The Great Awakening – Fall 2014 to Spring 2016
“A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it” – Jean de La Fontaine
This dream was birthed from my heart for both people and animals, and the very callings God placed in me even before I was born. Some of these were lost, forgotten, or buried over the course of my life through my own choices and circumstances. But God never forgot. He has always been making a way for me, helping me to become the person that He originally created me to be and realigning my life with His will for me. To do this, God has taken me on an unexpected and amazing journey back to my beginning where He reawakened my childhood dreams and love of animals, and He has started to put all the pieces back together.
I have always loved animals since I was a young child. When I was 5, we moved to a farm in a rural community of northern Alberta. As an only child and quite emotionally sensitive, I spent much of my time with my pets and farm animals, many of whom I formed special bonds with.
I recalled wanting to become a veterinarian when I “grew up” but also knew that I might not be able to cope with all the animal suffering and death very well. When I was about 12, I discovered what really happened too many of our cattle each fall; they just didn’t go away to live on another farm as I believe I was told. Out of horror, I became a vegetarian and next to possibly running away to join Greenpeace (which I did briefly consider), I felt helpless to do anything else.
My animals also helped me cope with a difficult adolescence and I devoted much of my time to riding and training horses. However, things got worse for me and by my last year of high school, I felt I had to choose between a life with my animals and escaping from a life that had also become unbearable to continue. I chose to move away to go to university in Vancouver, British Columbia, hoping and dreaming of a new life.
After moving away, I greatly missed our animals and my parents moved my horse “Ice” to Vancouver after my first year of university. Ice was a rescued race horse that saved me from going further down a path of self-destruction in Grade 12. I loved him very much. We boarded him in a stable (and I worked there for a while to help pay for his rent) but soon I found it increasingly hard to take care of him properly, go to school, and cope with the rest of life. Without enough exercise and too much confinement, Ice, now in his early 20’s became more and more overwhelming and difficult to handle, and I had to make another painful choice. With much guilt and sadness (which I still feel), I chose to let him go to a ranch several hundred miles away where he could live out the rest of his natural life in freedom. I never saw him again. I buried the pain of this loss and I tried to forget my painful ‘farm years, as I carried on, going to university and struggling to establish a life for myself.
I continued to love animals through my adulthood. I remained a vegetarian and then became a vegan several years ago. It was the least I could do for them. I also remained very sensitive to animal suffering and I often found myself just avoiding this issue, and living in a big city, it’s relatively easy to become blinded and disconnected to the realities of animal abuse and exploitation, especially farm animals.
Then in the middle-ish part of my life, I collided with Jesus, or rather I stopped running from Him. I gave my life to Him 2009, and this initiated a whirlwind of life changes and blessings. By 2014, I was feeling rather established and comfortable in my life with my career as a psychologist, my church community, living in a beautiful city, and my future goals loosely ‘planned’ – such as considering a Master of Divinity degree so I could return to more academic work to integrate my faith and psychology. However, God had different plans for me and once again redirected my life again unexpected but now as I look back it makes total sense – he knows me, my heart, and deepest dreams and longings, better than I know myself.
In September 2014, I began taking a training ministry to learn how to hear God better. At the end of the second class, we were invited to come up for prayer and I walked up to one of the pastors whom I had never met before. All I did was introduce myself and he started praying. He said he saw a picture of me riding a bay horse galloping on a beach and Jesus was riding along side us. He went on to vividly describe this scene, a scene almost from heaven. I immediately thought and pictured my horse Ice as he was bay colored. I hadn’t thought of Ice (or horses) in years other than an occasional fleeting memory that I had pushed away. I wondered how he knew I loved horses and how did he know to pick a bay horse? Of course, only God could have told him! It was quite overwhelming and I felt so incredibly touched by God.
That was just the beginning of what I would best describe as a process of undoing, unravelling, and revealing of who I thought I was and who God actually created me to be. Over the following months, during our class exercises and my private times of worship, prayer, and journaling, I started to experience more beautiful pictures (like visions in my mind) and memories of animals from my childhood (even a few of my ponies and their names, such as Chimo and Star who I had not thought about in decades). I would be frequently brought to tears and overwhelmed by God’s love and grace. They seemed like pictures of heaven and I clearly sensed God reassuring me that I would be reunited with them all one day. I also felt that God was giving me these pictures to show me His kindness and goodness as my heavenly Father. God knew the way to melt my heart like no one else.
In January 2015, I began to have recurrent dreams (probably over 20 to 30 over the following months) involving different types of transportation (cars, airports, planes, etc.) and moving and airports. In my day-to-day life, I also kept seeing ‘random’ paintings and portraits of horses all over the place (stores, books, etc.) and on several occasions, pictures of horses and my connection to creation would also be given to me by people (including strangers) praying for me and during worship time, especially a repeating picture of a white horse. Other than God showing his love me, I didn’t know quite what all this meant other than possibly some significant changes were about to happen but I certainly didn’t see myself physically relocating.
That spring, one night while worshipping I saw vivid picture (in my mind) of a group of horses in a large field I sensed God say to me, “In this life.” Needless to say, that got my attention! I didn’t know what that meant. I remember my doubt as I emphatically questioned Him – “What? God, what did you just say? What does that mean?? Caring for my dog in the city is expensive but a horse???That’s not possible. How could that be?” He must have been lovingly amused by my reaction as all He said in response again was, “Yes, in this life.” Out of shock, it was such an improbable idea that I didn’t know what do with it other than give it back to God and surrender to him and said, “If this is true, I turn it back to you…Your will, not mine.” The moving dreams continued.
The pictures continued. The memories and the dreams continued. The idea of having a horse one day in this life (not just the next) got ignited. And then God gave me an even more unlikely idea of an animal care ministry, which I had ever even heard of before. I went on to find more confirmation of all of this through God’s Word and learning more about the biblical, theological, and historical foundations of God’s care and compassion for animals and our stewardship responsibilities to them as well.
Over the next couple of months, I didn’t tell anyone of these experiences as they seemed outlandish and impossible. I spent a lot of time praying about this and continuing to surrender these dreams back to God, and ask for confirmation if they were truly from Him (and not just wishful or delusional thinking). And He did. He kept giving me more ideas for an animal care ministry. I started dreaming more and entertaining the idea of actually physically moving. But where? I started researching online and looking at rescue farms. I came across a couple in the Fraser Valley, a farming area, about an hour from where I lived.
About two weeks later, one day when I was at work, one of the owners of the company I work for ‘randomly’ (or not) came to me and asked me, “How are you still liking the downtown city life?” As my jaw dropped, he further announced that they were going ahead with opening a new clinic in Abbotsford, one of the cities in that area in the fall of 2016 and he asked me if I want to work out there. Suddenly, in an instant, all of this shifted from imagination to a possible reality. I was blown away. The irony in this part of the story is that this was the very place I scoffed at a few years ago, when the initial talk of opening that clinic was proposed but was then later shelved.
From that point onward, God continued to accelerate things from there. One morning in June 2015, God gave me a detailed organizational chart (too clever for me to conjure up on my own) of an animal care ministry, which included an even crazier dream – to have my own farm sanctuary – a place where both animals and people can come to experience a place of rest, healing, and restoration through Christ.
Over the next year, God continued to pave the way. I had initially planned to move to Abbotsford in the summer/fall of 2016 but with the clinic opening sooner than expected, God asked, “What are you waiting for?” With virtually no effort on my part, by Easter, He seemlessly supplied me with work, a beautiful new home, and a farm animal sanctuary nearby where I began volunteering at. I felt like I was in heaven!
Looking ahead, I have no idea of how it’s all going to unfold and I face many barriers but I do know for certain, that I can completely trust God and surrender it all to Him. I believe whole heartedly in Him and the words He has spoken over my life. Our God is a faithful and good Father who never forgets a promise He has made! I turn it all over to Him. So as my story continues and as I embark on my new life and uncharted course ahead, I hope and pray that others will continue to come along side me, support, and join this dream as it is not just for me, or just about me. It is about being a part, and then leaving behind, a bit of Eden on this earth.
The Testing of My Dream – Summer 2016 to Fall 2017
As I settled into my new life in Abbotsford, full of expectation of God’s promises, I had no idea that this next chapter of my journey would lead me into a season of what I would best title, “The Testing of my Dream.”
Looking back, every turn I took in pursuit of this dream over this time seemed to lead me to various detours and dead ends. A few doors almost seemed to open, such as possible partnerships (e.g., for buying a farm) but would then quickly close. I was trying to follow the movement of the Holy Spirit but often felt like I was blindly walking through a labyrinth, going around in circles. It didn’t help when I thought I heard God say, “You are circling the promised land” and “It is right under your thumb.” It sure didn’t feel like it especially as time passed as I watched the cost of real estate in this area climb week by week. A few times in my own desperation, I tried to take things into my own hands (and out of God’s hands), such as when I tried to get a mortgage on my own. Well, that didn’t turn out very well and it just caused me an incredible amount of self-induced stress.
At times, I felt overwhelmed by the bigness of my dream and I still occasionally wondered if it all was just a delusion that I had fabricated by own imagination. Other times, I felt helpless to the enormity of animal suffering and spending way too much time on social media reading about this didn’t help. My heart would also break over and over when I would drive by some farms and the worst would be going by dairy farms and seeing rows of ‘veal hutches’ where baby calves innocently looked out, completely unaware of their fate. At times, I also felt very alone in my dream although I had many people praying for me and over social media, I made a few connections with other Christians (and Christian organizations) involved in animal welfare issues. I had left behind amazing church community when I moved to Abbotsford and I only knew a few people here. As time went on, I found it increasingly difficult to find and fit in a church here, and it was disheartening that there were no local churches with a creation care program, so the idea of an animal care ministry (that focused on farm animal welfare issues) in this conservative ‘bible belt’ farming community would not likely be welcomed.
There were many times (sometimes daily) where I literally felt haunted and tormented by my dream. There were also many times when I broke down pleading to God for this farm. I even recall having a few ‘temper tantrums’ as I cried out to Him. There were also many times when I would give (or rather shove) my dream back to God. I even prayed for God to have mercy on me and take the dream away because I couldn’t bear it anymore. He never did. In fact, He kept giving it back to me over and over.
This season clearly made me face myself in ways I never expected. It brought up a lot of unpleasant stuff in me (some stuff I didn’t even know was there) – everything from frustration, envy, jealousy, fear, discouragement, doubt, hopelessness, and impatience. I spent a lot of time with God talking, listening, and wrestling with Him about all this, and He, almost like in Job, would turn around and confront me with some rather challenging questions that made me examine my own beliefs about Him and my relationship with him. Questions like:
- If I don’t get this farm, is God enough?
- Do I want this dream more than I want God?
- Do I really believe in God’s promises?
- Am I focusing more on my circumstances and problems than God?
- Can I totally depend on God?
- Can I surrender it all to Him?
- Maybe God isn’t really who He says He is? What if it’s all a cruel joke?
- Or just maybe, could God really be that good and faithful?
By the spring/ summer and into the early fall 2017, I was increasingly surrendering the dream to Him to the point of being on my knees and saying with my heart to Him – “Your Way, Your Timing.” I believed more and more that His way and His timing would be better than I could ever imagine for myself. It became a common practice for me to declare this to Him and in this place of surrender I found more rest and peace. The spiritual fight started to abate. Although I still longed and thought about this farm every day it no longer tormented me as much.
I think He also used these experiences to check my commitment to this dream by reminding me of some of the harsher realities of farm life. Sometimes I would quietly hear the question, “Are you sure you’re really up for this?” From dealing with sick and dying animals I occasionally saw at the farm sanctuary I volunteer at, to being reminded of the hard work, time, and tears that go along with caring for animals, to being exposed to some of the challenges (including conflict and criticism) that non profit organizations inevitably experience, to the spiritual pushback one also experiences as we push forward to our destinies. My answer is, “I am. I am up for this!” and metaphorically speaking, this dream is the mountain I’m willing to die for and on.
As I journeyed through this, I began to realize how much God had used these circumstances and my dream itself to build my character and strengthen my faith. Yes, the dream stretched and tested me. Yet through it all, God sustained me through His words and by multiple acts of faithfulness and goodness towards me. Looking back, I can say I am thankful for it, as it is training and preparing me for God’s promises and weight of the blessings that lie ahead.
Until the time came to fulfill his dreams, the word of the Lord tested Joseph’s character.
Psalm 105: 19
My Own Journey of Healing and Restoration – Winter 2016 to Fall 2017
In the midst of my own journey towards this dream, God clearly wanted to also bring more healing of old wounds and restoration of broken pieces of my own life. I gradually began having more memories of my teenage years especially around the circumstances over leaving my farm after I finished high school. There were a few times when I even experienced intense grief not just of losing my horse but also of the farm I grew up and all the other animals I had to leave behind. I also felt the Lord’s grief over my broken family but also senses His promise of redemption and restoration. As He walked through these memories with me, I knew He was revealing this pain to me so He could heal me.
Over this time, God seemed to gradually unveil a series of events that seemed very intent on reuniting my dad, and this became clearly evident through my night dreams. On the last night of March and then on the last night of April, I had two vivid dreams of my dad who I had been estranged from for about 30 years (after my parents divorced). I have a lot of dreams but never recall having one of my dad before, so the first one was unsettling and I didn’t know what it meant. I wondered if he was sick or dying, or had recently passed away or perhaps it was just a dream reminding me of my own unfinished business. I wasn’t sure….so I just filed it away. Then a month later, the second dream involved my dad showing me around our family farm. It was a highly vivid sensory filled dream. It was so real and detailed….it was if was actually there! After that dream I knew I couldn’t ignore it and I knew that God wanted me to contact him. I was able to track him down through a family member and it ended up being rather interesting (or rather God’s) timing. I just happened to get his number and called him the day after I found out I could not realistically finance a mortgage to buy a farm. I went from being disappointed and deflated to instantly overwhelmed and amazed by God’s powerful acts of grace and love.
From the moment we started talking the healing began. We instantly reunited and I went. to see him in July and October of that. He had remarried and moved to a farm in central Alberta – and still had several horses.
When I came home, God did some more healing of my loss of Ice (again, grief came up that I didn’t even know was there, especially my guilt that I had over letting him go). Over the following days, I felt like something had broken off of me, more inner healing had occurred.
I started thinking about how I could be around horses again – maybe volunteering at another farm. I asked God if I could bring one of my dad’s horses here or rescue one here (and board him/her) and He gently replied “Not now.” Then within the week, I saw a community advertisement for a farm that provides equine-assisted therapy. I immediately contacted the owner and started volunteering there to help with the horse care.
I also began praying that when the time comes for my 82 year dad to let go of his horses, that I will be able to take one (or maybe more). I started to think more and more about riding again and at my visit to my dad’s farm in October, I got to ride one of his horses (Peaches, in the picture below). It was the first time in over 30 years. (I never rode again after I lost Ice). It was a very emotional and healing experience and it all came back to me the moment I sat in the saddle. I had forgotten how much I loved riding and how alive it made me feel. God, yet again, made another dream come true for me and He woke up even more of my heart and spirit of who He created me to be. However when I got home, it felt a bit bittersweet – my love of riding was reawakened but a part of me (probably the real me) also felt very incomplete and instilled this deep longing to ride again. So once again all I could do was surrender it all and wait for the Lord’s promises again.