Freedom

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.

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...

"Homeschooling On An Organic Farm" - For Wild + Free

I'm so honored to have a piece entitled "Homeschooling On An Organic Farm" in the latest Wild + Free bundle called "Wander." Wild + Free is a beautiful homeschool community that has inspired me like no other - it's full of diverse yet like-minded mamas all across the world who want to provide the space and time for our children to explore, engage with the world, and have the freedom to become who they're meant to be as childhood is preserved and slowly unraveled. Each month, they release online bundles chock full of articles and tutorials to inspire homeschool mamas, or really anyone who wants to parent more slowly and intentionally. The monthly subscription includes a gorgeous print magazine as well. You can subscribe to the monthly bundles here

Here's a little sample...

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!

Eastering

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I wrote these words 10 years ago today, and they ring truer than ever. Maybe you needed to hear them today, too...

Poet Gerard Manley Hopkins said, "Let Him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east." These words evoke a beautiful image of dawn, light, new life. In her book, When The Heart Waits, Sue Monk Kidd says that "to 'let him easter in us' is to let the Christ-life incubate within the darkness of our waiting." At the end of this time is emergence.

So the darkness of waiting and being changed does not have to be scary. It should not be, if it is a womb instead of a tomb. We will enter the cocoon and emerge again many, many times in this life.

May Christ be born in us today as we remember the beauty of letting go and, if we would allow it, coming alive again.

Lighting Your Own Candle

Do you ever let life happen to you? And then suddenly wonder why you feel so stressed, on edge, and disconnected from your own story?

Me, too.

Author Sally Clarkson said in a recent episode of her podcast, At Home With Sally,

"A wise woman takes care of her soul. And we do have agency. We have the ability to cultivate joy, to cultivate delight, to light a candle in our darkness so we can stay alive. We have the ability to roll up our sleeves and write a great story."

When I heard this quote, I actually pulled over in the shoulder of a winding country road to write it down.

Mamas of small children, I know it's hard to find time to "cultivate delight" in the middle of a crazy day where you're meeting everyone else's needs and reheat your coffee five times and barely have time to feed yourself. I homeschool 3 and 6-year-old girls, and we just started our farm, and I'm trying to foster this writing thing, and we eat three meals a day at home and...and...and...I'm with you.

But we have agency.

So, here are some ways I've found to "light a candle" in the middle of the day for myself so I can keep my soul alive, outside of who I am as a wife and mother.

  • Light a candle. Literally.

  • Put some fresh flowers on the table. If possible, go outside and see how many fresh wildflowers you can find (dandelions count!) and put them in a little jam jar on your windowsill.

  • Listen to an encouraging podcast. Since we live in the country, it takes about 15-20 minutes to get almost anywhere. I let go of the guilt and decided that every few days, it's OK for me to pop in my headphones in the car, let my girls play and talk in the backseat, and have some "me" time while driving. Here are my fave podcasts right now.

  • Invite a friend over. You know those friends who make you feel safer when they walk in the room? Those are who you need nearby. We weren't meant to live in isolation, yet so many of us stay in our own homes with our children all day, and while we love them fiercely, this can also be a breeding ground for discouragement and anxiety. All you need to do is extend an invitation and have some coffee or tea on hand - it encourages my heart so much on tough days to have another mom to talk to while our children play. It takes off the burden for awhile and reminds me we're meant to function as a community, a village.

  • Get up early. I'm so not a morning person. But lately I've made myself get up an hour before my children so I can have some time to myself, and while it's taken a lot of discipline, I've quickly seen the fruits of it. With two children now, I'm finally doing what so many other friends have been telling me - just having an hour to yourself in the morning works wonders for your entire day.

We are able to write the story of our days - a story of frustration and negativity, or a story of delight and joy. The choice is ours. I choose joy. What will you choose?

Love Song For Me

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I'll never forget this day.

Not just because I had a prophetic dream last night that was so beautiful, I kept trying to fall back asleep this morning to return to it.

Not just because it was a glimmering winter day, and I got to talk to my children about Martin Luther King, Jr. and diversity and how to love other people well.

Not just because a cloud of ten thousand birds flew over my house this morning, leaving me staring out the window, speechless.

Not just because when I was driving at sunset tonight and listening to the best Switchfoot song, the music was suddenly in perfect cadence with the sky, and exactly as a drumbeat hit, a tree burst open into thousands more birds that began soaring over me like a slow-motion film. 

Today is the day I became an active part of the love story God is writing through me.

Today, I became a leading lady in my own life and put aside all the fear that's been holding me back - crippling me - for so long. I stopped grasping for control and instead let the music sweep me up and away.

Today, I found safety in the Creator of this wild, beautiful world and decided to believe - really believe - that if He can take care of all those things, He can surely take care of me. Because the glory of this world can actually leave you speechless if you have eyes to see. And the best news? There's so much more waiting for us, friends. 

When your fear is currency
And you feel that urgency
You want peace but there's war in your head

Maybe that's where life is born
When our facades are torn
Pain gives birth to the promise ahead

If you could let the pain of the past go
Of your soul
None if this is in your control

If you could only let your guard down
If you could learn to trust me somehow
I swear, that I won't let you go

If you could only let go your doubts
If you could just believe in me now
I swear, that I won't let you go

~ Switchfoot, I Won't Let You Go