Megan Gilmore: I grew up in an impoverished community in a very loving home. I am the oldest of five siblings and have a lot of physical trauma in my past.
When I was five, I was in a head-on collision with a semi-truck. I walked away with some glass in my hair, but no scratches. I still remember being on a gurney with my two younger sisters, who were three and two years old, and my mom was somewhere else in the hospital. While my sisters were playing with a stethoscope, I remember being very aware that I was somehow responsible for protecting them because my mom wasn't there.
When I was 12, I was in another car accident. We were t-boned by a driver that was under the influence. I wasn't wearing my seatbelt, and I flew into the windshield. I broke the windshield, and the window lacerated my face. I was knocked out. When I woke up in a stretcher in an ambulance, I thought I was completely alone. I later found out my mom was right next to me in another stretcher.
As soon as I got to the hospital, my face was really messed up. It just so happened that the best cosmetic surgeon in the state was on call in our small town hospital that day, and he was able to do my surgery. He stitched me back up and made sure my scars lined up with my facial lines. After the surgery, I was in ICU by myself for a few days.
One of the things that helped me through that was gymnastics and swimming; I was an athlete. I was good at academics and athletics, so I poured myself into those things.
When I was 16, I drove a golf cart off a bridge at a golf fundraiser. I was in charge of the "closest to the pin” contest, and the prize was a gorgeous electric guitar. We were taking the guitar back to the clubhouse when I overcorrected on a sharp turn, and we went off the bridge into a small river. I gashed my head on a rock, knocked out, and my head fell into the water. The golf cart landed on top of me, and my cousin landed on top of all of that. He was able to stand up and picked up my head, saving me from drowning. He couldn’t move the golf cart because it had filled with water. I was trapped. The electric guitar floated down the river.
I was screaming at him because it hurt so bad and he didn't know what to do. I told him to get other people to help, and he left. After a while, my dad came and jumped off the bridge and into the river. He had had an accident a few years earlier that made it so that his ankles were bone against metal without any shock absorbers. He tried to lift the golf cart and couldn't because it was impossible.
He stopped and prayed, “God help me save my daughter.” After praying this, he effortlessly lifted the golf cart off me. We both climbed out of the bank, and I was hypothermic. In the ambulance, they cut off my clothes because they were wet and cold. There I was, a 16-year-old girl naked in an ambulance–alone again.
After this accident, I started receiving messages like “wow, you’ve had so many miracles happen to you. You should be dead. God must be saving you for something really special.” While the intentions behind these messages were good, the impact of that sort of narrative was that I could not mess up or next time I would not be worth saving.
So I became a perfectionist. I strove, and I strove, and I strove to be a good girl, person, daughter, sister, student, and girlfriend. I only applied to a couple of colleges because I was absolutely sure I was supposed to go to this school and I was absolutely sure I was going to marry this guy that I was with at the time.
My junior year, I went on a wilderness trip to Algonquin provincial park. Other than having children, it was the hardest thing I have ever done physically in my life. On the trip, we had a solo day, and we had to spend eight hours alone in nature. Being the good person that I was, I made a plan and gathered my snacks and grabbed my journal.
A friend and I canoed out to an island. She got one half of the island, and I got the other. After I did all the stuff I had planned, I had spent only spent two hours in nature and still had six hours left.
So I just had to be alone for six hours with nature and God and myself. It was the first time that I heard him. I knew that it was his voice, and it was resonant with my spirit. There was no question. It happened when I was still and sitting in awe and wonder, and there was nowhere else to go.
I heard a few things, but the basic message he gave me was, “do not put me in a box.”
At that moment, God gave me a vision of a place that I thought was completely revolutionary, a place with multiple modes of therapy including nature-based therapy, equine therapy, art therapy, play, therapy. There were medical professionals, mental health professionals, and spiritual directors at this place, so the therapy would treat the whole person with all the ways God speaks, including nature, science, and people.
For the first time, I questioned whether the path I thought God's purpose for my life was the right path. I had thought of God's purpose for me as being something far away, something that I had to achieve.
During my senior year of high school, everything fell apart. The guy I thought I was supposed to marry cheated on me, and the school I thought I was supposed to go to put me on a waitlist, even though there was no reason I was a perfect candidate.
I decided to go to IWU for a semester because it was close to where I lived. I told myself that I would not form any relationships and then transfer out to pursue what God "really" has planned for me.
When I started college, my family was still traveling a lot, and I was often alone at home. During this time, I developed my relationship with God. It's easy to say that God is everything you need until God is everything that you have.
I started studying Psychology, and the faculty were the reason I stayed. They were incredible. I was completely won over by them. I started taking leadership classes because I had always been in leadership positions and thought it would be a good idea to learn how to be a good one. I took Servant Leadership from Jim Laub and learned a lot, so I started filling all my electives with leadership classes. I started being mentored by Bill Millard. The spring of my senior year, I realized I had all the credits I needed to add a leadership major; I just hadn’t declared it yet. I was the first person on either side of my family to graduate from college.
After graduating, I interned at a ranch for abused and abandoned girls in Alabama called Big Oak. I helped create an equine program down there.
I immediately went into a grad program. I had originally chosen to study marriage counseling but eventually switched to addictions counseling.
My first internship in graduate school was at Selah House in Anderson, a home for women with eating disorders. It was the closest thing I had experienced to the vision I had in the wilderness. I loved it there.
I had a five-year plan from senior year to when I would start my ranch and retreat center. I was being mentored and had a board in mind.
When I was 20, I was diagnosed with a fertility disorder and was told that I would not be able to have kids. So I was on birth control to regulate everything. While I was on birth control and had this fertility disorder, I got pregnant with Elliot.
The nine months I was pregnant with Elliot were some of the most transformative months of my life. I learned that God loves me for who I am, not for what I do or don't do. During my pregnancy, my plan was shaken up again. I learned that I love teaching. I started coaching and teaching; neither was part of the plan.
It was also during this time when God spoke to me and said, “Megan, give me the ranch.” It shook my world. From the time I was 17-24, the ranch was my purpose; it was “the reason I was saved all those times.” It was the thing that would make God proud of me. I learned that I had an idealized picture of what life was supposed to be rather than co-creating this life with God.
So at this point, I don’t know what is going on, and I just keep showing up for life.
I started listening to God’s voice every day and asking, “How do I live out God’s purpose today?”
Within six months, I started healing my body naturally. Within another six months, I was teaching, coaching, working as the coordinator of the life coaching program at IWU, I was hiring people, and had a team.
In another six months, I ran into my advisor, and he asked me if I was studying for the licensure exam. I told him I was not studying because I didn’t have any hours and was a coach now. He told me the law changed, and I had everything I needed to take it.
I talked to Evan, and he told me to do it, even though it would take our whole savings. I studied, took the test, and passed it and become a licensed addictions counselor.
At the same time, I started the life coaching certification, and I realized I wanted to have another baby. I also knew that I couldn’t keep working at IWU and be the kind of person I wanted to be. When I talked to Bill Millard (my supervisor at the time) about it, he said, “you’ve got to build the place with the horses.”
Before I left, someone in the office asked if I knew of anyone who was certified in coaching and licensed in addictions counseling because a position at New Day had opened up for a Director of Recovery Coaching. He told me that the job would require me to work part-time from home with flexible hours. It was exactly the job I needed to have while I started my private practice and had Bella.
Within a year of working at New Day, I had built an addictions recovery program just like the vision I had when I was 17. But I was only 28 and had so much life to live. After a year of working there, it was very clear that I was done.
In January 2013, I went to the beach. I had a list of questions I asked my clients and decided to answer them for myself. The one question I could not answer was, “what one courageous decision would drastically change your life?” I didn’t know how I could change my life any more than I had done in the past two years.
I was sitting in stillness and awe and heard God say, “Megan, the ranch requires courage.” I asked him how I was supposed to do that, and he said, “You’re not going to do it for me, I'm going to do it with you.”
In January 2013, I wrote in my journal, “to pursue the idea of the ranch with excellence and ease.” I was not going to half-ass it, and I was not going to push in where it's not opening up.
When I told the coaches in my life about what God had said to me on the beach, each one of them cried. We created a collective of coaches and started pursuing the idea of the ranch.
My daughter was laying in bed one night, and I asked her what she was doing. She said, “I’m listening.”
I asked her what she was listening for, and she said: “I’m listening for God to speak to me.”
I said, “Do you hear anything?”
She responded, “Not yet, but I know I will. I know that he loves me, and if he loves me, He will speak to me.”
Then she asked me, “How do you know what God's voice sounds like?”
I told her, “Its the voice that sounds like love.”
One of the limiting beliefs I have always dealt with is that I am alone and that I need to prove my worth and competence, but the message of “you better do something amazing with your life” is obliterated.
From the time you are born, regardless of your story or experience, your purpose is today. There will be pain and trauma, and it will be an incredible teacher. But maybe learn the right good thing, not the shameful compelling thing.
Your purpose isn’t something far away for you to achieve, and your potential isn’t something that will make you worth it. Your purpose is here today in the space that you’ve been planted. Your potential is something that you can delight in, not something to be held over your head.
Edited BY Jaylan Miller