Gratitude for Community

“Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all? Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2)

I’m feeling so grateful today. My church community is helping out with my situation and words cannot describe how grateful I am. There’s been an onslaught of emotions: hope, joy, relief…and, yes, even a little shame and embarrassment. The last vestiges of an attempt to hang onto pride…or maybe the adversary’s feeble attempts to keep pride’s hold on me.

But Jesus will always be stronger. God’s got this. So, take that, adversary!

There’s something to be said for community. Maybe that is the lesson He wants me to learn (above and beyond the pride thing…).

I’ve always dreamed of living like a hermit in the woods, the whole “Walden” thing. My dream home is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, and living like it’s still the 19th century. Maybe there’s something to it. Solitude and simplicity are needed for a healthy life balance, but without fellowship with others, what’s the point? And even Henry David Thoreau wrote about visitors to his little cabin in the woods. We need both. If I can hang on to this place, or if He wants me to sock this money away for a potential move, either way, I want my homestead to be a welcoming place: for family gatherings; for friends sitting around a campfire at night; for prayer meetings; for knitting, sewing, quilting circles; for clients to have their treatments; for hosting classes about herbs, 19th century skills, and no-dig gardening…and even a refuge for those caught in the eye of their own personal storms.

I’ve blogged before about how I crave solitude like flowers crave the sun and rain. And it’s true. I’m the classic introvert. Too many people, too often, and I start to feel a little sick at heart. I retreat inward. Not because I’m anti-social, but because that’s how it is for an introvert. For an introvert, too much social time quickly becomes overwhelming. We enjoy time with our loved ones, and even strangers, but the introvert greatly needs that balance between solitude and socialization to keep recharging.

However, over the last decade, I’ve taken solitude to a whole new level. Some of it has been the 2 years of unemployment, followed by 8 years of severe underemployment. When socializing equals an event that requires an entrance fee, I’ve often had to reconsider. Some of it though–most of it–has been the depression that often comes with that same unemployment/underemployment. Due to a lack of steady and adequate funds, the house, the grounds, even myself, have started looking neglected. There’s also a lot of emotional baggage attached from the last “romantic” relationship I was in, that was anything but romantic, that has had me drawing the curtains tight and shutting out the world.

And, boy, does the adversary feed on that!

In many ways, though I’m not living in the middle of nowhere, I’ve allowed myself to become almost as isolated as if I was living in the middle of nowhere. And isolation is defeating. The neglect becomes indifference becomes more depression becomes more neglect becomes more indifference…until the effort to dig yourself out of this vicious cycle becomes so overwhelming, you don’t know where to turn, where to start. That’s where the hopelessness sets in.

And loneliness.

Despair.

Even bitterness.

Thank God, literally, for the fellowship He’s blessed me with! It started with certain friends and co-workers reaching out with a helping hand over the last several months. This time, it was a church member who saw my Go Fund Me campaign and brought it to the attention of our priest. And, truly, though the financial help is a blessing and appreciated, the true blessing is knowing how many people out there care enough to help. I’m overwhelmed…but in a good way.

I’ve been sitting back here, feeling sorry for myself, indulging the adversary with my “cares” and “woes” and getting nowhere in life. Today I’m feeling hope for the first time in a very long time. Yes, there’s still a risk of losing the homestead. I still missed the deadline for the second installment on the modification trial period and I don’t know where that leaves me. However, I’m that much closer to meeting the back payments owed. Or to engaging an attorney who can help me get back on track again. It’s help to tide us over until I’m working again…or to help us start over on a new homestead. I’m leaving it in His hands to decide, praying for His guidance regarding the best course of action.

Our God truly is an awesome God. Thank you! To everyone who has been moved to help, to share, to pass along the information. I don’t feel quite so alone anymore. And that’s the greatest blessing of all.

I hope everyone reading this is as blessed with community as I am.

May God bless you & keep you!

gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave

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Down and Out

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27)

I want to believe those words. I want to believe His grace is sufficient for this particular trial. I want to believe that He has something special planned at the end of it all.

But, today, I’m down and out for the count.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll find the way to bounce back up again. I hope so. Right now the fear and anguish in my soul is almost more than I can bear. Proof that there’s still fight left in me that I can feel such emotions, such protest, but, if I’m meant to go through this, if there’s something He means for me to learn that I didn’t learn the first time around, there’s a part of me even fighting that.

So much for laying it at the cross. But what other choice do I have? All of my efforts have gotten me nowhere. But where do I go from here? What does He want me to do? To go?

Losing the house, the land, I can bear. It’s potentially having to re-home the animals if I cannot find a farm where I might board them until I get on my feet again…and, of course, for a fee that I can manage in my current situation. My heart is breaking at the thought. And, at the moment, I’m not feeling God’s love. I’m feeling His anger. I’m feeling the punitive “father” that reflects the neglect of my biological father and the abuse of my stepfather. “Father” for me has always implied mistrust. Is He trying to heal this once and for all? Or is this going to cement it once and for all in my heart that the word “father” is equivalent to a dirty swear word?

No, I don’t hate men, and certainly not fathers. There are good ones in the world. I’ve just never known that love…at least not without personal cost. And you’re never too old to need that love–His love.

Right now, I really need a healthy dose of it. And as many prayers as I can get.

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-156707024092-4fb3fb58787b443d&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

Laying Everything at the Cross

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterwards; and now He sits in the place of honor by the throne of God” (Hebrews 2:12)

After Saturday’s widely-publicized meltdown, I went outside and attacked the giant multi-flora rosebush climbing over the back fence. And “attacked” is definitely a good word for it.

I pruned ruthlessly.

It pruned me of blood just as ruthlessly.

I look like I’ve just narrowly escaped a particularly nasty cat fight but I can now walk under the multi-flora rosebush without losing even more blood…and a thorny branch’s worth of hair. This particular stretch of fence line has been a problem “child” as the ducks and chickens know I can’t get underneath the rose bush to check the fencing. Now I can. I found an almost-duck-sized gap in a low spot underneath; I shoved an old cage in front of it for now and will find something more permanent going forward.

I also found several bird’s nests in the upper reaches of the bush…and delighted in them. I should probably add that this bush has been allowed to climb up and over the 6 foot chain-link fence. Despite its invasive nature, I allow it to stay as it does provide shelter for the birds, shade for my chickens and ducks in summer, and beauty for all of us when it blooms. And my goats had a feast on the leaves I pruned off (Really guys? There’s THORNS!!). It simply needed a good trim to keep it manageable.

Somewhere along the way I lost the anger and angst that so overwhelmed me earlier that morning.

Maybe it was finding those bird’s nests in the bush. Maybe it was watching the new ducklings exploring the world outside of the pen they and their Mama have been in since they hatched for the first time; they’re finally big enough that I don’t have to worry about them slipping through the gate jamb or even the chain-links(!). Maybe it was marveling over the goats’ delight at the new “treat” awaiting them with each cut of the loppers…thorns and all. Maybe it was retrieving a few dozen eggs from the nests and watching Miss Opal, one of my Buff Orpington chickens, streaking across the yard, squawking loudly, in celebration of those eggs. Either way, I found myself laughing often, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, and the warm company of my beloved pets. Such a sense of peace settled over me. It was bittersweet, in light of my current situation but this is home.

And I’m not losing it.

It may not be this particular plot of land in the end but the farm and I will survive, together, intact, some way, somehow.

I may sound determined. I may also sound unrealistic and delusional. But I’m not giving up.

I bought this property with a husband, now an ex-husband. Two incomes can handle it; one income will always struggle…unless I can find a way to pull in enough income to equal what two could do. Maybe that’s out there somewhere. Or maybe He’s giving me a much-needed shove to look elsewhere. If this was where I was meant to be, I’d be thriving.

Or maybe He’s telling me I need to learn how to thrive wherever I am, however I am.

Either way, God has this. He knows where I am, what’s happening in my life, in my heart, in my thoughts. God has a plan. There’s a reason He’s brought me around full circle to this place of uncertainty and fear. I don’t know what it is. And I haven’t stopped being scared shitless. But I’m surrendering my will to His. He’s brought me to this place one more time; I’m trusting Him to carry me through it.

May God bless you & keep you!

PS I would also be delighted, and ever in your debt, if you would share the Go Fund Me campaign link below in your blog, your social media sites, etc. The wider I cast my net, the greater chances for that miracle I’m so in need of. 😉

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-156682970061-1e1042ab1d164daa&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

When All Hope Seems Lost

“I waited patiently for God to help me; then He listened and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God” (Psalms 40:1-3)

I have one week to come up with $989 for the next mortgage payment or the homestead goes into foreclosure. The current job has cut me back to 12 hours’ per week; the previous job wouldn’t have kept me up-to-date either. I had an interview for a position yesterday. It’s another part-time position, but one that I can work while continuing at the greenhouse…provided they don’t decide I’m seasonal and I lose even the 12 hours in the coming weeks. I start training for the new position on September 16th; I don’t get paid until after training. Then the money is decent and will, hopefully, keep us afloat. But it’ll be too late for the homestead…unless the mortgage company is willing to negotiate another modification.

I’m not sure they will.

And, yes, I’ve read “The Secret”. I know about manifestation. Maybe there’s something to it. Maybe it’s “Pshaw!”. Maybe there’s too much angst in my heart for the basic principles of “The Secret” to work. Either way, I’ve also read the Bible numerous times. I know what my faith tells me I should be feeling, thinking, doing.

And I’m coming up empty.

Maybe He has something bigger in mind for me down the road. I hope so. Maybe this new something will be the dream homestead: off-grid; enough acres to grow my own hay; room for more goats to start my brush clearing business; a greenhouse for growing food and spices, such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger and others, year-round for sale. Maybe the new something will provide room enough that I can provide a forever home for animals that have been abused and/or neglected. Maybe the new something will allow me to plant an extensive herb garden that I can teach from…and a backyard habitat to help mitigate the destruction modern-day progress has made of the natural world.

You see, when I’m down and out, I escape into my fantasies (or a book…and endless YouTube videos (sigh)).

I keep thinking, if I could only get back on my feet again, I would be unstoppable. But I’m drowning in debt and doubt and fear and futility.

Yes, futility.

I feel like all of the efforts I have made in the last 5 years to improve my credit rating, to pay down the debt, to build up the homestead to be a working endeavor have been in vain. Granted, the latter has been half-hearted out of fear that any efforts I make might also be futile if I eventually lose the property. The result has been over-grown and overwhelm. I keep spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. I don’t know what to do. I keep asking Him to take the reins, to drive this train wreck of a life, because I have no more fight left to put it back on track again.

I’m down.

I’m broken.

I’m done. Stick a fork in me.

And, underneath it all, I’m scared shitless. I thought I was done with this 5 years’ ago. How the hell, why the hell have I come around this full circle?

And, yes, I’m almost done with the woe-is-me-feel-sorry-for-me pity-party. I’m not so sure about the intermittent crying jag that’s running interference in the background. And I can’t promise there won’t be an F-bomb lacing this post further along…I’ll try to refrain.

I’m asking, but from where I’m standing, the answer seems cruel.

I’m seeking but I’m not finding.

I’m knocking but the door’s not opening.

And, most importantly, I’m angry. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask to fall. I didn’t ask to fracture my shoulder. I didn’t ask to be jerked around by the previous company regarding the necessary time out to heal. I didn’t ask to be backed into a corner so that I was forced to resign…even if, in many ways, it was a blessing in disguise. Despite this desperate situation.

What’s that expression? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I’m just not sure in which direction…except He’s asking me, I think, to go through this. Again.

I’ve been paralyzed by indecision over the years. Even after I righted the mortgage (or so I thought), I continued to waver. I’ve wanted to relocate. But I’ve got a lot of years in this house. Sure, it’s rundown and needs a ton of work, but it’s home. I have friends and family close by…even if they seldom call or come to visit. I have a church community that I’ve been active in and that I love. I’m close to the current job, even if it is part-time. I have a vet that I also love, who has been kind and caring and has given great care to my animals over the years. This is my world.

It’s familiar.

It’s comfortable.

And I’m not 25 anymore. I am the poster “child” for proof that the older you get, the harder it is to change, to uproot and leave everything beloved and familiar.

Again, He’s asking me (I think) to step out of my comfort zone and trust Him. Really trust Him.

I have trust issues even on a human scale.

So where do I go from here?

The song, “What If I Gave Everything” by Casting Crowns is running a steady monologue in my head. What if I did give everything? What if, despite this seemingly impossible situation, I poured my whole self into building the homestead of my dreams…wherever it lands? Or even if it winds up staying where it is? To hell with the toe in the water. What if I plunged in right here, right now? What if I stopped waiting for the perfect conditions to be that “unstoppable”? And, more importantly, what if I stopped trying to reason everything out with my limited human understanding?

Maybe the only thing really stopping me is, well, me. Somebody, please, push me out of my own way (heavy sigh).

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Casting Crowns (2016). “What If I Gave Everything.” The Very Next Thing. Beach Street Records.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave

Please Forward to as Many as Possible

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-15665053728-3bbbbe3c7cf54043&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

God bless you & keep you!

Ups and Downs

“Lord, grant us peace; for all we have and are has come from you.” (Isaiah 26:12)

The last 10 years have been a struggle…on so many levels. Financially it has been a never-ending roller coaster with lots of part-time, seasonal, and temporary job positions. And the one full-time position, while great for me on some levels, proved insufficient regarding my time. It wasn’t a lack of management on my part but a simple lack of that time. I left home at 7:30 a.m. and arrived home between 6:15 and 7:00 p.m. Once home, there was/is the farm to care for, homework to keep up with for college, and a property that perpetually looks like tobacco road owing to the lack of time to care for it. It’s pulled me down. And now, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed but also hopeful that I can “catch up” little by little as I have only these two hands with which to do that catching up.

Emotionally, it’s also been a roller coaster. The loss of many pets; the precarious financial situation that has me perpetually in fight-or-flight mode; adjusting to having Mom living with me after my stepfather’s passing. It’s been the eternal introvert having to adapt to new places and situations on an almost regular basis. I just start to get comfortable somewhere and things change again…and not always for the better. Anxiety and depression have become a way of life. Shame and fear, too.

On a physical level, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has kicked into overdrive. Loss of sleep owing to some crazy work schedules; the stress of being unable to pay all of your bills on time…or sometimes, at all; constantly feeling like I’m getting clubbed at the knees whenever I start to feel some hope. All of this triggers the CFS, the feeling like life is completely out of control. I’ve even found myself reduced to all of the little nervous ticks and habits that I thought long gone–habits that an abused little girl adopted because the pressure was too much for her. I guess it is again. So I whistle…not the usual kind or way. I have this stupid human “trick” where I can somehow constrict my vocal chords, open my mouth and a rather loud and audible whistle, or buzz, comes from the back of my throat. I usually wind up with a sore throat afterwards but I did this often as a child when my stepfather’s drinking made me nervous. I twitch and blink too hard, too fast. And I crave sleep. A lot. Over the last several years I’ve been in the hospital for heat exhaustion (last summer); had a bad reaction to a tetanus shot that sent me to the ER with a raging fever of 105 degrees, and this past winter, a fractured arm that still hasn’t quite gotten back its full range of motion.

Talk about setbacks!

But, while all of this may sound so wholly depressing even to read, the up notes are, despite everything I just typed, I’ve met some wonderful people over the last several years. I’ve made new friends, reconnected with old ones via social media, learned some new, neat and unique skills working in living history, and new pets have come into my life. I’ve tried my hand at beekeeping…and will again soon! I’ve discovered a love of painting and rekindled the interest in my first novel. I will soon have a degree in creative writing. My herb garden at home has come a long way towards being wholly landscaped; it’s only a matter of time before I can start selling plants, dried herbs, and teach classes on them as well. And I have a warm and loving church community that has been an inspiration to me over the years. I also have my Mom living with me again and get to spend a lot of quality time with her…when so many of my friends have lost theirs. These are reasons for rejoicing.

In short, it’s all a matter of perspective. What am I focusing on? What am I giving the most attention to? Whatever the answer, I’m either going to be more up, or more down. Because whatever I focus on, intensifies with that focus. And I’m choosing to focus on the One who has given me both the joy and the valuable lessons learned over the last 10 years. The biggest one is learning to live again by trusting in Him. And that’s the best lesson of all.

May God bless you & keep you!

And the Window Opens…

“And I will bring my people Israel back from exile. They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit” (Amos 9:14).

I feel like He’s grooming me for something. I know that sounds rather big-headed but I feel like there’s something happening in my life, this shift taking place. Things are falling into place. Skills needed now have a teacher for learning them. I feel awed. And I’m trying not to give in to the voice of fear that typically looks at changes and shifts and The Unknown and wants to run screaming into the hills. If nothing else, I’m finally allowing myself to trust Him.

The previous blog talked about how Mom and I did some pleasure shopping this past weekend. For everyone who has been following this blog, such a statement must sound a bit strange. There’s been repeated “Go Fund Me” links in my blog, on my Facebook and Linked In pages. From January until May of this year, we have pretty much been living off of savings, the much-needed help from local food pantries and the kindness and generosity of family and friends. Truth be told, the Go Fund Me campaign is still on. Though I am back to work, we are not out of the woods yet. There’s a mountain of medical bills piled up owing to my medical insurance giving me a hard time about paying them. It appears that only one doctor in this group of orthopedics is in their network but not his colleague in the same office (how is that possible???) But that’s neither here nor there. Saturday’s shopping was actually a carefully budgeted investment in the homestead…and a small celebration over being back at work.

And, as blogged about earlier, work is no longer living history. I’ve gone from overseeing an extensive collection of rare and heirloom herbs to potting an extensive collection of rare and exotic plants. I am now working in a greenhouse. And here is where some new skills are being learned, skills that will further my effectiveness as a homesteader. While I’m merely potting and transplanting seedlings into larger pots for sale, I’m also working alongside propagators, learning the ins and outs of how to grow plants from the ground up. I’m learning about different soil types and the different needs for each plants. We grow herbs, too. While it may not be quite as glamorous as the last job–no historical facts to learn, no acting required–it is proving to be oddly satisfying. Somehow, just sticking another tag into the soil on a flat of perennials feels like the greatest of accomplishments. In short, I find I really like what I’m doing. And I seem to be pretty good at it (albeit, I was a good interpreter, too!).

I don’t think it’s any secret that I’d love to have an aquaponics’ system here on the homestead “someday” and, barring that, I would love to at least have a greenhouse where I could grow some spices, like cardamom and turmeric, that like warmer climates. I don’t know the first thing about greenhouses and caring for plants in such an environment. Yet He’s provided the perfect opportunity to learn more. We don’t have an aquaponics’ system at my job but we do have the heat-loving spices. It’s a start. And it’s a fine source for the plants themselves once I get to that place where a greenhouse is feasible…or I just decide that a few potted plants will suffice for my own personal needs.

Now if I can only figure out how to keep the dirt out from under my nails…lol!

May God bless you & keep you!