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Ordinary

I woke up this morning and decided I needed to take my blog back for me. So, that’s what I’m doing. Right now. With this post.

Last September when I decided to start my own business, I tried to turn my blog and website into more of a business tool to showcase what I was working on. (If you want to see that – you still can, here or on Facebook.) Of course, my personal life still crept into the pages of my blog. But, I felt guilty sharing personal work instead of my business work. I have a dozen personal posts lurking in my Drafts folder that I started before the guilt crept in and I stopped working on them.

So, I’m liberating my blog and reclaiming this little corner of the internet for my soul. My blog used to be a space to explore and share what inspires me. And I need that space back.


This month, I’m trying a photo a day challenge on Instagram. Hopefully I make it more than 5 days (my previous record…) Here’s a photo from the challenge.

June 4, Ordinary :: An ordinary little rose in my ordinary little garden.

Rose

A Tourist in Thailand

My last several blog posts have focused on the mission trip that Russell and I went on over Christmas. I hope it’s clear that my heart and soul were touched and changed forever by the things we saw and the people we met while on the trip.

We were also lucky to spend a few extra days in Thailand, experiencing a little more of the country and culture as tourists.

Bangkok

We flew into Bangkok a day early, before the rest of our group arrived. To say we were the typical tourists is an understatement. We traveled by tuk-tuk, we ate Pad Thai, Russell had some clothes tailored for him in six hours, we saw every Buddha in the city, and we sat in a lot of traffic. If we ever go back, I’ll definitely skip Bangkok. One day was more than enough.

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Chiang Mai

Halfway through our mission trip, we traveled from Yangon, Myanmar to Chiang Mai, Thailand, where we had a tourist day since it was New Years Eve. Chiang Mai and the surrounding area were really neat – a must see for anyone traveling to Thailand.

We rode elephants, held baby tigers, and let off lanterns. a.k.a., It was the best day of my life. I don’t think I will ever forget what it feels like to feed an elephant, to pet a tiger, and to release a lantern into the heavens, watching it float away and join the sea of thousands of other lanterns.

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Krabi

After the mission trip finished, Russell and I headed to Krabi island for a little relaxation (and a little too much sun). We took a day-long snorkeling trip to Koh Rok, which had, hands down, the most amazingly beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. I didn’t fully grasp the concept of powdery white sand and crystal clear water until visiting Thailand.

ThailandThailandThailandThailandThailandThailandThailand had been on my list of dream vacations for years, and I’m so glad to have spent time really getting to see so much of the country, while meeting its people and learning about its fascinating culture (oh, and eating its delicious food!).

My Prayers for the Orphanages

I want to start by saying I don’t think they should really be called orphanages. The children may not have their biological families – but they absolutely have families. Mother and father figures who love them, a whole pack of brothers and sisters, and in most cases, extended family members too.

The term “orphanage” always conjured up images of sweet, innocent children living in too little love – or worse, abuse. Visiting the orphanages in Thailand and Myanmar thankfully dispelled that vision. Instead, I saw them living in love and hope and joy and potential and play and fun and kid-ness. And it was awesome.

MyanmarMyanmarMyanmar and ThailandSo, I thank God for the adults who so passionately love Him that they answered the call to adopt these kids into their own families. What strong, faithful, good role models they are – not just for these kids but for all of us who meet them. They have dedicated their lives, their homes, their resources – their all – to serving God by loving and caring for these kids.

As if that wasn’t enough, they are also committed to serving their surrounding communities. They have church services, start Bible colleges, and host shoe outreaches and other fun events. The orphanages are truly resources for their communities, the place where neighborhood kids come to play soccer, where all know they will be welcomed with love.

Because of these loving and faithful adults, kids who once faced insurmountable odds now have a chance at life. And not just for survival – but for success and thriving. Not only do they have food, clothing, and shelter, but they are getting an education, learning skills, being encouraged. Speaking in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – they have a chance at self actualization. What a testimony about God’s provision!

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Despite the manifold praises, there are still so many needs.

Some worry about meeting rent in 6 months, while others worry about where or if their kids will be able to continue their education. Some sit with unfinished buildings on their grounds, waiting for the funds to complete projects that will further their mission and aid in sustainability. We gave shoes and blankets in the community – and the thankfulness for these items showed the clear need for other essentials like these. Kids sleep on beds so hard that they gave me bruises to sleep there for 2 nights.

So, I pray that their needs will be met – and exceeded. That their thoughts and energy won’t be spent on how to meet basic needs, but can instead stay focused on having the biggest impact in others’ lives as possible.

I pray for each of the kids we met and the many, many others we weren’t able to meet. I pray for their futures – that they are able to build on the growth and opportunity they’ve found already, staying steadfast in their faith, becoming change makers in their communities and country. I pray that they will always walk in light and love – and never doubt where that light and love come from.

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I pray for their communities and country. May the hearts and minds of the people of these beautiful countries be softened. May the hold that fear, deception, and superstition have over them be released. I pray that God’s glory will be ever more evident.

I pray for our team that went on the mission trip – that we never forget the passion and inspiration we felt while in Thailand and Myanmar. That we recognize that our trip might have ended but our role in their lives carries on.

And I pray for anyone whose heart might be moved while hearing stories of the trip and the work in this region. Truly, in all of my work and travels, I’ve never seen a place with more opportunity for a miraculous return on investment.

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Deck the Halls

I’m not usually one who decorates for Christmas. Growing up, we didn’t place much emphasis on the cultural and commercial traditions of Christmas. I found out the truth about Santa at about age 4, we stopped having a Christmas tree well before I graduated from high school, I didn’t learn the words to Frosty the Snowman, and I went 27 years without living in a house with Christmas lights hung outside.

Well, this year that changed. The local sorority chapter asked if I would be interested in putting my house on their annual Christmas tour of homes, the proceeds of which support local charities.

With no experience decorating for Christmas (and not owning any Christmas decorations), I sought help from the owner/decorator/creative genius at B. Whimsy. I still couldn’t make myself go totally traditional – so no real Christmas tree, no red, and no Santa. Kari did a great job decorating, and it was amazing to watch the transformation! Here are a few pics of the results:

Home TourHome TourHome TourHome TourHome TourHome TourHome TourESP_7030Home TourHome TourHome TourHome TourThanks for visiting! And Merry Christmas, y’all!

My Best Friends’ Weddings

Two of my very best friends recently got engaged (and one married now!). I have been so excited to share in their journey toward marriage and celebrate the love that they share with their partners.

I first started this blog when I was newly engaged. At the time, I wondered what the point of marriage was. I know now that my wedding day really didn’t mean much – other than as a chance to celebrate with friends and family.

That’s kind of a weird thing to say, right? But the day that I married Russell, I still cared about myself more than anything else. I married him because I wanted him in my life, to make me happy. Somewhere, sometime over the last three years, that changed. And whenever that changed, that’s when we were really married.

While it is about me being happy, it’s also about Russell being happy – and more than either of those, it’s about us as a family being happy, healthy, and functional. And sometimes that means sacrifice and compromise. But, because I love US more than ME, it always means reward and joy.

It’s about our families – past and future. It’s about our friends – old and new. It’s about the people who have poured into our lives and made us who we are today. And it’s about the people who we will, together, pour into and love over the next however many years.

It’s about our culture and society. I so strongly believe that healthy marriages and strong family units are the only hope that we have to survive as a country, a society, a human race.

It’s about God – about loving others the way He loves us and honoring the first and most important relationship that He gave us.

I once was ambivalent toward marriage. Today, I’m its biggest fan. I realize now that there are so many points of marriage. And, I’m sure, as Russell and I continue to grow in our relationship and marriage, I will realize so much more.

Over the last few months, I have so enjoyed celebrating not only my friends and their partners – but also love and marriage in general. I captured a few photos at their showers, each of which were such beautiful and fun celebrations of love, family, and friendship. I’ve been so honored to be a part of their journeys as they embark on the most important and sacred relationship and institution on this planet.

Praying blessings over these couples – love you guys!

Celeste’s Engagement Party

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Emily’s Couples Shower

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Costa Rica

I’ve heard it said that Costa Rica is for lovers. So, where better to go and celebrate our anniversary this year?

And Costa Rica definitely lived up to all of the hype. We started our trip staying at Tabacon resort, near Arenal volcano. This place has to be as close to Heaven on Earth as possible. It was so incredibly beautiful and peaceful.

It was the rainy season while we were there, which for us desert-dwellers was much welcome! How wonderful to fall asleep and wake up to the sound of rain! Luckily the rain cleared during the days, so we hiked through the rain forest, swam around waterfalls, and enjoyed the hot springs.

It was also Russell’s brother and his wife’s anniversary, so we met up with them for zip lining and then a few lazy days at the beach.

It was such a great trip, full of relaxation, adventure, delicious food, and wonderful company – it was so tempting to “accidentally” miss our flight and stay in paradise a little longer!

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Farmwife Confession: Whole Wheat

Until December 23, 2010, I was a city girl. I had daily lattes, shopped a little too often, relied on public transportation, and rejected the thought of ever living in the country. When my husband and I decided to leave it all for West Texas to farm, life changed completely. Read my “Farmwife Confessions” to learn about the transition.

In my last Farmwife Confession, I talked a little about “corporate” farming and some of the incorrect perceptions consumers sometimes have about farming. Another one I hear and read often is that us “corporate” farmers don’t consume food we grow and have separate organic gardens for our families. Which is absurd.

I hear this line most often in regards to potato farmers. Always followed up by a statement that non-organic potatoes don’t sprout because they have so many pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides. I know that this is anecdotal evidence, but there’s the glaring fact that every single potato that I’ve ever bought and not eaten right away has sprouted. Details.

Opponents of modern food production methods so often paint farmers as pawns in a food war, unable to make genuine decisions about what and how we grow. They make statements like: Monsanto forces farmers to buy their products; farmers are just tied to the welfare of farm subsidies; and farmers don’t really care about their land or product – only money. And, hey, there could be some farmers out there about whom these descriptions ring true – every industry has a few bad seeds! (Pun intended.)

But, from the farmers I’ve met, they believe in their crops and in their land. They work endless hours to grow a healthy, life-sustaining product for all of us to enjoy with our families. What’s that saying… don’t badmouth a farmer while your mouth is full. Yeah. That.

Wheat_01For my birthday this year, I bought myself Russell so thoughtfully gave me a bread machine. It was wheat harvest on the farm then, so he brought me home a small bag of grains that I could use to make whole wheat bread. And, it was not secret organic wheat that we keep for ourselves.

(Another thing I read a lot – that there is SO much GMO wheat in our food. Not true. There is no GMO wheat in legal commercial production in the US. Again, details.)

I don’t have a home grain mill (yet), so I decided to grind the wheat with a food processor and then a mortar and pestle. It ended up looking a bit like steel cut oats. Since I couldn’t make a fine flour, I added our wheat to other whole wheat flour to give the bread texture. And what a fresh, hearty, earthy bread it turned out to be – so much better tasting than store-bought bread.

WW_02I used the Honey Whole Wheat recipe from 100 Days of Real Food. Here’s the recipe as I made it:

  • 4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup of our ground wheat, plus some for the top of the loaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast

I made the dough in my bread machine, following its directions for the order to add the ingredients. Once the dough was mixed and had gone through the rise cycle, I took it out and cooked it in a loaf pan, 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

As Russell said when he took the first bite – this recipe is a keeper.

Farmwife Confession: Our “Corporate” Farm

Until December 23, 2010, I was a city girl. I had daily lattes, shopped a little too often, relied on public transportation, and rejected the thought of ever living in the country. When my husband and I decided to leave it all for West Texas to farm, life changed completely. Read my “Farmwife Confessions” to learn about the transition.

It has been 2.5 years since Russell and I packed up and moved to rural Texas. I drove around the farm today and was reminded how much I still don’t know about farming. Like, please don’t give me a tractor pop quiz. Please do not ask me what a boll buggy is or what it does. I could not tell you… I don’t have a single clue.

But, I have also learned so much. (Like what the best weather apps are. Or how to check sprinklers.) Whenever I read or hear people’s perceptions of farming, I’m often blown away by how much those perceptions don’t match up with our everyday reality. But, then I remind myself that I used to think Russell had to break ice OFF of the cows (seriously, what?!) – and I remember again how foreign this world is to people who haven’t ever witnessed it firsthand.

I had to remind myself of this recently when someone on Facebook posted a graphic about corn farmers:

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To me, this idea of “corporate farming” is one of the most misleading concepts floating around the food production part of the modern zietgiest. I’ve heard people complain that Monsanto and other megacorporations grow our food instead of family farmers. And for some foods, it might be true that megacorporations grow and market food directly. It’s definitely common in meat production. And, I’m guessing, Dole probably owns and produces most of the pineapples in the US.

But, corn is not one of those foods owned by megacorporations. (In fact, according to the USDA, as cited by the Corn Farmers Coalition, 95% of corn farms are family owned, and 90% of corn is produced on family farms, as cited by the National Corn Growers Association.)

When I press people about what they mean by “corporate farming,” they always talk about huge farms, with lots of machines doing the work, and tons of employees. Well, Russell’s family has over 15,000 acres, way more tractors than any of us wives care to count, and several employees. I guess that makes the Williams family a corporation, according to so many uninformed people’s definitions.

I took lunch to Russell and his father today, just the two of them working a very long day on a Saturday to tend their corn crop (not wearing or needing hazmat suits, I might point out…). I can’t think of a better illustration that our farm, like most other corn farms across our country, is a family operation. Fathers farm alongside their sons. Brothers work together to plant, care for, and harvest the best quality crop possible. It brings together aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins. Family dinners become business meetings. Everyone stays awake at night praying for rain.

After we finished lunch, I took a few photos of our “corporate” farm. These are real – true – photos of a corn and grain farm. No hazmat suits. No corporations. Just the love, dedication, and hard work of a family of farmers.

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