Plans Formed Long Ago

I love seasons.

It wasn’t always so.

Before we started gardening and raising chickens, winter served no purpose to me. Why couldn’t it just be spring or fall all year?

As we began working with animals and the earth, I realized that there is a great need for a season of rest. Rest for the birds as they take a break from laying, rest for the earth, and rest for us. There are seasons of sowing, seasons of growth, and seasons of reaping.


This summer will mark five years that we have been in North Carolina. When we first moved into our apartment, we dreamed of having a yard and chickens and a garden. Chris even planted a garden behind our apartment. It was fruitless in the literal sense, but the practice and principle watered our souls’ desires for more. I remember talking about how we believed it would be five or ten years before we’d be able to move and have enough space for a garden and livestock. It was so far-fetched to us in that season.

After two years in the apartment, we discovered this farmhouse through a friend at our local farmer’s market. Pinching ourselves all the way, we moved into this 1930s home surrounded by nothing but fields and big skies.

Fighting the temptation to see our time in the apartment as all bad, I chose to be thankful.

Now, three years later, God is displaying His faithfulness in big ways once again. Chris and I have been praying about what’s next for us. Both believing that we were being lead back toward family, we started considering what a move to Georgia would look like. We love the space and life that God has granted us these last few years. Chris enjoys his work. I’m so grateful for my time at the local pregnancy care center. So many good gifts.

With Baby #3 arriving later this year, we decided that we would loosely plan for a move next spring.

So, here we were just planning our spring garden, spring flock, and organizing baby’s clothes and room, when Chris got an email from a recruiter. This isn’t unusual. He gets them all the time through LinkedIn. What is unusual is when the recruiter says she represents a company in the town where you are looking to move. We exchanged puzzled looks and decided to entertain the possibility.

That was three weeks ago. After a phone interview and a last minute trip for an in-person interview, he has accepted an offer and put in his two weeks notice at his current job.

But, wait, aren’t you about to have a baby?!

Oh, right. Did I mention that they are letting him work remotely until after the baby is born and we are able to move?

“O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.” Isaiah 25:1

Seasons are good. God’s timing is perfect.

To everyone who has been a part of our story in North Carolina, thank you. You are loved and will be greatly missed.

Guest Post: Catalyst

If there is one word to describe my wife’s influence on my life, it would be “catalyst.” Anna is the most passionate person I know. She has an unwavering resolve to know truth and to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord. She is constantly weighing “what is” against what Scripture says “should be.” I love this about her.

Proverbs 31:11-12 says,

“The heart of her husband trusts her and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”

What an incredible blessing it is to trust your wife and know that she is truly seeking God in every aspect of life. Anna is my sounding board. I know that I can share anything with her – life’s struggles, triumphs, difficult questions, or even personal burdens – and she will always point me to the truth of Scripture. She is not afraid to speak truth into my life even when I don’t want to hear it. In our relationship we rarely brush problems under the rug. We deal with them. This is in large part due to Anna’s commitment to truth and real, genuine, God-honoring relationship. Despite what the world says, this does me good, not harm. In a world full of peace-keeping, shallow-thinking girls who want to look exactly like their “friend” on social media, it is refreshing to have a peace-making, critically-thinking woman whose aim is to look like Jesus no matter what the world tells her she should look like.

The God-given gift of marriage is a humbling experience. It has revealed my selfishness, my weaknesses, and my need for accountability through Christ-centered relationship. Anna has challenged me in countless ways. Her passion has sparked boldness in my life that I didn’t know was in me. Her fervor for truth has ignited in me a yearning for Godly wisdom and knowledge. Her principled thought has forced me to think about the reasons behind the decisions that I make. The seriousness with which she takes her job as a mother and the way she selflessly and tirelessly serves our children inspires me to be the father that God has called me to be. Her heart for those who don’t know Jesus is a frequent reminder of the depravity of sin, our need for a Savior, and the call for Christ-followers to be a light in a dark world.

That God would choose to use my beautiful, loving, and devoted wife to sharpen my faith and point me to Jesus is nothing short of a blessing. I can’t imagine my life without her. I am so thankful for my bride.

Happy 31st Birthday, my love!



The Book of Ruth. “In the days when the judges ruled…” it begins. Have you ever studied Judges? The days when the judges ruled were abhorrent. There was little to distinguish between God’s people and the world. Sound familiar?

Yet, in the corrupt, violent days when the judges ruled, God used an ordinary widow and her daughter-in-law faithfully doing ordinary things to preserve the lineage of David, and ultimately Jesus. Having moved back to Bethlehem from Moab during the barley harvest, Ruth faithfully worked and cared for her mother-in-law while God orchestrated her redemption through a kind man named Boaz. Glory in the ordinary.

God is patient with me. He is faithful to chip away at lies I have come to believe and replace them with His truth.

As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14

As I was contemplating this idea of being faithful in the everyday, I came across a devotional written by Elisabeth Elliot, “On Motherhood and Profanity.”

I am going to close by leaving it here in its entirety, because it’s that good. If you don’t want to read it all the way through (please do!), at least walk away with this: It is the common stuff of this world which, because of the Word’s having been ‘made flesh,’ is shot through with meaning, with charity, with the glory of God.” Glory in the ordinary.

“On Motherhood and Profanity” by Elisabeth Elliot

“Okay now, which one of you clowns put that bag of M‘n’Ms in the grocery cart?” The mother looks harried.

Two boys, maybe five and seven, eye each other and race away toward the gumball machine near the supermarket door. There is an infant strapped to a plastic board on top of the groceries, and a two year old occupying the built-in child seat in the cart. The mother picks up the M ‘n’ M candy bag and starts toward the aisle to return it. The two year old screams and she relents, throws the bag in with the rest of her purchases, patiently waits her turn at the check-out, fishes five ten-dollar bills from her purse, receives her small change, and pushing the cart with the babies in it, herds the two boys through the rain to the station wagon in the parking lot.

I go with her in my mind’s eye. Jump out in the rain. Open the garage door. Drive in. Close door. Babies, boys, bags into the house in how many trips? Phone rings. Answer phone, change baby, wipe muddy tracks from kitchen floor. Feed baby, put groceries away, hide M ‘n’ Ms, start peeling vegetables, take clothes out of dryer, stop fight between two older children, feed two year old, answer phone again, fold clothes, change baby, get boys to: 1) hang up coats, 2) stop teasing two year old, 3) set table.

Light oven, put baby to bed, stop fight, mop up two year old, put chicken in oven, answer phone, put away clothes, finish peeling vegetables, look peaceful and radiant–husband will be home soon.

I see this implacable succession of exigencies in my mind’s eye. They come with being a mother. I also see the dreams she dreams sometimes–write a novel, agents call, reviews come in. TV interviews, autograph parties, promotional traveling, a movie contract–preposterous dreams. Try something a little more realistic. Cool modern office, beautiful clothes, make-up and hairdo that stay done all day. A secretarial job perhaps, nothing spectacular, but it’s work that actually produces something that doesn’t have to be done over at once. It’s work that ends at five o’clock. It means something.

I know how it is. I have a mother. I am a mother. I’ve produced a mother (my daughter, Valerie, has a two year old and expects another child soon). I watched my own mother cope valiantly and efficiently with a brood of six. (“If one child takes all your time,” she used to say, “six can’t take any more.”) We were–we still are–her life. I understand that. Of all the gifts of my life surely those of being somebody’s wife and somebody’s mother are among the greatest.

But I watch my daughter and other mothers of her generation and I see they have some strikes against them that we didn’t have. They have been told insistently and quite persuasively that motherhood is a drag, that tradition is nonsense, that what people have always regarded as “women’s work” is meaningless, that “roles” (a word we never bothered much about until a decade or so ago) are changing, that femininity is a mere matter of social conditioning, that it’s time to innovate. If the first-grade readers show a picture of a woman driving a hook-and-ladder and a man doing a nurse’s job, see what happens to the conditioning. Abolish the stereotypes and we can abolish the myths of masculinity and femininity.

I hear this sort of claptrap, and young mothers often come to me troubled because they can’t answer the arguments logically or theologically. They feel, deep in their bones, that there is something terribly twisted about the whole thing but they can’t put their finger on what it is.

I think I know what it is. Profanity. Not swearing. I’m not talking about breaking the Third Commandment. I’m talking about treating as meaningless that which is freighted with meaning. Treating as common that which is hallowed. Regarding as a mere triviality what is really a divine design. Profanity is failure to see the inner mystery.

When women–sometimes well-meaning, earnest, truth seeking ones say “Get out of the house and do something creative, find something meaningful, something with more direct access to reality,” it is a dead giveaway that they have missed the deepest definition of creation, of meaning, of reality. And when you start seeing the world as opaque, that is, as an end in itself instead of as transparent, when you ignore the Other World where this one ultimately finds its meaning, of course housekeeping (and any other kind of work if you do it long enough) becomes tedious and empty.

But what have buying groceries, changing diapers and peeling vegetables got to do with creativity? Aren’t those the very things that keep us from it? Isn’t it that kind of drudgery that keeps us in bondage? It’s insipid and confining, it’s what one conspicuous feminist called “a life of idiotic ritual, full of forebodings and failure.” To her I would answer ritual, yes. Idiotic, no, not to the Christian–for although we do the same things anybody else does, and we do them over and over in the same way, the ordinary transactions of everyday life are the very means of transfiguration. It is the common stuff of this world which, because of the Word’s having been “made flesh,” is shot through with meaning, with charity, with the glory of God.

But this is what we so easily forget. Men as well as women have listened to those quasi-rational claims, have failed to see the fatal fallacy, and have capitulated. Words like personhood, liberation, fulfillment and equality have had a convincing ring and we have not questioned their popular definitions or turned on them the searchlight of Scripture or even of our common sense. We have meekly agreed that the kitchen sink is an obstacle instead of an altar, and we have obediently carried on our shoulders the chips these reductionists have told us to carry.

This is what I mean by profanity. We have forgotten the mystery, the dimension of glory. It was Mary herself who showed it to us so plainly. By the offering up of her physical body to become the God-bearer, she transfigured for all mothers, for all time, the meaning of motherhood. She cradled, fed and bathed her baby–who was very God of very God–so that when we cradle, feed and bathe ours we may see beyond that simple task to the God who in love and humility “dwelt among us and we beheld his glory.”

Those who focus only on the drabness of the supermarket, or on the onions or the diapers themselves, haven’t an inkling of the mystery that is at stake here, the mystery revealed in the birth of that Baby and consummated on the Cross: my life for yours.

The routines of housework and of mothering may be seen as a kind of death, and it is appropriate that they should be, for they offer the chance, day after day, to lay down one’s life for others. Then they are no longer routines. By being done with love and offered up to God with praise, they are thereby hallowed as the vessels of the tabernacle were hallowed–not because they were different from other vessels in quality or function, but because they were offered to God. A mother’s part in sustaining the life of her children and making it pleasant and comfortable is no triviality. It calls for self-sacrifice and humility, but it is the route, as was the humiliation of Jesus, to glory.

To modern mothers I would say “Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as a mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. That is why God has now lifted him so high. . .” (Phil. 2:5-11 Phillips).

It is a spiritual principle as far removed from what the world tells us as heaven is removed from hell: If you are willing to lose your life, you’ll find it. It is the principle expressed by John Keble in 1822:

If on our daily course our mind

Be set to hallow all we find,

New treasures still, of countless price,

God will provide for sacrifice.

Simple Celebrations of Life

This past Tuesday, we celebrated our youngest (soon-to-be middle) daughter’s second birthday. It’s become a tradition to wake the girls up with balloons on their birthday and as you can see, it’s always a big hit. And without intention, bacon has become a large part of our birthday celebrations, too.

We started the day with an amazing breakfast at Foster’s Market made complete with free cookies for the girls. Next, we headed to the Museum of Life and Science where we traversed bridges, saw bears, wolves, lemurs, held butterflies and hands. We ended the day with homemade cheesecake, books, and backpacks.

It was a good day. We try to keep birthdays simple, but special. This is her last birthday as the baby, but I pray it’s the second of many as a loved and cherished member of our family. xoxo

Learning to Trust More

2017 was hard. Not bad, but hard.

I often wanted to come back to this space and offer my words, but most days I didn’t feel that I had good words to offer.

Today, I’ll use my words to reflect on 2017 and the hardships, lessons, and joys that it brought.

January brought my first public speaking opportunity in eight years. I spoke at a local church on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on behalf of Pregnancy Support Services. I was nervous and fearful, but it left me energized and excited to do it again. I had another chance to speak a few months later and although this season doesn’t allow for a plethora of these opportunities, I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve been given this year.

I turned 30 in February. We made a trip to The Table and Chris wrote this kind guest post.


My college roommate moved to North Carolina this year and in March, we saw each other for the first time in five years. A week later, we traveled to Florida to celebrate the wedding of my other college roommate.

We made soil blocks for the first time in April and experienced both success and failure. Each year that we’ve sown a garden, we’ve grown as much as the plants through lessons learned. We have much left to learn and look forward to each year that we can put seeds in the ground.


Chris and I celebrated five years of marriage in May.


June saw 15 new chicks added to our flock. We are now collecting about a dozen eggs a day. Chris processed two of our older hens in October for stewing and broth. He took the opportunity to explain to the girls how these birds were given to us by God and how they’ve laid eggs for us and now it’s time for them to provide us with meat and broth. He told them how we kill them in a way that honors them. I’m so thankful for these real life experiences that shape their worldview (and continue to mold mine).


I’m now the mama of a three year old, a one year old, and a 21 week old (in the womb). We found out we were pregnant on August 30th. On September 2nd, I had a Supraventricular Tachycardia episode (heart rate of 240 BPM) that landed me in the emergency room.

My plans for a home birth slipped right through my fingers just three days after a positive pregnancy test. Two months later, after an echocardiogram and wearing a heart monitor for two weeks, the cardiologist cleared me to deliver at the birth center where I had my first two babies.

I experienced a wide range of emotions during those two months, but ultimately, I was thankful for a good report and the opportunity to have my baby at a familiar place with familiar faces.


On September 16th, we tragically lost our Great Pyrenees, Samwise. He was only 10 months old, but he was part of our family and had been a faithful protector of our chickens. Although the girls didn’t fully understand, they witnessed Chris and I mourn the loss and they often say, “I miss Sam.”


A few days after the accident, we received a card in the mail and a check to cover the cost of a new Great Pyrenees. We were speechless, humbled, and grateful. The following weekend we welcomed Scout into our family.


November brought our first Thanksgiving without my great-grandmother. It was bittersweet as we broke bread in her home one last time and honored her memory by sharing stories of her and Grandpa Talley.

Motherhood is paradoxical in the way that it can make you feel a deep loneliness and create opportunities for friendships that might not otherwise exist at the same time.

A dear friend moved away this year. First trimester sickness and fatigue pulled us away from our small group.

In the meantime, I began co-leading a Bible study small group at our church where I met some precious ladies and friends.

I also entered into a discipleship relationship with a lady from our church. Without knowing each other, we began meeting weekly and discovered common interests in farming and homeschooling. Her experience and wealth of knowledge and resources has been invaluable to me in this season.

I often feel at a loss when it comes to staying home with the girls and creating a rhythm for our days. Through Instagram, I became more acquainted with a group called Wild + Free.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, “All good things are wild and free.”

This quote is the inspiration for the Wild + Free community because it depicts an emerging group of mothers and homeschoolers who want their children to not only receive a quality education, but also to experience the adventure, freedom, and wonder of childhood.

Ainsley Arment

The Wild + Free monthly bundles have given me a starting point for what I want my days to look like with the girls as we embark on this homeschool journey.

In November, we had the opportunity to go to a Harvest and Vision Gathering in Lynchburg, Virginia to hear as Ben and Ainsley Arment shared their dream of a Farm Village where homeschool families can attend conferences, camps, and retreats. I was deeply moved and encouraged by their vision and commitment. (If you are interested in learning more about the Farm Village, please check it out here and consider making a donation.)

As I reflect on 2017, we experienced a lot of hard days, but hard meant learning to trust God more, so I guess hard really means good.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

God’s Goodness

It has been an eventful week at the Oliver Farmhouse. Our “farming” is very small-scale and very much an experiment at this stage. We have 11 laying hens, 1 rooster, 14 pullets, 1 rare breed whose gender is still a mystery, and a bountiful garden that has as many weeds as it has vegetable plants.

It’s not a lot, but some days it feels like too much.

Like Monday.

Monday was a long day with news of unexpected expenses. When Chris was gathering eggs that evening, he discovered one of our hens was sick. She was hunched over and her comb was pale and droopy. We immediately separated her from the flock.


Thursday was a reprieve full of sunshine and just the right amount of dirt. We moved our pullets and white-feathered mystery chick from the small starter coop into a bigger, more secure coop until they start laying when they’ll join the others.


Friday. Friyay? More like Fri-no.

I had just put the girls down for a nap when I heard a very loud, very strange noise. As I got up and moved closer to the unfamiliar sound, I realized it was our Great Pyrenees, Samwise. He’s about eight months old and barks at cyclists, birds, sirens, tractors–you name it. But this wasn’t a normal Sam bark.

As I stepped out onto our enclosed back porch, I could still only hear Sam, but I could see another dog in the yard. When I found Sam, I realized that he was not injured, but was torn between his instinct to protect us and our flock and his knowing that he could not take on this unfamiliar foe.

I stepped inside for a moment to call Chris. When I returned, the dog had found the chickens. We have an electric poultry netting around the coop, but the ground was wet and the dog was running laps around the fence, cutting corners causing the fence to collapse a bit more with each round, with Sam close behind.

I have been so pleased with our rooster, Atlas. He sounds the alarm when a hawk is near, bringing Sam bounding through the yard to chase it away. If he finds bugs or other good grub in the yard, he gives the ladies first dibs. They fight over who gets to roost next to him at night.

I have never been so impressed with him as I was yesterday. He jumped the fence to defend his flock against the intruder. The dog took a bite out of his backside, leading me to believe from my limited view that he had killed him, but the next thing I knew, he was up and running again.

Not long after this, our neighbor came to collect his runaway. (He was very apologetic.) I went hunting for Atlas, but to no avail. I went to the coop to count chickens, but there were only four to be found.

Helplessly watching this animal wreak havoc on our animals was pretty traumatic. We know that losing livestock is part of farm life, and we’ve lost hens before to coyotes, possums, hawks, but I’ve not been a firsthand witness to these events.

I continued to search while Chris made his way home and finally found Atlas hiding under the car.

We found two hens in the garden.

The rest came back on their own throughout the course of the evening.

We didn’t lose a single animal. Atlas paid with his tail feathers. Samwise was brave and smart.


Our sick hen was safe on the porch and our pullets, who were in a small, unsecure coop in the middle of the yard only hours before, were safely kept in a larger coop on the other end of the property. My children were upstairs in their beds.

It’s not a lot, but some days it feels like too much. Most days it takes more than we can handle to see God’s goodness.

God is…

Today I wrote down everything in my life that is frustrating and discouraging me. Then, in big letters, I wrote, “BUT GOD IS STILL GOOD. ALWAYS.”

Below is a list of words or phrases that follow the words, “God is…” in the Bible. I hope this encourages you.

God is…

with you

giving for you an inheritance

not man

a consuming fire

a merciful God

in your midst

God of gods and Lord of lords

he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory

making with you today [a covenant]

your dwelling place

providing you a place of rest

among you

my strong refuge

greater than all gods

gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him

for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him

greater than man


clothed with awesome majesty

a righteous judge

our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble

the King of all the earth

my helper

for me

a refuge for us

our salvation


the strength of my heart and my portion forever

a sun and shield


the one you must fear

my strength and my song

an everlasting rock

righteous in all the works that he has done

in your midst, a mighty one who will save




for us


wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men

not a God of confusion but of peace

not mocked

not unjust

treating you as sons


greater than our heart


“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.”  Psalm 136:1