When The Holiday Season Is Hard

When The Holiday Season Is Hard

Yesterday, a dear friend told me about how hard it is to leave through this season of so much family stuff when her family of origin was the source of intense, prolonged abuse and a continued world of denial.

Someone else I love feels a profound level of anxiety associated with the travel that often comes this time of year.

Others of us – me included – miss people so intensely that even the best moments come with an ache of absence.

We miss people. We wish our families were different, more healthy, more complete, more like Hallmark.  We ache for partners or children. We want to slow down or speed up just to get past the first of January.

So if this is you this season, may I be a small voice of affirmation. May you find the space you need to grieve, to ache, to wish, to rest, to seek, to find, to hope, and even to fear. May you be surrounded by people who give you this space and who trust that your hurt doesn’t need to dampen their joy. May you see light in the tiniest of candles, and may the shadows grow smaller in that light.

Most of all, may you know you are loved, deeply and richly, for all of who you are in these hard days.


We are doing a little holiday giveaway on Instagram and Facebook. You can win a set of our farm mugs, a packet of seeds from our garden, an electronic copy of my book God’s Whisper Manifesto, and a code for a 30% discount at our Etsy shop.

A Giveaway from God's Whisper Farm
Meander, the reluctant model.

Just click these Instagram or Facebook links to get all the details. 

Hand-Carved Bowls, Hand-Stitched Scarves, Hand-Painted Gourds

Hand-Carved Bowls, Hand-Stitched Scarves, and Hand-Painted Gourds: Our Annual Craft Show

We’ve begun to prepare the barn for Saturday. The cider has been purchased. The hound dog greeters rested. The crafts shaped.  Now, it’s time for our holiday craft fair, and we so hope you’ll join us.  We’ll be open rain or shine with a warm fire in the wood stove and hot cider to share. Come shop and enjoy the spirit of the season with us here on the farm. ALL ARE WELCOME!

Carved by Philip
Hand-Made Gourd at God's Whisper Farm on December 1
Burned and Painted by Galen and Mary Lou
Hand-Crafted Walnut Coffee Table at God's Whisper Farm on December 1
Hand-Crafted by Woody
On Freezing Rain and Shifting Suns

On Freezing Rain and Shifting Suns

This morning, the walnut outside the dining room window where I’m writing is starting to be glazed with ice. We’ve had freezing rain for several hours now, and this tree has made the call to stop warming its tips, it seems.

Freezing rain is one of those between things – not quite rain and not quite snow – and today, it has slicked the deck and grass enough to really slow me down. That’s a gift, a hard one to see but a gift nonetheless.

I’m a fan of the between – the liminal as the romantics would call it. I love the time around sunrise and sunset, the way the light slants then, the gentle shifting of the sun around our planet. I’ve never liked waking to the bright of morning or going to bed in the dead of night. I prefer to walk through the transitions and take them as my cue.

But that’s not true, always, of the way I take to the shifting of life. I bristle against the way Milo’s needs challenge my own comfort, and I did the same when Philip and I married. It takes a lot for me to let go of my selfishness and understand that I will probably not have many days when I can simply binge watch anything I want for an entire afternoon.

I learn, though, when I stop resisting and let the shifts carry me, that those betweens, those moments just after our early sunset when Milo is so sleepy that even a sigh can make him laugh, those are the precious times. The way he leans his cheek against mine when I lift him from the crib before sunrise. The gentle settling back in as Philip returns from loading the wood stove.  Those moments, the small ones that exist almost between the things we notice, they are the breath of life.

So today, as the walnut grows every more decorated with ice, I am celebrating the between of this water that is not yet snow and not still rain. I am taking it as all things are intended when they come from good hands – as gift.

May the gifts of the between reach into your soft spaces today, friends.


We hope you’ll join us for our Holiday Craft Fair on Saturday, December 1 from 9am-4pm. Dad made coffee tables from beautiful walnut, and our friend Sue from Thistle and Stag Meadery will be here with samples. Plus, we have lots of handmade bowls, boxes, scarves, and walking sticks that are perfect for someone in your life.

Holiday Craft Fair at God's Whisper Farm
A live-edge coffee table handmade by Woody Cumbo
The Things We Say We Will Not Do: On Feeding Sweet Potatoes to Milo

The Things We Swear We Will Not Do: On Feeding Milo Sweet Potatoes

This week, we began a new adventure – vegetables for a five-month-old. He did not love cereal, and he clearly has no issues with digestion (the thighs on this kid). So we thought we’d just go all in.

For the record, Milo is not a fan.

But I am determined that this kid will give foods a hearty try because I want him to eat healthily and not pick up some of the bad habits (sugar addition anyone) that his dad and I have.  So we persevere.

The parenting experts I’ve most connected with over the past few months are Magda Gerber and her protege Janet Lansbury. They’re teaching about respecting babies as full people has been very helpful to me, especially since at first I was telling Milo things like “people wear pants” as if he wasn’t a person. (Those biases and beliefs we don’t know we hold slip out in language often.)  So I’ve found their advice very helpful and resonant with who I am and how I want to care for our son.

So when they said that we didn’t need to do airplane sounds or play games to get Milo to eat – that we needed to respect his wishes about food – I was totally on board. I had visions of calmly spooning food into Milo’s mouth or even letting him pick up only what he wanted with this chubby fingers. It was beautiful.

But this boy doesn’t want to eat anything but formula, and I will not be feeding him from a bottle when he is four.  Thus, out came the funny faces and the weird noises (he’s particularly fond of a noise I make that reminds me of how a cartoon would portray a giant’s footsteps), and lo and behold, that baby eats sweet potatoes. (He also dribbles a good portion down his chin.)

If parenting is teaching me one thing, it’s this – the things I swear I will never do or always do are forced to the wayside. Idealism bows to larger goals – like peace of mind and health and the calmness of spirit both Milo and I need to make it through the day.  

For an idealist and quasi-perfectionist about my dreams, this change is healthy. Healing even. More and more, I’m learning to revel in the mess. To leave the edges wild. To demand less of each moment so that I can embrace the more that is always there.

Tomorrow, we are tackling some new pureed vegetable. (Recommendations welcome in the comments below.) I look forward to it.

Giant footfalls and baby steps, friends. It’s all glorious and wild.


We are so looking forward to our Holiday Craft Fair on December 1. Dad has made some gorgeous, live-edge coffee tables, and friends of ours are planning to bring home-brewed meade for all of us to sample. They’ll be hot cider and a fire in the woodstove. Plus, lots of shopping to do.  Come on by – 9am-4pm in the barn. 

The Mystery and Metaphor of the Sky

The Mystery and Metaphor of the Sky

I have been absolutely obsessed with the sky lately, which you know if you’ve been watching our Instagram or Facebook pages.  The humidity is gone. The almost constant rain is over.  And the skeletons of the trees are starting to show.  I could stare up forever in these days.

Milo seems to have the same fascination.  He lays on our bed and plays a lot while I work nearby at the dining room table. (Yep, the master bedroom is this cobbled farmhouse is off the dining room.) Sometimes, he grows quiet, and I look over to see him staring at the sky through the big picture window that overlooks the barn.  He’s rapt.

For many years, I forgot to look at the sky. I was so focused on the work – student papers, writing projects, reading assignments, meeting minutes – that I simply kept my head down, chugging along. But as I’ve released most of those things, grieving them as they left, I’ve begun to look up more often because the mystery – for me – is often in what goes on over my head, both literally and figuratively.

The science of sky – meteorology, astronomy, cloudology (that’s a thing, right?) – are all amazing, important practices, and I revel in the discoveries there. But for me, it’s enough to sit in the presence of something I do not understand, to marvel at a Creator who set in motion a world that is surrounded by molecules combined in just the right way that I can walk around amongst it, not notice it but be sustained by it.  Ah, the metaphor of air.

So today, friends, may I nudge you to lift your heads. Revel in the autumn sky. Grow rapt by it.  It’s a mystery of gift and life.

 


Don’t forget to mark your calendars and join us for our annual craft fair on Dec. 1.  There’s a firm possibility we’ll have locally-made mead available for tasting. 

9am-4pm in our barn.  Free. Everyone is welcome.

Yarn and Wood – The Treasure of the Handmade

Wood and Yarn - The Treasure of the Handmade
Photo by Imani on Unsplash

I don’t know if you guys watched it this summer, but I fell in love with the TV show Making It! about people who made amazing things by hand – puppet theaters and star-gazing cabins, handmade wedding arbors and fascinating photo albums. I watched – not as someone who wanted to do those things – but as someone who knows the joy of making things with her hands.  (I also watched because I love Nick Offerman and came to love Amy Poehler more and more.)

But the show was just the TV version of the appreciation of artisan work that I’ve had since I was a kid. My mom and dad made a lot of things when I was a kid, and they taught me to do the same. Dad sat us down with soapstone blocks and taught us to carve them, and Mom put a need and  Aida fabric in my still-clumsy fingers to show me how to cross-stitch. I watched my dad use railroad ties to build an elaborate rock garden, and my mom crafted beautiful wreaths from dried flowers.  They modeled for me that working with your hands – even in a small scale – is a work of commitment and creativity.

Now, when I pick up a crochet hook or needle, I treasure those memories with them, and I know that when I have the opportunity to buy something that someone else has handmade, I am supporting them not only financially but creatively.  (I also know that we often under-pay for work that takes many, many hours to create, and I find that very sad.)  There’s nothing better, to me, than handmade gifts.

So it’s always with great joy and excitement that I plan our annual craft fair here at the farm.  This year, we’re having our show just in time for the last weeks of holiday shopping – December 1. The barn doors will open at 9am, and we’ll have hand-crafted coffee tables and coat hangers, crocheted scarves and onesies, handmade walking sticks and much more (including cross-stitch Christmas items if I can get my fingers going.)*  Plus, we’ll have the woodstove going and hot cider for the sharing.  It’s going to be a lovely day.

Plan on stopping by and doing a little shopping and a little visiting.  Your children are welcome to visit with our animals, and you can take a walk round the farm if you’d like.  We hope to see you December 1 between 9am and 4pm in the barn.  

*We would love to have you join us as an artisan if you have handmade wares to sell.  Just email [email protected] to get the details.

Marking Time for Dreams on the Farm

Marking Time for Dreams on the Farm
Photo by Beth Ireland on Unsplash

Years ago in another life that I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the night song of fog horns, I had an inkling of an idea. A house (a timber frame to be specific) with room for guests to come and tend their weary souls.  Not a bed and breakfast or a retreat center where I would provide meals or workshops or massages, but my home big enough for others to come, have their own space, and find restoration and sanctuary.

That image, that dream, that calling lived long through some very hard days of divorce and finding the career I’d always wanted wasn’t what I wanted at all. It lived long enough to get a name gleaned from a sermon at a Tailgate Sunday service at Oxford Mennonite Church where Jesse Johnson taught me that the “still small voice” is more fully translated “God’s Whisper.”

It lived on through Mom’s death and a tiny, overgrown farm on the side of a mountain, where my dad and I mended our hearts as we restored a home. It lived on through meeting a slim, quiet, funny guy on OkCupid the day after I told God, “One more time and then I’m single” to this online dating thing, and it lived when that man said he couldn’t do this three hours in the car each day to and from work.

Now, it lives here at this place where writers gather and neighbors stop by to get eggs and produce in a building that was once the place where only white people could vote. It lives in craft shows and concerts and readings* by friends. It lives in chickens and goats and big, fluffy white dogs. It is what I have always dreamed, and it is also becoming.

In these days, though, when a bleary-eyed baby is doing his best to put himself to sleep beside me and where I will, probably, spend the bulk of my hours holding him while he dreams, the life of this place seems far away, almost unattainable, even though it is structurally just steps away. I can let myself be frustrated by the fact that we don’t have the energy to have many events or that the driveway entrance isn’t landscaped the way I’d like or that the bunk room we made for people’s respite sits empty most days because we simply can’t even manage the work of hosting guests just now.  I do let myself be frustrated by that sometimes . . . and that’s okay because frustration is life’s way of telling us we need to persevere. I see that every day as a certain three-month-old tries to crawl.

In these days of lots of watching and waiting as the person I’ve waited for so long gets his feet under him, I am so grateful for women who teach me that the ordinary daily of now, even if it doesn’t look like what we call “ministry” or “service” is just that. For Shannan Martin and her reminder to see what is before me each dayFor Jerusalem Greer and her farm that reminds me that calling is sometimes about Just Living in a place and loving the people who neighbor it. For Christie Purifoy and Lisa-Jo Baker, whose podcast “Out of the Ordinary” is singing health and dreaming and contentment into my tired, mama soul.

Some days, it feels like this farm and this woman are just marking time, going stagnant, sitting empty. But then I am reminded that empty spaces are the ones that can be filled again, and I wait, here in the daily of maintaining and watching, to see what gift of “next” comes when the time is right for it to arrive. Maybe it will be alpacas.

 

*Stay tuned for more information about an exciting night of music and words with author and gardener Christie Purifoy and singer-songwriter Jason Harrod this spring.

Mutability, Handwork, and a Visit to the Farm

Mutability, Handwork, and a Visit to the FarmWhen I was in school, I was an English major, and my favorite writers were the Romantic poets – Byron, Wordsworth, Keats.  In those years of my young life, I loved their rebelliousness – their willingness to walk away into the “wilderness” and live life on their own terms.  (Okay, I still sort of love that.)

But now, as I look out over our garden that is rapidly dying back, as I see the pink and orange heads of the zinnia that I planted so late I didn’t know if they’d bloom, as I see the clusters of sunshine that are the marigolds that I sowed as a gift to Philip – they are his favorite flower – I think of what the Romantics had to say about “mutability,” the tendency of all things to change. Given the Romantics fascination with nature, they often wrote about what they observed in the world not made by humans. . . even mountains change over time. Nothing stays the same.

So as I sit on this chilly morning and look at the dance of color in the garden, I know it will soon end. A frost will descend, and the beauty will shift to something more barren, more raw. I will glory in that, too.

This Saturday, we will celebrate the ways we use our hands to make things, things that feel permanent, that feel steady and unchanging.  We will celebrate craft at our annual craft fair, and I will revel there, too.

Making has been a part of my life since I was tiny. Dad tried to teach my brother and I to carve soapstone when we were just tots. Mom had a cross-stitch hoop in my hands when I was not even in school.  That making set up the way I try to make and recreate and capture in words.

Somewhere between the recognition of change and the need to fasten things down in words and materials lies life . . . in all its sharp edges and soft landing places.  It’s a good life.

We hope you will come celebrate all of this – including the bursts of color in the garden – with us this Saturday at the craft show.  We’d love to have you visit.

Made in Virginia Craft Show

Saturday, October 7

9am-4pm

Radiant, VA

Message [email protected] for more details.

 

 

Join Us for Our Annual Craft Show in October

Join Us for our Annual Craft Show on October 7
Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Last night, I was working on the final part of the sampler that was Philip’s wedding gift from me. Our 4th Anniversary is in September, so you can see I’ve just been buzzing along on the project.  It’s a sampler, so the pattern is a series of repeated motifs, all in flora or fauna. . . I love it, and he does, too. . . although it would be nice to see it out of the cross-stitch hoop sometime.

I keep trying to weave my words around the reason I find handwork so pleasurable . . . there’s something about a meditative state, about a motion of my hands that I don’t have to think about, about the way accomplishing something that is so bodily. . . maybe you have language for it if you find joy in manual work – gardening, woodworking, painting, weaving, throwing pots. . .

There’s something about making things with my hands that is life-giving to me.

So one of the things I wanted to do from the get-go here at the farm was to host a craft show every year, a place where local folks can sell the things they make with their own hands.  In October, we’ll be hosting our Third Annual Made in Virginia Craft Show, and I can’t wait.

Artisans of all sorts – we have jewelers, woodworkers, authors, and sewers signed up already – will join us to share and sell what they have crafted.  And we’ll all have a chance to own and give away one-of-a-kind treasures.

The show is October 7 from 9am-4pm, and we are still accepting vendors. If you’d like to sell your handmade items*, we’d love to have you join us. Sew, crochet, throw pots, paint, write books, make candles, craft jewelry, turn wood . . . we have space for you.

The cost is just $10, and we’ll provide the space and a table for the first few folks who sign up.  We do all the advertising and promotion – although, of course, we ask that you help spread the word – and then, you just come that morning, set up, sell, and enjoy the camaraderie of the day.  If you’d like to reserve a space, please write to us at [email protected] 

And if you’re not a crafter or artisan but appreciate that work, mark your calendars and plan to join us. We’ll have the cider on and the woodstove burning. Plus, the rabbits will be here to greet you with their bouncing noses.

It’s honestly one of my favorite days of the year, and we’d love to share it with you.  See you there?

*Please note, this show is for handmade items only. Thanks.

Leaves Flung Skyward
A photo by João Silas

I’m reading this incredible book that was gifted to me by my friend Bryan.  It’s called The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg.  Basically, it’s a really artful journal of Klinkenborg’s reflections on the rural landscape through each month of the year.

I love books like this – including Christie Purifoy’s Roots and Sky – because I’m so very much more aware of the natural landscape, the passing of days that seems both like a stroll and a very fast spring across the hillside.  I’m reading quickly now because I’m almost to September, and I’m eager to walk the days with Klinkenborg’s descriptions inside me.

Take this passage from his August chapter:

In the dense river-bottom fields along the Mohawk River, all that corn is nearing a biological climax. It won’t be picked for another two months, but it’s now coming into the last of the green, those final weeks before the leaves and stalks begin the slow browning of autumn. Every field looks like an army of aspirants, leaves flung skyward in a kind of hosanna.

I know this landscape. I have seen it for the past few weeks. I see the backside of it now, here in Madison County, where the corn has turned like it’s been steeped in tea.  Outside my office now, the jewel corn is getting scanter, more thin each day, and soon I will go out with the bushel basket Sarah gave us and harvest the ears before I spend an evening popping the kernels free for friends.  (We’ll have some baggies of kernels for sale in the farm stand soon.)

Then, those stalks will be harvest and laid in bundles for our neighbors to take home, and we’ll see them and their sisters adorning houses all round here in October.

The landscape shapes everything about how we live in a rural place, and I’m grateful to Klinkenborg for reminding that is truth, hosanna-flung and wild.

This Saturday night, Sept 10,  Abbye West Pates will be here to give her blessing of voice and guitar to the farm.  We’ll start the evening with a potluck dinner with Abbye at 5pm, and then relax around with walks and visits to the animals until the show begins at 7pm. After, we’ll light a bonfire and make some s’mores. Join us for any and all of that time, and just bring what cash you can for the show – it’s pay-what-you-will.  Everyone of all ages is welcome.