I want to share with you all, a true story of a life once broken and yet beautifully restored by the Master Craftsman himself. It’s a story which culminates in a particular testimony of his provision, but which first needs a framework of a life offered into his hands. Grab a cuppa and settle down to hear the testimony of a girl who gave her life to Jesus.
I have known our living God, Jesus Christ for nearly 30 years and knowing him has revolutionised my life. The more I have laid my life in his hands and trusted it to him, the more he has entered into my life and filled it with his plans, his love and his peace.
There was a time when I dreamed of an easy, safe life. A life without risk, a life I could predict, a life where my heart could not be broken. You see Mum died when I was 14, my heart chose to stop feeling; when pain is that great it is hard for a child to process it, and so I locked away the pain, along with my heart. Eight months later I met Christ. I was alone at home and in my brokenness I found a booklet left out by my sister, who was a Christian. The booklet explained the way to Christ. The words jumped out of the page and I knew them to be true. At that moment I gave my life to him. From that time on, Jesus and I have ridden a rollercoaster together; he has held my hand through the highs and the lows, sometimes I have closed my eyes as the ride has taken my breath away, but he has never left me.
Throughout my teenage years I gave my love to Christ, but not to any other, so afraid was I of losing anyone else whom I loved. Then I met the man who was to be my husband and everything changed. Step by step I learnt to love and as we fell in love with each other, we fell deeper in love with God. God was drawing us together as he had a very special plan for us. He took two sinners with plans of their own, he ripped those up and asked them to trust him. Day by day we are learning to trust, to step out in faith, and he continually proves to us that he is more than able to make our offering into something beautiful.
We never planned on having a big family, four children was the most we ever talked about, but God had other plans! He gradually opened up our eyes to the beauty of trusting him with our family size and, baby by baby, we learnt again that he has the best plan. We sent our first two boys to school, but again God intervened. I first caught the vision for home education and shared it with Phil, who promptly reminded me that we were conventional and would not be doing that! I persisted with my request for a while, but eventually he asked me to not bring it up again, and so I just prayed. I asked God that if it was his will that we should home educate, then please could he get Phil to ask me if we could home educate. Miraculously, two months later, with hardly another word from me, that’s just what he did. Twelve years later and we have never looked back. On the hardest days we know that this is God’s will for us. I did not have to pressure Phil into it, the Holy Spirit is far stronger than me and any nagging I would have done would have been counterproductive. I was learning to surrender to God’s ways.
Eight babies later and our 1500 sq ft house was bursting at the seams. We do not have quiet children; they are energetic and immensely creative and practical, they needed space to move, explore and create. God knows them better than we do though and had a great plan, but this was to be our greatest test yet. Oh how we struggled through this one, but oh what a testimony we have to share!
From the time we decided to move house until we finally moved into our new home, was 2 years. That was 2 years of God reassuring us that this was his plan and even when it looked completely unlikely that it would work out, we were to hold on. Often Phil would ask me what I thought God wanted us to do and all I could gather was that he wanted us to wait. It wasn’t much to go on, but we held onto that word.
We found a house we thought could be right, but that quickly fell through. God did not waste this disappointment though. During our visit to the property, God had given me a vision, a vision of a courtyard with different rooms off it, a barn for community activities and workshops for woodwork, clay and sewing, I saw other people using our property – a sort of refuge from the world. As God closed the door of that property, I stored up that vision in my heart. Seven months later the property which fulfilled that vision was revealed to us.
We had decided that the best way to choose our new home would be to find a church first and then find the house. As I was browsing the Internet one evening I happened upon this property for sale, only 4 miles from our chosen church. My eyes were immediately drawn to the barn complex and I knew this could be the property God was calling us to. We immediately arranged a viewing. With eight children in tow and a 4 hour journey in the minibus, we visited the house. It seemed to me like a house in waiting, a house not yet fulfilling its created purpose, in fact even the owner caught our vision and understood our heart’s desire to fill this home with love. I knew this was what God had shown me 7 months earlier and so our focus became greater for selling our property to buy this one. We thought this was it and we would now be released to move, but God, as ever, had other plans.
In the meantime we had our ninth baby. Our daughter was born safely into her Daddy’s arms, in our living room, as she arrived before the midwife did! With a newborn baby we continued to tidy our house for viewings, each time building up our hopes and each time being told no, it was not for them. The house we had set our heart on was still for sale and so we held on in hope. We contacted the sellers to see it they had had any other interest in their property and they told us they had turned down four other offers because they believed we were the right family for the house, wow! It was amazing because they didn’t share our faith and yet God had touched their hearts.
As weeks rolled by we continued to drop the price of our house with the hope of a sale, but only to be continually disappointed. Why had God given us such a vision if he was not going to fulfil it? Now we understand, but at the time we were walking blindly by faith, trusting that we were not wasting our time or our emotional energy.
Finally a family walked through our door who immediately fell in love with our home and the deal was done, but the battle for our new home was just beginning. We discovered, after the survey, that the house had multiple problems, each costing more than we could afford, especially now that we had had to drop the price on our home to gain our sale. We had to ask the vendor for a reduction on the price, to reflect the extra work required. He was not happy and refused to agree to our request. Three weeks of bartering began and 2 years of waiting hung in the balance. We eventually decided that we would agree to walk away from the purchase if necessary, and it was then that release came and the ball started rolling and an agreement was reached. We learnt that God sometimes wants us to let go of things in order for him to give it back to us and nothing should ever become a greater goal than following Christ, even to something we think he is calling us to.
As the packing then began in earnest, Phil started to speak of the animals we could keep and the smallholding we could develop. This had not been part of my vision, although I fully supported it, as I was aware of our lack of experience in this area. So I began to search for local courses, near our new home, which could teach us the skills we would need. Whilst looking, something caught my eye. It was an advert for a new TV programme about moving to the country, including an offer of help to get started with livestock. Was this what God was calling us to next? We prayerfully pushed the door and God quickly opened it and our journey to make a programme about our new life in the country began.
We are so thankful for this opportunity, as it has opened so many doors to share the gospel, share the joys of large family living and speak about our God who provides. The timing of our programme’s airing coincided with the UK’s first lockdown. Everyone in Britain was suddenly plunged into a world of home educating and many were developing a strong desire to escape to the country, so our programme, which focused on our desire to teach our children through a more practical lifestyle, was perfectly timed for the situation. God’s timing for our house move was perfectly orchestrated and this was further evidence of his hand.
The programme supported us as we started our self sufficiency journey. Due to this support we were perfectly prepared for the lockdown. We had chickens for eggs, a cow who had recently delivered her calf and was producing 15 litres of milk a day and pigs who went off to the abattoir the day before lockdown was announced, and thus we had a freezer full of pork. What provision from our Lord for our burgeoning and hungry brood! He truly is Jehovah Jireh, our God who provides.
We have given this property into God’s hands and have already been given multiple opportunities to use it for his purposes. During the summer months, when the lockdown was temporarily lifted, we were able to host many families, in our separate accommodation, for their ‘alternative’ summer break. How lovely it was to have a place for fellowship during this crisis. We were even able to have campfires and, while churches were banned from singing, we were able to worship God with other believers, outside in the beauty of his Creation. We also share the produce we grow and have managed to exchange milk for our Christmas turkey, who was free ranging at our neighbours!
At the beginning of our house sale journey, I had asked God to give us an opportunity to share the testimony of our move – what opportunities we have been given! We have shared our story of God’s provision and perfect timing at church, a home education conference, on National television and in the National press. I just thought maybe God would give us the chance to share our testimony at our new church, but I have discovered that when you ask God for something, he loves to give, in abundance!
As a world, we are all currently walking through the strangest times and yet I know that God has been busy preparing each one of us for this moment. It is not just us who have been called by God. Each of God’s children has been called to unique locations, for such a time as this. Whether we live in the town or the country, God has a mission for each of us. We just need to pray and trust that each journey is unique and perfectly planned by the One who knows best. As Jim Elliot, the missionary, famously said, ‘God always gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him.’
When I was 14 I could see no way forward, only the brokenness left by grief. God took that brokenness and brought from it a beautiful story of his love for me. He wants to do that for everyone, we just need to reach out and trust him.