My name is Genevieve. Some may say that I have lived an interesting life and should even one day write a book about it. I say it’s definitely not what I would have planned or expected, especially for a city girl turned homesteading wife and mother of 6. Prior to making the unexpected step into the world of hobby farming, my husband and I served in the US army as helicopter pilots. My husband is my most trusted supporter. Together, we raise and homeschool our children on our 53 acre farm in the hollow, in middle TN with the closest town reporting less than 3,000 residents. We will be celebrating our 19th wedding anniversary as we ring in this New Year.
Ever since my husband was a young boy, he had hopes of one day owning his own property to plant roots on and make the transition to living more naturally and off the land. He grew up on five acres with a large creek and the forest as his playground. He and his sister would visit their grandparents each summer on the family’s original farm in IN, dating back to the mid 1800’s. He comes from a long line of Dutch farmers. His family was one of the first original settlers in the county and the idea of simple living really made an impression on him. As enduring as his childhood dreams were, I was not always as sure that they would come to fruition or that I would be fully on board with them. Remember, city girl here! (smile)
Over time as our faith and family grew, my doubts dwindled and this dream of a simple and more natural way of life began to grow on me and I began to get excited about our future as modern-day homesteaders. It took a decade and a half of moving around the states and overseas in the military, but we finally arrived at our homestead destination just prior to his twenty year military retirement. Part of our dream was not only to get back to a simpler way of life and teach our children how to enjoy hard work, love the Lord and love others, but we also prayed that we could somehow use our little homestead in the hollow to help minister and serve others. This was no small feat, as our property is situated so far from anything. But little did we know, our lives were about to change beyond anything we could have ever imagined!
Let me rewind for a second, we were a very private family, we didn’t have cable, and we weren’t on any social media platforms. But after years of military moves and starting our family, I thought I would start a private blog to help stay in touch with family and friends across the country and overseas. The blog was called “Gracefully Sharing the Load.” I shared snippets of our family’s transition into homeschooling, organizing, family travels, DIY, our faith and of course, natural living. It wasn’t long before I felt the nudge to change the name to “Gracefully Home” and the verse 2 Corinthians 12:9 kept coming to mind. I didn’t know at the time how much this verse would become an integral part of our family’s story…a constant reminder of God’s grace as we entered into unknown territory and a series of struggles, challenges and heartache that would rock our family to the core.
Shortly after changing the name of my private blog, our 5 year old son’s health started to decline with his first seizure, then his second and then countless episodes for the next 5 and ½ years. He was in and out of the hospital, had a variety of tests done, surgeries, and a poor prognosis. We had him on different healing diets (including the medically prescribed ketogenic diet and the GAPS diet) and the doctors had him on several different medications that would alter, not only his episodes, but would cause other symptoms to manifest. As you can imagine, as his parents, we wanted only to help him and see him live a full and happy life with us, but sadly that would not be his story as he made his journey home this past February. My mother’s broken heart may never heal here on earth, but his story and mine will be forever intertwined. Two years after his first seizure and after we were living in the hollow part-time, I discovered a lump while nursing our 5 month old infant. I thought it was a clogged milk duct. Despite several days of using my natural remedies it was not healing. I thought perhaps it was mastitis, but unfortunately, it was my body saying it was time to face years of personal neglect and living in constant survival mode. I know for a fact that many of you know what I’m talking about. As mother’s, we tend to put everyone else’s needs first and simply resolve to live on constant survival mode. It became my “go-to” auto-pilot of choice and after years of back to back deployments and one baby after the next, I was really good at it. Only I was so good at it that I could not turn it off, even after my husband returned home. We would soon discover after a biopsy, that the lump I had found was an aggressive form of breast cancer, stage III and had already moved into the neighboring lymph nodes.
During my long battle, I was a mess physically, emotionally, and even spiritually, as I watched the shadows and heard the whispers and giggles under the master bedroom door. It was life continuing on without me! My future was uncertain. Our son’s future was uncertain. My husband took on my duties along with his own and finished the homeschooling year with the school-aged children, cooked, cleaned, drove to appointments and treatments, cared for our disabled son’s special needs and our infant’s needs…all while caring for his sick wife battling for her life. Talk about overwhelming! The next 3 years would be the most life-changing as I actively turned my health around and discovered more natural ways to help my battle and recovery. The same things I had discovered for my own battle would help our son stabilize for his last 3 years here on earth. With everything that happened and with all our discoveries over the years, we knew that we could not just keep our story to ourselves…especially if it could offer hope and encouragement to others.
Through this amazing journey, I have learned how to tap into the simple joys around our life here on the homestead. It’s not perfect and some days I fail miserably, but through it all, God’s grace carries us through and that is something worth sharing and celebrating with others! I have found that the simple things in life are what truly matter and have the potential for bearing the healthiest of fruit. I love to find new ways to simplify, just about everything, whether it is canning the season’s harvest, preparing our meals from scratch, sewing a new piece, homeschooling our littles, or doing my daily chores, my hope is that you will leave my blog with a new sense of encouragement, energy and urgency that you will be able to apply to your own life.
Here are my top 3 décor tips:
- Make a running wish list. I keep a running “farmhouse wish list” in my purse so that when I am out and about, I can keep an eye out for a piece that is practical and useful, yet simple and beautiful and goes with our simple vintage farmhouse décor. I will typically shop my own farmhouse first before going out to purchase something. More often than not, if I do find that we “need” something, I purchase used and save the difference. Buying items that are simpler, practical and neutral in nature never go out of style and keeping a running list, helps prevent accumulating more “stuff” that we really don’t need.
- Think outside the box. I love to go hunting around our homestead and look for unique pieces that I can repurpose and bring inside; like I found an old weathered window frame from our equipment shed that I added to our entry way. Its barn wood patina makes for an unconventional conversation piece. I also brought in an old chicken feeder to display with seasonal clippings that I placed inside an inexpensive veggie crate from the local farmer’s market that I use as a side table next to our piano. We found horseshoes around our property and even brought home a couple from one of my husband’s uncle’s farms in IN. I have plans to mount them as a display in our front room renovation, along with old black and white photos of his father’s childhood growing up around his grandparent’s farm.
- Bring the outside in. Don’t be afraid to bring in elements of nature into the home. I love bringing in fresh cut flowers during the spring and summer months. They offer that pop of color that is sure to brighten any space for free and add some beautiful smells lingering throughout the home. In the fall and winter months, dried leaves, pine cones, berries and evergreen clippings can breathe life into an otherwise cold and sometimes drab season.
Well, thank you for taking the time to read a little bit about our family’s story of hope and healing today! I pray that you have found it encouraging. If you have any questions or would like help making the transition to healthier living this coming year, I hope that you will consider reaching out or following along. God bless!