My intention in becoming a stay at home mom (when Carter was about one year old) was to really live into every moment, enjoy his life and mine to the fullest. I wasn’t quite sure what that should look like since I had been focused on moving up the ladder of success for as I could remember. I remember those first days at home with my son. I’d fill our days with park visits, exercise classes, target, and nap times. Just before Nathan would come in the door I’d turn on the dishwasher, washing machine and oven to make the house come alive with what I felt work for a woman should like like. There was something missing.
When Elizabeth was born and refused formula I found myself in this world of exclusive breastfeeding. I wasn’t prepared for a complete renewal of my mind. If I was fully capable of providing all the nutrition for this little person for the first half year of my life what else was I capable of? It was liberating in the best ways. An online world of breastfeeding, natural birth, cloth diapering, peaceful parenting, and whole foods was opened up to me.
To prepare for Lilah’s birth I hired a doula and took birth classes. I discovered that the feeling of emptiness that came upon me after my first two children were born could be filled with hormones (the high of birth), skin to skin, and fully embracing my birth experience. The third trimester of LIlah’s pregnancy is where I found God in my inner dwelling place. Emptying my mind to fully relax my body was the first time I experienced meditation, contemplation. I can see now that it was God calling me towards my work for my community and closer to him at the same time.
For quite some time, I’ve developed a ritual of daily prayer. The woods have become my alter and in a hidden space I say prayers and sing hymns. My dog, Janie, looks after me and reminds me when it’s time to head back. After my time outdoors I find quiet solitude in the only restful place in a family of 7—the bathroom. I light a candle. I read my prayer book, study, and reflect on the psalms. I journal thoughts and ideas and plan my day. This routine has become the single most important thing I’ve done for my relationships, health, and work.
This time spent in silence allows me to be filled with the holy spirit in a powerful way. It’s when I’m powered by the spirit that I can dig into my inner wisdom and be lead towards the things that really need to be done. It allows me to set aside those things that will not serve me or others. It keeps me from putting off things that could easily be overlooked. The most meaningful things like preparing meals for my family, spending one on one time with my children, reaching out to someone who is lonely, writing that story that’s been on my heart.
Time spent in silence is new to me and it didn’t come easily. In fact, it was in the depths of despair that I finally gave into the desire to meet God right there in the center of myself. It has taken practice to continue to do so, but over time, it’s gotten easier, more natural, and on days when it doesn’t happen I can really tell a difference in my attitude and energy level.
Another benefit of this time spent in silence every day has been a special knowing when things don’t feel right. My nervous system now speaks to me in new ways. There’s this deep, inner knowing that some things just don’t feel right during this season of life. A devoted prayer life reminds me that each and every day is a gift and that we are responsible for doing good with it. I recently heard that the reason birds sing in the morning is so that they can tell their mate, “I’m here. I survived the night.” My morning prayer time becomes my song. A song of life that moves me towards a light that is shared with my husband, my family, my friends and the people we serve.
I’m not certain of the exact day that it happened, but sometime a few years ago I stopped trying to find God with a knowing that God was already here. It was an important shift in my prayer life and active work. It was then that I could accept the gifts I had been given and use them creatively in the work I had been called to do. An understanding that while I won’t see my work come to perfection I am working alongside others, here and now, as well as throughout time to move things forward.
I do not believe that God wants us to live a boring life, full of dread, always searching for the next thing to make us happy. God is already showing up and it’s up to us to pay attention. We can choose to miss it. We can make the decision to miss out on the very things we’ve been called to do and all the ways we are called to joy. But just as easily we can make the decision to wake up and pay attention.
Inspired by the sisters at Mt. Tabor, who take the flame from their place of worship into their daily living and work spaces, I’ve been bringing a bloom from my daily walk and time in reflection into the kitchen with me each morning. A reminder that my obligations to the human community whether preparing meals, teaching my children, loving my husband, helping a friend, working to improve food access, farming, or advocating are real opportunities to turn my inner life into an outward expression of creativity and newness.
The flowers in my work space remind me to be grateful while I work, accepting the distractions, open to the every day tasks that fill up my day. When I feel that hunger, opportunity for the marginalized, a voice for women and the other ways I’m called to help is overwhelming challenging I wake up to the call to silence in the woods, one single bloom, and the work that can fit into this day I’ve been given.
As a mother and farmer I find myself negotiating life during a most interesting time. Most of the intuitive decisions and labor of both have been distributed to institutions and corporations. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing and has actually become something very difficult to remove oneself from. When Nathan and I first married and decided to have a child we were flowing downstream living a life like most of the people around us. It felt comfortable and steady, but deep down a different way of knowing began revealing itself to me. What the doctors, companies, hospital, day cares, and even church were telling me didn’t always feel right.
As I began to think of life from a deeper, more conscious perspective the desire to control everything in one’s life lessened and the passion to live connected to the natural design God had created became more interesting, intriguing, and intuitive. I began listening to life with not only my mind, but with my body and heart. To live a life more whole and holy, it seemed, I’d have to take obedience more seriously. Not obedience to those in power, but to a loving creator who worked all things out for our good. This inner knowing began to nourish me in ways that little else could. Where I had once craved people, attention, the bigger and better I know needed moments of silence, stillness, and solitude in order to simply make it through the day.
This time spent nourishing my inner knowing allows me to live life with more peace. That peace flows into my relationships with self, God, and others. It pulls me forward towards spiritual maturity and responsibility. Clarity has begun to come my way as I discover my sense of purpose as a wife, farmer, mother, woman, business owner, community member. As advanced as our civilization has become there is much work to do in telling our stories in ways that reminds us of the meaning and importance of our lives.
When Nathan and I made the decision to commit ourselves fully to the love of God we looked at all of our opportunities for service and work. Because of our privilege there were many. There were desires for moving oversees, public ministry or creating a close knit community with like minded people whom we love. We took prayer, reading the words of wisdom teachers like Jesus and opening up our lives to others for counsel very seriously.
We were called to do things that felt less like desire and more like dying to self. ✨”If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it say, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.”✨ We took those words seriously and made a commitment to sharing our opportunity with others and measuring our success by real people gaining access to real food, no matter how few people that might be.
Our friend has kindly sent us this from time to time,
✨”I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.”✨Marge Piercy
There were two things we expected, miracles and suffering, and we’ve seen both. One thing we’ve learned along the way is not that we must leave our families, brothers and sisters, but that we are to stay the path no matter the cost. We must begin to question what we’ve always known to be true and move into a better way of knowing and doing. With grace, the family has been the place where we’ve been able to live this out best.
t’s mid winter and we just returned home from an inspiring equity training followed by the comfort of our most relevant annual meeting to be gifted a calf to raise who the day before lost its mother because she was just too old and tired to do it again.
Ironic, as I pumped milk for the first time while we were gone. I’ve been pregnant or lactating for 15 years. Yes, you read that right, 15 years. My oldest children could (given a different place in history) be having children of their own while I still nurse a little one who circles our feet.
I’m old and tired too, like that mama cow, I suppose.
Nursing babies has been a hard row to hoe for me.
Balancing work and home life while giving off the appearance of stay at home mom. Jaundice and lip ties and colic and low birth rates to start it all off. Sweating bullets in public while my babies cried out in hunger until I could find a private place to feed them. Advocating for the rights of public feeding and workplace wellness before it was cool and Target had shelves of materials to consume.
All in all, I’m reminded that even amongst the physical pain and long nights and years of babies in tow, I’m privileged. Many were never given this chance. Either by early inductions where baby wasn’t ready to latch or the influence of formula companies on policy and procedure or judgement by race, origin, religion and marital status many women aren’t given the privilege of hardship that breastfeeding brings.
Like that old mama cow I’ve given of my mental, spiritual and physical self to these five children in such a way that no matter what the rest of my life holds I might die in a sort of peace that pouring yourself out brings.
I look at this calf, that during gestation and birth his mama was his everything, but now she’s gone and I’m reminded how we all need one another in ways we’ve forgotten.
My hope is that my work, my compassion for all mamas, no matter how they fed or cared or taught their children has shown through. Because being a mama is hard, but good, but nearly impossible, but sacred all at the same time.
Somewhere mid-week, I turned 41. Another year rolls around and I sit down at the table to make a list of what I want from life, how I should spend my days, ways I might improve.
I take a deep breath, set the pencil back down and push my chair back. I’m already doing my best and with grace I’ve learned to look for hope.
I get back to work.
Breathing in the divine until my chest is full, breathing out all the difficulties that life hold.
In the new year I’ll drink clean water, eat nourishing food, find movement in my work, breathe, connect, pray and rest. That will be enough.
There’s been moments recently when an old habit has tried to creep back up. I’ll scroll through social media or read the news and feel like I’m not doing enough. It can be paralyzing until I remember that as long as I can still feel my heart burst open by an image and have sincere, thought provoking concern for fellow humans I’m likely okay.
I take a step back and remember what I’ve been called to do. Feed people. It’s only one of the many ways we collectively bring about restoration, but it’s my way to keep doing.
When people eat better they feel better. When people feel better, they learn to love themselves with more empathy and compassion. When they love their self, they love their family more authentically. Healthy families make room to love and care for their neighbors. While loving their neighbors they learn how to send that love out into their community. When they love their community from this place of health and compassion it continues to grow and serve all of humanity without notice of boundaries or borders.
From here I see that it’s not my work to simply feed people to satisfy hunger, but to see all people in their potential to become the hands that will one day serve me and others in our need.
It’s then that we find ourselves at peace and in communion with God for the renewing of all things barren and broken. It’s from this place that the spirit of Christmas and the joy that’s to come reveals itself to me.