The line is being drawn
A piece of our homestead story
My husband and our, at the time, two children (who were then a newborn and a one-year-old) lived in a camper on a friend’s farm for several months in 2016. It was a time when we truly unplugged and sought the Lord together. This was way before we were Catholic and we were in a season of “wandering in the desert”, if you will. I will admit that it was one of the hardest times for me spiritually, but it also was one of the most rewarding times because of how hard I sought the Lord’s hand in our life. I honestly am trying to move back into that, but in a new way since becoming Catholic…and that is kind of what this post is about.
During that time in the camper, I was journaling daily with prayers to the Lord, which is a practice that has always brought good fruit with it. There was a particular day when Nick had gone to work, and I was sitting on our bed while folding some laundry…there was nothing set apart about this day, and yet, it has become one of the most set apart days of my life and walking with God. I will preface this by saying, I don’t know how those of you reading this now feel about God speaking to you in the quiet place, so it might sound “cooky”, for lack of a better word, to some of you…and that’s okay. Take it all with a grain of salt, as we should with all personal revelation!
The times when I feel that God has spoken something to me, it feels as if it’s a shot of lightning from Heaven into both my mind and my heart simultaneously, like He has supernaturally downloaded something into my spirit that could not have come from me. This particular day, while folding laundry and thinking of what the day was going to bring with my two little babies, He did just that.
“You need to stop depending on stores.”
I dropped my laundry and looked around because of how startled I was.
I heard it again.
“You need to stop depending on stores.”
I immediately grabbed my journal and wrote it down because I knew that this was a moment I wouldn’t want to forget. I knew that this was something significant…and something that I needed to share as soon as I could with my husband, so that we could pray and seek the Lord on just what this meant. It could mean many different things to stop depending on stores, and no matter what it meant, I knew that things were going to be changing. I just had no idea how, and to be honest, this is still something we are walking out.
We had many long talks about this small sentence that carried so much weight. We ended up living back in a brick-and-mortar home in North Carolina where grew a small garden in a few raised beds, doing the best we could with what we had at the time. It wasn’t until we moved back to my childhood home in Alabama during the shut down in 2020 that we really leaned into what growing a garden for your family looked like. We knew before we moved down (before the shut down happened) that we wanted to homestead. We knew that we wanted our kids to grow up learning how to grow their food and provide for their families, and we wanted them to see community at work in all of those things. With that in our hearts, as soon as spring neared, we started to set up our first large garden as well as getting our first ever chickens. Unfortunately, the time when we began our homestead journey lined up when everyone else started their’s, too…when the pandemic struck. It seems like everyone else wanted to stop depending on stores as well! We had a hard time getting some of what we needed for our homestead because there was a rush on so many things…what we needed kept being sold out or on back order. It was challenging! It caused us to really pray for seek God for the provision that we needed and for guidance in what to pursue during this time.
I was pregnant with our daughter during this time, and so in addition to growing a garden and chickens…I was growing our third child! I was 37 weeks pregnant when we processed (butchered) our first round of meat chickens. We didn’t have an electronic plucker, and so my husband and I tag teamed and did 11 birds one morning, and the next morning, we processed the other 13. I can’t remember ever feeling more thankful for chicken than after that first time of putting our own chickens into our freezer. I learned how to break down a whole chicken and vacuum seal them. The whole time, I am thanking God for the chance to learn…even if my feet were swollen from being so pregnant! I cried a lot over those two days, from both the general hormones that come with being at the end of pregnancy and thankfulness. It was one of the most difficult times with getting our homestead going, but I look back on it with a fondness. I’ve always heard that any good thing worth doing is going to involve hard work, one way or another…and I have found that to be true. I feel so close to the Lord when we are working in our garden as a family or taking care of our animals because I feel like I am exactly where I am meant to be, doing exactly what I am meant to be doing…doing the best I can to steward what I have well.
Another blessing that we have been able to have on our homestead is having my husband’s parents move from North Carolina to our property where my father-in-law is building a small home for them to be able to join in with us. My kids are getting to grow up on the land that I was raised on and have three of their grandparents all right there with them. This is the kind of generational living that I never knew that I needed, but I am so grateful that the Lord allowed it to come to pass for us. I know that my mother and my husband’s parents will be close as they age and come what may, we can be with them…and that is a huge relief. My own father has gone on to be with the Lord, but his memory runs deep in the veins of our land. The blood, sweat, and tears he sowed into the ground isn’t going to waste. All the years of watching and helping him spend hours a day in our garden or tending to our cattle taught me what hard work looks like, and it has made me want so much for my kids to see that lived out in my husband and myself.
There have been many victories through this process so far, but there have also been massive failures and hurts. There have been “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away” moments…those are the ones that are difficult to wrestle with. One of those for us was waking up to a huge loss. When my mother-in-law went to let our hens and rooster out to range for the day, she discovered that a predator had gotten into their coop and killed 13 of our hens and our rooster was completely missing. Over the next few days, a few more hens died from what we can only imagine were internal injuries we couldn’t see…and out of 25 hens, we have been left with 7 from that flock. We were devastated. We felt like we let them down, even though whatever got into the coop had to work for it. There have been improvements to their coop since then and we have gotten more sweet chickens, but that day will always be in our memories. I’m sure there will be more losses to come because that is just the luck of the draw sometimes…those are the times when you have see that you are never truly in control- you just do the best you can with what you’ve got and shower all of that in prayer and thanksgiving to the One who allowed you to have it to begin with.
We’ve had times when our vision has faded slightly, which made it easy to place the words that were spoken to me on a shelf for a time. Sometimes that happens. We are human, and this world is full of distractions. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and that can definitely include the hopes and dreams that the Lord has planted within us. If we don’t strive to cultivate those things with Him daily, we risk the enemy sneaking in and wrecking havoc. If that happens, we can rest assured that the Lord is waiting with His hand outstretched to help pick us up when we have fallen (and we indeed will fall from time to time), and He will help renew those hopes and dreams in us and work with us to bring them to fruition. If He began the good work in us, He will see it through. He doesn’t start something without intending on being able to say, “It is finished.”
With all that is going on in the world, I can look around and understand now why I heard the Lord tell me that day to stop depending on stores. I see that it’s not just about just being able to provide food…but also, seeing how these stores are drawing a very clear line of morality and realizing that we must pick a side to stand on. It means learning skills that my ancestors knew so that I may take care of my family in the times to come (food preservation, sewing, gardening, etc). It means being willing to teach others what we have come to know and invite them into this vision we have that we feel is from the Lord, about what it means to live in community with one another and drink deeply of the message of the Gospel together. It means weaving our faith and livelihood together and living a set apart life in these confusing times. It means deciding which side of the line you want to be on when either our time comes to die or Christ returns to set all things right. I never thought “stop depending on stores” could mean so many different things, but I am grateful that I held on to those words.
A scripture that the Lord had brought to me when Nick and I first were married has always been at the heart of all our homestead hopes and dreams of community. When the Lord brought it to me, I told my husband about it…and it turns out that this very scripture has been huge for his family for years before he and I ever got married.
Is this not the fast that I choose:
To release the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the ropes of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free,
And break every yoke?
Is it not to break your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will spring up quickly;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
You will cry for help, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
And if you offer yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the need of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness,
And your gloom will become like midday.
And the Lord will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
Whatever we do on this homestead…this must be the center. Christ MUST be the center. He can’t be back burner if we want to live in such a radical way…if we want to feed those around us, may we feed them physical and spiritual food! I pray that we are a place where those who are thirsty may come and realize where the deeper well with everlasting water truly is.
We also have such a great hope for a Catholic community to spring up around us…and in a sense, that to me is like rebuilding ancient ruins and raising up age-old foundations. I desperately want to partner with the Lord in repairing the breach. The area where we live is not very receptive to the Catholic church and thinks many false things about it, as I once did. I pray that through our homestead being devoted to the Lord, we will be able to live in such a way that those around us will see the hand of God in our homestead and we will be able to open that conversation with our community about what Catholicism really is.
We have hope to turn our woods into a place of prayer and contemplation. We have hope for our land to be a place for people to gather to pray the Liturgy of the Hours together. We have some big hopes…but it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32). In making some sacrifices that are hard for the sake of His kingdom, we are creating treasures in Heaven…and we are doing our small part in seeing His Kingdom come. It’s all worth it…every loss, every victory, every pain, every pleasure that brings us closer to Him. Stewarding our land in such a way that those around us see and feel God’s presence is our goal…for Him to be made known. We pray others join us for the ride.
Even if you aren’t homesteading, the main thing I want for you to come away from this post is this: there is a line being drawn, and as followers of Christ, we need to be aware of what side of that line we are on. I urge you to seek the Lord in prayer on what He may have you do during this time! Ask Him how best you may serve His purpose. We all have a call to be a part of the building of His Kingdom…and He is faithful to guide us. The Lord will lead you in the direction you should go, and wherever that is, be sure to work hard for what is right and just.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will advise you with My eye upon you.
May we all meet each other in our Father’s eternal garden one day!