Reflecting on this past year brings many floods of emotion.  There are things I would have liked to change and at the same time, I realize how many things are what they are because of one disappointment or another leading to something better than what I could have planned on my own.

One year ago, we were nestled into an Amish farmhouse.  The treadle sewing machine was clacking away as I made denim coats for my boys, and plain dresses for myself and the girls.  I would sit there looking out my window at the gentle breeze blowing the snow into furls, dreaming of a life lived out.  A life of sleigh rides in the winter, of Amish singings, buggies loaded with lively children, working hard on the farm, the whole cycle of the seasons lived in that small world I called Amishland.  Where seasons change but everything remains constant.  And there was no one who lived in that community that wanted it more than I.

Slowly, as rejection came as a dew that settles across the land, I had to let go of that dream.  It was inevitable.  I did not know where to go, or what to do.  Nor did I begin to understand the heart of man.  The hearts that are ready to stomp out the fresh blades of tender grass that spring forth through that trodden soil.  Tender to learn, tender to grow, tender in love as we were.  Maybe they were fearful of something new.  Maybe they saw change coming, but whatever the case, the Amish had to stand firm as a unified force and build a wall so thick it could bar us out forever.  My brother came to visit us that year with his family.  They are from Chicago and live the modern, metropolitan lifestyle.  As they sat in our Amish abode with their cell phones shining brightly in their eyes, and as their fingers passed a hundred times over it's brilliant screen, I asked them what they thought of our home.  My sister in law remarked, which I find fascinating NOW, "Where is the Amish community....I thought they had walls."  I laughed in return, "Walls?"  And she continued, "You know, a walled in community, I thought the Amish live in walled in communities."  It was funny at the time.  I realize now that there are WALLS.  They are invisible, but they are real.  After taking their family on a horse drawn sleigh ride, against their better wishes, they packed into their very "nice" vehicle and drove into the sunset.  Never to return to our Amish Homestead.

We were back in time a hundred years it seemed, as a stranger in a foreign land.  Striving to be different in modern times is a battle.  If you turn this way, you give up one thing, and when you turn that way, you give up another.  It is hard to strike a balance in this life.  It is even harder with kids.  You can pick a lifestyle for them while they are young, but eventually, they will pick for themselves the life they will live out.

In January, there was a court battle.  Due to my injury during a surgical procedure that left me with a permanent nerve disorder (RSD), we choose to pursue the law's justice.  It was a choice I am not proud of, nor will I ever be, but I did learn a lot through it.  I never before talked about this publicly.  It was a very horrible experience to our entire family.  We knew that we were being watched at all times, everything we said on the web, every doctor visit, every thing was picked through.  When I met with my lawyer for a deposition, there sat a stack of every blog post I ever wrote, every comment.  And it was all to try to condemn me and make my lifestyle, my will to work even in the presence of pain, against me.  Even when I could barely lift my body off the bed, I fought to get on my feet again.  If I was the type that would take my pills, stay in bed, and have no will to fight, I would have won the court battle. I had to go through many painful testings to prove things about my injury.  Each time I was told I had another test, I would cry thinking I would not be able to handle another one.  But I pressed forward because it seemed right to us to make sure this did not happen to others.  When I was on the stand, the lawyer spent hours reading me my blog posts, especially the ones about living among the Amish and using a wringer washer.  A week into the 2 week trial, on the lunch hour our lawyer had, what we all believed, a heart attack.  He ended up surviving but the court was cancelled.  It was five months later with a new jury.  The opposing lawyers saw everything we had, so the advantage was all theirs for the taking.  I knew on the very first day, that we would most definitely lose.  Dragging my name, everything I stood for through the mud.  It was just something I had to sit through and endure.  The last day of the trial, after letting go of being with the Amish people, after not knowing where we would go next or what we will do, and after the Jury was led to believe that I am no more than a joke, I sat there crying.  I knew I lost.  My husband put his arm around me and said, "Today, Erin, choose Joy! Do not let this little thing ruin you."  I sat in silence for a moment and it was like I could hear the tear that fell on my lap as if it were a deafening sound.  I looked up and I determined right then and there, that I was going to choose joy!  It was a choice.

Joy is a choice.  Yeah, I was in the midst of a relapse, pain was shooting through my broken body, I lived in a community where I did not belong, and my very character, the life I lived to glorify God, was being totally blown to pieces in front of people who could never understand.  And yet, I chose to be joyful.  It was a hard choice but the best choice I have ever made.  And it is something that I have to choose each day that I wake.  As they read the verdict, after the four years of waiting, being watched, and all the painful testings, I sat there proud. I just smiled.  I was strong that day, much stronger than I had ever been.  So yes, I am thankful even for the hard times in life because it makes us who we are.  I remember saying to the jury one time, "There are two kinds of people...People who let their circumstances rule them. They face hard times and they are depressed, destroyed, and they do nothing. And then there are People who can take the same circumstances and overcome them.  They face hard times and it makes them stronger.  They get up off the ground and they do something with their lives to make a difference.  I choose to be the latter person.  I will never give up."

We packed our things and went back to Amishland.  Everything just as it was.  The treadle sewing machine parked in front of the window of the old front porch.  Buggies passing by as they stare into our windows. They wonder if we are still "trying to be Amish".  They are proud to be exclusive, to ignore us.  I just sat there and forced myself be like moldable puddy, just letting God steer the ship.  To go where ever he lead.  Knowing I did BELONG.  I belong to Mark Harrison, Miles, Molly, Megan, Mikey, and Junior.  I BELONG to God's family.  My home is where ever my family is.

It is powerful for a person to choose joy.  Without joy, we can steer the ship to ruin, to bitter endings.  Or we can wake up and choose joy which leads to hope, laughter, acceptance, love, and strength.  I was on the brink of the wrong choice and my heart would have been hardened.  I would have counted my sorrows and stored them away to pull out every time I was dissatisfied with my husband, or c
hildren, or with my circumstances.  It would have been a cherished collection of woes.  Trash, really.  I would sit there forever disappointed for all the crazy things people do, or say.  For all the things I can't understand.  I would be bitter because I want people to treat people the way they should and act the way they should. But understanding the beauty of what God created-free will, I can break free from my small perceptions of mind.  knowing that every human gets to be exactly who they choose to be is HUGE in overcoming.  We all get to choose who we want to be and we only have to answer for what WE do, not for what others do. That is very freeing.

Joy is free for the taking.  It is available to all who can freely choose.  It starts by being thankful.  Looking around at all the things that you do have.  And when you start counting blessings, you start to realize how very foolish it was to waste any of your time feeling sorry for yourself.  Let me tell you, I spent the first 26 years of my life in a perpetual pity party.  It was no fun and I wasted a lot of years that way.  I was still a christian, but not an overcoming saint.  God sent Jesus to set the captives free.  What does that mean?  I can tell you what it means to me.  It means that I do not have to sit there in my self made prison cell of my mind, feeling bad about how my life is.  It is so unproductive and sinful to be that way, no matter how bad it seems at the time.  I know what it is like to just feel hopeless, like nothing matters.  And that is a conscious choice.  Choosing to focus on all the bad things is very much a choice.  Sadly many people today, are choosing to life life this way.  Choosing to live in sadness instead of gladness.  Instead, I am free.  I get to enjoy all the gifts in my life, like my husband, my children, my eyesight, my warm bed, the farm life, the sunshine, the fresh homegrown foods.  I do not have to be a slave to my own drives and passions.  I can think outside of myself.  I can minister to others in need whether it be in my own home or elsewhere.  God gave us an example in his word to follow~Jesus.

After walking the depths of the valley all the while keeping my head held high, an opportunity fell into my lap.  On an impulse, we jumped head first.  I saw an open window for some work.  No guarantees, no promises made, just what looked like a an opening.  To most people it was crazy to move half way across the country to fill a need that may or may not last with a ministry that may or may not stand.  A ministry under the gun of persecution.  I was offered an opportunity to work on a project with Debi Pearl in TN.  It was illustrating her book about Homeschooling.  We packed all our things and moved three weeks later.  It seemed like a dream to be in a new world where we were accepted and needed.  It gave new meaning and purpose to our lives.  Strangely enough, it was not perfect and we have had many situations come our way.  The newness grows dim and then you settle into life again, everyday life.  People are the same where ever you go.  Same drama, different climate.  And life just whirls past like the dust in the wind.  And you still have choices to make.  Are you going to allow yourself to get caught up in it again, or will you just be still and know that there is nothing you can do about the heart of man.  The temptation to let things bother me crept in.  I fought against the things I did not understand.  I shut myself in, and the noise of the living out.  I poured myself to the project, with all I had.  I cleaved to what I did understand, my own family.  And I experienced the fullness of joy!  Debi's "BIG BOOK OF HOMESCHOOLING" will be available soon.  Working with Debi has been a highlight to my year.  She and I are giddy to hold that new book in our hands.  It is time invested to God's glory.  I am so thankful that I was foolish to dive in head first and take the risk for change.  I am so blessed to be able to homeschool my children and also encourage others in the same.

And now here I sit, typing out parts of my thoughts, reflecting on the art of joy.  How each day is an empty canvas.  I get to choose the color and the subject I paint.  Each beautiful day where I chose joy is a pretty picture in a gallery I call life.


Just for a reminder…

Tea Time Talk Show Tuesday Upcoming Schedule:

Tuesday, May 1, 2018  at 10 am CST will feature Co-Host Owen Newman

  • The following Tuesday will be featuring Owen Newman from the hills of TN talking about homesteading and the simple life.  He has a lot of wisdom and experience living with less and making the most of each and every resource they are given.  If you have any specific questions, please leave a comment below or send us an email or message on Facebook from the Keeper of the Homestead page.  

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0 thoughts on “The Art of Joy

  1. Thank you for your honesty. We have loved the dvd’s of your past farm experiences and I have followed your blog off and on. This last year I could tell there were some unexplained things going on. I appreciated your last blog post. Thank you. To God be the Glory for the things He has done (and still is doing).

    • Thank you for your nice comment. It encourages me to know that my words can be used to Glorify the Lord. He has been my strength!

  2. Thank you for this post and many others you wrote, it’s encouraging to read that our trials are for a little time in this life, and if we put our eyes in the things of heaven is better than in the things of this world. Thanks to Jesus for give us a hope, joy, and all the blessings in heaven. Hugs from Mexico!!!

    • Jesus is the giver of all good things! Focussing on him makes the tasks of life so much more doable. Hugs to you from TN!

  3. I am so happy to see another blog post from you my friend!!! I have missed you and have not ceased to pray for you. I really enjoyed this post. I think I will pass it on to a family member who I think can really benefit from it right now. Please blog more. You have such a wonderful gift with words.
    May the Lord bless and keep you and may His face shine upon you 🙂

    • What an encouragement you are to me! I am so thankful for every prayer that you sent our way. What a blessing. I pray that this new year I will be able to write more and more, the things the Lord leads me to. I just can’t write unless He gives me something to write about. It is only in Him that I can do anything. May God bless you, friend!

  4. Erin, your post was such a blessing to me, especially now as we prepare to move and don’t understand how/why the Lord has led us in the way He has. The DVD’s (we own them all) have been so enjoyed by our family of these past several years, and it’s been a joy to get to know your family if only in that way. I so hope you’ll be at the NC Shindig. It would be a privilege to give you a hug in person! There will always be those who oppose us if for no other reason than for being one of “those” Christians. Please know there are plenty out there who see you and your family as friends and appreciate you as such.

    • That would be such a blessing to meet you at the SC shindig. We are planning to help again, Lord willing! It is good to know that there is always a place we can call home! And always a family we belong to! God’s home and family! What a blessing!

  5. Erin,your post is most amazing! What an encouragement and inspiration you are to me! I have dealt with chronic pain for the last 3.5 years and have struggled with the ups and downs of it. God’s grace is new each day! Thank you immensely from the bottom of my heart for your encouragement to daily choose JOY! God is good and how I am thankful that He has chosen to use you to reach out to many! You have such a gift. May God be given all the glory!! We love your dvd’s also! Sending hugs to you from a very cold Wisconsin! 🙂

    • Thank you for your words, they mean a lot to me. I am so sorry you have the chronic pain, it is such a joy, though, to know I have been an encouragement to you. Daily choosing joy is the key! Keep up the good fight! Yes, May God be glorified through everything in life whether it be good or bad! Sending hugs to you from a chilly TN! 🙂

  6. Thank you for choosing joy! It is much easier to wallow in self pity than to take up your cross and follow Him. I am a fellow TN and and trying each day to choose joy while teaching my children and learning to be more self sufficient. Please keep the DVD’s and blogs coming. Your family is such an encouragement to those of us who are constantly taking more steps in becoming less dependent of the “world” around us and more dependent on Christ and trusting Him for our needs. Many Blessings to your family~

  7. My Husband and I are in the process of doing research about moving our family to Tennessee. We want to get away from the fast paced life FLorida has given us. Thank you for this lovely blog post. It is truly an inspiration to me about moving and possibly homeschooling our Girls!

  8. Erin, You are a model to me, someone I look up to. We home school also and have had several children close together and I have felt overwhelmed. I desire a simpler more productive life but have a hard time finding a way out. And am so glad I found your dvd’s through NJG, and from them your blog. I am so thankful for you and your family’s ministry. Keep being strong in Him.

  9. Dear Erin,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to make homesteading videos! My children and I enjoy them very much 🙂
    I have a quick question for you: what prompt you to live among the Amish (for a season)? I was so saddened to hear the rejection who experienced but we both know that God works in mysterious ways…all works together for good.

  10. Congrats on your book! I’m new here, found you via Past Blessings Farm and so glad I did. I left you a comment on your blog that really hit home for us – June 16,2013 Pain and Grace. I would really appreciate a reply. Thank you!!

    • I will certainly check that post out and see what I can help with. Thanks for taking the time to write to me. Have a blessed day!

  11. Erin you are such an inspiration! I’ve put this one particular entry under my favorites for the many times I let pity take over my mind and life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing you with your readers.

  12. This information is really nice. This type of post is attracting people to read. Thank you for sharing…………….

  13. Wow. I came here after rereading your article from NGJ. It seems like God uses you in extreme ways! You went through an extreme childhood, had a dramatically difficult early period of young married life, have enjoyed the homesteading life many of us have dreamed of and attempted but have not attained; you have children who are poster children for “loving to work.” (My kids love to sing, “We’re breakin up the beans, we’re breakin up the beans, we’re breakin up the beans for the winter…”) God has blessed you with AMAZING success that is absolutely inspiring, yet now I see you are going thru unimaginable valleys. And yet He is allowing you to come alongside His precious servants during a very difficult time in their ministry and share their pain. It is an honor to get to communicate with someone whom God so obviously has a great plan for and is working with so evidently. I know He loves all of us and has a plan for each of us but yours is so dramatic! Thank you for saying yes to Joy, yes to Compassion, yes to God’s dear children who love him and are called according to his purpose. May God use my puny words to encourage and bless you and thank you for saying yes to HIM! Love ya!

    • Your comment is not puny! It is a tremendous joy and privilege for me to read. I am so humbled by how I can be used of God even though I am so far from perfect and even though I am such a grain of sand in the body of Christ. Your comment lifts me up with such encouragement to keep writing, keep sharing with others all that the Lord has done. It is so much, so great all the things he hath done. To God be the Glory! Thank you for taking the time to stop in and be used of God to encourage.

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