October 28, 2013

A Picture Tells A Thousand Lies

The filtering lens of social media allows us to paint a beautiful picture of life, doesn't it? Sure, we occasionally post a picture of a bad hair day and give it a hash tag of #beingreal.  We are willing to share a botched recipe or a craft-gone-bad.  We may even go so far as to confess a parenting fail.
Even on our very worst days, our "good stuff" far outweighs the ugly when it comes to Facebook, blogs, Instagram or any other social spotlight.  No one wants to be a Debbie Downer, so when my day is knocking me down before I even slip out of bed,  I often choose silence rather than share my struggles.  It is much more safe to stay silent.
Safe, but false.

When I only share the good/funny/beautiful, I am essentially giving you a one sided conversation (or slide show) of what I want you to think of me.  Not the real me with the hard edges poking out and unsightly rips in my confidence.

I may have this all wrong, but I'm guessing that there are millions of women out there feeling that they are the only ones who don't have it all together.
An imperfect island with rocky places and lonely spaces.
If you do have it all together, then you may stop reading right now and head over to Martha Stewart's website to plan your next party.  I'll venture to guess that many of you stayed right here with this imperfect girl.

A year ago, as I wiped tears from my eyes, I said to a friend, "I sure thought I'd have life figured out better than I do by this age."  No matter what age or stage of life you are in, Satan knows how to attack you.  He knows your weak points and vulnerable places.  It could be
your weight,
your loneliness,
your past,
your future,
your relationships,
your self-worth,
your marriage,
your children,
your  skills,
your job,
your finances,
your self-confidence.

Since my teen years he's attacked every piece of that list at one point or another.  The weak spot in my armor has moved around throughout my lifetime.  I have often tried to use one part of the "armor" to cover/protect another part.  I thought my weight would boost my self-confidence.  I thought my skills would cover the parenting of my children.  In more recent years I've allowed my relationships to validate my self-worth.
You already know how the story ends in that scenario:

I gain weight, my self-confidence sinks.
My skills falter, my parenting feels like a failure.
My personal relationships dry up, my self-worth implodes.
Are you tracking with me?  I'm about to get personal.  Real.  Open.

Over the past year I've dealt with some relational pain, rejection, and disappointment.  
I am a people person and a people pleaser.  Basically, I like people.  I want people to like me.  I want everyone to get along.  End of story.
But that's not the end of the story because it takes two to tango and some people just aren't meant to be dance partners.  I've always dreamed of having a giggle-under-the-covers-eating-pistachio-ice-cream kind of relationship with a sister.  I love my sister-in-laws, but the dots of our relationships are connected by holidays and occasional family get togethers.  I've spent the better part of a year letting go of a dream.   I had allowed the dream to cloud my self-worth.  I had forgotten that my value is in Christ's unconditional love for me.   He has called me to be the daughter of the Most High King, wife of an amazing man, and the mom of three incredible kids.  The other relationships are bonuses.  I struggle with keeping that perspective.  Do you?

From the day we stepped foot on this farm, my husband and I have made it our mission to share it with others.  We've had countless friends and family over for every kind of event you can imagine.  We like people.  We want people to like us.  See the pattern?
I was recently criticized for not including someone at an event.  We would never intentionally leave someone out, but the verbal cut was painful.  It was mostly painful because we find ourselves in a barren place of feeling excluded ourselves.  I've written about this struggle before.   What I still wrestle over, on a regular basis, is how rare my kids get invited to other people's homes.  Our doors are always open, but it is hard to not take it personally when others' doors are shut.  It is rejection via omission.  Satan was whispering his lies to me this afternoon: "Has your son ever been invited to his house?"  "You must have done some poor parenting for your kids to get excluded."  "You and your family are unworthy."  "They don't like you."
Have you heard those lies before?  I know I have good kids.  I know they are well behaved.  But Satan likes to weave truths into lies and when I listen, my heart grows heavy.  I feel helpless.
Just when I feel the burden grow weary, I am reminded of this:
O Lord, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Lord.
You hem me in, behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Psalm 139:1-5

Did you catch the beauty in those verses?  He KNOWS me.  He hems my heart in, behind and before.  He knows my intentions.  He knows my weaknesses.  He knows my vulnerable places.  He also knows what is best for me:
I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you what is best for you
who directs you in the way you should go.
Isaiah 48:17
So dear one, be encouraged.  He doesn't expect perfection.  If he did, then we wouldn't have needed a Savior, would we?  God promises to be all the armor we need.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58:11 

As I wrote this post, it became very clear that I struggle with rejection.  Ya, the truth stings a bit.  I didn't write this for pity or even affirmation.  I wrote these words to encourage you.  Though life here on the farm is beautiful, we all have personal struggles.  I hope to break the false reflection of perfection.
The truth is, life is beautiful and messy and difficult and amazing.

October 23, 2013

A Season of Celebration

I've alluded to the fact that my life has been busy lately.  Since August I have felt as though a cyclone tore through and I got sucked into the spinning of life's craziness.  If you've spent any time here at NEM, you know that I savor stillness and desire for my kids to enjoy being kids.  I haven't changed my mind on those topics, but sometimes we have to lay aside our preferences for a season.  August through October has been my season of laying aside myself.
I'm okay with crazy as long as crazy is only a season and not a lifestyle.

The whirling dervish has slowed to a pleasant breeze and I am finally able to release my grip and enjoy the view.

Here's what our family is celebrating:
1. My oldest daughter attended her first high school Homecoming dance.
 Her beauty, inside and out, took my breath away.  It was hard on her daddy to see her so grown up.
 The dance just happened to fall on opening day of deer hunting season.  It made for a fantastic picture.  I wish I had taken a better photo with my Nikon camera.

She went with a group of friends and one of the girls' parents hosted dinner on their back porch.  The scene was blog-worthy.

2. Our other amazing daughter decided she'd like to try volleyball this year.
 She spent many hours at practice and we became much closer through the various road trips for her games.  It was a crazy, wild ride but so worth it.

Her team was good.  Really good.  As in they never lost a game or even a set.  It forced her to play up and was a great challenge for her.
All her hard work and dedication paid off.  Over the weekend, her undefeated team won the state championship.  So proud of these girls.
The greatest blessing of all wasn't the trophy or title.  It was her teammates.  My sweet girl had previously endured a year of mean girls but the girls on this team were such a sweet balm to her tattered heart.  Yes, so worth the season of crazy for me.

3. My baby turned 10 this week.  I can hardly wrap my momma-heart around the fact.  When he was a toddler I'd see older boys and dread the coming years because I was sure that the sweetness would run out by that age.
I was wrong.
He's all boy.  He's tough and wild and free.  
But he's still precious and sweet and tender.
What a privilege it is to be his mom.

4. Our newest batch of foster puppies arrived this week.

We are smitten.

October 21, 2013

In the Chicken Business

Over the summer, we raised some chickens for friends who wanted farm raised, hormone-free chicken meat. Last Saturday was slaughter day.  I don't really like the word slaughter because it sounds so barbaric.  We did a lot of research to make sure we handled it in the most humane and sanitary way.  

This was our fourth batch of meat birds, so we have figured out some things along the way.
1. It takes work and money to raise meat birds.  The special feed is more expensive and they require daily attention.  This particular order was mostly roosters, so we had to keep them in a separate area, away from the attractive ladies.  Therefore, it was another area to keep clean and protected.  So if you were ever wondering why farm raised, organic birds are so expensive, this is why.

 2. It takes a village.  We have found that many of our (male) friends want to experience this day with us. We have had several parents ask if their older kids could come see the process because we live in a society where most kids think chicken meat comes from the grocery store.  It is a great educational adventure for anyone over the age of 10.
So when the teenage boys offer to help, we don't turn them down.  These boys (and my farm girl) had the job of catching the chickens.

3. It takes good equipment.  I'll spare you the gory details, but essentially, we use restraining cones because it is quick and less traumatic for the birds.  No, we don't let them run around with their heads cut off.
We also use a chicken plucker machine.  This saves time and is much more sanitary than plucking by hand.  The first step, after the cone, is a quick dip into boiling water to loosen the feathers (seen in the top left of the photo below).  Then the birds take a spin in the plucker.  
 It only takes about 20-30 seconds for all of the feathers to come loose.  In the photo below you can see the pile of wet feathers on the ground.

When that step is completed, they basically look like a whole chicken you would buy in the grocery store.  It really is amazing.

4. It takes a well planned operation.  Each person had their assigned job to keep the assembly (or disassembly) line moving.  Of course, we allowed them to change jobs to get to experience the whole process.  Once the birds have been plucked, they need to be cleaned, gutted, and prepared for the freezer.  We use a stainless steel table for this part of the process, which can be washed an sanitized between each pair of birds.
Since I dry heave while cutting up a whole chicken bought at the grocery store, I leave this part of the process up to my daughter.  She is a girly-girl, but she jumps right in!  In fact, this time around, she was giving lessons to the boys.  Yes, we believe in raising well rounded kids. ;)
The whole process is not for the faint of heart.  Which I am, so I simply take pictures and stand back.  However, it does build a sense of community and an appreciation for our forefathers/mothers who had to work so hard to put meat on their tables.

October 15, 2013

Easy Fall Mesh Wreath

The deco mesh is all the rage right now, but sometimes it looks a little plastic-y for my taste.  I found this roll of moss green on an after-Christmas-sale table last year.  By pairing it with some burlap ribbons, it definitely has a more natural, fall flavor.
 A couple of years ago I made a winter sparkly wreath for my front door using the deco mesh for the first time. Then last year, I changed it up a little for Christmas.
It was okay, but not really me.  Plus, the size was too big and pouffy.  Reminded me of a 1990's prom dress with christmas balls .

So I took it apart and started over for fall.  This time around, I made sure my loops were much smaller.  For step by step directions, click here.

Once the mesh loops were secured with floral wire, the burlap ribbon loops were added to the back.  The finishing touch was a simple bow and some leaves.  I truly love that black chevron burlap ribbon.  
 Yes, simple suits me much better!
How about you?  Do you typically go for the simple, trendy, sparkly, or natural style on your front door?

October 11, 2013

Faces at the Farm

Have I introduced our goats?  We have three pigmy goats on the farm.  One male and two females.  They are small enough that I never feel afraid of them, but large enough to keep hawks away from our birds.  We haven't had them spayed or neutered, so maybe next year we will have baby goats around here.

Meet Chuckles.  He is Mr. Personality.  Always inquisitive.  Usually annoyingly so.  Still very sweet.

Peaches is my personal favorite.  Her little pink nose fits her timid, sweet personality.  It took her weeks to warm up to us.  She is still very shy but such a charmer.

Piper is our other female goat.  She's a sweetie too.  She is the perfect mix of Chuckles and Peaches.  Friendly, but not too shy.  Interested, but not annoyingly so.  Ahem, Chuck.

We recently moved our bunnies into a new home.  It's sort of like a duplex for bunnies.  They each have their own space/food/bed but they can chat through the screen.  We think they are both girls, but we don't want to take any chances and have baby bunnies running out our ears.

Our hens have a new house, too.  Over the past year we have added about 100 hens to our flock.  The original hen house will be up for sale soon.  The ladies don't really use it much anymore.  Our other hen house will remain, but with the addition of more birds, we needed to add more nesting boxes and sleeping (roosting) poles.  I think this little house will have a whole post of it's own.  More details to come...

Speaking of hens...
We've added variety to our flock.

The Crested Polish get a gold star for looks, but they got the short end of the stick on brains. They would totally fit the blonde jokes... if they were, uh, blonde.
We only added a few to our flock.  They are more of a conversation starter for visitors at the farm.
The real workers (egg layers) are the Black Australorps and the Red Stars.
 No, you're not seeing things.  Yes.  That is a duck.  Dolly thinks she's a chicken.  She goes into the hen house each night with her girls.  We've thrown her into the pond too many times to count and she marches her little white tail feathers right back to the coop.

My favorite are the Plymouth Rocks.  I love their speckled feathers.  

 I hope you've enjoyed this little meet-n-greet.
Happy Friday!!

October 10, 2013

Permission to Stop

 I envy this little guy.  Well, not the slimy part, but definitely his speed.  The last two months have been constant motion.  Between volleyball, homeschool, extra classes, church, and work my life has been spent in my car and on the go.  I crave stillness.
We carved out a day this week to stay home ALL day (3 out of 5 of us did ... public high school and hubby's job wouldn't go along with my plan).

We could have spent the day working on a history project or digging deeper into math concepts.
But we didn't.
We gave ourselves permission to just do the bare essentials of school to count it as a day and then we headed out.  It was the first brisk day of fall weather and we were itching to enjoy it.
My girl took me on a ride in the woods.  We stopped several times to enjoy the quiet.
Savoring the calm.

 Most of us need time to savor the quiet.  Sometimes we wait for someone else to give us permission to take the time to do it, though.  If you are waiting, I'm giving it to you.  Go.  Find a moment of serenity and breathe it in.  You need it.

 The next part of my day was spent on a hike with my sweet boy.  He knows how to win my heart...
 No, not by flowers, though they were a sweet gift.  His hand in mine without me being the one to initiate it... that's what breathes life into this momma's heart.

Are you in a rush?  Is life squeezing so hard you don't have time to breathe in the moments?  Give yourself the gift of stopping.  It doesn't have to be all day.  You know what you need.

October 4, 2013

Fall Open House at Willow Hill Farm (part 2)

 Welcome back!  Before we get started, I feel like I should let you know that today's post isn't as picture heavy as yesterday.  I have the entire volleyball team coming over for a sleepover tonight and so my bloggy mojo just got a swift kick in the pants.  But I love a party so I'm not complaining.

Welcome to my kitchen!

My newest addition is this bottle cap clock.  Wanna guess where I found it?  It's a really fancy place.  Keep reading and I'll let you in on my posh secret.

The green hutch used to hold the globe collection, but they've been moved to the room I didn't know what to do with.

Another addition to the kitchen is my enamel pot collection.  Our ceilings are crazy high (11+ feet) so I needed something tall to fill the space above our already oversized cabinets.

Little touches of fall make me happy

Step on out to our back porch.  The breeze always seems to be blowing out here.

The cats haven't fully grasped the concept of BARN cat.  They are more familiar with the PORCH cat idea.  Oh Basil and Olive, it's a good thing you're so cute!
We spend as much time as possible on this porch, which the cats seem to appreciate.

Before I go, did you guess where I found the super fun metal bottle cap clock?  Wait for it... Big Lots!  Crazy!  I've never looked for home furnishings there but one day I was looking for a dinosaur (also known as a corded telephone) and came upon the clocks.  I had a hard time deciding between the green lemonade and the red strawberry pop.
Happy Fall Y'all!!!

I'm linking up with The Dedicated House and It's Overflowing and Inspiration Monday