BUILD WITH LOVE
WORDS & IMAGE: ERICA NEAL
Hello beautiful people. I have truly enjoyed sharing inspiration and encouragement for building sufficiency and making hopeful progress. Yet, even in the midst of all the positive outpouring, I have not been immune to the tumult and turbulence filling the newsfeeds on a daily (hourly?) basis. Our family is not inoculated against the hectic fluster of summer’s-end trips, visits, and back to school preparations. In short, this post almost didn’t get written because … life. What do I mean by that? Well, things haven’t felt very “homesteady” around here. Late July and August in central Texas is the off-season for growing. So the garden is fairly dormant. We’ve been balancing budgets, making repairs and finishing home improvement projects, hosting family from out of town, visiting family out of town, crossing off lists, etc. In all of this mundanity and hustle, thoughts of cultivating a homestead vibe have been beyond back-of-mind.
However, there was a moment of pause when I realized that if we took all of our routines – the errands, the toddler soothing, the bread-breaking, wall patching and garden resting – and added more mason jar accessories, vintage lighting and a pastoral setting, it would all look and feel like homesteading. And it hit me; that nagging mental hurdle of the romantic imagery vs. reality of sustainable living. From time to time, that lush, dreamy and limiting version of homesteading in town or country hems up my enthusiasm and whispers doubts in my ear. “You’re not living authentically enough.” “Buying plastic freezer bags and conventional produce? Shame!” “Four containers isn’t really a garden.” “Your effort isn’t enough to make a difference...why bother?”... Cue the defeated moping. Why bother indeed?
Fortunately, that last question rolled around in my head long enough that I decided to answer it and learn from it. The simple fact is, we bother to live compassionately and consciously because we care. We care about the impact our choices make beyond our home and our lifetime. We care about the perspective that we instill in our kids. We care about striving for generosity and rich community, about off-setting our consumption with contribution. The list goes on. And I think most of us can share that simple truth. We care. We didn’t decide to pursue this way of living because of social media feeds or home accessories. Even if we aspire to greener pastures, the heart of building sufficiency is living out our values in the everyday and adding more quality to our quality of life. Establishing a level of sufficiency means finding ways to lessen our dependence on and participation in the disposable/ instant gratification culture. It’s gathering more skills, forging more connections and making best use of whatever resources and abilities we have. Most of all, it is a reflection of our love in the truest sense of the verb.
All of our small, seemingly mundane choices and tasks are our love in action.
All of those small, seemingly mundane choices and tasks are our love in action. It is what we do, and how we engage with others, based on our values; not our feelings. It takes the form of commitment, humility, compassion, patience, service, and ingenuity. It means showing up whether the load is light or heavy with an offering of our selves. And when we live out our values – choosing to care in a sea of apathy – sometimes it’s bound to look like struggle and feel like defeat. But don’t you dare believe that lie. Your life, intentions, work and heart are a gift to the world; especially now. If we ball up under the whispers of doubt because our lives fall short of an aesthetic, or imaginary measurement, we’re putting our light under a bowl in shadowy times.
So what’s the alternative? Breath deep, stretch out, and start by taking stock with gratitude. If need be, take a break from digital space, and acknowledge all of the beauty in your immediate, real space without the distraction of comparison. Pull out that personal narrative, journal, or any other documentation of your journey so far. Be inspired by your progress or motivated to press on toward those goals. Recognize and respect that the areas of interest, gifts and contributions to our brighter future will be as unique as every individual participating. Make something beautiful, delicious, or both and share it with someone you love (even a faithful critter companion). Plant something literal or metaphorical and nurture it. Most importantly, continue to cultivate the resolve to keep doing it, even when you’re not feeling it. If we can put these principles into practice, one day we might look up and be surprised to see a mountain of progress that was built with love.