A Story to Tell…

Dec 3, 2014

I have a story to tell, I am not yet sure why. I might just be for me, to remember, reminisce, to know God is working and has plans. It might be to share with my children on days when they forget the goodness and love He has. Who knows, maybe it will be shared with a stranger, and they will also get a glimpse of who He is….

It all starts a few years ago with a couple of trees my father-in-law decided to buy us. Okay, well it actually started long before that, but this is when it really started taking shape. He loves trees, so he felt like we needed more. It was Mother’s day, so he took Mark out and the bought some trees to plant. I was excited because the one they picked for me flowered, and I LOVE flowering trees. There were a few others, and I will say that they were pretty, but my excitement didn’t come close to the energy my husband had from getting to plant these things… That’s where something strange started happening and I just had to sit back and watch. He found out that he LOVED working in the dirt, planting, growing, looking at the beauty all around him. I loved to reap the benefits of this, but I didn’t feel the same exhileration over the different colors on a flower petal. Something was clearly growing in my husband too! So, I started praying that this new desire would make sense and be used for God’s kingdom in some way.  Couldn’t really see how or why… Maybe we were going to be moving to Uganda to grow banana trees….??

A couple years passed, and our yard gradually grew into a flower garden that looked like we were running our own nursery. Mark was having so much fun planting and trying new seeds and bulbs. I was still curious what this new love was going to lead us to.

I remember the day he told me he thought he wanted to get into farming. To be honest, I just thought he was talking it through and not really serious. THEN he started looking for land to farm. Hmm… I still didn’t take it very seriously… at first. What in the world, anyways, farmland? I mean, I love the outdoors and green stuff and sunshine, but I am not really a country type of girl… right?? When he came home one day going on and on about some land he found, and then went to the bank to see about getting financing, I thought I better start thinking about it and praying.

God closed the door on that property but it got us thinking and talking more about finding land. I still didn’t know why. Maybe we were going to minister to the people that helped us work the land? I clearly didn’t have clarity.

In the meantime, Mark was praying for understanding of where God wants him in life. One Sunday, after pouring his heart out much more intensely than normal on Saturday night and asking God to give him “something” that shows him purpose, he is introduced to a business man that was “called” to farming. Hmmm. Not something you run into very often in Powell Ohio. They meet for coffee later that week. To this day, I am still not sure what his role is in all this, except to encourage these ideas rolling in Mark’s head. To say, “When God calls you, just do it.” It sounded so simple. He did it even though it didn’t make sense, and he immediately saw God’s hand and blessing.

As fall rolled around, we did what we do and hit as many fall festivals as possible. We LOVE fall festivals. You know, pumpkins, hayrides, apples, horses, sheep and best of all, kettle corn. I have always secretly wanted to have my own fall festival. We have had years of neighborhood parties and hoe downs… But that was always a bit of a crazy idea, so I kept that one to myself….cuz that is pretty far fetched, right?

Then it happened.  Like the chain of a lightbulb being pulled.  We were at a farm festival, enjoying the day with lots of other people.  At about the exact same time, Mark and I looked at each other like “Wait a minute, why not?” Why not use farm land to grow things, but also have some fun like all these fall festivals, but instead of just using it for fun, make it a ministry to people in some way…. Not sure how, or in what way…..   Now we are combining the things that we both have a love for. Working with the land and connecting with people for Jesus.

So the search continued. It’s not hard to search for land because there isn’t much out there available. And it’s either way too far away or way too expensive. We started realizing that if we really wanted to do this, we may have to be willing to actually move to the property and go further out. This didn’t sit well with me. Leaving what we know and love, and the amazing community of friends that are really our family. As we prayed about it, we both felt like we needed to stay close enough not to pull us from those we love so much, and our church that is really home to our family.   Not to mention, I really didn’t want to leave our beloved home. SO, I mentioned to Mark my criteria for me to actually move to the property: Needs to be within 20 minutes from church, have hills and trees. I said these things, partly because I felt like they were important, and mostly because I didn’t really think we would find this. Especially something that was reasonable.

The day Mark spotted the worn out sign on the old deserted horse farm was the day he came home and said, “I think I found the place for us”. I’m hard to convince and somewhat cynical, so in my mind I immediately said “Yeah, right, here we go again.” But I also know that we have been praying over these things so I told him to take me there.

Normal people would have turned the car around and not even gotten out. They would have taken one look at the dilapidated structures, rusting rooftops, and broken fences and ran for the hills. But, I didn’t. Instead, I started seeing things. People holding hot chocolates, round tables set for dinner, gatherings, camps, lights, a barn converted to a bunk house for people who needed a place to stay… I didn’t see it for what it was, I saw it for what it could be (sounds like how Jesus sees us!!) Mark teases me because he said I just wandered around with this stern look on my face, but I was trying to take it all in. And my reaction was scaring me a bit.   I could see ourselves on this property, and I hadn’t even opened the front door of the house.

Soooo, the house…After trompsing through the barns, Mark took me into the house…. It could have been in the same condition as the barns. It could have been a tiny trailer infested with rats and chickens. It could have full of moldy carpet and outdated popcorn ceilings. But it’s not. It’s partially finished with all the fun stuff waiting to be done. The finishes that make a home yours. Not only that, but it could be gorgeous. It’s plenty big enough for our family and the view out the back is crazy incredible.

We went home and prayed. And prayed. I would find myself driving out to the property, standing there looking at it all, and talking to God about it. “Why am I standing here, Lord?” I prayed many times. First of all, it’s not something we were looking for. Second of all, it’s more money than we would think of spending. For some reason, these things didn’t seem to matter. We started talking about it, dreaming about it (literally every night) and wondering. We met the banker and a contractor, still not sure why we were moving forward with it.

Sooner or later we needed to mention it to the kids, nervous about their reactions. They love our home, and more importantly, they love our neighbors, just like we do. We mentioned there was some land we wanted them to see. Didn’t say anything about the house at first… just thought we would take it one step at a time.

The kids bounced out of the car so fast and happy we couldn’t believe it. They were in heaven, immediately exploring and checking everything out. “Like” would not be the right word for how they felt.

When we told them about the house, this is where we expected their excitement to drop… contrary to what we thought, they ran through the house, picking out rooms and actually stopping to enjoy the views out each window….….. guess that is one concern is out the window….

We felt like we should throw out an offer and see what happens. We can always pull out, right? We gave one so low that we were surprised the bank even acknowledged it. Their first reaction wasn’t great and we had to wait the weekend for a counter. It came and it wasn’t even close to what we had in mind. We didn’t respond, but then the bank called back proactively, dropping the price to one within reach. “Oh boy what do we do now?” ran through our heads. And why am I crying with joy and emotion? Remember, I don’t even WANT to move.

We spent the weekend thinking about it and sharing our hearts with Mark’s brother and sister in-law. Through conversations we had with them, we left knowing we were moving forward with it.   Sure of our decision, but not sure of how or why. Now we would wait. Wait to see if the bank will even approve our financing. Wait for closed doors. Wait for God to say No.

Have you ever had an angel come to your front door? Me neither. Until a few days ago when one knocked on the front door. (Seriously, Lord? That’s pretty amazing service!) That was the day our earth shook. I was in the farmhouse measuring things, since in typical Otto style, there are a few “adjustments” I would like to make before we move in. As I’m measuring a window, a face appears in it. Someone looking around. I jump back and regroup, and figure it is another couple looking at the property. My initial reaction was to leave them alone and not say anything but since I had left Gigi in the car out front, I figured I had better go out there. Plus, by now, the guy is knocking on the front door.

He asked me if I was from the bank and I told him that our family had a contract on the property but he was welcome look around. “Nothing set in stone” I told him. He said that was great and that he was friends of our neighbor. Then he started going on about the neighbors being a great family, strong Christians that homeschool and blah, blah, blah. I don’t remember what else because I couldn’t believe we would be fortunate enough to live next to people that also loved Jesus. I mean, there are only two neighbors to chose from out there. I told him we did too and what the “angel” said next rocked me. “My friend who lives next door, Mark, has been praying for this property, that it would be used as a ministry”. Enter tears. Enter disbelief at what I am hearing. Enter the title “angels” to the couple standing in front of us. Not only is this amazing, but I also need to tell you what I asked of God as I fell asleep the night before. I laid in bed, praying for our decision, knowing we can still get out of it, and feeling removed from the property since I hadn’t been out there in a few days. I started wondering if we were nuts and making up all the inklings that we were supposed to do this. So I prayed specifically and clearly, that God would do “something big” on the next day “to confirm for us what we were supposed to do”.   I think finding out that our neighbors have been praying similarly over the property that we were standing on, that God brought them to our front door to tell us that, was what I would call big. Huge. Monumental.

There’s more to the story that we are watching unfold before our eyes. Connections being made and interactions that we don’t know where they will lead. But now we see it. Jeremiah 29:11 is crystal clear. God knows the plans He has for us. For what is ahead. We don’t. We don’t need to. But we have been lucky to have a little taste of the path that has already been paved. That years ago God planted seeds in us, a love for planting, and a love for connecting people, that now is starting to make sense. Stepping out in faith of a direction we feel led to just got a whole lot easier.

This is my prayer. I have already felt the first part. I want the second to be true of our family and I.

Genesis 12:2 “I will bless you… and you will be a blessing others.”

Jan. 4, 2015

Can so many things happen to let you know you are going in a direction that has already been plotted out for you? I wonder how long God has been waiting for us to figure things out!

One day about a week after we signed the contract, as we were driving as a family, we prayed that God would bring a Christian family to live in our house that could reach those in our beloved neighborhood that we could not. At this point, I shouldn’t have been surprised when the next day some of our favorite friends, the Berners, called to tell us they were interested in buying our home. Wouldn’t have hand-picked a better family to live here, breathe grace and share Jesus with everyone they meet. This is also such a blessing because one thing this unorganized mama was dreading was trying to wrangle my four crazy kids (three of which are in the house ALL OF THE TIME, making messes like a moving tornado 24/7) out of the house, leaving it picture perfect, ready at a minute’s notice for a showing. Yeah Right. Seriously? There is mold at any given moment in one of the 4 toilets in the house. Just today I scraped some unidentified crusty thing off the kitchen cabinets and vacuumed up 8 small pieces of Legos embedded in the carpet. To have the house sold without the hassle of the showing is worth thousands in itself, and the Berner family is clearly an “upgrade” to the neighborhood from the OttoGang. (As my sweet neighbor Mary once said “do your kids ever wear both shirt and shoes during the summer??”)   They have been here many times since and we have a contract with them, contingent on their house selling. As I write this, they are putting the For Sale sign in their yard. If I didn’t have the giddy feeling that exciting things were in our future, I would feel like God was kicking us out of our home!   I have a strange feeling that the Berner’s house will sell quickly…….

Their house was on the market for only 4 days when the offer came in. Not only did they counter and agree on the price exactly where they wanted to be, but the date Jordan was praying to close on was also agreed on. Amazing. Stinkin’ amazing.

I wonder what’s next…

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