We had been looking for land for about two years and seriously looking for six months…when seeing something we liked online, we actually hopped in the car to go check it out in person. My husband, Steve, had talked about a three year plan to get us there, but we were looking anyway because we were wanting land so bad. I had big dreams for a home that my children could play in, but I didn’t want to wait until they were too old to play with toys to get it. I wanted some farm animals while they were still young. After Hurricane Florence, so many of our local areas flooded and any available good homes were quickly snatched up by folks who had lost their homes. I wondered if we would ever be able to find anything around here. I love our area and have spent 13 years building my photography business here. Steve started looking at land in Virginia, but I was hoping and praying something would come up in North Carolina.
Some of the land we went to see was beautiful, some looked like there were probably bodies buried out there. We went to see a listing in Hampstead one January day after church, but upon arrival realized the dirt road in was more like a BMX track. We hit a four foot deep puddle and the mud was lapping over the hood of the Suburban like ocean waves. I looked at my husband and said, “honey, are you buying me a Hummer? Or are your plans to put me here and never let me leave? How will construction vehicles get back in here? It is obviously still for sale because it is inaccessible.”
We left there and headed to a listing in Castle Hayne. The area beside the land was very run down. Some of the homes had cardboard over all the windows and I asked my husband not to stop at the stop sign, but to roll right through. I said, “somebody is definitely abducted up in here. We could make some money back on the land if we charge the news crews for the bone reveals, because there are some bodies back in there, 100% for sure.”
I went to the beach to photograph a beautiful maternity shoot, then Steve and the kids met me in Rocky Point to look at the last listing we found, even though we were checking it out in the dark, thanks to those early winter sunsets. The road in was promising….paved and lined with trees, every neighbor appeared to have 8 acres and a horse. Could this be the one? We got out of the car and peered around. We were VERY excited. Either this land had flooded during the hurricane or God was handing us a gift on a silver platter. It was beautiful! We immediately called our agent, Cassie Williamson, and told her we wanted to make an offer, walk the property in the daylight, get more info…all the things! The next day on a 3 way call with Cassie and my husband, we were reviewing the aerial maps the other agent had sent over. Zooming in, we realized the land was not in Rocky Point, but right down the road in Leland (thanks for the bad directions, Siri). “So where were we last night?” I asked my husband. Trespassing on someone else’s property that was not for sale and thankfully not getting shot as we were hooting and celebrating in the dark that we had finally found “the one.” I hopped in my car and quickly rode over to the actual property still for sale in Leland, only to find a web of power lines, discarded mattresses, piles of beer cans, and swamp land.
On Mother’s Day we took a ride up to St. Helena to look at 63 acres we had been watching online and were greeted with the most amazing sunset and beautiful neighboring property. When we inquired about it, it had just gone under contract. Where was God leading us? I was so hopeful about this listing, but we prayed that if it was meant to be, for Him to please open doors, and if not, slam them shut.
Still on the hunt, we found 80 acres in Beulaville and some other pretty land in Riegelwood, but we shared concerns about being able to sell it if we ever wanted to. Also in May, we visited an address in Rocky Point. One of the neighboring properties had a dilapidated concrete block compound. There were 25 or so “No Trespassing” signs stapled to the trees flanking the driveway that also had a chain going across it. In front of the building was a shiny new BMW. I looked at Steve and said, “This looks like a country episode of Kiss the Girls. Where is Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd?” So, that property was a definite nur. Gotta protect my babies.
A promising listing showed up in Castle Hayne in May. Gorgeous land, but the listing said the house needed some work. We toured it and were sad understanding it was for sale due to a bad divorce situation. Apparently they started a reno, but stopped abruptly, because they had cut a giant hole in a wall to make two rooms one big room, but they never even finished taking the wall down. My son Eli (age 6 at the time) looked at me and said, “Mom. We are gonna need Chip and Jo.” Yep. That was too much for me to take on. The land was so pretty, but the house was a mess.
June 1st Steve found a listing in Leland just 8 minutes from our house (we had not even been looking in that area) and texted it to me, but I was already asleep. June 2nd we got up and went to church, planning to check it out just after, but there was a thunderstorm, so we went home. That evening, just before sunset, the weather had cleared and Steve asked if I wanted to go check it out. “Boo, the sun sets in 20 minutes, if we are going, we have to go right now.” Then I yelled, “Don’t even get your shoes, everybody run to the car!!!” We have 5 kids, at the time ages 9, 6, 5, 3, and 1, so finding everyone’s shoes and putting them on would have taken way too long. If ya got ’em, grab ’em; if not, let’s roll.
We pulled down a long driveway, between two giant oaks, but 12 minutes to sunset is already dark in the woods. We could see what was just in front of us, but couldn’t really see the whole landscape. We got out to look around. There were fireflies everywhere. We don’t see fireflies around here. I grew up catching them, but we never see them anymore. Two years ago, we rented a cabin in TN, and the woods put on a beautiful show of these nostalgic night-lights. It was the kids first and only time seeing them, so they enjoyed chasing them so much during that vacation. We stood on this new property and watched in wonder as the woods lit up and the children ran around catching fireflies. I said to Steve, “this feels like a sign” and then I whispered to God, “this feels like a sign, Lord.” We decided we needed to go back and visit in the daytime to see if this was it. God truly does speak to us, but we must take pause and listen. We very affectionately refer to this area of the property as Firefly Crossing. Those beautiful fireflies have been glowing all of June, July, August, and so far in September.
John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.