Taking Joy for Ourselves

Taking Joy For Ourselves

[M]aking and tending good and beautiful places is not a dishonorable retreat. – Christie Purifoy

When I first began talking about this dream of a farm, I was on fire with it – the visions of gardens and animals, the quietness of the space, the rooms of the farmhouse that shifted in feel as the sun passed overhead. I had sketched a timberframe with a huge great room and a wing that was for guests and a space of my own across the house, aware I needed a retreat even in my own home.

I always knew this place would be for other people, too, but mostly, then and now, I knew it was going to be a place for me, a place for my family, a place God was giving us to cultivate and tend, to steward . . . a place for us.

But when I began sharing this vision, a well-intentioned friend told me that my dream was beautiful, was good only if it was extended to a place of service, that it would only be selfish if it was just for me. She was sharing the wisdom that so much of the Christian church that we were both brought up in shared – that good is only found in service to other people. I believed that lie for a long time.

In the past few months, though, I’ve found myself reminded that God wants to give me good things simply because God loves me. This place  – this fifteen acres of quiet – will always be for other people, too, but first and foremost, it is God’s gift for Philip, for me, for Milo. There is no selfishness there. I am not hoarding the gift or hiding away in it. I am relishing it, treasuring it, living it in as I fully am – introvert, lover of silence and solitude, nature walker, contemplator.

One of the ways I am being gentled back into this truth – this truth that does not demand I be a constant host and, thus, less than I am actually made to be – is through Christie Purifoy’s amazing book Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace.* Her words are reminding me that hospitality does not have to be about hosting, about having people in this space all the time. Her words are reminding me that hospitality can be about beauty for the sake of itself and beauty shown and shared but not always physically.

This morning, I am going to order pounds of sunflower seed so that when the warmth comes, Philip, Milo, and I can plant them in a wide swath of golden up by the road. It is our hope that everyone who drives by will take joy in that ephemeral beauty as they drive by.

We will host our annual writer’s retreat in June and open the bunk room for guests come April. And in late April, we’ll invite everyone down for our annual yard sale and look forward to greeting our neighbors, especially those of you who have always waned to come down the lane but just needed a reason. On May 18th, Christie Purifoy and Jason Harrod will be here for a night of music and story, and you are all invited. Plus, of course, there’s lots of opportunities to sit at the dining room table over tea. (Get the details on all our events here.)

But mostly, we’ll be here – the three of us – watching the chickens get closer and closer to trying out their swing, tending the tiny shoots of dill in the basement, and walking the land with our hound dogs. We’ll be taking joy in the gift we’ve been given, my friends. We’ll be taking joy.

As you show up to your joy, your work will come to you.

Don’t be scared that Joy is selfish. She has gifts for the whole world in her pockets.— Laura Jean Truman (@LauraJeanTruman) January 24, 2019

Every day, I try to post a picture – or three – from the farm over on Instagram. A little way to share the beauty we’re cultivating here. We’d love to have you join us there.

The Gift of a STeady View

This image above, it’s what I see from the recliner where I work each day while Milo naps. I look out over our bed from my grandmother’s auto-lift chair and see the branches of that walnut, the white roof of our barn, and the woods beyond.

It’s a simple view, not flashy except when our friend the pileated woodpecker dances by, his red cap shining. But I love this view. I love the gentle shift of light on the walnut bark, the way the white roof shimmers back even the grayest sky, the dance of the trees beyond as the wind invisibles past.

This, also, is the place where I can go deep and focus in these days of constant motion and tiny hands. A glance at the monitor to see that Milo is comfortable and resting well, and I’m diving in to words – mine, clients’, the books that continue to accrue on the trunk beside my chair.

Each morning, after Milo goes to sleep, I settle into this space. I almost don’t think about coming here anymore – it’s that much a part of my day. I pick up my computer or read some pages, and between I look out at this view, steady, true.

Sometimes, our culture pushes us to do more. Travel. Attend. Visit. Experience. I love all those things, but I am only able to love them because here – on this 15 acres, in this 215-year-old farmhouse, from this gift of a chair – I get to see the same thing. The branches, the roof, the dancing trunks beyond . . . they ground me even as they soar.

It’s not a view I’d trade for the world. Not for a whole world of experience. Here, now, this is enough.

**

Just decided, we’ll be having a BIG yard sale (in the barn, so I guess it’s a barn sale) on April 27 from 8am until . . . If you’d like to come set up a table, we welcome you to join us. Just message through the comments here, and we’ll get you all the details. Hope you can come to sell or to shop.

Do the Next Thing - Image is of a woman writing in a garden journal

Do the Next Thing

Last night, at 4:30am, after sleeping for almost 7 solid hours (Glory!), I woke up with the weight of all that I wanted to do on my chest.

I’ve got a book coming out in April and a lot of promotion and prep to do there. I’m working on a new project researching the enslaved community at Scotchtown Plantation in Hanover County, VA. I’m eager to get those veggie seeds started (I held off because of this super-cold spell.) Milo is starting to pull up, and I want to walk around all day with him. I have a stack of books as high as my shoulders I’m eager to read. SO MANY good things and not enough time (or energy) in the day to do them all.

I expect you can relate.

But as I lay there, my mind racing with what to do first, I felt this gentle nudge, this reminder – “The next thing, Andi. Just the next thing. You do what the day can hold.”

I fell back to sleep them – for another TWO HOURS – and while my dreams involved Meander jumping off (and landing safely) a 4-story balcony and the need to buy dog food while trying to evade capture, I slept hard and work rested. More rested than I have, well, since a certain four-toothed wonder took his first breath.

So this morning, when Milo’s first nap didn’t come easy (and involved reading him a chapter of Martin Walker’s Bruno), when the laundry needs doing and the dishwasher unloading, when I have a dozen images to transcribe and three client projects to edit, when I want to make some decisions about repairing the roof on my office and buying sunflower seeds for the field by the farm stand, I am doing one thing at a time.

And taking a deep breath in between. May you do the same. The next thing, friend. Then, the next thing.

If you enjoy my weekly blog posts, I hope you will consider signing up to get my monthly emails that are full of farm stories, photos, recipes, and updates on the happenings on this 15 acres of quiet. You can sign-up here.

Firsts, Christmas, and Joy

Firsts and Joy

This morning, as Milo was cuddling very close with me in our pre-nap time with a book, he put my finger in his mouth, and I felt a ridge of bumps, just ever so slightly above his gum line. Tears sprang to my eyes – his first tooth!

This thing has arisen like a mountain range, working its way up through the tectonic shifts of months to emerge, here, in these days just before Christmas.  Oh, the joy . . . and also the fussiness.

**

Milo in his high chair with a purple bow on his head.
Milo is ready for Santa

Milo’s first Christmas. Goodness. I can’t even believe it. Last year, I felt tenderness in new ways for Mother Mary as a pregnant woman. This year, I marvel at what she managed as a mother to this tiny baby in a time when men were not expected to help much at all. I imagine Joseph was a good father for his time, but did he ever take the night shift (as Philip does every other night) or bring Mary soup when she got a cold during those first months (as Philip did this past weekend)?

I want to be doing all the things for Christmas time with this little, no-longer-toothless wonder, but most days, we do well to keep us all in clean clothes, food, and a bit of laughter.  Next year, maybe, I’ll have the capacity to add in advent traditions. . . and he’ll appreciate them more then, I expect. Right now, a recycled Christmas bow is his favorite toy, so I’m celebrating that as festive.

**

This week, I watched my dear friend Kelly preach an Advent sermon at her church. It was called Signs of Joy, and her wisdom about how joy and grief are often intertwined was rich for me as was her exhortation to look for joy. So today, in my sleep-deprived state – because after Philip cared for me, both he and Milo got my cold, so I’ve been on duty for a few days now – I’m finding joy in the gentle click of the wood stove, in hound dogs asleep in their corners of our couch, and in a first tooth, barely pushed into light in the body of a human being we ached for years to hold.

Joy and sorrow. Light and dark. There is a reason we celebrate Christmas at the Winter Solstice – a reminder of both.

This holiday season, may the joy outshine the sorrow in your days.  Happy Holidays, Dear Ones! Happy, Happy Holidays!


Starting in January, I will be sending a monthly newsletter (much as I did before pregnancy and Milo’s exuberance took my attention). That newsletter will include an update about what’s happening on the farm that month, some photos of the critters, farmhouse, and landscape here, a recipe that I tried, and regular discounts about upcoming farm events. If you are already subscribed to our list, you will get that newsletter automatically. But if you aren’t subscribed but would like to be, you can join in here.

(Note, if you’d prefer to get less emails or more emails, every email from us provides you the opportunity to adjust your email settings or unsubscribe.)

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.