I Choose Joy July 2017

Yowza!! This past month has been a hot, simmering, summer slice of change and movement. Many days when I’m sweating it out under the fan after coming in from farm chores, I remember and reflect just how basic our thankfulness should be.

We all like to joke about our “first world problems,” but if you ever take a spin through third world life for even a short season, it gives you a little perspective on what not to complain about, as well as simple things to smile about.

So first, things we’ve survived without (albeit temporarily) that I’d like to acknowledge and appreciate:

  • opening up the faucet and feeling hot, clean water
  • flicking on a switch and enjoying warm, stained glass light
  • sitting in front of a whirling electric fan on a sweltering day
  • feeling a fresh breeze through screened windows, leaving most of the bugs outside
  • opening up the fridge and being able to throw something together for dinner . . . even if it’s just things like rice, chicken, beans, tortillas, cheese, milk, eggs – what a feast!

Farm fresh eggs

Life is abundant. Life is also scarce and grasping many times. But we can acknowledge life’s myriad facets and strive to trust God during both feast and famine, and all the better.

More July joys for the Big Country/Liberty clan:

  • Celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. Our beautiful former host family of 12 watched the kids, and we enjoyed a restful break with sushi, Beren and Luthien, a time to reflect and dream, and a kayak adventure across the gorgeous evening lake.
  • Big Country beating out 100 other candidates for a spot in this fall’s Fire Academy. So proud! We are moving onward and upward.
  • Mamaw’s visit. Yummy food, visiting friends, meeting her fun AirBnB host, and taking the kids to the splash pool and lazy river for Firebell’s third birthday.
  • Big’s co-workers stopping by and taking time to build a little tiny house made out of Legos for the kids.

Lego Tiny House

  • Baby Hazelnut beginning to crawl! And I am suddenly aware of how non-babyproof this tiny house still is. Well, at least the loft railing is up!
  • Spending some one-on-one time with Rig, reading several books to him at his request, as the little girls napped.
  • Playing in mud puddles after summer rains.
  • Mamaw’s homemade pillows and curtains. What would a tiny home be without those sweet touches?

Homemade pillows in the tiny house

  • Big massaging a chicken with a bent neck, comically trying to restore its mobility as he has with his human clients.
  • Being invited, so many times now, to the family gatherings here on the farm. Hope they’re not asking us to join in just because our house is blocking the picnic table and the fire pit!
  • Rig beside himself with anticipation about chicken processing day! Participating and learning so much about this age-old community event.

Old-fashioned chicken processing

  • The kids doing each other’s hair, putting clips in baby Hazelnut’s wispy topknot.
  • Seeing the kids’ faces light up with joy as they wade into a swimming pool.
  • Picking chokecherries in the rain, out of the bed of the pickup truck.

Picking chokecherries

  • Late at night, making delicious, rich chokecherry juice.

Fresh chokecherry juice

  • Library and park time. Enjoying the three kids playing together quietly and busily in the train room.
  • Cloudy, drizzling cool afternoons, often accompanied by full rainbows. So refreshing to sit out in lawn chairs and watch the majestic thunderheads rolling in.
  • Cherry pie at a local hole-in-the-wall and a drive to the dairy with a good friend.
  • The gentlemanly, yet ornery raw milk dairy manager.
  • A mysterious card from an anonymous friend wishing us “Home Sweet Home” and including two generous gift cards. Whoever you are, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Home Sweet Home

I Choose Joy June 2017

“Summertime .  .  .

.  .  .  and the livin’ is easy .  .  .”

Boy, I wish we were lounging on a shady porch sipping sweet tea and lemonade all summer long!

In reality, this is the season of dawn to dusk labor, as much as the long light will allow. Be it up on ladders and roofs at his regular job, hauling buckets of feed on the farm, giving massage therapy treatments, training for the fire department, or hammering on the tiny house, Big Country is always on the move.

The hours are long, sweaty, and hard, but it’s investment time, and gathering in the fruits will come later.

Time to be thankful! This month:

  • The first pink rose out our big window.

Pink rose at the tiny house farm

  • A long, hot, luxurious shower at a friend’s house while she watched the kids
  • Rig’s fifth birthday, a delightful family day in town. Rig wanted to spend his big day at the library, a local coffee house with a kid’s play area, and eating Cajun food (ok, his parents influenced that one a bit). What a sweetie!

Rig's fifth birthday in the tiny house

  • Cooling rains extinguishing the afternoon heat.
  • Picking rhubarb by the armload and making sweet strawberry rhubarb sauce for pancakes.

Strawberry rhubarb pancakes

  • Big Country carrying our speaker to the chicken coop and playing a recording of a fox screaming, just for his own amusement.
  • Catching up with friends at church, enjoying the fellowship of genuine, funny, encouraging people.
  • A beautiful morning, shaded by the trees, at our old neighborhood park overlooking the lake.

Rig and Firebell climbing rock wall at the park

  • Fun, unexpectedly bilingual library storytime.
  • Baby Hazelnut hefting herself into standing!
  • A lingering Sunday afternoon visit at a friend’s homestead. Eating hot beef and turnip greens soup, cold gazpacho, hibiscus tea, and quinoa bars. Pushing the kids in the swings, looking out over the endless grassy prairie to the faraway mountains, the same view horseback travellers saw hundreds of years ago.
  • A sunny, light-filled home.

Iris on the tiny house farm

  • Rig sweetly following around and holding hands with an older teenage girl working on the farm. “I love to work! I’ll help you shovel!” he said, staggering back under the long heavy tool. “Well, maybe you could help me instead!”
  • Digging out our camping bin, packs, and sleeping bags for a young friend to borrow. Wonderful memories!
  • A fresh breeze on a hot day rushing through our newly screened kitchen window.
  • Homemade chocolate mousse and blackberry shakes.
  • Sitting in front of the fan and putting on a once-in-awhile nature video for the kids on a hot afternoon.
  • Fun at a friend’s 37th birthday party (hey, why not?) Pinatas, samurai swords, water balloons, Mama Jo’s homemade enchiladas, margaritas, and lots of little kids having a blast.
  • Firebell massaging Hazelnut. “Roly, roly, roly . . .”

Firebell massaging Hazelnut

  • Friends being genuine, yet not complainy. “Yeah, the first half of the year, our car was stolen and trashed, I changed jobs, we paid the ER two visits, and our marriage was under quite a bit of stress . . . but I’ve been reflecting on it, and this next half year’s going to be great!”
  • Tiny yolkless pullet eggs the kids get to keep.
  • Shady sandbox play.

Tiny house kids in the sand box

  • Kids eagerly helping the farmer and his wife move the meat birds out to pasture. And Mr. R thanking them with ice cream sandwiches.
  • Celebrating our wedding anniversary! 10 years as husband and wife, 15 as best friends, and 20 as fellow classmates, trouble-makers and dreamers. Here’s to many more!

Big Country and Liberty wedding

Big Country and Liberty when we were young

Strawberry Rhubarb White Almond Pancakes

What do you do when your farm’s rhubarb is growing like runaway weeds and the strawberries are red, ripe, and in season, too? Daily pie, of course!

Or, even more simply, strawberry rhubarb pancakes every other day for breakfast. Why not?

Fry in plenty of grass-fed butter and top with a sauce made from early summer’s best fruits for a healthy, tasty, gourmet breakfast.

White Almond Pancakes

Dry ingredients

  • 1 cup organic white flour
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

White almond pancake ingredients

Wet ingredients

  • 2 cups raw milk
  • 2 fresh eggs
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Mix dry ingredients together.
  2. Mix wet ingredients separately.
  3. Mix dry into wet.
  4. Refrigerate overnight: optional but recommended for extra thick pancakes.
  5. Fry on the stove in plenty of grass-fed butter.
  6. Top with butter, yogurt, and strawberry rhubarb sauce.

White almond pancakes frying in butter

Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups organic strawberries
  • 2 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 2 Tablespoons raw honey

Simmering rhubarb

Directions

  1. Simmer rhubarb and an inch of water on the stove for 8 minutes or so, until rhubarb is softened. Drain off water.
  2. Blend rhubarb, strawberries, and honey together using an immersion blender or conventional blender.
  3. Enjoy just like applesauce: on its own, on pancakes or yogurt, or baked into other recipes. Yum!

Strawberry rhubarb white almond pancakes

Summertime Quinoa Bean Salad

What’s not to love about a cold summer salad just about anybody with any diet can eat and that includes endless flavorful toppings?

Easily one of the tastiest, most versatile summertime dishes, I find myself making quinoa bean salad at least every other week in the warmer months.

An excellent side dish for hot dogs, pizza, gazpacho, barbeque, and for picnics and potlucks. Satisfying for lunches, we pack it in Mason jars.

Make a double batch ahead if you’re expecting company from out of town, and you’ll rarely run out of food. Enjoy!

Ingredients

Essentials:

  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups / 1 can cooked black beans

Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup avocado oil or olive oil
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (1/4 cup)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
  • 2 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, seeded and diced

Treats (as many as you like):

  • cooked chicken
  • avocado
  • cherry tomatoes
  • pine nuts
  • feta cheese
  • cilantro
  • green onion
  • zucchini
  • summer squash

Avocado cherry tomatoes salad

Directions

1) Thoroughly rinse quinoa using a fine mesh strainer. Bring to a boil with 4 cups water in a medium saucepan. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes.

2) Stir sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

3) When quinoa is cooked, transfer to a large bowl, fluff, and stir in sauce.

4) Fold in beans.

5) Top with optional treats.

6) Eat it hot or allow to cool. Refrigerate.

I Choose Joy May 2017

Truth be told, sometimes day to day life with three young kids can feel like a slog. The constant chores, diapers, laundry, cooking, dishes, potty-training, sweeping, vacuuming, compost dumping, egg gathering, making sure little feet don’t have chicken poo on them, coming up with the exact length and weight that a T-Rex Whale would be if it existed . . . my days are full.

But of course there are the times they’re asleep, or playing nicely together in what they call “the dirt box,” or hugging each other instead of fighting, and somehow it convinces me not to throw in the towel just yet!

And besides, I’d be remiss to overlook all the little joys that add up to make a family’s life. My blessings of this past month include:

  • Fishing with Mamaw and Papaw . . . watching Rig throw a perfect cast and enjoying the kids’ enthusiasm when making a catch!

Papaw and Firebell fishing in Estes Park

Daddy and Rig fishing in Estes Park

  • Sitting on a balcony in Estes Park listening to the constant rush of the river below. If only I could move to that balcony . . .
  • Roasting marshmallows and hot dogs with Mamaw and Papaw and our host family on the farm.
  • Later in the month, a hot dog roast with good friends on a sunny hot Memorial Sunday, right before the cooling rains hit.
  • Firebell’s braided buns

Firebell's braided buns

  • The soothing sound of rain on our roof and the fresh smell of rain out our windows.
  • Taking family pictures of the five of us, on Easter at church and in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Rescuing our photos from a drenched box left out in the rain and smiling at our discoveries . . .
Rescued photo of Big Country
Who’s that handsome kid?
  • Walking briskly hand in hand with Big out through the big pasture at night under the full moon to check on the wagon chickens.
  • Discovering a newborn baby calf one morning! We even found the remainder of the bag of waters, so we knew just right where it had been born. So far, the ruddy brown calf with a white spot is being called Brown Sugar by the kids.

Cow and calf tiny house farm

  • Rhubarb pie and fellowship with a friend who has such patience with our kids!
  • Big Country dancing with Firebell to festive krummhorn music one morning as we made breakfast.
krummhorn Iowa State University
Yes, this is a krummhorn. Courtesy Iowa State University.
  • Thunder Snow! Snuggling warm and cozy under our quilts at night, with hot chocolate and skillet potatoes in the morning. But I am glad we soon returned to a lush green Spring.
  • Rig and Firebell prancing and hiding in the tall grass and purple wildflowers, pretending to be tigers.

Tiny house playing in the grass

  • Climbing hand in hand with Rig to the top of a grassy hill overlooking the foothills and the town of Bellvue.
  • The three kids, including baby Hazelnut, sitting together in the sandbox, absorbed in play.

Tiny house kids in the sandbox

  • A last minute business trip of sorts, in a light-filled, well-appointed cabin in Estes Park next to another cabin with Big’s boss and family. The men washed windows at a new hotel by day, and we all enjoyed two fun dinners together in the evening.
  • A sunny pool day with friends. Dangling my feet in the water and dunking baby’s chubby legs.

What are your reasons for joy this month?  I would love to hear from you!

I choose joy spring flowers

I Choose Joy April 2017

This month in the tiny house on the farm was one of ups and downs, sickness and blooming flowers, setbacks and promise of joy to come. Here are some highlights and simple joys of April . . .

  • Spotting a raccoon hurrying along the fence in the moonlight.
  • Mud puddle play in our farm boots.

Playing in mud puddles

  • Hearing neighbors’ peacocks and horses bray in the distance.
  • Pancake breakfast at the local firehouse.
  • Kids riding bikes, jumping on the trampoline, and picking dandelions together.

Picking dandelions outside the tiny house

  • Quiet afternoons reading with a napping baby in my lap.
  • Wildly chasing chickens into their greenhouse in the evening.
  • Running into friends with three little kids our kids’ ages. Life for both of us is unrecognizable from five years ago!
  • Easter egg hunt here at the farm with good friends and their toddler joining ours.
  • Rig’s imaginative stories about T-Rex whales, everwhite apple trees, tsunamis, avalanches, and riding on the backs of sharks.

May you live all the days of your life

  • Giving a massage to a long-time client and friend. It feels good to do something so valuable for someone else!
  • Picnic with Big Country at the coffee house with the kids playing together nearby.
  • Discovery museum with friends . . . stuffed bison, megaladon teeth, unique musical instruments, and of course rubber ducks and trains for the toddlers:)
  • Hot spicy stew and delicious homemade kombucha with friends on a rainy day.

  • Mamaw and Papaw coming into town!
  • A beautiful, colorful, joyful quilt of little houses, made with love by Mamaw.

Steamy Drinks for Chilly Nights

There are few things more comfortingly hygge on a chilly early spring evening than a hot steamy drink. Well, except this:

Shetland ponies in cardigans
Shetland ponies in cardigans, courtesy www.visitscotland.com

Living in Colorado nearly a decade now, I’ve enjoyed a fair share of hot elixirs and their power to warm the blood and uplift the spirit. Here are some favorites, made with healthy, whole foods.

Add the dry ingredients to a large mug or thermos, then hot water, then milk, cream, or vanilla if needed.

Hot Spicy Chocolate

Hot Spicy Chocolate

  • 1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon grass-fed gelatin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of sea salt
  • tiny pinch of cayenne
  • 12 oz hot water
  • 4 oz raw cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Hot Lemonade

Hot lemonade

  • Juice of one large lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 8 oz hot water

Cardamom French Press Coffee

French press coffee

Grind the following together in a coffee mill. Place in French press, pour hot water over and steep for four minutes. Add cream or sweetener to your liking.

  • 10 Tablespoons (5 coffee scoops) whole bean organic fair trade coffee
  • 4-6 cardamom pods

Green Matcha Chocolate

Hot Matcha Chocolate

  • 1 Tablespoon raw cacao powder
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon matcha powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 12 oz hot water
  • 4 oz raw cream or milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Honey Milk Tea … for kids and adults

Honey milk tea for kids

  • Good Earth Original Sweet & Spicy tea, steeped 5 minutes in 8 oz hot water
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 Tablespoons raw milk or cream

Southern Steamer (courtesy Aubrey)

Steamer with molasses

  • 4-8 oz raw milk, heated slowly
  • 1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses
  • Pinch of dried ginger

I Choose Joy March 2017

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon and stars in their courses above

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Spring is in full swing! Here are my moments of thankfulness this past month. Think back . . . what are yours?

Plum blossoms on the farm

  • White plum blossoms emerging on the farm.
  • String lights hung under our loft, a festive glow for the evening to eat, relax, visit with friends, and read.
  • Clean windows! For the first time post-construction, we found time to thoroughly clean the windows, and it makes such a difference.
  • Firebell enjoying a daddy-daughter date and squealing as a calf at the dairy licked her!

Calf at the dairy

  • Teaching Rig about the north slope of mountains by showing him the snowy side of the wood chip piles.
  • Rig to Firebell, pointing to hydrangeas: “those flowers look just like you!”
  • Kids finding blue jay feathers and decorating our table with them.

Blue jay feathers and lemons

  • Cuddling up in the loft at night, our faces pressed together. “You’re my special Firebell.” “And you’re my special Mommy.”
  • Rig explaining that his icecle seed will grow into an icecle the size of a tall pine tree.
  • Baby’s first tractor ride! And the two kids riding in the trailer behind us over the bumpy pasture.
  • The kids so thrilled when we unpacked their books! And us, too. So glad to see the favorites we’ve saved all this time, including the little free library find of the century, a leather bound, author-illustrated The Hobbit!

Firebell reading books in tiny house library

  • Horses we can now see running and frolicking in the neighbor’s pasture.
  • Hearing the kids practice saying the chicken breeds here at the farm: Black Austrolorps, Buff Orpingtons, Araukanas, and Rhode Island Reds.
  • And one hen we’ve named Henny Penny, wandering into our house!
  • Rig telling me about inventing an airplane that plants wildflowers.
  • Dinner visit from our friends who live out in the country in a converted, solar Tuff Shed. A beautiful evening, and good to share it with others who understand the life of a hand-built homestead, an interim home with quirks and challenges.

Tiny house family

  • Our friends, the Italy host family couple, pulling up in their car one rainy night during dinner to come see us and the house … “Hope you don’t mind, we brought three homeless people with us!” All ten of us, seven adults and three kids, standing in the middle of the house talking and pointing around the house at the progress we’ve made, or lack thereof! “This is really nice,” the elderly man in the group softly said.

Tiny house quilt

Pride and Prejudice and Simplicity

“I can’t imagine doing that. What in the world are they thinking?”

We all have those decisions other people make that we stay away from. We may not be aware we do it, but amidst the thousands of choices every day, we categorize things as “that’s me” or “that’s not me.”

Choices about what we eat, drink, wear, drive, watch, read, listen to, talk about. Preferences and tastes from diet to clothes to raising kids.

This helps us know where we stand and builds our confidence as to what we feel we’re doing right. Even more, we start identifying decisions as integral to our personality.

However, we probably don’t have the full picture, and it can bite us in the butt.

I’ve been thinking about things I’ve subconsciously distanced myself from over the years, or, let’s be honest, just plain looked down upon. They include:

  • Mortgage debt, especially putting less than 20% down on a house.
  • Having any credit card debt for any reason.
  • Living at home past your late teens/early 20s.
  • Pursuing a trade, sales, labor, or the military when a college education is at all possible.
  • Driving a junky car with trash, food, and neglected repairs.
  • Leaving toddler toys strewn in the yard.
  • Wearing grubby jeans or work clothes to church or a restaurant.
  • Showering less than every other day or so.
  • Neglecting to write a thank you note for a special gift.
  • Not giving people plenty of notice when inviting them to dinner or a party.

All of the above has elicited some gut reaction along the lines of, “that’s irresponsible” (big mortgage with little down) or “that’s inconsiderate” (junky car and yard).

But now that life has made an abrupt detour down a joltingly rocky country road for us, suddenly there is a fresh view out the window.

Two paths in the green wood

Because housing has been our obsession this last year, we’ve been seeking out conversations with friends about their homes.

To our surprise, some put little or no money down when they bought, as it wouldn’t have affected the interest rate anyway. Instead, they saved the funds for home maintenance and watched the value of their homes climb. And far from being a stereotype of someone grabbing too much house than they can afford and then losing it, these friends are actually in a favorable position in today’s Northern Colorado market.

Renting is financially wiser for millions of people, especially those who would be dependant on their car and an expensive commute if owning.

But I am rethinking my old die-hard beliefs that paying cash for a house is best and that your house is not really “yours” until the bank is no longer invested in it. Our friends who own are invested in their homes, they work hard for their homes, some even love their homes. Who am I to say that they should have waited, just because we have?

Millennial professional

Another prejudice many of us have: young adults, especially one of those dreaded millennials, living at home with older parents. Are they lacking in work ethic? Parasitical? Unlucky? Or something else? We don’t always care to understand how a particular situation came to be and have no historical recollection of this intergenerational living in past decades.

I remember during the college years, bouncing from a dorm to my dad’s house to my mom and step-dad’s house and back, not sure where I really should be living. How much am I imposing here vs. there?

And when I finally graduated after five years and obtained my first (and only) small salaried job that July, the school district I worked for didn’t issue the first paycheck until October. An exercise in patience, I remained living at home for the first several months of being a young professional. Finally, at age 23, I felt ashamed that only just now was I moving into my first apartment. But why this sense of shame?

And how valuable was that college degree anyway? How financially robust would I be if I had spent those years working, saving, and investing instead of going down the college road? What would have been my Roth IRA balance or my house down payment amount after living at home and working those five years, even at minimum wage?

A plethora of what ifs, but the point is, maybe my pride, prejudices, and whole worldview have needed an overhaul for quite some time.

More silly ideas:

Wine is a luxury . . . for special celebrations or people at pretentious parties.”

“Vans are for stodgy people who have no fun . . . or perpetual hippie campers who spend their lives chasing the fun train!”

“Crock pots are for people who think dumping canned beans and a bottle of barbeque sauce together is cooking.”

“Wood stoves are for the Amish.”

“A great deal on clothes would be finding a sporty zip-up sweater on clearance from REI for $25. Patagucci!”

Sweater girl in produce aisle

Well, all I can say is . . . my, how life has changed.

Nowadays, on Saturday nights, we put the kids in the kitchen sink for their weekly bath next to the wood stove and dig through our cardboard boxes for the least rumpled Walmart/thrift/dumpster/hand-me-down shirt and jeans to wear to church. Big Country and I will squeeze in our own showers later tonight, our second, or, rarely, third for the week.

The next morning we hop around mud-caked bikes, scooters, and broken strollers to the truck, shouldering our apocalypse-ready diaper bag and Tupperware dishes to return to a kindly friend to whom we’ll give a hug and a smile. We’d love to write a thank-you note, but the stationary is packed, and we’ve been out of forever stamps for months.

We load the kids into their three car seats, moving aside various wrappers, receipts, work clothes, buckets, boots, glass jars, pecans, the occasional dirty diaper, and even sand.

We slam the doors shut, the dent from the tree we hit and meandering windshield cracks prominent. Further down the driveway at the mailbox, we drop our taxes off, which are taped up in a homemade envelope made from a paper grocery sack. There are over a dozen 2 cent and 4 cent stamps covering the front.

I turn around to the back seat throughout the car ride, spooning yogurt and handing pancakes to the two oldest for breakfast.

Later that day, we’ll call a friend last minute to see if she wants to come over for some homemade soup we started that morning in the crock pot. She comes, and we don’t apologize for the beach towel that still faithfully serves as our bathroom wall five months into living in the tiny house. Instead, we laugh and celebrate under the string lights with a jug of Carlo Rossi poured into Mason jars.

Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a classic sketch about McDonald’s. You find out that somebody you know frequents McDonald’s, and you can’t help thinking, “Well well well! I didn’t know I was better than you.”

But the thing is, everyone has their own McDonald’s. Life is messy. Everyone takes the quick and dirty path sometimes, everyone cuts corners somewhere, because life, much more pursuing the things that matter, can be exhausting.

And looks can be deceiving.

So what does success look like? What does poverty look like? And through all this, what about the heart? What about spiritual poverty amidst material plenty? And the reverse, a life as a diamond in the rough, but a diamond nonetheless?

Big Country and I laugh about when we’re old and we’re still scrounging curbs for furniture and the Salvation Army for free bread but are also buying a third house to rent out and someday gift to our kids on their wedding day.

The kids will have their own prejudices to overcome, and maybe they will think we’re absolutely crazy . . . but just maybe they’ll feel pride that we gave it our all for them, too.

I Choose Joy February 2017

At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to not only endure but move toward thriving through gratitude.

So now every day I try to write down the simple joys, the unexpected blessings. Through a fog of stress and exhaustion, these joyful times shine through as pinpoints of light.

I choose joy. And this month’s joys are . . .

  • The kids chattering happily together during one of their long, lingering lunches at home.
  • Coffee with a new realtor friend, discussing future possibilities for us, our tiny house, and a new future home.
  • During a particularly difficult morning, Rig encouraging me, “Mommy, it’s going to be a great day . . . tomorrow.”
  • Witnessing a newborn calf nursing and wobbling around at the dairy.
  • Visiting the saw mill with the kids and watching a log loader up close.
  • Our new washerdryer! Thank you Mamaw and Papaw!
Loading the washerdryer combo
Firebell hard at work unloading the washerdryer
  • The freedom to have the kids play safely outside on the farm without me right there.
  • Wearing sandals much of the month! And still burning the wood stove at night.
  • Snuggly, chubby baby asleep against me in the wrap.
  • Sitting in the sun with a good friend watching the kids play at the park.
  • Pizza lunches, laughs, and playtime for the kids with two different sets of friends who let us invite ourselves over after church.
  • A special Valentine’s day dinner put on by our Italy host family of 12, complete with dollar store table decorations, a homemade card, and a timely book about God’s sovereignty and goodness. What better way to spend Valentine’s than with a dozen kids? We love you, too!

Homemade Valentine's day card

  • Watching pink sunrises out the loft window as we wake up.
  • The kids laughing gleefully at our Mr. R using the wood chipper.

Rig and Firebell on the farm watching the wood chipper

  • The grass arriving!
  • Running outside to take down diapers and clothes from the clothesline just in time before the evening rains.
  • Hunting for hard-to-find eggs in the nests the chickens have been secretly making in the bushes . . . our very own Easter egg hunt!
  • Seeing myriad clumps of pristine snow on the evergreen boughs on the way through Lyons to Estes Park.
  • Big Country building our sleeping loft and surprising me with flowers in my favorite colors.
  • Feeling more at home here in the tiny house.

Onward to March, and on to Spring!