Jude Does Garden Planning

Hello, I am Jude and this is my first blog. Although it is snowy, it is not too early to start gardening. Today I looked at a seed book and chose Kentucky Blue pole beans, Rainbow Blend carrots, Easter Egg … Continue reading

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Barefoot Business Meeting

We are mostly moved in. Oh, there are still things to organize, and systems to figure out, but we’re finally feeling like we’re more moved in than not. The sun has been shining, the snow has been melting (and falling and melting), and everything is muddy. (In fact, Elijah insists on calling our farm “Muddy Meadows.”) With the snow disappearing, we are starting to find surprises everywhere. Broken fences, piles of junk, heaps of garbage, dirty barnyards, and more piles of junk. It’s all a little overwhelming.

After a few days of wandering around, taking stock, Andrew and I decided to have a business meeting. Before we moved in, we had direction and goals. Somehow, it all seemed simpler before we were here. Then different snags came our way (mostly financial things). So, here we are, reevaluating. For those of you who are wondering what on earth we’re doing with this property, I’ll flesh out the first few steps.

Right now, our first priorities are garbage and aggressive saving/debt-payment. We ended up dipping into a line of credit that we hadn’t planned on touching, so we need to get that taken care of before we go wild with electric fencing or livestock. Our next challenge is clean-up. Farms accumulate a lot of garbage. There are piles of things everywhere. We have three little sheds off the pig-barn (which is blessedly clean), each of which is filled with and surrounded by junk. Then there’s the barn. Oh, the barn. As our neighbour said, “It’s deep.” It’s got layers and layers of old hay, straw, and, of course, manure. It is going to take us a good long while to clean out. Blessedly, though, it looks like it’s begun to compost. Given enough time, we’ll be able to use all the muck in the garden.

After we do a really good clean-up, the plan is to get chicks. We’d hoped to be set up for them by now, but nothing ever really goes according to plan – life is interesting, that way! Jude is especially excited to get chickens (and ducks, turkeys, any kind of fowl!). He’s a funny kid that really loves birds. Jude, who came along and read over my shoulder, informs me that it’s not funny at all that he loves birds. Rather scoldingly he asked me, “Who doesn’t love birds?” So there you have it. Getting farmyard fowl will be an exciting event for us.

But, the major project we have planned for this year is surveying and (hopefully) getting some swales dug. Although I’d like to get all of the earthworks done this first year, I know that that is not likely to be economically feasible. However, I’m optimistic that we’ll at least get to put in a few and plant them with fruit trees. As we’re in a dry area, water catchment will be very important to the growth and success of new trees.

So there you have it. This year we will be focusing on our finances, some low-investment livestock, and (hopefully) swales and fruit trees. Of course, gardening and garden establishment goes without saying. I can’t even begin to express my excitement over all the space I have to grow old favourites and try new things. I’m currently dreaming about an asparagus plot and fields of flowers.

I couldn’t possibly leave you without some pictures of our clean-up efforts, though, could I? This is what the boys and I worked on yesterday:

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Meet Belle!

About a month before we moved here, to Barefoot Meadows, we found an ad on kijiji for Great Pyrenees pups. As an avid kijiji hawk, I showed Andrew the ad and suggested we jump on it, as I hadn’t see many ads for this breed, and it’s the kind we’d planned on long ago. The breeder seemed great – her dogs are working dogs and the pups learn from the adults until their new owner picks them up. After careful consideration, we contacted the breeder, who reserved a pup for us. The boys were super excited to know that they’d have a new “sister,” as Jude insists on calling her, and a name was chosen.

Not quite a week after moving in, we made the trip to Red Deer to pick up Belle. The breeder suggested we meet in the parking lot of the Donut Mill, which suited us just fine. We arrived early and went in for breakfast while we waited. When we first saw Belle, I have to admit – I gulped. She was much bigger than I had expected. She is already bigger than our lab-mix, Marshmallow, and is very, very fluffy. The poor thing was nervous, and she drooled and shivered for most of the hour-long ride back home.

At about the halfway mark, things reached a head, and Jude learned a valuable lesson. Now, to give a little bit of context, Jude is famous for stripping, and he leaves a trail of clothes wherever he goes, despite repeated reminders to remain clothed. Well, on this day, Jude had removed his jacket and boots and was happily playing his DS. As the drive wore on, Belle suddenly began to heave. She puked all over Lucy’s stuffed dragon (which had fallen to the floor), then turned and deposited a large glob of drooly vomit straight into Jude’s boot. I fought the urge to say, “You totally deserve that, Jude,” and instead said “That wouldn’t have happened if they were on your feet, my dear.” I feel like that was an acceptable high road, given the situation and ick factor.

Now, without further ado, let me introduce you to Belle:

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She was born in late September, and she is about a third of her final size. (She’s going to be big!) She does not like to come inside and is happiest when she’s rolling around in fresh snow. Once we have livestock, I imagine she’ll sleep out in the barn with them. For now, she sleeps in the unheated mudroom. I keep trying to entice her into the house, because she is so cuddly and I just adore her. So far, she only makes little ventures inside – mostly to check on the sleeping kids in the evening, and sometimes to steal their clothes or boots. Belle’s terrible that way. She sneaks inside for kid stuff, tucks it into her dog bed, and then curls up to sleep on top of it.

But who can stay mad at this face?


Not me!


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Settling in at Barefoot Meadows

This past weekend, we left our old home in Fort McMurray. My two younger sisters and I packed the kids up on Friday and headed out of town. The next morning, Andrew (and our beloved posse of helpers) followed with the U-haul. And thus began our grand adventure.

When we arrived at our new home, we expected to meet our realtor, get our keys, and begin the work of unpacking and settling in. Instead, we saw not our realtor, the old owners, a giant pile of garbage, and the wonderful cleaning lady.

I cannot say enough about the lady that cleaned our new home. By the time we arrived, she had been working for upwards of four hours (and ours is a small mobile). I cannot imagine the state it would have been in had she not been there ahead of us. I will not dwell too much on unpleasant things. But, just to give you an idea of what we were met with, the previous owners had used the bathroom and the mudroom as a pet area. Though it has been days, the urine smell in both rooms remains strong. Our cleaning lady did not have time to do all the walls (she told us sadly that it would be an all day job, but that she could come back later in the week), but she left everything else spotless.

Today, I began washing walls. With every pail of dirty water that I dump out, my spirits lift. And when we go outside and breathe in the fresh, beautiful air, I cannot help but glow a little.

Andrew is away, now, for meetings in Calgary, but he gets back tomorrow evening. Then, early Thursday morning, we go to pick up Belle, our great Pyrenees puppy. Yes, things are looking up!

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9 Days and Counting…

You probably noticed that, after our big announcement, we were conspicuously silent. (In case you missed the last few posts, we’re in the process of moving to a little farm we bought.) Shortly after posting, we got down to the serious business of packing up to move.

The last time we moved, it was from a tiny apartment into our roomy home, here on Brintnell Road. Furthermore, we were moving the accumulated “stuff” of only four people, one of which was a wee baby. Five years later, we have much more to deal with. It’s been quite a chore, to say the least.

The kids have been all out of sorts, so that has also proved challenging. It certainly is true that moving is a difficult life event – especially a move to such a different location and lifestyle. Still, we are excited. Nervous, yes. Blue, yes. But also excited. I’m trying to hang onto the excitement, in the face of the sadness that coexists, in the hopes that it will help to drive me forward and keep me from sinking into apathy.

On a purely positive note, Andrew and I registered for a GST number. Why is that exciting? Why do you care? Because I means that we needed to name our farm. After much deliberation, and much to Jude’s chagrin, we have a name.  Andrew came up with it, and I just love it.

Friends, it’s official. Barefoot Meadows is in business.

And it’s only 9 days until we move on in!

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Barefoot Adventures Part 3

Once we got home, Andrew and I began discussing what we’d make as an offer. After some consideration, we got in touch with our realtor. I won’t go into too much detail about the negotiations, but we were, eventually, able to reach an agreement that was accepted. Unfortunately, though we were able to agree upon a possession date, the deadline to have financing in place was sooner than we were comfortable with – December 4. This gave us a little over two weeks to get financing in place and to tie up any loose ends. In the midst of this, I texted a friend and told her what we were up to. She replied with a scriptural reference (Genesis 32:22-32) to when Jacob wrestled all night with God. Knowing I’d been discouraged about our inability to purchase the last property, she told me, “That’s what your faith is like. Much wrestling. But it will all be sweeter for all the struggles.”

At the time, I thought that a strange thing to say. After all, we’d been assured that as long as we had 20% down, the whole matter would be cut and dry.

Then we began to have trouble. A friend of ours is a mortgage broker, so we decided to give him the business and get a mortgage through him. At first, it seemed fine. Then we got news that his bank wouldn’t do the mortgage because of a number of different factors, including location and size.

Andrew tried the local bank at Winfield. He spoke to a lovely woman who didn’t see why there should be any trouble getting financing approval. What great news! We got to work filling out an application. After much back and forth, confusion over odd details (you know how applications can be!), and a trip to Ontario (Andrew, not me and the kids), we finally got the application submitted. Then we got a call.

Because of the property’s location, the bank wanted 23-28% down. We would have to fill out some more forms and apply for an exception to that rule. Additionally, the bank insisted we have an appraisal done. If the appraiser didn’t value the property as high as the agreed upon price, we’d have to make up the difference. Furthermore, since we own our current house with my brother, who planned to buy us out of it, we had to make arrangements to split the equity. It was then that we learned that our bank was refusing to approve of our “split” from my brother, as it wasn’t a traditional “breakdown of relationship.”

We began sweating.

For the next week, we wrestled. Meetings were had, many, many phonecalls were made. We were buying the property, we weren’t. Then something would change and the deal would seem to be going ahead, and then it wasn’t. At one point, we had everything figured out and were just about to celebrate, when we got a call from the bank.

“The mobile is a double wide, right?” the mortgage specialist asked. “Everything’s a go, if it is. The credit department won’t approve a single wide mobile, though.”

Poor Andrew looked so defeated when he hung up the phone.

We sat in silence for a while. We considered our options. We called our realtor to confirm that we’d remembered correctly that the mobiles were only 16 feet wide. We had. Andrew called the bank back, while I whined to God prayed.

I have nothing but good things to say about the people who work for ATB Financial. When they received our bad news, the lady we’d been dealing with immediately suggested a work-around. She transferred us to the farmland financing department, and we resubmitted our application. But, boy, were we ever cutting it close to our deadline.

To make a long story (a tiny bit) shorter, we renegotiated the conditions date and scheduled an appraisal. The appraisal came back at $20, 000 lower than the selling price. That was another tough piece of news. We didn’t know if we’d have that extra money. We prayed some more. By this time, we were really tired. I, personally, felt very defeated. Without much hope, we asked our realtor to go back to the seller to see if they’d renegotiate the selling price, based on the low appraisal.

What an answer to prayer it was when the call came in that they’d come down $10, 000!

What does all this mean?

We bought a farm, baby! We move January 30, 2016.


Are you as excited as we are?

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Barefoot Adventures Part 2

… When I emailed Barbara from Hidden Springs, I didn’t really expect much in the way of reply. Perhaps I’m jaded, but I expected her to be aloof, or, at the very least, brief. I was wrong. Over the course of a several days, we emailed back and forth a few times, and each correspondence was warmer and more welcoming than the last.

Not only did she tell me that there is a thriving faith community, with many young families and a full-time youth pastor, but that there is an excellent piano teacher. She told me that this piano teacher is fueled by two passions – her students and God. What an answer to prayer that was.

Needless to say, Andrew and I both began to feel, very strongly, that God’s hand was leading us to this place. We decided that we’d pursue the property, despite some misgivings about the topography, with vigour.

No sooner had we begun calling around, trying to get financing, than we started hitting road blocks. Contrary to the initial reassurance from a mortgage consultant we’d spoken to, we were unable to get financing with less than 20% down, at the very least. After a week and a half of phone calls and brainstorming, we were no further ahead.

Sorrowfully, I called the property owner and told her that it wasn’t going to work. Andrew and I sat down on the couch and just looked at each other.

“I was fine with moving in 2017, Andrew,” I said, sadly, “but then Jude started praying to move earlier. Then things started happening, and I just really felt like God was calling us to Winfield. It felt like so much of our trip was fraught with meaning. What now?”

(I was disheartened, to say the least.)

“Now we look to see if there’s something in a lower price bracket. All of this has taught us two things: God has a plan for us in Winfield and we need 20% down.”

Guess where we went the next day.

Yep, back to Winfield.

THIS time, though, we only took Lucinda. The boys had the privilege of staying with the Pickersgills (my parents and my youngest two siblings), and we had the privilege of not spending hours breaking up car-trip fights.

We stayed at Hidden Springs again (and it was just as peaceful and serene), and then we went on to view three properties with our realtor. I’ll try to keep it brief – the first property was fine, the second property was a bit further down the road than we were looking for, and the third property was a death trap (we heard gunshots when we got out, and the house had an unfinished – read open – loft!).

After much discussion, on our way home, we decided to try to make the first property happen. I should have taken pictures. I sort of did, actually, but not of the home or the landscape. See?

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I’ll give you the briefest of summaries – it’s 146 acres, has two decent mobiles, each with a mudroom addition, a nice little shop, and a barn that we couldn’t see because of the giant bulls blocking us out. (And, on the subject of animals, no one let the goats out. There was no hole in the barbed wire fence. Yet, they all swarmed through it with no pause at all. It’s true, what they say about goats – they’re escape artists!)

We decided, again, that we were going to pursue it. It was much cheaper, so we did have the 20% required. We went home with glad hearts – it was going to be cut and dry from here, right?

Wrong again!

That would be far, far too easy.

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Barefoot Adventures Part 1


Hello Barefoot with Kids followers and friends,

I’m not usually the one to post on this blog and I apologize ahead of time – Rose is a lot better with words than I am.

A lot has been going on in the Barley household lately. As some of you know, and some of you don’t, we decided last summer, as a family, to move out of the city and onto a farm. For those of you back east, and even those here in Fort McMurray, please don’t think this is an indictment against Fort McMurray. This city has been great to our family and we don’t regret moving here for a second. The last six years has had it’s ups and downs but Fort McMurray has been home for us, and it’s the only home Elijah and Lucinda have known. We tried very hard last year to explore options for bigger properties within the Municipality of Wood Buffalo so that we could stay here, but it was to no avail. It was then we decided that the spring of 2017 was our target time to move.

Since then, Rose and I have been watching real estate listings and kijiji ads to keep an eye on trends in the market and to try to pinpoint where we could buy a farm that would allow us the freedom to live the lifestyle we’re looking for, as well as a price point that we could comfortably afford. (We originally wanted to be closer to Calgary…but $1M+ for the land size we wanted was a little out of our range!) Because I will be keeping my job and switching to Fly-In/Fly-Out, it was important for us to be within an hour of either the Calgary or Edmonton airports.

Enter Winfield, Alberta. Don’t worry, I had never heard of it before, either. Population: 224 (according to the 2011 census). Back in September, Rose had sent an email to a couple that were selling their property near Winfield. With no response within a couple of days we figured they had sold their property, which was fine, since we weren’t planning to move for at least another year. About a month later, near the end of October, Rose received a response that the property was still for sale with a suggestion that we should go for a visit and tour the property. We discussed if there was any point to go look if we weren’t able to get a mortgage with the amount down we had, discussed with Nathaniel if he could afford to buy us out if things worked out and decided to get in touch with a mortgage broker to talk financing. On the Monday morning I spoke with a mortgage broker who figured we could get financing with 5-10% down and that afternoon we packed up the kids with no plan aside from going to the property the next morning. Anyone that knows Rose very well probably won’t believe me, but it was her idea.


Though I love the idea of spontaneity, I also love control and careful planning. Heading off on a 6 hour trip with three little kids is, by all accounts, madness. But, that’s what we did! We had a commitment to sing and play guitar with a friend in the early afternoon, so after we said goodbye, we packed the kids into the van and trucked off towards Edmonton. I will admit to a slight amount of giggling on both our parts – it’s not very often that we do something so very out of character!

As we neared Edmonton, we began discussing where we’d spend the night. It Andrew’s tendency to go to recognizable chains – it’s fast, easy, and you know what to expect. However, in recent years we’ve become more and more committed to supporting local businesses… the exact opposite of your standard Super8. So, on a whim, Andrew suggested I google hotels in the Winfield area.

I believe I laughed and said something like, “Really, Andrew? It’s a hamlet. There won’t be anything.” But, I found myself doing just that. (I have to pause and say that being able to access the internet on our phones has truly transformed travelling, and I’ve been extremely thankful for it on more than one occasion!) Well, if you can believe it, Winfield does have a hotel, of sorts. It’s actually a beautiful little retreat, perfect for families and groups. In fact, if you’d like to take a look, this is where we stayed:


I called, at 9:30 p.m., or so, and the lovely lady who runs the place said that they had a vacancy. She went on to tell us that she was going out, but she’d leave the door unlocked and the light on in the guest house, in case she wasn’t home in time to meet us. (Spoiler alert, traveling with Lucy made us much later than we’d expected – she was indeed back by the time we got there!) Furthermore, this retreat was minutes away from the property we were to view – right across the highway, actually.

Have you ever been to a place where the serenity was almost palpable? We arrived, a little frazzled, with kids that were not thrilled, to say the least. Yet, when we got out of the van, into the cold, blowing snow, we felt a weight lift off of our shoulders. It truly felt as if the Lord was in this place. Barbara, who owns the retreat (which is a retired sheep farm), greeted us and sent us up to the beautiful, spacious guest chalet. She instructed us to just leave the money in the chalet and she’d get it later, as she’d be going to work the next morning. She assured us that she trusted us completely. As we didn’t have cash on us, we planned to run over to the Winfield bank in the morning, and jumped into bed.

The next morning, we were up in plenty of time to make it to our 9:30 appointment. Too much time. The kids were hungry, so we made our first foray into Winfield. This is when we learned two important facts – the bank can only be used by account holders, and the Winfield Family Restaurant is not currently open (or so we gathered). Instead, after sorting out an email transfer for Barbara, we visited the convenience store, bought a box of crackers, and chatted with the owner, who was very friendly and insisted that we really ought to move to the area. He also assured us that his groceries were just as cheap as at big box stores. I politely smile, and then paid for my seven dollar box of crackers. Haha.

When we rolled up to the potential property, our emotions shut down. Really. Andrew and I split up, after having a look at the nice little mobile. Lucy and I stayed with the lovely lady at the home, and the boys and Andrew piled into the pickup truck and toured the property with her husband. It was a lovely property. There was a huge trout pond, fed by three gushing springs, a separate cabin, and an array of fruit trees, bushes, and beautiful gardening investments. I could just imagine the place in springtime, when it was bursting with new life. While I waited for Andrew to return, my new friend told me all about the area – she told me how there are a bunch of organic family farms and many homeschoolers. She told me about all the wildlife, especially the birds and deer. The picture she painted was lovely, and I desperately wanted to tell her that we’d buy the property. She and her husband needed to sell, due to illness, and I wanted to help. After finishing the tour, Andrew and the boys returned, we thanked the owners, said farewell, and hit the road.

Once we were headed back to Fort McMurray, we carefully said nothing to each other. We made small talk, admired the scenery, and ignored the elephant. Eventually, after several hours, we started talking. We both felt like God was directing us to this property, and we decided that we’d see what it would take to purchase. It was amazing how easy it was for us to discuss pros and cons, once we got started. Andrew and I can both be quite emotional, and struggle not to let emotions direct our decisions. It was such a gift to be able to discuss things with clear heads and hearts.

Once home, though, we were set upon by nagging doubts. What about a church family? We’d have to leave my family and our church. The last thing we wanted was to be adrift without any support from other Christians. We didn’t want to raise our children that way. And, then, what about piano? Would Jude and Elijah have to give up lessons if we were to move to this area? I decided to email Barbara, who lived in the area for many years, to see if she could give me more information…

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Lately, thanks to the Timehop app, I’ve been thinking a lot about Lucinda’s early days in the NICU. The uncertainty, the waiting, the scary medical stuff… looking at old pictures brings it all back. It amazes me how far she’s come. She’s amazing, by the way. Her latest “thing” is to exclaim, “Wow,” about everything. It’s adorable. But that’s not what is on my mind right now.

(Actually, that’s not true – all I can think about is her squishy little cheeks and bitey little teeth, but I’ll spare you the mushy mummy babble. I may post a picture or two, but only if I can’t restrain myself.)

I’ve been thinking about how long those three and a half weeks in the NICU felt. It felt like we would be there forever. Then, all of a sudden, Lucy was ready to go home and we were out of there before we realized what was happening. Time is a funny thing, isn’t it?

Suffice it to say that I love the Timehop app.


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Oh, how she has grown!

And, lest you think that I’m forgetting my sons, here are some recent pictures:

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Can you even believe how grown up they’re all looking? (Yes, I know they need haircuts!)


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Patience, Persistence, and Potatoes


It’s funny how, as long as it’s still August, it feels like summer. Then, September 1st hits and suddenly fall is a reality. Instead of brushing off the cool, damp weather, the cold really takes root. We harvested our potatoes yesterday, in an attempt to save as many as we could from pests, but it didn’t feel early at all. (This year, we got 144 unblemished ones and 35 with holes.) It has been cold and rainy, around here, and it feels as if winter might come early. The last few days, I’ve found myself baking. Pumpkin muffins, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin pancakes… autumnal foods. There’s a certain coziness to fall. The warmth of the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves that seem to be the ever present flavours and scents, the sudden coolness, after a hot summer, and the dreary, rainy days make for the perfect conditions for a good snuggle.

Elijah Matthew has been very affectionate lately. He never used to be a cuddler, but these days, I often find myself in the midst of what he calls a “nuzzle.” I love it. I love how he rubs his soft little face against my cheek, or my hand. I love hearing him say, “I love you. You are part of our family.” (He’s currently fixated on relationships.)

Elijah has not always been so rewarding. His first few years were very difficult. He was sick, as a baby, with dreadful reflux. He was so very unhappy, and we all knew it! He didn’t sleep, he wouldn’t eat, and he didn’t react well to any upsets to his expectations. He’s three now, and he’s finally sleeping better (I cannot say enough about the GroClock – it was a game changer around here!), he’s eating a tiny bit better, and he’s becoming more capable of dealing with life.

God has certainly used the difficult times as a training ground for me, as a mother. Now, in the respite, I am able to see the lesson. It is one that I find I’m constantly learning and re-learning. It’s the lesson of perseverance. It felt like we were pouring love and kindness into Elijah’s life without any positive results. It seemed, in the thick of things, that it didn’t matter how patient we were, we’d get the same response of screaming. Now, don’t get me wrong – Elijah’s still a screamer, but I can see progress now. I can see that he’s so much more.

1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love is patient, love is kind…” There’s so much that can be said about this, but this is what I’ve been learning: stubbornness is a good thing. Or, it can be, at any rate. We call children stubborn when they refuse to do as we ask. Sometimes we use even less flattering adjectives – pigheaded comes to mind – to describe this quality. God has shown me, multiple times, now, that He can make all things beautiful. Stubbornness can also go by the, more flattering, moniker “Persistence.”

I think, as parents, we often think that the good things we are doing are not “working,” or producing measurable results, and so we quit. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I know I’m rambling. I’ll try to curb this and tie it all together. Sometimes I need to preach this to myself, because I tend to look for easy fixes. I want things to work immediately. But that is not how this life works. Some translations of 1 Corinthians say that love is “long suffering.” Patience isn’t always about waiting, idly, for things. It’s about suffering (and we mothers know well the suffering that is the daily life with a difficult child) patiently.

Suffering while continuing to do good.

We cannot always change our circumstances, but we can choose our attitude.

I don’t always do the right thing. In fact, I lose my temper and speak sharply much more often than I care to admit.

But this I know: I am the best mother I can be – the best representation of Christ in this world – when I am stubbornly, pigheadedly, digging in my heels and loving anyways.


Long suffering.

Faith that God will take our love and our kindness and multiply it.

Because we all know that the alternative is grumpiness and crossness. And those multiply and grow without any effort at all.

Now, to remember this lesson in times of difficulty, and not just in moments of respite. To remember the bounty of fall during the long, cold winter months.

That is the challenge.


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