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The Risk and The Reward

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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).

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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!

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Out of The Rain

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Hindsight is always so humbling, isn’t it?  Today it rained most of the day.  Although I have had a long stretch of time off of work (the one I actually get paid for), we decided that we would try to work on the house every other day and spend some time together as a family the rest of the time.  Today was a work day, actually, it was a painting day.  We are finishing the trim in the bathroom and starting on the trim upstairs around the windows.  I waited and waited all morning for a break in the rain.  The break came right after lunch, so I ran the trim down to the new building and set up to paint.  I painted off and on for a couple of hours.  While I painted I listened to the rain on the metal roof (one of my favorite sounds).  As usual, I spent the time alone thinking about our life, and reflecting.

Such a simple pleasure to be in the shop painting while the rain poured down.  Dave spent a little bit of time with me while the kids were sleeping and we laughed about all the times in the past three years when just having a roof over us would have been such a blessing.  We still cannot figure out why we talked ourselves out of building the shop before the house!  We could have had this huge space for the kids to play in the first year when it rained all but about ten days while we lived in the tent.  We could have had the tent set up in the shop!  We kept having to move the kitchen tent around because the ground underneath it would get so thick with mud and muck.  We could have had our ‘kitchen’ in the shop.  We could have had a space for the many tools and building materials so that  I wasn’t sharing the living room with them once we moved in to the house.  I did not think about all of this to make myself feel miserable for not making the right choice, I just thought about it because I realized that things often look much clearer in the rear view mirror.  I felt so blessed to be painting on a day that would have been unproductive.  We waited the rain out for so long.  We used to love to hear the rain and we came to dread it because of what it meant for our project.  Today, I loved the rain again.  I painted and hummed to myself while our little guy, up from his nap, played in the sand at my feet.  He didn’t remember the muddy days in the tent, the days on end stuck in a small camper, the panic of rain coming in the new windows because they had been sealed incorrectly the first time, the lost time when the rain pushed back the site work, the concrete, the roof, the septic, the well, etc., etc.  He just knew the rain made mud and it was fun to play in.  He looked up at me when I was almost done and said, “Mama, it is nice to hang out with you- just the two of us, while you are working.  It makes my heart happy”.  Me too, little buddy, me too.

Can’t Get There From Here (but we did)

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Funny how just looking at the house from the other end of the field gave me more perspective.  The kids and I walked down to the other end of the property to look at the progress on the shop.  Standing on the edge of the site, looking back at the house, I was hit with a memory of when we drove in from West Virginia and saw just open field in front of us.  For so long now, all I see everywhere I look is more projects, more work, not enough money, and not enough time.  Tonight, though, when I look at the house and outbuildings from the shop site, I see our home.  I see the garden built with love and hard work.  I see the sheds built with Sophie in a backpack sleeping.  I remember each and every moment of making it happen, but rarely get to really appreciate the view from afar.  There is more work to do yet, but it is neat to see the property with a wide angle lens instead of the magnifying glass.

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Eyes of a Child

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So I asked for a different set of glasses in my last post, and continued to pray about it after I posted.  My new set of glasses came in the form of my older brother who said something extremely powerful and wise beyond what I have ever given him credit for (who ever gives their older brother credit, right?).  He reminded me that I regularly post photos and updates about all of the wonderful things we are doing in a daily basis and that my last post was not in line with what he saw of my life from outside the fish bowl.

He said,  “I think when it comes to happiness, we never ‘arrive’.  It’s more of a process than a product.”

This comment hit me in a profound way and I realized that I too often look at life like a fish in a fish bowl.  I look around and if the water is clean, I see clean water, but if the water is dirty, I forget that it was ever clean.  When I get overwhelmed, I tend to only see what is right in front of me.  I may see the shark, but not notice the hole that I can wiggle into to get away from the shark, or the escape route that might be right beyond.  We spent so long dreaming about our land, dreaming of our house, and the life that we are now living.  We have always viewed our happiness as contingent on that dream, and because of that, we got caught up in a cycle that found us chasing something that we have always had and just could not see.  I think part of this is our culture.  We are taught to ‘pursue happiness’ to ‘be successful’, like it is something that we have to attain.  This goal becomes our purpose in life, instead of our purpose in life being LIFE.

To further reiterate this point in my life, I was driving in to work this morning and there it was, blaring at me from the True Value sign…….Life is all about the Nuts and Bolts……. The nuts and bolts that hold everything together.  This is where we went wrong.  We got so caught up in the product that we forgot to enjoy the process. Shakespeare must have also thought about this and said: “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing”.

And as C.S. Lewis puts it, “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.”  We are on the final stretch of finishing the house, we have learned so much- about ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, our faith, and our path.  Thanks to my big brother for helping me to look up and see what is really around me, even in my darkest, toughest moments.  I am going to strive to see my life, our property, this PROCESS, through the eyes of my children.  Where I see problems, they see opportunity.  Where I see tasks, they see adventure.  They are happy simply because they are HERE.

Meg

“What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. … In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.”
John Lubbock, The Beauties of Nature and the Wonders of the World We Live in

I Need New Glasses

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I must have had on a different pair of glasses when my eyes saw this view of our property.  I can still see this view in my mind, but my eyes have a different filter now.  I remember the day that we first pulled in to our property with our trucks and trailers.  The grass was long, and we drove all the way to the back to set up camp.   Our minds were full of ideas, dreams, and an unwavering sense of adventure.  We knew what we wanted to do and we knew no bounds in making it happen.  That seems like a lifetime ago.

Today, my eyes see all the work that has to be done.  They see the money that we need to have to finish the work.  They see the pain and disappointment.  They see the decisions that still have to be made.   They see the three kids that get ignored day after day so that we can do what ‘needs’ to be done.  They see the stress and fatigue that threaten to overtake us every morning when we get out of bed.  I am so tired.  I feel lost.  I feel like this dream that we had has somehow separated us from each other, from God.  We worked so hard to get what we thought we wanted and now we do not even know if we want it anymore.

Many times I do not write because I do not want to publish my weakness, my sadness, my doubt.  I am realizing, though, that this is also my reality, and may be the reality of many people trying to do what we are doing.  This is hard.  The hardest thing I have ever done.  It is hard almost every day.  I pray that my husband and I will make it through this with our minds and hearts intact.  I pray that our kids will forget the stress, anxiety, and harshness of their beginnings.  I pray that God’s light will shine down through the darkness and make me feel whole again.  I feel broken by this life.   I pray that I will have the energy to find God when I can barely find my socks in the morning.   I pray that through these difficult times, our family will come together and find strength in our faith.

God led us here.  He paved the way for us to be here, doing this.  He promised me that if we built our house from the ground up, with him at the center, then he would be our foundation and our house would never fall.   I REMEMBER the early days when I knew this with all my heart.  I just cannot feel it right now.  I was reading another blog this evening before I wrote this.  She wrote about her own suffering and hardship.  She reminded me of Paul’s message about grace and hardship.

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. 10That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It is all that I can do to remain standing right now, in this moment and I pray that I will hold on to the very, very small thread that reminds me that, “when I am weak, then I am strong”.  I do not feel strong.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Day at a Time

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We were laying in bed last night, talking, and I started looking around at our room.  I expressed my continual amazement to my husband that he has built every inch of our house with his own two hands.  He dug the forms for the slab.  He did the foundation.  He built the walls, wired the house, plumbed the house.  He did the drywall, gas lines, lights.  Every single thing that my eyes stop on, he did.  I have a memory of each and every inch,  every added comfort, every moment in time that our lives improved with some added form or function.  Many people have a house built, but not many people build a house.  When you hire a crew, things get done quickly and in the proper order.  Our house has been one upgrade at a time, which has made us appreciate each and every thing that most people take for granted.

When we moved here, we had no comforts.  Life was about as basic as it could ever be.  We washed our clothes in a bucket with a hand plunger-washer.  We upgraded to the laundromat, and now, after almost three years, we have our own washing machine.  We ate in a tent and kept our food in a cooler.  Our laps were the dining room table.  When we moved into the house, we were able to have a card table to eat at.  It took another year to get a proper table and chairs, and eighteen months to get a refrigerator.  After more than two years we upgraded to a proper kitchen sink and kitchen cabinets.  We began our journey with a solar shower, ‘bathroom tent’, and a bucket.  A year and a half in, we took our first showers in the bathroom with a makeshift hot water heater and flushed the toilet for the first time.  We just upgraded to a permanent hot water heater and no longer have to heat the kids bath water on the stove.     We have upgraded based on necessity.  When I could no longer make myself use a cooler as a fridge, we got the power running and received a gift of a fridge.  When we found ourselves tiring of emptying the water bucket and hauling water, we were finally able to get the water running and hook up the plumbing.  It almost seemed as if God gave us the financial resources and means to complete a particular project just as we were reaching the breaking point.  I know that there are going to be amazing lessons in all of this as we continue to look back and remember.  Each and every thing that we have been able to do has not only increased our comfort exponentially, but because it came at a time when we were feeling overwhelmed, we appreciate each step all the more.  We were blessed with a gift of carpet just as I began to worry about the baby having to crawl on subfloor.  I made just enough extra at work to get the washing machine, right when I was feeling like I could not bear the laundromat even one more time.  When our third child was born, I could not stand the thought of coming home to no power or running water.  My husband turned the water on 9 days after she was born, and the power came on a week later.

We are nearing the end of Phase One, and have found ourselves looking back on our journey on a regular basis.  We are both amazed and awed by what we have done here, and how God’s provision has allowed us to not only endure amazing hardship, but use that hardship to appreciate everything that we have.  Sitting on a couch, washing dishes in a sink, keeping food in a fridge, playing with the kids on a carpeted floor, closing a door to separate us from everyone else….these are things we do not take for granted.  We remember each and every painful step to comfort, and it has taught us so much.

The progression of the kitchen and bathroom……..

The living space metamorphoses…….

The kid zone…….

Laundry Day……

We are almost there.  The flooring is waiting to be installed.  The last two doors are on order.  The trim and upstairs carpet will hopefully follow, and then we can begin on the finishing touches to turn it into our home- photos, paintings, bed frame, medicine cabinet, towel rack.  Hopefully we can get finished up just in time for……the addition!

It is hard to believe sometimes that three years have passed.  At the same time, it feels like it has been the longest three years of my life.  As this chapter comes to a close, though, I know that God has been and is with us every step of the way- guiding us, providing for us, and preparing us for the journey ahead.

The Long, Dark Night

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I have had a difficult time writing for the blog lately.  Admittedly, we have had a long, hard winter and I felt burned out.  What is there to say when you cannot say anything positive?  I did not even realize that I was feeling pretty down until about a month ago.  We were offered a crazy opportunity to go out West to a 30,000 acre ranch  and manage the property.  In some ways, it felt like a dream come true, but the timing was terrible.  We have spent almost three years building this place.  To abandon it now seemed almost criminal.  What this opportunity did, though, was start the process of unthawing our hearts from the long winter and made us really reflect on what it is we are doing here, why we came here, and what we want moving forward.  It has been hard to see any of that because we have gotten so caught up in the details of finishing this place that we got a little bit lost.  When we moved here, it felt very intentional.  It felt like God was leading us here for something really amazing.  We felt driven.  Over  the last three years, we have really felt like we were lost in the wilderness, so to speak.  We felt like God was really silent, which made all of our struggle seem even more challenging.  In the last few weeks, in addition to really finding our center again, we have also been renewing our resolve to live ‘the good life’ as described by Scott and Helen Nearing.  That is how all of this started.  My husband and read their book years ago, and shared it with me when we were still in Alaska.  We became convinced that a better life consisted of a life that involved growing our own food, spending more time outdoors than in, and raising our family around God.  We wanted to utilize technology, but not be slaves to it.

As we begin to unthaw, and the dawn begins to break, we have begun to have hope and purpose again.  I have been reflecting on our journey here, and everywhere I look, I see the progression of our house, and feel such a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Tomorrow we will finish installing the hot water heater and washing machine.  The flooring is on order.  The last two doors are soon to be installed.  We are beginning to wrap up Phase One of Project Homestead.

You have realized by now, I am sure, that I like to reflect.  It helps me to see where we have been, where we are, and where we are going.  I have been reflecting as we prepare to install the washing machine, and thinking about how our lives and comforts have progressed.  I find it interesting that it is now that we are becoming burned out, instead of at any of the other points in the last three years when we have been so much less comfortable.  When we started here, in July of 2014, we were bathing with a solar shower, washing clothes in a bucket, cooking on a camp stove, and doing dishes in a portable camp sink.  We upgraded slowly, VERY slowly.  One year later, we were living in a travel trailer (relative luxury), going to the laundromat, and eating, cooking, and cleaning in the camper.  It took  one-and-a-half years to get indoor plumbing and electricity.  It took two years to get a proper kitchen.  Now, after three years, I am done with the laundromat, done with boiling water on the stove for the kids’ bathwater.

There is almost no evidence left of the way we lived, and what we suffered through to be here now.  The memories linger, however; and make me thankful- every time I take a shower, every time I make a meal, every time I grab something out of the fridge, every time I  sit and watch a movie.  I am thankful for what God has given us, and that he has made us work for every little bit of it in order to give us REAL perspective.  It is so easy to be complacent and just plod along in life – especially now with cellphones, Internet, and technology all around us.  As we come to an end of what has been, for us, a long, cold dark night, I look forward to the coming dawn and all that God has in store for us!

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