Life,  Values

The Life We Choose

Two weeks ago we went to Disneyland. We spent 3 days there and we loved it.

Last week my husband went to California again, for work. He does not have to travel often (thankfully!), but sometimes he has to. This time it was for THREE DAYS. Yikes. We missed him!

While in California, this time, my hubby spent time with other managers from his company and got to hear a little about their lives. We all have many choices to make in deciding how we will live. One night, on the phone, my husband was saying to me that we could:

  1. Live in California
  2. Make a lot more money
  3. Have Disneyland passes and go anytime we want
  4. Own multiple houses (like a vacation home at the beach)
  5. Travel a lot
  6. Have a tiny yard and hire professionals to landscape it
  7. Buy everything organic. Maybe even have it delivered.

Wow! Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? His answer? My answer?

“I don’t want that.”

We don’t want that.

Do you know what my husband wants to do?

Quit that job and work with dirt.

Quit that job and work with pigs.

Quit that job and work with chickens!

Yup! My software, techy, smarty pants husband wants to farm! See, here’s the deal: we could live a plush life, and not really know a thing about our life-giving food. We are not ok with that.

We could have a ton of money and use it all for our own pleasures. We are not ok with that.

We could live a life of entertainment–Disneyland passes plus Netflix plus Cable TV plus a movie collection plus video games plus iPads and iPods and a computer for everyone etc., etc., etc. But where would our hearts be??? Where would our children’s hearts be? In just three days at Disneyland (though we loved it!), our kids were drawn to commercialism–characters–stuff. Can you imagine a lifetime of this?

We could own multiple houses, but why? We can only live in one house at a time. And one is enough to keep clean, anyways!

We could travel a lot. That might be fun. But, besides the time we spend with each other, when we are on vacation, do you know what is missing? Authentic relationships. I know, authentic relationships are missing from most of America anyways (sad!). But if you settle down and plant some roots, you can create them where you are at. A life of travel will always be lacking in these honest, real connections. At Disneyland (and other tourist places), everyone seems to have the right to be self-focused. Nobody cares about anybody else. Everyone pushes. Everyone wants to be first. We don’t want that kind of life. We don’t want to be those people.

We could have a tiny yard and never have to touch any dirt. But then we’d be missing out on real life, so why would we want to do that??

What kind of life do we want for our kids? The bigger question is, who do we want them to be when they are grown?

Entitled, selfish brats who keep their noses in technology?

We could hire a housekeeper to clean our house so that our kids can enjoy their lives or, we can teach them, as my friend Beki says, life skills and train them how do do a job well. We can take over those jobs ourselves because you know, kids don’t do things as perfectly as we might want them done, or we can let them practice and prepare for their futures. Too many adult women my age came into their role as a housewife feeling totally inadequate. Partially it is because most of our mother’s generation worked all day and we never saw the housewife role in action. And partially, it’s because they did not take the time to train us. We need to think about our kids’ futures. What do we want for them? A house wife who feels inadequate in keeping house will either:

  1. Spend her days trying to soak up as much information as she can about how to do her job well. She could have had those skills down by the time she was 15, and could be using her adult hours more wisely, but nevermindthat.
  2. Give up. Quit. She was trained, in 13 years of school, how to work outside of the home. It’s easier, it feels better to do what you know how to do.

My kids could spend their free time playing video games and watching TV. Or they could go out back and build a tree house, collect salamanders, build a teepee out of broken tree branches and a sheet, plant an orchard, start a “business,” etc., etc. What kind of life do we want for them? What kind of memories do we want them to have of their childhood?

I recently spent a weekend at an adoptive mom’s retreat. Many of the women at the retreat are much older than me (their kids are my age or older). They’ve adopted. They foster. One takes in medically fragile babies. Who knows how many sweet babies have come through her home. One takes in handicapped teenagers and has adopted children from Romania. There were several women with similar stories. These women amaze me. They are gems in their generation. They are are living lives of service, instead of feeling entitled. They might feel entitled to travel, live a life of pleasure, buy whatever they want, live for themselves. The saying “I’ve worked hard, so I deserve ____” is a load of crap (excuse my language ;)). We deserve what?  N O T H I N G.  What did Jesus deserve? Everything. And yet, He came to serve. And do you know what? Service is addicting. These women served, and they loved it. And they couldn’t help but serve some more. They’re living the life! They are real life super heroes that are worth looking up to!

The life of service is not an easy road, though. For the last 14 months of our lives, we devoted ourselves to taking care of 3 sweet orphans whom we were told we would be able to adopt. We were lied to. 3 weeks ago today, we had to have them and all of their things ready by 8 am so that they could move back in with their birth mom. We waved goodbye as a volunteer/social worker drove them down our long driveway and then we went into the house and broke down in tears–all of us. A friend who faced a similar loss described it well–it is “worse than death.” It is not like they are at peace with God. They are very likely in danger; being malnourished and neglected, and I know that they are crying for me and I can do nothing about it. It aches to see my 4 children grieve over the loss of their siblings. They were hard kids–yes, life is easier without them. And yet, all of us would rather choose a life with them than a life without them. Our certifier says that this placement with birth mom will probably only last a few weeks or maybe up to a few months. But how much damage will be done? Will they be able to attach after that? And the waiting, for our family, is unbearable. A life of service makes you vulnerable. It puts you in a place where your heart strings are pulled and all you can do is trust in God. (Contrast that with a life of entertainment, which is easy, does not require any thought about God or having to face any big emotions).

I want to set a couple of things straight, for the record, because I may have offended some of you.

  • I’m not saying that we ought to be Amish and avoid all technology. Technology in and of itself is not bad. It’s the attitude that we deserve it and that we need it that is wrong.
  • I’m not saying that everyone who works a desk job and isn’t a farmer is sinning.
  • I’m not saying that living in a neighborhood and having a pretty yard is wrong. I am saying that we should check where our focus is.
  • I’m not saying that owning a vacation home is wrong. It’s a matter of how it is used, and what the heart attitude is around it.
  • I’m also not saying that traveling, in and of itself is wrong. I like to travel. We dream, with our kids, of places we might go someday. Farm Boy 2 is reading about Paris, because he wants to go there someday. That is ok. It’s the attitude. It is the life of travel with no connections, no responsibility, no opportunities to sacrifice for others that I don’t think is healthy.

I know I’ve rambled, but I have a main point. I really do.

Look at your life. Is it all about you, or are you thinking about things that are outside of you? Do you put yourself in positions where all you can do is trust in God, or do you take the “easy” road?

Look at your kids. Who are they becoming? What do they spend their time doing? Where are their hearts? What are their skills? What strengths will they bring to their adult family, and what hurdles will they face because of their childhood?

Look at your time. How do you spend it? For you? Being entertained? In a life of self indulgence? Or in serving others? How’s that workin’ for ya?

Who do you want to be, and are you living in a way that will make it so?

That’s all.





  • Nichole Sawatzky

    DONT DO IT! Dont move to CA! Great post. While I understand some things may be easier to get in CA, I can not imagine buying everything organic in CA. It is incredibly hard to source things, and costs a fortune. And lets not forget those EMF’s you cant do anything about in CA suburbia. We are having to make some major life adjustments just living in CA. I sit here and dream about the property you have there; glad you dont take it for granted! 🙂

    • Brenda

      Nichole, we won’t! 🙂 We have no desire to move to CA! (Unless someone gave us like 50 acres of good farm land and a cute old farm house with a front porch for free…then maybe we’d consider it! 😉 ;). I’m so sorry you are struggling in CA! What part did you move to?


    I have been thinking of my own sort of post like this for awhile. All I have is an incomplete draft sitting in my posts box. It is very hard to say these things without offending people or sounding defensive of your lifestyle choices. You did it well with grace and without judgment. Thank you. I completely agree. I love the simplicity of our lives. It is not easy, but it is simple. I love the community connections and connectedness to the earth.

    • Brenda

      It is hard to say these things without offending! I hear you! I was working on this post for a week or so. I kept re-reading it and deleting entire sections, etc. 😉 I love the simple (but not easy, true) life, too. Thank you for your comment!

  • Sarah

    Hm… I live in CA and live in somewhat of a situation like that, but we are here for my husband’s job (he’s a minister) and feel as if this is mission work. Do you know how few people who are Christian want to live here? Service doesn’t have to look a certain way. Living out a Christian life doesn’t have to look a certain way. I get what you’re saying–I’m an introvert myself and would love to go back to having a huge old farmhouse and SPACE and more fresh air (though I’d love to take the sunshine with me :)), but my husband reminds me of the good we’re trying to do here.

    Yes, it can be hard… just please don’t assume those who live here are all about commercialism and immorality. 🙂

    • Brenda

      Oh Sarah, I hope you don’t feel like I was pointing fingers at anyone who lives in California. That wasn’t my point at all! I’m sorry if I gave that impression! The materialistic life is rampant in many parts of the country. We lived in the Seattle area for 2 years and the “have to have it” attitude is incredibly strong there. Kudos to anyone who can live in one of those places and not be sucked into the attitude & still maintain a simple life!! I know that there are good, honest, Christ-loving people living in California. And I’m sure that there are materialistic, immoral people living out in the country, too. 😉 It’s not *where* we live that makes the difference, it’s the heart attitude. So sorry if I offended you!!

      • Sarah

        Not offended at all… thanks for understanding my perspective. Next time you come down, bring Heidi and we’ll all go to Disneyland. 😀

  • Emily

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Did you know that yesterday was International Bereaved Mothers’ Day? I know that sometimes it helps me when I think about being part of a larger community of mothers, all struggling in our own way to do the best for our families. Thanks for your thoughts on why you choose the life you live. I appreciate your thoughts and agree with your perspective. Also, I think that a life that involves solving real-world problems (instead of just video-game problems) gives you so many more life skills that set you up to be much happier and fulfilled as an adult. Thanks for sharing!

    • Brenda

      Emily, thank you. I didn’t know that it was International Bereaved Mother’s Day! I’ll have to add that one to my calendar and remember the moms I know who have lost children.
      I totally agree that kids should be solving real-world problems instead of virtual problems! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  • Sarah Costa

    i am very sad to hear about the loss of your kiddos 🙁 i feel your pain… we had 4 foster kiddos for 10 months that we hoped to adopt. 1 year ago they went back with birth mom. you have to pretend to be happy that she got her act together and they were reunited, but you can’t be happy knowing that they will probably be neglected again, and moreover that they wont be learning about jesus.

    and, as you siad, “A life of service makes you vulnerable. It puts you in a place where your heart strings are pulled and all you can do is trust in God.” i would choose this life over an easy, cushy life any day. (but not because i am special, only because jesus has changed me!)

  • Kate

    Brenda, I loved your article. Thank you for sharing your convictions. I couldn’t agree with you much more (except that on some days I’d LOVE to run away with my family to an Amish community ;).
    As for California, it depends on what part you live in. =) We live in the central valley (Sacramento area) where there are organic farms, CSA’s, and farmer’s markets, as well as a few local Weston A. Price chapters within an hour’s drive. While LA, San Diego, and San Fransisco are what comes to mind when people think of CA, the vast majority of the state is very different! There are many wonderful rural areas, farms, ranchland, mountains. And yes, many people who care about a simplistic, earthy, nourishing lifestyle. =)
    That said, I am a bit- no, let’s be honest, VERY- jealous of those who have country farms in other states where land is cheaper. I grew up in the country, and a few years ago my husband and I bought a house in the suburbs. I regret it almost daily. While I am thankful that we do have a great growing season, access to good, real food, I would love nothing more that to have a farm in the country-side. My husband, who is a techy-guy has a fulfilling job working for a local non-profit serving the homeless. He gets paid much less than he could for his skills. But, we choose to live a simpler life with less entertainment and fewer amenities that our other city-dwelling friends enjoy.
    The biggest factor in our choices and in our discontent with city life is the future of our children, as Brenda has addressed. My husband has become increasingly interested in organic farming and is gradually transforming our backyard into our grocery car as much as we have the resources and time tot, complete with a few chickens.
    I have experienced a lot of frustration over the fact that we are trapped by our mortgage and didn’t know 4 years ago what we know now.We do our best to help our babies to be healthy and strong, but are limited. I hate that my kids are constantly bombarded by air and water pollution, can’t safely explore our neighborhood, go rock-hopping, have large animals, run free in the hayfields. But, God is working on my heart about my attitude and accepting where we are right now. We must be thankful in all things, for that is God’s will for us. Wishing for something different will only cause us to miss out on the blessings in what we do have.

  • Angela Campany

    Just discovered your blog today and have signed up for daily updates! Wow, this post just really sums up where we are and how we are feeling. I’ve got a techy IT hubby too, and we are trying to sell our house to build a log cabin in the woods and take on self-sufficient living. We’re also getting ready to start GAPS for many of the same reasons you’ve listed in the few GAPS posts I’ve read. I’m so glad to have found you! 🙂

  • Skemerson

    I enjoy reading the comments everyone has written. It might be a good idea to define terms though. I talked to my youngest daughter on the phone today. She is currently in Alaska working for the summer. For most of her life she grew up on acreage/farmland. We are not farmers, and actually have no desire to farm, although we love living in the country! She made the comment today how much she was enjoying living in the city (Anchorage is small compared to most). She loved being able to walk out the door and get on her bike and ride wherever she wants to go. She said she could even ride to work if she wanted. To her that is a “simpler” livestyle. I think it is wonderful that Brenda and others are living their dream to farm and work the land – that is so awesome. For me – that would be misery – and I really mean it – I would come to hate it. I don’t like animals and I don’t like working in the yard. So for me that would not be a simple or compatible livestyle. So how wonderful that we all have choices. In many countries there are no choices – it is subsistance living. The important thing is that we are following the path that God has given each of us – and serving others like Brend said. If we follow “The Light” our lives will matter for eternity.

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