In January, 2020 our family of 8 ventured to Costa Rica for what would become a beautiful piece of our story. Darin loves to surf and our son, Christian, has followed in his footsteps. It had been a desire of Darin’s to take his family surfing and Witch’s Rock Surf Camp was the destination. We arrived at the surf camp in a 15-passenger van with our whole family and some special friends in tow. Surf school was on the agenda along with the most incredible sunsets you have ever seen, delicious Latino cuisine, zip-lining, monkeys, and horseback riding with a local (I don’t recommend this)! It was a trip of a lifetime in our eyes! In the midst of the beauty, God gave both Darin and I several significant, symbolic dreams as we slept. They spoke of the “ripe harvest” and of those in emotional pain and how to minister to them. They were beautiful and powerful and they set a flame in my heart! God was inviting us into something special. Although we didn’t know what it was, we knew it was a glorious invitation.
We returned from Costa Rica and the months passed. I questioned God’s words to me, I questioned the dreams and the deep understanding I had felt there. He seemed to be silent; He had given us something so powerful while there, yet nothing more. I had been leading women’s retreats for 3.5 years by this time, and when I should have been feeling confident in them, I was instead feeling unsure and that there was something more to come.
November, 2020 rolled around and I needed to get away. I packed the car with my old journals and a suitcase. The purpose was simple: be in the presence of Jesus and gain direction for the women’s retreats I was leading. I had purposed in my heart to look back at what God had already spoken to me through my journals and in Costa Rica to gain clarity and move forward. My friend and I drove away for 3 days of solitude with Jesus. What I didn’t know is how significant this time away would prove to be.
We arrived at our Air B-n-B ready to unplug and meet with our Savior. The property was a 54-acre plot of land with a 1950’s style home in the middle of it. There was a lake, huge picture windows, fireplace, porch, barn, and all the things you can imagine that makes a place feel like home. It took me back to my childhood when I would visit my family in southern Alabama. The comfort I felt in this place I quickly recognized- it was the same comfort I had felt there. My heart was at rest. For the next 3 days, I was home.
Watching the sunrise through the picture windows, I asked God a question: “What passage of scripture do you want me to memorize?” I had been inspired the night before by a teaching I was listening to and desired to pour into an area I had always struggled with: memorizing the Word. The Lord quickly spoke, leading me to Isaiah 61. I scoffed at His answer as the retreats I had been leading were based on Isaiah 61. “That isn’t God, that is my voice. Surely, He wouldn’t lead me to that passage.” I rolled my eyes.
The nagging feeling wouldn’t leave as I thumbed through my bible, looking for a passage- any passage- other than that one. I finally succumbed to the knowing in my spirit that God was indeed leading me to Isaiah 61. I turned the pages to the familiar script and began reading. It was as if I had never read it before! God opened my eyes in a brand-new way and He immediately began pouring a vision into my heart of a ministry He was inviting me into. As I read, He showed me the progression that occurs in this chapter.
- First, we must HEAR His Voice. He sends those who are willing, to proclaim His Word, to teach, and to preach.
- As we hear Him, we begin to HEAL from our past hurts. He heals our wounds one by one as we sit with Him, and because of this our past is re-written. Our generations of hurts and desolations are rebuilt, raised up, and repaired just as the chapter suggests for the people of Zion!
- As we heal from our wounds, we simultaneously GROW in Him! Healing with God provides so much opportunity for diving into His Word and developing intimacy with Him. Growth happens as an overflow of healing. We are filled with wisdom and understanding of God’s Heart, not just knowledge ABOUT Him. We become leaders amongst our peers, for they experience and witness the transformation in our lives!
- This continual healing and growth fills us to overflowing and we begin to GIVE it away. The spilling out naturally occurs because we cannot contain all of the deep joy He has done (and continues to do) in us. The cycle perpetuates itself. It happens over and over repeatedly in our own lives and then in the lives of others as we share vulnerably what Christ has done in us!
I committed that morning to not only memorize the chapter in Isaiah, but to also dream with Jesus about the ministry He was awakening me to. “But Father, what do I call this ministry? What is its’ name?” I gazed out the windows, taking in the idyllic scenery- scenery I had dreamed about having retreats at. Retreats like the one I was experiencing that weekend. Retreats like the women’s retreat I had been leading others in for the last 3.5 years. I loved leading other women into Jesus’ presence, but accommodations had proved difficult (almost impossible) to find. The acres in this heavenly and holy place just rolled on. Grand oaks, Spanish moss, water, the breeze, dirt drives, and a comforting, homey space. It was everything my heart had desired for coming away with the Savior. “Allow yourself to dream with Me, Christi,” I heard the Lord speak. “I own the cattle on 1,000 hills. I can provide for you.” I took a breath and said the words. “Sixty-One Acres.” The name encompassed the fullness of what God was inviting me into: Isaiah 61, peaceful land, faith to step out with Jesus, and the confidence in a God who was inviting me into His Kingdom work. I spent the remaining 2 days immersed in “Holy Brainstorming,” feverishly writing down all the ideas He was pouring into me. I returned home from my weekend overflowing. I poured it all out to my husband, and waited….