One year ago yesterday, a family of seven- 2 adults, 3 kids, and 2 Goldens- arrived at Shalom Farm in Summertown, Tennessee. We had left Minden, Nevada nearly three weeks before that, and had been adventuring across the country as we transitioned from Westerners to Southerners. We were weary, tired, and ready to settle into our new home.
We pulled onto the road that would forever hold our address at about 6pm, as the sun was just starting to dim in the sky. If I’m being honest, I had been avoiding the reality of that moment of ‘arrival’ the entire trip. As we pulled into the state of Tennessee, I have to admit, a feeling of dread started to set in. When you’re traveling, you’re on vacation. You’re not headed anywhere. But when you’re ‘arriving,’ you’re about to land somewhere. For better or worse, arriving means something is ending.
And it felt like a lot was ending during that season of my life.
The overwhelming feeling of dread was only exemplified as the farm and the farm house came into view that May evening. I don’t know what I had been expecting, but I didn’t feel the same way I had felt driving onto the property the one and only time I had come to visit and see if it would be our future home. When I was here at that time, it was all sunshine and magical unicorns. But this time, it was something entirely different.
The house looked run down, old, dirty. The grass was waste high in absolutely every direction. 84 acres of waste high grass. I saw work. I saw long days. I saw my new normal. And it freaked me the heck out. I also- in my minds eye- saw snakes and spiders in that long grass. Like millions. Of course it was all imagined, but I couldn’t hardly bring myself to get out of the truck once we’d parked.
Fear gripped me. Pure, undefined, unavoidable fear. Of what? I wasn’t exactly sure- thus the undefinable part. Fear of the unknown, yes. Fear of the snakes and spiders, double yes. But also fear of having made a mistake. Fear of ruining my life. Fear of being too brave and too faithful that God knew what He was doing.
Can you imagine?
Thomas didn’t seem to feel any of this. He was thrilled. He was stepping into his life long dream and stepping away from nothing he felt attached to. And from what I can remember, the kids seemed excited, but also a touch confused. It seems to me that perhaps they were expecting something a little bit different as well. But I couldn’t show them how scared I was. So we went with excited.
I calmly told Thomas that I’d be fixing dinner- in the trailer, most certainly not in that house- and I’d be drinking wine, and if he could kindly make this place look different by the time I woke up in the morning, that would be wonderful. He could see the look on my face, and knew that he had better get to work.
That wonderful husband of mine, using a push lawn mower, mowed for about 7 hours that evening. I think he got in bed close to 2:30 in the morning.
He took a break after dark, just as I was putting the kids into bed in the camper- I couldn’t even brave walking inside the house that night, it would have just been too much- and told us to come outside. Smart man, the darkness cloaked the eye sore that was my future home. I got the kids in shoes, and considered even spraying them for bugs and getting them vaccinated before heading out for whatever surprise Thomas had in store, but I settled for just the shoes. Thomas led us out into the middle of the country road that led to nowhere, and instructed us to look around.
They were everywhere, and they were magical. It was one of those moments where you just know that God is there. When you just feel that presence and peace and know that He sees you and knows what you’re walking through, and He wants to encourage you to be expectant for what He’s going to do next. It was the first thing since crossing the state line that day that had made me smile that evening.
Last night, on the one year mark of our arrival, after the kids had gone to bed and I was relaxing and watching the Handmaid’s Tale, Thomas came in the house and asked me to come outside. He led me to the pig pasture, out past our backyard.
It’s the first night this year that we’ve seen them quite like that. Hundreds of them. They’ve been in the woods for the last week or so, but not in the grass and not in these numbers. And it made me think, ‘Could this have been the first night of fireflies last year as well? Could that perfectly timed miracle, the one I figured had been going on for at least a month before our arrival, started that very same night we got there?’
I mean, what if we would have arrived the night before? Perhaps I wouldn’t have experienced the peace I felt that first night in watching them flicker all around me. I needed that peace that night.
I look around this house today, the one I could barely imagine stepping foot into a year ago, and I see what has happened here. I see how we’ve reclaimed it, stood up to it, and risen to the challenges of it. I see how we’ve grown, bonded and most certainly laughed and cried over this first year. I see the trials. I see the victories. A lot has happened since that first night on Shalom Farm.
And we’re just getting warmed up.
We spent 40 days and 40 nights in that trailer, from the night we left Nevada until the first night we slept in our new home. After almost 3 weeks on the road, we needed another 10-12 days to reclaim our home from the spiders, pests and mice. We painted, we cleaned, we unpacked, and we battled.
Yes, we battled actual things in this house- I’m not kidding when I say spiders- but I battled the enemy in this house. I battle him still today within these walls. But we’re winning. In most ways, we’ve won. And in the biggest ways, we know victory is already ours. But the battle wages on…
It’s good to put year one under our belts. I think the first steps are always the most difficult. We’ve given 365 days to this place. We’ve seen summer storms, fall colors, winter cold, and spring beauty… and we find ourselves back here where we started. Only we’re not anywhere close to where we started.
Isn’t that the fun thing about anniversaries? They measure time, but they also measure progress. Trust me, the list of ‘to-do’s isn’t any shorter today than it was day one, but we’re making progress.
And I can’t wait to see what year two will bring.