Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Have a question about your food? Tweet your local farmer!

I had the unique opportunity this past week to come and answer questions for a room full of farmers and ranchers.  You may wonder why said folks would have any questions for lil ole me?  I want to share with you an awesome website: AgChat.org.  Their mission is to "Empower farmers and ranchers to connect communities through social media platforms."  My friend Rachel BrownLindsey Ferrier, and myself were invited to be panelists for a question and answer session based on our status of "mommy bloggers". 
 The conference was set in Nashville, Tennessee, but the attendees were from all over the United States and Canada.  These farmers and ranchers are finding their "voice" in a technology driven world, and have a desire to be heard.  Farmers and Ranchers make up 1.5% of the population.  They want to hear from the rest of us, from me; where we get our information, what we know about farming, and how they can reach the blogging and online community to share their stories.  Here I was, in a room with about 150 of them, and to be honest, I felt like I pretty much represented the ignorant citizen.  I don't say that in a bad way, because I also represented the person eager to learn, and one that wants to connect with them and pass on what I learn to others like myself.

So many of them had questions about what they could do to be heard, how they could get their voice out there.  I think a few felt defensive, because for years media has had its say in "what goes on" and they feel like there is a lot of catching up to do.  I hated to say "be patient, it's working", but it's so true! Just the fact that this organization exists is huge.  I did a quick google search of "tweet your local farmer", and numerous news articles came up.  Your words are getting out there, you are being heard.  It was all so exciting to me to know that technology is reaching as far as it is.

If I could say one thing to those I met this week, it's to know you are heading in the right direction.  The speed of social media and word-of-mouth, is exponential.  You will "catch up" quicker than you ever imagined.  Keep learning, keep sharing, keep posting, keep tweeting.  We are out here wanting to learn and the number of "us" is growing.  We are realizing that it is our responsibility to know what we are putting into our bodies, and why.  We aren't just taking "yes" or "no" for an answer anymore, and we are looking for truth.  Thank you for caring enough to speak.  Thank you for doing the dirty work for the 98.5% of us.  Thank you for sticking with it for generations and generations.  What a pleasure it was to spend this short time with you, and feel free to keep in touch!  I want to pass on your websites, facebook pages, blogs, tweets, and stories to others that I know.  I also hope to run into some of you again and get a chance to see your farms, and learn about what you do. It was really humbling for me to be in there with you all, and though I didn't have much time then, we can always connect right here.  Ag is Life!

twitter: sbrawner7

Friday, May 27, 2011

"ME" time...

I guess since these boys came from "me", it would appear I get a lot of "me" time these days... Truth be told, "me" time should be about Shanna, and "Shanna time" doesn't really exist.  There should also be "me and Keith" time, which is also very lacking.  So, in saying that, I have been taking the time to dream and slowly take given opportunities to try and plan for this so called "time".

Things I want to, and WILL do:

  • Horseback Riding.  It has been WAY too long, and I love it WAY too much.  (it hasn't helped that every other second I'm pregnant, and I think it is frowned upon to do this whilst carrying a wee one)
  • MUSIC.  Shanna is a musician?  Yea, I almost forgot myself.  But the time. is. now.
  • Socializing.  I am a social butterfly. Always been one, always will be.  I need my fix.  Girl dates? Bookin' em as I type.
  • DATE. I want to date. I want to date my husband. I want to date my husband at least once a month.  And I will do this.
  • Learn.  I want to learn, grow, mature in my faith.  I want to take a class, engage in a study, be IN my Father's Word.  One opportunity may be in the fall (when I have dependable childcare), but I've already got a class in mind.  And it's for couples.  Look out, I'm gittin' two birds with one stone.
  • One more is a "bucket list" type wish that is actually going to come true for me.  I decided to start drama on my facebook page, and hold out the announcement until it actually happens.  I have many people out there curious about what this may be.  I just got butterflies, again, by simply typing about it.
The best part about all of these "dreams" (funny the things we dream before kids, and the things we do before kids that become dreams after) is that God has been laying them all out there, RIGHT in front of my nose.  Horseback riding? Done, my friend has two horses in need of exercise.  I'm hoping to make this a Monday night "thing" all summer.  Music? Stay tuned to hear, but I have 2 performance opportunities already waiting, and one possible worship gig that would mean the MOST to me out of all 3.  I've booked a few girl dates, maybe even starting down a business venture to help us knock out some debt and get me some adult mental stimulation once in a while.  Stay tuned on that one...  Dates? Working on that for sure, but to start we're signed up to do a couples bootcamp workout starting at the end of June, and then hoping to take a class together this fall.  All that to say, I WILL take time away from cleaning up pee and boo-boo prevention.  I love my day job, and wouldn't change a thing, but I'm excited about making a few changes to the daily grind. 

Monday, May 16, 2011


The gifting continues.  God has gifted Keith creative freedom at his job, an opportunity to chase a passion he has and support to do so.  He has also gifted Keith with a raise in pay for all of his efforts (we got the news the SAME DAY we found out that the Jeep engine was possibly blown), and entrusted our family with these earthly resources that we may follow the Spirit's prompting and use them to glorify His kingdom.  The gifting never stops.  The insignificant things that we put so much weight in.  I believe God uses the small things to pull our ignorant earthly minds and eyes to the truth of his Love.  If it takes finding my cat hiding in a rose bush to bring me to my knees in gratitude and worship, then I'll take it.  He is jealous for me.
out searching for Louisa one morning

As I whine about my losses; my loss of sleep since my boys have decided 6am is a great time to wake up, the day my cat decided to disappear for 24 hours and only to be found after searching for her in a field with kids in tow, the loss of the attention of my baby who would rather try to walk than lay still and nurse like I'd want, and the loss of my milk supply as I adjust to pumping (with a chewed up tube.  Thanks again kitty...), the stresses of April pale in comparison to the depth of separation we are faced with apart from Christ.


Being blessed is nothing short of being a child of God.  Tangible gifts really don't deserve the title of "blessings" when you have the amazing grace of God and incomparable sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  I am blessed.  Unworthy of this and completely humbled by it.  God's promise of provision will never fail.  As I relish in each of these little "gifts" that bring me earthly joys, I stop to remember the GREATEST Gift that will bring me never-ending joy.  The kingdom of heaven that I've inherited as one that is poor in spirit, the fulfillment I'll receive to quench my hunger, the laughter that will drown out the tears of this lifetime.  THOSE are the blessings, THAT is the Greater story.
And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.  Luke 6:20-21

Sunday, May 15, 2011

da jeep

Well. I love our Jeep.  We didn't always see eye to eye, but sometimes it takes losing something to realize how much you loved it.  Keith and I have been pretty determined to set specific 3 month goals and knock em out of the water.  This current "quarter" we were focusing on the Jeep. (and never realized what that would entail!!)  We needed tires, probably rotors and break pads, and a few other things that we had been putting off but were ready to tackle.  It just so happened, "focusing on the Jeep" became something much greater than we imagined.

We got to the tires part, and the next day Keith took a day trip to Knoxville with a buddy for a football game.  On the way home, a Saturday evening after everything was closed, the Jeep started acting funny and stalling.  Scared to risk any more distance, and getting farther and farther into no man's land, they decided to pull over and call our road side assistance.  It just so happened that the closest place they could tow to, that was opened, was a Jeep dealership.  After towing the Jeep, the next step was to get home.  Our insurance covers a rental for accident based needs, but not for simple car breakdowns.  This posed a little bit of a problem, but with our God, who takes care to feed the tiniest insects let alone His most cherished children, it was no surprise when the dealership cheerfully GAVE Keith a loaner car to simply take home that night.  It made for a long evening, but one that ended where he could collapse in his OWN bed.

We had to wait until Monday before we could hear the news on the Jeep.  It was a long 2 days, but reality didn't really set in until we got the call.  They basically said it was all bad news and they were happy to put in a brand new engine for $7500.  Oh, and they needed the loaner car back ASAP.  This is never good news when you still OWE on the vehicle that needs the new engine.  Keith and I went immediately to prayer.  We weighed our options, and even made a couple little "spider" charts comparing different situations and financially how it could or couldn't work.  We wanted to be all "Dave Ramsey" with our decision, but also wondering how we find a trustworthy, affordable, "craigslist" car in only a few days.  Plus, the Jeep WAS at a dealership, and a trade in for something new was very tempting.  The next few days were filled with more phone calls (all while Keith was trying to continue working for the money that would pay for all this craziness) and they finally worked up a deal that if we wanted to, we could do a trade in with them and they could sell us a brand new Liberty for $398230892358 a month.  Okay, maybe not that much, but close enough.  We thought about it for about .02 seconds before we said NO!  A "Ramsey" car just felt like it was what God was telling us to do.

Keith started hitting up craiglist.  It's pretty funny(though not so funny when it's your only option), some of the stuff you'll find out there.  We continued to pray about it and found a few options.  We had to think fast because they were needing the loaner back.  Don't forget, we had our beautiful Christmas gift Belinda (not even sure I've told this story), and Keith was taking her to work every day, but she's not kid friendly at all.  Once the loaner was returned we would be short a car to take the kids anywhere.  We stretched our privilege through Easter so we could go to church, and continued to make calls about cars, but each one we liked was already gone.  Even the 4Runner we were really excited about and actually called about ON Easter Sunday.  Then Monday rolled around and our friend Aimee of New Creation Blocks came by to drop off our winning prize block for Will.  We won a photo contest and chose a customized memory block of his Dedication.  When she stopped over I had mentioned the situation with the Jeep, and how starting the following day, when Keith was planning on returning the loaner, we'd be carless.  She told us that her husband was selling his 4Runner and she would send me some information on it.  Yes, My God is an awesome God.  Needless to say, it was the. perfect. match. for. us.
Will's Dedication block

Now, getting the loaner to the boondocks and the Jeep back to Spring Hill was a quest in itself.  It took a LOT of finagling a few desperate facebook posts, and one amazing Angel and her husband to meet our needs with a pickup truck to borrow.  Keith spent the day loading, unloading, hitching, unhitching, driving, driving, and driving until we finally got the good ole' Jeep home at last.  Our next door neighbor helped him push it into the driveway since the driveshaft had to be removed. (I'm adding that part because, as I had mentioned, God is present in every detail.  You'll see what I mean.)

So, making this long story longer...  All things were working together for good.  We had put a deposit on our friend's vehicle and were waiting on a check deposit to close the deal.  Keith calls me from work.  "The Nissan's not working.  I ran an errand and just got back to the parking garage and it just died.  I had to push it into a parking space."  I have to admit.  In all of her 80s splendor, I really loved Belinda.  Her silvery coat and rust colored hood.  Eau de gasoline scent and white noise melodies.  I had started to get a little too attached, and then she went and broke my heart (and something else under the hood.)  Our amazingly gracious friends did an amazingly gracious thing, and let us have their beautiful 4Runner a few days early.  They even included a thick covering of prayer over the vehicle that it would be a blessing to our family.  It was a fantastic day.  We were suddenly a family with wheels once again.  Our neighbor, sweet as can be, gave Keith a ride over to their house to pick it up.

So it turned out that Angel was selling the pretty blue pickup truck that safely brought our sweet Jeep home. And it just so happened our next door neighbor had been needing a vehicle for quite some time and REALLY wanted a pickup truck.  With a little more divine intervention, God gifted two more people who had gifted us with generosity, and provided a sale for one and a truck for the other.

What will become of sweet Belinda? Still praying about that one, and the Jeep? We hope to find out exactly where the problem is and hopefully get it fixed and running as a second vehicle.  As for right now, this 4Runner is like a dream vehicle for Keith and I.  The color, the make, the engine, the ride... Thank you Lord for your unfailing promise and overflowing provision.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

It's the little things...

The dell laptop I was using had seen better days.  The battery had died and the laptop became pretty stationary.  Doing graphic design with a track pad was also getting very old.  The shift key had been "removed" by my biggest little and SLOW didn't even begin to describe my work speed.  Keith surprised me one weekend and set me up with a beautiful workstation including a MacBook, large secondary monitor, and new software.  I was able to recreate some old graphic images and blew through my commissioned project like I had never lost anything.  Wow Mac, I'm a believer.  It just so happens that he was upgraded through his job, and gave me his iPad and Droid phone as well.  Lots to learn, and little time to use it all, but what a pleasant surprise.  :)  I've been thinking about expanding my graphic work and hopefully doing some more commissioned pieces, so this was really a gift.

the first new project I did was a first birthday invitation for my dear friend

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gifts of grace

Consuming God's blessings without communicating His goodness 
short-changes the very purpose of His gifts of grace in our lives 
- Joe Stowell

Wow.  It's been a while.  God has been at work so much in our lives, and it would be wrong to not take the time to share His goodness.  It started with loss.  Not just one, but many.  Not jobs this time, but material things.  The things that shouldn't hurt so much, but find a way to hit us right in the gut.  The enemy sits and waits for these types of opportunities. He attacks when we're consumed with all of our human grossness, when our eyes are briefly distracted from the Greater Story and pulled like magnets into self.  

Loss #1) My flash drive failed.  I lost all of my graphic work that I've done over the past 3 years.  In the technology driven world we live in this is not a rare occurrence, but it IS the worst. thing. ever.  I was completely defeated. I was in the middle of a HUGE commissioned project based on the work I had done the year before.  All of it was gone.  I took it to get it recovered, and it was found to be completely corrupt.

Problems that turned into loss #2)  Jeep, jeep, jeep.  We love you. You have been good to us.  After dropping close to $1000.00 on some silly repairs, and the day AFTER putting new tires on you, you decided to pass out in the middle of Nowhereville, TN after hours.  Sorry we pulled off your driveshaft, but glad you're finally home.  

Loss #3) Our beauty queen, Belinda, also decided to take a nap (indefinitely?).  God rest her pretty soul.  Not sure what will become of her now.

Loss #4 & 5) Dropped the flip camera in the toilet and my cellphone in the tub.  Flip camera was somehow recovered, but the phone is forever on silent.  It's not like anyone calls me anyways, so I don't mind too much.  Thanks to Facebook and a friendly tip, putting the phone in a bowl of rice over night worked as the rice absorbed any residual water.  I was able to save my pics and vids which was my biggest worry.

Loss #6, 7, 8, 9... ) my sanity, sleep, weight (I don't mind this one), milk supply (I'm working on it), and I could probably continue. Whining? Yes.

SO WHAT? My desire is to write about God's amazing grace and provision! We're all well aware of our human selfishness and lacking.  I'm going to break it up into a few posts because I want to tell the detail.  

"Randomness is not random to God.  God is not the least taxed by keeping every subnuclear particle in it's place..." 
- John Piper

The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:33

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

so this is what it feels like...

"this may not be the road I would choose for me
but it still feels right somehow
cause I have never felt you as close to me as I do right now
So this is what if feels like to be led..."
Wow. 2010, where did you go? As I sit in the midst of January 2011, I wonder, how much faster could this year have flown by? Then I try to slow things down a bit and I am in awe of what the Lord has done throughout this year. I recognize that there were in fact months that dredged on, and seemed to last forever. God pulled us out of them in ways that I could never have thought up on my own, and that just plain knocked my socks off. He fulfilled dreams that had been long forgotten, and helped to bring closure to lingering demons from the past. Oh, and the blessings, WOW was this year full of blessings!!! I really don't even know where to begin to try and recapture the wonder that 2010 turned out to be. (though I'm gonna!)

January. Well, if I'm gonna do this right, let's start at the beginning. January was a good but hard month. Keith and I had been talking (for months!) about when we thought would be the best to try for second child. We compromised and decided that we would give January a try, and see if that was something the Lord had in His plan for us. Extremely blessed, a little baby started growing in my belly! Though there were other things in this month that were haunting me, and bad habits I was creating for myself that would linger throughout the year, the excitement of what to come was overwhelming. In the meantime, Jack grew from eating baby food (the worst thing I remember while dealing with my first trimester nausea), to being a full on toddler. Talking, walking, singing, dancing... In March we celebrated my baby's first birthday, and also Keith's grandmother's 80th! Then, out of the blue, Keith got laid off. Keith's worst nightmare just flat out happened, and yet God provided a start date for a new job the day after his last day. In that moment we knew that any fears we may have would be overcome by God's provision.

In April, our beloved CBS came to an end. We had made some amazing friends, and I never knew then what an impact this event would have on our lives. I was sad also that I wouldn't be leading worship anymore each Monday night. I miss this dearly and hope to find another opportunity soon!

We celebrated 2 years of marriage at the end of May! If you had asked me a few years ago if I had thought I'd be married with two children in under 3 years I would have laughed. We also bid farewell to my brother and his wife as they set off on a new journey to the great state of Idaho. We still miss them TONS!!

June came along, and it was time to prove that we were having ourselves a little girl! Then the ultrasound announced BOY! And exhaling was difficult for a second. Another boy? What if we never have a little girl? God was gracious yet again, and exposed us to our need to "control" our lives. We surrendered to His will, and in reverence chose Will Patrick as the name for our little miracle. Right around this time, Keith got laid off, again, with nothing in the lineup (and immediate cease of all heath insurance). Our challenge was to TRUST this will that we so desired to direct us.

We took a spontaneous trip to Florida at the beginning of July. We felt called to reserve a time of rest, allowing the Lord to work in our lives. We spent an amazing time visiting my grandfather and introduced Jack to his great grandfather and the ocean. In this time of rest, God provided us peace that passes all understanding. We came home with no plans, just faith and hope in our Father's provision yet again.

Throughout the first half of the year I had some emotional struggles, and felt myself living some unhealthy habits for me, my family and my marriage. God continued to provide support through friends (primarily that I made through CBS and church), and the courage to ask for it.

In August, Keith went to catch up with a dear friend and leader of our CBS Core group. Their conversation over coffee ended up turning into a job opportunity, that turned into a complete life changing event. God provided us financial peace, immediate health insurance, and an opening for Keith to fulfill some of the need he had been missing in his life (along with the joy of doing something NEW!). It was an amazing month! Then Will decided he wanted to get some attention, and since we now had insurance he thought it would be perfect timing!

September was filled with hospital visits, family visits, and a whole lot of sitting around. Thank God for amazing doctors, an amazing hospital, and friends (again from CBS) that were able to make recommendations, educate, and answer any questions I could possible have. See here, here, here, here, and here... And if that wasn't enough, when we finally realized that Will was gonna sit tight for a while and planned a date for Will's cesarean birth, he decided to come on his own, 2 days early, in an amazing VBAC delivery.

October was a thrilling month! Birth story still to come... (until then, enjoy this short video) Yes, again, God's will superseded our own. When will we learn? We also took a trip with our new little guy to celebrate my dad's birthday in Atlanta. I got to introduce my new son to my grandparents. What a wonderful visit.

November led us to celebrate my husbands 35th birthday! We went on one of our only dates since Jack (which will NOT be the case in 2011, we're making sure of that!) to see the band NEEDTOBREATHE. What a wonderful time out with my husband, and rest from the craziness of everything this year had been.

And what a wonderful December. This year we chose to donate in honor of our families to our local Giving Tree program. If you click that link, you can read about God's work in action as our church was able to provide a shed to our local police department to store all the gifts for our local children. We always do a grab bag gift exchange with my dad, stepmom, and siblings. Keith and I were honored by my brother and sister-in-law who have selected to sponsor a Filipino child/family in our name. The child is provided education, a uniform and supplies for school. Also, the program they chose urges the families to attend a church program regularly which allows the family to learn about the Gospel together and find spiritual fellowship and support. This was a great gift to us as we have a growing family of our own. I pulled my dad's name. I found it fitting, since he introduced us to CBS in 2008, to donate to their international ministry program.

CBS has been an amazing gift to our family; financially, physically, spiritually, emotionally... the list goes on. They didn't run a CBS study this fall, but we hope to get involved again in the coming years. What an amazing organization, and praise God for placing just the right people in it amongst us. The holiday was great, we spoiled our kids, visited with family, and ate entirely too much! (and we can't forget THE GARTH BROOKS CONCERT!!!)

2011 is going to be an amazing year. We are on the upswing emotionally, financially, spiritually... We have some great biblical studies that we have started, we are deep in educating ourselves on self awareness, and have also taken some steps to deepen our marriage. I've decided that instead of naming a resolution, I'll wait till Dec 31, 2011 and just reflect in hindsight on a year that was led by the will of God. It worked for 2010.