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"Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." Psalms 46:10

I have spent the majority of my adult life in utter chaos. Running from one dramatic thing to the next, some by my own choices, some by force...all of it by refusing to turn loose of the death grip (literally) I had on trying to control my own world. I had been let down so many times by so many people that I physically could not turn loose of the need to be in charge of everything that had to do with me. The pain of disappointment, loss, failure and unworthiness had all been too much, and I would do whatever it took to numb the emotions; relationships, alcohol, working myself to pure exhaustion, whatever it took to not have time to be still.

Then I ended up on this farm, where I saw peace through all the chaos (mess!). I got a glimpse of the slow down, the beauty that was in the be still...and I didn't know what to think about it. I don't think I even really knew how to recognize it fully. And I honestly think it terrified me. So, I found so many ways to make it everything else. To make it work to be done, to use it to try to find more 'relationships' to create, I even used it to make excuses to drink on occasion. Anything but be still.

And it just created more chaos.

That's when God boldly and blatantly stepped in and took over...without my permission might I add. It all started with my dad. I ended up in a 3-day weekend where I had no phones (well sort of, I did text my dad and tell him to COME GET ME!), no connection to my family, my kids...nothing. Just 3 days of prayer and God and laying so many things at the feet of Jesus. I wish I could say there was repentance in that time, but there wasn't, and I don't think that was what I was meant to do then.

When you've lived with so much weight and burden and chaos, I truly believe we must heal first. And for me that started by laying all the pain and heartache and sadness I had been carrying down. I had to let go of so much before I could ever even think about picking up anything else. My heart had truly been broken so many years ago and was continually broken on so many times after that. I didn't know how to show emotion anymore, I didn't even know how to truly feel emotion anymore. Because with chaos comes a very tough skin and a fortress around anything that might get damaged. Protect the vulnerable parts at all costs.

Now I am sitting here 2+ years later and everything about me has changed. I wish I could say it was immediate and that after those 3 days life was great, and I was healed and perfect. But that would be a lie. Life was not great; it actually got A LOT harder. I was not healed, but I was being healed and still am. I was not perfect, and absolutely never will be, but I try to be better every single day.

I then went through 2 of the most consistently hardest years of my life. When you ask God to come in and make it better, be prepared to go through the fire my friend. Be prepared for him to strip everything away and take you down to the bare bones, where all the vulnerable places are exposed. I lost financially, I lost relationships, I lost dreams and plans, I even almost lost my marriage...but I also lost pride, and unforgiveness, and resentment and even envy. I even was pretty sure I was losing my sanity at one point. I was completely broken and everything I thought I knew was shattered. More chaos.

But I learned that in that shattering, in this chaos, the light was beginning to shine in. I was being refined. I was being transformed. I realized that more and more I was learning to lean in, to lean on God, to turn to him instead of depending on myself. I noticed that when something happened, I would pray instead of cuss. I would grab my bible to find reassurance and guidance rather than grab a stiff drink to numb the frustration. I noticed the anger was leaving and in its place was this need to pray...even praying for people that I had absolutely no desire to pray for on my own accord. Less chaos.

In all of this I started to pray for guidance, to show me what everything I had been through was for, to give me a reason for it all. Am I owed any of this? Absolutely not. Was it something I desperately needed? Absolutely yes. And slowly, as I started to really grow, as the true repentance happened, He began to show me more and more. The more I was shown, the more I stopped trying to force my own plans. The more I leaned in, the more I realized that He had such a bigger story for me. Less chaos.

So here we are, ending 2023, wrapping up 30 full months on this farm...and finally getting to the place where I get to really build it the way it is supposed to be built. Our 2400 sq. ft dream home has turned into a doublewide mobile that I am grateful for. My 3 acres of gardens have turned into 1 acre that I will be able to fully maintain without hired help. My plans of a small cattle operation that would have required more land have turned into just raising a small herd that will feed our family and a handful of families in our community. My plans of a small pig operation have expanded into something more and different that will help me feed so many in our community. My plans of a large, pastured poultry operation have taken shape and been molded into something that we will be able to provide weekly meals to those in need.

Most of all my need to constantly be working has changed to really sitting in the be still of it all. I take in the beauty around me, the quietness of the evenings, the bird songs of the mornings, even the crackling of the fire when sitting at the Lemonade Stand surrounded by friends or all alone brings me peace. I notice a lot more sunsets and am aware of a lot more sunrises. This farm is truly my most favorite place on this earth. And the garden has become my sanctuary and go to place of worship. That's a story for another time. Less chaos.

My focus of only making a profit from this farm has changed to using this farm to reach those that need it most. Instead of making a higher fence, I am building a longer table and inviting everyone to have a seat at it, because I know that as long as my heart is in the right place my God will make a way. He will provide. He is the Provider. He is my Provider.

I still struggle with being a work-aholic and probably always will. But I am surrounded by plenty of friends that will 'remind' me to slow down and not lose focus on God's plan. I have a community around me that loves me enough to be honest with me and they do it in pure love! They walked these last couple of years with us, hand in hand. They listened to the fears and worries. They knew about the tears. They prayed the prayers. But most importantly, they never left us. They never left me. And outside of my own family, I have never experienced that in my life. So don't surround yourself with yes-men and surface friends. Iron sharpens iron, and although it might be painful sometimes, it is so much better.

I cannot wait to see what 2024 brings. I cannot wait to see God glorified in everything we do here. I cannot wait to see how many lives we are able to touch and show the love of our Father to. He gave me my story so that I could use it to reach those that might not feel like they are reachable. He gave me my story so that I could be a living breathing example of what his love and grace and mercy can do in a life. My testimony will not go to waste, and I will not hide it in shame.

My chaos is no more.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gently and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

May the soil be fertile, the harvest be bountiful, and the farmer never grow weary. -Farmer Mandy

Eph. 3:20-21

Lord, I pray you do abundantly more than my hands can ever do without you. -Amen

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