Ok. WAIT. Breathe.
We aren't exactly selling the whole farm YET!!! But we are downsizing majorly. Bare with me as I walk you through this and whatever you do, finish this blog. But first, prepare you heart. I know so many of you are nearly attached to this place and these animals as much as me. I know you guys have lived life vicariously through me in the past years and these babies have become yours. You know the goats by name and nicknames, you share stories and videos of them with your kids, and personality. I KNOW... this seems crazy, right?!
So, let me unpack this for you, gently.
You guys know that I've been seeking God, shedding every layer of my heart little by little, pressing into Jesus through the process of grief and healing the past 2.5 years. I was on a search to find who Lauren was again. Initially upon losing Joel, I immediately lost my identity as- Joel's wife, a full-time caregiver, literally the one who had to strategically plan our week by the minute around his therapy and doctor and eating schedule, I found myself empty of responsibility and roles, besides Freddie's mom and provider. Now, I wasn't exactly all caught up in those identities, but they were what occupied my time and what my life was surrounded in. I had no time for friends, family, or even fun- this one is a little hard and embarrassing to admit. It's the vow I took when I decided to marry Joel, even if that wasn't initially our plan as a family for me to become his sole caregiver. I did whatever it took to give him the best life I could. So, when he passed, I didn't know what to do with my time.
I did know ONE thing... I had a dream. I had a dream that I started planning 10 years ago. I had a dream to own a farm with goats. I had a dream to let my home be a place of healing and refuge for large groups of people- to share the love of Jesus in a very practical way. I had a lot of bigger dreams, but we will get to that a little later. The point is that I took all my dreams and tried to make them happen all at once. I tried to make this farm the place of healing for everyone else. All the while, I felt Joel picked this place for me, because it is exactly how I described it to him long before he passed- a big white farmhouse with lots of character, a huge wrap around porch, and that perfect little red barn. It was indeed handpicked for me from heaven.
So when we signed for the house and it became ours, naturally, I drove to Fountain Inn and in true Lauren-fashion, picked up my first goat on the way home from the grocery store. No joke. I named our livestock dog Jo, after Joel- because I knew he would be protecting our herd and Freddie and me. I had a dream. And, my belief and God made it happen. Now, because I think in terms of permanence (another blog for another time) I thought perhaps I'd always be growing the farm in this tiny little town. I thought it would the place I'd be for a long time. Some of you even remember me searching for a man who would fill the role as my future husband that had very specific qualities who would want to be planted here at the farm.
Well, friends, we make plans and God laughs... right?
Have you ever had the thought, "Man... I'm exactly where I thought I would be at this stage in my life?" hahaha... Yeah... me neither!
The trip I took to Oregon that I wrote about a few weeks ago, it changed me- for the better. I tend to get the lines of what I want and what God wants very blurred in emotion. Now, if I take a step back, gain some clarity and wisdom and then look at it, it's clear, but in the moment it sounds very much the same. Before I went to Oregon my spiritual mom challenged me to give the farm and my dreams back to God. I laughed at her, respectfully under my breath of course. No, I really did. I was like "Nah this is the place I'll spend the rest of my life and I will find a man who wants to be here with me... or else he's not it." Bless my heart, y'all. I am so stubborn with such a simple mind. I listened a little more intently as she explained that God might have bigger plans for my life than this. And over time, I realized that my finite little mind had put God in a box, tied nicely with a cute little ribbon. So, out of reluctant obedience, I prayed on it in while clinching my teeth. As months went by, I had gradually surrendered it back to God. I had a life-changing experience with God on that trip to the Pacific Northwest, and the days and weeks following that led me back to His desires and His purpose, and pulled me out of the pretty little comfort box I had tried to put Him in.
I got to a point in my walk that I said, "God, you can have it ALL. It's all yours anyway. I am available for whatever you want to do through me. Use me for your glory." Lots of prayers like that led to a very open heart and mind. A friend of mine, at the time, sent me a book. It was called Evangelpreneur and if I'm honest, it WRECKED me in the best ways. I was immediately convicted to take one specific step that was so vivid I couldn't shake it. The theme: Freedom. I realized that I was living in bondage both financially and with my time.
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. It's always been in me, but this book (coupled with CASHFLOW Quadrant) put into perspective for me that I would be working the rest of my life to live paycheck to paycheck (even for myself at the state I'm in) and spend my life chasing things that filled my time that didn't fill me nor impact the world on the level that I want and know God purposed me for. It was time to make some changes. It was time to downsize.
Can I get real raw with you guys?
I have been running myself ragged on fumes chasing goats out of the road for years, rerouting fencing, and just trying to survive moment to moment. We got a fence earlier this year that helped keep them in but the monthly feed bill and vet bills were just something to add to the mix. I'm embarrassed to tell you the amount of money I have spent keeping this farm up. But that's the thing, I never thought there was another way. I just got stuck in the day to day. I didn't think beyond the present besides that one day I would be opening our farm to the public to provide healing to others. It NEVER occurred to me to sell or re-home any of them. The animals were meant for a few things- 1. Healing for me and others 2. Provide income for our farm/help manage the land.
There were several times along my journey the last couple of years that God pressed upon my heart that THIS place, this farm was meant for me. It was meant for my grief process. It was meant for healing. It was meant for quiet. It was meant for joy. It was all for me, which is a really hard concept for me to swallow. I am a helper (an enneagram 2) and my heart is to help others, so I rarely seek help for myself. I want to impact others, so instead of dealing with my own unpacked boxes, I tend to put them aside and try to help others unpack theirs. And I'm sure it has helped others to a degree, but I neglected so many times soaking in what God as doing through me so I would be ready and able to pour out of overflow instead of an empty cup. I've struggled, friends. Covid hit and it really put things on halt for me and made me face the music that we would not be opening our farm to massive amounts of people. And, quite honestly, I'm glad looking back. It was only in the quiet God was able to get me alone and speak to me outside the noise of a busy life.
I got home from Oregon and I just was tired. I was tired of struggling. I was tired of worrying constantly about the safety and well being of 70+ animals. I was tired of taking care of all this by myself. My heart was so heavy. God was gentle and patient with revealing to me that this place, these animals and this dream was only for a season. I think in terms of forever, because heaven is imprinted on my heart and I long for it in every aspect of my life, but I had to be willing to let God invade that space and remind me that forever is only found in Him. And, I had to be willing to give up this dream I had in this tiny town and realize that maybe the rest of my dream is somewhere else. It's beyond this current place. It's even beyond my wildest dreams.