What a Feeling

I have had an evasive feeling of late – in a good and pleasing way.  Evasive in the deep, shadowy depths of my inner being.  Feelings of joy, contentment, and peace that I cannot put into words.

The feelings of joy hover and flit like butterflies in springtime.  I cannot capture them, yet they are all around me as I move through my days.  There is the joy of seeing piglets born.  Joy in multi-colored chicken eggs filling a basket once again as spring inches closer each day.  Joy in the purr of a cat curled at my side as I drift off to sleep.  Joy in the prancing antics of a spoiled cow as he awaits his morning hay and grain.  Joy while sitting in the hay with piglets who are intent on nibbling every last protruding object off your coat, boots, and jeans.  Joy in the glow of the warm, crackling fire in the woodstove that pushes back against the cold and damp air that chills your bones.  Joy in spending the days teaching our daughter life skills, history, math, science, animal care – knowing she is safe and happy.  Joy in baking, cooking, and laundry that whispers, “You are blessed to have a family to care for.”  Joy in visiting our neighbor’s baby goats and witnessing their immature antics.  Joy in having family close by to love.  Joy in living.

Contentment has settled deep within my heart of hearts.  Contentment in a quiet life where nature surrounds me.  Contentment in the daily routine of chores and school.  Contentment with all the Lord has so graciously blessed me with.  Contentment is not something I take for granted – it does not belong to those who rush through life.  It belongs to those who are able to slow down and savor the beauty that God created on this earth.  I am content with my place in this world.

Peace that passes all understanding.  Peace that no matter what happens in this broken and hurting world, my God is on His throne and nothing can touch me without His permission.  Peace that He is bigger than all the evil and corruption that has infiltrated our world, our country, and our communities.  Peace that soothes and comforts every day as I walk this journey of life.

I doubt I have expressed this sometimes overwhelming feeling well.  It grips my heart and dances away quickly before I can fully appreciate or express it.  I do hope, however, that you have caught a glimpse of the inner workings of my heart – a heart that is on the farm with my family and bound to the land that we call home.

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A Mother’s Heart

I haven’t written a post in quite some time – the reasons are many and I won’t bore you with them.  Suffice to say we’ve been busy and I really didn’t feel like writing.   Today I’m going down a rabbit path, somewhat away from the usual farm related topics that I write.  Today I will share my heart with you – a heart that is grateful to be a mother and even more grateful to be a homeschool mom.

I follow many homeschool families and businesses on Facebook.  There are never-ending blogs written about why homeschooling is the best option, especially if you are a Christian family or if your child is gifted or if you are just tired of the government shoving liberal agendas down your child’s throat.  I agree with many of these articles but many times will shy away from “sharing” them on Facebook because I have so many friends that are incredible, loving, dedicated teachers in public and private school.  I also realize that homeschooling is not an option for everyone.  Let me tell you our story and you may understand why I am so passionate about homeschooling – and wish that more families would take the plunge into a decidedly different way to educate their children.

My heart has always been ready and willing to homeschool.  When our daughter was of preschool age, I had already been working with her on colors, numbers, letters, etc. with varied degrees of success.  It retrospect, she did great with anything that was hands-on and activity based learning.  Try to sit her down to teach and it was almost impossible – but I digress.  My husband did not share the same ideal of homeschooling that I did, so we enrolled her in our local public school Pre-K morning program.  Her teachers were wonderful, I was a class mom and we joined the ranks of all our friends as public school parents.  Kindergarten was next, with more wonderful teachers and aides.  Another year of being involved in every possible aspect of the public school scene.  First grade rolled around and my daughter had the best possible teacher – a caring, thoughtful, wonderful woman who adored the children in her class.  By this time I was seeing some troubling warning signs in my daughter’s education.  She loved books but hated reading.  She didn’t quite get the shapes right when asked to copy them.  She had a lot of “little” bumps in her abilities that by themselves were no big deal.  Second grade rolled around and our little girl went from a child who loved school to hating school – in just a couple of months time.

What on earth happened to our happy child?  No longer did she enjoy going to school.  She had trouble focusing on assignments in class.  She was easily distracted.  She was “just making” the benchmarks every five weeks – yes, every five weeks being told by her teacher that she was “just making it.”  Now that’s encouraging to a seven year old.  She didn’t qualify for remedial reading, but they sent packets home and worked with her as they could.  We worked every evening with her on reading and math.  She struggled to learn her math facts – one minute knowing them, the next minute acting like she had never seen those numbers before.  The joy of learning had been extinguished.

During the early part of summer, I approached my dear husband again about giving homeschooling a try.  He told me that if we won the lottery, we could homeschool – because homeschooling is not always the inexpensive option.  We won the lottery – my dearest friend had a full year 3rd Grade curriculum that she let us borrow.  We had a few items that we needed to supplement, but it cost us virtually nothing.  So we notified the school district and began our homeschool journey.

We saw the love and joy of learning return.  We were able to customize her learning to her abilities and her learning style.  We were able to work with her and realize that there was an actual physical issue with her eyes that required months of vision therapy to correct.  We have never looked back.  So what, really, is our reason for homeschooling?  They are many – and I will try to articulate them without being offensive.

Reason #1:  We are able to teach our daughter (within the constraints of our state laws) what we feel is important.  If we want to spend three years studying American History, then we will.  We can teach our daughter from a God-centered perspective instead of relying on the government’s social experiments to dictate our perspective.  We can teach what is interesting to her – like basic chemistry (truly, we did that in 4th grade).

Reason #2:  We can integrate our farm life into our studies.  I’ll call that life skills that make for a well-rounded education.  She is learning how to care for animals, where her food comes from, and the work it takes to grow your own food.  She is learning about the cycle of life and death and how to deal with it.

Reason #3:  We can actively learn.  By actively learn, I mean move while we learn.  We can relax on the couch while studying Civics and Government.  We can learn math while camping out in a quilt fort or cooking dinner or grocery shopping.  We can learn about nature while being in nature.  We can “do school” outdoors on those beautiful spring days instead of being cooped up in a classroom.  We can move, which is so important to children!

Reason # 4:  We spend quality and quantity time as a family.  We are not separated from our daughter for 30 hours a week while someone else is influencing her beliefs and world-view (more if the child is involved in sports).  We can discuss current events and current trends as we come in contact with them.  We can guide her heart toward what is good and right.  We eat together, play together, and learn together.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but they are the major reasons.  We are able to fashion an individualized education for our daughter that cannot be duplicated in public or private school.  While we do have certain subject areas that are mandated by our state education department, we have great flexibility to customize her education – and that is priceless.   It is not always a bed of roses, sweet-smelling and beautiful.  There are days that we could easily throw in the towel and give up.  But it is worth every minute that we’ve been given to shape her young life.   This is a glimpse into this mother’s heart.

Great Expectations

As optimistic humans, we look forward to the new  year with great expectations.  We are going to eat healthier, exercise more, be more available to friends and family, draw closer to the Lord through disciplined Bible study, stay organized – the list can go on for pages.  In reality, what happens is that we enter the year charged up and our new, improved selves falter in the daily grind of life.  So in my optimistic view on this New Year’s Day in 2018, I’d like to consider what this year may hold for our family and our farm.

I used to be a very organized person.  Then I got married.  Then a baby came along.  Then the farm evolved from dream to reality.  Then homeschooling began.  Organization sadly fell to the bottom of the never-ending list of things to do.  Little by little I have been clawing my way back to being an organized person.  I can proudly say that as of this exact moment, I am organized for the year ahead.  My menu for January is complete, the groceries for the first half of the month are bought, the year-end paperwork for the farm is complete, plans are made for spiritual growth, and our homeschool plan is in place.  I have great expectations that this stellar accomplishment can continue at least into the first week of February.

Eating healthy – well, healthier food consumption is always at the top of the list.  And I have a plan for that, too.  Menu planning is helpful, portion control is vital, and having the ingredients on hand for healthy snacks and meals is key.  I am pumped up and ready to tackle those junk food cravings and win the battle of the bulge.  I hear the mega-box of mini York Peppermint Patties calling – be right back!  My expectations for healthy eating are a little below the great rating.

The farm is organized chaos – there is no way to transfer the pretty visions of idyllic dreams into a concrete reality.  There is always a plan in place for growing the farm, keeping it well-maintained and attractive, and running smoothly.  It is with great frustration that the animals choose not to stick to the plan.  Life happens on the farm – babies are born and some die.  Hay needs to be cut and the weather wasn’t notified to cooperate.  Equipment fails and puts everything else on hold while it is repaired.  Plans have been made for improving the chicken coop and run.  Plans to add a couple of small-breed cows in the spring are in the works.  Plans are forming to improve our pastures and add fencing for rotational grazing.  We have great expectations for the farm this year – I expect those plans will last until our first farrowing of the year on January 18th.

I could go on with listing all the plans that are swimming around in my head, all vying for a coveted spot in reality.  Look forward to the year ahead and make those plans.  Great expectations are just that.  We are all optimists on January 1st.

 

 

 

Redeemed

I’m straying from my usual farm antics today into a more serious realm.  I hope you will take the time to read and think about what I am going to share.

Dictionary.com, in two of it’s definitions for redeemed, defines the word as “to obtain the release or restoration of, as from captivity, by paying a ransom” and  “to deliver from sin and its consequences by means of a sacrifice offered for the sinner.”  What does a redeemed person look like?  Funny you should ask.  My distorted human view of a redeemed person has certainly grown and evolved over the course of my lifetime.

As a young, raised-in-the-church Christian, my mental picture of redeemed souls involved good behavior (you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t swear…).  These pious redeemed souls also were dressed properly on Sunday for worship.  These souls knew their Bible references, knew their hymns, and knew how to act in church.  These redeemed souls were the epitome of virtue and Christian values.

As time advanced, I have come to understand that a redeemed soul is messy – not always dressed to perfection, not always behaving perfectly, someone who bears the scars of a life before Jesus.  What does a redeemed person look like?  It is the laborer who struggles with addiction but has placed his trust in Christ to purchase his redemption.  It is the lonely young mother with children that struggles each day to find meaning in a society that tells her she should be climbing the corporate ladder – the young mother who realizes Jesus brings fulfillment to her service to her family.  It is the ex-con that had to be brought to his lowest point to look up to the cross for eternal forgiveness – who bears the marks of his previous life visibly on his skin for all to see.  It is the child with a tender heart that heeds the call of the Savior at a young age.  It is the abused and abandoned that find healing in the arms of Jesus.  It is the millennial that seems to have it all put together and figured out – only to realize that Christ is the answer to life’s biggest questions.  It is all of these and more.  You see, there is no cookie-cutter picture of what a redeemed soul looks like.  Every story of redemption looks different, acts different, and grows at a different rate.  The true test of a redeemed soul is that there is growth, no matter how small or slow.

If we look again at the definition of the word redeemed, we find that Jesus purchased each person that places their trust in Him alone for salvation.  He walked this earth among the destitute, the broken, the sinners – seeking those whom He could free from the captivity of sin.

Have you allowed Jesus Christ to purchase your eternal freedom?

May Day

May Day traditionally marked the return of spring.  Through the years, the celebrations have changed and morphed until it now passes, in most cases, as just a day on the calendar.  While I have always thought the celebration of May Day was quaint and nice, I have never actually participated in the more traditional celebrations – maypoles and leaving flowers on a neighbor’s doorstep.  My May Day celebration was a more visceral and practical celebration on our farm.

The day began as usual with chores – of which I shall not bore you with another run-down of feeding animals – breakfast, Bible reading, and prayer followed by homeschooling.  We always “do” our homeschool first because if we become involved in other pursuits, well…

After finishing up our school work and having leftovers for lunch, I headed out to the garden.  I had a nice crop of weeds taking over the vegetable beds – and I needed to remove the volunteers before planting what I want to grow.  The weather was almost perfect for me – cool, cloudy, and breezy.  I prefer that kind of weather when working outside.  Cool means I don’t sweat like a hog – which by-the-way, do not sweat; they roll in the mud to keep cool.  Cloudy means I do not look like a lobster with goosebumps by the time I am done gardening – I’m sensitive to the sun and end up with an itchy, bumpy rash when I am sunburned.  Breezy means natural bug control – I hate bugs.  So my day was shaping up quite nicely.  I blew through most of the garden this afternoon making it look pretty presentable and ready for planting.  Hubby was kind enough to dump several loads of composted manure into the finished beds – so now begins the turning and mixing in of dirt and compost to make a most amazing canvas for vegetable and herbs.

After dumping the weeds in our brush pile, I completed afternoon chores – complete with calf time while momma was eating her grain.  Sammy is so silky soft and eager for scratches behind his ears – and then jumpy and nervous that someone besides momma is touching him.  After momma was done, I turned my bucket over and sat in the pasture watching momma and baby grazing contentedly.  I feel sometimes that I could sit all day watching the farm animals – but there are many other things pulling at me that prevent such a luxury as lounging in a field all day.

As I reflect on the day, I am thinking of spiritual connections between gardening and our lives.  I have shared before how my main crop tends to be weeds.  I can grow them bigger and better than any flower or vegetable.  As I was pulling weeds today, I thought how weeds in the garden are a picture of sin in our lives – weeds, like sins, start out small and do not seem harmful.  We can overlook them until they take a firm root in the fertile soil of our lives.  Weeds with deep roots- deeper than we can dig out- are like unchecked sin in our lives.  It takes root and grows, snuffing out the good fruit that should be in our lives.  Weeds, like sin, take over until all that is left is ugliness and an uncontrolled life.  It takes the gentle hands of the Master Gardener to dig deeply into the soil of our hearts, loosening the fingers of sin until we are free from the ugliness of it.  The Master Gardener cleans up the garden of our soul so that real fruit can grow and thrive in the rich soil of our hearts.

It was a great day.