My Testimony: Learning to Trust (Part 8)
Updated: Jan 5, 2021
I ended the last “My Testimony” entry with the promise that there would be a Part 8, and at the time I believed that Part 8 would show overwhelming, mind-blowing evidence that God’s hand is on us. Turns out that He didn’t at all do what I expected, but He certainly didn’t disappoint. I do love my God. And if I love Him, therefore I trust Him. True love cannot exist without total trust. And in the last 6 months of waiting, my family and I have had plenty of opportunities to learn to trust our God.
Picking back up where we left off in Part 7 (click here to read all Testimony posts):
EVERY STEP WE TAKE
We had enough funds to pay for us to stay in an RV park for the coldest part of the winter, and when we left (due to lack of funding), we experienced God setting solid ground under our every unsure step. We saw Him move people into place to provide for our needs. We saw Him slowly putting pieces in place to move us to our next waypoint - and He was lining up a safe place for the horses too. Every step we took, however small, showed us more about who God truly is and how much He loves us and keeps His promises. Rarely does He provide the way we expect, but we can testify that every moment waiting on Him is more than worth the wait. He had planned out perfectly where we would stay for the next few months.
There were many times I experienced enormous doubt, unsure of what God was doing because we couldn’t see around the corner. I was constantly verifying with Him that we were still pleasing Him, and that we were where He wanted us to be. Every time, He responded that yes, we were pleasing Him and He wanted us to keep our eyes on Him through the uncertainty, through the storm. He continued to provide for us, every time.
It may be a strange declaration for me to make, but this speaks to the way that I and my family have chosen to live: we have offered back to God everything He’s given to us. Every resource in our possession belongs to Him, and we are simply caretakers. All our resources are His to control. When we have a need, we ask Him how He’d prefer that we use His resources because He sees more than we see and He knows the best move to make - we don’t. We place our trust in Him because we’ve learned that when we do, we are blessed beyond measure and there is no greater peace and contentment.
We were offered a property to stay on, and we volunteered time and effort to maintain the grounds and help with demolition, concrete work and construction improvements. We assisted however and whenever we were needed until we left the property. Even our time belongs to God, and we have never spent a day not serving others.
A DIVINE APPOINTMENT
One event of God’s leading during this time in our lives seems important enough to retell, because it shows how His timing is always best, and that He is completely worth following:
We use propane in the RV to fuel our stove and oven and heat our water, and during the cold season we use it to heat our entire rig (during this time we are refilling tanks quite often). We have two tanks that we fill on a rotating system so we are never without propane. At this point in time, we had one empty tank and another one much less than full. We could fill both of them, and it seemed prudent to us to do so, but God’s direction was “Fill only one tank.” We followed, even though we didn’t understand why only one tank. We had learned to trust His plan.
A week later, we had run out of propane early that morning, and I was frustrated - I wanted to understand why God had had said to fill only one tank when we could have filled both. We needed to go and get more as soon as possible so we could keep our RV warm (the weather was still brutally cold). We had gone to feed the horses hay at an earlier hour than usual, and we would fill both propane tanks on the way home. As we were finishing up with the horses, suddenly Anne felt God’s nudge and said, “We need to go get propane! And we have to go now!”
As the propane tanks were being filled, I experienced a divine appointment: I met someone else who had propane to fill, and in those few minutes, out of nowhere, he opened up about his personal struggles. I was able to respond with empathy because his current struggles were things I had experienced in my past; I was able to share my hope with him. I told him all God has done for me, and I encouraged him to stay the course and not give up.
That moment - that conversation - changed my mindset on why God does what He does. The timing blew me away! What are the chances that I met someone who needed to hear my story while filling a propane tank? I had been right were I needed to be when I needed to be there… because I obeyed. I trusted that He had a plan worth following even when I had no idea what that plan entailed. Obeying something as simple as filling a specific amount of propane a week ago became an opportunity to share my story of hope today. I can’t tell you how many times I get to retell this story every week. Many more divine appointments just like this one have happened to us, and are still happening daily.
We say we follow the God who orchestrates the universe, who has an intricate plan and wants to include us in it! But… how badly do we crave pleasing our Abba, our Daddy? Our determination to truly love Him is evident by how well we actively follow His every instruction. Autopilot is no longer an option when we actively follow God.
More provisions fell into place for us to leave Idaho, and it was evident that God was changing Brave Sky Ranch into a mobile ministry. News broke that the US was experiencing a pandemic and it wasn’t ending anytime soon. We began asking God if this pandemic would end our opportunities to serve others. When everyone fears a virus and refuses to come in contact with anyone else, how can we minister to them? Would this pandemic cause long-term issues for ministry?
We watched everyone around us panic. It was clearly unwise to try and leave Idaho during the pandemic and the travel restrictions toward the East Coast, where God had opened doors for us to go. God told us to stay where we were until further notice. We kept serving those around us as we waited for God to show us our next step. We had learned to trust His plan and timing, and we were seeing His character more and more. Every day we loved Him more because we could see that He was worth trusting.
We were running out of funds again - and I was not dealing well with the uncertainty of provisions. I was in a lot of turmoil… I was so thankful for the strength of my wife and her walk with God. At this time, I decided to set a reminder on my phone - every hour on the hour, 9 am to 9 pm - to remind me that “God’s Got This - Trust Him.” Even today, I still have that alarm ring every hour, and it has helped me, our family, and several friends greatly - it reminds us of His faithfulness hourly and helps renew our mindset when we doubt. God has used that hourly ding to work so much in my life; it helps me remember that even when I don’t understand any of His plans, I will still follow and trust Him because I love Him.
JOBLESS… NOT BY CHOICE
Many people we personally talk with, both friends and strangers, ask why I don’t have a job. The simple answer is this: God told me not to, and He stops me every time I try. I have applied for work in multiple careers and locations. I have even tried to get my job back with the aviation company I’d served for a decade and had left in good standing. They turned me down. Every opportunity that presented itself was gone as soon as I jumped, even when I had glowing recommendations and was a shoe-in for the job. I even had a line on a position in another state (God told me that I wasn’t going to get it because it had already been filled) and later the next day I got a call back - the job was already filled. And yet God has taken care of us, over and over again, providing funds and food on the table!
I trust Him! He’s worth trusting! If I haven’t learned it by now, will I ever? He continues to prove He is trustworthy.
A rental agreement had been signed for the property on which we had parked the RV, and the renter would be moving in on May 25th. Though we searched for somewhere to go next, we had no options because we had no funds.
The morning of May 25th we still had no plan, nowhere to go, and no funds to get us there. Anne and I asked for answers, and God just said, “Wait and watch” - and we did. He knew what was going to happen, as well as how and when. I won’t lie - I was nervous - I didn’t want to leave the safe place we were in. I wasn’t sure where we would go next.
Our RV was packed up and ready to leave, and we spoke one last time with the property owner, who handed us money! God had said, “Wait and watch,” and He provided for us! We had not asked anyone for money, but God had provided it! We asked Him where He wanted us to go and how He wanted us to use the money He’d provided; He told us to spend a few days in the RV park where we had stayed over the winter. We got some much-needed rest and family time once the weather was warming up.
We were again low on funds and had only enough to buy minimal food and stay a week, leaving May 31st. We asked where we would go next, and God said He had a surprise and that we would love it. He told us to “Just wait!”
We ventured into the unknown yet again, low on fuel and unsure of our direction. God led us turn by turn up into the mountains for an overnight stay in a place we had been wanting to bring our RV for several years (but never took the time) - Henry’s Lake State Park. We had just enough funds to stay one night in a spot with power only. We pulled up to the booth, asked for a spot for one night - and they had one spot available. When we got set up in that last spot… I cannot explain how beautiful it was. Here's the view:
We settled in and realized that we had made it 90 miles climbing into the mountains on only 1/8 of a tank of fuel. It is not physically possible to move 26,000 lbs uphill that far and only burn such a small amount of fuel! We were completely amazed by everything we experienced. We have never been let down by following God’s plan. He had provided these miracles to keep us going through the next hard months.
WAITING FOR DAYS
The next day we had no more money and God told us to park the RV on public land just 2 miles south of Henry’s Lake. Here we wrestled with doubt and faith as we waited, and we made do with very minimal food. We had no idea what God’s long game was, but we knew that trusting Him had never let us down. After 2 days on public land, God directed us back down the hill - to a gas station nearly 60 miles away - and we had still not run out of fuel! We used our last dollars to add just enough fuel to get 35 more miles to our horses and then to a local truck stop in Idaho Falls. We had no idea that the truck stop would be our temporary parking spot for the next 4 nights.
And we continued trusting Him. We never completely ran out of food, RV battery power, or propane. He truly sustained us. It was rough and He walked with us for every step. In the end, I kept praising Him. I wouldn’t quit. I mustered up what seemed like the last bit of bravery and kept saying, “I choose to praise God’s name and I will not stop praising Him!”
God told us later that it was by His hand that we were able to make it into the mountains and back, driving 180 miles with minimal fuel, and He had sustained our 5-year-old-crappy-RV-batteries so that they lasted 6 days. WOW! When God’s hand is on you in a big way, things keep going, despite logic. Other things that were breaking on the RV held together unexplainably during this time. God sustained us in a massive way… we loved and trusted Him before, during, and after each and every event, storm, and trial He sent us through.
ANOTHER DIVINE APPOINTMENT
The next day, God provided more money for food but no easy way to get to the store. The position we were parked in made it impossible to unhook the truck, so we had to figure out how to get to the local grocery store 3 miles away. God told us to make a plan and He would do the rest - and He worked the rest out!
I took my long skateboard with backpack on my back, and skated to the store. I was exhausted from the past few days of extreme heat and minimal food, but God was faithful and He led me where to go and where to stop to rest along the way. Remembering that He had never led me wrong, I followed Him for every step.
I finally made it to the store and did my shopping. In the parking lot, as I was planning out my return trip, I asked Him for help because I was completely out of energy. I wanted a meal, a morsel of food, but God said, “No, just wait - you’ll eat lunch when you get back to your family.”
“How?” I asked. “It’s going to take me a while to make my way back!”
God answered, “Do you trust Me?”
“Yes, Abba!” I admitted.
He responded, “Just wait and I will provide.”
I went back to planning out how to carry the groceries back with me, knowing that I had just added 40 lbs of food to my initial weight. Just then, a lady pulled up and asked if I needed help. I responded, “I’m not sure… I think I can make it the 3 miles back.”
“NO, you won’t make it back, you look tired!” she responded, then she got out of her vehicle and said, “I’m not taking no for an answer.” She opened her back door and began loading my groceries into her vehicle. Then she said, “Hop in - let's go!”
(Just retelling this story blows me away - this is exactly how God did it!) Still taken aback at all of it, I was constantly thanking God for the ride. He knew what I needed and made sure I was delayed just long enough as I followed His direction, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to make it back with the energy I had left… and then He provided me a ride and an opportunity to share my story. He helped me through the trial and then He provided a way to follow Him without failing Him. He taught me that trusting Him was worth more than doing things my way.
I don’t think that lady knows how God used her generosity. It truly blessed us in that moment, stranded at a truck stop. As we tell the story, over and over again, we are blessed just remembering God’s faithfulness through it all. This was yet another divine appointment.
TRUCK STOP LIFE
Throughout the entire intense situation of having nowhere else to go, little to eat, and no funding, I was able to reach out to out-of-town friends for prayer support. God provided more funds and more food on the table as days passed, and this provided fuel money to move the RV to another local truck stop. This location offered extremely inexpensive RV overnight spots with power to charge our batteries and keep us warm as early June nights in Idaho threatened freezing temperatures. Anytime cold temps were coming, He’d provided funds for us to plug into power.
While at this truck stop, we lived without power for at least 2 weeks, on and off - primitive camping (filling buckets with water from the truck stop’s spigots, sponge bathing, etc) became necessary. But with or without power, we were still in a safe location. There was a device charging area inside the truck stop store that allowed us to keep in contact with those we were still mentoring.
We still followed God’s direction, and He kept us hopeful that He would finally get us moving again. For months we had been waiting for a grant to help keep us afloat. The pandemic had discouraged people from donating to most nonprofits in the United States, including Brave Sky. Our grant had stalled and funding was delayed, week after week. We kept waiting for money to show up, and God asked us to wait for His plan to unfold. We repeatedly asked for His permission to sell belongings to meet financial needs. He repeatedly said no.
“Without knowledge and
understanding, we fear.”
- Paul de Gelder
We were barely spending money: buying food as cheaply as possible, traveling only when needed. I know I keep saying that we kept running out of funds, but each time funds were given, they were minimal, just as God wanted them to be, and they got us through only days at a time. We trusted God enough to let go of our control and live day by day. We truly lived out the concept of “don’t worry about tomorrow.” We worked with what we had, one day at a time.
No food showed up daily on our doorstep, no produce fell off a passing truck. We’ve all heard crazy stories of miracles, and as humans we expect to constantly experience them ourselves when we follow God’s leading. We had no amazing miracles to write about during this time. God simply took care of us just as He promised He would. Remember, Reader, I wanted God to wow you. I hoped He would miraculously show Himself to you through our story, to prove that He can be trusted. What actually happened was that He asked us to follow and we actively followed. He asked us to trust Him and we actively trusted. He asked us to live what we preach… and we did - we still do.
And here’s the thing: when we follow God’s instruction, it aligns our hearts with His plan for us. If He chooses for us to struggle so that those around us see our willingness to follow and obey - He gets the credit for our obedience. Our willingness to follow has the potential to point others toward God, showing them that He can be trusted in their struggles. We obey because we are safer inside His plan, just like a parent’s boundaries exist to protect a child. As humans, we see boundaries as being unfair when actually they keep us close to Him where we remain safe.
Awful things are always happening to those who follow God, but because He’s told us that there is more in our future than this current circumstance, we can choose to find joy in every circumstance. Those around us see how we respond in every situation - whether we become shut down by fear or we move forward joyfully and bravely. Fear takes every opportunity to lie to us, to have us believe that God is not working. The more we trust our God, the less we fear because we understand that He never STOPS working.
72 HOURS IS NOT ENOUGH
We went to pay for one more night with electricity, but the truck stop said 72 hours was the limit. God told us to move back over to a non-electric parking spot. We followed His direction and moved where He said to, when He said to. As soon as we’d moved the RV, groundskeeping/security stopped us and told us we had to leave the property altogether. We explained our situation, and he then assured us, “We’re not going to make you leave.” He then directed us to a specific spot where we would be safe and promised to get approval from his supervisor for us to stay. We had listened to and followed what God told us to do, and He provided like He promised. By the time we finally left, we had stayed at that truck stop for much, much longer than 72 hours!
Even though nothing big and miraculous happened, He provided so that we could keep doing what He needed us to do. He has used our obedience to plant countless seeds. Think about the traffic that comes through a truck stop in a given week, let alone a month! We were an active billboard, a truck emblazoned with Brave Sky Ranch’s logo sitting in a busy parking lot.
We were seeing daily hits on the Brave Sky website from all over the US, and even around the world. People were reading my story and all that God has done in my life. Our time at the truck stop was completely because of His hand, and He alone chose when and through whom to provide.
I love and trust Him more than ever. I cannot help it, after all that I have seen Him do over the past 3 years (and throughout my entire life)! I’ve seen Him proven through the stories of all those who’ve personally shared how my testimony has impacted them or how their lives changed because of God’s influence.
God blessed us even while we were in storms. He walked us right into one storm after another, but He also provided everything we needed in every hardship, including the needs of all animals in our care. I knew God wasn’t going to leave us stranded. Even on our oldest son’s birthday, we continued to follow God’s leading… right into another situation where we had to trust Him completely. God had built up trust and faith in us prior to this point, and that’s how we survived. We didn’t take our eyes off Him.
People continually ask us why we haven’t been selling things to get ourselves out of these tough situations.
We asked God for wisdom and direction and He told us, “Wait. I have provisions coming, but you need to wait on Me.”
“Why?” I asked. “It’s not going to look good that we have things we could potentially sell and yet we are reaching out to others for monetary help.”
He responded, "Everything you have belongs to Me! If I tell you to sell things, that is what you will do. If I tell you to keep them, you will do as I say. Didn’t you admit that everything you have, including your very breath, belongs to ME?”
I agreed, “Yes Lord, it does.”
“Then listen to and follow what I am telling you to do. Whose voice will you follow? The world and what the world thinks it knows, or the One True God, the Owner of Everything? Sell nothing and just wait.”
HE OWNS IT ALL
Reader, I want to be honest with you. As blunt and direct as it may sound, I want it to be widely known that I live every day for God. I do not live for my family, or for my own pleasure, or for the enjoyment of others… I live the way that God has asked me to live: for HIM and HIM ALONE.
I truly believe that everything I have, AND I DO MEAN EVERY THING IN MY POSSESSION, belongs to God. If He says to sell something, I will sell it. It is no longer mine to control. If He says to buy something, then I will buy it. If everything belongs to Him, then even the money we get from selling an item, or the money we use to buy an item, belongs to Him! I will never know fully why God asked us to wait and not sell things, or why He wants us to wait on others, but it all belongs to Him: plain and simple. My plan isn’t even MY plan anymore.
Here’s what I learned throughout all these storms: if you give all control to God, then it must be ALL control, NO MATTER WHAT. There is no halfway with Him. It must be FULL control, FULL yielding. God promised we would have trouble in life, but He also promised that He would always be with us as long as we keep following Him whole-heartedly.
The property our horses were on needed them vacated by the end of day on June 30th. We continued to seek God for help and He kept telling us to watch and wait. Do you see the theme? He continues to say, “just wait” or “wait and watch," or “watch and wait.” We needed to wait until He released us. If we took timing into our own hands instead of trusting Him, things could get a whole lot worse… because He sees much more than we can see.
On June 29th, we were asking God for permission to sell items to fund moving the horses. I had a custom wedding ring that I hadn’t worn in years because I’d switched to a silicone ring for safety. God told both Anne and myself that we were now free to sell that ring. God led me to a place that gave me top dollar. Then, in the parking lot I had yet another divine appointment and was able to help jumpstart someone’s dead battery. Another seed planted. We got hits on our website shortly after. The more people that visit the Brave Sky website, the more my story gets out and others get a chance to see who God is, and what He has done in my life. The point of my story is always to point right back to God - in everything.
On June 30th, early in the morning, I was asking for guidance on what to do next because we had about 15 hours to remove the horses. God said, “It’s time to sell a few things.”
I agreed, but I asked what the money was going to pay for.
He answered, “It’s time to go.”
“Go where?” I asked.
“Pack up and leave Idaho today. I will provide the funds you need.”
So we began calling around to find buyers for the items we needed to sell. God told us to sell the guitar, and someone bought it after seeing a few photos and cut us a check (for more than we expected!) without ever seeing it in person. I also sold two firearms, whose resale value had increased with the pandemic economy. One of the guns was now considered “hard to find,” and as the local gun store offered me a great price, a fellow customer walking by made me an even better offer. Because I had waited for God’s direction and timing, the items yielded more funds than they would have if we’d sold them earlier - when we thought best.
Again, fully following is the most important thing above all else. If I hadn’t listened and followed, we wouldn’t have had the funds we needed when we needed them. Without those funds we couldn’t afford to move to our next waypoint when He told us to move. It wasn’t about the items sold or about the money gained. It was (and still is!) about fully following His instruction.
Now we had the funding to get us to the East Coast.
While I was getting things sold in town, Anne was getting things packed up and ready to go. We knew we couldn’t take everything on this first trip. We only had one pickup and 2 trailers. We had hours to get the horses out of town, and it was so hot during the day that traveling during cooler night hours was the best choice for their health. Anne asked the truck stop General Manager if we could leave the RV in its current spot for a week, then we’d come back and get it. He had no problem at all with the arrangement - he literally said, “Do what you need to do. It’ll be safe here until you get back.” And again God provided for our needs just like He promised.
Friends in Iowa offered to let us stay with them on our way the East Coast. They even had a horse stable with open pasture about a mile from their house. Everything was set - God had planned it out completely. We also needed to get health certificates for the horses before they could leave the state. We were running out of time and the vet office was closing soon. We called and they fit us in last minute! God worked it out again, with time to spare!
We set out on the long journey toward Iowa by 5:30pm. We had to stop often to make sure the horses had a break, fresh water, and hay. It wasn’t easy, but we made it to Iowa safely. We had the wind at our backs and very few people on the roads. God truly cleared our path.
Once we arrived in Iowa, we got the horses settled in the beautiful pasture. The next day, we began planning how to get the RV from Idaho to the East Coast. Anne, the kids, the dogs and the horses would stay in Iowa until I could get the RV moved to where it needed to be.
I headed back to Idaho. Driving many miles alone was especially difficult because I was without Anne, my resident navigator and fuel-stop-finder (this was the first time in over a year that we had been apart).
Every time we move the RV, we put more wear and tear on our home. As God has changed the mobility of Brave Sky Ranch, we have come to realize that we will soon need a replacement more suitable for our current needs - and much sooner than we expected. He has held it together so far, and we continue to trust Him to provide what we need when we need it.