I began the last post (called “3 Years Later!”) by telling you about Steve’s work at the fire station, the losses he’s had there, followed by him assisting medically in the church shooting. He’s been asking God for a few years to help him know when to retire, and to point him into a different career for this next part of his life, in addition to his bird taxidermy business. This post will show you how God has been answering that prayer for him and guiding the way. So, this post is the continuation of the previous one.
Just after the November 5, 2017 church shooting of Sutherland Springs, our church in La Vernia asked if we’d be willing to cater their staff Christmas dinner. It was going to be a 5-course, Downton Abbey-style dinner, indoors, for roughly 25-30 people. I just needed more silverware; I had everything else.
I went thrift shopping to find some. One place had a glass display case full of antique copper, brass, silver-plate… and a complete box of antique silverware. It was perfect, but I had to buy the entire case of other things in order to have it; things weren’t sold individually. I hesitated to spend so much just a few weeks before Christmas, but I thought I’d attempt to sell the other things I didn’t need. Here are a few of the pics I advertised with:
Surprisingly, even though I kept a bunch of the silver-plated items for myself, I sold everything else within the week! I even made a little extra money over what I spent. The timing was perfect. (Thank you God!)
I did it again, out of sheer fun and curiosity. And, once again, I sold it all with profit. (Remember this for later.)
Fully reimbursed, and with new silverware in-hand, we catered the church staff Christmas dinner on December 16, 2017. We moved out the living room furniture and brought in tables and chairs, and did our thing…
A week later we celebrated Christmas Eve (2017) with my family, Scandinavian style. It’s always celebrated on Christmas Eve night, and always by candlelight. I LOVE it. Then we have Christmas Day with Steve’s family. (All of the pictures lined on the long hutch with candles in the dining room are my grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents who came from Sweden and Norway who passed down this Christmas tradition and the food we always eat…I love tradition.)
Right after Christmas of 2017 we tried selling a few antiques again. Looking for them was so much fun, and making a little extra money connecting an object of history to its new owner was so rewarding!
It was the only hobby I had; some people shop, others play sports etc….I was buying and selling antiques. Whatever profit I made, I reinvested into buying more.
To my absolute joy, I was buying legitimate 1700s-1940’s antiques! I LOVED them! The only problem was that my “hobby” grew so rapidly, it soon became a small business.
Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a bad thing. It’s the American Dream, right? But in my case I was nervous that it may have been distracting me from my primary calling…
I confess; I’ve been keeping a very large secret from you (and feel sorta bad about it). Just when you think you know a person…WHAM….they blindside you with some unknown information; but, the time has come for me to share this, I think.
In the same way that God made it clear to Steve and me that we were supposed to buy this land and build the McGuire House and log house [blog post: “Welcome to Cottonwood Creek”], He also made it very clear to me 13-14 years ago that I had a book to write. It’s about what the various world religions and philosophies (including atheism) believe (and how each got started) compared to the Bible and Jesus, and what “Believe” actually means in the Bible.
I won’t go into detail right now of “how” He gave me this assignment (because the story is long), but I assure you...it was an obvious instruction rather than an ongoing idea in my own mind. And it certainly wasn’t my personal desire or goal to write such a book. I’m not a writer, and never ever dreamed of being one (though you’d never know it from my 1000-page posts in this blog). And, I certainly never wanted to learn the world religions.
After extensive prayer over it, hoping I was incorrect, God answered me in profoundly obvious ways that I really did have a book to write. So I proceeded to do the research and started writing it.
He didn’t want me to just be familiar with the teachings of the other religions and philosophies (and atheism/Darwinism, etc); I couldn’t merely jot down a few quick summaries about them. He wanted me to fully understand them and be able to teach them, comparing them to the words of the Bible. So, I did.
I’m keenly aware of how many other books there are on the market explaining the various religions. This is one logical reason why I was personally stumped and bewildered as to “why” He’d give me a job that had already been done by many others. But, when I asked Him about it, the words that came back to my mind and heart were, “The more the better.” It made sense, so I proceeded.
The God-given assignment to write the book began just months, or a year before we moved to La Vernia from San Antonio. Reese was barely a toddler. I was writing it while in the midst of building our previous house (featured in the blog post called: “Butterfly Fly Away”). In that post you’ll see pictures of the travel trailer we lived in while building that house. I would sit at the dining table of the trailer typing away on the days Steve was at the fire station (which seems so long ago now).
I spent about 7-8 (veeeery long) years throwing myself full-on, almost every day, like a full-time job into studying the religions. I learned from those who practice them, as well as university philosophy professors, books, websites, you name it. I was often up studying until 4am for years, when the house was quiet. I did this while also raising my girls, homeschooling them, building our other home, and doing the things pictured and mentioned in the “Butterfly Fly Away” post.
When I finished learning each religion and philosophy and wrote a chapter for each one, I asked several of “my teachers” to please read them to see if I learned those faith systems correctly; if anyone would know, it would be people who made a living teaching them! They each said I got it all correct, or told me the few suggestions I needed to tweak.
After I completed each religion and philosophy, we started building the McGuire House, and I started writing this blog. It was a relief to me! Building gave me a much-needed break from studying and writing such intense material.
Ever since we finished the McGuire House and most of the log house, I returned to the book. I’ve dedicated the vast majority of my daily life these past few years to finishing it, which is another reason for my blog silence for this last 3 years. Writing the book has definitely been my unpaid full-time job for about 13-14 years now. It’s written in the same tone of voice and style as this blog…conversational and simple; I don’t know any other way to write.
I told my husband Steve that it feels so strange to be with family, friends, or even strangers, and not mention what I do with 3/4 of my daily life. It’s just simply not a topic that I can introduce without it turning into major (and potentially uncomfortable) discussion. So in the interest of spending enjoyable and relaxing time with loved ones, I simply don’t bring it up; I figured that people can just read it when it’s done, if they want. If no one ever reads it, that’s perfectly fine with me; I’ll stick it in a drawer and move on with my life. I’ll know that I fulfilled an assignment God gave me, and I’ll simply move on to the next assignment.
Perhaps some people think I’m crazy. I know some will say that “God” doesn’t exist…that He doesn’t communicate…and that being “told to” write the book was all in my imagination, or was self-inflicted…
There’s absolutely zero question in my mind that Almighty Creator God exists…but I admit that I used to question many times if He indeed told me to write this book. In fact, I quit writing it three different times, months apart from each other, while living at our old house, because it was SO hard!
No one knew that I had quit, because I didn’t anticipate doing it; each time was spontaneous. Steve didn’t even know. But, “coincidentally”, within minutes of privately quitting…. EACH time (different days, and months apart from each other)… I unexpectedly received a letter in the mail, a sudden email, and a phone call. Curiously, each person told me that “God” seemed to be telling them to tell me NOT TO QUIT the book. Then they each told me that they had no idea “why” they were telling me this, because they couldn’t imagine that I’d ever quit it in the first place. (I explain far more detail about this in the book.) He prevented Jonah from heading the opposite direction of Nineveh, and didn’t let Moses talk his way out of facing Pharaoh (Exodus 4:1, 10, 13), so this isn’t unusual of God at all.
These 3 people didn’t know I had JUST quit! But God did.
I think the letter I received the first time shocked me the most; I went to check the mail right after slamming my computer shut, telling Him “I quit! No more!” The letter was there, freshly delivered, waiting in my mailbox. It had to be mailed 2 days prior…showing me that He omniciently knew my future decision and hedged me off, knowing I’d actually listen to Him and obey Him, and get back to writing.
How else can hearing “Don’t quit the book,” from these 3 different people be explained, when I hadn’t told anyone, including my husband or kids, that I had just quit minutes before?
He obviously gave me the task, so I’ve actively been completing it. It’s been a full-time job in the midst of everything else you’ve ever seen on this entire blog.
But now there was this new, growing antiques business, as well. I couldn’t imagine that God wanted me to prioritize selling antiques over writing the book. The antiques were taking up hours out of each of my days, to find them and learn about them.
Confused, I asked Him to please make it very clear to me if HE placed this new venture into my life, or was it something I simply stumbled into that was taking me away from the book and needed to stop? I love antiques, but I love Jesus more than anything else. He is FAR more valuable than an object of history, or the dollars I was earning selling them.
Selling them was fun for me. It was also a form of earning some extra money….
I don’t get paid to research or write the book, which has been a full-time job for over a decade. I’ve only done it out love for and obedience to Him.
And, we’ve never charged a single dime for housing any of the bands or speakers, or hosting the campouts, or catering all the dinners, or anything. Never. We only ask for reimbursement for food for the large events like catering or campouts. Our only income has been Steve’s fire fighting and birds.
Don’t get me wrong…It’s not that people haven’t offered and tried to pay us; no one has used us. Steve and I just mutually agreed that each of those events were God’s idea and plan, and that we were simply allowing Him to utilize our hands and time to carry out His intentions to bless and meet others’ needs….
So, receiving a small income through antiques was unexpected, new, and fun to me…but not if it got in the way of doing what He created and called me to do.
I knew how He guided us and provided all of the materials for the McGuire House build, and the log house. Therefore, I knew He could let me know what course of action to take with this seemingly growing new business, as well. I continued on with antiques while waiting to hear His response, with the faith that if He didn’t want me doing it, He’d simply prevent sales from occurring, because I asked Him to. I received my answer a few weeks later….
Our church unexpectedly asked me if we’d house another speaker. We’ve housed MANY speakers over the past few years. Most of them have a full time job other than speaking. One was a traveling comedian; two were traveling magicians; one had an online furniture business, etc.
Usually we know about their coming months in advance, but I only had a couple weeks notice for this one (which was totally fine…the timing was clearly God’s.) The McGuire House was available, so we said yes.
As we chatted with the new speaker, and got to know each other, he told me that he’s an ANTIQUE DEALER! Can you believe that?? It was NOT a “coincidence”….
God very deliberately inspired our church staff to hand-select a man who does the exact same thing I had been praying about, who also loves Jesus and listens for Him daily. God used him to give me an audible answer of guidance in my own living room. It was a direct response to my specific questions about whether or not selling antiques was His added path for my life. (Whew!) My church staff didn’t know I had been selling antiques, or what I had been conflicted about, so they didn’t deliberately select this particular speaker for my sake. God did.
I told the speaker what had been happening since Christmas with selling. I told him all about my book, how we got out here, and how the McGuire House and log house was built (everything in this blog). I told him I had been praying, asking God to make it clear if He placed this new gig into my life, or if I needed to end it.
The speaker shook his head and told me not to end it. He said God would use antiques to bless us and others. He said God would use antiques to cause others to find us, to hear our story about Him and Cottonwood Creek. Through antiques, people would learn that He’s real and communicates.
According to him, the antiques business was an added blessing…not a wayward path. So, trusting that God spoke to me through him, I proceeded. If I was wrong, He could easily prevent my sales.
Sure enough, since the speaker left, I can’t tell you how many profound stories we’ve already had with customers. He’s guided very specific people to us to hear about Him through their simple interest in an old object of history. We’ve also made many fantastic, new relationships/friendships, as well. I can’t imagine our lives without these new friendships (and you know who you are 💌). The blessings have literally spilled over. And, you won’t believe what He’s done with antiques since then…
I started selling the first things in December 2017 (the Christmas dinner), and had been selling for a couple months by the time the speaker came. By April 2018 (4 months later) we grew so much that Steve suggested we add a room onto his bird studio to use as my at-home shop. We ended up using half of the wood from the farmhouse we tore down (blog post: “Our Next Project”), and a repurposed cedar privacy fence that we picked up for free.
First we renovated Steve’s bird studio, because neither of us wanted potential antique customers to see his wreckage zone. Then we built the antique shop/writing studio. We opened it in May/June 2018. Here are “before” pics of his studio.
Steve’s new shop walls are covered in the old privacy fence boards, scrap metal roofing, and white trim boards from the torn down farmhouse. We already had everything else. (A little different, eh?) Now his bird customers can sit and chat with him while he works. We built that rustic console table from the farmhouse scraps, too.
We still have this same amount of wood leftover to use for the Scandinavian timber frame bed-n-breakfast (another update!).
I advertised each antique on Facebook with a link to our blog. That’s how any customer knew we existed. We had customers coming out daily, and we usually ended up chatting. Many have become lasting friends now. My antique shop grew.
In fact, I outgrew it within months!
It rapidly became too challenging for me to meet with customers out here while also concentrating on finishing the book.
Right about that time, a local antique mall in Seguin (Blue Hills Antique Mall) had a space come available (God’s perfect timing), so we moved a lot of it in there instead. They don’t want their vendors to work there, so it worked out perfectly for me and writing.
We started out in this small room. Some of my things went in here, while my home-shop was still packed full.
After the first month, the antique mall owner offered us an additional room…and continued to offer another room…month after month, as they came available; we were most definitely NOT asking for additional rooms!
Expanding made me very nervous every single time. This wasn’t my plan or dream… though I was certainly enjoying it! Assuming it was God offering each new room to us as an added blessing, we filled them. Before we knew it, we were in five whole rooms!
We finally emptied out our home-shop, taking it all to the antique mall, freeing up my days to work solely on the book and to take care of my mother through her surgeries, as well as the other things you’ve seen pictures of in the previous post. The home-shop became my writing studio.
We continued like that for nearly a year. While finding antiques to re-fill each room, I was also writing every day, and juggling all of the other things I’ve told you about: the speakers, bands, visitors, campouts, youth functions, Bible studies, catered meals, the Downton Tea and Mad Hatter for my family…everything pictured in the post “3 Years Later!”.
To say my/our life has been chaos is a mild understatement. But, a very very very blessed and wonderful chaos. Even though I sometimes feel very overwhelmed or stressed trying to keep all of the balls in the air, I wouldn’t change or stop any of it.
I had never had a personal business before, and have found over the past couple of months that I simply don’t have enough spare time to dedicate to keeping so many rooms full while also writing full time, and doing all the other things. If it weren’t for the book, none of this would have been an issue. So, I decided to close down all but one of the rooms at the antique mall, and feel a huge peace about it. We kept the very last room, but God’s timing for the first 4 was perfect at the time. When the book is finished perhaps I’ll re-expand again…if God permits.
This update is almost done. I have one last major thing to share with you.
During all of this change and growth, He’s also been constantly placing people in our lives…at the fire station, through bird and antique customers who came out here almost daily, and friends and family…telling us to put the McGuire House on Airbnb. I can’t count how many times we’ve been urged to do that…but, we’ve hesitated to act upon this advice for a few years, being uncertain.
We were mainly resistant because we wanted to ensure that the McGuire would remain available for the speakers and bands when they travel; they all have full-time jobs during the week, and willingly leave home all weekend…to use their musical and speaking skills to tell teenagers and adults in other states (and countries) how much Jesus loves them. We’ve adored hearing about their lives, their stories, feeding them, and giving them a mini-vacation out here, as best we could. We don’t want to prioritize making money over housing and feeding them. But God seemed to nudge us further into that direction, reassuring us it would all be ok…that He had it all worked out already…
We found out this summer (of 2019) that the management company who took care of our cabin in Ruidoso, New Mexico had been stealing from us for years. (Talk about feeling blindsided.) We were instantly surrounded by more people encouraging us to put our New Mexico cabin on Airbnb.
It just seemed to Steve and me as though God was patiently and lovingly nudging us into that direction repeatedly. So, we finally decided to try it….
Like the Israelites taking the first frightening steps into the flood-stage Jordan River [Joshua 3] to cross over into Canaan, and like the Apostle Peter stepping out of the boat into the wavy, stormy sea to walk on water to Jesus [Matthew 14:28]…we broke ties with our management company. Steve spent many weeks this summer renovating the bathrooms, and finished long-overdue tasks in our 1940’s cabin, while I worked on the book the entire time, watching him work and assisting him when he needed help. Then we officially listed it! Sprucewood Cabin in Ruidoso. Our blog post called “A Third Log Cabin” shows our family totally renovating the entire living/dining/kitchen area a few years ago.
The result? It’s renting more now than it ever has in 13 years with that management company! There hasn’t been one available day! God has taken care of everything.
The added blessing is how personal Airbnb is; we communicate with our renters and get to see pictures of them enjoying our home away from home with their own loved ones, which makes us feel SO good!!
This has comforted us, and better-prepared us to open up the McGuire House (and our current building project) to the public soon. We used the McGuire throughout the holidays to house family and friends, and now look forward to sharing it even more, beginning this summer (2020). Here’s the road on our land that leads back to the McGuire….
I began the previous post by telling you about Steve’s desire to retire from the fire department, particularly after the firemen funerals. He’s often wondered “what” he’d replace firefighting with, besides more birds….
This antiques business seems to be one thing God has provided, as well as opening Our Cottonwood Creek to Airbnb renters.
I informed you about the “Scandinavian Timber Frame” bed and breakfast two posts ago (the “Our Next Project” post). Even though God brought it to our attention 3-4 years ago, it wasn’t the right timing to start building it yet…until now.
Once we realized that it was officially time to start building, a good friend of ours contacted us, telling us that he had found us 150-year old, totally handmade barn timbers from Quebec, Canada!!!
Once again, God is bringing it all TO US, just as He brought the animals to Noah (Genesis 6:20) in order for for HIS plan to be fulfilled. The timbers have officially been dropped off onto Cottonwood Creek, through almost no effort of our own. GAME ON!!
I’ve taken close-up pictures of the hand-work done on these beams by people who chopped down the trees, squared them off with hand-tools, and created each notch and ax mark to build their barn. They’re mortice and tenon. The craftsmanship amazes us. Even the round dowels were handmade.
To honor the time it took to create these beams, Steve will carry on their intended use. He’s going to build the whole structure using only mortise and tenon method…0 nails.
The overall aesthetic and decor will be modeled 100% after the early 1800’s homes from Sweden and Norway, honoring my family’s heritage. The site is on our same 11-acres as the McGuire House. Construction has already begun! I’ll be posting updates here, as well as on Instagram: @OurCottonwoodCreek
We’re speculating that it’ll be complete in May 2020. ?? Then we plan to put both the McGuire House and the new one on Airbnb starting this summer. Maybe God has a different plan; we’ll soon find out, I guess.
We haven’t decided on a name yet; we’re tossing around “The Scandinavian” or “The Johanson House” (which is my maiden name)…. ?
I realize that this post is a LOT to take in!
I still couldn’t tell you “why” any of this has happened. It’s “normal” for people to have a personal goal or dream that they spend their days striving to fulfill.. but it’s the exact opposite with me. Never once did I dream or desire to be a writer…I’m simply obeying an instruction. We don’t make a single dime on this blog, either. It was never our plan, goal or dream to sell antiques, buy this land, build the McGuire House, and the log house. It was never our dream, goal, or plan to open our doors to house 5-member traveling praise bands and guest speakers (which we’ve LOVED doing!), or have 100 people camping in our yard and feeding them 4 full meals (which we love doing!). We never thought of catering multi-course meals, ever, and certainly haven’t ever advertised ourselves as caterers….though we’ve also LOVED doing that as well. And we haven’t made one dollar doing any of it.
God placed all of this into our lives, day after day, and it’s been an absolute honor and blessing in more ways than we can count….
We read about Noah being told to build the ark (Genesis 5-6), Abraham being told to leave his forefathers’ home and go to the unknown place that God would lead him to (Genesis 11-12), and Joseph being sold and taken to Egypt (Genesis 37); we read about Moses being told to stop being a shepherd of animals in Midian to become a shepherd to a nation of his relatives, leading them out of Egypt and on their way to their own nation (Exodus 1), which still exists today….
Each of these men had been living a life on their own terms with their own plans…until God made Himself known in very obvious ways to each of them, when it was time to, and re-directed their lives. He had a plan for each man that none of them saw coming or intended on. Jonah was the same way; he didn’t want to go to Nineveh, and tried to go the opposite direction. (Jonah 1-3)
I read these historical accounts through a very different perspective now than I did in Sunday school years ago. He’s still the exact same God today for me as He was for each of those men back then. He still gives very unexpected life turns and instructions, and provides for the fulfillment of each one He gives. ..
Like each of those men, I (we) have tried to cooperate with Him, to carry out His seeming-intended plans in my (our) own life. Perhaps I’ve/we’ve misunderstood or even way over-analyzed some along the way. But we’ve certainly loved every bit of it, and can only imagine what is yet to come.
Before I close, I just want to remind you that Jesus Christ loves you, and apparently wants me to divulge all of this personal information to encourage you, and show you that He has a plan for each of us, including you. The absolute ONLY reason why I’ve voluntarily divulged my private life and personal stories for the world to read is because Jesus Christ loves you, and made sure you’d read this in order to know that. I feel very much as though I’ve stepped out of the boat…into a wavy sea of uncertainty…by sharing all of this. (Psalm 96:4) I can only hope it blesses and encourages you.
Another blog I have of only short stories of His guidance is: GrettysGrapesAndGrains.com
Our Facebook page is: Our Cottonwood Creek