Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

What’s in a Word?

As we welcome November and the promise of cooler weather, turkey leftovers, and family gatherings, we also enter the official spokes-month for gratitude.  A time when we take a personal inventory of all that we are grateful for – from people to things, jobs to homes, children to critters.  All of us have something to be thankful for, even in our darkest moments, and for many of us we can swell up with a feeling of being blessed.

But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this word blessed.  No doubt it’s trending right now – you can find it on everything from dish towels to picture frames.  And it’s a perfectly good word.  But it’s also a word that I think we sometimes get mixed up with grateful.

You see, blessed is a passive word, whereas grateful is an active word.  Someone gives you a blessing, but you have to take an action to be grateful.  Being grateful is a decision.  We are fond of saying that God has blessed us.  And trust me, I wholeheartedly believe He has, but maybe just not in the way we think.

Now if you feel like I’m on the edge of blasphemy here, please stick with me. I promise this will turn out okay.  

Let’s say you have a beautiful home and a good job.  It’s easy to say, “I’m so blessed.”  But here’s the flip side.  Is the person who lost their job not blessed?  The person who is working two jobs just to make ends meet less blessed?  

Or think about how often you’ve heard the phrase, “I’m blessed with good health.”  Great, but does that mean the person who has cancer is not blessed?  That they somehow incurred wrath from somewhere?

I can hear you thinking, “No way.  That’s not what I meant at all.”  

And I’m with you.  What we really mean is that we are grateful for our homes, our jobs, our health.  And we would never want our gratitude to be confused for the belief that we have somehow received divine preference over our neighbors.

Blessings are something that we, the collective humanity, share.  Nature and life itself are blessings.  Things we can all enjoy.  I, personally, don’t believe they are doled out to a few, and I don’t believe they always look like we would expect them to.

And while this may seem like a game of semantics, words really do matter. (Yes, I was an English major, so humor me with this one for moment.)  Think about someone whose world is falling apart.  If you are busy talking about your blessings, things that are received, where does that leave them?  It leaves them feeling like they are walking around under a dark cloud, out of sorts, out of favor.

Rather, share your gratitude.  Your zest to acknowledge all that is beautiful, from the smallest to the greatest moments.  Trust me, I am a recovering blessing user myself.  I used to liberally smatter blessings here, there, and everywhere.  But after reading an article about the importance of our words, I realized I was truly filled with gratitude.  I wanted to wish people a beautiful day, a day with at least one moment of happy, and leave blessings to the big guy.

So as you start to make your plans for family dinners, school activities, and get togethers with friends, I encourage you to think about those words that are most meaningful for you and those you love.  How will they impact others?  How can you share your gratitude?  

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Smashing Pumpkins (not the band)

Okay, I’m going to admit it. We have not one itty bitty bit of pumpkin decor out at the farm.  No farmhouse steps lined with white pumpkins and mums.  No pumpkin spice latte in the percolator.  Somewhere in the garden shed is my pumpkin welcome sign, which I may or may not bother to dig out.  We’ll see.

As I scroll through Instagram, I see tons of tablescapes, porchscapes, and all kinds of farm-y scapes filled with pumpkins and leaves and just the right amount of bling.  And did you know if you are decorating with pumpkins, the traditional rich orange is not your only choice?  They come in all shades of sage green and cream so you can artfully blend them with the carefully crafted farmhouse look.

What’s the farmhouse look?  As best as I can tell, it’s furniture slip covered in white, a little bit of distressed wood, a little bit of metal, a few antique-y things, and grey, beige, and white everywhere else.

It seems the concept of farmhouse is all the rage these days.  I get it. It’s lovely and dreamy, and the Fixer Upper people have turned it into a lucrative business (seriously, that’s great for them).  But for most of us living in the country,  these pics are not even close to reality.

So for a little fall fun, I thought I’d debunk a few of the fall farmhouse decor myths, at least around this farmgirl’s humble barndominium.

White sofas – Who are we kidding with this one?  Yes, it’s lovely.  And yes you can bleach it, but heaven help me I’d be bleaching daily.  It would remain white for all of two seconds before Maybelle bounded onto it with wet paws or a black cat decided to make it his scratching post.

My Farmtastic Life - Rhino the cat and Max the dog
This right here is why we do not have white sofas. If it’s not washable and can take a little dirt, it’s not happening at the farm.

Pumpkins by the dozens – Yes, pumpkins are great.  But thanks to Starbucks and their PSL (pumpkin spice latte in case you’ve been hiding under a rock), pumpkin flavors and pumpkin decor are E.V.E.R.Y.W.H.E.R.E.  And while folks used to get one pumpkin and carve it with the kiddos, the photo worthy farmhouses filling up my Instagram feed look as if they’ve had an 18-wheeler of pumpkins delivered. Seriously, the last time I had a pumpkin, it was lovely, right up until I left it outside, sitting too long on the porch bench, and well let’s just say it was not pleasant when I picked it up.  And on a side note, I seriously do not remember all of this pumpkin crazy when we were kids. Our moms handed us the plastic pumpkin to go trick-or-treating, we watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and called it good.

Accessories, lord honey, accessories – Look, we all love to decorate our houses. They are expressions of us.  For Cowboy and I, it’s a mix of things we’ve collected over the years.  Lately, though we’ve been on a real pairing down spree.  Why?  Because country living is dusty and messy.  That’s right, when you live in the country with gravel driveways and large fields, well dust is just a fact of life. And while I truly adore all of those perfectly accessorized rooms, it’s just not practical.  Not to mention, with dog tails wagging and cats climbing, things will get knocked over, broken, and worst of all, eaten. (And on that last one, if eaten stays down and doesn’t come back up or out to haunt you in another way, well then that’s a good critter day.)

Perfect porches – Now this one speaks to my heart of hearts.  The porch is my home. I am out on my porch daily.  It’s my happy place.  But it does not constantly look like I am ready to host tea.  I don’t have rugs and fabrics swathed all around.  Why, you ask?  Well, first of all, the aforementioned critters.  Heck, I’m lucky if I can keep Maybelle from digging up my potted plants, or, worse, eating horse apple snacks.  That means it’s slim to none, I’m going to keep fabrics pristine outside.  Pillows?  Let’s just say they’d be gone with the wind.  After two summers of chasing chair cushions around the pasture, I finally wised up and bought ones that tie to the chairs. Brilliant!  There is nothing like riding the tractor around the farm, weaving between horses, looking for chair cushions. Oh and what decor is on my porch right now? A snake grabber and a shovel. Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

Now I say a lot of this with fun and jest.  We love fall and all the joy that comes with it. And I’m sure pumpkin something or other will appear at the farm before this season ends. (Seriously, all of this pumpkin madness has to be a real boom for pumpkin farmers. Two points for that.)

And to those farm style bloggers who can whip up some amazing decor and inspire us all, more power to you.  You are some amazing folks. However, if you are reading this and are a bit more like this farmgirl, i.e. likely to be wandering around doing chores in an old t-shirt, jeans, and muck boots, your house slightly disheveled, the only white decor that stands a chance is your washable wood trim, and critters rule the roost, it’s perfectly okay.

Don’t feel guilty.  Don’t think you have to run out and fill your grocery cart with pumpkins and somehow stack them with  hay bales and mums in a way that is oh so extra.  Don’t spend hundreds on craft supplies to make the perfect tablescape that is destined to be chewed on by the cat.  Instead, enjoy your farm (or cottage, or house, or apartment), and whatever fall means to you.  Drink a PSL if you like, or go rogue and drink a Dr. Pepper from a glass bottle while sitting barefoot on the porch reading a good book. (Personally, I pick cozy mysteries every time. )

And for all you ladies who make it looks so easy, God bless you. I do love the inspiration.  But when I look at my own farm pics on Instagram, I have to remind myself that pumpkins and white sofas are just one of the many ways farmgirls can decorate our humble abodes.  For the rest of us, washable denim and a can of Libby’s pumpkin will have to do.

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Okay we have one pumpkin on the farm. But seriously – how can you not love this crazy girl? #maybellethemagnificent

P.S. I totally recognize the irony of writing this on the eve of visiting the Magnolia Silos. Maybe I just had to assure my wacky farmgirl self, who while not the quintessntial decorator, is still quite okay.  At least in the eyes of Cowboy and the critters, and that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Church on the Porch

I grew up in church. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, I was there.  Sunday school, choir practice, youth group, sermons, lots and lots of sermons.  It’s where my best friends were, and it was the lense I learned to see the world through.    

Throughout our years together, Cowboy and I have attended quite the menagerie of churches.  We’ve seen the beauty and, unfortunately, some of the really ugly. We’ve been members, participants, told we couldn’t be members, or worse only one of us could join. (If you know us at all, you know we’re a packaged deal.  For better or worse, you get both of us.) We’ve taught Sunday school, volunteered, and attended Bible studies.

And right now, we are officially on a break. There, I said it out loud.  We are churchless.  Without a church. Without a denomination.  

But what does that mean?  Does it mean our faith in God is diminished?  Does it mean we love less?  Does it mean we are no longer Christians? Nope, absolutely, 100 percent no. In fact, for us, I would even dare to say that our faith in God, our love, and commitment to what it really means to be a Christ follower is stronger than ever before.

When it comes to church, we have not found the right fit for us, a place that speaks to us, a group where our core values line up.  It doesn’t mean it’s not out there, it just means we haven’t found it, and so instead of continuing the exhausting search, we are taking a break.  

So what do you do on a break? You have church on the porch.  We are intentionally taking time to sit on the porch and soak in the awe and wonder of God’s creation that surrounds us.  

Watching the horses laze around the pasture, while dogs nap in the yard. Watching bees and dragonflies buzz through the air, as hummingbirds hover at the feeders. Marveling that a single Basil plant growing out of an old horse trough can smell so fragrant and get so huge.  Feeling the breezes on skin warmed by the sun. And being grateful, oh so grateful.  Not because everything is perfect, because that will never be the case, but because we’ve let go of the perfect in return for finding peace and joy in the moment.

My Farmtastic Life - Maybelle rests in the shade of a Basil plant
A fellow church on the porch attendee, Maybelle rests in the shade of a Basil plant.

Observing our surroundings is just one part of church on the porch.  There is reading, discussing, listening to music, inspiration of all kinds.  For me, church on the porch brings clarity to my crazy thoughts, a deep rooted grace of sorts.  The conversations are special, personal, and helpful.  Oh, and most importantly judging is banned from the porch. Curiousity is welcomed.

Sometimes church on the porch happens on a random Thursday evening. Sometimes it’s a glorious Sunday morning.  Sometimes once a week and sometimes more often.  Sometimes for 15 minutes and other times for hours.  There are no rules.  Just time to revel, to meditate, to laugh.  (Laughing is totally okay during church on the porch, in fact it’s encouraged.)

So if you are struggling right now to find the place you fit, don’t be afraid to do what is best to nurture your soul and explore your faith.  It may not look very traditional, but what you may find is oh so spiritual.

P.S. I absolutely love to read.  Right now I’m working through a series of Rob Bell books, including: What Is the Bible?, Velvet Elvis, Love Wins, and How to Be Here.  If you need a little inspiration and are looking for a more expansive, inclusive view of God, I highly recommend these as a great place to start.

P.P.S.  Please don’t take this as encouragement to leave your church if it is working for you.  We think that is a beautiful thing.  This a personal story of finding a new way to express our own faith, while struggling to fit within the traditional boundaries and options present for us.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

The Sun, The Water, and Hope

August has shown us the best of humanity, and through tears of joy and sorrow, it has offered us hope.  We so desperately need hope.  We need to believe in the goodness of the human spirit, in what unites us all – our raw, deep down humanity, our will to survive and thrive.

Earlier this month, we saw people lining up, camping, and gazing skyward in unity at the beauty and wonder of the eclipse.  Caught up in the awe of nature, of science, of God’s creation. We now see people launching boats in streets swollen with water to rescue strangers, animal rescuers descending to make room for displaced critters, and people around the world donating in ways big and small to help those in South Texas with hurricane Harvey.  It is these images that give us hope.

Admittedly, this Texas farmgirl has been glued to the news in the mornings and evenings, keeping a watchful eye on my Twitter feed throughout the day, and checking on friends in Houston as they wait and watch.  Doing my best to go through the workday, but in the back of my mind thinking all the while about what is important in this life.  Watching as the dogs and cats and horses and donkeys laze around the farm unaware of the world in peril, getting some sort of peace observing their peace and knowing Cowboy and I would do anything to safeguard our little zoo.

My faith in God is such an important part of my personal journey, and continues to grow and expand as I watch these beautiful moments when we come together with the best that we are, offering all that we have in order to help a fellow soul.

My Farmtastic Life - The sun, the water, and hope. The beauty of humanity when we all come together.
There is nothing more beautiful than connecting to your fellow humans – reach out, hold someone’s hand, say a prayer, offer a hug.

When I first sat down to write this post, I wanted to talk about how we’ve all gotten into an us vs. them mentality, and how it is pulling us apart.  How at some point, all of us are part of a them group to someone.

Even today as my fellow Texans are fighting to survive, I watched as ultra conservative religious leaders took the opportunity to launch the Nashville Statement – targeted to isolate and condemn our LGBTQ friends and those of us who love them.  And again, my heart broke as all I could think was, “Really?  Seriously? This is what we are spending our time on?  Why oh why are we not lifting up our neighbors?  Jesus was and is the ultimate in love, and we are so missing the point.”

And while I could argue until I am out of breath as to why this latest attempt to divide us is wrong and heartbreaking and ill timed on so many levels, it’s become clear to me that we simply cannot give hate or those who look to divide us any more airtime. It is enough. Silence may be our greatest gift to each other.  If no one is listening to the dividers, then they no longer become dividers, and we become the uniters.

The beauty of our world is that we can all communicate quickly, loudly, and hopefully thoughtfully.  The curse is that we can all communicate quickly, loudly, and if not careful not so thoughtfully.

So as we watch the tragedies that surround us, let us share the beautiful stories.  Let us link our hands with our neighbors in comfort and solidarity.  Let us remember that there is far more good than evil.  We just have to make our voices thoughtfully and beautifully heard.

P.S. If like me you grew up in a church that had a limited view of love and are looking for a breath of fresh air, might I suggest checking out Love Wins by Rob Bell.  You might just find a little respite for your soul.

P.P.S. There are lots of ways to help those who have suffered and are suffering from the effects of Hurricane Harvey.  Whether you want to help families, babies, the elderly, or critters find a spot that speaks to your heart and offer your hand. See list from Texas Monthly. #TexasStrong

P.P.P.S. For all of those who have checked on us at the farm during this storm, thank you for thinking of us.  The farm was never in danger, as we are several hours from the coast.  However, knowing you care means a lot.  God bless!

P.P.P.P.S. A version of this post was published in the Glen Rose Reporter.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

 

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Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Blank Space

I’ve always loved to organize and clean out. I hate to clean – you know the dusting, mopping, toilet scrubbing variety – but I absolutely, 100 percent love to clean out a closet, organize a drawer, or set up a system. I once even organized my mother-in-law’s pantry as a surprise while she was away on a trip. Is my love of organization a sickness? Perhaps.

I’ve been known to clean out a closet and then continue to walk by it throughout the day, open it up, and gaze in satisfaction as all of the things are neatly lined up and in their place. For me, there is a sense of accomplishment and order in this action. Please tell me that I am not alone here?

On the farm, I even get a little nuts with the critters, and when I am totally on top of my organizational game, each horse has a signature color complete with feed bucket and matching rope and halter set. Okay, yes, I might have a problem because I can guarantee you the horses care not one little itty bitty bit what color their buckets and halters are when it’s feeding time. Shocker, I know.

As I work to keep things in order, lately, it seems like our house has become a pass through for stuff. I buy things, organize things, remove things, and buy more things. We’ve constantly got a give-away pile going – we’re donating stuff to charities for auction and fundraising, donating to the local thrift store, giving things away to friends. I’ve even got one dear girlfriend who has a closet full of amazing shoes, well because Zappos and I have become entirely too good of friends, and I only have so much room.

However, if I’m honest, this constant give away pile is driving me a little batty. Recently, I said to Cowboy, “What if we just pull back a little? There’s nothing we need. What if we just bask in being grateful?” To which he whole-heartedly agreed on many levels, but especially since he is the financial wiz of the household (or farmhold, is that even a word?). Every time the give away pile grows, he does the math of what we’ve spent on things we don’t need and things that fundamentally don’t make life better.

For me, sometimes I accumulate things because I am looking for the perfect combination of things. As if it at some point, there is the concept of never needing to buy another thing. If I have the perfect combination of shoes for potential occasions. If I have just right set of cookbooks. If I have one more inspirational sign. (Gosh, I just love a good inspirational sign.)

But here’s the deal. There will never be the absolute right combination of things, because life’s not about things. And more than ever, I’m realizing it’s about the soulful, grace soaked journey and not about arriving at some mythical destination where you know all you need to know and have every imaginable combination of things you could possibly conjure up. Life is not perfect. It’s a beautifully imperfect, personal journey we all must take and define for ourselves.  And at the heart of it is gratitude, and sometimes so much physical clutter just gets in our way.

I’m learning that this search for the right combination of stuff is just a search to fill up space, a space that signals some sort of arrival or accomplishment. But blank space can be amazing space. It’s a place that allows us to imagine, to create, to find inspiration. And if we are always filling up all of our space with more stuff, rotating through the stuff, and adding new stuff, we are often missing the point.

Look, I’m a girl who loves to shop – from Amazon to a local boutique – I absolutely love the thrill of the hunt. But for me, at this point in my life, I’m starting to see the beauty in the blank space. In the thrill of the experience, the laughter, the creativity.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying stuff is evil or bad. Stuff is what you make of it and what you let it become to and for you. Things can hold treasured memories. Things can inspire you. Things can provide much needed functions. What’d I’d say is just don’t let the things define you, because you are so much more than the sum of your things.

And on that note, I’m off to organize a closet, and enjoy not filling up the blank space

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Breathable Moments

The new school year has arrived for many, and before you know it we will be running headlong into fall festivals, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  And then the yearly cycle starts all over again.  How is that even possible?

It doesn’t help that stores are already lugging out their cornucopia displays and swathing the shelves in shades of yellow, orange, and brown.  Before you know it, we’ll all be singing Jingle Bells as we grocery shop. Lord, help us.

The older I get, the faster it seems that the seasons fly.  So I propose that we all just take a moment to breathe it in.  We seem to be in a perpetual cycle of wishing for what’s next in life, and often find ourselves challenged to appreciate right where we are.

Trust me, I get it.  I’ve been a box checker my whole life.  Rushing around to tackle the never ending projects, worrying about the details, and wondering what is next on my list.  But the times that I feel pure joy are when I stop to be right in the moment.   The everyday, less than glamorous moments.  Those are the ones that speak to my soul.

Whether it’s looking around the farm and watching the animals, sitting with Cowboy on the porch and talking about our day, snuggling up on the sofa with my best fur-girl Maybelle, or getting a sweet phone call from beloved family and friends.  Those are the moments I live for.

And no, the irony is not lost on me.  We’re taught early and often to strive for something more, to shoot for the stars.  And that’s not a bad thing.  It helps us learn to be hard workers and diligent about our goals. But it also builds in us this sense that we will someday arrive, that things are not quite good enough yet. This is when all of those sayings about enjoying the journey come flooding back to me.

It’s also when I stop to take a lesson from the farm.  The critters around here live in the moment.  They don’t know any other way.  Take the horses, for example.  They mosey around the pasture, soaking up the sunshine, drinking cool water, and looking for any hint of fresh green they can nibble on.  They are not thinking to themselves, “Gee, I wish it was next spring when the grasses are so much  more plentiful.”  Nope, they are sweating away, kicking up dust, enjoying being alive.  It’s all they know how to do.

As we run around in this hot Texas sun getting ready for the rituals of back to school, one of the things I hear us Texans lamenting most right now is how hot it is and how we wish it was fall already.  Well of course it is hot, it’s August in Texas.  It’s sweaty and sticky and buggy.  But you know what? It’s also the time for swimming holes, ice cream, and new school shoes.  And I think those are all pretty great moments to breathe in.

P.S. – A version of this post was published in The Glen Rose Reporter.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.

Lessons & Thoughts From the Farm

Forget Your Baseboards

If you’ve watched HGTV at all, it seems that all of the world loves to entertain. Whether buying, selling, or renovating, the cute couple on TV inevitably declares their need for entertaining space galore because they do, in fact, love to entertain.

Well it’s summertime on the farm, and that means the visitor count is up around here as treasured friends and family come from far and wide for a little R&R. And while Cowboy (my better half) and I love to spend time with them, we are not what you would call natural born entertainers. We are homebodies and spend our days working around the farm on projects surrounded by our burgeoning cast of four-legged characters.

So as the date approaches for each impending visitor’s arrival,  I can lose my marbles a bit as I look to make a perfect experience for them.

The cleaning lists get out of control with things like baseboard washing, stall deodorizing, and tucking in fresh plants here and there to spruce things up. And bless Cowboy’s heart, he graciously goes along with my crazy as we work through lists of lists of lists.

And then there is the cooking and baking. In my head, a farm visit is just not complete without something scrumptious to eat, whether it is a night of divine enchiladas with Cowboy’s homemade salsa or a morning brunch of strawberry stuffed French toast.

The bottom line, I suddenly think we need to provide the Martha Stewart experience. The only problem is that Martha Stewart has a STAFF!  Cowboy and I just have a zoo of critters, and trust me they do not contribute to the cleaning one itty bitty bit.

But here’s what I’ve come to realize, our friends and family are not coming to give us the white glove test, to judge the color of the petunias, or have a taste testing event. They are coming to see us. To be enveloped in warm hugs. To laugh deep belly laughs. To drink in the country air. To sit a spell on the porch and watch the horses mosey by.

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Maybelle says, “Just relax and enjoy some time on the porch. The view is great and the company is even better.”

Like lots of things in life, it’s easy to put unrealistic expectations on yourself and those you love, searching for the perfect and forgetting the good that is right in front of you. It’s something I continue to remind myself of on a regular basis. How thankful are Cowboy and I that we get to live on our beautiful farm, and how special it is to share it with those we love?

So if you find yourself lucky enough this summer to have friends and family that want a little piece of your time, give it freely. Put the vacuum away, pour a cup of tea, find time to just revel in each other’s stories and in the moment.

Life is short, and when we look back, I can guarantee none of us will be wishing we had washed just one more baseboard.

P.S. – A version of this post was published in The Glen Rose Reporter.  This farmgirl is delighted to serve as a community columnist.