Freedom

Finding Community In An Unexpected Place - For The Art of Simple

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If you’ve ever struggled to find community in a new place, or wondered how to build a deeper community where you live, I wrote this post for you! Today on Art of Simple, I’m sharing some fears I had about moving to the country, and how God showed me how much beauty there is on the other side of bravery. I also share some ways to connect more with your community, wherever you live.

We talked about having our own farm one day, and when it actually became a reality shortly after we moved to Tennessee, I resisted it wholeheartedly, fearing the potential remoteness of living in the country and its high contrast to city life. The one big thing I was worried about was feeling isolated. What would I do without sidewalks? Where would my kids learn to ride a bike? Would anyone ever come to our house? Would we have a close community again? Continue reading…

Sunday Funday: A Different Kind of Sabbath - For The Art of Simple

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If you know me personally, you know that Sunday afternoons with my family are often filled with chasing as many Tennessee waterfalls as possible. Sunday Funday has become quite the event and tradition, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. In this post on Art of Simple, I’m sharing our “why,” ideas of where to go (not just waterfalls!), what to pack, some playlists you can download, and other ideas for how you can try a Sunday Funday adventure of your own.

“Whenever we can, we go on a little excursion away from home on Sundays, because the combination of Sabbath + adventure seems to work well for us. I personally feel more connected to the heart of God when I’m getting out in wild places often and being surprised by new discoveries in creation.” Continue reading…

Thoughts on Returning Home

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I’ve been here in New Jersey, having cups of morning mushroom coffee barefoot with the Black Eyed Susans in my parents’ backyard while Steven holds down the fort back home at the farm. I so wish he could be here with me and the girls, because life is generally just more wonderful and exciting with him around, and my girls sorely miss their daddy.

But we decided to come anyway, because we haven’t been here in three years, and I wanted my youngest little gal to make some real, lasting memories in this place like her older sister has. I wanted her to know more about her heritage and have a visual of where her NJ grandparents live when they’re not visiting us. And, of course, to meet all of Mimi’s crazy, pampered cats - Brandon, Suzannah, and Melanie.

Returning to your childhood home is surreal. It can be great, and it can be weird. I notice how some things never change - like the collage frame of my yearly school photos from K-12 and the macrame plant hangers that have been in the living room window my whole life.

Yet, so much has changed. I’m not even close to the same person who took her first steps in this backyard, who played badminton under the oak trees so high you can no longer see the tops. At times, I feel like I can reach out and touch scenes from childhood and adolescence in this grass and driveway and along these neighborhood streets - a first bee sting on my foot at my best friend’s house, a first time jumping off the high dive, a first kiss in Summerhill Park. But really? Even though those things are all a part of me, they happened so long ago.

It’s okay. I know who I am now. I also know distinctly who I’m not. This trip has been low-key and freeing to know I can go back to my childhood home now and not expect it to fill me or complete me as a human being.

This quote by one of my favorite authors has inspired me so much over the last few years, and it continues to gently prod me as I face each day:

“The world will tell you how to live, if you let it. Don’t let it. Take up your space. Raise your voice. Sing your song. This is your chance to make or remake a life that thrills you.”
~ Shauna Niequist

Yes, I’m so thankful for the girl who began here on this New Jersey soil and for the faith and love of learning, beauty and simplicity it rooted in me.

And I’m thankful for where life has led me away, by way of Nashville and Houston and Dallas and back to Tennessee again to Kindred Farm where I belong. Where, finally, I feel completely and fully myself.

Summer Favorites

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I was inspired by this post to share some of my summer favorites with you. I love hearing what other people are into right now, so share yours too, pretty please!

Here are a few of my summer favorites:

  • Rainbow colored zinnias. Yes, I’ve taken approximately 8,000 photos of my zinnias this summer. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

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  • High rise button-front denim shorts from GAP. Yay for 40% off sales so I can replenish my jorts stash after my old ones were surrendered to “farm clothes” status. I got these button-front denim shorts in the vintage black color, and I’ve worn them almost every day. They’re perfect for tucking in shirts and are just the right length for me with the cuffs unrolled.

  • Birkenstock Gizeh EVA sandals. These pretty much haven’t left my feet since I got them in early spring. They cost less than regular Birkenstocks but are still great, thick quality. Mine are metallic bronze, and they’re waterproof but nice enough to wear with skirts. I slip them on to go swimming, or to check on things on the farm when I don’t need boots, or just whenever. They’re the only thing I wear besides my red Saltwater sandals.

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  • Harvesting calendula to make my own calendula salve. This is the one thing that helps my dry, cracked farmer hands. These bright orange blooms are currently bathing in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and will be made into salves at the end of summer.

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  • Against All Grain Almond Flour Zucchini Bread. For when you harvest zucchini as big as your leg (oops!). I added some Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, and everyone in our family loved it.

  • The perfect summer smoothie = bananas + peanut butter + almond or coconut milk + hemp seeds + stevia (or honey or maple syrup) + kale + 1 drop doTerra peppermint oil. The secret is making sure the frozen fruit sticks out a little above the liquid - this makes for the best consistency. I can’t think of anything that tastes more nourishing after I’ve been working outside all morning. My girls love it too, with a little twist…I sprinkle some Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips in the bottom of the glass for when they get to the bottom. :)

  • Blasting my “Top 40 Songs of All Time” playlist while singing at the top of my lungs and driving country roads. “Galileo” by Indigo Girls, “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips, and “Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay are a few on my list. Have you ever tried to whittle down your favorite songs into a Top 40? It’s so hard but so delightfully nostalgic.

  • Swimming in waterfalls + lakes + creeks more than pools. Rock Island State Park has been a favorite this summer with its multiple waterfalls, rock jumping, and magical swimming holes. P.S. It’s made our lives so much easier to have a swim bag packed at all times, for either pool or state park. It always has shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, towels, clean swimsuits, bug spray, sunscreen, goggles, sunglasses, and a wet bag to store wet things until we get home. Gamechanger.

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There’s still so much summer left - let’s soak it up while we can without trying to look ahead too quickly to fall. What are some of your summer favorites?

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 198: Body Image & Sabbaticals

In this episode, I get to share my heart on body image issues and some practical ways that we can foster a healthy body image. I really hope this speaks to you!

In Tsh’s segment, she shares her heart on why she’s taking a sabbatical this July, and I think it’s brave and genius. Major goals to be able to do this with Steven in the next five years. Listen in on iTunes or at The Art of Simple, and let us know your thoughts!

You can also read my post, The Liberation of Lake Life (A Body Image Manifesto), which inspired this episode.

The Liberation of Lake Life (A Body Image Manifesto) - For The Art of Simple

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“So, as I put on my swimsuit in front of the full-length mirror in our room on the houseboat, I decided to choose life and freedom, not just as an example for my daughters, but for myself. I decided that to really soak up the moments and gift of this trip, I was going to have to leave behind the self-absorption and appreciate my body for the strength and beauty that it is.

I was indeed going to walk around for four days in nothing but a swimsuit and believe that it’s okay not to look like someone else; it’s okay to look like me.” Continue reading….

In my latest post for The Art of Simple, I’m sharing something deeply personal: my struggles with body image. This was a tough one for me to share, but I know I’m not alone! As summer approaches, let’s encourage one another as we live in freedom and embrace our bodies as they are, with all their beauty and scars.

Have you ever struggled with this? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

11 Things I Learned This Spring

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Have you tried to actually sit down and reflect on what you’ve been learning? It’s not that easy. We go through life so much on autopilot without taking time to reflect. So I’m loving this new practice, joining in with author Emily P. Freeman to look back on each season and notice and name some of the things I’ve learned. Join me - I’d love to know what you’ve been learning too…

1) How to slow down time.

Oh, don’t we all wish we actually could? But I’ve learned a little secret while writing this post for Art of Simple that’s become my new daily motto: Today, I will log more moments in the present so time feels longer. The more moments we log in the present, time actually does feel slower - and more full of the good stuff. I still look at my two growing daughters (5 and almost 9) and see that “the little years” are mostly behind us (lump in throat), but I honestly don’t feel time slipping out of my hands. While we’re entering a new stage, I know I squeezed every drop of life I could out of the previous one.

2) “God will not let you miss your own future.”

HUGE exhale. This line is from Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing podcast (episode 76), and it’s one of the best things I heard this spring. It really is such a relief to know I’m not responsible for it all. I say I believe that, but to live like it’s true is another thing entirely. I’m working on doing more of that.

3) I prolly shoulda started farming at age 25 instead of 39. #ohmyachingbones

But seriously, I’ve learned this spring that it’s just gonna hurt and be uncomfortable, and the more I have that expectation, it’s a wee bit less hard. My husband Steven always says, “High expectations lead to much frustration.” So I’m setting the expectation: there’s gonna be mud caked under my nails. I’m going to feel gross and need to take like 10 showers a week. And to save myself some frustration later, listen to my gut next time and always add at least 2 irrigation drip lines to a new row, no matter what anyone says. There were some definite choice words involved in pulling up those rows and re-doing them. Oy.

4) It’s important to keep a childlike wonder, no matter my age.

Every single time a new seed sprouts, I have the same feeling of awe: it actually worked!

And a new discovery: apparently birds really like to nest in ferns. This may be old news to many of you, but this was my first time seeing it when I took down my hanging fern to water it, and I literally gasped.

The other evening, I was walking back to the produce washing station after feeding the chickens, and this sight of our barn with the almost-full moon stopped me in my tracks (look closely for my oldest daughter in the rye grass). The best part is that I texted it to my husband, and he said he didn’t even know where that was at first - sometimes we see our own surroundings with fresh eyes.

5) It’s good to accept others’ help.

A few weeks ago, on an ordinary weekday, my girls ended up staying the night at my close friend’s house. It was totally impromptu, and Steven and I found ourselves kid-free for the night at our own house, which we’ve actually never done. He finished his chef work in the barn kitchen, and at 8:30pm, we went on a random but much-needed date to one of our favorite local restaurants, Vanh Dy’s, in our little nearby downtown of Columbia, TN. It’s shocking how hard it was at first to accept that help, that another mom was willingly watching my kids all night while we got to have a date, but I realized how freeing it is to accept people’s help when they offer. It actually blesses others to let them help you - it’s done the same for me when I’ve been on the other end.

6) Sometimes God removes the storm, and sometimes He’s with us in the midst of it.

Photo by KT Sura

Photo by KT Sura

On the day of our spring Kindred Dinner for 150 people, it was predicting storms all evening. This was our 5th farm dinner, and we’ve never had to go with our rain plan. I was so worried, y’all. These people bought tickets and were expecting an amazing, memorable experience. In my shallow vision, I thought our best-case scenario was that it wouldn’t rain, but instead God wanted to show me - and so many others - how beautiful and intimate and nourishing breaking bread together can be in the very midst of a storm. I’ll hold this experience close for a long time.

More thoughts and photos on our Kindred Farm Instagram. My favorite part of this photo is all the umbrellas leaned against the side of the greenhouse!

7) Intermittent fasting is how I should eat most of the time.

I started the practice of intermittent fasting in January, thinking it would be temporary. It feels so good and freeing that I think this is a new longterm pattern in my life. I wrote all about it here.

8) But feasting is just as important.

I’ve learned that feasting is so much more meaningful when you’re not doing it all the time. We were made for both feasting and fasting - there’s a time to reign things in and go without, and there’s a time to let go and enjoy. One of the best things about a collaborative feast is that each person gets to bring something - so be sure and let others help even if you’re hosting. Here are some amazing feasts we’ve had this spring:

Easter Sunday with dear friends and alllll the colorful spring goodness...

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Then, a heavenly little outdoor charcuterie board feast with friends on a Saturday evening, where we just cut up a bunch of pretty things and put them on cutting boards (no cooking!). Add some wine and sparkling water, and you have what feels like a very fancy dinner with no cooking. Bonus for fun patterned tablecloths I got over a decade ago in India, twinkle lights overhead and fireflies all around.

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And here’s something different…we put a little propane tabletop grill in the middle of our dining room table and had some friends over for a Korean ssam (lettuce wraps) feast where everyone got to grill their own meat and assemble unique, colorful lettuce wraps to their heart’s desire. All the lettuce, cabbage, Asian greens, and radishes were harvested from our farm a few minutes before. And I’m pretty sure we used every plate, bowl, and pair of chopsticks in the house.

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9. I still know every word to all the classic NKOTB songs.

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My 11-year-old self would have completely passed out to be this close to Joe McIntyre and New Kids on the Block, but 30 years later it was just a lighthearted blast of a night with my best college gals (and New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Salt N Pepa and Naughty By Nature!). We sang every word to all the classic NKOTB songs like “Please Don’t Go, Girl” (this was played at every middle school sleepover), “Tonight”, and of course, “Hangin’ Tough.” I reminisced about recording mixtapes from the radio, Aqua Net hairspray, claw bangs, BOP Magazine, posters in my locker and plastered on my bedroom wall, and Electric Youth Perfume.


10. It’s best to relax a little and give my girls space to learn some things on their own - this works better than pushing.

After playing Monopoly on and off for several days, my oldest daughter is a master at mental math and being the banker, and my 5-year-old just learned how to ride on two wheels on her own at my friend’s house in her gravel driveway. I so often try to control and feel like everything is my responsibility. Letting go - and seeing that everything is okay - helps me grow so much in this area. I’m also learning to let them help more, even if it’s not how I would have done that particular thing. Plus, I don’t want to miss out on hilarious sights like these:

Well, that’s ONE way to seed a new row of beets…

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11. My husband is an incredible podcast host.

I knew he would be. This man is one of the most compelling communicators I know, with an ability to cast a vision and share stories like none other. Check out Steven’s brand new The Korean Farmer podcast here or on iTunes, where he shares meaningful conversations about life, business, food, and everything in between. We record right here on Kindred Farm in our barn studio…and maybe we’ll be doing an episode together in the near future! :)

Photo: KT Sura

Photo: KT Sura

YOUR TURN! What are some things you learned this spring? I’d love to hear!

Who Are You Free to Be?

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Freedom. It’s a core value, one that dictates so much of our lives here on the farm and why we chose this simpler life in the first place. So when my spring issue of Magnolia Journal (the Freedom issue) arrived, I drew in my breath, dropped everything, and opened it right away. This photo might look idyllic, but it was actually taken during a short, desperate need for a break from the mayhem of preparing for our spring farm dinner. I probably hadn’t showered in days, there was definitely dirt caked in my neck, and my nerves were a wreck as we were realizing a big storm was most likely coming at the exact day and time of the outdoor dinner we were planning for 150 people. Oh, I needed this small moment to put up my feet, take in the view from the front porch, and be reminded of the power and authority I have to choose to be free everyday.

I don’t know about you, but as an enneagram 9, I struggle with taking authority over my own life. One of the biggest truths I’m learning over the last year is that I am the boss of me. I’ve been on a journey of learning agency, using my God-given knowledge and intelligence and gifts, and knowing it’s okay to have a voice.

Another tool that’s helped are the EnneaThought For the Day emails which arrive in my inbox. I subscribed here, and they give little tips that I can put into practice to be healthier within my type. Today’s said: “The antidote to your tendency to be complacent is to be fully engaged with life and growth itself. “

All of this prompted me to make a list. Because I love lists. Maybe mine will prompt one of your own. Here you go…

I AM FREE TO…

  • Be a farmer, writer, and homeschool mom, even though I got a degree in Music Business. I’m free to evolve and change.

  • Take an active interest in my own life, without it being selfishness.

  • Love myself and my body as it is today, with all its beautiful stretch marks, wrinkles and scars that show traces of the abundant life lived.

  • Open the sunroof and reach my arms through it and sing loudly to Switchfoot or Colony House or the Mary Poppins Returns Soundtrack, even though other drivers are staring at me strangely. I used to be them; I understand.

  • Be engaged in problems or moments of conflict without taking them on as emotionally defining my self-worth.

  • Dance - even though I’m not good at it.

  • Embrace all the quirky and diverse parts of me. I’m simultaneously a girl who doesn’t mind throwing her clothes on her bedroom floor and I’m obsessive about having my kitchen cleaned perfectly before going to bed each night. I love being in my dirty farm boots as much as I love putting on big, funky earrings and curling my hair and going out for a nice dinner with my husband. All of these things are true.

  • Choose and decide what sunglasses or shirt or whatever I want without asking another’s opinion.

  • Not be at peace all the time (so hard for “The Peacemaker”!). Sometimes it’s necessary to stir things up for the sake of justice, to defend what’s right, and to lay healthy boundaries.

  • Call the shots. Use my voice and know that my opinions and desires matter just as much as everyone else’s.

  • Be truly spontaneous - leaving the comfort of my routine for a bit won’t make everything fall apart! And if it does, go with it - sometimes that leads down a better path.

  • Be a leader and a significant contributor to the world. Let my past of shying away from leadership positions be in the past - there’s a new freedom and joy in it now as I embrace leadership on my own terms.

  • Prioritize what actually needs to be done today, and only do those things. Let the other things wait for tomorrow, without worry.

  • Be fully alive, present, alert, and awake. I don’t need to hit the snooze button on life in order to cope with difficulties. I can wholeheartedly participate in my life and family today.

  • Move forward even if I’m afraid. I love this quote from Morgan Harper Nichols on Instagram: “Do not think less of yourself if you do not feel fearless. Doing it afraid is just as brave.”

  • LET IT GO. I don’t have to absorb challenges into my very being, even allowing physical symptoms to appear in my body. I can freely release things out of my control by literally exhaling or stretching or raising my arms to the big, blue sky. I was never fully in control anyway.

Now, your turn. Does any of this resonate? What are you free to be or do? I’d love to hear. Post a comment below or email me to share your thoughts, and let’s pursue greater freedom, together.

P.S. The farm dinner ended up being more amazing that we ever could have imagined, in our greenhouse, which was a reluctant plan B. I learned so much from this experience - more to share on that soon…

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 192: Fasting, Feasting & Intuitive Eating

In this episode of Simple, I’m sharing about what it means to feast and how moments of fasting can make the feasting more meaningful. I also share 3 of my favorite feasts and some ideas for you to recreate them!

Tsh shares some really great ideas on intuitive eating, which I think goes so well with intermittent fasting. It’s all about balance and a healthy view of food and our bodies. I loved this conversation! Listen in and let me know your thoughts!

You can also read my post on Intermittent Fasting, Feasting, and The Perfect Pesto, which inspired this podcast episode.

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 188: Analog Living + Reading Classics

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In this episode, I share about how to “slow down time” in the midst of very full days in my life as a farmer, homeschooling mom, wife of a chef, and writer. I also share a story about how I delightfully misplaced my phone a few weekends ago. I learned so much from Tsh about reading the classics, and it definitely convinced me to pick up a few new ones I haven’t read yet!

You can also check out my Day in the Life post on Art of Simple that inspired this podcast episode. Drop me a comment here or on the AoS site, and let me know your thoughts!