It is an absolutely downpour here at God’s Whisper Farm today, and I love it. I’m still in my pjs, the puppy is on a cushion by my feet, and the cats are curled up on my bed upstairs. It’s pretty close to how I imagined it all these years.
Recently, a couple of people have asked me how I came to have this dream of a farm, and it’s taken me a while to think through my answer because this dream seems so very much a part of who I am now.
I’m pretty sure it started with my desire to have a timber frame house. I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina, and I always loved the houses there with their soaring ceilings, walls of windows, and massive stone fireplaces. But those houses were big, too big for me to live in alone or with just a partner.
I grew up on a plantation where my dad was the manager. My family – Dad, Mom, brother and I – lived in a perfectly sized house. A room for all of us, and a couple of larger rooms to hang out in. But the plantation house, well, it was huge, and it stood empty most of the time. The owners use it as a vacation home – all 9 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms of it. I try not to judge them for that, but when I think about all the homeless people I know or the people I know who have longed to own their own home, that empty house has always made me a little sad.
So when I started dreaming of this timber frame, I wanted to find a way to make it open to people, to share the space with others. It occurred to me that so many writers and musicians and ministers I know live in tiny spaces, often in cities, where they don’t have much room to breath and move. Most of them love where they live because of the access it provides them, but over and over again, they told me how much they longed to have an open space where they could write and play and think and wander.
And the dream came to life for me. I wanted to build a big timber frame house on a few acres. The house would have a master bedroom, bath, and office for me, and then, it would also include a couple of bedrooms for people to come and stay. I wouldn’t run a formal retreat center or bed and breakfast. Instead, friends could just come and stay – fend for themselves for breakfast and lunch and then join together for dinner. I would write and tend the grounds. Guests would do their work or just relax and help around the farm as they wished. A sort of come and go commune, I suppose.
Then, I heard pastor Jesse Johnson of Media Mennonite Church preach on the way that God speaks, specifically the way God spoke to Elijah. The idea that we don’t often get mountain top experiences with God, that often God tells us things quietly, through our daily lives. I sat on the lawn that Sunday (It was the church’s regular tailgate service.) and felt something settle inside me. This wasn’t just an idea – it was the dream, the way I was supposed to live.
For years now, every time I’ve strayed from this dream, put it aside for people or other ideas, I have felt unsettled, wrong, anxious. But every time I’ve moved forward on this path, things have fallen into place so easily.
Years passed, life changed. The dream grew to include a vegetable garden where I could grow my own organic cucumbers and lettuce. Then, I became enamored with alpacas and wanted to raise them for fiber. Then goats were in my visions, just little ones to wander the farm. All of these things part of the experience of people coming to rest and rejuvenate from their art and ministry.
Now, here I sit on this rainy morning with a farmhouse (which will be a guest house eventually), 10 acres that run up the side of a mountain, and plans for pole barns and walking trails, a terraced flower garden, raised vegetable beds, a chicken coop, goat and alpaca pastures, an outdoor amphitheater for small readings and concerts. A place where I can live as I would like to live – as locally as possible as simply as possible. A place where people can come to breathe and think and write and play, where we can all be surrounded by words and music and the good food of growth and conversation.
So it’s not an easy thing to trace how this dream came to be. I can’t plot it on a timeline or a map. It’s organic, real, true, ever-changing as are all the most beautiful parts of life.
I hope you will all be a part of it. Right now, I can only offer you a really comfy sofa on which to stay, but you are welcome. Always.
What’s your biggest dream? Where did it start for you?