Nathan and I made a commitment to one another 17 years ago that I’ve come to think of as the key to our joy in marriage.
Our commitment was to create a “good enough” marriage. I had been married and divorced, Nathan new to serious relationships and we both wanted a life that felt meaningful, but ordinary. This took both perfection and dysfunction off the table for us in a way that made room for a life we could get creative with and through.
Good enough meant leaning into a healthy dose of optimism that kept us from denial and regrets.
We created a place where both us could safely land, and as opportunities presented themselves we moved into doing good enough, even better.
Allowing ourselves to settle on good enough in our marriage made way for real freedom in our individual lives, work, and parenting.
We’ve been able to say no or step away from what might have been really great things because deep down we knew they would keep us from accepting the good enough that was especially for us.
I wouldn’t change a thing about the last 17 years and look forward to all the good enough’s that are waiting for us in the future.
We saved up our money and I took the girls to Disney. For about a decade I was fairly anti-Disney. The work I was doing to raise a family in the most holistic way possible didn’t really give itself to extra screen time (back in TV days), mainstream habits, and more expensive vacations. State parks and day trips were more our speed.
Somewhere in the back of my mind we’re two influences that Disney had in my life that I secretly wanted to share with my girls. Carter not to be excluded, but choosing his own special getaway, Sterling not quite ready for the adventure.
The first, each and every moment I was with my dad, while few and far between, he would take me to Disney or similar spaces. He encouraged me to see the innovation, creativity, opportunity people had made for themselves. He would say, “There was nothing and someone dreamed this up and then they worked hard to make it happen.” There’s no doubt those early experiences influenced my desire to apply creativity and innovation to my work as a mother and farmer. I want my kids, no matter what they do in life, to experience the same. Second, I did a brief Horticulture (landscape, flowers, walkways) internship with Disney in college and the “behind the scenes work” that everyone experiences, but few deeply appreciate has been long lasting motivation to put in that behind the scenes work for our community and then quietly watch people enjoy it. It’s the most deeply rewarding way to create.
Another influence came while presenting at Idea Festival a few years ago when a teacher who was in attendance shared her dream to start up a tourism business ✨ @alipicturethistravel ✨and I committed in that moment to support her once she did. Allowing her to plan our Disney trip for us (at an unexpected lower price than I expected) was a great way to teach my girls how to lift the dreamers among us up while supporting them with our resources.
We’ve had the best time, but with a sigh of relief, my girls are equally happy to get back to the magic of our family, home, friends and farm. The best way to do any “big thing” is to do it knowing that the people, place and routines of your every day is where your true joy begins and ends.
I’ve been thinking a lot about strengths, weaknesses and wholeness. On the farm, we’ve chosen a lifestyle where each of the kids have unique opportunities to give and receive through their daily lives. While our days are split between chores, basic needs, rest, play, and learning there are a couple days a week where certain tasks feel more urgent. Thursday harvest days come to mind.
One of our children is self-driven and prefers to get the work done as quickly as possible, two more will do the same with a little more play mixed in.
Adaline is the last to get to the physical work, but she’s incredibly gifted in the one thing a world that prioritizes production and metric driven data desperately needs, but often devalues.
Fast forward to just after lunch on a Thursday when everyone else is proud of the work they’ve accomplished. The animals are fed, the crops are harvested, the store is stocked, the bookkeeping is taken care of and a meal has been eaten and cleared.
Everyone is tired and worn, ready for some rest, everyone but Adaline.
As customers arrive Adaline’s work is just getting started. She’s spent the morning gathering special messages and gifts. She sits in a tree or by the window knowing when each person will arrive and runs out eagerly to greet them. If they are happy, she’s happy with them. If something sad happened to them that week she listens and feels sad with them. She asks about their dog, their vacations, birthdays, and knows their favorite color.
She feels alive and vibrant as she effortlessly goes about the emotional labor our society has forgotten we need.
She reminds us that all of the healthy, good food in the world will never be cooked and eaten if the person doesn’t feel love and connection.
As her mother, I work fiercely to protect this gift and hold space in hope that those around her might slowly learn to value these relational skills as “real” work.
When I contemplate on issues that concern our society (violence, broken homes, corporate greed, anxious children, oppression) I can’t help but consider the ways we’ve silenced, shamed, and even ghosted those among us who hold the keys that will unlock the doors we most need open.
A couple of years ago I found out that I had a 9/10 ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) score and Complex PTSD. While some might find this news concerning it was actually quite encouraging to realize that there was a way forward for the things I thought might always weigh me down.
What I also found out at that time is that I’ve got very high resiliency. For every ounce of adversity I experienced God has provided a pound of promise.
As part of my inner work, I’ve learned to focus on that resiliency including as many memories of hope from my childhood as possible.
One of my earliest memories was being gifted a used Light Bright set. The black papers were used up, but I was able to find an unused plain paper and create my own design. I still remember sitting in the corner of my room, carefully piercing each piece of fluorescent colored plastic though the paper and into the light. The thought crossed my mind that evening that if I could create in that way then I could do anything.
I first discovered the enneagram while on sabbatical at the Abbey of Gethsemani in 2016. It was Mother’s Day day and I was obviously expecting Sterling while trying to practice silence, stillness and solitude for the first time. My favorite Monk, and now dear friend, sat beside me, and in a wild and powerful act of love, broke the rule of silence right there in the middle of the library.
He encouraged me not to focus on what I’ve done or what’s been done to me, but rather, allow God to do something entirely new for me during my stay. He handed me an old ragged book on the sacredness of the enneagram.
Like most people, I clung to my number “2” for a while and then became preoccupied with other people’s number. Over time, and through hardship more than intention, my ego began to slowly fall away.
As I’ve put in the work towards mental, physical and spiritual healing (a life long process, I’ve learned) I’ve begun to see the wholeness that’s meant for me.
I practice turning down the volume on those things I’ve habitually clung to for safety and turn up the momentum in the areas of my self that I have ignored or abandoned for a false sense of safety.
Jerome D. Lubbe’s book @wholeidentity is a great resource if you are looking to take your knowledge of enneagram and self to the next place.
For me, that’s meant becoming less helpful “2” and afraid of what others think “6” while working diligently to increase my understanding & clarity “5”, boldness & visibility “3” and joy & adventure “7” as a way of leaning into the wholenes of my creation.
A wise mentor recently shared this story with me. She was a special education teacher and there was one student that she remembered being particularly challenging within the system they were trying to work in. On a day when she was especially tired and worn he looked up at her and said, “Why do you look so sad?” She was honest, “Some days you make me very tired.”
”Teacher, you make me very tired too”, he answered back. Isn’t it true? Broken systems create broken relationships. We exhaust ourselves and one another.
When Nathan and I made the decision to quit our professional careers to take on the work of full-time farming we thought we knew how broken the systems were. We had solutions for what we thought would work, and in many ways they did.
What we weren’t prepared for were all the barriers and obstacles in place for those who live in marginalized and oppressed spaces, whether they’ve been intentionally or generationally applied to their lives.
As we left HOTEL INC last night a storm came through and took out the lights. As we arrived at the Reimagine Charity event at @cec_bg candles were being lit. Thankfully, the lights came back on.
Later, Shawn with the @theluptoncenter applied profound insight to the situation. He explained that if the lights had not come back on we would have lit more candles, but over time we wouldn’t want to become dependent on candles to light our way. We want the systems that make our lives possible to work.
In my privilege, I understand that while I’ve chosen the hardships of full-time farming I know the people to call when the systems aren’t working for me. This puts me in a place of choice.
I can use that knowledge to build and create opportunity for myself, keep others dependent on me to make the calls for them or I can nurture and make room for spaces where others feel knowledgeable and empowered to make the call themselves.
As a full-time mother and farmer who works “in the body” for most of my day I was encouraged when Shawn said to show up in Heart & Mind. My faith and commitment to prayer is what both allows and challenges me to do that.
While moving into my next stage of oblation I was encouraged to create my own daily rule of life that folds into my family and work day. The kids were one step ahead of the process when they welcomed me home with an honorary daily membership into the very special Horse Gang. It wasn’t what I would have planned for myself, and that makes it even more perfect.
I’m halfway home from the Monastery at Mt. Tabor and I’ve stopped to prepare my heart for home.
The weekend offered me the opportunity to share my hurts with those who could be present to my pain while praising my blessings.
The principles of Benedictine life provide a beautiful framework for practical spirituality in the midst of my busy everyday life.
The rule offers surprisingly gentle wisdom, profound understanding of the human nature and down-to-earth answers to the questions relating to my marriage, motherhood, farm duties, community responsibilities, and care of my home. We can’t do it all so we are relying on our prayer life to lead us to what can, and should, be done.
In time, I’ve learned that the condition of my inner life is what determines the quality of my outer life. My “success” is dependent on my willingness to put in “the work”.
Nathan and I are working together to build what some might call a “domestic church” within our home. A space that not only raises up children, but keeps us sane, capable, focused, and optimistic in our roles as farmer and farmwife.
We take the responsibilities, gifts, and blessings that have been given to us seriously and are committed to nourishing them as well as we can, for as long as we can. Not perfectly, but as Benedict might say himself, “good enough”.
At home, prayer is kept short and integrated into the work of learning, keeping home, growing food, in rest, play, and conversation.
Benedict’s divine wisdom reveals that the family living and working together becomes a community of prayer in action.
Each time I visit the sisters I’m reminded that the routines and rituals of my home life have much in common with the vows they’ve given to God and one another.
I’m always eager to arrive and equally ready to depart. My home is my sanctuary and refuge.
Life is meant to be messy.
Just this morning I offered “tractor boy” ice cream for breakfast in hopes that my being away might go more smoothly.
It went against everything in my being, but the thought of his tears as I left erased all the good I’ve done, or so I thought.
He asked for mama’s milk and said, “I need green veggies to make my booboo better”. “Where did you learn that, tractor boy?” “My heart”, he said.
Who’s his heart? I am, for at least a little while longer.
I’m headed to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky with the sisters who are coming alongside me as I become an Ecumenical Benedictine Oblate.
My husband encourages me knowing how hard the patriarchy and capitalism can be on this farmwife’s heart. My girls help me pack and load the car. They seem to already know why this is so important.
My oldest son doesn’t fully understand, but listens while I explain childhood trauma and privilege in ways he may never fully get, but like his father can use knowledge to do less harm.
The teachings of the Benedictine life allows me to understand unpaid physical and emotional labor in a way that’s good for my soul and mental health. It makes me a better human, connects me to God in ways I never knew possible.
Forgiveness and Social Justice Spirituality will be the topics for learning while I am away.
I pull away from the farm knowing that I’ll return grounded and inspired, prepared and messy in all the right ways.
Parenting has absolutely been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. If I’ve ever made it look easy (trust me that it isn’t). If you’ve ever noticed how hard it’s been (thanks for offering me grace). All that said, parenting teens is my absolute favorite. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They tell me all the things a parent wants them to tell you, while you secretly die inside. All that messy, hard physical and emotional work is so so so worth it