Today I want to share about this adventure we’ve been on for the past year and a half or so, because it’s such a huge part of our lives. And I want to share it with you in the hope that it encourages you. There is a reason you have dreams and desires inside of you, and none of us have to be anyone ‘special’ to see them come to fruition! If God can use broken people like us, he can use anyone.
This past summer, we left the comfort and familiarity of our neighborhood and surroundings to move out to the country, and it has been one heck of an adventure… with both amazing and not-so-amazing parts! In a nutshell, we bought a 13 acre cornfield, built a home and a barn from the ground up, and basically are having to learn everything from scratch. Cutting down trees with a chainsaw, taking down beaver dams, turning a cornfield into a yard, figuring out well and septic, learning about tractors, getting excited about gravel driveways, preparing for our goats… these are definitely things that up until this point had never even entered our minds to learn about!
Most people assume that we moved out here because we’ve always wanted to live in the country… and that would MOST DEFINITELY be wrong! We like sidewalks, bike rides, convenience, and generally having neighbors nearby. We loved our home and thought we’d live there forever, or for sure at least until the kids were out of the house. We used to laugh when people talked about ‘living out in the country one day’ – like, WHAT?! Why would you want to do THAT?! Both of us grew up in the suburbs outside of Chicago and have never lived outside of a neighborhood. ‘Living in the country’ was NEVER on our list of things to try. ?
It is really crazy for me to track this journey, which has honestly been in progress for probably 8 or 9 years at this point. Nearly a decade ago, the seed of an idea was planted in our minds to create a place where people could come to get away from it all. Life and responsibilities can be STRESSFUL and overwhelming. And sometimes you just need to disengage from your everyday routine for just a bit. We believe God had given us a vision to create a place where people could come to exhale for a little bit and to experience His beauty and nature. We started getting confirmation of this idea over the years in bits and pieces. Sometimes it would be a phrase we heard or a Bible verse. Sometimes we’d read about someone doing something similar. I have journals with SO MANY confirmations over the years that this WAS a place we were supposed to create, but it seemed very far off in the future of ‘one day’. We would talk about it often, but it was always a long ways away and didn’t feel quite real.
Real Confirmation – The Time is Now!
This became VERY real when Brock was grading exams one day (he is a finance/econ/stats professor). He was sitting at the table grading and said, “Ang, come here. Does this verse mean anything to you?” On the bottom of her exam, one of his students had written, “The Lord is nudging me to share Zephaniah 3:17 with you. Have a great day!” We both looked at each other, and although it’s a nice verse, it didn’t hold any significant meaning to either of us at the time. He even asked his student if there was a specific reason she shared that, and she basically said it was one of her favorite verses and that God had prompted her to share it with him. OKAYYYYYY. Thank you!
So around this time, I had started feeling really strongly that this ‘place’ that had been in our vision for years was getting closer, and I started feeling like it was going to be a farm. What?!! I know. (I have all these confirmations in my journals, I didn’t just pull that idea from thin air!) Brock looked at me like I was CRA.ZY. What’s funny is that I could see it so clearly, but he was most definitely not on board… yet! But I felt so strongly like the time was getting closer and that it was going to be a farm, so I started pulling up farms for sale. I could see that we were going to have a barn where people could come and hang out and just get away from their everyday life for a bit. Brock (reluctantly?) indulged me when one day I found an open house for an old farm house and barn. It was about 100 years old but had been redone on the inside. It was a pretty cool house, but I literally could not talk when I stumbled upon this sign sitting on the chair in one of the bedrooms:
Did you catch it?! Zephaniah 3:17. This was about 2 weeks after his student had written that verse that neither of us had ever heard on the bottom of her exam. Truly, I couldn’t speak. Finally I squeaked out, “It’s the verse!!!” And although that wasn’t the house we were meant to move to, we all felt in our bones that it was definite confirmation that we were on the right track! What’s so crazy is that this verse isn’t very popular… it’s not like John 3:16, ya know?! As a matter of fact, my mom and daughter found it on a list of “Least popular Bible verses you should know about” or something silly like that. We all had a major sense that things were shifting… the question was, what should we do?!
When God Moves, He Moves
I could literally write a book of all the God moments and confirmations and things that fell into place, but shortly after visiting that first farm house, we ended up finding a piece of property in our school district with woods and a creek. Guess what my vision was? Something with trees and water ? There is almost NO land (acreage) available for sale in our school district, so even just finding this piece of property was a small miracle, and it of course ended up being perfect. Throughout this time, Zephaniah 3:17 kept popping up. Every time we were like “Are we nuts? WHAT ARE WE DOING?!”, it would show up. In a devotional, in a book, on the radio. Over and over and over. Every time we doubted what we were doing (which, let’s be honest, was A LOT), it was there. The way God kept confirming what we were doing almost became laughable because it was CONSTANT. In retrospect, I am SO THANKFUL for all those confirmations because there have been SO MANY times we would have stopped and turned around if we weren’t absolutely certain that we were supposed to build this place.
Something else God showed us is that not only do people need a place to get away from their world for a bit, but they need a place for community. Long before this vision started taking physical shape, Brock and I started hosting student dinners at our home (again, after being led in this direction – God often speaks when we are finally quiet!). Often we would have 30+ of his students over to the house for dinner. We could make it work in our home, but we realized that having a dedicated space for community and dinners would allow us to host dinners more regularly. When you read the stats of depression, anxiety, and disconnectedness among school- and college-aged kids, it is astonishing. We realized (again, through more confirmation the Lord led us to!) that through this space, we could provide not only a place to get away, but a place for developing community as well, which is something our culture and young people are desperate for, even if they don’t know it. That being said, the barn is definitely at the heart of our mission!
Setbacks and Roadblocks
I could fill another whole book with all the setbacks and roadblocks we have experienced in this process. SO MANY ROADBLOCKS. Literal blood, sweat, AND (lots of) tears. TONS OF TEARS. But again, God has been so gracious to provide direction and the means to accomplish what he is doing here in the form of people, resources, and timing. And this is why we are SO thankful for all the confirmation along the way because it would have been SO easy to take the easy way out and stay where we were!
That’s something else I want to share and encourage you with – even when you KNOW that you are on the right path, don’t be surprised to experience setbacks and discouragement. I don’t know why this surprised me so much. Like… ok, God, we are stepping out in faith and doing what you’re calling us to do… now isn’t this supposed to be easier?! Oh, how my faith has matured in this process!!! Setbacks do not mean you are on the wrong path!
As of now, the house is completely done (we moved this past summer), and we just finished the flooring in the barn last night. We have a few more things left, then we are ready to clean and finish furnishing the barn so we can USE IT! I don’t know all the ways God will use it yet, but we are ready. We are also preparing for goats, we thought they would be here by now, but the weather has not cooperated enough for us to finish getting the fence in. My daughter is in 4-H, so we are bringing her goat and a few of his buddies here to the farm, and we are SO excited. :)
There are SO MANY logistical pieces that have to come together when you are building a house, even more so in the country, so I will be sharing a series of short blog posts of the most common questions we’ve been asked about this process!
Thank you for reading about this piece of our journey, I hope it encourages you to do the things that have been planted in your heart to do!