sexuality, or intensity that can be found in adult literature.

  2. I can preview books for my children. My oldest daughter is 8, so she’s at the very beginning of being able to jump into middle grade literature, but I feel she’s still too young for the storylines in several of these books. No need to rush into more mature storylines! By reading them first, I not only get some truly enjoyable reading time, but I know the content so I can recommend them to her when the time is right.

  3. It makes me feel 10 again. I can still remember the smell of the Madison Public Library that was a second home to me in my hometown of Madison, NJ. Before the over-protective days we currently live in, my mom would drop me off at the entrance in her Trans-Am (because New Jersey in the 80s…), and I was free to stay there all day, by myself or with friends, until I called her using the payphone to come pick me up. There was the quiet hum of the librarian’s ancient computer, the smell of printer ink and the microfiche machines, the clunk of patrons opening and closing the wooden card catalog drawers. I would spread out solo at one of the large tables for six and then go searching the shelves for one of my favorites, like a book from the Sisters series by Marilyn Kaye (any other children of the 80s remember these?!), the latest Babysitters Club title, or Tough Luck Karen by Johana Hurwitz. With the freedom and time to enter these new worlds through books, I worked out my own self and began to develop a picture of my developing identity.

Here are some of my favorite juvenile literature titles I’ve read over the last few years:

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Here are some titles on my “to be read” list:

Whew! Mamas’s got some reading to do.

Do you have any juvenile literature titles to add to my list? I’d love to hear! Also, I’d love to see you on Instagram - follow my hashtag #whatstineisreading for some reading happiness (there’s usually a good frothy latté picture to go with it!).

December-ing

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2018 is almost over. How is that possible?

This is the first December we’ve truly celebrated advent, after so many years of wanting to make it a yearly practice. I also finished my Christmas shopping a solid week before Christmas, which is really saying something. We stretched out the holiday season as long as possible, and it was a sweet time. Here are some things I’ve been engaging in this December…what about you?

Reading…

Well, I still haven’t finished many of the books from my November list. Here’s my current reading list…

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  • Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott

  • Boundaries With Kids by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

  • Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson

  • The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jason Fung

Watching…

  • Here are some favorite Christmas movies we watched this month - Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas (if you know about this movie, we can be friends), Holiday Inn, White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, All I Want for Christmas, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street (new one), Elf.

  • My life is so complete since they put Bob Ross on Netflix. Both my girls watch it too, enamored. Right after an episode is over, someone inevitably asks, “Oh pleaaaaase can we watch him paint just one more winter landscape?” We’re an artistic family, we can’t help it.

  • Mary Poppins Returns. We had a little family fun night a few days before Christmas and surprised our girls with dinner and a movie. Any Mary Poppins fan was understandably nervous at how the sequel would hold up, but I had a permagrin the entire time. It was delightful. The ending gave me the same wonderful, buoyant feeling as at the end of the original. So many creative parallels & cameos in the story as well. Dying to see it again!

Listening…

  • I loved the Advent playlist from Tsh Oxenreider’s Simple Advent Guide.

  • The Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack. Again, delightful.

  • Andy Gullahorn’s album, Everything As It Should Be. The song “Different Now” could be my own words. I love this whole album.

Cooking…

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Discovering…

  • How much I love power tools. I made the above advent candleholder using some salvaged driftwood and a spade drill bit, and now I want to make holes in everything. I’ve always left the drilling for my husband (translation: begged him to fix things for me) but there’s so much freedom and fun in learning to do it myself.

  • How much I love and need winter. Maybe it’s just a break from bugs and sweat and a chance to have smooth hair for a change. But the more I live by the seasons, the more I realize how much I need them. There’s absolutely a beauty to winter that I don’t want to miss.

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Seeing…

  • My home through different eyes since reading Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith last month. We did a huge purge in my girls’ room, and there’s breathing room now, with much more space for doing the things they actually love: playing dolls and Lego’s and crafting. I’m about to tackle the mud room next, which is currently piled up with coats and dirty farm boots and completelydrivingmeinsane. The biggest thing I took away from that book is that I don’t have to wait for things to be perfect in my home to love my space now. There are plenty of things I can do with limited funds to make each room one we truly love being in.

    What did your December look like? Anything to share? I’d love to hear!

If I Have Another Chance to Meet Anne Lamott

“So many of us can be soothed by writing: think of how many times you have opened a book, read one line, and said, 'Yes!'  And I want to give people that feeling too, of connection, communion...It is one of the greatest feelings known to humans, the feeling of being the host, of hosting people, of being the person to whom they come for food and drink and company.  This is what the writer has to offer." ~Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, p. 204

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It was Good Friday, 2009. I was spending the afternoon at a friend's backyard pool in an opulently wealthy neighborhood in Dallas where shade trees are 100 years old and sparkles of light are cast through their branches onto expansive bi-weekly manicured lawns. The pool was a natural deep blue, with flagstones surrounding the edge, so it felt more like a swimming hole carved out of a mountain. I dipped my toes into the water and then reclined on a strip of flagstone until I was nestled between the ornamental grass landscaping and the edge of the pool. The late afternoon sun shone on my face, forcing new freckles to pop out across my nose. In that spot, I finished Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies and knew that the book had changed me forever. Toward the end of the book, Anne reminisces about her own mother as she looks over old photographs from her imperfect childhood. And something was sparked deep in my soul at that moment, so much that I had to pause, and put the book face-down on my chest. I surprised myself when I said aloud, "I know for sure now that I want to be a mother" - right there, on Good Friday, laying on my back in someone else's backyard.

By September of that same year, there was a new life growing in me, and I was soon to become a mother.

In Spring 2011, when I had heard Anne Lamott Herself was going to be speaking at a nearby Barnes & Noble, I started counting down the days. I still had an infant baby girl who didn’t want to leave my side, so when the day finally came, I strapped my daughter into the Boba carrier on my chest and rode the escalator to the second floor of the massive bookstore in the heart of Dallas. When I got off the escalator, there was Anne, in all her dreadlocked glory. After reading so many of her books, I couldn't believe how impossibly simple it was that she was here, just standing casually at the podium talking with a few people who had already gathered. It was a small crowd, almost ridiculously small considering her widespread influence as an author and the size of the city we were in.

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I intentionally stood in the back with a few friends, the only woman who had brought a child with her. Right before her talk officially started, Anne (perhaps channeling her Operating Instructions self) looked directly at me and asked, "Would the mother with the baby in the back like to have a chair?" I looked from side-to-side as if to ask, “Me?!” and then blushed and answered shyly, "That's okay, I'm fine." She smiled and began her talk.

Anne’s talk was lovely, as if her written words had come to life before me. I wish I’d taken notes, but my arms were full that day. Afterwards, the attendees started to gather for the autograph line, and I began to really feel nervous. This was my chance to meet the author I felt I knew personally from all her writings, to tell her how her iconic spiritual memoir had quite literally changed my life.

But when it was my turn, I transformed into a shy, giggly 12-year-old who could barely make coherent sentences. I thrust a crumpled piece of notebook paper in front of Anne’s face, barely muttered "thank you," watched her sign it, and then surrendered my spot to the person behind me. That's it. How about expressing the words I'd planned to say like, “Your writing helped me realize I wanted to be a mother"...or… "Your voice showed me that there are many ways to genuinely follow Christ, that not all believers have to fit into a cookie cutter conservative mold." But no, I couldn't muster the courage. All of us attendees took a group photo with Anne, and then my friend asked if I wanted to get my photo taken with her alone. I downright refused and shuffled us all out of there as quickly as possible.

That night in Barnes & Noble, I had dissolved into an embarrassing puddle of shyness, my most introverted self. And I wasn't sure why. Anne Lamott is just a person like you and me. My behavior is ironic considering the personal insecurities Anne speaks openly and repeatedly about in her writings.

Maybe one day I'll have another chance to tell Anne how much her writing has meant to me without losing myself. Until then, my copy of her autograph with the little unconnected heart after her last name is a little treasure to remind me of that strange but eye-opening experience.

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Looking back on that spring night in a Dallas bookstore, I realize how much I've grown. Eight years of motherhood under my belt, I’ve sacrificed myself and found it again in new ways. I’ve gained confidence as a writer and started unearthing my unique voice to share.

If I had another chance to meet Anne Lamott, I would do things differently. I would wait peacefully, confidently, for my turn in line. I would walk up to her, crouch down and look in her eyes with the respect she deserves, and tell her the story of the first time we met. She’d probably laugh it off and make some joke about herself. And then I'd relate what I really wanted to say last time: “Thank you for turning the lights on for me. Your vulnerability is a gift that helped me see the truth in my own life.” I’d take a selfie with her to commemorate the moment and walk away knowing that I’m a writer too, and I can also impart that gift to someone.

~ ~ ~

Read my review of Traveling Mercies.

Read my review of Bird By Bird.

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 169: My Good List

I’m grateful to be back on the Simple podcast today sharing My Good List - 4 things (big or small) that are making my life better right now. The idea behind My Good List (formerly called What’s Saving My Life Right Now) comes from this quote by Barbara Brown Taylor from her book, An Altar In The World:

“What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them. My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world.”

Sharing good things in our lives keeps us focused on gratefulness, plus it’s just plain fun to hear what other people are into right now. You can listen here or in iTunes…enjoy!

November-ing

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I’m typing this from a lovely cabin in the mountains of North Carolina near Asheville, where our little family of four has been enjoying some much-needed rest. It’s our one vacation for the year, so we’ve been livin’ it up, and by that I mean taking naps, cozying up by the fire, drinking copious amounts of coffee with heavy cream, and playing fairy board games. Perfect.

It’s recently come to my attention (see here and here) that people are still reading blogs, which makes my vintage 2008 blogging heart so very happy. I blogged for 10 years and miss that medium of free-flow writing, sharing more detail and thoughts than can be captured in an Instagram post. So in celebration of the new era of blogging, I thought I’d share some fun things I’ve been engaging in this November….

READING

I’m a chronic reader-of-too-many-books-at-once, so here ya go:

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  • Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith

  • Never Say No by Mark & Jan Foreman

  • Boundaries With Kids by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

  • Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson

WATCHING

  • Salt Fat Acid Heat, a four-part Netflix series, over and over. Spoiler: I share more about this on episode 169 of the Simple podcast. Let’s just say I’m enamored and basically want to be Samin Nosrat’s best friend and sidekick.

  • The Greatest Showman. Call me a late bloomer, but we finally just watched it over Thanksgiving break, and I was subsequently so obsessed with the Wikipedia page on P.T. Barnum that I scrolled it until my fingers cramped up. Whether or not this movie is an accurate depiction of his life, our whole family is enamored with the cinematography and the soundtrack. Along with the rest of America.

  • We also watched Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium for the first time on vacation - what a sweet little movie! “Life is an occasion. Rise to it.” —> words to live by. Well done, Dustin Hoffman.

LISTENING

A few podcasts that have stirred my heart lately…

  • My dear friends were on Esther Perel’s podcast, Arc of Love. It was intimate, raw, and so brave of them to share about their journey. You’ll just have to listen for yourself. It’s on Audible - season 3, chapter 5.

  • Another sweet friend, Tara Leigh Cobble, was recently on The Happy Hour With Jamie Ivey (episode 220). TLC and I have been friends since the early 2000s in Nashville, I traveled on the road with her once, I’ve fed her multiple times in my home, and she was in my wedding. The way she talks about the Bible is always so refreshing and encouraging. Tara Leigh has had a traumatic last few years, yet she doesn’t turn away from God in the midst of struggle. I love learning from her.

COOKING

  • Lots of loaves of my No-Knead Bread that they say is “so easy, a 4-year-old could make it." Except I do knead it a little, because it’s so addicting. Try it - I promise if a 4-year-old can do it, so can you!

  • My favorite raw macaroons with a drop or two of doTerra peppermint oil to make them festive (dare you to eat just one…).

  • Cinnamon Bun Muffins from Comfy Belly - so good for breakfast with a coconut milk latté.

  • I’ll definitely be making Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon on Christmas - a new tradition for us. Serve with a wooden spoon straight out of the dutch oven with crusty no-knead bread and a huge side salad, and you have winter comfort food at its finest.

DISCOVERING

  • The benefits of fasting. Many of us have heard about intermittent and extended day fasting lately and all the medical research about how giving our digestive system a break helps heal so many things. I plan to venture into this world in January as both a physical and spiritual practice, so I’m reading this book in preparation of the physical part of it.

SEEING

  • Vacation through my children’s eyes. They don’t really care about doing big, expensive things. They just want to sit with us by the fire. To cuddle and listen to a book. To have our full attention while playing a game. And I’m so thankful for time to do just that.

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 140

Hey friends! Just wanted to share that I'm on the podcast Simple with Tsh Oxenreider today, talking about Kindred Farm and all the ways farming has personally changed me. It was truly a joy talking with Tsh and sharing my/our story!

"I had all these fears, but it’s actually been the complete opposite of everything I was afraid of. I’ve actually found myself in a lot of ways since becoming a farmer that I completely did not expect...Farming has pushed me physically and emotionally and helped me learn what I’m capable of as a woman."

Listen to the whole thing here or in iTunes - it's episode 140...

What's Saving My Life Right Now: May Edition

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Our local library. I looked suspiciously from side to side to see if anyone was watching me when I found Capital Gaines, The Magnolia Story, The Road Back to You, and Boundaries all at my local library on the shelves. With no one trying to reserve them! I did have to place a request and wait a few weeks for The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street but it was utterly worth the wait - completely magical. I feel like I've struck gold every time I leave the library. Even if I don't get to keep them.

Getting up early. I've said this before, but getting up early is saving my life right now. I think I'm finally in a rhythm of rising at 5:30am when the first tiny rays of light peek through my bedroom window blinds and my husband starts the coffee grinder. While we're at it...

Nutpods. I love my tiny, perfect cup of coffee with Hazelnut or French Vanilla Nutpods creamer and some Vanilla Creme Stevia. My husband and I preview the coming day before our girls wake up. It's priceless. But oh so necessary.

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Working my body hard again. With spring comes the return of the farm work rhythm here at Kindred Farm. Of course, there was work to do all winter long - tending the pigs and chickens, washing eggs, and keeping up with the lettuce growing in our greenhouse. But early spring is when things really pick up again with all the prepping of new rows, planting, cleaning up the farm, and our first farm dinner of the season in April. The first few week or so, I felt like I was going to collapse as I adjusted to the hauling, squatting, hammering, lifting, and planting literally thousands of lettuce plugs by hand. But now, I'm feeling so much stronger. I'm ever thankful to have a body that works, and I want to honor that by using it to its full potential. My wide-brim farm hat and dirty knees are back, and it feels good.

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Adventuring with my family. We all work so hard Monday-Saturday: homeschooling, freelance writing, farm chores, and my husband works several 14-hour days cooking for his personal chef clients. And then Sunday, we Sabbath hard. Usually, we've been going to the early service at church and then just hanging out at home, maybe having some friends over for dinner. But on Mother's Day, we loaded up the car early with our Keens, Chacos, cooler bags of snacks and the most perfectest ever Simple Mills chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing that my husband made as a Mother's Day treat. And we had that flutter-of-excitement-in-the-stomach-about-to-leave-on-a-road-trip feeling. Ya know? We wound our way through Tennessee backroads and then into the foothills of the mountains near Chattanooga, where we took a last-minute detour to explore Rock Island State Park, which we absolutely loved!  Powerful falls, lots of hiking over boulders, and an epic swimming hole. We even found a little beach where we swam in the headwaters of Center Hill Lake. It's at this beach where we unveiled the aforementioned chocolate cupcakes. And, ya'll. Maybe it was the fact that I was sunning myself on a rock after swimming in the icy cold lake in the middle of a stunning setting or the fact that I could enjoy a luscious dessert that was also gluten-free and dairy-free. But I actually said, "This is the LIFE" out loud after I took the first bite. Wee bit embarrassing, but it's true. Afterwards, we headed to the cutest little town in Tennessee: Bell Buckle, where we ate at a meat-n-three cafe and then swung by the local ice cream parlor. Completely in love with this town. On the drive home through gorgeous rolling hills, I reflected on how this Mother's Day was everything I wanted: exploring and adventuring with my family. We all need these moments to refresh and recharge, don't we?

What's saving your life right now? I'd love to know!

~ ~ ~

*This post includes affiliate links - meaning that if you click on any of the links and buy those items, I'll receive a small commission. The price is the same for you, though!