Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Letter 2009 Recap

Family and Friends,

I bring you a big cheerful hello and Season’s Greetings! This is such an exciting time of the year and one that brings me to this place of reflection. At this time my heart is abundant with thanksgiving. The Lord continues to bless me greatly and gives me many things to be thankful for. This past year has been a great year of new experiences, travel adventures, and learning opportunities. I feel like I have grown so much and gained a bit of insight into what brings me joy and fulfillment in this life. It really has become funny for me to think about how much I have changed in the past couple of years. However, I would not replace any of the experiences that have shaped me this way.

In September I finished a year of service as an AmeriCorps volunteer. I had spent September 2008 through August 2009 in Kansas City, Missouri serving as a Nutrition Educator at Harvesters - The Community Food Network. I was able to teach basic nutrition to groups of low income people in the community and then cook healthy meals with them. Groups I taught included youth and adults, many elderly groups. This was an amazing experience for me and a great way to spend my first year out of college. I will continually remember that my cultural diversity experiences prior to my year of service were next to nothing compared to my volunteer position and the neighborhood where I lived and commuted. I truly do believe that until we are put outside our comfort zones and social bubbles we are never really challenged. I learned such a great deal about life from the people that I worked with and will always have a heart for those less fortunate.

I have a huge passion for living in community and creating relationships with others. I believe we were created to share life together in this manner and while in Kansas City I had the opportunity to create great connections with several people. First, the McDowell family that I had the opportunity to live and share life with. They were such a blessing to me and will always have a special place in my heart. My little adopted nephew and niece, Liam and Winifred, are so adorable and draw me back to visit as often as possible.

While at Harvesters I was also blessed to work with an amazing group of ladies. Although we were coworkers we all bonded so well and spent a remarkable amount of time inside and outside of work together. Our once a week recipe testing days proved to be conducive to great conversations and fun moments all enjoyed over food. I enjoyed many happy hours and evening dinner cooking sessions with those great ladies. They are another group that I try to visit with while in the Kansas City area.

I have heard from several people that after moving to a new place it takes a couple of years to really establish social networks. However, I was blessed to get connected to several groups right off the bat. I really can only attribute my success to God for being so faithful and one special person that invited me into her life and social networks. I absolutely loved the book club that I joined. We had great conversations about sustainable food and ate a lot of scrumptious food together as well. I found a really great church in the area and enjoyed worship there as well as the small community group that I joined later in the year.

Since leaving Kansas City, I have been on the adventure of a lifetime. Packing up my car in late September I headed north to Michigan to visit a dear friend in Kalamazoo before heading east to work on a farm. I made my first WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) stop at Three Roods Farm in Columbiaville, MI on a small organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. I spent three weeks there finishing the fall garden, preserving and preparing for winter, tending the sheep and chickens, participating in a tipi dedication, and cooking many great things. I also spent time at the Strawbale Studio working on Natural building projects. Michigan proved to hold many new experiences including composting toilets, thatching, planting garlic, hand cranking fresh apple cider, and sleeping in a tipi. After meeting up with my sister, Tara, for the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, IN I made it to Butternut Farms in Ohio. My second WWOOF experience brought time on a small farm with many different animals and several building projects. After Ohio I ventured to Philadelphia to visit my best friend for some time of rest and relaxation. I’ve never been much of a tourist person so I honestly spent a lot of time reading and enjoying quiet time while in Philly. Another great college friend flew out for some quality time of old roommates. The Lord has truly blessed me with great friendships that always seem to pick up so smoothly after time spent apart.

As I sit here in my childhood bedroom I am calling this Enterprise, Kansas address my home again. Mom and Dad have agreed to allow me to live here indefinitely as I figure out what is happening next. It is crazy how this adventure of life has led me back home and I am completely satisfied with that for now. As much as I enjoyed my city experience, I am a country girl at heart and have a great passion to live off the land. My adventures on farms have confirmed my desire to produce my own food, gather people together, and share life with others. Right now I am calling my immediate family my community living, but hope to someday in the future expand this community. Although how this future will pan out remains uncertain I do have short term plans to stay here for at least another season while I work in Manhattan on campus this coming semester.

My free time is usually spent in the kitchen. My passion for food and preparing it for others has not faded. A huge blessing has been the opportunity to prepare wedding cakes for special friends. This past year I made three wedding cakes, bringing my grand total to six with another due in January. I also love to bake bread and am slowly winning others over to the world of a bread snob and crusty bread. It’s fun to be back in my giant home kitchen and my goal for the year is to buy as little as possible. Everybody knows there is a giant stockpile here to go through!

The Lord is good and I’m praising Him for the birth of Jesus Christ this Christmas season. I am so very thankful for the many blessings in my life including relationships with all of you. Please let me know how I can be a blessing to you and feel free to knock on the door out here anytime. My plan is to have baked goods ready at every moment for special visitors like you.

1 comment:

  1. Manda Lou!!!!

    I cannot express how excited I am to know that you are planning on being around Manhattan this coming semester! Love you, beautiful sister!

    Grace & peace,