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.

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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.

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Chris and I celebrated five years of marriage in May.

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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).

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

mighty

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

good

the strength of my heart and my portion forever

a sun and shield

holy

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

able

true

one

for us

faithful

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

light

greater than our heart

love

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

Cocoa Birthday

My K girl turned three this past Saturday.  She is so full of life and laughter.  Still my ever-observant child–she doesn’t miss anything.  Watching her grow is and will always be one of my greatest joys.

We traveled to Cocoa, Florida to celebrate a dear friend’s wedding and K thought it was pretty sweet that she got to go to Florida for her birthday.  Wins all around.

{And a HUGE thank you to my mom for taking care of the girls while I participated in all the wedding festivities.  I couldn’t have done it without her!}

Here are some photos from our weekend of celebrating.

I Must Decrease

I recently put into words these two thoughts about myself (warning: they aren’t pretty):

  • I would rather be a “lesser” version of myself than allow God to change me, because I fear that I will be expected to always be the changed/improved/better version of myself and when I fail, I will be a disappointment.
  • I tend to self-preserve and “fight for my rights” more than I should, because I am afraid that if I don’t, I will disappear.

Ugly, right?

This morning was a hard one.  We go to the local pregnancy care center, where I work part-time, on Tuesday mornings.  L got up at 4:30 AM and wouldn’t go back to sleep.  K woke up at the height of emotion–everything was a crisis.  And then she had an accident–before she even ate breakfast.  So, I decided we would stay home and try again another time.

As I was folding laundry, I began praying.  Praying for God to redeem the day.  Then I started praying about the thoughts I shared above.  Specifically, the second one.  This passage came to mind:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:3

Jesus did not fight for His rights.  He served.  He loved.  He did not defend Himself to avoid the cross.  The truth is–if by serving, loving, giving, I “disappear,” but Jesus appears, what could be better than that?

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”  John 3:30

How does this happen?  By immersing yourself in the Word of God, praying always, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Parenting brings out my ugly like nothing ever has.  I’m so thankful for God’s constant pursuance and that I stand holy and blameless before Him in Christ.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”  Ephesians 1:3-4

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Our Trip to Polyface

I wrote this post almost two years ago and in an effort to get it “just right,” I ended up leaving it in my drafts until now!  What a shame… progress, not perfection, right?!

So, here it is–a short, imperfect summary of our trip to Polyface in June 2015.


This past weekend, we had the incredible opportunity to visit Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia.  I wrote briefly about Joel in this post.  For those of you who are not familiar with Joel, you should definitely look into his operation.

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I’ll be honest — I was probably a little too excited to meet Joel.  I think the accurate term would be star-struck.  Joel has written nine ten books, has been featured in documentaries, and is truly a pioneer in sustainable farming.

Living where we do in North Carolina, sustainable farming is a popular notion, but most people only have one or two parts of the whole puzzle.  I used to think that truth was all or nothing.  Truth is absolute, but it’s also discoverable.  So, this means that just because someone doesn’t acknowledge Creator God, it doesn’t mean that they can’t encounter true principles of His order as they go throughout life.  Understanding this principle has helped me find common ground with people who are different from me.  I’ve found that most, if not all, ideologies understand truth in part.

I say all this to say, Joel is truly unique in that he recognizes the need to heal the land through sustainable farming, and is a believer in Jesus Christ and God our Maker.  Why is this so rare in the USA?  It is usually one or the other.

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This makes Joel truly an inspiration to our family.  I know that there are others who share his worldview and I hope that there will be even more in coming years.

The first stop on the lunatic tour was the pastured broiler chickens.  Here, Joel demonstrated how the mobile shelters can be moved manually, without the use of mechanical equipment, such as a tractor, cutting down on petroleum usage.

He shared with us three Ms: mobile, modular, and management intensive.

Mobile: The chicken coops can be moved anywhere on the farm, or even to a new farm.

Modular: It can be scaled up or down, making this type of farming accessible to folks with limited or limitless resources.

Management intensive: In this farming model, you substitute labor for capital.

Unlike large government-regulated poultry corporations, where you have to invest $500,000 just to get your foot in the door, you can start with just one pastured broiler shelter or 50.

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Next, we visited the pastured pork.  During this portion of this tour, Joel shared with us that hundreds of years ago, there were stories of a person not seeing the sun for three days because of birds and a herd of more than seven million buffalo roaming the land.  The ecosystem is meant to have copious animals as part of its design.

There is a need for a “disturbance-rest” cycle in order to maintain a healthy land.  He told us of the cathedral-like forests of the Native Americans, because they would periodically burn.

He uses the pigs and electric fencing to mimic this “disturbance-rest” cycle in the forest on his land by rotating the pigs every few days.

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He finished the tour by offering a blessing:

May all your carrots grow long and straight
May the foxes be struck blind by your chickens
May your customers love cooking your food in their kitchens
May the rains be gentle on your pastures
May your fields grow with soil
May your earthworms dance with celebration
May the wind be always at your back
Your children rise up and call you blessed
And may we leave a better world than we found

After the tour, Joel took the time to answer questions, sign books, and take photos.  Chris purchased his fifth Salatin-authored book while we were there, Pastured Poultry Profits, and asked Joel to sign it.  While he was signing it, Chris asked him for one piece of advice for an aspiring farmer looking to get started.  He thought about it for a minute and said, “Stay out of debt and start small.”  Joel proceeded to tell us about his humble beginnings, living off $300 a month, when he and his wife first got started.

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This isn’t the best lighting, but as I told Chris, “You don’t tell Joel Salatin to move!”

If I learned anything from our trip to Polyface, it was this: We can do this!  It is attainable!  It is possible! Joel has a major farming operation, but as he said during the tour, an attribute of truth is that it is true at any scale… big or small.  To share all that he has accomplished and for folks to be able to walk away feeling encouraged rather than overwhelmed is an amazing thing.