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?

A Call to Communion

A favorite worship song of mine is “Better is One Day.” The common refrain sings “Better is one day in Your courts/Than a thousand elsewhere.” I love this song for its reminder of the strength we have when we commune with God and for its promise that “one day” we will experience this communion for eternity. At distinct moments of my life, I remember feeling as if I was already living in that “one day of full communion.” These moments are defined by complete joy in Christ, a peace with myself and the world, and unbroken closeness with the Lord. These moments are only hints of what’s to come; it’s in this very hint of feeling where I want to live my life.

Deciding to live in a “hint of a feeling” is abstract and real life is filled with concrete hurdles that hinder, (at best) and prevent (at worse) our quest for the abundant life and complete communion with Christ. A large hurdle for me personally to experience this fullness of life stems from my insecurity about being single. Singleness is a huge topic, both within and without the Church, and one I cannot fully delve into in this here post. Suffice it to say, I struggle with being ok if it turns out I don’t ever, in fact, marry.

This past fall, with a little encouragement, I decided to face this fear head-on, asking myself that should I never have the chance to marry, how would I like my life to look. How could I see my life as beautiful and not simply cope with my singleness. In asking this question, I wasn’t looking for a simple answer. What I really sought, what I really wanted and prayed for, was a vision for life. And in every sense of the word, the Lord filled me with a vision for life—so distinct from anything else I am presently doing that I know the Holy Spirit had just a little somethin’ to do with it.

Briefly stated, the vision presented the desire to learn how to grow food and work toward the creation of a farm using Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) practices. Also part of the vision was the idea to buy a farmhouse (Charlottesville, Virginia came immediately to mind), rehabbing it, making it cozy, beautiful and welcoming. I saw a vision for how I could integrate my work as a wedding photographer into this endeavor, switching a barn into a studio/gallery space and the house as a place of hospitality for clients and other artists alike.

Moreover, the vision focused on how this farmstead would also be a place for others (students, agriculturalists, seekers, intellectuals, pastors, vagabonds…) to seek comfort and love, open to people staying or periods of time long enough to learn their stories and inspire them and encourage them in the beauty of God-given life. It was a vision of simplicity but without the guilt often associated with such simplicity. It is recognizing that beautiful things and spaces can refresh and rejuvenate. It’s about not feeling ashamed for having discovered beauty and joy in a world of darkness, but instead creating a life that basks in this discovery.

As all of these ideas flooded my mind, I began to understand that my fear of not marrying was really a fear of being alone, of not being in community, of not being known and loved by others. I believe God made us to need, yes, even crave, community (as evidenced in His triune nature). But community exists only when there is something moving individuals toward each other. The vision of this farmstead is one that begs to draw others toward each other, the earth, and God. It hopes to reach downward, outward, and upward, all the while being a place that expresses the beauty God graciously provides for our enjoyment.This Beautiful Life is the namesake of this new vision of and calling on my life. This blog is my platform to share the birthing of this vision and calling. Through it, I will share my stories as I go about the task of learning to farm. Along the way, I will share thoughts on hospitality and communion, togetherness and beauty. Lastly, and most of all, I will simply tell my own story as I endeavor to live in the hint of that glorious “one day.”