Home

A New Beginning

Leave a comment

Yellow1

I am feeling emotional and full of gratitude tonight.  When my husband and I dragged our two little kids out to the middle of nowhere to live in a tent and start a farm, we were so driven, and perhaps a bit lacking in reality.  So many people told us that it could not be done- but of course, we knew that it could be!  The plan, though, was to come out here and build our house out of pocket, with no debt, and live out our days with no mortgage, free and clear, making money off the homestead, and raising our kids on the land.  Most of that is all fine and good- minus the money part!  We came from West Virginia, where wages were half of what we were used to- and even as a nurse, we were barely above the poverty line.  Because of that, our savings were much less than expected.  In addition, we really had no idea what the costs would be for the many things we needed to do.  We never expected the high cost of the septic system, the well that went foot by painful foot to 120 feet, or the solar system.  Framing the house in was the easy and inexpensive part!  The money kept rolling out and eventually, we got to the point where we had to take on more debt if we were going to continue to work on the house.  We could have limped along and taken longer to finish the house, but with two little kids, pregnant, and then a third- we were pretty burned out on living with no water, no electricity, no flooring, etc.

We decided at some point last winter, that we should just refinance the land and pay off all our debt.  We would still be left with a fairly small mortgage, but no other unsecured debt.  What we did not realize, was that thanks to the crash of the economy ten years ago, things had become a little more intense with banking, mortgages, and requirements.  The house had to be 98% done in order to refinance.   As soon as Spring rolled in, we hit the ground running.  Every day that I was not at work, we were working on the house.  So many nights one or both of us worked long after the kids had gone to bed.  I worked off site, Dave went to school full-time, and on all our days ‘off’, we worked on the house.  Days dragged into months and it still was not finished by Christmas.  Our stamina and endurance had  pretty much left the building.  Finally, the first week in January, we were ready for the appraisal.  And now, less than a month later, we have a closing date.  It is a moment filled with such emotion for me.

This house……This house……  There are so many millions of thoughts running around in my head when I sit on the couch and look around at this place.  To most people, it seems small, maybe tiny, and simple, no-frills.  But let me tell you, there is a castle of emotions and memories built up in this place.  We never imagined when we came here, that building this house would be the last time we would see Dave’s brother alive.  We never imagined the sacrifice that each and every one of us would make, just to be here.  We could not have foreseen how difficult it would be sometimes just to get up and do it all again day after day.  We never thought about the toll it would take on our marriage, our relationship with God, or the experience of our son- being a toddler in such uncertainty and transition.  As I sit and look around, though, I know that we also never imagined the personal growth and STRENGTH that we experienced.  Even through all the pain, we are stronger and more steadfast.  Our family unit is stronger and  happier, because we now appreciate each and every moment where we can just enjoy being here.  Each moment of free time was earned.  Each comfort that most take for granted was bought and paid for with hard labor.

So many people have been rooting for us.  My brother and sister-in-law helped with the foundation work.  My husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law prepared and poured the slab and built the shell.  Dave and I worked the first year to insulate, frame inside walls, and run plumbing and electric lines. Extended family- aunts, uncles, grandparents, and parents sent unexpected financial gifts to keep us going and we were able to have the roof put on, install the septic tank, buy drywall, and stove pipe.  We hung drywall at night after the kids were asleep, with a borrowed drywall jack and homemade scaffolding.  Even having the camper to live in the second and third year was not without sacrifice.  I had to work a round of night shifts after Dave’s brother died and on the way home one morning, spun the truck on black ice, and totaled it.  We used the insurance money to buy the camper.   The camper was bought from a gentleman that had a stroke and was no longer able to care for it- even his sacrifice unknowingly impacted our future.  Then last year we went from living in a construction zone, to living in a home.  We got tongue and groove up, flooring, carpet, trim, and cabinets.  Sometimes when I lay in bed at night I am amazed by how much this place has changed in a relatively short time.  I feel like so many things happened together that resulted in the puzzle being complete, and had any one of those things not fallen into place, we would not be where we are now.

IMG_1610

 

I imagined that I might feel disappointed because we wanted to move here and build mortgage free.  Instead, I feel light.  A burden has been lifted off of our shoulders that was threatening to crush us.  For me, I felt the burden of making ends meet and needing to make sure our many obligations were met, while still providing for five people’s needs, and continuing to purchase things for the house.  For Dave, the burden was watching the kids while I worked, going to school, and spending every day that I was off, working on the house.  We limited our fun because of financial constraints, but even if we had been able to afford it, he felt a burden to work on the house in his ‘free’ time.   The freedom that we both feel is unbelievably amazing.

I am so thankful to everyone who has had a part of building this place.  I am thankful for my husband, for his immense knowledge and technical abilities, his strength and endurance to work day after day without complaint.  I am thankful for my eldest son, for being willing to live in a tent and forgo all the comforts of home, to sacrifice his playtime for so long, so that we could build and work.  So many days he asked me, “Mama, is today a play day, or a work day?” I would have to tell him it was a work day and feel bad because there were so many times he begged me to play instead.  I am above all, thankful for God, for His unfailing, unending, unencumbered love and grace.  He led us here and we knew that if we came here and built our house from the foundation up and placed him at the center, that our lives would be forever changed.  We came here looking for a new beginning, but even at this stage of the game, I am not sure that we realized that sometimes a forest has to completely burn down in order for new growth to happen, and a stronger forest to emerge.

IMG_2317.jpg

Advertisements

The Lazy Life

3 Comments

We were having a conversation with someone last week about ‘homesteading’.  This was the first time we had ever met this person and he introduced himself and said that he had heard that we were living with solar power and trying to be self-sufficient.  He mentioned several reality T.V. shows about homesteaders and his next comment was that he had the impression that many of the people who choose to live that way are lazy.  They homestead because they do not want to work.  I seriously laughed out loud and tried to decide if I should walk away from the conversation or try to re-educate this person about our life.  He went on to further dig himself in a hole as we tried to explain to him that his view of reality was just not accurate.  After the conversation ended, my husband and I both attempted to rationalize where these views came from and what exactly he meant.  I believe that this person must really think that what he sees on television is an accurate representation of life and that his narrow view of the world is based on this assumption.  I have thought many times this week about his comment and chuckled to myself as I went about my day.  Perhaps he is right………

Perhaps I am lazy because I really enjoy waking up and coming downstairs in my PJs to make breakfast for the kiddos and read together on the couch under a blanket instead of working every day in the rat race.

Maybe I am lazy because I really think it is cool that we can spend an hour or two on formal education for my first grader and spend the rest of the day cooking, playing, running around outside, and learning by doing things instead of sending him on a bus to be gone all day.

It feels lazy some days to get to spend all day out in the sun picking weeds and tending the garden so that we can harvest food to eat.  It definitely feels lazy to pop open a can of homemade spaghetti sauce for dinner and not have to go get it at the store!

I certainly felt lazy when I needed to do laundry in the middle of a string of cloudy days and I had to run to the store for gas, fill up the generator, start the generator in the 20 degrees below zero temperatures, load the washing machine, and then fold the laundry in the comfort of my home.  This was so much better then last winter when I had to load all three kids into the car for a three hour long adventure to the laundromat!

No question about the pure laziness involved in coming down to the kitchen and having a fridge to open, a full stove to cook in, and a sink to wash dishes in!  It genuinely felt lazy after using a cooler or a camper fridge for two years, washing in a utility sink then dumping the 5-gallon gray water bucket every day, and cooking on a two-burner camp stove.

So many things about our life now are certainly lazy compared to how they were when we were building.  And if it is lazy to have a weekly movie night together on the couch with popcorn, and lazy to spend the warm winter days out cutting trails in the woods with a pair of garden clippers and a machete, or lazy to make pizza together with the kids instead of throw a frozen one in the oven- well, then I guess we are certainly lazy!  Sometimes it seems lazy, I guess, to work less and play together more, and have to do everything ourselves instead of pay someone else to do them for us.  We could just both work all the time and pay other people to do all these things for us!  It does make me chuckle, though, that there are people out there who think that TV is real life.  In my mind, we are really no different than anyone else out there- we just have different priorities and different things that we value above others. Does that make us lazy?  Maybe, but if so, I am the luckiest lazy person I know!

 

The Path Before Us

Leave a comment

1916005_1263586308648_1356844_n

Dolly Sods West Virginia

We have been frequenting the new path through the woods almost every day now, while the weather holds.  We headed out last night for a late night adventure-  over the bridge and into the woods for a campfire and conversation.  It is always funny to me how a campfire brings out talk that can never happen at home on the couch.  We walked side by side back home and stopped, at a distance, and looked at the small house sitting on the edge of the field.  The warm glow of the Christmas lights through the window made me feel happy.  We looked back down the field, to the spot where all of this started, the location of our ‘camp’ three years ago.  We began to talk about the craziness of it all.  I remember so vividly laying in the tent while we were waiting to do the groundwork, still finalizing the drawing of the house- sketched again and again on graph paper, erased and re-drawn so many times the paper was worn thin.  We laughed about how many people told us we were crazy, that it couldn’t be done.  “You cannot move to a field and live in a tent”, they said.  “You cannot build a house like that”.  But here is the thing about us- we can do whatever it is that we say we can do.

I do not mean that to sound prideful, or arrogant, because it isn’t meant that way at all.   God certainly guides and provides each step of the way.  As we stood looking at the house, we began to talk, again, about this process.  We began to look back and realize that God knows so much more than we can ever give him credit for.  When we began to reminisce, we realized that our path has been laid out before us for quite some time.  Everything that has transpired has led us here, to this spot, at this particular moment in time.  I know, this sounds kind of like some hippie mumbo-jumbo, but believe me, it is most definitely not!  We started thinking backwards about all of the events of our lives that landed us here, building this house, and we had a difficult time knowing where to stop.  Every decision, every event, every consequence was all part of the plan that brought us to this moment in time.

257280_2129706561113_3691652_o

West Virginia

Before we met, Dave and I separately wanted to have land and build our own house, and then we found each other and began pursuing the same dream.  Before we left for Nome, we bought land in Talkeetna, Alaska, with every intention of building our homestead there.  Forced out of our rental home on December 1st, the beginning of a harsh and unforgiving winter just South of the Arctic circle, we moved into a seasonal summer home out in the tundra- uninsulated, no running water, and 1 mile off the main road.  The challenges we faced there made us second-guess our desire to homestead in Talkeetna.  We felt that perhaps we should be somewhere less remote.  This was the first time we became aware that following a dream was not the same as attaining it.  Seeing the dream become reality was much harder than just moving through life pretending that the dream is all there is.  When we left Alaska, we went with no direction- just the trailer and some abstract ideas of where we might want to go.  We landed in West Virginia, again camping (aka homeless) while we waited for the plan to become more clear.  So many things happened during our time there that led us here.  In the quiet of night, God’s voice whispers to us all, and it seems that Dave and I were listening and making decisions based on what he wanted for us, even if we did not know that we were hearing his voice at the time.

The funny thing about a dream, is that the coming true part is really not as glamorous as the movies want you to believe.  This has been hard.  Super hard.  But as we stood in the field, looking at the glow from the windows, we knew, without a doubt, that this is EXACTLY where God wanted us to stand.  We spent most of our adult lives dreaming, and planning, and then making it happen.  This is the first time that neither one of us has a plan for what is next.  It is really quite exciting, because we both are aware of the fact that God has amazing things planned for us, and coming here, stripping away our desires, our idea of what WE wanted for our lives, opens up a whole new world of adventures that is led by what HE wants for our lives.

184886_1002638865125_557_n

Triple Creek- Nome, Alaska

Our First Thanksgiving at Home

Leave a comment

IMG_1369

We sat around the table feasting on yummy food and I realized that this was our first Thanksgiving at the homestead.  We got a much needed reprieve in the cold weather and the kids spent most of the week outside.  Everyone was around the table laughing, talking, and eating, and my heart was full.  This has been the most amazing week for us.  My father-in-law was able to come and help us build a bridge across the creek and for some reason, that bridge meant so much more to us than just a way across the creek.  We have already cleared about a quarter of an acre of trail around the property and we have been out every day with the kids.  Our boys are so much happier and easier to handle now that they are romping in the woods.  Suddenly, with the construction of that bridge, everything seems to be coming together for us.  What a difference it makes to walk across that creek and into the woods!  I never imagined that a few days work, two 40-foot telephone poles, and 40 treated 2×6 boards would  open up such a world of possibilities.  Mt heart feels full and happy!  We were sitting at the table last night and we asked our six-year-old what his favorite part of the week was.  His answer echoed all of our own answers, “eating Thanksgiving dinner with Grandpa and Gigi, and hiking out in the woods together”.  I feel so blessed and so thankful that we have finally made it to this point and can actually appreciate what it is we have here!

 

Bridge Building

Leave a comment

We have been going full bore on the house to try and finish the major projects before winter hit.  All we had left before we were going to take a winter break was the closet door, some trim upstairs, and some sort of temporary stair railing.  Then Algebra happened.  Dave has been going to school on top of everything else we have been doing, and his eight-week Algebra class started and everything else stopped!  We faced the tough decision of either stopping the work on the house and passing Algebra, or dropping Algebra and finishing the house.  I voted for passing Algebra.  Every fiber of my being wanted to scream out to forget Algebra- who really needs that stuff anyway?  But sometimes we have to make decisions that have nothing to do with what we really want and more to do with what is best for the team.  The house can wait….  Dave said that sometimes he feels like our motto should be the Latin phrase, “Auribus Teneo Lupum”.  I tend to agree.  If you are not familiar with this phrase, it basically means that you have the wolf by his ears, so he can not bite you, but you cannot hold him by his ears forever.  Essentially, either decision that you make will have consequences, and none of the decisions is really all that great.  I do not mean this in a negative way, just realistic, that our time here, building this house, has been inundated with all sorts of decisions like this. So, in line with this phrase, we decided to drag out the house project and subsequent refinancing of debt in order to ensure that Dave can finish Algebra and still graduate in the Spring.

Since we have had some down time while Dave works on school (Haha!), we decided it was time to get to work building a bridge across the creek!  I wish the photos were better, but we have been weeks without true sunshine and cloudy photos just do not turn out as well.  We rented a trailer for our two wheel drive farm truck, picked up some 40 foot telephone poles, got the truck stuck in the field, hauled it out with our other truck, pulled the poles over to the creek with the also two-wheel drive tractor, pushed the poles across the creek with the same tractor, and await the come-along to come along in the mail so that we can finish hauling them across the rest of the way.  Once complete, we can buy the decking, fasten it to the poles, build a side railing, and off we go through the woods!  For three years now we have lived on the edge of the field with 25 acres of woods at our backs, with no way to access the woods without walking all the way down to the road and back up on the other side of the creek.  We decided it was way overdue to build a bridge and start making trails so that we can use the property for some desperately needed recreation!  In true Sims fashion, we spent a free day working instead of lounging about.  This is the kind of work that feels good, though, because it will get us access to the rest of the property!  Sometimes it is nice to pause the projects that never seem finished in order to complete a task that is immediately beneficial!  It was really sweet for me to get to watch our oldest steering the tractor while sitting on his Papa’s lap.  I have memories of driving the same model tractor while sitting in my Grandpa and Uncles laps!

 

Just Like That

Leave a comment

 

Just like that, the cold winds are blowing in on us and winter is fast approaching.  Early Autumn is my favorite season, but lately, late Autumn is my least.  All of the sudden, the looming shadow of all of the things that are not yet done seems to be threatening to swallow me up.  As I sit and listen to the wind howling tonight, and survey the forecast of suddenly dropping temperatures, I feel disappointment in my heart.  I wanted to be done with the house.  I know, it has only been three years, but I just wanted to be done.  I want to spend time with my kids, play games and watch movies. I want to have time again to sit and talk about the world with my husband.  I want to focus on educating my first grader without having to interrupt his schooling for more and more projects.  I want to be present.

We had not been to church in months, since the finish house marathon began again in earnest, and my oldest son was asking to go.  I loaded everyone up and drove into town for the evening service.  Funny that the pastor had a message just for me.  I do not remember the entire sermon, but several things popped out at me.  He was discussing part of Nehemiah and the people rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  He talked about the things that he saw from the story that get in the way of our relationship to God and in the way of listening to God.  The first thing he listed was a loss of strength, and the second was a loss of vision.  I absolutely cannot remember the third, and the fourth was a loss of security.  We are experiencing these three things in totality!  We have lost all our strength to keep moving forward on this project.  We look around at all that needs to be done and find ourselves just not caring.  Vison?  We have definitely lost that!  What exactly are we doing here?  Why did we want to build our own house, and a rather small one at that?  Why did we leave the comfort and security of our last home to literally camp in a field in Minnesota?  As for the loss of security, that has happened as our tensions mount and we begin to snap at each other.  That has happened as more and more money gets poured into these four walls and more and more debt threatens to overtake us.  His message  did provide solutions, and very much provided a sense of hope to me, but I have to dig deep to find the mental reserves to do anything about it.

Tonight I spent about three hours moving things downstairs in anticipation of having carpet installed upstairs.  I am sitting on the sub-floor as I write this.  It is the last real reminder of how we have lived for so long, and I am overwhelmed by the mountains of stuff that I still have to move to get ready.  Five people living in a space that is under 900 square feet, and we have stuff packed into every available space.  All that stuff has to go somewhere, and while my husband is dutifully studying for a large math exam tomorrow, I have to figure out how to get it all downstairs and still manage my flock.  I feel so weary.  In the sermon, the pastor gave three specific things that we can do to get back on track, and of course, in my fatigued mom-brain, I cannot seem to remember what they are.  I know one of them was prayer.  One of them could perhaps be perseverance (or patience).  Since I cannot really remember what they are, I will stick to prayer!  Praying that I will find the strength to get all of this stuff moved downstairs while somehow managing to make my children feel loved, cherished, and cared for.  Praying that I will be able to get it all moved back before returning to work.  Praying that we will be able to finish up the trim, baseboard, and stair railing despite the challenges that winter brings when hauling materials and painting.  Praying that we will somehow be able to head into winter, into the oncoming wind, with our heads up, our hearts ready, and our Spirits renewed.

 

The Risk and The Reward

Leave a comment

Ecclesiastes 11:
Invest in Many Ventures
1Ship your grain across the sea;
after many days you may receive a return.
2Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;
you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.
3If clouds are full of water,
they pour rain on the earth.
Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where it falls, there it will lie.
4Whoever watches the wind will not plant;
whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
5As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed
Or know how life (or the spirit) / enters the body being formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.

 

The Bible contains so many references to risk, and includes so many stories of people that must take huge risks to reap huge rewards.  When we came here, we felt so solid in God’s calling, so certain that our risk in giving up everything would reap benefits that we could not yet see.  We felt so sure that there was a deeper purpose for us here and building the house and starting our homestead were just the tip of the iceberg for what God would do for us.  It was a huge risk.  We literally sold everything and drove away with just what we could fit in the trailers (and maybe some at my parents)!!  We camped in a field and watched it rain and rain and rain while we attempted to plan how we were going to build.  So many times in so many ways, we were at the end of one rope or another, yet we prayed, and believed, and we made it through. So many times we could have literally been homeless, without shelter, or heat, or water, or food.  Although I know that not all risk is rewarded with success, I also know that there is never a reward without some risk.   Risk and reward. We gave up everything to come here and build OUR dream.  But once we realized that everything we needed was in God’s hands,  we really were never at risk of losing anything. We made a commitment when we came here, to put God at the center of our lives and build our house, and our family, around that faith.  Since being here, we have realized that none of this even matters without God, and that all of this could fade away, and we would still receive the reward of spending eternity with Jesus!

As we come closer and closer to completion on the house, I am constantly reminded of the risk and reward of what we have done, and see all around me the many ways that God has blessed us.  We came here with the child-like faith that God would provide for us.  Many people saw us as irresponsible, maybe a little crazy, and might have wondered if we would fail.  There were times that we wondered these things as well!  Our intentions when coming here were to risk everything to return to our lives and live each day with faith the size of a mustard seed.  We wanted to slow down, and stop barreling down the highway of technology and progress so that we could teach our children how to survive in a world that feels increasingly unsafe.  We really wanted to restructure our lives and put our faith in God first.  I feel like we were somewhat misguided initially with our vision of life here, because we often fought the knowledge that none of it was possible on our own, but ultimately, it led us down the path that perhaps God intended all along- to bring us back to the realization that the ‘reward’ in all of this was not that we were able to accomplish our dream, but that none of this even matters without centering our family, our lives, and our daily existence around God.  Had we not sold everything and driven here (the risk), we would never have realized what God really wants for our lives (the reward).

IMG_0203

In Ecclesiastes 11, the first six verses, the Bible talks about risk. These verses to me talk about what we cannot control, what we do not know, and what we can do anyway if we believe in a power outside of ourselves.  Verse 3 of Ecclesiastes 11 says, “If clouds are full of water, they pour rain on the earth.“ This verse makes me laugh when I think about the rain and the many things in this building process that have slowed down or been impossible because of the rain.  No matter how much we wanted sunshine and dry weather, the clouds did not ask our permission before they made things wet. When it rained, it rained, and there was nothing we could do about it.  Just as obvious was the statement in verse 3: “Whether a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where it falls, there will it lie.”  Life happens. We are learning to deal with it and move on!

Not only do we not really control everything (anything), but we do not know everything (anything) either!   Verse 5 of Ecclesiastes 11 says, “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”  Verse 6 of Ecclesiastes 11 closes the section by again urging us to take risks and not to be paralyzed by fear of failure.

Life is a risk. The Bible is pretty clear about that. I find it very easy to be anxious and frustrated when I forget  who holds the future.  I don’t know everything or control everything, but God does. So there are basically two options:  either get frustrated at the fact that I am not God, or else put my faith in the Lord and rejoice that God is God. Trust him. Life is an adventure, full of challenges and risks, and faith helps us to take those risks.

The last few days have really brought all of this home for me.  Yesterday we took time off from building to just BE.  The kids were lined up at the counter, helping me make dinner.  We had a great day playing at the beach, catching frogs, and stomping around in the creek.  I realized just how wonderful it was to have this space to be living in together, and everyone was clamoring to help me make dinner!  After dinner, the kids were climbing all over my husband and giving him hugs while I cleaned up. Tonight, again, I was struck by the many blessings of what we have here.  My husband was sitting on the couch playing the Ukelele while the boys played together upstairs.  I had our youngest in the kitchen, ‘helping’ me get ready for dinner.  We all sat down together (as we do every night) and prayed together.  This is the reward.  After three years, it is all starting to come to light for me.  And let me tell you, it was so worth the risk!

IMG_0347

 

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: