I apologize in advance, because this is a wordy post. In fact, it will probably go down in history as the World’s Longest Blog Post (I’m sure that’s in the Guinness book somewhere), but it’s a story that must be told.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. – Hebrews 11:8-10
Many years ago, when we were first starting out in our relationship, Shawn & I talked about what we would like to do in our future. The idea came up that we would like to own some land. We dreamed about what we would call this land. I jokingly said, “Did you know that our last name, Hevel, is in the word heavenly?” We laughed and then said, “Why not? We’ll call it Heavenly Acres Homestead!” We had no idea how heavenly inspired that idea was and how, one day, God would show us how he wanted us to use this future land for His Glory.
Shortly after the idea of Heavenly Acres was born, we bought our first house. It was .11 acres and smack dab in the middle of a very urban city. We started jokingly referring to it as “Heavenly Plot,” but it was ours and we could finally start talking about what we would actually do with land, and a home, of our own. Surprisingly, we had never thought about, or discussed, what we would even do with all this future land. Enter our good friend, Christopher. He had met Shawn at church and asked if he could catch a ride with him to the weekend men’s retreat. On the way there, he mentioned to Shawn that he was a life coach. At the time, our personal lives were a disaster and we decided to enroll in his “boot camp” style program. He asked us what we wanted to do in the future, what were our hopes and dreams? We only had one answer, “We want to buy some land and call it Heavenly Acres Homestead.”
“Great!,” he responded, “What is Heavenly Acres Homestead? What does it look like? How will you use this property for the kingdom of God?”
We looked at each other and realized that we never really discussed any of this. He encouraged us to pray about it. “Ask God to show you what it looks like. Get specific. Where is this land? What will you do with it? God will answer you.,” he implored. So we prayed.
God answered us, but it came more in bits and pieces. First, God answered the where. At first, it came as a vague answer. We felt the Spirit telling us our future land would be in a city with the letter C. We were very convinced this meant we would be moving to Charlottesville, VA, a city we both loved. So we started to look for property in Charlottesville and planning to relocate. Then one evening I had a dream that changed everything. In my dream, we were tilling the land. I could see us working in the field and there were others working alongside us. As I walked the land, I saw our home but there were other homes as well. Small little cabins. I suddenly realized that these people who were working our land with us had been staying on the land with us. Then I knew that they were there to learn from us. They were learning how to provide for their families and cultivate their own food. As soon as this realization came upon me, I heard one of the other families ask, “where are we again?” To which another family responded, “Chattanooga.” Then, I woke up.
“Chattanooga?! Where the heck is Chattanooga?!,” I asked myself. I ran to the computer and did a quick Google search. There it was, “Chattanooga, Tennessee.” I looked at some of the images of the land around Chattanooga and was amazed at how much it resembled the land in my dream. I had never been to Chattanooga, and to my recollection had not seen any images of Chattanooga, so I was blown over by this. I picked up the phone and called Shawn at work. “I know where God wants us to buy our land,” I said. “Where?,” he asked. “Chattanooga, TN.,” I said. Then he laughed, and I told him about my dream, and we both agreed that we should look at Chattanooga one day.
The answer to what we would do with our land developed slowly over the next 5 years. While living at Heavenly Plot, we began to learn how to become more self-sufficient. We started first, by applying the principles of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. We purchased our food from the local farmer’s market or in bulk at the local health food store, and reduced the amount of pre-packaged food items. We recycled our dish water and used it to water our garden. We started composting and reducing our water usage, and we learned that we really enjoyed this way of life. Suddenly, the desires of this world became less important and we started connecting with each other, and our land, in a new, more meaningful way. We realized that we were both being given the desire to do this on a much bigger scale, and that on our future land we wanted to teach others to do the same.
Then there was the last question, “how will you use this land to further the kingdom of God?” As much as we prayed, we still didn’t get clarity on this question. But we knew that God would answer us in time.
So, over the next several years we paid off our debt and worked hard to prepare for our future land in Chattanooga. In the summer of 2013, Shawn’s parents told us they wanted to take all of us on a family vacation and asked us to pick a location. It took us less than a minute to come up with an answer….Chattanooga! Why not go see this future homeland for ourselves? We were almost 1 year from being able to move and had never even been to Chattanooga to see if we liked it! They agreed and in August we finally got to lay eyes on “the promised land.” Shawn and I arrived a day early and decided to go to the local farmer’s market. We thought we would take the scenic route and talk about our future property. We both shared with the other that we felt God wanted us to use our land to show other families how to live “off-grid” and provide their own food. We felt He wanted us to prepare His body for the coming difficult times, and that he would use our land as a way to minister to those in need of food and shelter, to prepare for His coming. We looked at each other in amazement, that we both had the same realization and neither one of us had shared it until now! Then we turned around a bend in the road and saw this:
I think it was that exact moment when we fully realized who was driving this whole thing. We felt humbled.
After a week in Chattanooga, we were smitten. When we left, it felt like we were leaving home, but we also knew it would be another year before we could move there. We felt like Caleb and Joshua when they went to spy on the promised land, and we wanted to take the land NOW. When we got back to South Carolina, Shawn decided to start investigating the costs of moving. Surprisingly, it looked like it could be affordable, but it felt like there was still so much holding us back. Shawn would have to find a job, we were tied to a lease on an apartment for 3 more months, we still had $4K in debt that we couldn’t afford to move with, our son would not have enough time to adjust to the idea of leaving everything he knew behind and starting over, it just felt like we had too many obstacles in the way to move. On a whim, Shawn decided to put his resume out there and see if there were even any jobs in Chattanooga. That was August 21st. On August 27th, he was being interviewed for a new job, and by September 9th he was officially an employee. We were moving to Chattanooga. The rest of the story will blow you away, so strap on your seatbelt because here goes!
Our first concern was how we would work out the living arrangements for Shawn’s new job. Would he live in Chattanooga while we waited for our lease to end in South Carolina? Where would he stay? How would we afford it? Would he be able to come visit us on weekends? While we were trying to figure all this out, Shawn’s boss asked him when our lease would end. After hearing that it would be another two months, she offered to let him work remotely from South Carolina until we were all able to move together! I want to stress, that she did this without knowing that we were wrestling with any of these questions. So that was that. We knew that God was pushing us to go NOW to Chattanooga, but we still had to tell our son.
A little background before I continue, our son does not like change. Not in the stubborn “I don’t want to change way,” but in the “my world is rocked when the slightest change happens and I think I’m going to lose my mind,” way. You see, he has Aspergers. A form of high-functioning Autism. He likes when things are predictable, and when they aren’t, it feels like his world is collapsing. When he was 4 years old, I replaced his “baby” dresser with a larger one that would fit all his clothes. He cried about it for a week and reminded me that he wanted his old dresser for 6 months before he finally accepted that they were gone. So we were more than a little apprehensive about telling him we were taking him away from everything he has ever known, and all his family that he loves, and moving him to a different state. When we finally did sit him down to tell him, we were shocked at his reaction. He was so excited he was ready to pack his bags and move right away. Even after we explained that he wouldn’t get to see his grandparents as often and would have to make new friends, he said, “that’s okay.” Stunned, I tell you.
So, with that out of the way we sat down and tried to figure out how we would budget for a move while still trying to pay off the last of our debt. We had been working for 4 years to become debt free and only had $4K remaining. We were really hoping to move debt free, but it was obvious to us that God was wanting us to move now, so we trusted that he would provide. Then it happened. God provided us with unexpected money that paid off the last of our debt. Out of the blue. It was almost as if He was saying to us, “Are you finished yet? You can stop figuring out how this is going to work because I’ve already taken care of it.” Finally, we stopped trying to figure it all out and just went with it, knowing that if a problem arose, God would provide.
So that’s the first half of our story. God had prepared us for 5 years and we were finally moving to our Land of Milk & Honey.
For the sake of your eyeballs and brain, I’ll tell you the rest of the story in another post, but I’d like to leave you with these questions:
What are you being called to do to fulfill your God-given purpose? When was the last time you asked God to give you a vision for your future? If God has shared with you a vision for your future, are you pursuing that vision or running from it?
I promise you that God has a plan for you, and he wants to share His plan with you, all you have to do is ask. And if you follow Him, He will blow your mind.