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.

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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.

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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.)

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.

The Mysterious Ways of Goats and Babies

The Mysterious Ways of Goats and Babies

This morning, I looked out our bathroom window and saw that our small goat herd is wandering amongst the Trees of Heaven at the back of the pasture.  They’re grazing there, so I assume there is some mineral exuded by these trees that they need.  Plus, they collared all our other trees of heaven at the front of the pasture when we first moved them here.  Sometimes, goat-raising is a practice of pondering the mystery.

Parenting, I am finding, is much the same. Does that cry mean he’s hungry, he’s tired, he’s bored?  Or is he just shouting because he can? (This seems to be a particular favorite these days.)

The researcher in me wants to hunt down answers – and my smartphone feeds this tendency is some not-always healthy ways. But the writer in me, the journeying woman, the person who has learned that much of the hard days of her life have not yet brought reasons – that woman wants to settle into the mystery and let it abide around me.

There’s a bitterness that gathers on my tongue when I try too hard to know, when I push to understand things that are beyond me.  I’m learning to savor the sweetness of beauty in simple observation, in watching the wanderings of goats and the vocalizations of babies and doing what I must do to care for them but not more.

I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Interview this week, and I’m still letting her words slide into the cracks of myself. Here is what her words reminded me about who I am and who I want to be – I want to be the person who leans close into everything – even the hard, brutal things. I want to ask questions without expecting answers. I want to trust the journey is carrying me where I need to go. I don’t want to avoid anything. I want to embrace it all . . . and trust the outcome to One who holds it all.

May mystery revel around you, friends, and may you revel in it.


Don’t forget to mark your calendars for our Holiday Craft Show on December 1. It’s going to be a wonderful day.  

 

When The Potatoes Sprout Just Before Frost

When The Potatoes Sprout Just Before Frost

After dinner each evening, Philip, Milo, and I have begun a routine of spending a bit of time outside in the cool. The fresh air is good for all of us, especially a certain baby who sleeps better with some crisp oxygen in his lungs.

The other night, we strolled around the garden to look at the compost pile and the fence Philip mended when the neighbor’s cows broke through to get our decrepit corn stalks.  We needed to make some decisions about the pile – how we were going to access it with the new tractor, how many square feet of the garden were worth the sacrifice, what kind of fencing we needed. But I was distracted.

Behind us, the potatoes that had gone undug this summer because of Milo’s arrival were now sprouting after Philip tilled the ground . . . a few dozen new plants, just days before we are due for our first frost.

I felt so sad for these beauties, sad that the cold of the winter will kill them before they can produce. Sad for the squash and pumpkins that have pushed from the earth in these unseasonably warm October days. Less sad for the ornamental corn that refuses to give up.

Sometimes, moments come too late. Sometimes, we wait too long to try, and sometimes, the days of life keep us from the timeliness of certain experiences. Sometimes, we flourish at the wrong moments.  Sometimes, frost will kill all that has sprung with such hopefulness.

But sometimes, in those rare golden days, we are graced with a gift that felt it would never come – that amazing job, a partner long awaited, a baby who has learned to shout into your life when you are almost 44 years old.

Tonight, these shoots of hope will die back in all likelihood, and I will be sad for their passing. And still, I will remember the promise that nothing is wasted – not pain, not young life, not even a late-sprung potato. It all is made whole and well. Every bit.

 

 

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.

Asphalt Chunks and Unexpected Gifts

Asphalt and the Blessing of Unexpected GiftsLast week, just after Philip got home and we were beginning the dinner process, a truck with all the accoutrements of construction came down our driveway.  A man walked up to our door, and as I met him on the porch in my bare feet, he said, “Do you all want some asphalt crumble?”

I’m sure my face looked puzzled because when I hear crumble, I think dessert! I couldn’t quite compute how asphalt became edible, but I knew better than to say so. So I called Philip. “Do we want asphalt crumble?”

My savvy husband said, “Yes, Yes we do.”  And he proceeded to give the man direction on where to dump it.

About then, I realized they were talking about the tailings from the rumble strips they were putting into the middle of the road at the end of our driveway.  Now, it made sense.

This is how we have a big pile of double-yellow-line tinted asphalt in our driveway.  And every time I see it, I get giddy because gravel is expensive, y’all, and when you have a quarter-mile of driveway plus a barn that is graveled all the way around and a parking area by your farm stand, it’s no small thing to get a HUGE load of free gravel.

Plus, now we have a tractor to spread the stuff, which makes it all gift and almost no burden.  And we are keeping a pile of tar-caked mess to end up who knows where.   All goodness.

Life still feels overwhelming as we continue to adjust to life with the most joyful and cutest baby on the planet, but sometimes gifts of grace come in really unexpected places.

May you get unexpected gifts that you didn’t even know to ask for this week, friends, and may they give you joy.

 

Friends, if you haven’t gone over an liked our Facebook or Instagram pages, I hope you will. We post lots of great stuff there regularly.  🙂