Discerning God's will for anything is pretty difficult! Sure, we've prayed. We've novena'd. We've even pilgrimaged for that clear "yes" from God. "Is this the one?"
After St. Therese's novena--my husband and I were seeing roses everywhere--wallpaper, in someone's last name, in a woman's dress, on the altar in church--everywhere! Was this the Little Flower's way of shouting at us? Maybe. But perhaps, we're using prayer like a vending machine. If you simply put in a prayer into the slot, choose your request, and voila, your answer comes out of the bottom. Prayer doesn't work like that. This was a lesson for us to remember. Even if you do have that great faith that a saint will come through for you, it's just not how God works.
We've also been tuning into the scriptures. In seems that every Bible verse is telling us to either "store up treasures in heaven" or "ask and it will be given to you." As a couple who will be making a financial risk to make the retreat center happen, these verses are certainly consoling. Is Jesus speaking to us directly here?
Yes, there are times when we can be bowled away by an answered prayer, but that's not the norm. That's not how it ordinarily works. It takes lots of prayer. Lots of consistent prayer. And usually a lot of waiting.
Even if you've never had to open a retreat center, we know that this experience of trying to find God's will is something you can relate to. We've all prayed for spouse selection, jobs, moves, house purchases, pregnancies, and more.
I've seen recent books out on "Discerning God's Will." And I think maybe if I read this book, I will see clearly what God wants. All I have to do is order the book, read it, and that will bring me the answer I seek.
But I've been down this path before. I've read many books like that in the past when I've been looking for other answers to prayer. Is there really anything else I can do differently?
Well, yes. Actually, there is. And I'm not sure if these books on discerning God's will mention this, but one way that we can "hear" what Jesus is telling us is through the people he puts in our lives. Wisdom and advice from others. Jesus incarnate in others.
So last weekend we took a couple of friends up to the place that we think God has provided for us. We gave them the grand tour. Over pizza and beer, my husband and I listened to what they said.
Coincidences or answered prayer?
We find ourselves in a week of waiting. . . again. . . . We think this is the right place.
Please send a prayer our way!
Dear Jesus, please help us to see!
We weren't finished with the cute, little town of Tryon, NC. We walked through the downtown and enjoyed lunch outside, looked at some antique shops. We admired the statue of the famous Jazz singer, Nina Simone, who was from this town. We could see ourselves living here.
About 8 miles from downtown Tryon, we found another property. Just a short 8 miles. . . .up and around. It was at the top of a nearby mountain.
Although you can't tell from this map, this 100 acre lot sits at the top of Hogback Mountain. The yellow line here is the boarder of South Carolina. And at the start of the property is a place to park for the Palmetto Trail.
To get to the main houses of the property, you pass by a caretakers log cabin then drive for 1 mile.
So already, there were 3 recently built cabins there. There was also an orchard and small barn. The property was mostly wooded and the views---OH My--The VIEWS! The property description claimed you could see 3 States and many other mountains from the Carolinas from there.
I loved it! My husband was a little hesitant, but I persisted. The main house would work as not only where we'd live, but also be used as a main gathering space. The other house could be split into more living space, and we'd have to build a couple other cabins. It was quiet and simply breathtaking. With 100 acres, we thought we could find another level spot for fields and eventually build a lake. We thought with the location and potential land usage, this could really work.
We were so excited to share this place and see what others thought, so we invited a couple of our couple friends. We left our builder friend alone, after all, this was fairly new construction. It was probably fine. The seller was very eager to sell. He wanted out before Christmas! Bring any offer.
We met our friends in the town of Tryon for pizza lunch. They were driving together and followed us up the mountain to this potential retreat place.
It was a rainy October day, but we were still hoping that the fall foliage would be gorgeous. And on our way up the mountain, it was. On these steep, windy roads, you got steered right to the edge of some sweeping views of the mountains in all of their glory. Having been used to traveling to our mountain cabin in Brevard, the drive didn't bother us, however, when we arrived to the top of Hogback mountain to look at the houses, our friends seemed rather pale. One commented that if we had retreats here, she would never come!
Well we thought that once they saw the beautiful views from a safe distance on a screened in porch, they might feel differently. The problem was, once we reached a certain height up this mountain on this rainy day, we were literally in the clouds. You could see nothing but clouds.
We wondered if this was often the state of these houses in the clouds. If it was, then, you might as well not bother making the trip to the top of the mountain.
This would not be Heart Ridge.
We weren't getting any kind of indication that we would get financial help from anyone--and we weren't quite ready to beg. . .yet. We had always talked about moving out of the Greenville, SC area to the country or a smaller town. Keith would still plan on commuting to his full-time job, so it couldn't be too far away. We were thinking, that if we could find a less expensive place, perhaps we could sell our house and live at the retreat place. We know many people who commute an hour to their jobs. Maybe this would be a solution. Brevard was just too far away, and too expensive, is there some place else?
We expanded our search. There were a few places in Tryon, NC that caught our attention. The first one we'll call John's Place. This brick mansion from the 20's had so much charm and character. It was owned by an elderly man, John, who was ready to sell and downsize. It had been on the market for a couple of years.
The price for this 15 acres home site plus so much more was incredible. We felt it was a gift--meant to be.
Not only did it have the 4000 sqft house. but it had 2 guest houses, a maid quarters, a barn, and a liveable treehouse. It was situated in the foothills--with just the right amount of slope and views.
It probably would have come with the furniture--many beautiful and unique antique pieces.
And a swimming pool, pond, clay tennis court, complete with a skeet-shooting machine. We loved the charm and the location.
This was a lot of acres, too. We wondered if we hiked up the back of the property which was situated in the middle of a valley and partly on the mountain, if we'd have "views." It was then that we noticed how close the property line was to highway 26. Not really a problem because of the distance to the houses, but a problem because you could hear the trucks and cars, even back at the house.
What we didn't notice before, now it was all we could hear! When you were sitting on on the porches or at the pool, you could hear traffic.
We talked about playing music throughout the property, but that's still not quite the same as silence--the sound you want available at a retreat center.
It was a deal breaker. Our love affair with John's place was over.
When we first saw this place advertised, we thought it was way out of our price range. It was being used as a wedding venue that offered lodging. It was in pristine shape. The owners who lived in Florida were ready to get out of the business. It had been on the market for many years, too. We had looked at on our own, and thought it wasn't rustic enough, but our real estate agent had suggested we look at it again.
It had beautiful views since it was literally at the top of a mountain. It had room to sleep 30, but many of them were queen sized beds, meaning that for individuals on a retreat, it could only sleep 15. And as it was, it could host 5 families--very nicely, but still only 5.
Tami sketched all the apartments with floor plans, to try to figure out how to accommodate more. We also explored ways to "mountain-it-up." On the positive side, it had almost 100 acres and not one, but two waterfalls. (I've always wanted my own waterfall!!!)
Maybe it could work, but we'd make about 4 trips to this place, once with our son and his family, before we ruled it too expensive and not really our style.
We have a favorite place that we love to go to. It's our small cabin in the mountains near Brevard. There's no cell phone service or internet-- just the quiet stream and lots of time to read, write, converse, and pray. We've owned this place for about 5 years. We love having guests come to visit. The cabin is small, so we built another tiny cabin to sleep a few more. When our whole family comes together there, many camp and use hammocks. Although, we love this spot, one day a nearby property caught our attention. With our love of this area and the desire to share this experience with others, we have been dreaming of buying more land in order to have a retreat-like property. This nearby farm that was for sale certainly deserved a look.
This family farm owned by an elderly man who lives in Greenville, had been on the market for several years. Besides a main house made out of cedars taken from an old log house, it had another large guest house, and a barn. We immediately fell in love. The best feature was when you hiked to the top of one of the pastures, you felt like you were in the opening scene from the Sound of Music.
This would make a perfect place for a retreat. We felt peace and majesty.
We took all of our family members to see this place. We hiked around it. Made plans to build additional housing.
While we were dreaming, we might as well dream big. The owner was being selective about who he was going to sell the place to. In fact, the seller's agent, had grown up with the sons of the owner and had gone to visit this place as a young man. The agent was very familiar with the property and was very helpful. The family did not want this beautiful piece of property to be sold to developers. They had many memories here. They like our plans to use it as a retreat place for individuals and families.
We began researching how to start such an endeavor. We met with a couple of our friends who were finance guys to brainstorm some possibilities. Tami read books on nonprofits. We even brought a builder friend to see the place. He had concerns about the well and water for that many people. Septic fields could be dug. He suggested smaller housing units.
After much research, we put together a business plan. We figured that we could sustain a retreat business, if we first had investors to help us buy the property.
This sent us on several more meetings to finding prospective leads. Long story short, we couldn't get any bites. And even though the property needed to be sold and was in disrepair, we couldn't get the price to go under a million. Also, to get to it, you had to drive over a mountain. And once there, the driveway was almost a mile long.
Brevard real estate, especially a piece of land like this with pastures, woods, and pond, is worth quite a bit. As much as we've come to love this area, perhaps we should look elsewhere.