Breaking the Rules

July 14, 2015


You know we have learned so much during the two years that we have been in business. There are several “best practices” that you apply when you are in business. One of those “best practices” is not to voice your opinion on political, cultural and religious beliefs. People have very strong opinions on these subjects and it can drive away those who would come to see you.

But when we meet people that share a similar opinion on these subjects, we sometimes open up and are able to speak freely. One of the things we truly try not wish to do is push our beliefs on anyone. But we are open enough to listen when others wish to share.
With that being said, I am about to break that rule.

I have been writing this blog since May 2012. As I researched its history, there were times I wished someone had kept a journal or diary of their life at Belle Grove Plantation. What it would be like to be here during any given time period would today be so valuable. So from the beginning, I wrote it as a journal of what we have done and gone through to open the Bed & Breakfast at Belle Grove Plantation. Maybe someday, someone else will see it as valuable.

When I first started writing the blog and as we built a following, people would tell me what an “inspiration” we were. Chasing our dream and doing whatever it took to make it work was motivation to others to follow their dreams.

As I started writing, I wondered how much personal insight I should give about our journey. You read all the time about how people give too much personal information on Facebook. Where do we draw the line?

It wasn’t until the death of my mother in November 2012 that I got the answer. My mother had a massive stroke that left her unable to move, speak or see. After meeting with the doctors, we knew there was no hope of recovery. Having spoken to her many years before during the death of her father, I knew she didn’t want to live life like this. So we as a family made the decision to turn off life support.

During the time I was in the hospital with her, I wondered if I should write a blog about it. To let people know that even though we were pursuing our dream, life still happened. Would it be too much information? Would it look like I was “fishing” for sympathy?

I decided to do so. The next time I looked at my blog, I was floored. I knew we had several people that followed the blog. But the response was just overwhelming. We had hundreds commenting to the post, supporting us, encouraging us and sending thoughts and prayers. We had so many that I had to let everyone know that I was really reading their comments and that I appreciated them all, but that I would be placing a “thank you” on each instead of replying due to the number we received. I would write three more blogs before my mother’s funeral. It was a true blessing during that time.
Since then we have shared our joys and our hardships throughout this journey. And we have invited you to come along with us as we build this dream that is Belle Grove Plantation. Many of you come to us and tell us how you follow along. When I travel around Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC, I think about what I am going to tell you about before I even start writing it.

One part of this journey that I want to talk about today is our faith. I have been a Christian since I was eight years old. But I feel my true faith came along when I was twelve. I have been through many trials and tribulations during my life time. When I share this with others, I general hear, “How many lives have you lived?” But it was this faith that kept me sane.

During this journey of opening Belle Grove Plantation, it has been this faith that we have come to lean on. Many, many days of praying and talking to God have been invested in this journey. We have asked many others to pray on our behalf. But through it all, we know that God has been the reason we are here today.

While we were working on opening Belle Grove Plantation and before we lived there, we would travel up to “visit” once a month. I knew from the moment I stepped onto the property that I belonged there. This was my purpose in life to accomplish. During these “visits”, I would pray and cry. My heart longed to be here and it broke the moment I left.

But God is good.

In talking about our journey during a visit with some overnight guests, I talked about how God let me know that He was hearing me. One of the overnight guests got excited and explained she had in her journey through cancer had the same thing happen to her. She called them her “God winks”. I loved that thought and started calling my experiences the same.

One of my “God winks” happened before we signed the lease for Belle Grove. It happened one day as I was driving alone to Belle Grove. It was a particularly difficult time and I was stressed and in tears. I was also praying so very hard.

As I made my way to Belle Grove up Route 17, I came into the Gloucester area. I have passed through this area many, many times. And I had started making “landmarks” along the way to know how far away I was to getting to Belle Grove or getting back home. One of these “landmarks” was a small church called “Newington Church” in Gloucester Courthouse. There is a traffic light there, but I almost never got stopped by the red light there. Normally I would pass through and glance over at this beautiful little church. They have a marquee sign out front and they always have their scheduled events listed on it.

On this day, I got stopped at the red light.

Now I have to tell you that I had been praying for God to just send me a “sign” that we were moving in the right direction. That we weren’t just chasing a dream that we weren’t meant to chase. Just something to give me some reassurance that it was going to work out okay.
Behold, on the sign wasn’t the scheduled events as before. But a saying.

“Stop Worrying. God’s Got It.”

I stopped crying and thanked God for that reassurance.

“Oh ye of little faith”

There have been several times it has happened since. We would be at a point that I didn’t know what the outcome would be and I would again start worrying and stressing. And being human, I would start doubting and wanting that reassurance. And God, being the understanding Father would send a small “God wink” to me to let me know He was with us. And that I needed to let go and let Him take care of it.

But each time He was giving me that “wink” I would again draw closer to Him.

I think He likes to present us with circumstances that only through Him can be solved. You know, when you know that the outcome is only a miracle that God could have produced. That through these miracles can we tell the story of how we got to where we are. It then becomes not only a story of faith for us, but can in turn help others with their faith.

One last “wink” that happened to me occurred in January 2014. I was praying very hard and looking for the assurance that seemed to appear out of nowhere. It was on a drive to Fredericksburg that I prayed God would send this “wink”. But as I made my way back to the plantation, my spirit dropped knowing I might not get that assurance I so needed.

Then on the radio, a commercial came on. Not one that I had heard before, but one that I needed to hear. It was a commercial for a local church. The pastor came on and said, “Today, I have a verse I would like to read to you.”

I listened and waited.

“This verse is meant just for you.” The pastor would say.

I really started listening, waiting to see what God had to say to me.

“Yesterday, I read to you from Psalms 23, speaking about walking through the valley of the shadow of death.” He would go on to say.
In my mind, I would say to myself, “Yes, I know where you are talking, because I have been there for the last couple of days.”

Then the pastor read Jeremiah 29:11-13

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

It was all I needed. Tears would flow that day. And I would pray and tell God, I understood and that I had faith it would be okay.

So why did I feel the need to share these?

Because I have publicly thanked so many for all the support, love, encouragement and prayers. I feel that it is so very important to let people know that we have gotten to where we are not by our own actions, but by the actions of many.

But the one thing I have failed to do is to publicly acknowledge that God had brought us here. Without Him, we would have never gotten this far.
So I thank God for all that He has provided us with. Love, Support, Encouragement not only from Him but by those who He has sent to us. Without Him, we are nothing.

So thank you for allowing me to “break” one of my rules. I think it was about time I did.


4 thoughts on “Breaking the Rules

  1. Bonnie Kotalik says:

    What a story. I was drawn to read this tonight. Have many things on my mind and not sure where God is directing me. It’s late and I find it difficult to sleep due to the worries that I am facing. God is bigger and I pray he gives me that wink. Very inspiring story. Thank you for sharing. Good luck and God Bless.

  2. John Hassenauer says:


  3. David says:

    Every once in awhile, we have step outside the “rules” especially when you have your own business. Being in the data analysis business, occasionally I have to offer a rather candid opinion to a client. It’s something I’d prefer not to offer, but when you have to, you have to. There have been many times I had to ask God, “did I say too much?” Rarely do I ask, “have I said too little.” (A ‘LOL’ moment in my book.)

    God knows our heart, and He knows it better than we do. Long as we stay faithful.

    Many thanks for this reminder of who’s in charge. Have a good week ahead.

  4. Aaron says:

    I think it’s typical for more personal type blogs to cross lines, and it’s okay because your blog isn’t just popping up infront of people, they have made an effort to read it. Maybe they enjoy the plantation, maybe they enjoy reading your words, maybe they’re like me and just read through blogs for hours on end lol. I remember when you guys were collecting books for the library and I wanted to send one, but never did. Then the fund raiser a while back, I donated a little. I liked watching the place go from dusty abandon rooms to pretty historic rooms again. I hope you get the rest of the buildings fixed up too. I believe they can be saved 🙂

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