Raising their four-year-old daughter, Indiana, alone, after Joey’s passing, Rory Feek digs deeper into the soil of his life and the unusual choices he and his wife, Joey, made together and the ones he’s making now to lead his family into the future. Now two years after Joey’s passing, as Rory takes their four-year-old daughter Indiana’s hand and walks forward into an unknown future, he takes readers on his incredible journey from heartbreak to hope and, ultimately, the kind of healing that comes only through faith. A raw and vulnerable look deeper into Rory’s heart, Once Upon a Farm is filled with powerful stories of love, life, and hope and the insights that one extraordinary, ordinary man in bib overalls has gleamed along the way. As opposed to homesteading, this is instead a book on "lifesteading" as Rory learns to cultivate faith, love, and fatherhood on a small farm while doing everything, at times, but farming. With frequent stories of his and Joey’s years together, and how those guide his life today, Rory unpacks just what it means to be open to new experiences.
Two years after the death of his wife and the close of his first memoir, This Life I Live, songwriter and "gentleman farmer" Rory Feek gives readers an update on where his life is today as a single father raising daughter Indiana, now four years old.
The format here is a little different to his first book, much more loosely structured. Still, it works. Feek shares even more details of his life with Joey as well as pivotal moments in his life before and after her. Some of the big ones being around daily lessons he's taking in raising a daughter with Down Syndrome, and the moment his middle daughter came out as a lesbian and the less than admirable initial reaction he had to the news.
Rory explains that while Joey was a master at traditional homesteading, his life experiences lead him to believe his personal strengths lie more in the idea of something he terms "lifesteading", or "growing love and life and hope in the place where you are planted." This struck me as simply implementing the French proverb "Bloom where you are planted" as a way of life... nonetheless, a cool way to go about living!
Lifesteading is about planting yourself in the soil where you live and growing a life you can be proud of. A love that will last. And a hope that even death cannot shake. Like tending a garden filled with vegetables, it too requires preparing the heart's soil and planting the right seeds at the right time and watering them and keeping the weeds of this life and the bombardment of the culture from choking out what you're trying to grow. For us, the harvest has been plentiful. Beyond our wildest imaginations. Dreams that seemed impossible in years past materialized right before our eyes. That doesn't mean there hasn't been disappointments and surprises. Some a lot of people already know about, and some I share in the pages that fill this book. But just because something different than you had imagined has grown doesn't mean that it isn't beautiful. It is.
Through this process, Feek chronicles his experiences and shares them with readers as a way to show others how to maybe find the extraordinary magic woven within moments and places of seemingly ordinary days. Once Upon A Farm also provides Feek a platform where he can give thanks to friends and family (by sharing their heartwarming stories) who have been so instrumental in his various joys and successes.
We also get to see a little more into Feek's creative side, such as the time he enlisted a friend to help turn a former Girls Gone Wild bus into Rory's new touring bus. The story Rory is inspired to write, from the POV of the bus, is weirdly simultaneously hilarious and melancholy.
*In this book, Rory mentions that the dog featured in
Our Very Own (and on the poster) was actually
Joey's dog, Rufus. There's a whole story behind how Joey
trained him to ride on the roof like that.
The format of the book features short chapters, so the book as a whole has potential to be a good supplemental piece for daily devotionals. Feek's stories here are all about embracing the now, including who you are in the moment. His own examples: how he is unapologetic about his favorite color being white (*Yes, he points out, the trouble with this has been explained to him. Repeatedly. He doesn't care.) and his favorite day of the week being Monday.
While the first memoir was more about just getting the framework of his life story out there, this one had a much more inspirational vibe to it. Feek's stories here do push for the idea of embracing the now, but he also encourages readers to make peace with their past as well, even our less rosy moments. Lessons we take from mistakes or even all out failures can show us how to move forward and teach us how to best love future loves.
my favorite chapter header in the book
A new addition here that wasn't offered in the first book: an eight page insert on gloss paper of full color photographs.
FTC Disclaimer: BookLookBloggers.com and Thomas Nelson Publishers kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.
By inviting so many into the final months of Joey’s life as she battled cancer, Joey and Rory Feek captured hearts around the world with how they handled the diagnosis; the inspiring, simple way they chose to live; and how they loved each other every step of the way. But there is far more to the story. This is the story of a man searching for meaning and security in a world that offered neither. And it’s the story of a man who finally gives it all to a power higher than himself and soon meets a young woman who will change his heart forever.
In This Life I Live, Rory Feek helps us not only to connect more fully to his and Joey’s story but also to our own journeys. He shows what can happen when we are fully open in life’s key moments, whether when meeting our life companion or tackling an unexpected tragedy. He also gives never-before-revealed details on their life together and what he calls “the long goodbye,” the blessing of being able to know that life is going to end and taking advantage of it. Rory shows how we are all actually there already and how we can learn to live that way every day. A gifted man from nowhere and everywhere in search of something to believe in. A young woman from the Midwest with an angelic voice and deep roots that just needed a place to be planted. This is their story. Two hearts that found each other and touched millions of other hearts along the way.
I remember following the Feeks musical story years ago on the competition show Can You Duet. More recently, I read Rory's blog posts detailing his wife's battle with cervical cancer, a battle she ultimately sadly lost. Not too long ago, I was sent Rory's most recent book for review, but hadn't read this first one yet. In the spirit of honest reviewing, I figured it was only right to backtrack a bit and take the story from the very beginning.
I am famous for loving my wife....All my life I have been anonymous. A nobody. Now I'm not just somebody. I'm somebody's. I am Joey's husband. Rory. And I am honored. So very honored to have been her husband. To have stood beside her at the altar and be standing beside her still when 'til-death-do-us-part became something much more than a phrase in our wedding vows.
This Life I Live does offer a behind the scenes look into the marriage of the Feeks, but it also offers readers a look at Rory before Joey. His hard-knock childhood being raised by financially struggling, emotionally immature parents; his stint in the Marines (enlisting for 4 years, getting out, then deciding to re-enlist to get money to buy a PA system); his battle with being painfully shy and how that affected his ability to be in healthy relationships as an adult; last name struggles; his failures and successes as a songwriter in Nashville. There's even portions on random topics he's got thoughts on, such as the concept of tithing... how his views on it changed and the benefits of incorporating it into one's life (even in ways outside of a church setting). Heck, there's a whole chapter here JUST on how he became such a devout wearer of bib overalls!
Medicine can't fix being rejected by a father. Only a time machine can unlock that door. Or an apology. And my father selfishly took that key with him to his grave.
Rory lays it all out... maybe to the detriment of his public image. I know I certainly had a different idea of him by the time this book ended! Some of the stuff he fesses up to fall under my personal "hard to forgive" category: hitting rock bottom emotionally and financially leading him to nearly abandon his then very small daughters, sleeping with a close friend's wife, being unfaithful to his first wife (Joey was his 2nd), leaning on Joey to teach him about responsible money management and save his backside from irresponsible money choices over and over again, even with him being a good decade older than her AND with two kids from the first marriage. Also, him writing of his Native heritage then shortly after going into an "Indian Giver" reference was an automatic star deduction from me. Over and over again I found myself reading these stories thinking, "Dude, you should known better... c'mon!" Highly disappointing and honestly, it dampened my enthusiasm for the rest of the book... but I did carry on. And it did get better.
I've said many times that I think I've spent too much of my life trying to write great songs and not enough time trying to be a great man. It's true. I thought success would bring happiness, but it's the other way around. True joy and happiness have a way of attracting good things into your life. And if you aren't already happy when you find success, it will make you more unhappy. It will amplify what's already there. It did for me, anyway...
I did the best I could... I did the best I could with what I had. That's not really true, though, for me... I could've done better. Made better choices. But I didn't. Something inside me kept me from making great decisions with my time, energy, and love, and something was a part of me. So, in a way, the old me couldn't have done any better. He wasn't strong enough. I forgive him. Me. I am disappointed in who I was. And I think about it and remember the mistakes I made and what they cost. Who they hurt. And I try, too, not to be like him. I am me because of me. No one else. My decisions brought me here, good or bad....
One problematic aspect of the writing though --- at times it feels like relevant details are skipped over / left out... details that would offer more chronological cohesiveness for readers. For example, there's a casual two page mention of him making a movie at one point ... but it was written in a sort of just-in-passing kind of tone ... where he describes a window of time spent writing & directing a Civil War era film... but nothing really about the inspiration of this film, what compelled him to start this project, nothing. Just mostly a "oh, we moved to Virginia for awhile.." Umm, seems like relocating the family for awhile to create a motion picture is kind of a major story... bigger than why one wants to wear overalls every day (like I said, THAT got a full chapter)!
Maybe that's how God's logic works. You have to be okay with not having something to be given it.. Give it away if you want to keep it... It doesn't really make sense on paper, but it works. And that's all that matters....
There were things I went through with other people... hard things... that were all for Joey. They were opportunities for me to learn something, so I could be ready when she came along. I didn't understand it then, but in time I would.
Rory's story, in the end, DOES offer an important lesson. His journey encourages readers to become the kind of spouse they wish to have in life. From the start, this man is upfront that he did get a lot wrong and will probably continue to have major fails, but when Joey came on the scene, he did his best to learn how to become the husband she deserved, and now the father their daughter deserves. Whether or not I agree with his choices (and let's be real, it honestly doesn't matter if I do or don't), I can respect this side of him. But I still have to say, without Joey... he might have been much less likeable.