God told us to build a house on our farm. There is no doubt that it was God. He has miraculously provided everything we needed and, as I will eventually share, even some of the unspoken dreams of my heart.
But the house isn’t the point.
Not even a little tiny bit.
I love our farm. I love the way the sun streaks color across the sky both morning and evening. I love that we live on a rambling flat stretch of land that feels like the prairie on a hill. It is so easy for me to feel close to God here, with the almost-constant wind and Adirondack Mountains sketched blue and gray and green in the distance.
And I know—I know deep down inside—that God brought us back here to heal some cracking pieces of my heart. This whole thing, all of it, is about God showing Himself to me and displaying His glory to those around us.
The last time we came home to the farm, we had been living in Haiti and our stumble back to America was laced with brokenness. We were more alive spiritually than we had ever been but we were so alone and so scared and so broke and… well, to be honest, we felt like we had failed. Two years would pass before we would visit Haiti again and would see the lasting effects of the relationships we built there.
In coming home, God and I worked at putting into practice everything I had learned in the scraping fight with infertility and the process of choosing to trust who He is, even when I am hurting. My husband and I put a herd of milk cows in the barn and I would spend hours a day there, with my pink boots on and my manure-stained barn Bible in hand. I put Romans 8 to music and would sing the words over and over, day after day after day.
For two years God worked at etching thankfulness into my heart. Not just acceptance of where I was, without the babies I wanted, but thankfulness for this brilliant, aching, hard place. I wrote three books and endless blog posts and God was real and present.
Now, years later, we are coming back to the farm again. And in some ways, I think I am more broken than ever. Parenting hurting children is hard. Dare I even say, it is harder than facing infertility? Or maybe, it’s just that I still have the infertility and now I have another hard thing on top of it.
Either way, putting the truths that God has taught me into practice is humbling me in a real and deep way. Facing my own lack of faith has been enlightening to say the least.
And dealing with the remnants of sin in my heart has kept me returning to Psalm 51, over and over and over.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a right spirit within me.
Oh, Jesus, cast me not away from Your presence.
So here is the part of the story that I want you to remember: this isn’t a story about a house. It’s a story about God’s gentle patience with me. His grace when I am floundering. And the way He uses everything, even a house on a farm, to show more of Himself to this so-often-hardened heart.
It was a rainy autumn day when we went to pick up our new son from the airport. I was nervous and excited and wishing I had done more to welcome him home. But instead, we were dealing with one scared and broken child while we waited for another one.
Our little boy came through the doors and I felt something catch in me. His hair was longer than it had been when we saw him last and he was clinging to a toy excavator. He smiled at us. Not his real smile, but a nervous one. I totally understood– mine was a nervous smile too.
For a month, we settled in quiet. It was us and our children and a house to build.
And as we pieced together the house, God pieced together our family.
From the wild moments of confusion, to the gentle moments of compassion– God began the intricate work of knitting us all together. It was rough. It’s still rough. But building the house together had been the best thing that ever happened to us.
I watched the children fight over how to carry the siding boards. They begged us to allow them to carry the boards alone, which seemed easier than working together, but we didn’t let them.
Board after board came to the pile covered in mud. One child would charge off without the other. The next child would throw the board down in frustration. They knocked each other over. They slid down the muddy hill, fussing in frustration. Amos and I scrubbed the mud off the best we could as we lifted them into place. “You both had better learn to give a little,” he would tell them.
I still remember the day they decided to listen to advice. Two months after our son came home, the two children carried a huge stack of boards over to the sawhorses. For the first time, they worked fast enough to stay ahead of us. We turned to congratulate them and were met with mile-wide smiles. “Mom, Dad!” our new son exclaimed. “You were right! This is WAY faster together.”
I caught my husband’s eye and we laughed together. It was so like God– building family from the remnants.
Suddenly, the house looked different to me. It wasn’t just something to stretch my faith, or a way for God to provide housing for our family. It was a tool that the Lord was using to take each of us and teach us truth about who we are. We are a God-built family. Piece by piece by piece.
And just like everything God does– it is good.
I will be honest, at that point, I figured the miracles were done. Our son was home and the house was standing. But God wasn’t quite finished. There was still something I hadn’t learned, and in His faithfulness He carried the lessons right to the very end.