Sunday, October 20, 2013

Do We Meet Here?

I hardly recognize the woman who sat down to write this out.  At least not until about two thirds through...then I start to see myself.  But, just like this post took some time to write, it's taking me some time to see it. Furthermore, daring to tap the "publish" command has me a little in knots.  As my proof reader puts it, "This sure is a lot about you." (Thank you firstborn farmgirl for your caution and insight). She's right on.  I dare to post knowing that although I'm talking about me, perhaps what I have to offer meets you where you are, and we see into each other in humility and love.

For perhaps ALL of my growing up years, and maybe most of my adult years I've been one to see and seize opportunities.  Search out possibilities.  Look for chances. I usually wake most mornings with fresh hope, optimism, and am ready to take on the day.  (After some deep dark cups of coffee and quiet time that is...)

My training, and in many ways my early experiences, was the opposite.  My parents come to life aware of boundaries, respectful of limits, and cautious.
Furthermore, we seriously depart in the coffee department.  They're more of the tea type. I digress.
Regardless of what's in my (or their) morning mug, my view of my origins is shaped by what I remember as tight close fences around life, growth, and opportunity.

Can you imagine the differences of perspective, disagreements, conflicts, and issues presented by my teen years?  Oh. My.

I was always stretching for the next thing.
Eager and waiting for the another door to open, ready to walk through.
A rejector of self imposed limits, I chafed at the many things I was told I couldn't do.

I haven't changed that much.

Until recently.

I'm hard up against needing to respect limits.
Only a little fuel remains with still many miles to travel.
Often putting one foot in front of the other, with (literally), just enough oxygen for the next step.
In circumstances that I cannot influence that have profound influence on me.

Much of this influence is very good, wildly, wonderful parts of life.
-Adult sons living at home getting ready to make their own way.
-A house full of teens.
-Youngsters still underfoot.
-Barns and pastures full.
-Renovations of this old farm slowly, and in fits and spurts, progressing.
-Gardens STILL burgeoning.
-An excellent beginning to our homeschool year and many confirmations that our affiliation with Classical Conversations is timely and perfect for us.
-Tutoring in Classical Conversations has awakened my brain and I'm enjoying teaching again.
-The ups and downs of necessary restoration (and sometimes backsliding) of key relationships requires time and commitment, but we are hanging on for our very lives and praying for a good yield.

You see?
It is the good things that have created limits.
And, I still chafe.
Conflict arrives.

Mostly it visits me.
(Sometimes others when I'm selfish and careless.)

This time, and maybe I'm lucky, is the first time that I've not had wiggle room to do anything - I can't change it up.  I'm powerless to extend boundaries or make more space. Whether the causes are negative or positive, I'm left with no choice, except to yield.

I'm having to say "no".
To extra activity.
To selfish pursuits.
To the unnecessary.
To the self gratifying things I love to fill up on.
And, this is the one that has me in a dither, "no" to worthwhile good things too.

And "no", although plenty uncomfortable all by itself, has opened the path for other more pointed discomforts.

Like the realization that I continue to crave (idolize?) recognition and so can all too easily get busy with things that build me up, and even though sincere love and service is involved, there's always a little slice of that pie just for me.

Or, the smack dab pressed up understanding that I'm creeping daily up on a substantial milestone birthday.  It's not 30.  It's not 40. Been there, done both of those.  It'll be a couple of years yet, and although I'm as fit and as strong as I've ever been, I need more sleep, take more time to weigh decisions, move more slowly. Giving myself over to slower means I've got to wrangle with my paradigms and our culture's penalties for aging.  I can no longer meet my "normal" production marks, which puts my comfortable habit of measuring myself by performance goals in a stranglehold.

Without performance, shockingly, I find myself insecure about appearance.  Yes, there's liberty, attractiveness, and even relief in embracing a kind of beauty that can't be bought, that comes from the gift of years. But, when the gray hairs make the curls a crown, I find myself wondering.  When the pretty has faded all away, when what I look like is less and less of an issue, will what I am be enough?

Identity as a writer, mother, wife, farmer, friend, teacher, Christ follower - every role- has felt the bright glare of introspection.  The light has revealed many pure and good things.  Excellent and praiseworthy pursuits populate the chapters of my life.  Contrarily, so has bitterness, lack of courage, failure to love and forgive - common to all, but personal to me, the population of these behaviors and characteristics has come to light and I can't just breeze right past them.

Gulp. I could go on and on.
And, in fact, in the daily-ness of life I have.
It can produce at first, a frightening kind of insanity, as going round and round with oneself only leads one to, ahem, the same old same old staring back from the looking glass.
Then, the fright shifts, because whereas the above cycle used to spur me on, it's the new normal.

I wrestle with it all.

When I'm spent, I come to this:

Does there come a season when all the effort, stretching, reaching, leaping through open doors shifts to cultivating, maintaining, and then harvesting what for so many years has been planted as new growth?

I'm beginning to think so.
Little quiet parts of my memory speak into this space.
I'm reminded that so many times before I've been ushered into something or someplace new and although I knew it was coming, once I was "there", initially I was ill equipped to understand and respond to the newness of the experience.
Even if I'd prepared.

Like laboring and delivering a baby.
I'd read books, watched (back then) videos, talked to doctors and nurses, and consulted my mom.
But, until I pushed head, shoulders, body, feet, delivered life through that burning portal I understood not what was my due.
And, each time I learned, lost, and gained something new.
Something that whether I perceived it or not made me ready for the season I was (am) in and what I was (am) to do and be.

So all this good is good enough.
And the faults are not too many.
And the "no" along with its limits brings more courage, humility, peace, and love.
Beautifully, limits produce less fear, stress, self seeking, and harm.

Not because I say it is so.
No, my own insight, strength, experience is not nearly enough to reach into and equip for the contrast of what is life right now- the fullness and its limits.

What then, to return to the earlier metaphor in my question, cultivates, maintains, and brings the harvest?

Gratitude and grace.
Far better than "good enough", these companions, concurrently cultivated and given as unmerited gifts, shine into this time with greater brilliance than introspection.
Their purpose and redeeming power overcomes not only the true cost of the mistakes that have been revealed in the hours of self absorption, but the weight of guilt is lifted.

By grace I can be grateful.
Through gratitude I learn to receive and give grace.
Grateful for grace I don't deserve, I cultivate deeper gratitude and receive richer grace.
All gifts.
All grace.

More than enough.


Edited to add:
Oh, how deeply I have struggled with failure to write regularly.  I had "told" myself that I would get it together enough to participate in The Nester's 31 Days series this year, and if I did only one thing well as a writer in 2013, that would be "it". 
Well, you know the outcome of that.  And I've participated in self loathing and condemnation.  

Thank goodness, (see- a tiny bit of gratitude) for good friends, Holy Spirit counsel, God's beautiful word The Bible, and wild grace.  They've had a greater grip on me than any unprofitable thinking.

So, settling into limits, I've not been writing.  But I have been reading. And I wonder if you'll be as blessed, challenged, changed, and loved as I've been when you click over to Edie's and Ruth's blogs and join in their journey during October's 31 Days blogosphere event?

Come back and tell me won't you, how you're being changed and restored by weighing more and less in your life, and daring to balance the scales?

And this- a little breath of thanks for reading this far.  So many words.  I have so many and so few opportunities to release them.  How you gift me to read to this very last mark. 

(Thanks to @jbkcyclist for sharing iPhone instagram photos for use on Liberty Farm Chronicles)


Sunday, September 15, 2013

I Did It Again, And He Will Too

Every year it comes around, but somehow as the years accumulate, it gets sneakier.
I was never good at remembering, and with the increased complexity and demands of all that I've been given in this life, I'm only getting worse.

Seems like it should help me that it's the same day, the same month, every time, without fail.

Bam! There it is.  A huge red ring might have been drawn around the date, but the calendar square is accusingly empty.

First, I struggle with remorse.  The "shoulds" try to move in.
I should have programmed it on my phone, monthly, weekly, hourly reminders.
I should have shopped ahead, bought a card, signed, addressed, stamped, and then put a card in an accordion file near the door to make it easy to drop a perfect sentiment in the mailbox, flag up.
I should be a better - oh, whatever, go ahead and fill in the blank.

Then, the fussy neighbor "shouldn't" tries to move in too.
I shouldn't be so forgetful.
I shouldn't be so distractible.
I shouldn't waste so much time.
I shouldn't - well, the endings are endless.

The ongoing struggle for mental and emotional real estate doesn't seem to affect the outcome.
It snuck up again, and I'm unprepared.

The ache of wishing I'd been something I've not is heightened because my circle on the calendar follows his at the stroke of midnight.  On the inhale it's his day, on the exhale it's mine. It's hypocritical, because when the big red circle on the calendar should be for me, I wrestle with feeling unloved if it gets forgotten, or necessarily pushed lower on the priority ladder.  I secretly hope for my day to be made much of, and by extension, me too. I love parties, and presents, and feasts, and gifts of words...The very things I wish I could (or is it would?) extend to the one(s) I love.

He's never made a big deal of it.  In fact, my mom, who always made a big deal of us, makes very little of him when it's his turn.  She would probably like to, but he would probably prefer her to not.  The day and its honoree is not ignored, it's just kept pretty quiet. A nearby sister will likely generously open her home, or bring a little something to him, and grandkids will be a blessing.  He won't be entirely left alone.

When I call and confess that I missed another Hallmark moment, he won't waver in reassuring that it doesn't trouble him in the least that there's not going to be a commemorative piece of cardstock in his mailbox. But, still I feel it, some sense of having failed.

So, why this discomfort?
Truthfully, I don't know.
I wonder if it's because our close days threaten me a little - if it's so easy to forget him, is it easy to forget me? Consumed with thoughts of myself I don't recognize him? This only partially fits, but selfishness often plays a principle role in my shortcomings.
Maybe all it is can be summed up as false guilt, and I'm a little bit prone to being its victim, so the familiar cloud looms closer.
And, although those are likely both true, I think it might be something else.

I think it's the messy grace of it.

We're broken, imperfect, lacking people and we disappoint ourselves and one another.
And we fail.  Really big.  Many times I've done greater harm than being tardy with a card.  I've judged harshly.  Elevated knowledge above love.  Demanded with selfish gain in view, not caring what it cost.  I've required much grace.

And in spite of the mess I am, or the mess I create, he just, in his imperfect but proven way, gives me grace and loves me.

And the angst comes because I don't deserve it. Grace or love.
I know, because I've lived it myself, parents don't require children to do anything to be loved.
Parent love is profoundly powerful.
But, still, the longer I parent, the more I know we, (my children, I, any of us), do not deserve to be loved.

We make deep unlovable grooves in our track record of relationship.

And still, he loves the undeserving.

I don't imagine that writing this is better than a cake, a present, or a thoughtfully chosen and timely sent card.
But, it is my offering on this day.
My discomfort brings me up against my mess.
I profess it publically with words and images.

And he meets my mess with love and grace. Again.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Thanks for fathering well, and for helping me know in your way, the abundance of grace and love that is ours in Christ Jesus, who has saved us from both from the undeserving heap of mess that is you and me, and has redeemed us through His deep love.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Of Life and Lists

The list making has been shoved to the background.

What was once a regular practice has been consumed by the trips into town, the overdue books at the library, the garden harvesting, the buying school supplies, the gritty relationship work of staying right married and parenting with as much grace as you can bear to receive and then pour out.

 The animals don't demand, but they depend.

The supper doesn't come to the table by itself and the cupboards stay bare until by an act of the will, you plan, go get the goods, load them up again and grit your teeth to muster up a depth of gratitude that reflects the items present on the shelf rather than their blindingly fleeting nature.

And in all of this being, doing, planning, living- the giving of thanks and the writing of lists has been consumed by - all the above and so much more.

Today, just three things.
A beginning, middle, and end.


1.  Early rising and being filled with Truth and Hope for the day.
2. New beginnings - of lists and days.
3. I am His. (Christ's).

Thank you Ann for helping so many to chronicle gifts and for living out grace.
Linking up to A Holy Experience today...
(A long abandoned practice that called forth the time and effort today,and I am blessed)



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Seeds of Encouragement

All summer we've been getting ready.

Soaking in sun, quiet days, fun, rest, and family time has prepared the soil.

Today, many of us load children on buses, wake our home educated kids up to alarms, crack open the books, and begin to till.

And we plant.

We're purposing to cultivate minds.

Increase in knowledge.

Bear fruit in understanding.

Harvest an abundance of wisdom.

So, today - and every day, may your learning be profitable, and your pastures lush with hope that in due season, you may reap.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Falling off my Bicycle

Has it happened to you?

You've been enjoying a bike ride for quite awhile and you're in the groove. You hit a bump in the road, maybe get distracted by something along the way, you swerve, and - Bam! You're wiping the gravel with your body.

Trying to get upright as quickly as you can, you raise your woozy head, start brushing the grit away, and start to think about whether you'd like to give that 'ol bicycle another try.

The object and activity now seem perilous.

And then you hear your mother's voice, " You get right back up on that bicycle, honey.  Everybody falls, but not everybody learns to get back on the saddle and ride again.  Take courage dear one - you'll be okay!"

If writing is like bike riding, I'm trying to get back at it.

Metaphorically, I've fallen off my bike in a myriad of ways this summer.  I've already alluded to the necessity of attending to family life and relationships, and that takes an astonishing amount of extra energy and time.

But, there's been other things- not bad things- that have made the ride adventuresome and found me wiping dirt out of my knees more than once.

Double the size of your garden, praise the Lord for plenteous rain, plant row upon row, and Voila! you've tripled your work in the sun and soil, but also in the kitchen.

Partner with your Weekend Farmer Hubby in installing a new range, car repairs, emergency electric fence interventions, chasing cows back home,  a professional day job, raising and processing hundreds of chickens, fundamentally preparing to change how you've home educated, and by the time an amber sunset spills itself over the pastures, you're beyond tired and can think only of bed and the restoration of sleep. I couldn't write a sentence if I tried.

Fun things like mini weekend vacations, a standing Thursday playday at the lake, 's'mores night on Wednesday, campouts in the yard that turn into extended sleepovers, outdoor swimming lessons - you know, the things that can only happen in summer - have been filling our days.

Add in driver's training, full time work for the oldest farm boys, races to spectate, mission trips to pray for, "mom, I hope it's ok, but I've made a plan for..." somewhat regularly from the teens/young adult offspring.  Gah!

And, this one's "my fault" - I'm enjoying the creativity, community, and inspiration from Instagram. It's easy to spend five minutes here, two minutes adds up.

In the end, my brain is spinning, not my wheels.
And I can't keep upright.

So, what do I say to all this, dear friends?  What is your counsel to me as a writer? As a friend on this same journey?

I think I know.
Whenever I can, and for however long I can, dust this keyboard off, and ride. Uhm. Write.
It's not just for writers, correct?  It's for all of us who endeavor to do the next thing, try something big, cultivate new skills, or seize opportunities.

Just like those of you who've ever enjoyed a bike ride, when the time is right, you'll pick up where you left off, it'll all come back, and although the risk of falling is always present, you'll spend more time on the road than in the gravel.

Me too.

Ride on.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's all so Daily

Long before her art and style became internationally recognized and quickly popular, I had collected a few prints of Mary Engelbreit's work. Her lively, whimsical, and color saturated style has always been appealing to me and when combined with my first love, words, the draw remains irresistible.

Many moons ago she released a calendar with the title, "Life is just so Daily".  True Dat.

Image found here.

I may or may not appear to be and actually function in a less frazzled manner than the image suggests, but nonetheless, this picture and these words resonate!

Continual adjustment to this season of two adult, two teen, one elementary, and one preschool age offspring in our home challenges me to my outer limits.  But, please, oh please, do not hear that as negative.  It is a JOY to share these days with them.  

Family life, farm life, professional life - all of these currents ride like rapids and the thrill factor is high.  As you might imagine, life as a constant white water ride requires all our attention.

Fortunately, in all this "dailiness" it's easy to snap photos along the way.
Confession - I haven't taken pictures of the messy barn, the boys laundry pile teetering over six feet high in the corner of their bedroom (so not kidding), the overflowing kitchen sink, or the stinky pile of shoes right inside the back door.
You all know about that stuff, right?
I wouldn't withhold it from you if you really want to see it.  I am never ashamed or wishing to hide the impact of our daily life.

But, we do get to choose what we think about, yes?
I have a tendency toward the negative.  I'm critical.  I am too quick to judge.
And I miss beautiful messes.
When I miss the beautiful mess, I miss all the other kinds of beauty.

The camera keeps me connected, and helps me to see tiny but real slices of our life and the breathtaking beauty of an abundant life.

Join in, won't you?  Savor the light.  Drink deep of the colors.  Remember these sweet fleeting days, and let the images cultivate gratitude for the beauty of the earth, the glory of the skies, the undeserved gifts of relationship, and the grace upon grace that persists at Liberty Farm.


Pssst- might you like to follow along on Instagram? It's a fun easy way to stay connected in all this dailiness!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

She Wakes! (And little glimpses of life on Liberty Farm)

I don't even know if I can understand or explain my absence here.

I ache with it.  I snatch at fragments of time, and even those slip through my fingers.
The blog sleeps, but I dream of writing.

I have words oozing out my pores - I imagine myself as some sort of X-men mutant,with newsprint for skin and a haze of dangling participles billowing in my personal space just waiting to make sense and arrange themselves into readable thoughts.

And, yet I do not write.
Not for lack of interest or writers block.
Today - enough!
Seizing the moment, I wake in this space, and offer up a paltry but grateful handful of sentences.

I can surmise that a busy spring on this Green Acres has left me with hundreds of photos and no time to chronicle with words.

I suppose the increasing demands of Weekend Farmer Husband's employment and the busyness of my older children keeps me cooking, cleanin', and running the show rather than journaling.

And, there's been an eruption of relational needs.  And they've been painful.  And hard. And suffocating.  And I'm okay, and so is the farm family, our faith being further forged, and God acting in love and the constancy of His character has preserved us. But, there's no margin so only the necessary is accomplished.

Even so, life marches on.
And it's good.

The farm flourishes and the season is flush with it's fullness.

Spring is in wild bloom, it came late and after the preceding year's extreme drought and heat, we savor long.

Understanding that this too shall pass, I stop, write it down, give thanks and carry on.


***(Consider following me on Instagram?  It's a lovely way to keep up, grow friendship, and share community.)***