Saturday, March 31, 2018

Day #6 & #7 of "Hannah Chooses my Clothes" (She won't help me be a farmer!)

The last two days, we didn't go anywhere. We were simply on our farm doing farm and family stuff. John was off too. This is what we love, and I long for more days that don't require me to go to town for anything.

But Hannah wanted nothing to do with helping me get dressed to be farmer. She crinkled up her nose and shook her head and said she'd help for church tomorrow instead.

So I guess I'll let her two more days -- Sunday (Easter) and Monday (co-op). I thought it was so funny that she was only interested in helping me pick out clothes that weren't "farmish."

Friday, March 30, 2018

Visit to Anni's Acre (and Deaf School)

Today we did NOT leave the farm. What a glorious Friday! Because of that, Hannah decided to take a day off of dressing me as we just hung out in our farm clothes for the day. (I asked her if she wanted to pick out my farm clothes but this did not really interest her much at all.)

On Wednesday, however, Hannah did pick out my clothes for a trip to our friend Anni's house and school in Knoxville (about an hour from here). Anni has been helping us on our farm for about a year now, and we finally got out to meet her and see her life. Anni had asked me to speak to the middle school about some of our travels so I did just that.

Here I am with the outfit Hannah picked out for me.

Abigail and Anni in her math classroom. We sat in on one of her classes and got to meet her deaf students. 

I loved some of this cool math stuff Anni had up on the wall!

Anni has her desks set up to allow writing on them. Oh did the kids love this. Especially Hannah!

Here I am speaking to the middle school group about all of the fun places we have lived and visited. (You can see JB and the kids to the middle right. Grama is there too, but she isn't in the picture.) They were a fantastic audience and had some great questions. The translator translated as fast as I talked. She was amazing!!!

After we were done at Anni's school, we stopped by a nearby location to see if we could spot and Bald Eagle we had heard rumors about. But alas, while we saw the nest, we didn't see the Eagle or its babies. From there we headed to Anni's one-acre farm to see some of the things she's working on there.

Sidge loved meeting Anni's VERY PREGNANT goat.

Our animal guy! This kid is simply in HEAVEN when he's around animals. While the farm is just an acre, our kids could have stayed there all day!!!

Anni actually has three very large dogs that are HUGE and LOVING and WONDERFUL. Sidge loved laying on Anni's bed and getting the dogs to lay on him. 

Speaking of Sidge and his love for animals -- a bit unrelated -- He got to move our very pregnant ewes to a new pasture yesterday COMPLETELY by himself. He loved it. He loves helping with anything and everything on the farm!!!

After visiting Anni's farm for a short tie, we stopped at a delicious pizza and ice cream place for dinner. We really love our "Aunt Anni" and are so glad she is in our circle of friends/family now. What an incredible day of learning for our family. To get to see this school and participate in a different culture was so incredibly interesting and better than a month worth of schoolwork we could have done here at home! It was an absolutely fantastic day!!!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

How a city girl, gone country grieves (and raises cows): April Showers

 How a city girl, gone country grieves 
(and raises cows)

I met Kimberly through farming. She, like me, has been dropped into this life and is learning to love it just like me. She is a Christian, however, our pasts are nothing alike. I've asked her to share her story on my Blog over the next weeks or months or however long it takes. It is filled with much grief and loss but will hopefully make you laugh and smile and grow and grieve along with her.

As March draws to a close (what happened to February??) I reflect on what’s ahead. Do you have one of those days or dates that no matter how much time passes, it’s just THAT day or date and you can’t seem to get past, the reminders of events or feelings? Some of us have those days. I have a whole month. April. 
By no fault its’ own, April is riddled with dates that are milestones, most of which are unpleasant in my life. From connections with friends turning to enemies, to the first time I had one of my children arrested, to a completely unplanned and devastating trip to Kaua’I, Hawai’i.  I try to avoid April commitments, yet events like Easter, birthdays, markets, etc. always seem to fall in April. So this season, I’m preparing myself in a different way. I cannot change the calendar or the events or even my memories, but I can change my response. I can embrace that regardless of the painful situations; I have risen from the ashes, have reconnected with family, and established more meaningful friendships with more valuable friends. I have even deliberately planned a brand new event in our business on one of those more painful dates to establish better memories associated with that date. 
Many of us have days like this. Specific dates associated with painful or tragic memories. It’s hard to reach beyond ourselves and our pain to minister to others in that state, but my goal this year to do just that. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating; the tragedies and trials we endure aren’t for us alone. God allows these in our lives to test our faith, protect us (hard to imagine, but I’ll address that later) and build us to help others. If God wanted us to deal with these things alone, He wouldn’t have made so many people! We’re not designed to be alone. Nor are we designed to fight these battles alone. We’re designed with the God-shaped void, for His purpose, for His plan. Our lives don’t belong to us; we didn’t create ourselves. We make choices every day, good, bad or indifferent, and we are either in His will or not. Yet His grace is sufficient. If there are no other lessons in my noisy, messy past that I have learned the most, it’s this one. And HE gives NEW MERCIES every day.
As April approaches and I set my mind toward the straight and narrow, I take deep breaths and pray almost hourly. It’s like a prize fighter defending his championship. It may seem odd, but I have to approach this as a battle. With the painful memories associated with those dates are also the shame and humiliation that accompanied those tragedies. While many would rather hide, I’m out here parading my dirty laundry around and sharing in the stench of my pain and anguish. Why? Because the enemy loves shame. He loves reminding me of the wickedness I was in, reminding me of my sin. Exposing my past to you shows I’m confident that who I was then helped me become who I am now. To be ashamed of my past, in my opinion, proves immaturity. It proves that everything I’ve ever done is subject to human judgment. I’m so much more than the sum of my experiences, my choices. You are so much more than circumstances or opinions. WE are so much more! Divinely designed, passionately purposed, sweetly saved! How liberating to care only what God believes about me. How very liberating to know my purpose is so much greater than the sum of my past.  Can you believe it? I’m PROUD to own my past. It does not define me, it’s only part of me, and it lives there… in the past. 
My guard is up, my armor is on, and this Magna Mama is now ready for the challenges ahead. Bring on the rain, April… I’m ready. 
Until next time, 


Day #5 (Part 2) of "Hannah Chooses my Clothes" (Talent Show)

Day 5 (Part 1) of "Hannah Chooses my Clothes" (Errand Running)

We are off to look at some counter tops and practice our songs for piano recital next week. This evening Isaac is playing piano in our homeschool talent show so I may change before that. 

Here is what Hannah picked out. I'm honestly in shock. I have no idea where this dress came from and I haven't worn these shoes in forever, but I honestly really like what she is putting together. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Day 4 of "Hannah Chooses my Clothes" (Presentation Day)

Today I am giving a talk at the deaf school where our friend Anni works. We are all going to go down to Knoxville, tour the school, see Anni's farm, and have dinner with her. Because I am speaking to a class, I was slightly nervous about what Hannah might pick out. But seriously folks, what is with this girl? I really thought the outfits would be crazy, but they are sort of ... stylish? Check out the video below:

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Renovation update (We have an upstairs floor!)

Tribe Life Tuesday: The Road of Discovery

This week, Carrie does a VLOG!!!!!!

Day 3 of "Hannah Chooses my Clothes" (Gymnastics)

Today we don't have to do much -- just gymnastics for the three older kiddos. (Hannah comes with and just goofs around for the hour.) Folks, I only OWN three skirts, and we have now utilized all three of them. 

There's a lot going on here, and I would have NEVER put this shirt together with this skirt and shoes, but I think it actually sort of ... works

She wanted a braid in my hair but not all my hair. She wanted some of my hair down.

These earrings were not part of my plan.

The whole outfit.

I love our co-op

Hannah and some of her friends from co-op.

I cannot put into words how much I love our homeschool co-op. We meet every Monday, and it truly is my homeschooling TRIBE! I feel like an army is behind me. I don't feel alone. And such beautiful parents and children fill up the building for the day. 

I can't say enough good things about this group, and I truly pray that it sticks around and sees me all the way through until graduation!!!

Review: You're My Little Cuddle Bug

I only have sweet things to say about this adorable book You're My Little Cuddle Bug by Nicola Edwards and Illustrated by Natalie Marshall. This Board book uses short sentences and die-cut cuddle bugs to evoke a simply precious feeling as parent (or grandparent!) reads this to their child.

In all, it will only take a few minutes to read this book, but the thick pages are perfect for little hands. Hurting this book would be really challenging and you will simply want to sit and snuggle after sharing this with your little one.

Here's a glance inside at just one of the pages. Of course, it's really not possible to show you the die-cut images that pop out as you read, but take my word for it: this is a book you want to give any new mom or any little one in their Easter basket.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Day 1 of "Hannah Chooses my Clothes"

Okay folks, the response to my decision to let Hannah pick out my clothes has been pretty amazing! You guys are way more excited about this than I am I fear. :) My husband, however, thinks it's very cool and said he wasn't bothered at all with what I might leave the house in. So without further ado, here is the first outfit she picked for me for church. 

You can see that she wanted to show you the "Dorothy" shoes she tried to wear.

I actually had Sidge take a video (JB was working) so you could see all the details Hannah put together to make this outfit happen. 

(The sweater was a compromise because the dress was a little shear and I couldn't find a slip!) (She wanted me to take the dress to our neighbor and have her sew the side so that I could wear my long johns with the dress, but I asked her if the sweater worked for her, and she agreed it did.)

I actually didn't mind this outfit much, and went into the grocery store and did not provide any explanation for why I was dressed the way I was.

Hannah was quite infatuated with my beads. Later, at home, she decided she would pair them with a black leotard and color. Who knows what is going through this chick's mind!

Hannah picks out my clothes for the week

Okay Sarah Thomas. You asked for it. Sarah came up with the idea, via a Facebook video, for me to ask Hannah to pick out my clothes for the week. So I have decided to do it. Now mind you, I have a VERY limited wardrobe. While I probably have moved past my 12 item wardrobe slightly, it is still very small. So picking things out won't be easy for her. But let's see what she comes up with. Here is a video of us discussing that Sunday will be the start of her adventure. She's been talking about this all week and is SOOOO excited!!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

We Bought a Farm: An Announcement

I fear this post could go on for pages and pages and days and days so I am truly going to try and keep it as brief as I possibly can.

Last May when I flipped the four-wheeler, we began a quest to figure out how to keep the simple life we had dreamed about while still doing the things we loved on the farm. We felt the accident was a bit of a "sign" for us to slow down and get things back in perspective.

As John and I talked and prayed about what to do, we were reminded of our three goals for this farm:

  1. For it to be the LORD'S FARM.
  2. For it to provide respite and refuge for all who visited.
  3. For it to be a healthy place for us to raise our children and live out our lives.
About this time, my cousin, Eddie and his family came to spend a week with us while their house was undergoing renovations. They had previously been to the farm for a day visit, but otherwise, had not spent significant time there.  

Eddie has an amazing wife Hannah Grace (I'm using her full name to distinguish her from my Hannah) and five beautiful children ranging from 4 to 12. I didn't know them that well before they visited, but they lived outside of Asheville (around two hours from us.) As we started talking, we realized that the Lord was laying on their heart a love for our land as well.

Eddie and Hannah Grace were both missionary kids and have a tremendous heart for missions. Hannah said something to me that I believe truly ignited a fire in my soul. She said, "I want to serve missionaries. But I don't know how I can ever do that with our tiny home in a city." 

After they left from their visit, I simply felt the Lord laying HUGE things on my heart.

We had been praying since we bought this land that it would be HIS LAND. That it would bring HIM GLORY. That we would use it to show HIS love and kindness and his mercy to anyone who passed through the gates. 

We also really felt like we needed another family to do this farm with us. While JB's parents are here and are AMAZING and helpful beyond words, they have five other children to visit throughout the year and sometimes the workload is just too great for the four of us. I loved having the WWOOFers, but I was also really hoping to take a break from having different people at our home non-stop.

And then the Lord sort of knocked me upside the head.

I was in the shower, praying and asking the Lord about our farm and what He wanted, and he sort of gave me the "vision" for a place for missionary, pastors, Christian leaders to come and retreat. To get away from the world and vacation with their family and recoup. 

And I wondered if Eddie and Hannah could help run that part of the ministry.

I sent an email to a few people I really respected, and the response was overwhelming. I truly was hoping someone would tell me this idea was crazy. I didn't have the time to do it or the desire to do it, but God just wouldn't let it go. He wouldn't let me off the hook. JB and I kept talking, and we kept sort of waiting for a wall to go up. But the walls just kept coming down.

Now, in the midst of all this, Eddie has a job shake-up, and suddenly the doors start flying open for them to move from Asheville to our area. It was truly as if we could hear God making his plans so obvious, none of us could deny them. 

Eddie and Hannah Grace have found a house about 8 minutes from us and are planning on moving here in June. Our dream is to eventually have them on the farm with us. We'd love to have some cabins around the property for people to retreat and get that RESPITE and REFUGE God has been telling me about since I bought the place. We'd also love a conference center that local pastors can come for meetings and escape their own properties. 

We aren't sure what the timeline for this is, but we are seeking His will and praying like crazy. We are excited to share this adventure with another family. We think we have found the PERFECT one. Hannah and Eddie are honest and open like we are and their kids are beautiful souls that love my children greatly. We really believe this can work well. They may not stay forever. This may be the beginning of a bigger journey for them. But for now, this is the plan.

We will continue to let the Lord lead us. But I've been wanting to share this for quite some time, and I finally felt like it was the time to share. We ask for your prayers, thoughts, ideas, questions, and involvement in this ministry.

And now, some pictures. Eddie and Hannah just came to the farm for a five day visit so we could talk and brainstorm and just share some pictures:

The kids naturally split into three groups when together. Here they are:

The youngest three kiddos (who get into a lot of trouble together and get along great!) Genevieve (4), Hannah (4), and Eoin "Owen" (5)

The older girls: Kari (9), Ana (11), and Abigail (6)

And the boys: Isaac (9), Sidge (9), and Gabe (12)

Eddie's mom (My mom's sister Janet) came to the farm with this for this trip. These are the three youngest kiddos Eoin "Owen" (5), Genevieve (4), and Kari (9). 

Three of the four "big kids" Ana (11), Sidge (9), and Gabe (12). 

Janet took the three middle girls to play at a local museum. This is Kari, Abigail, and Ana. 

Hannah Grace is one of those people who is happy doing the most normal things!!!

Eddie and the boys checking out the four-wheeler

Eddie and Hannah in front of the house they are hoping to buy.

The girls at the museum.

Kari seems to pair most with Abigail. She is such a sweetie!


Ana with Genevieve and Hannah

Love this picture of my farmer, Sidge

Hannah and me. 

My Aunt Janet and me.

Aunt Janet Holding a chicken!

These two girls (along with Eoin) are going to be the three musketeers!

Janet with Hannah

And here is the letter that Hannah posted on Facebook to her friends and family sharing their change of plans!!

Dear friends and family,
Some of you know already, but many don’t, so we are writing  :
We really thought we would remain here in the place God has given us the last 11 years and He even made it possible for us to expand our house last summer, so it felt even more sure that we would stay here ‘forever’. But in the last 2 months or so, in a whirlwind kind of way, the Lord has thrown open doors for us to do something completely different. It’s exciting and slightly scary and a little crazy, but it is God’s doing and so we are walking forward into it trusting Him that if He’s taking us this way, He will continue to be in the details and we have no reason to fear.
So here it is: Eddie will be teaching online with Schole Academy, a school begun by Classical Academic Press (for whom he has edited and authored for the last 10 years). We will be moving to eastern TN, about 2 hours north of where we live here near Asheville, NC, to a home about 8 minutes from Eddie’s cousins who have a farm. We will be helping on the farm as well as raising some of our own animals alongside them (organic, pasture-raised chickens and turkeys). And we’ll be homeschooling.
Every bit of life is going to be different! But we couldn’t ask for a better way to enter into this crazy, new life: We have God making it clear again and again that this is Him; we have our cousins to learn from and walk alongside with on the farm and with homeschooling; we have praying and supportive parents; we have friends and our church encouraging us and reminding us to not be afraid; the Lord continues to give us great people to help us with all the logistics; and we have a lovely family buying our house here and a lovely couple to buy a house from there!… We are not alone and we are thankful.
We will be closing on the houses the first of June and moving before the 15th. The house we are buying has great personality and we find it charming, but it’s going to need a lot of work! So we’ll see how much we can get done this summer… it also has 10 acres with both woods and open grass (and a pond!), which is crazy and exciting  . 
If anyone would like to come visit – you are welcome!!!! Let us know! You can come just to wander in the beauty or to play or to learn how to feed sheep & pigs and collect eggs and garden and ‘process’ chickens & turkeys or camp out or just hang out!  ....
With joy and love!
hannah & family 

Friday, March 23, 2018

How a city girl, gone country grieves (and raises cows): Human Business

 How a city girl, gone country grieves 
(and raises cows)

I met Kimberly through farming. She, like me, has been dropped into this life and is learning to love it just like me. She is a Christian, however, our pasts are nothing alike. I've asked her to share her story on my Blog over the next weeks or months or however long it takes. It is filled with much grief and loss but will hopefully make you laugh and smile and grow and grieve along with her.

The roller-coaster ride of this week has taken me to heights I didn't know existed and depths beyond my comprehension... above all it's taken me to a level of humility I never imagined.

We started the week Sunday with a short day trip from some friends that live in Ohio. They are both pilots now and they flew down for a day trip to see our farm, visit and take me for a ride over our ranch. It was an exhilarating day as you can imagine|! I've known these friends since early childhood and to have them part of our day just for a few hours was priceless. It took hours for me to settle down Sunday night!

Monday was, well, Monday with it's own set of challenges (as is always the case when coming down from an emotional & spiritual high). The week's events highlighted by the first day of Spring on Tuesday, which was accompanied by a few inches of snow. Like icing on the proverbial cake! We did get a lamb on the first day of Spring, so that was very exciting. Spring is very slowly springing, and we're on calf and lamb watch daily. We're also praying that the snow is done, my aching joints just about can't take any more winter!

Fast forward to Thursday. It was a full schedule day with farm market meeting, farmer's market event, and the daily grind of farm chores. As I have mentioned in my past posts, my mother of 89 lives with us and she is still pretty sprite for her age. We attribute her Irish heritage to her spunky-ness, although in recent years she's lost most of the sight in her left eye, most of her hearing, and her ability to drive. Otherwise she's just as conversational as they come and enjoys being part of any of our events. 

Yesterday during the last indoor market (from which she was absent this week) I  was conversing with some of the market staff about Mother. She would love to have something to do! She doesn't knit or crochet, and she loves to read, especially to children. In five minutes we created a job for her! Coming this Spring, she will be the centerpiece for Granny's Corner Reading Circle at the market venue there in Knox County on Thursdays. She was so thrilled you'd have thought she won the lottery! It's a great joy to see her perk up and feel her purpose, even at 89 years old. I'm very fortunate to be able to help her facilitate this and so excited to see how this grows!

After the market I was returning a call to a client who had previously ordered. The short story is he had a special order several weeks ago, the processor misread the instructions, and we went above board to facilitate his order in the last minute. This time his wife was contacting me to duplicate that order. We played a little phone tag earlier in the week as she seemed uncertain of how it all worked. I reached the client himself late yesterday afternoon to finalize the arrangements. He went on to explain the reason his wife seemed confused was she is fighting stage 4 cancer...

I caught my breath in my throat...

They were returning from the hospital in Charlotte, NC where they just learned her prognosis was four to six weeks...

Now I'm squinting my eyes and trying to stay focused (I'm driving at this time!)

She wanted to do something special for her husband and she knew he loved our beef and that's why she seemed confused...

What does one do with this information while driving and expecting this to be a conversation about a beef order? I slowly answered him with how sorry I was to hear this, that we would work something out, and that I would be in touch. I also said we'd keep them in our prayers. I was a professional as possible given the circumstances and when I ended the call, I simply burst into tears. Driving and crying, not a good combination!

As I discussed this conversation with my son who was with me, we both fell silent. It was a revelation. I said to my son, "we're not in the meat business. We're in the HUMAN business." 

What caused this young client of ours to tell me the details of his life, to share his very painful present? What made him feel like that was okay? We strive to connect with our clients; we recognize FEEDING THEM is a huge responsibility that we take seriously and we're very open about it. Whatever his future holds, in that few minutes of ordering his favorite cut from us, he felt connected to a normal circumstance in what has to be a very unnatural atmosphere. He held his tone solid too, that impressed me. He's accepted what is coming and for that I was inspired. 

Needless to say, this causes us to again re-evaluate our priorities. When folks connect with us like this, it affirms our mission. We continue to set solid steps into the future of folks' lives by responsible stewardship of the beasts from which they partake. It was extremely humbling and I look forward to 'meating' this couple face to face, mostly to hug them! I'm pretty sure it will be a very emotional moment, one I will cherish. 

It has surely been quite the roller-coaster ride this week... God is always busy keeping me humble.

Until next time, Kimberly