When I sat down to write my recipe for Cinnamon Buns, this is what came out instead. I waffled a bit about posting it, because, well, it’s a bit intense, and a bit personal. But I believe bloggers need to maintain a level of realness. I’ve also been noticeably absent from the blog for several months, and while I’ve been moving, building, and reorganizing my life there was a bit more going on. A heaviness that followed me from 2016 into 2017. I don’t want to say I was depressed, because I still got out of bed, still continued on with life. But I was uninspired, and just generally heavy. So, let’s talk about it, shall we?
There’s a Fleetwood Mac song that I love.
Ok, let’s be real. I love all their songs. But in this particular song, there is this line: “Back to the gypsy that I was, to the gypsy that I was”. It repeats several times throughout the song in various ways. If you haven’t heard it, I encourage you to go give it a listen.
I feel like I got lost somewhere at the end of 2016 and into 2017.
I was begging for 2016 to end, I was so done with that year. But 2017 wasn’t what I had expected. It was a year of waiting and rushing all at the same time. It was an entire year of change and staying still. It was confusing. It was tiring. It was a year of waiting for answers that never came when I needed them.
By Spring I didn’t know where I was going but I had an overwhelming sense that we had to move. We found a listing for a small off grid cabin in the woods and we went looking for it. It took us 3 days to find it. 1 day of which was spent walking down an abandoned dirt road in the woods for hours, and still not finding the house we were looking for. When we finally found it, we fell head over heels in love with it. There is still a sore spot in my heart over it.
We started our home renovations. We ripped half of our house into complete pieces. Right down to the studs.
We prayed for guidance concerning this cabin. None came. Dan got laid off from his job.
I started all my seeds for the garden, and then I let them die.
By Summer I had no garden. I was miserable. I was overworked and so tired I couldn’t bear the thought of getting up and doing chores, going to work, coming home to do chores, make dinner, and go to bed just to do it again. I was exhausted, but I would lie awake at night staring at the ceiling and counting the hours.
My entire house was covered in drywall dust.
I started packing boxes. I didn’t know where I was going, but I wasn’t staying there.
When things got too heavy, we would jump in the truck and drive to that off-grid cabin, sit on the porch, and look out over the lake. It was the most calming feeling in the world.
One aspect that was weighing me down was my bakery job. There was no chance to just have a break. To have a day off. To go one day without a phone call or a text message concerning one catastrophe or another. To just stop one thing in my life so I could get the rest of it back into place. There was constant drama, backstabbing, and squabbling about things that were not even important. I couldn’t bear to drag myself in there another day. So I quit. I don’t miss the emotional torment that crashed into me every single day there. I don’t miss the attitudes, the demands, the pressure. But when I was decorating I went into another world. Smoothing the icing, piping on flowers, vines. Making something beautiful out of something that started blank. It would put me into a trance, and in that trance there was no bills, no demands, no needs. Just me and the cake. I miss it terribly. 2 days after walking out those doors for the last time I decorated a cake in my kitchen. And then I cried. I had no need to decorate a cake, so I wrote just because across it. I was a pretty damn good decorator, but in that job I was made to feel useless, when all I so desperately wanted was to feel like I was good at something.
I begged God for answers to my prayers. None came.
When Fall came I didn’t can anything. I didn’t preserve a single thing. We put 54 chickens in the freezer and 1 steer. And I was so thankful. I dreaded butcher day, loading up those chickens at 4:30 in the morning to drive an hour to the slaughterhouse, but by the end of the day with a freezer full of humanely raised meat, my heart was full. A bit sore, but full.
And then, in one quick moment, we moved to the farm. I had spent the entire year waiting for that moment. We moved buildings, fences, and fence posts only to put them all back up again. We moved animals. Load after load of chickens in the back of the truck driving to the farm. We put goats in the back seat of our SUV. Our buck ran away in the process. We got rid of just about everything we owned. Dump run after dump run, throwing away entire chunks of our life.
And in an odd way I grieved. I’m not even sure why.
But I also ran through grass that was longer than I was tall. I explored forests, splashed through a marsh with Hayley, and walked and walked and walked. I would head out in the late morning, and just walk for miles with Hayley. I slowed down, and looked around me.
I felt like I could breathe. I started laughing again – big belly laughs. I would run to the ridge at every sunset to snap a picture of it before it faded. The sky is so big here. I can’t get over it. The line from the Jason Aldean song goes through my head almost daily when I stand out on the hill and just breathe.
“Feel that freedom on your face, breathe in all that open space”
I marvelled at the colours of Fall, and as the days turned grey I pulled back inside. I cleaned, organized, drank a bit too much coffee, and read books. I pour over the church library in every spare minute I have, flying through book after book. I used to love books when I was younger. Why did I ever stop reading?
Then it snowed. And I would wander looking at all the animal tracks. Throw snowballs for Bowser to chase. I’d breathe in that crisp air and feel the cobwebs of my soul clear out.
In dark moments, when anxiety would grip my heart I would wrap my fingers into Hayley’s long fur. She was something to hold onto. She is about the size of a miniature horse, and I would lean on her, snuggle into her, and feel protected by her. My instagram feed is flooded with pictures of her, because it was with her that I healed. Deep in the woods when something moved, or a stick snapped that neither of us broke, she would stand in front of me. She would cover me from the monsters trying to get me. She is truly the most amazing dog I have ever owned.
And I took picture after picture. I want to document it all, to be able to relive every moment. I can’t quite capture the beauty of this place. Dan gets annoyed with all the pictures. He makes fun of me for never leaving the house without my camera. But the truth is, someday we won’t be here in this place, or this moment. Someday, Lord willing, we’ll be old and grey and faded. Someday, despite the overwhelming urge, we won’t be able to farm anymore. And I want to remember it. I want to pull out these pictures and remember, even though I felt hollow those first few weeks. Because, this, this is the good life. This is where my heart has been aching to be. Where my ministry is, where my calling is. I want to be able to say look – remember that goat? That dog? That hen? That time when we did _______.
And, finally, when I was ready, I got back in the kitchen and I baked. Back to the gypsy that I was.
I hadn’t baked since July, when I made that blackberry spice cake, and even then I just made that to use up some of those darn blackberries! (Not counting bread. I could bake bread in my sleep, so even as a zombie bread baking was simple.) Baking had once brought me joy. Baking was what my Mom did. I can’t make bread without thinking of her, because she always smelled like homemade bread, and cookies, and pie when I was a kid. I became a baker, because that’s what reminded me of the best parts of my childhood. And somewhere along the road of life I got a little lost, and little beaten down, and eventually I lost my joy. I lost sight of what I was supposed to do, and I started to drown a little bit. I believe in God, I have a fierce believe in His goodness, but I doubt from time to time. I believe everyone does. And after day after day of dark moments, months of no solid answers, and a year of no clear sense of direction, I began to doubt, and in the doubt I completely lost hope. It took a long time to get that back.
When I sat down to write “Cinnamon Buns” this is what came out. Most bloggers get right to the recipe. I don’t. Food has a story. It isn’t always a pretty story, but a story nonetheless. While I was pouring everything out onto the keyboard it became clear that this was a whole other post entirely.
After a busy, dark, long, and trying 2 years I have rest. And with rest comes joy, hope and peace. And I ate a ton of cinnamon buns. Amen.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
I believe these symptoms were brought on by being too busy. I love to be busy, but taking on more than one can handle is hard. I got control of my schedule, and took myself out of several circumstances and places that caused me extreme anxiety (my workplace and where I lived) and drastically changed my outlook on life. These are not changes that everyone can make. If you are seriously suffering from depression, or have suicidal thoughts (I never did), you should seek medical help. We all get a little down at times, and finding the cause is the first step to being free. The cause of these feelings cannot always be remedied with clean living.