I use Instagram more than any other social media platform. It's easy, and its become a habit to capture little squares and 15 second videos of our everyday to share. Because I do so often share there, our little life has caught the eye of people and I often get sweet messages of encouragement from those who enjoy watching our adventures.
The message today was a familiar one.
Something along the lines of Hey, I hope this isn't weird but I have been so inspired watching your farm grow. This is my dream. I want a farm so badly and I feel like God has put the desire in my heart. What do I do in the meantime?
I try to personally respond to each of these messages with encouragement. Its messages like this one, messages from the homestead dreamers, that compel me to share in the first place. Because I remember what it was like to have a constant yearning for a life that seemed impossible. I recall the way the yearning itself takes on the feeling of a dull ache somewhere in the region of your belly. I remember what it is like to harbor a dream, having no ability to make it reality. And I know the feeling of teetering on the edge of heart-sickness, the certainty that you are foolish for dreaming barely being overcome by the optimistic grasp of "Just maybe...just keep hoping."
I wanted a farm for a long time. If I called it a childhood dream, I wouldn't be lying. I specifically remember telling people that I wanted to be a farmer as a young girl and feeling crushed by their laughter. Surely they were imagining commercial chicken houses and mile wide crops, and the spindly, suburban girl before them hardly fit the bill of farmer. But I had an idea of something different. Something that involved a red barn and a big garden and animals bringing forth more life.
Like childhood dreams often do, my romantic idea of a farm got filed away as unrealistic. By the time I entered adulthood, I had set my focus on more acceptable goals. I'd be a journalist. A photographer. I'd sell my gifts to do family portraits and maybe if I was successful I could afford a horse or two, maybe I could have some chickens in the yard and rows of tomatoes. I had kids young, went through a divorce. Got remarried. And my sweet Miah, my second chance, saw the long extinguished dream and said "Let's take another look at that."
Just like that, it was alive again. A house in the country, a little land of our own, a small farm and real, homegrown food were again on my list of "Maybe, someday."
You know, when I look at my life, I am truly overwhelmed by the goodness and the grace of God. Not because of any single good thing He has done because He has done a lot of good things. But I see Him more in the areas where I got things right entirely by accident. When I fell in love with Jeremiah and when my desire for a little farm came alive again, I wasn't being a good Christian girl. I was struggling with sin. I was broken, angry and largely lost. I was overcome by anxiety and guilt. I couldn't list the books of the bible to save my life and my church attendance was nothing to write home about. But His faithfulness isn't determined by my faithfulness. His love isn't determined by my ability to follow the rules.
During that season, I started to read the bible. To be honest, when I started to read the Word again, I related more to the wicked ones who were mentioned than I related to the saints. I related to the seductress, to the adulteress. But somewhere along the way, I found myself in the woman with the alabaster box. I found myself in the testimony of Paul. Somewhere along the way, I begin to see myself as the redeemed.
Years went by. The desperation grew. I appeased the yearning at farmer's markets. I drove to local farms to buy raw milk. I learned to make cheese. I grew what I could in containers, and read every resource I could find. I subscribed to magazines about homesteading and followed blogs by homesteaders. I could tell you how to butcher a chicken before I'd ever even held one. I learned to cook from scratch, learned to make cleaners and be resourceful. I learned to preserve. I thought about a farm all the time. And all the while I talked to God. I sought Him. I dove head first into finding Him and learning what His kingdom was about. So much more than my farm dream came back to life in me during those years.
Then between Christmas of 2013 and New Year's Day of 2014, during a date night to the book store, over a cup of coffee and a book about backyard farms, I cried. To my husbands great bewilderment, on a rare opportunity for alone time and in a very public place, I cried over chickens and goats that I did not have. My heart felt sick. It felt impossible. I hope I never forget Miah's sweet face when he responded, "God knows the desires of your heart."
I wrestled with that truth. Really wrestled. And prayed, the deep kind of prayers that feel like they scrape the bottom of your heart. And just a few days later, while sitting on the bed of our suburban home, we thanked God for everything He had blessed us with and put the dream of the house in the country in His hands. It might take years, we agreed. Our kids might be grown, we resolved. His timing is better than ours, we knew.
I can't promise it always works out this way. It would be unrealistic to think it could always be so neat, but within three weeks of deciding to let God have His way with my dream, I found myself standing in front of a vandalized foreclosure on four acres with a price tag we could actually afford. Three month later, we signed the papers that made us homeowners. And a few months after that, I brought home a box of peeping, fluffy chicks. Every single day of the process was an excruciating battle between flesh and spirit, hope and fear, patience and worry. And every single day, His grace was sufficient. Every single step, He was enough and I was leaning on Him to get through it.
I know that isn't a direct answer to the question: What do I do with this dream?
I know it's a lot easier to direct people to wait and pray when you have the fulfillment of your dream in hand. But it's taught me a lot, it's changed the way I dream now.
Now I remember that God's timeline is way, way different than mine. Hugely different. Massively different. In fact, if I placed God's timeline next to my own and did a comparison, I might even question that they are even in the same classification. Yes, impatience still rears his head in the waiting. Yes, I still face frustration. However, I know that the twenty some-odd years of dancing around my homestead dream feel like a sweet process now that I milk goats in my pajamas every morning. That perspective applies across the board. Now when I think of writing books, another lifelong dream, I am able to keep in mind how sweet the process will be between now and then.
Oh, and the process. The process is our friend. Do you know, I am certain the success we have experienced since we started our farm is directly related to the time I spent hoarding knowledge and gaining skills in the waiting. Today I am going to make jam to sell at our farmer's market booth, a skill I learned with foraged blackberries we brought home to our suburban kitchen years ago. I didn't just sit on my hands and wait for God to deliver. I took hold of the vision He had put in my heart and made war with it, equipping myself and partnering with it to the fullness of my ability.
Let the yearning sharpen you. My goodness, if I knew what I had been asking for when I prayed for my life, I might not have asked for it. Five sons. Full time ministry. A working farm. Dairy goats. Horses. A huge garden. A bunch of chickens. A big extended family. The list goes on. Those things that I count as my biggest blessings are, without contest, the hardest things I've ever done.
But I wanted it all. Begged for it. Yearned for it. Persistently prayed for it. When it's winter, and the chickens get a cold and stop laying and the stench of the farm in mud season permeates every fiber of my skin and I have to buy grocery store eggs and produce and supplement all the feed, I remember how I cried in the book store. When my favorite goat dies even though I fought my hardest to save her, when the alarm goes off hours before the sun, when I get bucked off the horse and get a huge bruise on my jaw milking a first freshener goat, when I'm sunburned and tired and I want to give up, I close down the pity party and shout over it, "This is my dream!" I've learned that while this whole life is a gift, the waiting was part of the receiving. Had I gotten it all when I first asked, I don't know that I would have had the determination to keep going when it got hard. And it's hard. But it's worth it.
So there's my advice. It probably doesn't make you feel as nice as you'd hoped, but it's all I've got.
One last thing. One day, when you have your farm and your dream is in hand, don't forget what it took to get you there. Because there's always someone else three steps behind you. There's always someone else holding out for fulfillment. Give them a hand up. Loan them your testimony and remind them that God is no respecter of persons.
He did it for me, and He will do it for you.
And when heartsickness lurks, remember this.
He knows the desires of your heart. And He really does care.