Our Hobby Farm Adventure

Some seasons of life just pile.

Do you know what I mean?

Like all in one week you stumble across a real estate listing for a hobby farm, you consider taking in a medically fragile infant, you go visit your daughters’ first mom with them and you watch your house go up for sale.

Honestly, I feel a little raw and exposed and vulnerable at the moment, but I’ve learned that’s often the way life goes and it is these seasons where growth happens.

We lean on Him more when we realize the lack of control we operated under all along.

My husband and I have dreamed for years of someday owning a hobby farm.  As our family grew, so did our desire for more space and more opportunities to explore and create.

Our daughters have taken up the cause of this dream passionately and have invested much time and energy advocating, dreaming and planning for this one-day-to-be farm of ours.

Recently my daughter decided she was going to take a look at local real estate listings as she wanted to see how much it really costs to be a grown up and own a home.  This is all part of her recently developing interest and determination to plan, save and understand what her future may look like. (*proud mom moments)

My husband was guiding her through this process and when the list of properties popped up, one of the first ones on the list was…a hobby farm.

Of course, she immediately clicked on the link and as my husband hovered over her shoulder he tried to keep the astonishment from his voice.

Less than 10 minutes from our current home, still technically inside our small town’s limits, almost 10 acres of rolling hills, bush and scrubby pastures…

What was there not to love?

When he showed me the listing later that evening after the children had been tucked into their beds,

I let him know that there was plenty not to love!

Scrolling through the pictures literally made me sick to my stomach.

The property was gorgeous, there was no doubt…

but the house was outdated and cluttered with the excess of a life well lived.

Curled up on my couch in our beautiful, spacious, clean and modern style home I wanted nothing to do with this dilapidated home boasting 70’s style wallpaper and floral linoleum.

I realized just how attached I had become to this beautiful home God had gifted to us just two years prior.

I felt so safe here.

So loved and protected.

It had been our safe haven through a rocky two years, and I was not ready for that to end.

When it was given to us I had felt like it was an affirmation from God that we were seen and that He would provide for all our needs.

This farm felt like a kick in the gut.

Sure, I had dreamed of this kind of opportunity…but as we all know dreams are very different than real life.

I felt like I had just finally caught my breath.

Thankfully, my husband’s vision is much clearer than my own and over the next few days and weeks he nudged and cajoled me towards the dream.

Through his eyes I started to see it…that this really might be the opportunity of a lifetime.

My heart recoiled from the idea of more change and discomfort, but also strained toward the adventure I knew could be ours.

I could stay in my safe little bubble, or I could say yes to adventure and endless opportunities to create and explore.

At only 28 years old, was I really going to hunker down and say this is it?

I agreed to go check it out and we made it a date night, leaving the kids with a babysitter.

The house still gave me the same sinking feeling…but it also erased the doubts I had about there being enough space for us all.

When we got outside and began walking the property, the shades on my limited vision dropped away.

In the magical evening hours, sun sinking low in the sky, the farm lay around us in gentle hills, tall birches and sprawling grasses.  I imagined my children running the lengths of the farmyard and chickens pecking at the dirt outside the small shed.

We ducked through the doors of the old barn and gazed around at broken down horse stalls in the dim light.  The air was thick and musty, carrying me back to my own childhood days on a farm in Wellington County.

We hiked up the barn hill and turned in circles in the empty hayloft, a barn swing soaring in my mind’s eye.

There were falling down little sheds all over the place, hidden piles of wood and tin and opportunity waiting for eager small hands.

By the time we left…I think I knew.

It kept me awake for hours each night for the next week.

I’d wake up in the stillness and lay wide eyed, anxiety laying heavy on my chest as I tried to imagine leaving our home.

This wasn’t the plan!

I imagine He smiled, reaching down to stroke my brow tenderly as He gently, slowly eased the fears away.

Trust me; my plans are always good.

I grasped for something solid in it all.

If you believe what you say you do, you do not need to believe the lie that without this safe, beautiful, comfortable home you will not be happy.

What if the greatest adventure of your lives is staring you in the face and you are too afraid to seize the day?

A few weeks later, after hours and hours of agonizing, dreaming, praying, youtubing and researching…it is officially ours!

To give wings to my faltering faith, our home sold in less than a week with multiple offers coming in.

While at a conference during the week of our home going up for sale, a speaker introduced this acrostic for the word FAITH.

Fantastic

Adventures

In

Trusting

Him.

I smiled as my husband squeezed my hand.

It is sort of cheesy, but it keeps playing around the corners of my mind as we sign papers, take our kids to see their new home and dream up future plans.

Fantastic adventures in trusting Him.

I think God loves to show us pieces of Himself.

I think He must delight in our confusion and amazement at each new revelation of just how omniscient and good He is.

I think He must patiently wait for us as we stand quaking in terror at the tip of each new ledge, awaiting the moment when we finally take the leap and realize He has caught us!

And there, in those moments, when we have been filled with fear, overwhelmed with grief, crushed by anger and sadness or paralyzed with confusion…when those big arms catch us and shore us up…it is then that we learn to trust Him.

It is then that we see just how big he is and how His largeness fills all the voids and covers the distance between our dreams and reality.

It is then that we embrace our not enough for His more than enough.

It is then that we can start to believe that these stories we live are not ours, but His.  One grand, sweeping tale where He plays the main role while our parts come into perspective as merely sidelines to the main plot.

I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds.

~AF

 

 

 

 

Giants Fall

There are two books that have blessed my socks off recently.

The first is a title that caught my eye as I was wandering through a bookstore with a friend a few months back.  The title “Overextended…and loving most of it!” made my breath catch in my throat and I nearly grabbed the soft cover off the shelf.  The subtitle reads:

“The Unexpected Joy of Being Harried, Heartbroken, and Hurling Oneself Off Cliffs.”

Lisa Harper’s words spoke to my heart in ways few have been able to.  So much about Christianity today has become tame, logical, practical and sensible.  Faith is valued most highly when it’s carefully planned out, thought out, weighed out with pros and cons and calculated to require as little risk as possible.

This has just not been my story.

I’m a jumping off cliffs, intensely passionate, go for the gold kind of girl.  This is how God speaks to me.  In the middle of my deepest passions is where I feel Him closest; His heart beating strong within my own.  Everything that is there has been planted by Him and I love to be on His adventures…but sometimes I feel like I’m constantly swimming against the current.

Like there’s something wrong with leaping out without answers;

committing without the figures matching.

Shouldn’t I have a plan that wraps it all up neatly in a bow?

But what kind of faith has it all figured out?

What kind of faith makes sense to everyone else watching…or even me for that matter?

What kind of faith chooses the obvious, the safe, the perfectly within my comfort zone option?

You don’t need a big God to do that kind of faith.

I’m not even going to balance this out with all the thoughts that may be spinning through your mind right now because well…I’m just tired of those.

Is there anyone out there who wants to live big?

Is there anyone who believes in a God that makes all things possible?

Is there anyone who is willing to jump off cliffs and believe God will take care of the parachute?

The second book is called, “Your Beautiful Purpose” by Susie Larson.

Subtitle reads:

“Discovering and Enjoying What God Can Do Through You”

Again, this woman hit the nail on the head as she explored purpose, faith and a big God.  We really do not need to be hiding in these shells of fear, apprehension, confusion and insecurity.  God longs to free us from those bonds to walk in an abundant life that is full, beautiful, purpose-filled and covered in grace.

Recently I cried out to God,

“Please, God, if I am doing the total wrong thing here please remold this clay!  Please redeem this somehow and use it to fulfill your purposes.”

And you know what?  I’m ok with that!

He is perfectly capable of doing that.  And if that cry is coming from a heart that is sincere, searching and laid out before him like a blank page…I think He loves it.

We frequently talk about how small we are and how God does not need us but chooses to use us anyway.  We talk about how on our own we can accomplish nothing!  Maybe we should also realize that daring to step out in faith when we’re not quite sure of all the detail is not going to derail God!  You might just get to see how big your God really is!  I believe with all my heart He loves to take us on those adventures and to see the trust in our floundering leaps of faith.

This morning I was reading in Esther.  Mordecai’s words to his fearful, cautious niece always take my breath away.

“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such as time as this!?”

-Esther 4:13-14

The worst case scenario of Esther approaching the King was her death.  That really would not have helped the Jews at all.  In fact, it could have made things much worse!  She had logical reasons to believe the King would not appreciate her bold gesture.  But Esther chose to believe that her God was big enough to take care of the details.  She was willing to put her life on the line to be a part of God’s kingdom purposes!

Most of the time we’re not being called to put our lives on the line.  We  are asked to sacrifice much smaller things, like our pride, our popularity, our reputation, our comfort.

And guess what?

Just like Mordecai made clear to Esther…YOU ARE NOT IRREPLACEABLE!  God’s purposes will not be stopped by one little human!  When I decide to curl up in my shell and quake in fear or maybe simply say no, He has thousands of other options.  Thankfully instead of immediately getting frustrated He will usually kneel down, peer into that dark little abyss and remind me of all the reasons I should be coming out to join him…because guess what?

HE REALLY DOES WANT TO USE ME!

Not because I have so much to offer, or am specially talented.  No.  More likely, He wants to build something in my character.  He wants to show me something new about Him.  Or maybe He wants to see if he can pry my hands open to let go of those things I hold so dear.  My security.  My safety.  My logical reasoning.  My comfortable life just the way it is.

Do I want to miss that?

NO WAY!

I love reading stories about Peter in the Bible. He’s so brash and arrogant…yet so many times his passion and zeal are just so endearing. You gotta love him. In all his enthusiasm, he often misses the mark. For people like Peter and I, that means a lot of harsh rebukes…and that can be painful. But when God got a hold of that zeal, energy and ambition and molded it into something He could use, Peter emerged a whole new character.

Confident.

Courageous.

Humble.

All in for his Jesus.

God didn’t need to take away all that zest for life to use Peter…and you don’t need to throw all the zest out of your life either!

Maybe you’re like me, and you’ve known all your life that you’re just a little too over the top most of the time. Or maybe you have a son or daughter that is constantly living on the edge and you feel like they’re bound for some sort of disaster. Don’t give up just yet. See the potential for bold faith, courageous cliff jumping, and surrendered ambitions. Now believe with all your heart that when Jesus Christ moves in, He transforms even the wonkiest characters into something beautiful.

Cheers! 🙂

Love this song by Francesca Batistelli

“Giants Fall

Everyone’s telling you
To let go of what you’re holding to
It’s too late, too far
You’re too small, it’s too hard
Throwing water on that spark
Living deep inside your heart
With oceans of reasons
The things you’re not seeing
But oh, maybe they don’t
Know what you know
That you’re not alone

[Chorus:]
Don’t you be afraid
Of giants in your way
With God you know that anything’s possible
So step into the fight
He’s right there by your side
The stones inside your hand might be too small
But watch the giants fall

We could really live like this
Can’t you imagine it
So bold, so brave
With childlike faith
Miracles could happen
Mountains would start moving
So whatever you may face

[Chorus]

Ask and believe
You’re gonna see
The hand of God in every little thing

[Chorus]

Miracles can happen
Anything is possible
Watch the giants fall

Backyard Adventures

So I wish I could post some more photos for you of some of this stuff but until our adoption is finalized I can’t legally do that.  So…you’ll just have to be satisfied with my descriptions 🙂

I love to see kids using their imaginations and playing outdoors.  It is so healthy for all of us and it’s the sort of activity they don’t get to enjoy as much during the school year.  Recently I feel like the girls have really found their groove with the long summer days and are coming up with all kinds of things to do!

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, my husband has been working on building a tree house the past week.  He was actually pretty stoked about this since he’s always wanted a good reason to build a tree house apparently!  🙂  The girls were so excited about this and loved helping him.  I cringed as they wielded hammers, winced as they helped him saw and covered my eyes when it was finally complete enough for them to clamber up there…WAY up there!  Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea…but spending the last few years providing daycare for other people’s kids and being a foster parent for the Children’s Aid Society has sharpened my ‘safety first’ instincts!  I tried not to let my nervous squeaks ruin their excitement and pushed away the jelly feeling in my stomach when I climbed up with them the first time.  Is it safe?  Barely.  But is it fun?  You bet it is!  This is why Akeisha and Alexa need a Daddy.  I encourage and applaud them when they are adventurous and brave…but I’m not as good at providing opportunities for them to practise those characteristics.

It really has been tons of fun, though, this tree house thing.  It can become a pirate ship, a secret clubhouse or a cool place to have lunch!  Yes, that was today.  Tuna sandwiches, carrots and apples are so much better when devoured with grimy little fingers as we gaze around at green, leafy walls.  Even the chipmunks, who have been feasting on peanuts right out of our hands, managed to crawl up there and try to steal a few crumbs!  It makes me feel like a child again…climbing trees, brushing the dirt off my sandwich, feeling rough wood on my feet and going out of the way to make each little moment extraordinary.  There’s even a trap door, which makes you feel like you’re entering a secret hideaway!  Akeisha tied a rope to a bucket so that they could transport all kinds of treasures up and down.  She also tried ‘fishing’ for chipmunks from her leafy hideaway which resulted in one clever little chipmunk getting quite the surprise when his peanut wouldn’t come free!

 

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There is also still a little fort in the bushes that gets some attention, a bear trap that was created ‘just in case’ and a new favourite hobby…picking apples from the wild apple trees beside our house!  Every now and then we still catch caterpillars and put them in our bug buckets…though they rarely get attention after that so they have a rather unfortunate end.  Akeisha is usually the ring leader of all these activities and the past few days working alongside Daddy she became enthralled with the idea of ‘working.’  So yesterday all day I was her boss and she drove to work in her workboat, just like Daddy.  She was so cute all dressed up in Daddy’s big work boots, a Rockscape Design hat and a big sweater that covered most of her body.  She took lunch breaks and even did a bunch of jobs for me as my ’employee.’  Hey, if she’s into working and having fun I’ve got all kinds of jobs that can be done! 🙂  After making the beds, doing dishes and sweeping the floor she was ready to go back to pretending to work like Daddy, not me!  Lol.

Our poor little doll babies who got such devoted attention a month ago have been rather neglected, but every now and then they still get a few cuddles, a walk to the park or a diaper change.  Crafts have been a big hobby lately and this mother has had to grin and bear all the glue, string, little paper pieces and wasted tape that goes with that!  Most of the crafts have been things for the fort or tree house.

I am so grateful for the little haven we have here up at the top of a quiet dead end street.  We have a perfect backyard for kids to be able to explore, play and create despite it’s small size.

So much to be thankful for.

Alongside all these backyard adventures I am just celebrating every little sign of attachment I see in our daughters.  Today Alexa, mimicking the words I’ve said to her so many times, told her doll “I’ll love you always and for ever NO MATTER WHAT!”  She also played shy and stuck right by my side the whole time a woman selling books dropped by this morning, which is a great improvement.  The last phone conversations we had with the girls foster parents were remarkably different than a few weeks ago.  Instead of the girls needing to know all about their former homes and what they were missing, they were able to excitedly share about the fun things that have been going on here!  We are hearing mostly Mommy and Daddy again, after a few weeks of reverting back to our names, and they are even able to have conversations about their new last names without feeling quite so threatened.  Alexa has a habit of coming up to me any random time and saying, “Mommy, I love you.”  No reason at all.  No particular emotion to provoke it.  Simply I love you 🙂  She loves when I call her my baby.  A favourite bonding activity is to be wrapped in a big towel after her bath and carried back to her room.

Daddy still gets greeted with huge shrieks of joy each and every evening…and he deserves every ounce of adoration the girls give him.  He’s amazing.  Day after day he comes home from work and pours a truckload of energy into the girls.  Alexa loves her snuggles from Daddy, climbing into his lap after supper just like I used to do with my Dad every night.  My favourite quote of hers was one Saturday morning as she crawled into bed to snuggle beside him.  “You’re my warm and fuzzy Daddy,” she said as she rubbed his whiskers affectionately. 🙂  She has been a Daddy’s girl since day #1 and there is just a bond there that I love to watch.

Akeisha likes to get quality time and attention, like helping him build the tree house or sitting on his lap chatting.  She got to stay up late a few nights just chatting with Daddy and it was so eye opening to hear her questions and comments.  They talked about everything from house fires to school to her day.  She was amazed to hear that Daddy would come back in the fire to find her if he knew she was still inside, and once again I was reminded how much we need to voice those things.  When trust is just being built, those things are not simply taken for granted as obvious facts like they were for me when I was a child.  They love to hear us say adamantly how much we would miss them if they left us and how we would follow them!  They’ve decided once they’re big enough to be moms themselves they will live next door to us in the house that is for sale so that they will not be far away, and talk about saving up their money for that.  🙂  Right now I am listening to them play house.  Akeisha is the mom and Alexa is the child.  Alexa has just been put on a ‘time-out’ by her sister and Akeisha is carefully explaining why exactly she is there and what will happen.  Wow.  Sponges.  It is incredible to hear your voice being parroted back at you.  The other day Akeisha said to me, “Mommy, I wish I would have been in your tummy.”  We’ve had this conversation a few times.  When I smiled, hugged her and said “Me too,” I could see her beautiful brown eyes glow.  We have so much yet to cover about the life they’ve already lived without us, but in those little moments we understand who we are.  We are a family.

I have no idea why God has allowed me to parent these girls.  I feel so unworthy some days.  But it really is the little things that matter so much.  It’s the way I speak, the way I go about my day and the things I place at the top of the list.  Through two pairs of young, searching eyes I get the chance to portray a tiny piece of what Jesus looks like.  When I stand before Him some day, I know what I am doing today is going to matter.  They are golden opportunities.  That can feel overwhelming, but I also know that it does not all depend on me.  God chooses to use me, but He doesn’t need me.  He will bring the increase.

AF