Blessings this Week: 10.30.2015 Edition

Because those things that are unexpected usually end up being a blessing in my life. 

...   ...   ...   ...   ...


...   ...   ...   ...   ...

A fun staff retreat this week

...   ...   ...   ...   ...

A cancelled event- that the kids could all change weeks, that churches could bring even more kids, and that the timing worked out perfectly

...   ...   ...   ...   ...

Wet leaves and rain smell


Featured Farmers: Amy's Story

Today's Featured Farmer is Amy of The Fewell Homestead.
Welcome, Amy, and thanks for joining us!

1. Tell us a little about yourself! 

I was born and raised in Virginia. Living out in the "plains" or "flat land" of VA was something I always wanted. My grandparents raised cattle and lived on a beautiful farm my entire life. I can remember spending summers there -- screen door open, the sound of bellowing calves. It was heaven for a child that had a nature soul. It wasn't until I married my husband that the mountains of VA became my newest adventure. I never thought I'd move away from the open fields as far as the eye could see, but I found a new and better option -- mountains with fields quietly gracing the mountainside. I was at home.

Even though I grew up around the farm, my husband and I didn't live that lifestyle after getting married. But shortly after buying our first home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, we decided to get a few chickens. A few chickens turned into some ducks....and some meat rabbits.....and here we are, thinking about dairy goats! All of this is happening on a half acre, which is unheard of. But we love showing people that it's possible.

We specialize in non-gmo, all natural care for our animals. We are a small hobby homestead -- meaning, we raise our animals for ourselves, and if we have something to share, we will, but it's not often. We are simply trying to get back to the way our ancestors lived. We treat our animals (and ourselves) holistically when necessary, never chemically. We believe animals should live a healthy and free life -- therefore, we encourage pasture raised chickens, ducks, and rabbits. We hope to buy a larger property in the next year or so, selling our current property as a "mini-homestead" with all structures included, and start brand new. We can't wait!


Tunnel Vision

Sometimes, I get tunnel vision.

When I was in college, I was focused on learning, on getting good grades, on doing the best I could. I rarely missed a lecture, got my papers done on time, and spent hours copying over my in-class notes to really commit them to memory.

I still have my planner from college- yes, okay, I keep my old planners... is that weird? Probably a little. Anyway, my college planner is full. It's full of notes about deadlines and assignments, special lab times and study sessions, days marked in red when I took exams or had a big project due.

But the one thing conspicuously missing from my old calendars is people. That planner doesn't contain any girls nights, outings into the heart of the city, volunteer activities. It doesn't say "Coffee with Meri!" "Call Shelley" or "Visit from KK!" with a purple smiley face.

And, you know? College was a great time for me, but I feel a little like it could have been so much more.

I get tunnel vision.

Sometimes, my faith looks like that, too. 

Sometimes my faith is really more about me than it is about others.

I love Bible studies, and there's one on Tuesday nights right now that I'm so interested in... but oh, if I could just do it by myself, that would be so much better.
I really enjoy hearing sermons from different pastors, but I prefer to just listen to podcasts... going to see that guest speaker, sitting with a bunch of people I don't know... seems like a lot of work.
I'll admit it- I'd much rather pray in the quiet comfort of my own home than with someone who's hurting. I'd much rather find my faith community online than with real people in real life.

I've narrowed my faith life down to learning to love God- learning about Him, learning about His Word- and not much else.

I'm far from perfect in the "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind" thing, but I sure am focused on it.

And I don't usually stop to think about what my tunnel vision is costing me.

See, there wasn't just one commandment that Jesus said was the greatest.

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." - Matthew 22:35-38

Loving God isn't always easy, and I definitely don't have it down. But I'd say that I spend much more time nurturing my internal, personal faith than I do expressing God's love towards others- especially face to face.

To be completely honest, I think that this particular brand of tunnel vision is pretty typical of many North American Christians. There are exceptions, to be sure, but I'd say that internally-focused faith is common for many of us.

It's less risky. It's more convenient. There's less of a chance of being hurt, being rejected, or being uncomfortable when we stay home or can drop in and out of the conversations on our screens.

But we're not just called to love our God- we're called to be His hands and feet in the world.
We're commanded to love our neighbors- those real, human, flesh-and-blood people in front of us. We have the chance to work amazing miracles.

We're commanded to be a blessing because oh, how we've been blessed.
That's why I'm challenging myself- and you, too- to do just that. To be a blessing. To make a difference. To stand beside those real life people, and (for this month) be an encouragement to them.

I don't want to have tunnel vision that prevents me from seeing the need around me. I don't want to be so focused on my own walk that I forget to look up and see the waiting harvest.

I want to love my neighbors in this world. I want to be the blessing.

It's not too late to join the challenge-- click here to see some details and resources. And, as a little "thank you" and encouragement for you to join in, if you leave a comment on the challenge page, you'll be entered for a giveaway.

As people of the Cross, let's come together to not only love our God, but to spread His love to the world, one little encouragement at a time.

This post is linked up at Grace and Truth


Blessings this Week: 10.23.2015 Edition

This week has flown by so quickly- it was a busy one, full of ideas and plans and needs and things that had to be checked off my to-do list. 

It's easy, on weeks like these, to forget how important counting blessings really is. Finding the blessings is more than just another thing to add to my day- it's the practice that keeps me grateful, keeps my attitude (mostly) where it needs to be, and it brings me closer to my God. Because if I'm not counting those blessings actively and with purpose, ingratitude and entitlement will take root in my heart.

...   ...   ...   ...   ...

...   ...   ...   ...   ...


Be the Blessing (a Challenge)

It's no secret that I believe that we are supremely blessed.

Even when we don't feel like it, even when we have trouble finding it, even when our blessings don't look the way we thought they would--- we are so, so blessed.

But the story doesn't end there.

We encounter God's goodness for a reason. 

We have a purpose. We have a mission. We have a job to do.

We're blessed to be a blessing.

I don't know about you, but I'm guilty of keeping God's goodness to myself a lot of the time. I focus in instead of looking up. I miss the harvest that's ready all around me.

I don't want to do that. I want to be a light, not just under a bushel or only in my own home or only in my comfort zone. After all, God went pretty far out of His way to bring us back to Him, and the cross was anything but comfortable.

In this stage, in this season of my life, I'm not called to do "big things," at least not the things that the world calls big. Right now, I'm in a place of making small steps, of sharing small blessings, of making seemingly insignificant gestures to my world and my community.

Sometimes, those small things? They make the biggest difference. 

I know. I've been a recipient, especially this past week, of so many little things- and man, have they kept me going.

So, I'm challenging myself. To get out there, To actually do the things I've thought about doing so many times. To make that call, to send that card, to take a step, to be the blessing.

(And what a gift it is! It's a gift to be the blessing, to be a little bit of good in a seemingly dark world, to share some kindness in a life that is often mean and cold, to extend a little gentleness into a harsh and gritty place.)

And I'm challenging you, too.

Because we may be small. We may be busy. We may be afraid- of rejection, of disappointment, of stepping out of the boat.

But we're also the blessing. We're the light.

And just think what could happen if the people of the light all did little things.

So, I'm challenging you (and myself, too) to do a little thing- something small, maybe something a little inconvenient, maybe something a little costly (either of time or of money or of resources)- to share the love of our big God in a real way.

Let's do this.

(Click the button below to see this month's challenge!)


Blessings this Week: 10.16.2015 Edition

This week, I've really felt like everything is falling apart. Lots of demands on my time, lots of unexpected and unplanned needs, lots of pain and disappointment.

But through it all, God is good- and He is good to me. 

...   ...   ...   ...   ...

Fall leaves through the kitchen window


Featured Farmers: Amanda's Story

Today's Featured Farmer is Amanda of The Farmer's Daughter USA
Welcome, Amanda, and thanks for joining us!

1. Tell us a little about yourself! 

I am a farmer's daughter from Southwest Michigan. Growing up, I lived on our family farm where we grew mostly fruits and vegetables for our own roadside stand, as well as corn and soybeans. After college, I went to law school at Michigan State University and am now a practicing attorney. I'm just starting out in my career, but I would love to one day practice in agriculture law. When I have free time, I blog at TheFarmersDaughterUSA.com and stay active on the farm.


Reclaiming the Moment

Sometimes, I just want to be grouchy. Being angry sometimes feels so good... but doing the hard work of finding the joy is worth it. Every time.

It was 6:45 pm.

I hadn't eaten supper, it was inexplicably hot in my house, and I was packing. Still.

And, because my husband had to finish up a couple of things while he had equipment available, I was doing it alone.

Moving's never fun, but I'd been in an office alone all day with just a few phone calls to keep me company, and now I was in an empty house alone again.

I carried a heavy box out to the truck, and scooted it across the tailgate... and it broke.

The bottom of the box tore, making it impossible to move the very full box without dumping everything out of it. I'd have to pack it again. Grrr.

Trevor drove by, heading to close up his shop.

"I want you to be done!" I shouted in his direction. "I want you to help me!" And then I launched into everything that had just gone wrong.

He offered several solutions.

I didn't want to hear any of them. After arguing all the ways that his ideas wouldn't work, I finally admitted,

"I just want to be grouchy!" 

"I can tell!" he replied, a smile in his tone. Annoying. 


Blessings this Week: 10.09.2015 Edition

Let's be honest- life can be hard. This week's version of difficulty has been sore muscles, slow going, last minute changes, and a very busy week of work. But through it all, no matter what, in every circumstance and in every moment, God is good-- and He's good to me.

...   ...   ...   ...   ...

...   ...   ...   ...   ...

Two mourning doves on the driveway

...   ...   ...   ...   ...

Dusty tires. Because I'm a country girl now.


Removing Glue (or Adhesive) from Hardwood Floors

**This post contains affiliate links**

It started with the carpet.

Our little 1934 farmhouse had a tiny kitchen... that was carpeted.

I knew from the get-go that I didn't really want to have carpet in the kitchen (mostly because I'm a klutzy mess and I'm sure that the poor carpet would be covered in spaghetti-sauce stains about 4 minutes after I moved in)...

... but realizing that the carpet was covering the original, 1934 hardwood floors made me even more determined to get rid of it and reclaim those beautiful floors!

In fact, I figured, while I was at it, why not reclaim ALL the hardwood floors???

A Home Called Shalom: The Ten Things I'll Miss the Most

We're moving out of our home called Shalom.

Yes, I realize that it's just a house and I'm being a little ridiculous by getting all sappy.

But while I know that it's made of wood and drywall and concrete and vinyl and just a little carpet, our house has been a good companion to me these past few years. It's more than just a house, I guess. The time we spent here has been a chapter in our lives.

I have trouble letting go, sometimes.

Don't get me wrong, our move is a good one. I'm so excited to move into our little farmhouse- I'm excited for the new season of our lives, for the hard work of home ownership, for the remodeling projects that are underway. I'm excited to have something that's ours, a place where we can put down roots.

But that doesn't change the fact that I'm going to miss my little home called Shalom. Many dreams for this place weren't fulfilled. Many lessons were learned. Many prayers were said. And lots and lots of fun was had, laughs were heard, and memories were made.

If I had to choose just ten-- these are the things I'll miss most about our home called Shalom.


Blessings this Week: 10.02.2015 Edition

Life isn't perfect. It's painful, disappointing, inconvenient, and messy. But when we focus on all the things we don't have, on all the things gone wrong, and on all the mistakes and screw ups, we forget the truth that life is a gift

Counting the blessings reminds me of that, and helps me to choose joy.

Beautiful sunrises

(another one)

...   ...   ...   ...   ...