Authenticity. Reality. I think that was what drew us to our farm. Yes, it was badly run down. The farm had seen a lot of living. It had been used to raise chickens and pigs, to grow crops, to supply milk, to allow a tiny family of three with little outside income to live comfortably for years. The eighty-five year old farmer had told us when we noticed the huge stacks of firewood around the house, “In the winter I stay snug as a bug in a rug.” The tiny house had been a shelter, a place of love, heartache, joy, loss. No pretense, no desire to impress, just living out life in a simple, authentic way. We stepped into that history and attempted to continue the story.
On an instructor’s income, we had no money to spare. Most of what was done was by family (the boys were in Jr. High; Sara was six), and wonderful, incredible young college students. Sara and I fed the crew sandwiches, chili, and hot chocolate in those cold months; and in the summer lots of lemonade, ice cream, pie, and more sandwiches. We worked evenings and weekends. We cleaned out the top of the barn that had been filled to the very ceiling with hay bales.. Slowly, those who had bought the hay at auction had come to claim their hay. What was left after the bales had been claimed was mounds of loose hay full of mementos: old horse harnesses, buckets, mice, snakes, etc.. Meanwhile, Kansas State University’s InterVarsity had used what bales were there as seating for their “barn party.” Hundreds of students were to pass through that old and unadorned barn in the future.
The crew tore down sheds that were too decrepit to restore, cut brush, created paths and gates, built steps with large rocks from the pasture. The process of reclaiming and refocusing the use of the farm was a team-building experience because we did it together, in a simple and unpretentious way.
The open and natural expanse of land also beckoned my soul. As I walked in the pastures and through the forests, I sensed the presence of the God who knew my innermost being, the One with whom I had no need of pretension. He knew me better than I knew myself. Up on the top pasture or down in the woods I was free to be myself … to sing, walk, pray, worship, knowing I was loved and at home in His presence. I had been on a journey for years learning to be open and not self-conscious around others; but alone with God as my companion, I had always been totally at home. (to be continued)