Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sweet, good days

Last weekend we hosted three amazing friends from our Atlanta church's youth group. It was such a sweet time of showing our big city friends what country life is all about. But somewhere along the way I lost my camera. I had some really funny shots, too.

We took our friends (2 high school girls and 1 college guy) to Mule Day, for example. This event is exactly what you might imagine, and more. It is a combination of a big yard sale, live country singers, southern food, an antique car show, and horse and mule rides. And perhaps our favorite event was the lunch time entertainment, the senior citizen line dancing team. I sound facetious, but I kid you not that unless I am in heaven or sick or lame, I will be on the line dancing team when I turn 60. They are so cute and spunky. I aspire to be them.

What did not inspire me was the stuff for sale. Someone had their used orange Kool Aid tennis shoes for sale. I kid you not. Wow. We also fished, shot guns, rode the Polaris around for the farm tour, and had a bonfire (with s'mores and Andy's guitar playing) There is no cell coverage here, so I am always shocked at the favorable response our teenage friends have to the farm. They always come back again, often to my surprise.

In other news, our two weeks of trying to eat organically has gone well. I would guess that about 75% of our food has been organic. This is a huge improvement that I am satisfied with. We will never be on such a strict diet that we miss an opportunity because of it. But I think the changes have been well received by the children. The gluten free goal has been slowly coming along. I have been making a lot from scratch- cookies, waffles, etc. but we still buy some breads, although not as much. I have also been forcing myself to do 25 minutes of cardio first thing in the morning and I am drinking more water. And it feels great. Trying to focus on stewardship and not outward changes.

My spring Bible study ended on Wednesday. And there was a local study that started today. So I jumped on board. I have enjoyed my women's Bible studies so much. Praying for more transparency which will hopefully lead to deeper relationships with one another and Jesus.

The farm is beautiful. Pictures to come. We surpassed our goal of 75 CSA members. And our 18 weeks of produce deliveries to these customers starts next week! It is a busy and exciting time for us. My husband has this excited look of anticipation mixed with nervousness about him. He loves to watch all of the harvest grow, but he knows fulyl well that God determines the outcome. There are so many uncontrollable variables. So we just try to rest in Him. Although it is a joy to watch Andy's hard work (literally) come to life, it can be extremely exhausting. For the next 20 weeks or so he will work 60-80 hour weeks. And when school is out we will spend a portion of those hours working, too. It will be a sweet time, but hard work! For about 5 months most everything will take a back seat to our farm for Andy. It is just the nature of farming. Somehow, amazingly, last year he managed to love us well even during this season.  And I really desire to serve God and Andy well by being the help mate he needs. So I am praying for God to prepare me to balance it all. 

FOUR weeks of school left! Not just for the year, but only 4 weeks of homeschooling left for us as a family. I do not know how I feel that this chapter is over. But I am thrilled for the fall. If I could bypass the summer, I would. But there is so much to do first. The principal thought I would be teaching second grade, but she decided instead it would be third. I am observing the teacher I will team teach with this week. I cannot describe how thrilled I am to be teaching at a school. I need a team, and my children do too. And the team He has provided is phenomenal.

Life is so rich right now. It is a sweet season of seeing God answer so many prayers. God is finally revealing the answers to so many of my persistent questions. And I am overcome with the fullness of His presence and plan. Love our memory verse, 2 Corinthians 2:14-15, "But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing Him."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Holding loosely

I have not been spending a good amount of time in the Word lately.  And I can tell, because I have a white-knuckled grip on worldly things.  I have found myself envious and less compassionate.  I have been more self-centered and less others-centered.  My thoughts are all about me, lately.  And life is pretty dull when I set my sights on what is temporal.  I need to remember whose I am, and hold the things of this world a little more loosely.  (It is all His anyway.  I have no ownership, I am just a steward here.)

I sometimes forget that every blessing and trial, every relationship and potential relationship, every moment and breath are opportunities to serve Jesus and share Him.  And I am remembering that life isn't about getting what I want out of it, it is about giving of myself for the glory of Jesus.  I forget that in loving my family well and pointing them to my Savior, I am sharing Christ with generations of people.  I forget that in serving and loving others, I am also sharing Christ with generations.  Every day, every moment, an opportunity to follow Christ and to keep my eyes on the finish line of heaven.

All the separate callings of my life- being a help mate, raising and educating our children, teaching, serving, being part of a larger family, friendships, a church body- they are to all be done for the glory of God, always with Him in mind.  As much as I love people, I must love others for the glory of God. Then I can extend bold love (even to those who do not deserve it or will never give it in return), and people will not disappoint.

I have trouble keeping my eyes fixed on Christ.  He knows this, and I thank Him for always gently reminding me.  When this life is over, His glory will be all that is on my mind-forever.  How hard to imagine, but what a joy that will be!  To finally live for worship, exactly what I was created to do!

2 Corinthians 5:6-10
"So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord- for we walk by faith, not by sight.  Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.  For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ..."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Happy birthday, Mom and Dad!

Mom and Dad both have birthdays in April.  This year is a big one for Dad, as he turns the big 6-5.  And it's a big one for Mom after all that has happened to her since her last birthday (battle with cancer).  We enjoyed an evening with them.   I have enjoyed seeing them often since we moved back to Alabama.  So thankful to be close to all of our family.  We have missed a lot of birthdays over the years.  It is really fun to be here to celebrate now.

Praying Mom and Dad will have some easy years ahead of them.  It's been a rough time here these last couple.  Praying that on their next birthday they would both feel better than they have in a long time.  They just closed on a new house yesterday, and it is very close to the school where I will be teaching and the kids attending.  We are so excited about that close proximity and being able to enjoy these years with them.  Get ready Mom and Dad, we might be spending the night every now and then! Love them both so much!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Eating like we own an organic farm (this is going to be difficult)

As I have mentioned, we moved to rural Alabama a year ago from Atlanta to start an organic farm.  Over the past year, my husband has had me watch and read a lot of information on farming, particularly mass food production.  It has been quite convicting because, although we generally eat a well-balanced diet, we are certainly not opposed to junk food.  Nor do we avoid the weekly stop at Wendy's or Zaxby's (and lately a Dairy Queen blizzard has been a fun treat).  Even with this said, I think my kids eat healthier than the average American child.  Fast food once a week is not bad, on average.  Ice cream from Dairy Queen every now and then is not bad, on average.  I do, after all, make them drink milk with dinner, avoid soft drinks, and eat their veggies or fruit with each meal.  Yes, this is exactly what I have been telling myself for years.

I recommend that everyone watch a documentary that tells the story of the food we eat.  Food, Inc. is a good one.  There are almost always mass-producing farm documentaries on PBS, too.  After all, we need to know what we are feeding our families.  Most of us care deeply about what their soul and mind intake.  We spend hours praying, searching, delivering what they need.  And we guard their hearts and minds, often asking God to do so, as well.  But we might not be as particular and protective with their bodies.  And the effects on our children, families, and society are going to be devastating.

Lunch was pretty good today: apple, carrots, brown rice, sweet potato crackers, and cheese
It's not rocket science, really.  Grains, produce, and fruit are covered with bug-killing poisons.  Watch a film of the crop pilots flying over and dumping tons of gallons of herbicides and pesticides on the food we buy in the stores.  Watch how cows, chickens, and other animals are injected with hormones and fed foods they do not naturally eat, all for the sake of fast growth, fast production, fast money.  It really is not a stretch at all to connect these foods with autism, cancer, autoimmune disorders, etc.  I will surely miss my Cheez-its, Campbell's soup, and Wal-mart's cheap apples for lunch.

It is very sobering.  Trust me, this all puts a major kink in my diet.  I grew up with Better Cheddars and Coca-Cola on the countertop waiting for me after school.  But I personally know the pain of being told my child might have a disorder on the autistic spectrum.  (Thank you Lord that we had the best of outcomes.)  And I have personally experienced cancer in my family.  And I can confidently declare that I am not willing to enjoy my Cinnamon Toast Crunch and conventional fruits and vegetables at the risk of having poor health, or causing my children or grandchildren to be at risk. 

Do not get me wrong, there are other things that factor into these diseases and disorders, both environmentally and genetically.  There is no easy fix.  And ultimately I am not in control of the universe.  But just like anything else I do as a human being/wife/parent, I am responsible for making the best choices I can.  So this week we are making the transition to organic eating.  It can be quite expensive, even for those of us with gardens and egg-laying chickens!  But it is important enough that I am willing to make sacrifices.  My children will not be involved in every activity that comes along.  Our clothes are always hand-me-downs or "gently used" (or from Target).  Furniture that we buy is also "gently used" or passed down from a relative.  I do a lot of home-made baking and cooking as opposed to pre-packaged, convenient, expensive stuff.  (Less activities for the kids=more time to cook)  We will eat more deer meat than cow meat, because we have a ton in the freezer from hunting season.  We will not be eating out, hardly at all.  Books we buy are used, if not from the library.  The list goes on and on...usually there are corners that can be cut.  It is very convicting to consider that I have been putting our clothing, furnishings, vehicles, etc. above our health. 
Organic chicken tortilla soup, UNorganice multi grain chips
My husband is trying to start a movement of selling organic fruit, veggies, and eggs at a price that is comparable to "conventional" food.  We hate that the price of organic food prevents people from eating well.  If you live in Alabama, check out our website at :  Just replacing conventional milk, veggies, fruit, beef, eggs, and chicken with organics is so huge.  (Even if you still eat your Cheez-its and Cheerios.)

This is all a transition for us.  It will be different and hard, even in today's market where organics are much easier to find.  Praying for diligence and perseverance.  Selfishly praying for tangible evidence of the results of healthier eating, because we will need that encouragement.  This is all going to be new and different.  My husband took the kids on an errand and they all came back with a Hershey bar. :)  And, I cannot seem to break my habit of having a Coke Zero in the afternoons.  Did I mention that I had to put an entire teaspoon of (organic) sugar on the kids' (Kashi) cereal in order for them to eat it this morning?  Oh well, baby steps.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


On Tuesdays we do not have to be anywhere. I try to take the kids on a long walk around the farm in the afternoon time when chores and school are all done. Today, as always, we found some fresh treasures.
Lots of honeysuckle, the kids' favorite.

We planted a small orchard last year behind the house. Today we discovered our first peaches!
The dog was as hyper and out of control as always. The clouds began to bulge with impending rain, so we headed home (it was a short walk) and the kids got on the trampoline. I truly do not know how any family makes it without one. The kids spend probably a dozen hours a week on ours. Jumping, diving on bean bags, throwing beach balls. Around 5:30 we came in and I started dinner. A few minutes later the clouds exploded and my sweetie came knocking on the back door, soaked. The produce here at the farm is beginning to come in. Notice the new potatoes he brought in for dinner tomorrow night. Lettuce, radishes, spinach, onions, and now potatoes are ready! So I lit some warm candles while he took a shower and we had a nice dinner together. Then Lydie turned on music and entertained us with dancing and a fashion show until showers and bedtime. Now they are all tucked in bed. Andy is reading to the boys, Lydie is anxiously awaiting the Tooth Fairy. Another simple Tuesday at our house.

Wedding celebration

Our dear friend, "Vance", got married over the weekend. Andy was a groomsman and Lydia Joy was a flower girl. We had such a great time at the hotel and festivities making new friends and seeing old ones. I told my husband at least a dozen times how handsome he looked. Wow, the farmer cleans up really nicely! (a couple of pictures from the rehearsal)
The highlight of the weekend for us was watching our girl enjoy her role as flower girl. She took it very seriously. As in a one hour ceremony, and she did not move a muscle!! No sitting, no yawning, no slouching. She has the self-control of a boot camp soldier, that one! And she looked pretty darling, I have to admit. The little ring bearer is son to our very good friends. He and Lydie have know each other their whole lives, and just recently they spent a weekend with us on the farm. So they had this evening all planned out. They were going to dance the night away! They received a lot of attention and were very cute. At the rehearsal, Lydie made friends with all of the bridesmaids. So at the reception, I would lose track of her only to find a bridesmaid holding her. It was really sweet. We all had such a great time. It is so fun to listen to the sermon, hear the vows, see the joy, and remember our own wedding day. It is good to hear those vows every now and then. And then when we snap back into the present day, look around at our three beautiful children and praise God for all He has done for us in fifteen years, and all we pray he will bring to the lives of our sweet, newlywed, friends as they start a new life together. Champagne, dancing, celebration...weddings are so much fun!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Easter treats

in the kitchen...Easter bunny cake, tradition carried on from my Aunt Charlotte. Isn't it funny how some of us never forget a special childhood tradition?

Pink Peeps. The kids and I didn't like them, at all. I keep thinking each year we will come around. But, no can do.

This was our first year to make Resurrections Rolls. They loved the symbolism. They were a hit for breakfast on Easter morning!

Easter Sunday

In light of our fresh, big news, Easter was especially sweet. Because we had spent three weekends in a row getting our Atlanta house ready to put on the market, I did not volunteer to host this year. My sweet brother and sister-in-law offered, though. We enjoyed a beautiful church service and lunch at their house. In fact, we stayed too long and found ourselves leaving around 6pm. (Thank you, Mimi and Papa, for the children's Easter outfits. They were so sweet.)
Thoughtful Aunt Chelle planned a scavenger hunt indoors and the men hid eggs for an Easter egg hunt outdoors. The kids loved it so much. (Thank you for all the thought you put into those activities, Aunt Chelle!) And lunch was delicious. Aunt Chelle cooked all of the food, with Mom and I only contributing desserts. It was a restful, fun day for us.
How do you process the resurrection? Our Savior's life, death, and resurrection? All we can do is worship and hold our hands high and our heads low in worship to our great Messiah. So thankful to live in the light of His great sacrifice. So thankful for the great joy and hope he brings to such a dark world, and to my own dark heart. He is Risen!! He is risen, indeed!

"Men point to the sad incidents of human life on earth, and they ask “Where is the love of God?” God points to that Cross as the unreserved manifestation of love so inconceivably infinite as to answer every challenge and silence all doubt for ever. And that Cross is not merely the public proof of what God has accomplished; it is the earnest of all that He has promised." [Sir Robert Anderson]

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The answer

“Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.” ― John Piper, A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God

I have tried not to write much here this past month or two. The main reason is because in the winter I hit rock bottom in the process of accepting our new life and all that it entails. The very week I found myself so far beyond what I could handle as far as desperation and feeling utterly lost here, God broke through and delivered a long succession of miraculously answered prayers. As I have often found, he seems to get my attention with His eleventh hour answers. And He blows me away with His tender, personal grace. I'll start at the beginning.

A couple of months ago I was a pretty miserable wreck. I felt like I hit a pretty big wall with homeschooling the year that we decided to move here (early 2011). But as we found no other option that lead to peace or belonging, I continued to homeschool. It has been a daily challenge to educate and love the children well, while feeling restless and lonely.

Finally I decided to consider the option of driving the kids to one of the two schools that I love. Both are an hour away. I have dismissed the idea thousands of times before because I really didn't want my children in the car 2 hours a day and I feel guilty being a part of a community that is that far away from our home. But something had to change. So I made an appointment to tour the school. Cancelled. Two times. And the third time my husband encouraged me to go. And I did, and consequently I fell in love. BIG TIME. When I left the school I felt a sense of peace for the first time since we moved to our farm. Not only did I fall in love with the school and all that it has to offer, but I made a really good friend. We talked so long that we got embarrassed and left the building...only to talk another hour in the parking lot. And I came home that day with Hope.

So we began the very long, arduous task of applying for the school. The references and application itself took a week to complete. In the meantime, I decided that one hour in the morning to have our devotion, eat breakfast, pray, chat, and review schoolwork wouldn't be all bad. It was, afterall, a drive with almost no traffic and through a beautiful area of Alabama. After sharing it all with Andy, he offered to take the application to the school in person. He wanted to meet some people and see for himself what it was all about. Not only did he meet some teachers and administrators, but he took a tour and he loved what he saw. During that tour, Andy was asked how we had heard of the classical Christian model of education. He mentioned that I taught at a classical school, and that we have homeschooled with the same philosophy. And a job opening in the elementary school was mentioned.

Andy casually informed me of that teaching position a couple of days later. I immediately dismissed it. I have been a stay at home Mom since my last trimester of pregnancy with Jackson. In June it will be 12 years! I just never considered juggling working outside the home with being a Mom. But as quickly as I dismissed the idea, God kept putting it on my heart. Over the course of the next week or two I found myself in various conversations about education. These conversations ignited a passion in me. So I decided to just look at the application. And the next thing I knew, it was the middle of the night and I had filled out the entire thing, including the dozen or so questions about my philosophy, ideas about discipline, classroom atmosphere, etc. It was fun. And I became giddy, and utterly delighted at the idea of being in a classroom teaching again. Does anyone else get butterflies when they walk into a school and smell crayons and pencils? What sweet memories it brings!

That was a month ago. Since then, I have collected references (pretty funny task for a girl who has been unemployed for 12 years!), been interviewed twice by the principal and then the school board, and waited and prayed for endless, long days. I did more than pray, I groveled and begged and pleaded with God to please, PLEASE let this be His will. Lo and behold, this past weekend I was offered the teaching position, and after the application process, student testing, and additional interviews, my children were accepted into the school, as well. We are elated, blown away, and so very thankful.

For 13 months I have woken up every day feeling like I am in a foreign land (visit our farm and you might agree). We have struggled to find a church home. I have not really had an opportunity to make new friends. I have struggled to homeschool in isolation. I miss what we had in Atlanta. Terribly. And I have vacillated between guilt and overload with trying to spend time with my Mom and Dad during Mom's battle with cancer and provide the education that I want for my children this year. In addition, as I have watched my husband thrive and my children all settle in happily, I have felt very frustrated and confused with myself. There's just no better word for how I have felt than misplaced! Remember how Jesus was tempted in the desert? Well this has been like my desert, and I am not brave enough to tell you the temptations I have faced. Every ugly demon from my past has made a visit. But thankfully, the Holy Spirit has guarded my heart and mind in Christ Jesus, even when it was heavy and quite hopeless. Although I can not and will not claim perfect obedience, I can say His grace has been sufficient for me. And as I have weakly called on Him and trusted Him, He has sustained me and my marriage. Thanks be to God alone.

For those who do not know, classical education is one of my obsessions. I have several: history (particularly ancient history), decorating and fabric, women's ministry, my family, Jesus, and classical education. What a strange combination. I am beyond thrilled to find out what God had planned for me, He knew all along what was coming. Even though I know I haven't handled this transition perfectly, I am so thankful that I have been able to press forward and face all 365+ of these new mornings trusting the Lord. Not just trusting, but clinging. Not always resting in Him, but always, always clinging ( Because almost every morning it has been a real struggle. And because He is my Great Love and his mercy and compassions are endless, this teaching position allows me to enjoy all of my obsessions. Most importantly, I have the great priveledge of teaching in a Christian school where I can teach a biblical worldview and share the gospel with my students. Also, I will teach ancient history (I will either be teaching 2nd or 3rd grade, ancient Egyptian or ancient Roman/Greek history. Squeal.). The school is looking to get rid of some fluff (i.e. kitty and puppy posters) in the elementary school, and focus on an aesthetic that is more classical in nature. I have been asked to help. (Double squeal.) I will be part of a staff and get to know parents, creating an opportunity to both love and be loved by friends. (Fulfilling my craving to be involved in women's ministry again.) And my sweet children will be under the same roof with me! The younger two and I will be out at 1:00, and Jack will be out at 3:00. So I will still share lunch with Josh and Lydie. Such a sweet grace as we all get used to the transition! And although we will see my husband less, I am so excited to experience what our marriage will be like when we are both feeling excited about living here. God has provided far abundantly more than what I could have dreamed a couple of months ago when I was spending thirty minutes each morning just asking for the strength to throw my legs out from under the covers and get started with the day. And I know I don't deserve it.

It will take a long time for me to get over the indescribable joy I have in seeing this opportunity that is so perfectly designed for me become a reality. Unbelievable!! Not only is this a good thing, it is my absolute dream come true. That sweet friend who I met when I toured the school has been praying for her twin daughters' teacher, as she nervously ends her own season with homeschooling and puts them in school for the first time. As it turns out, I will teach them, if not all day, at least part of the day. Unbelievable grace. And we have received an email from one of the sweetest college girls we know who wants to work on our farm for the entire month of July to help with the kids and other needs. That is an answer to the only detail that had me worried...what will the kids do when I need to work in my classroom this summer? Every single detail has been orchestrated by our gracious heavenly Father, who never sleeps nor slumbers, and who hears our cries and pleadings and rescues us. Why do I ever doubt?

My best friend (who has heard my droning about education from day 1 of our friendship, 8 years ago) says she feels like she is watching a fairy tale unfold. She feels like this situation is what I have always dreamed of. She is right, and I feel this way as well. I know life will not be perfect, of course. But I am really looking forward to this new chapter for our family. If you have taken the time to read my entire story, won't you take one more minute to praise our Heavenly Father with us? And if you are in a place of sadness and sorrow, please know that I know your pain and I would love the priviledge of praying with you. I know how to pray desperately, I know what it is like to feel desperate. Please know you are not alone.

Lastly, I want to share words from my favorite character in the Bible, my heart has always resonated with hers, especially now. I cry almost everytime I read it. On this earth I could have lived on the crumbs with still more than I deserve, and yet he has invited me to dance and dine at this Feast. Amazing. Matthew 15:21-28:
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.