Taking Inventory

If you asked most people, they would probably admit that their life just doesn’t look quite like they had imagined it would. My life is not really anything like what I pictured when I went off to college, young, naive, and still really new to the world around me.

There are days when I wonder how I got off track…I had such a mission and vision for my life back then. A passion to make the world better, and a great big bunch of hope that the world could be better.

Where did that hope go? When did wanting to change the world morph into wanting to make it to the next paycheck? When did that dream of spreading hope to others pass into dreaming of when I can lay my head back down on my pillow? When did wanting to stand against darkness fade into just wanting to go sit back down with a heating pad and a bowl of vanilla ice cream?

In some ways, it doesn’t matter what we wanted 20 years ago. We can’t go back, we can’t ever re-enter that time in our lives when we were so energetic and passionate and wanting to make a difference. We traded our enthusiasm for experience and it shows in our stringy grey hairs, and squishy squint lines, and crepe skin, I suppose. We’ve lost so much and we gained some things we didn’t expect, as well.

We used to be excited to learn new things, and now we giggle nervously when we have to approach something fresh, when we embrace a new idea or are tempted to post in a new app. Learning new skills and trying new things used to be our normal, daily operation, not a class that we sign up for or a seminar we attend.

I am convinced that a large part of why we ‘grown-ups’ are so tired is that we’ve lost that wide-eyed wonder with which we used to view the world. When every day was a new experience and each morning we hopped out of bed, ready to slay pretend dragons because we didn’t need to face any real live dungeon-master disasters or dragon-like firy problems. We had reserves of energy, ready to be spent frivolously on fun – and now, our energy is spent before we’ve even had the chance to nourish it awake.

Experience is a heavy weight and I often wish that we could set it down. So what if we just stopped in our tracks, and took an inventory of where we are. Set those heavy weights down for just a moment, to reconcile the life ledger that constantly runs through the back of our head. Some of us might be excited to see how far we’ve come, while others of us, ashamed, or simply weary of where the world has brought us. Or maybe, all of the above.

Where we are isn’t the end of our story, of course. We know this to be true, else we wouldn’t ever pour another cup of coffee or put on our big girl pants to slay the day. But we also know that making changes is hard, and sometimes, it is entirely worth it to stay the course we ended up taking.

But we’ll never know unless we ask ourselves the hard questions. Am I happy in this space? Am I fulfilled? Is where I am worth it or will it bring more regrets than peace?

Did I get off the track I need to take or did I lose my way entirely? Or have I created an entirely new route, uniquely fitted for me?

As women, it is so easy to lose ourselves to raising kids, supporting our spouses, and helping others. We forget what actually makes us tick. We make ourselves smaller so others can be larger than life. And over time, the little things turn into bigger things and we get to our middle age and realize we’re not even sure who we are anymore. But that’s ok. We can still be found.

We can’t ever go back, and most of us wouldn’t even want to. But we can pick back up, recover some of the pieces we lost, and create things that are new and fulfilling in ways we never could have imagined.

Take a moment, just for you. Allow yourself to wander in your thoughts, to daydream. If you couldn’t fail, what is it you would do today? What pieces of your life are missing that you would like to fill with something new? If your life could take a new direction, where would you want it to go? What do you love in your life and what do you want more of?

Give yourself the gift of a dream, whether something as small as a hot cup of coffee and a good book or something bigger, like a career. If you could reinvent yourself for even just a day, who would you be? Would you be your friend? Would you have hope?

No, we can’t and we don’t want to go back. But what do we want? I know what it is I want. And maybe you are the same.

I want to face each day with the energy and excitement of my small children, who can’t contain themselves to their beds for one more minute when there are so many things to experience, and learn, and understand. I want to jump out of my bed each day, ready to tackle my kingdoms, forge new paths, and experience, in wonder and amazement, the world around me.

When Your Dandelion Wishes Get Mowed Down

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 couldn’t 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, that’s 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 – 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 wasn’t 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. 

NIV Artisan Collection Bible

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.

Fanning the flame

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

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, it’s a fancy church word, but it stands for a deep theological idea, an idea that has the potential to solve a host of our earth’s 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 God’s 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 don’t 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 world’s 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, let’s focus on this: we are made in the image of God. The implications, and the gifts, are huge.

Being created in God’s 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 don’t 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 God’s glory in all that you do and in all that you are. You are enough because you were made in God’s 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 wouldn’t 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. Don’t wait for a better day, don’t wait to discover your worth until you’ve finished school or finished your ordination or finished your certification. Don’t wait until you’ve 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 didn’t 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 can’t 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.

Chickens are easy keepers.

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 haven’t 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, it’s 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. Here’s what you need.

Shelter. Just like people, shelter is a chicken’s basic need. But chickens aren’t choosy. You can DIY or just hit up Tractor Supply for an easy coop kit for a simple attractive coop. But we’ve found that our chickens don’t 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 you’ll 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 it’s convenient, and once they learn the coop is their home, they’ll 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, they’ll 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 you’ve scraped off your plate. It’s 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 you’ll 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, you’ll 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.

That’s it!  The quick and dirty easy guide to keeping chickens in your backyard. With just a little care for their basic needs and comforts, you’ll be rewarded with eggs, fertilizer, bug control, and chicken love. It doesn’t get any easier – or better – than that.

Spring Will Come.

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 nor’easter. 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 won’t 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 doesn’t 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 didn’t come. In all the winters I have seen, never once did spring not show it’s 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 Johnny’s Seed Catalog and Meyer’s 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 won’t 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.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

 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!

Check out our Etsy shop!

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!