Community Efforts

I’m continuously amazed (and inspired) by the ways humans increasingly employ the internet to create community. Something that is inherently individualistic and solitary in its success to disengage you from your immediate surroundings and company paradoxically serves to connect us with the global scene and population. As I consider my own efforts to create community, I admit it is much easier for me to create and maintain a website (or a blog) than actually invite a friend over for brunch and let them know the real me.

But the world-wide web is a start, if nothing else, to finding community in the 21st Century. Here is a short list of some interesting cyber-spaces promoting ideas of real-space community. Click on any of the links to learn more about each concept.

WWOOF (or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) connects farmers with individuals interested in gaining real-world experience on working farms around the globe. Pay $30 and gain access to a complete listing of participating farms all across the United Statess.

Like WWOOF, FarmStayUS connects real farmers with real people interested in experiencing life on a farm. FarmStayUS differs in their appeal to individuals wanting a more relaxing approach to their farmstay, suggesting a new kind of “agritourism” for the adventuresome family.

Looscubes is a good attempt to provide community for solo-preneurs, artists, techies, financiers, and anyone else more accustomed to working at a desk 10 feet away from their bed through it’s database of workspaces around the world available for rent. Complete with the benefits of shared equipment costs and  water-cooler gossip, As someone who personally knows what it’s like to work alone and at home, Loosecubes offers a great alternative to the corner table at Starbucks.

Stonegate Farm, located in the Hudson Valley of New York, is the closest realization I’ve discovered to date of what I dream of creating someday. It’s a family estate farm dedicated to producing fresh salad greens, vegetables, berries and other artisan delicacies. What’s more, the owner is a renowned garden photographer and opens his farm to other artists for gallery shows, workshops, and garden tours.

I Heart Jesus

I sincerely hope that this chronicle of my farming endeavors will interest a wide range of folks—people who may or may not believe or think the same things I do. The vision of This Beautiful Life, after all, is one of community. That being said, it’s always best to give context when sharing opinions and ideas in such a limiting medium like the Internet, especially when the topics at hand (food, farming, and faith as linked to community living) are ones intimately connected to individual beliefs and experiences.

At present, I am working as a graphic designer for the local park district while simultaneously running my own wedding photography business (Getting married? Hire me!). I live in a modest home (1920’s Chicago bungalow-style) with two other girls (both mid-twenties; one engaged, the other in a steady relationship) and my Great Pyrenees, Maggie. The town in which I live is often slated as a “wealthy, white, strongly evangelical suburb of Chicago,” but is in fact, a town presently undergoing enormous demographic changes with 1 in 3 individuals being a minority and growing numbers of individuals with a faith other than Christianity. And my own modest income puts me squarely below the poverty line, if you want to talk statistics. I’m just over 26.5 years old, very much a suburbanite, shop at J.Crew and Whole Foods, and love a good cup of Dean and Deluca coffee.

Politically, I identify myself as moderate, although I have conservative roots characterized by an ongoing adoration for George W. Bush. I grew up attending Lutheran churches, turned atheist in high school, and truly found Jesus (in what popular culture calls a “born-again” way) my freshman year of college in Boston. I ultimately graduated from a small, private Christian university in Illinois, and while I have lived in the west (Colorado), South (Alabama) and East (New Hampshire), I am a true Midwesterner at heart.

My passions stem from a deep-seated curiosity to know and to be known, with interests ranging from the history of marriage and gender studies to conflict-resolution in the Middle East. I test solidly as an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs personality assessment and really believe in the benefits of talking to a good therapist. My entertainment of choice tends toward films, not movies, or a good book on theology or art and India remains on the top of my dream-destination list.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the use of the fonts Zapfino and Papyrus. I find meat really gross, but eat it to be healthy. And I talk to my mom on the phone everyday.

And did I mention I heart Jesus?

The Abundant Life

In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Shepherd wherein he promises his disciples that He has come to give “abundant” life to all those who believe (John 10:10 NAS). In Matthew, Jesus is heard qualifying the abundant life as one filled with rest, commanding his followers to “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30, NIV)

I believe in Jesus and I believe these words are His. But truth be told, I’m often persuaded to discount the reality of their implications. All too often, the unending ordinariness of my life breeds a gnawing sense of discontent and a desire for more. More joy. More peace. More beauty. More abundance.

This Beautiful Life is a personal project—a vision and calling, really—to consider what it means to live abundantly, to live beautifully. Not in some far-off future, but in this here and now, tangibly in this world’s reality. It’s about learning to embrace the journey while living in the destination, sensing that somewhere in-between is that “more joy, more peace, and more satisfaction” I so crave.

Welcome to the destination. Welcome to this beautiful life.