Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Lilly and her mama, Lemon, just hours after Lilly was born:
Today we had another heifer calf born on our farm! Lilly is the 8th heifer calf born on our farm in the past 18 months, which is a huge blessing for a small dairy farm.
Harrison likes jumping on hay bales. :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sullivan's Birthday

Today Sullivan turned 10 years old! We are so thankful that he is a part of our family. He got a new C.S. Lewis book and a toy hand gun from Pat-Pat. He read the entire book today.He also got a new bike! And, as part of his birthday celebration, he got to go with Daddy and Harrison to the new Lego store in Raleigh yesterday.

We love you Sullivan! You bring so much joy to our home.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pursuing a Single Focus

Occasionally, when Meredith is preparing an email response to a question, she asks if she can read the letter to me (Joy) for my input. This particular letter below that Meredith recently sent to a friend had such remarkable insight that I asked if I might share it publicly. The perspective, as presented by a 21 year old, is an accurate summation of the "single focus season" in which so many young adults enter. It would behoove us as parents to carefully ponder what might be sacrificed during the years our children spend with an intense, single focus as it possibly might inhibit our children from cultivating their varied, well-balanced, abilities.

I've given a lot of thought to your college question over the last few days. My first thought is to definitely seek the Lord on this matter! I'm sure you are already doing that. He will be faithful to guide you and make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Secondly, I have been admonished time and time again by several newlywed friends to enjoy these years with my family. While they love being married, they greatly miss their families. Because of this, I strive to treasure my time at home with my family NOW instead of always being sooo very eager for my own husband and family. Whether you leave for college or not, you're in the final stretch with your family the way it is today. As you noted, your siblings will likely pursue college, careers, and/or marriage within the next few years, so it is so important to treasure the days you have together.

My third thought is the most lengthy, but it is what has mostly been on my mind. It is not so much related to you trading four years with your family for a music degree as it is to spending four years away with one focus, (emphasis added) so I hope you don't mind me taking the liberty to share...

When I think of you, I think of someone who is extremely well-rounded. You have a great interest and wealth of knowledge in caring for your goats and other animals. You have an interest in making a profit from your goats' milk. You pursued horse riding lessons and initiated cleaning your horse riding instructor's house in exchange for free lessons. You are a very gifted writer and poet. You are a talented singer. You have invested years and years into becoming a superb pianist. You are obviously on your way to becoming a good voice teacher. You also enjoy gardening and cooking and being hospitable.

To me, It seems like it would be so sad for you to have to take four years to focus on primarily only *one* thing! If you choose to pursue a scholarship for college, you would graduate in four years with extensive knowledge and experience in the realm of music, but at the cost of shutting down most of your other interests (at least for a few years).

Granted, I do not have the same appreciation for music or pursuing a degree in music like you do, so I can only relate with my love and interest in real estate. If, at 17 or 18, I would have moved in with the most successful real estate salesperson I know-- a woman who does millions and millions of dollars in sales every year-- and spent the following four years "shadowing" her, I would have a wealth of knowledge, four years of hands-on experience, and confidence when I'm selling properties. I would probably have a whole lot more money in my bank account and I would be well prepared to venture on to exciting new endeavors in real estate.

But I wouldn't have much experience working with my family. I would barely know Sheridan. I would have very limited (if any!) experience in bushhogging lots for our tractor service, bookkeeping, selling peanut gift boxes, gutting chickens, milking cows, cooking meals for eight people, the list could go on and on. Personally, for the calling in which I most desire to pursue (a wife and mother), I feel the past four years-- as diverse as they have been-- have prepared me for that so much better than spending four years with the primary goal and focus of pursuing real estate. (emphasis added)

I look forward to seeing how the Lord leads you! I will be in full support of whichever choice you make because I have confidence in your close walk with the Lord and I know He will guide you, whether He leads you to stay home or to go to school.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Farmhouse Before & After: The Bathroom

The only bathroom, with its peeling vinyl floor, rusted tub, and cruddy toilet was our biggest decorating challenge. My first thoughts were of gutting it and starting over again but with limited time and finances it only made sense to work with what we had. God blessed our feeble effort in many ways. The total cost of the bathroom renovation was less than $150 including a newly tiled floor, along with new towels and several other deco items.
When we first began working on the house, I noticed that every time I went outside, I saw a window that I couldn't find when I was inside. It finally occurred to me that the window was in the shower and had been covered with vinyl paneling. Realizing that a small, closet-sized bathroom needed as much light and ventilation as possible, I opted to expose the window in the tub area. Everyone was very reluctant about a window in the actual shower but I assured them it was quite stylish and no different than fancy homes which incorporate glass brick in the bathrooms. I bought some paint especially made for frosting glass and after Tim trimmed out the newly discovered window, I sprayed it so the light could come in without compromising privacy. I also made a small plastic curtain for the window to aid in privacy when the window is open.
Although barely visible now, the mirror had to be carefully chosen to cover some very large holes in the wall that my servant-hearted son, who likes to remain anonymous, cleverly covered to discourage mice from stopping in for visits.

The light fixture was very outdated with frilly, tulip shaped glass bulb covers so I simply replaced the shades with more conservative, amber-tinted cones.

I absolutely love toile fabrics so I searched online and found an antique brown Jamestown/Williamsburg pattern for an accent curtain at the shower entrance.
Because eight of us are sharing the tiny bathroom, I thought it essential to have designated towels. (I, for one, do not like to dry off with "boy" towels as I don't think the boys necessarily come out of the tub completely clean each night!) Meredith did a wonderful job monogramming each of our names on fluffy, chocolate brown towels.
I am especially thankful for the beautiful, new tile floor that extends from the bathroom to the attached laundry room that was a gift of labor from a milk customer. When hearing that we were moving the farm for the benefit of the cows, we were showered with kindness from a multitude of customers. This man, a computer specialist, showed up on his day off equipped with his tiling tools, and he promptly installed the new floor. What a gift of encouragement!

I am also thankful for the sense of peace God continues to give me in regard to accepting this old farmhouse as God's provision for us. Surely it is making some of the less desirable aspects much more tolerable. Yes, peace still abounds in acceptance.

Monday, July 6, 2009

In Acceptance Lies Peace

To say that the move to the new (very old) farmhouse has been difficult would be a gross understatement. Much to my (Joy's) disappointment, it has been grueling, brutal, and overwhelming. I've told myself time and time again that we've made plenty of moves in the past and can surely handle this one with grace, enthusiasm, and vigor, only to find myself once again at the Father's feet begging for a second wind to help me get through this most difficult move.

Over the years we had perfected our move in/move out technique and had been successful with the last few moves at being completely unpacked and settled in 48 hours. I knew this time things would be different but I had no idea how different.

Moving into a home still in the construction phase would be difficult but factoring in the adjustments of living in an old, very old, home just about wiped me out. Blindly feeling my way through the rooms in search of the pull chains that turn on the lights, learning to live with clever mice who avoid every attempt at being trapped while chewing holes in clothing in the laundry area, and retrieving drinking water from the bathtub were all adjustments for which I was unprepared.

As I fell into bed each night, I continued to hope that eventually it would get better. That is, until the bubble that held all my hope burst last week.

From the very beginning of learning that this old farmhouse would be God's destination for us, I have envisioned completion of the projects needing to be done that would make me feel like it was a suitable house. Many of my target projects had to be revised as the reality set in of rehabilitating a 100 year old, abandoned farmhouse. Yet I still held out hope that the exterior projects would make the home look loved, cared for, and primarily inhabited!

Most upsetting to me was the green metal roof with peeling paint and rust being its most defining attributes. As people would need to come to the farm for various reasons, I always told them to look for the run down, overgrown farm with the rusting, peeling green metal roof. However, I held out hope that this defining eyesore would soon be remedied. At first I hoped that we could afford to have it painted professionally. That hope was replaced by imagining that the bigger boys could paint it. Once I began living here though and saw the exhausting list of real projects requiring their attention around the farm, I realized I certainly couldn't ask them to enter my world of decorating dilemmas by expecting them to paint the roof. So I concluded that the project would have to become my own.

I talked with Elliott and Oliver about where I might find the necessary tools: the pressure washer, a very tall ladder, and scaffolding. My enthusiasm was met with their reluctance as they both told me that our pressure washer was so powerful, it would throw me off the roof the instant I pulled the trigger. I told them I'd figure out a solution and simply asked if all the tools I needed were here at the farm.

I began to plot, plan, and envision the finished project. First I'd paint the roof, then reglaze the windows while I had the ladder and scaffolding in place. Then the younger boys and Meredith could join me as we painted the porch with all its wooden railing. Last of all, Meredith and I could wash the very cloudy, dirty windows that had been overlooked for generations. Then, I could live here with some sense of completion, and pride. I wouldn't have to describe my home as the "most forsaken farm on the road".

Last week I finally shared the details of my upcoming project with Timmy. It seemed he barely heard my strategy when he bluntly said, "You can't pressure wash or paint the roof." At first I thought he was challenging my ability to complete the task but then he made it perfectly clear: he wasn't allowing me to do it! He was forbidding me! He mumbled something about the danger and the certainty of broken bones but I quickly told him my plan to tie myself off with a rope to the beds in each of the rooms for safety. He didn't seem persuaded by my well thought out strategy. In fact, he ended the conversation by saying that I'd have to adjust to the roof because it wouldn't be changing any time soon. What?! I can't live in a forsaken house indefinitely! It's not who I am! I like clean. I like finished. I like pretty. Is it not enough that I've had to make the difficult adjustment of living in a pre-indoor plumbing interior with one closet-sized add-on bathroom, a kitchen with major water issues, no air conditioning, and one plug-in electrical outlet per room?! Can't I at least have a nice exterior?

Sadly, the bursting bubble left my family with one very cranky, discontented Mama. I talked with the Lord, for what seemed like the one hundredth time about changing my outlook and helping me accept the house He chose for our provision.

As I prayed, God reminded me of a quote I once heard Elisabeth Elliot recite: "In acceptance lies peace." I pondered, "If I will just accept the roof and die to the kind of house I'd like to live in, the problem will be solved." Then, in one God-strengthened moment, I did it! I accepted it. This is my roof. This is my green, rusty, metal roof. And this is my peeling, rotten wooden porch. This is my white metal siding that has turned gray from weathering. These are my metal shutters, faded from a century of sun, popping out of their frames from years of neglect. This is where I live. Yes. This is my home.

In that instant, it seemed the house flies stood still, none buzzing around me trying to find a place to land, while I breathed in a fresh breath of peace that comes only through acceptance. Suddenly, I was filled with renewed energy and strength. I pillowed my head that night envisioning how I could decorate my porch and begin living here (and liking it here) just like it is.
I awoke Saturday morning excited to begin decorating my newly accepted home exterior. I scrounged through the old barns, finding one treasure after another. I marveled throughout the day that a month of discontentment with the old farmhouse's exterior had so quickly been replaced through the simple act of acceptance. Yes, even with green, peeling, rusty metal roofs, in acceptance lies peace.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Beach

We had so much fun at the beach! Our pictures follow:

It was just Sheridan's 2nd time at the beach and the first time was when she was only a few months old. She loved it so much and wasn't the least bit scared of the water.
Daddy and Sheridan
Harrison had so much fun riding the waves on Daddy's back
Our whole family enjoys riding the waves Sullivan, Oliver, and Harrison
Sheridan got chilly in the late afternoon so I (Meredith) wrapped her in one of the boys' t-shirts
Heading back to the van as the sun began to set after a perfect day...