It was an exceptionally good year for dandelions. And as I looked out over our yard, I could see their white fuzzy heads waving and bobbing in the breeze, like a carpet of white fuzz. My children love those dandelions. They prance through the yard, finding the biggest heads and blowing bits of fuzz as far as they possibly can, making wishes and making up songs and dancing in the fluffy clouds.
And then came the lawn mower.
I couldnít help but giggle as I watched a trail of dandelion seeds flying out behind the mower, forming giant clouds and then blowing away. And then I watched as that lawn mower cut a path, chopping down the weeds and grass and everything in its path. It made me a little sad, because all those hopes and dreams and wishes and giggles that were all wrapped up in those fluffy weeds were wiped out in a single path of the mower. And before long, the yard was mowed and all of those fluffy heads were gone.
Sometimes, thatís what life feels like. All of our fluffy hopes and dreams, just like the dandelions, get mowed off by the struggles of daily life. I had so many hopes and dreams for this year Ė I was excited for all of the possibilities that I thought 2020 would bring, only to have them chopped off and cut down by a global pandemic and the resulting challenges.
But just like the summer dandelions, this season will also pass. It wasnít long before those dandelions popped back up, with new fluffy heads for children to blow away and new giggles and lots more prancing in the weeds. And just like life, maybe we lost a season of hopes and dreams but God is so good that He will bring us an entirely new season, with new hopes, new wishes, and new places to dance and prance.
I confess. I have a tendency to geek out a bit when it comes to books, but I really hit geek overload over fresh, new Bibles. So when BG2 offered me a free NIV Artisan Collection Bible to review as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid and #BibleGatewayPartner, I couldn’t wait to say yes! Although the Bible was free, the opinions are my own and I’m not paid to endorse them.
When my new Bible arrived, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful dusky blue-marbled canvas cover with gold edging on the pages. This is a Bible so beautiful, you almost don’t want to use it. It’s a work of art. But this Bible wasn’t meant to sit up on a shelf, it was meant for journaling, doodling, experiencing, and exploring the Word of God.
In this stressful year, God’s Word is just as timely and applicable as ever. Take notice of Psalm 91 in the Artisan Bible, with its exclusive easy to read print and short notes at the bottom of the page. Two ribbon bookmarks help you keep track of where you are. And the best part of this Bible is the wide, lined margins where you can doodle, take notes, or jot down prayers.
Don’t take my word for it, go check out this one and the other Artisan Collection Bibles at their store.
These beautiful Bibles are a great gift idea for your family, friends, and yourself. Honestly, the best Bible – and the best translation – is the one that gets you reading it and living it. While you’re waiting for your new Bible to arrive, visit www.biblegateway.com/plus for access to Bible Study books, reference books, and commentaries that will enhance your Bible experience.
My children seem drawn to the warmth of the woodstove that adorns my office.† They gather around, watching me light the fire, carefully stacking kindling and logs in just the right spots. They are enthralled by the striking of the match, as it spits and spurts into flames, dancing in the draft of the chimney. They are delighted when the fire grows, and watch with worry when I blow into the smoke to fan the flame.
Wood heat is warm, it is comforting, and the old modified Ben Franklin wood stove it is the mainstay of our home. It saves us hundreds of dollars in electric heating each month, and gives us the security of knowing we’ll have a warm home and a means to cook in case of a lengthy power outtage. No matter the storm outside, we’ll have warmth and comfort inside. The crackling and popping of the flames warms the heart and the bones on chilly winter evenings.
A warm fire is definitely a gift, although it is not without its challenges. Firewood must be chopped or delivered, stacked, and covered. It must be aged in order to burn. It must be the right kind of wood, and the chimney must be clean to allow for air flow and to prevent fires. Sometimes, keeping the fire going can be a challenge. If the kindling is wet, or there isn’t enough, it can be hard to light up those hardwoods. if the wood isn’t seasoned, or aged, it might not burn efficiently and it might not burn at all. A good fire requires maintenence – you† have to tend it, and nurse it. Feed it logs regularly, stoke it, poke, and move the logs around so the coals can continue to ignite the additional logs. The conditions have to be right.
I’ve never heard of a forest fire in a rain forest, because the conditions just aren’t right. And in order to fan the flame of our faith, we have to make sure the conditions are right. We cannot read our Bible once, and expect our faith to stay ignited. We have†to study the Bible, and feed our faith, and keep the conditions of our heart right so that our faith can be ignited and burn hot with God’s love.
I love to peer into the fire, and watch the flames dance and twirl. I love the soft smell of smokiness in my hair and clothes, and I love to feel the warmth of the wood stove as I stand nearby. May my faith and yours burn brightly with the love of God and may it continue to glow forevermore.
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.1 Timothy 1:6, NIV.†
Imago Dei. I like the sound of that, Imago Dei. It sounds sort
of ethereal and mysterious to me, something deep, something with the potential to change our world. Imago Dei. Oh sure, itís a fancy church word, but it stands for a deep theological idea, an idea that has the potential to solve a host of our earthís problems. Imago Dei, this incredible idea that we are all made in the image of God. If you can grasp Imago Dei, that human beings are made in Godís image, the reflection of perfection, you can begin to see the mystery surrounding our worth as humans, the importance of us, the amazing intricate body, mind, and souls that we are and are created to be. We could spend years researching and exploring and discovering what all that means, imago Dei, but simply put, it means we are all made in the image of God. We donít have to understand every nuance of the phrase to know the amazing implications imago Dei has for all of us, to see how the world around us would change if we all took seriously our imago Dei.
Imagine if you could reflect the beauty of your favorite actress, the strength of your favorite superhero, or the knowledge of the worldís greatest scientists. Imagine if you could reflect all of the good things of your parents or project the confidence of those we think are better than us. Imagine, for just a minute, if you could be a reflection of something even better than that. Now imagine that you are worth even more than any of those things.
In Genesis, God said, let us make humankind in our own image. If we continue the passage, we could find fodder for deep discussions on gender and marriage and equality and what God designed us to be and do, but for today, letís focus on this: we are made in the image of God. The implications, and the gifts, are huge.
Being created in Godís image means that we have inherit worth simply because we exist. It means we are all valuable, from the frailest of the frail to the strongest of the strong. Worth without question, from the highly educated to the cognitively challenged. The wealthy, the poor. Our worth is not determined by our gender, or race, or occupation. Our worth is from the One who created us and nothing can ever take that away. No person can strip of us of the gift, no institution can derail the way we were made, no situation can upend the value we were given. Being made in the image of God; it is our right and our responsibility, our design and our destiny.
Because you are Imago Dei, you donít ever have to worry if you are good enough, smart enough, strong enough, pretty enough, confident enough, wealthy enough, masculine enough, or feminine enough. Your birthright gives you all the value that you need. You are valuable because you are. God has created you with gifts and talents and unmeasurable worth because you were made to reflect God and Godís glory in all that you do and in all that you are. You are enough because you were made in Godís image. Hold your head high, let go of the insecurities and the anxieties surrounding your personality and your self-image. Your creator and God are more than enough, and He made you to be more than enough. You are made in the image of God and that alone gives you all the value you need on this earth.
Why are we so stuck on our own insecurities, why do we operate out of fear, when we have the ultimate Creator, the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, to look over us because He created us? How would our lives, our attitudes, our reactions to others be different if we lived the truth that we are created by God in His image? It is our right and if we miss this right we miss out on the safety, security, and self-confidence that accompanies it. We have true worth and it is our right to live it. It is our right to live as one who is made in the image of God.
And yet, it is also our biggest responsibility.
Imagine how the world would be different if we looked at every other person as made in the image of God? If every one knew their value and could appreciate the value in others for no other reason than they simply exist, what could happen here? Road rage would cease, because we would have patience and deference for the person in the other car. Internet trolls would vanish, because we wouldnít feel the need to be a keyboard warrior that sticks it to everyone who disagrees with our point of view. Sick babies would not be forced off of life-support, and new moms would never be made to feel guilty for breastfeeding, bottle feeding, working, or not. Body shaming would disappear, and bullying could cease because we would not need to trash others to feel good about ourselves. Our quiet comfortable confidence would lead us to encourage others rather than discourage them from living fully in the idea that we all have incredible immeasurable value and worth.
Our Creator has already given us everything we need for Imago Dei- He has already created us in His image. It is our job, our responsibility to use this gift to its fullest. Donít wait for a better day, donít wait to discover your worth until youíve finished school or finished your ordination or finished your certification. Donít wait until youíve already become someone to walk in your worth because you already ARE someone. Look in the mirror and ask God to show you yourself as He sees you. Ask God to show you the true worth of every person you come across. Living your value and living out the value of others – those who are like us and those who are not – might just change your world. Recognizing your value might just give you the strength and the confidence to instill that value in others, one person, one Imago Dei at a time. God did not create us to be insecure, afraid, depressed, and confused. He didnít make us to be angry and show hatred to those who are different or those whom we perceive as less. He created us to walk our life journey in love for ourselves and love for others and love for God. As we learn to value ourselves and value others, we canít help but change the world, one Imago Dei at a time.
You have value because you were made in the Image of God. Live it.
Chicken-love is spreading. From the suburbs of LA to the backyards of PA, chickens are the new black lab. Well, not exactly, but if you havenít considered keeping a couple hens in your yard, perhaps you should. Chickens are an easy, delightful pet that feeds you and your garden. As long as your township or borough gives you the go ahead, itís hard to go wrong with a flock of your own. And if you can keep alive a gerbil or a houseplant, chickens will be a very rewarding piece of cake. Hereís what you need.
Shelter. Just like people, shelter is a chickenís basic need. But chickens arenít choosy. You can DIY or just hit up Tractor Supply for an easy coop kit for a simple attractive coop. But weíve found that our chickens donít need much – a dry, draft-free shelter to protect them from wind, rain, and predators like raccoons and foxes. Most chickens prefer a roost, and youíll want an easily accessible nest box to collect your yummy eggs. You can make your coop as simple or elaborate as you like, but the general rule of thumb says chickens need 3 to 4 feet of coop space per bird. If space is a premium in your back yard, just remember to keep 12 inches of roost space per chicken and one nest box for every 3 hens. Open their door every morning when itís convenient, and once they learn the coop is their home, theyíll return to their roost every evening at dusk. Just lock the door to keep them safe from nighttime predators. Pine shavings are great for the floor of the coop, just sweep it out every week or so and replace with fresh shavings to keep your coop clean and your chickens healthy.
Need some ideas for coops? Check out these pretty and inventive ideas.
Food. Chicken are easy to feed. Adult chickens will eat about 1/4 pound of layer pellets a day, while younger chicks should be fed starter/grower crumbles. You can order commercial feed from any Tractor Supply, local feed mill, and even walmart.com. If you allow your chickens to wander freely in your yard, theyíll happily snatch up bugs, worms, and caterpillars that wreak havoc on your garden. Slip them your dinner scraps and watch the antics begin – your happy hens will go gaga over stale (not moldy) bread, scrambled eggs, or just about anything youíve scraped off your plate. Itís a great way to keep food out of the trash bag and turn it into eggs. Give your chickens food and water each morning when you let them out.
Water. Water is critical to chickens and people. You can use a dedicated chicken waterer or a shallow, clean bucket. Just make sure the water is fresh and your waterer is clean.
Chickens are easy! They just need a little food, shelter, and water, and they will reward you greatly with delicious eggs, pest control, and fertilizer for your garden. Some breeds are great foragers while others, like Buff Orpingtons and Silkies, are cuddly and follow you around like a puppy. You can order nearly grown chickens from most hatcheries or find some locally on Craigslist. And while raising chicks takes a little more in the form of supplies and work, it is definitely fun and worth your efforts. Chickens are surprisingly hardy little creatures, but youíll want to keep a phone number on hand for a vet that will care for them, just in case you need some help. Of course, we always keep an eye on young children around any animal (especially roosters) and always wash hands after handling.If you live in the suburbs or the city, youíll want to check your local ordinances first. A quick call to the township office will let you know if you are allowed to have roosters and hens, hens only, or sadly, no chickens at all.
Thatís it! †The quick and dirty easy guide to keeping chickens in your backyard. With just a little care for their basic needs and comforts, youíll be rewarded with eggs, fertilizer, bug control, and chicken love. It doesnít get any easier – or better – than that.
The chickens refused to leave the comfort of their coop, the goats remained nestled in their freshly-cleaned shed. Not even breakfast could lure them from their comfy roosts and cozy straw beds and out into the cold. The heavy snow and frigid temps deterred all but the most stubborn roosters in their well-protected bachelor pad. We should be busy, adding amendments to the soil, fertilizing, tilling, and digging, getting it just right to receive fresh and new, ambitious seeds and sweet potato slips. I should be able to feel the sun, warming the dirt, as I plot and plan where every plant should go. I want to dream of sun-warmed tomatoes and summer squashes and plump snow peas but here and now instead of sunshine, we are blanketed in cold and ice, covered in the weight of a snowy noríeaster. The first day of spring has passed us by but winter refused to release its icy grip on our little farm. This, this is the winter that just wonít end.
Some seasons of life feel that way, like a winter that refuses to go. The bitterness of a lost job, the cold and angst of a lost loved one. The world seems icy and cruel, as the daily grind grinds on and on, and all you want to do is stop and rest and breathe and recover and find the sunshine again. When you wistfully desperately need a new spring and spring just doesnít want to come. When your energy reserves run as low as the wood pile that burns in the fireplace to keep you warm, and your determination to make it through this wintry season starts to wane. When will this winter of life come to an end? When will the sun break through and bring spring? When will my tired body and my weary heart be ready to grow and bloom again?
The snow falls, piling up gently, quietly. The snow is as peaceful and beautiful as it is cold. Gazing out the window, I still long for spring. I long for relief from the drab and the gray and the never-ending winter. There has never been a year when spring didnít come. In all the winters I have seen, never once did spring not show itís beautiful face, bringing warmth and light and newness and hope. I need that fresh new hope. I need that warmth on my face and my bare feet in the clumpy dirt. I do not know when spring might come, I only know that it will. Spring will come.
I take a few vitamins, and take a little rest. I gaze at Johnnyís Seed Catalog and Meyerís Hatchery catalog and I breathe. Perhaps the ground and I needed some extra breaks this year. A little more time to process and prepare. Space to sip coffee by the fire. Perhaps my faith is being stretched in this time of winter. I cannot see the sun for the snow drifting and falling all around me, but I know that spring is on its way. Seasons come and seasons go and faith is believing, no faith is knowing, that the spring I cannot see is already on its way. Faith is believing, no faith is seeing, that the job we need is just around the bend and the loved one lost is celebrating, celebrated in heaven until we one day arrive. Faith is starting seeds and ordering plants and getting ready and faith is riding out the waves of seasons and the waves of snow. Faith is what is grown in winter time, in the winter that wonít end. Faith is what grows and blooms and bears delicious fruit through snow and wind and waning strength and depleted wood stores. No matter how long the season, no matter how frigid the cold, faith grows and thrives one step, one prayer, one hope at a time. Take a breath and just believe. In your heart, in your life, in your garden, on your farm. Spring will come.
Spring will come.
†Winter is happening just how I like it – with the cold weather outside, and me, inside, by the cozy warm fire. I don’t mean to complain one bit, but OOOOOH baby, it’s cold outside! My inner scientist can’t decide if this evidence for or against global warming, but I for one wouldn’t mind a little extra warm right now!
Frigid temps mean the animals need some extra TLC. That means trading out frozen water buckets for fresh a couple times a day and making sure they have lots of extra clean, dry bedding to snuggle in. And while the goats and chickens don’t seem to love the snow covered ground, the don’t seem to mind the frigid temps at all. The roosters are outside first thing, happily scratching in their chicken run and cockadoodling the day away.
When frozen padlocks tried to trip us up, we got creative! We discovered a great use for the rice handwarmers on the Tiny Happy Acres etsy shop.† I just heated them up a little extra hot, and my hubby held them on the locks until the ice melted enough to open. So much easier than trying to get a hairdryer out there! It’s definitely worth having a few on hand for that reason.
Speaking of the Etsy, you’re going to want to go sign up for the newsletter ASAP!!!! Don’t wait a minute. Why? First of all, right now you can get a free printable of 10 (Christian) affirmations for kids. We have a great time at breakfast reading and repeating these affirmations. It helps us all start the day on a positive note and helps the little ones learn to read, too.
And the second reason to sign up for the newsletter? So you can be the FIRST TO KNOW about the unveiling of our Tiny Happy Acres Spring product line. I’m so excited I can barely keep that secret, I just know you’re going to love it and right now the office smells so good that I don’t ever want to leave. I’m practically in heaven! So hurry up, don’t delay, sign up for the newsletter! Right here!†
And although it’s January and the ground is frozen, we are busy working on the farm! That’s right, we are planning a major farm expansion for this spring and we are working on our business plans. We are working on nutritious veggies, gorgeous sunflowers, the best eggs around, and we are plotting and planning on bringing you some brand new adorable pets, too! 2018 is a year for growth and I hope that you will jump in and join us in creating an abundant life. I hope we can inspire you to care for your body, your soul, and our planet.
As I look out across the frozen tundra that has taken over my backyard farm, I can’t help but think that even though everything looks dead and frozen, God has instilled life and it is just waiting for the opportune moment to burst forth in beauty and bloom. And even if your life, your dreams, your soul, seem frozen and dead, remember that God is still hard at work. Keep that hope alive and burning within you because at any moment you may find that bloom that changes everything. Take this time to rest, to nourish your body and soul so that you can bloom. It’s our mission and our passion. Nourish. Bloom. Repeat.
Stay tuned because amazingness is in the works!
One of my favorite aspects of homesteading is being earth conscious, taking care of our resources, and reducing / eliminating waste. In an effort to be more sustainable and supplement our homestead budget, we opened an Etsy store! Our store is made up of all kinds of tote bags and containers which have been repurposed from other materials. Check us out at†https://www.etsy.com/shop/TinyHappyAcres.
Some of our favorite items are Feed bag Christmas stockings to tickle the fancy of your fav chicken lady, goat totes, and blue jean bags. Please check us out and happy shopping!
It’s not uncommon to hear a cackle here, a cackle there, a cackling throughout the day as our free range flock visits the coop to lay an egg. I love to hear them gently announcing the prize for their hard work. Often times, Elvis, our kind-hearted and only free-ranging rooster, will lead a few hens in a chorus of support for the happy egg layer. The egg song is heard often and unobtrusively. Until tonight.
In one of our smaller coops is a very special flock. It’s a coop full of 9 silkies. They are fluffy, they are docile, and they are the teddy bears and lap dogs of chickendom. †They cuddle by day and huddle by night, confined to the safety of their coop and run. These young pullets and cockerels are the highlight of my flock and my friends and family love to gander at these lovely little puff balls. These puffy fluffy little sweethearts often don’t lay until at least a year, according to my research. So they’ve got a ways to go, or so I thought.
Suddenly, in an instant, an absolute ruckus rang across the chicken yard from the cozy coop just out the back door to the free range flock’s house on the other side of the goat pen. I flew to the window to see every chicken in sight had joined in this very egcited egg song. The breeding coops were singing their hearts out, the bantams and the cochins, the speckled sussex and the Easter Eggers, all singing along while the free rangers were crooning at the top of the their beaks. Every chicken near and far rejoicing because 1 small silkie laid an egg.
I could learn a lot from a chicken. Romans 12:15 (NLT) says be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Yeah, on Facebook, it’s easy to show happy and easy to shop weeping, but what about those real days where your friend is giddy over her promotion – the one you didn’t get? Or when my child excitedly built their 457th lego castle that day? Or the friend that is still sighing over the breakup or the loss?
We need to learn to celebrate, even when we don’t feel like it. We need to learn to show empathy, even when our heart isn’t on straight. So we swallow and choke down that pride of ours, and we set aside our broken dreams or our elated hopes and we sing that egg song or we sing that song of mourning. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. It isn’t always easy, but it is always the loving thing to do.
Cackle along, my friends. Cackle along.