1,728 days ago (from today, May 4, 2017…my birthday!) I wrote my first post on this blog. Unlike (perhaps) other blogs, this has not been a money-making blog (we haven’t made a cent through it, or because of it), nor have we been seeking “followers”. We’ve simply opened our personal lives and home to complete strangers/readers online in what has now grown to be 116 countries…with nothing to gain from doing it; whoever reads reads…if you don’t, you don’t. The only reason I’ve written a single word…even from the very beginning…was to inform my reader (you) that God (Yahweh/Jesus) is real, very much alive, and therefore communicates, and guides, and provides. Our goal/purpose is to help you grow closer to Him, and reassure you that He can be trusted.
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
The Plan He has for each our lives isn’t just one big step, task, or “calling”, like I used to think. It’s an ongoing journey, filled with various directions that He sends us on (for more on that, read Numbers 9:18, 21-23).
Notice, the verse says “planS…for you”, not a singular “plan”.
We’ll be driving along in our days or lives, making our own short-term and long-term plans and agendas…and God will suddenly inform us (through visions, ideas, recurring thoughts, other people’s words to us, Scripture, sermons, etc…all lining up with Scripture) of upcoming or at-that-moment plans (turnoffs) that He has for us, instead. The question is, do we follow His plan and turn away from our own? Or vice versa. (Examples of this in Scripture is found in Numbers 13:29-32; 14:29-35)
My favorite passage in the Bible is of Peter walking on the water, in the middle of the storm, with Jesus’ help. Can you imagine walking on top of water? It’s an historical fact. The disciple, Matthew, was in the boat and watched it happen, and wrote about it in Gospel of Matthew, chapter 14. The other disciples of Jesus chose to remain in the comfort zone of the boat, afraid. That account struck me….
Years ago I told Jesus, “I want to be like Peter, Lord. I don’t want to be like the others who stay in the boat (comfort zone). Nag my heart and gut until I move. Don’t let me sit on the side-lines and ignore Your ideal plans for me.”
He has been placing out-of-the-boat turnoffs in my life ever since. I have 20 years worth of them (and have not only survived to tell about them, but ended up loving each one). This blog covers 4.5 years of them…
Buying this land, building a guest house, building the log house, selling our dream house were all very much “get out of the boat,” and felt like walking on liquid…foreign, uncertain, and scary.
None of these events were our ideas. In fact, we were both resistant to each “plan” as He first presented them to us….but we trusted Him, and climbed out of the “boat” of our old house and personal plans. The rest has been a water walk…doing things that my husband and I would normally have deemed impossible (for us), scary, and too unpredictable to offer any feelings of security. But we did it all, anyway…simply trusting Him.
Maybe someone out there is facing a “get out of the boat” with Him now, and is apprehensive. It’s definitely a ride. And, our journey of His unexpected “turnoffs” continues….
Back in January (2017) Steve and I stopped by a friend’s house to pick something up. What was supposed to be a quick few minute stop ended up being several hours and a tour of their wonderful backyard. They had taken raw Cedar branches and built an outdoor pavilion-type area. It was all make-shift…and I loved it. I was officially inspired. We had talked about building an outdoor pavilion for years, but there just hadn’t been the time, money, or priority.
We left their house filled with ideas, and talked about building a pavilion “some day”. But, for now, the ceiling on the porch, a deck on his studio, and fence around the chicken coop were next in line for “our plans”. Those were much higher priorities. But God had a different agenda in mind for us…which is why He (apparently) sent us to the friend’s house.
Not even 1-2 weeks after we saw the make-shift pavilion, a friend of ours (Sammy) called. He told me he had an idea that he wanted to run by me. He had been “visualizing the concept” of a men’s group being organized at the church (Grace Bible). It would be a group of roughly 12-15 men who each had a good relationship with Jesus, and were wanting to grow closer to Him. They would come to our house 2-3 times a year for a weekend of encouraging each other, going deeper into Bible study about leadership and the role of the man, etc. He said that part of the “vision”/concept he imagined is that I would cook a dinner for them. Each of those men, in turn, would be leaders of their own smaller groups of men to mentor and lead, who would also come out here to our land for Bible study and leadership training, and have that same kind of dinner.
I told him I loved the idea (which I did), and was totally willing to cook the meals, and Steve and I were all on board about hosting it out here…all of which God knows is the desire of our heart for this property. However, I told him that he needed to run it past our pastor first.
Sammy said, “Get this….”
He proceeded to tell me that he met with our pastor that week, and before Sammy had a chance to say one word about this “idea” to him, the pastor (Erin) told Sammy the EXACT same idea…about the men’s group, our house, me cooking dinner, and smaller groups coming out here, too. Every detail was the same.
It’s not a “coincidence” that two different men had the exact same “idea” to that degree, in the exact same week, and came to talk about it with each other on the exact same day. That’s how God works: “Now listen to Me! Even with prophets, I, the Lord communicate by visions and dreams.” (Numbers 12:6)
They hoped that the first dinner/gathering could be in April (2017) for about 12-15 people. I said “ok.”
It seemed the plan was set. The only problem was that we didn’t have a table large enough to feed 15. Our dining room wasn’t big enough.
Hmm….if only we had a pavilion? Suddenly our “turnoff” to our friend’s house seemed to be more of a Divine appointment than just “life”.
Steve said that we already had the logs and metal for the roof…to build a pavilion. The logs had been leftover from the house, and were just laying in our front yard. All we’d need to buy were timbers to hold up the roof. Normally, they would have cost thousands of dollars. YIKES. However, God…once again…put us in just the right place at just the right time to get some for only $300. Is that God, or what? He presents the Plan, and as we obey, He provides and paves the way.
We had no time to lose. We had 2 months to get it done.
Once the pavilion was up, we needed a table. God pointed us in the right direction to get all the wood we needed for less than $200, and he and our friend Jeremy started building it.
If this table seems LARGE…it is not an optical illusion. It’s 16’ long, 40” wide, and 911 pounds! It can seat 19-20 people. Oak. (And Steve and Jeremy would be happy to custom make one for anyone else who wants one…)
For weeks and weeks I planned the menu and asked God for guidance in what He had in mind for it; after all, this whole event was His idea…not mine. In my mind, if Jesus Himself was sitting at this table, I wanted to make Him a 6-course “gourmet” dinner. That’s just how my brain operates (….because I watch way too much Downton Abbey). But, I worried that the church wouldn’t want something that elaborate. So, I tried and tried to arrange a menu of fewer courses and simpler foods…(which might be simple and automatic to everyone else) but all I could think about was the 6-course gourmet menu. Nothing else seemed “right”.
While researching and pondering, I received a call from our friend who was organizing the men’s end of the event. Originally, the dinner was for the new men’s group…12-15 men. But that plan had changed over the course of a few weeks. The elders (deacons) of the church have an annual retreat. The church staff decided to let this April dinner be for the elders as their “retreat”, and to serve as a kind of “trial run” for the new men’s organization…which will now be here in October. She asked if it would be ok if the elders’ wives attended the dinner, too? I told her the concept I had, about 6-courses of gourmet food…and would that be ok? She said it sounded fabulous, that the church would cover the cost, and she was greatly looking forward to it! Done. Another “God-wink”; my answer. Now we were expecting 19 for a 6-course dinner (plus enough to feed the 5 of us serving it).
Jesus is all about feeding people and social functions. He attended weddings, went to dinners at people’s homes, and …. days after He rose from the dead (completely healed from the spear shoved into His side and huge nails driven through His hands and feet; John 19:34; Acts 2:23-24), He took the time to gather wood, light it, catch fish, gather bread, and prepared a breakfast for His followers with His own two (healed) hands. I LOVE that Jesus cooked for people! John was there, and wrote about it in John 21:4-12.
In the midst of the building and planning, my sister booked us tickets to go see her in California in March. We loved seeing Alcatraz, the Golden Gate bridge, Muir Woods, Sonoma Valley, her EDG office, and other beautiful sites. They also showed us a new tv series called Chef’s Table, which tells the personal lives of the very best chefs. Seeing their extraordinary creativity and plating made my head spin.
During our drive to Sonoma, they played French music in the car. Steve and I loved it and made a mental note.
We had two candlelit dinners at her house. They had a Corn Hole game set up in their backyard, which we all played while dinner was being cooked one night. We stuck those ideas in our back pockets, as well.
Once we got home, we finished our building project a couple days before the event. Drawing from the candlelit dinners and chef/plating shows that we watched in California, and Downton Abbey (I told you I’m obsessed), the table was set with silver and antlers…an attempt at “elegant/masculine”. French music was playing in the background. We even had enough time to build a Bocci ball court, which they played while waiting to be seated. (Corn Hole will be out there soon.) I’m so proud of Steve for the job he did on the pavilion and table.
We served cured and smoked duck bacon pizza, and marinated/grilled quail for the 1st course. Borrowing from our Downton-Dickens dinner (another post on our blog), we made Princess Diana’s salad for 2nd course, Curry-scented butternut squash and potato soup for 3rd course, the poached salmon with mouseline sauce from the Titanic for the 4th course, pork tenderloin with a cider reduction, apple slaw with fennel and cumin, and horseradish potatoes for 5th. Dessert was creme brûlée with orange liquor and vanilla. I wish that I had taken pictures of the finished plates, but we were all rushing with the plating, to get the food out while still hot. I did manage to get a few of the girls plating dessert.
The night was a success. My girls and their friend Calleigh were priceless with their assistance, plating, delivering dishes, and bringing back dirty ones. Steve played waiter, refilling drinks, telling about the dishes, and also trucking dishes in and out.
Was it hard work to build the pavilion and table, plan meals, and make all food? Yes. Was it “our” idea? No. Was this whole thing “our plan” for our lives back in January? No. Our plan was to finish our porch ceiling, finally. But, God inserted an unexpected turnoff into our lives, and we didn’t ignore Him or pass it up…even though that “turn” occupied our entire lives for 2-3 months. He saved us what would normally have been thousands of dollars in building expenses, gave us the physical energy and ability to get the tasks done, while enjoying the process. He fully compensated us for all of the ingredients, and even took us on a free trip to California to get further inspiration and rest in the middle of it. It only cost Steve and I “time” in planning and cooking, and building for it…which are our dream jobs, anyway. Now the pavilion is ready for future gatherings.
If it wasn’t “Him”, and just some VERY crazy “coincidence” that Sammy and our pastor had the exact same detailed “vision” about this men’s gig, including dinner… then Ok. It didn’t hurt us one bit. In fact, in the end, we have a great (inexpensive) pavilion and huge table to use for all kinds of thing in the future…we had a blast making the food (and got to eat it ourselves, too…for FREE). But, I can guarantee it was God.
Had we said “no” when this potential turnoff was introduced to us, and said it was too inconvenient, or potentially too expensive… and followed our own plans instead, we would have missed out on such a profoundly cool experience, temporarily inexpensive building supplies, feeling blessed, and blessing others….and wouldn’t have a now-useable pavilion and 16’ dining table, and finished bocci ball court in our backyard.
He loves you, too. In the Bible, Peter told us, “And remember that the Heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites.” 1 Peter 1:17
What’s His Plan for you?
He says, “…when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me. I will be found by you.” (Jeremiah 29:12)
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5)
We have 2 Instagram accounts, if you’d like to see more pictures. One is OurCottonwoodCreek. The other is a devotional Instagram. It’s ChoosingToBelieve. Have a blessed day!