My husband and I had our chicken epiphany about 5 or 6 years ago. The epiphany was the moment we tasted chicken that had been raised humanely, free range and was as local as we could get. The eggs were a richer color and there was just no comparison to the taste of the meat. From then on, we continued to go to the local market and purchase meat and eggs from the family whose farm was called New Creation Farm. We loved our trips to the market, but we didn’t take the time to really acquaint ourselves with the farm. I’m embarrassed to say that it was more of a novelty at the time – a way for us to feel good about our suburban selves when we opened the fridge and had scrambled local eggs for breakfast. It wasn’t until we moved closer to New Creation Farm and took weekend trips to shop that we began to understand that there was so much more to this family than just the chicken (and pigs and sheep and cows).
The essence of Pie it Forward is reaching out to people who have touched my life by offering a small extension of gratitude. My initial gratitude towards this family was of course, the food. We’ve been eating their food for years now and I am certainly grateful for the time and effort that goes into the amazing products. But as I was making pie and thinking about why I was so grateful, it dawned on me that my gratitude had less to do with the food and much more to do with the mission behind the farm and the family.
Kristen and Scott have NINE children – eight of which are adopted from the foster care system. While running the farm full-time, Kristen also works as a firefighter/EMS for the local township, they home school the children AND serve a meal every Sunday to about 60 men at a halfway house in Cleveland. If you follow the farm on Facebook, you get a very personal glimpse into their life. Sheep in the kitchen, dragging the family out of bed in the middle of the night to round up cows, bedtime at 4am and/or waking up at 4am, early morning road trips to deliver meat as far as Columbus and the list continues.
The remarkable nature of this family goes far beyond the daily ups and downs of running a farm and raising children, though. I have learned so much about grace from this family.
I’m trying to move past gratitude and towards practicing more grace in my life. Gratitude often happens AFTER you have something – you reflect back and are grateful that you have it (family, food, security,health, love, etc.). Grace is more difficult. Grace lives in the moment with you. You grant it unconditionally and you lead with it in your life. You offer yourself and others grace before you have been given anything. Grace before gratitude. What I have learned from Kristen and Scott is that through grace, you will find an abundance of things to be grateful for.
And that is where I land this Thanksgiving. While we fill our daily Facebook posts with reasons to be grateful, let us also think about preceding that gratitude with an extension of grace to ourselves and those around us. Because grace before gratitude rewards us with the joy of what it feels like to live in the constant balance of giving before receiving.
To Kristen and Scott and the nine children (and thousands more in the foster care system) who deserve nothing less than grace and a new beginning, may this tiny gesture of pie be a reminder of the lives you have touched far beyond the family farm.