The process of letting go of our old life and beginning a new one in our 40s has involved surrendering so many things to God. Not only have we abandoned our idea of what our lives would look like; we’ve had to let go of so many of the daily habits that kept us locked into our rigid way of life. It’s been a necessary part of what we believe is our transformation into the people God created us to be, but it has not been quick, painless, or easy.
The first time we went to our land to seriously consider the idea of building a farm on it, I stood in the middle of the beautiful oak grove, hundreds of years old, and smelled the pine needles baking in the sun. It was peaceful and quiet, except for the birdsong floating through the trees. It was hard to imagine anything but trees and butterflies living here, but as Nick explained his vision of where the barn would go and where the goats would browse, I took a deep breath and thought, “We could do this.” We asked God how.
He began by asking us to let go of our budget. If anyone knows Nick, you know that the man is good with money. He is a saver. We had been living off about a third of his paycheck, socking the rest away for his early retirement and our plans for extensive travel. Our savings account and our comfortable retirement plans were the first things we surrendered. Those went into fences, a barn, milking parlor, a creamery, office, milking system, milk vat, kitchen supplies, and living expenses. Within a year, building was done, milk was flowing, and savings were gone. We faced down the future, once filled with dreams of luxurious travel, now filled with unknowns and hopes that everyone else loved goat cheese as much as we do.
Then there’s control. Ugh, this is so painful to me. It probably will continue to be every day of my life. Through this process, we discovered that we were (and still are) both control freaks. We planned everything and had Plans B, C, and D if the first one fell through. We quickly realized that this new direction meant we had to let go of the illusion that we actually had power over our lives. We have to repeatedly hand it over to God, because we are constantly being reminded that we cannot, in fact, control the weather (thank you, Hurricane Michael), other people’s schedules, goat behavior and mating habits, or sometimes even our own children.
Also, pride: the lie that we can do it all, and we can do it all by ourselves. I’m still working on letting go of this one. It’s a false concept, and it had kept us frozen exactly where we were: inside our universes of one, where truth was subjective, we could play God, and things centered around our whims. Humility is pride’s opposite, and I will always remember the definition my priest gave me of this word: living in reality and knowing my rightful position in relation to God. By the time I stood in that oak grove on our land, I wanted desperately to live in reality, to be connected to the Earth, and to know my place in it. I’d had enough of doing things my way, and I was no longer comfortable trying to take over God’s job and govern my own life according to my desires. It wasn’t working anymore.
If you want to stay the same, stick with pride. If you want to experience real, deep change, pray for humility. God always comes through. This process has humbled us and continues to. It’s all well and good to talk about giving up a consumerist lifestyle, but it’s quite another to have to turn down plans for a girls night out or a weekend getaway because our budget will not allow it. My shopping habits have gone from frequent to non-existent. My children wear hand-me-down clothes (thank you, generous friends!) and I have stopped buying toys and many things we once deemed necessary. We sleep in a camper three nights a week.
However….we have more time together as a family than we ever have. On evenings at the farm after a long day working, we play baseball in our field or take walks in the pine forest instead of watching TV. We garden with our children now, reassuring them that it’s ok to actually get their hands dirty while they dig out carrots from the soil. (I’ve had to let go of my germ phobia as well. That happened the first time I saw my daughter KISS A GOAT ON THE MOUTH.) At the end of the day, we are all exhausted, covered head-to-toe in dust and dirt…but we are together and happy. I love bedding down with my family in our tiny camper, knowing we are all safely sleeping right there in the same room. It feels the way I’ve always wanted family life to feel: cozy.
It is scary to let go of what we thought life would look like, and scarier still to let go of all the ways we clung to it. But what we have received in return so far is immeasurably better than anything we could have imagined.