On loss and gain

Do you ever feel like you are losing so much and gaining so much at the same time? It’s a strange feeling.

We used to identify solidly as homesteaders. That’s half of the name of this blog after all! At one point (but not all at the same time) we had two gardens, rabbits, bees, chickens, our beloved dahlia row, fruit trees, suburban turkeys (ha!) and chickens. We used to preserve and make, make, make and even fed four different families. And slowly we’ve opened our hands and let those things go as we’ve made room for the time caring for my body well takes: First the rabbits, then the bees, then the preserving (except for drying herbs). This year we’re saying goodbye to the chickens, letting our hard-working garden of 11 years go fallow for a year or two (it’ll be so good for her too), and just growing some potatoes, easy flowers, herbs and maybe some dye flowers in the new bed. We’ll still be here making, but it’ll be different. Our hands will be less in the dirt, in the clay.

I asked my husband the other day: Can we still call ourselves homesteaders if our homestead is…gone? The bones are still here. The fruit trees – which will still flower and fruit and grow, and garden space, and a place to have our chickens and bees again one day (for what one of us knows what the future holds?). A lot of our herbs and medicinal plants will just grow back on their own, as will our wily dahlia row. I’m sure we’ll have lots of free lettuce with a mind to grow on its own. We have hearts that will still try to make more than we consume, like our lip balm made with a friend pictured here (and as a prelude to below, a surrender to the fact that the picture just won’t load and that’s a-ok, a link will do just fine anyway, plus you’ll get the lip smacking details!).

One part of our identities isn’t going away – our homesteading hearts are still there – but we’re turning down the knob to turn it up on other things. On a level of openness and slowness that will allow us to jump into our new (old) camper for trips on the go, we are hoping no matter how my body is faring. We are turning up space for more quiet making. Dan, with some help from Ash, just built a beautiful workbench to do more knife making and leather work on. Tomorrow I start a class on The Franciscan Way through the Center for Action and Contemplation and have a knitting and sewing queue a mile long. This feels like a time where I’m investing in my reading and learning and growth and all of us in our little hobbies that get lost in the bigger running of a homestead. It’s like our quiet winter season, where the death of the garden and the rains keep us knee deep in these other things, is being stretched longer and wider.

This year I’m embracing the word surrender. Have I already shared that? My memory has been a challenge lately. But instead of pushing it to remember – or to go back and look – I am just going to risk repeating myself. Ahhh, another small way of surrender in action… But surrender to not look for all the health answers and try, try, try; surrender to focus more in on the living and moving and breathing and doing what we can and want but won’t push us farther into our margin; surrender to accept my body for what it is and what it can do on any given day; surrender to embrace and feel the losses and embrace and feel the gains.

Life feels strangely good. Psalm 18 has always captivated me; the depth of despair that we all feel but hardly admit to ourselves and especially others (find your people and do it!!), and full of the awe-filled power and the fierce, mighty glory of God even in the midst of our seeming destruction. There’s the promise of things big and small, like drawing us out of the water, setting our feet securely on uneven places so they don’t slip, helping us feel like we can scale the walls in faith that his strength is under, over, and all around us, and my favorite: him bringing me out in a spacious place simply because he delights in me.

Maybe this year is more about surrender, and surrender being that spacious place whereas before it looked more like our happy, homesteading, live simple lives, but now is getting to a smaller but bigger place of delight; delight in a life marked by unpredictability and disability, delight in the spaciousness that having to slow to such a level brings, delight in the goodness that still surrounds and fills me and inside. Just some midnight (or later) musings. Surrender and delight, you are welcome here. Change, you are welcome here. Lord, have your way in me. Take me from the miry clay. Set my feet upon the rock. I put my trust in you. I trust you. You are in the depths with me, and you have a spacious place for me and for us.

When Ash moved in, I used to sing to him before bed. His favorite and most requested song: Jesus Lover of my Soul. It feels apt to end with its words.

Jesus, lover of my soul
Jesus, I will never let You go
You’ve taken me from the miry clay
You’ve set my feet upon the rock
And now I know
I love you
I need you
Though my world may fall
I’ll never let You go
My Savior
My closest Friend
I will worship You until the very end
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