Home

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

Advertisements

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

 

The Long, Dark Night

Leave a comment

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!

IMG_9148

 

Blinded by Your Presence

2 Comments

I had this huge epiphany last night when I should have been sleeping. Our newest child has been putting us through the ringer at night. She is 8 months old and has been waking up every hour or two since the day that she arrived in our arms. Due to the space restrictions while building our home, her portable crib was set up in our room, right next to our bed. We felt that this was necessary due to her frequent waking, so that she did not wake the boys. As a result, we have been severely sleep deprived for months, and everything else has been much more difficult a a result of our general fatigue. Two nights ago, we made the decision to set the portable crib up downstairs and put her down there so that we could attempt to train her to soothe herself back to sleep at night without needing our assistance. The first night she nursed at 10:30pm and did not wake up again until 7:30am. I, on the other hand, woke three or four times to check on her and make sure that she was still breathing! The second night, she woke up at 3:30am and then slept until 9:00am when the rest of us came down for breakfast. It was at this 3:30am moment when I realized that my tiny little daughter has much to teach all of us about presence. In our presence, she could not sleep.

As I was walking back upstairs to bed, I was struck by this hilarious irony. How many times in this process have we been blinded or frozen by presence? Because we are immersed in this madness of building a house, we cannot see the joy in what is all around us. Because we are in the presence of our children 24 hours a day, we have difficulty enjoying them and appreciating them the way we might if we had some absence from them. And just as true as presence, is absence. Because we have felt God’s absence in our lives, we have doubted, also, his presence.

My little Sophie taught me so much in these two nights. She has taught me that just because we want something does not mean that we need it. Just because we feel something, it does not always mean that it is in our best interest. Just because something seems good or helpful, or loving, does not mean that it is what we need. Also on the flip side, just because something is absent, does not mean that it is not present. I am always present for my little girl, but being absent has proven to be better for both of us. Perhaps this is the way with God. Not to say that his absence is better, but to say that if we feel his absence, he is still always present. I pray, as I go to sleep tonight, that my children will always feel my presence even when I am absent. That my children will always feel God. That my husband and I will never doubt God’s presence in our lives even in what feels like absence. That we will be able to look back on this time and see beauty, and growth, and success, even in times that feel ugly, and full of struggle, and pain. I thank God for using this tiny moment to teach me something that feels huge. Presence and absence bringing us to the same truth.

How Low Can You Go?

Leave a comment

I am dating myself, but do any of you remember playing limbo on the roller skating rink?  I do!  We were out there roller skating with the lights flashing and the music playing and the announcer yelling, “How low can you go?”.  There was always a line, different for each of us, that meant the difference between rolling smoothly under the limbo stick, or falling on your butt on the rink floor.   I feel like we are in the throes of discovering where our line is and I am not sure that we are skating so smoothly these days.  We are tired of playing the limbo game and we are ready to just be skating across the rink with no more obstacles in our way.

It has been almost two years since we drove onto this property.  Everyone is tired.  We are tired of living in limbo, we are tired of having all our belongings in boxes.  We are tired of having our living room be consumed by power tools.  We are tired of coming home and not being comfortable.  I think the most difficult thing is not knowing when we will be out of this state of limbo and into the comfort of a finished home.  Today we spent most of the day moving back out to the camper.  It makes me tired and anxious to pack things up and move them yet again, even if it is only to move them thirty feet across the yard to the camper.   Tomorrow we will finish clearing out the downstairs so that we can finish the drywall, paint,  get the tongue and groove on the ceiling, and install the rest of the electrical outlets and lights.  We will get a quote for kitchen cabinets and hopefully get them installed by the end of summer.  I am apprehensive.  I do not know how much we will get done and we are both feeling really, really tired.  We need to finish enough by winter that we can stop living in limbo.  I want to unpack.  I want to have my clothes hanging in the closet.  I want to have carpet in the bedrooms.  I want to have a living room that has a couch in it instead of a band saw.  I want to cook on a real stove and use the Coleman Camp Stove for camping, not daily living.  I want to wash a load of laundry after the kids go to bed, not trudge everyone to the Laundromat and have it take all day.

I know that God will work in our lives to teach us to be humble, to be more patient, and to lose our pride, and selfishness.  I know that he wants to be the center of our lives.  I know that we also do not get any more hardship than we can handle, but I am really wondering right now how God knows where my breaking point is, because I feel like I am there.  I pray every day for strength, for stamina, for discernment, for guidance, for hope….. Some days are good, many are not.  Each time I tackle yet another challenge, it gets harder, because I am tired of playing the game!  I keep having to remind myself that we chose this path and it is our path to walk through to the finish line.   Praying and hoping that when we get to the finish, we will still feel like skating.  Joseph is my guide these days, as I think about how long he struggled before he was able to realize the true meaning of his dream and follow it to fruition, and how much loss and heartache he must have felt in the meantime.

A Single Moment

Leave a comment

IMG_8558.JPG

I used to lay in bed at night after a particularly good or bad day and review the events of the day in my head- like a slideshow.  I would see pictures of things that happened as if I were watching a movie.  I would review the individual moments that made up the whole of my day and if they were bad moments, I would sometimes try to think in my head how they could have been good moments, or how the outcome could have changed.  I was thinking about that yesterday, as I was trying to survive another day at home with the three kids.  The baby screamed whenever she was awake, the two year old skipped his nap and screamed for two hours, and I was exhausted.  I had these MOMENTS during the day, that made it all seem okay.  The moment where the baby smiled at her brothers as they were cooing over her her and giving her kisses.  The moment where the boys were actually playing together instead of fighting.  The moment where my four-year-old came up and gave me an unsolicited hug for no reason.  It is the moment that perhaps defines us, or at least how we view the moment.  I have resolved to try and review these good moments each and every day and let the bad moments slip through my mind like sand through my fingers…..

There are days when the good moments are few, but it is the good moments that will make memories.  I cannot be a perfect mother.  I cannot be a perfect wife.  I cannot be a perfect ME, but God sees me and loves me where I am, not where I need to be.  If only I could be this forgiving of myself!  It is the moments that I will remember when I think about building our home.  It is the moments I will remember when I think back on the kids.  I do not want to let the bad moments define me or my memories.  What we are doing is TOUGH.  What we are doing is also AMAZING.

When I think back on the moments that have brought us to this place, this house, I see us driving away from our home in West Virginia with two trucks, two trailers, two kids, and a dog.  I see us so idealistic, pulling into our field and setting up a tent to live in with only vague ideas of how the house is going to get built.  I see the baby learning to crawl in a 10  x 20 tent.  I see our older son taking a bath in a storage bin and loving it.  I see my husband working hard every day to build this house.  I see my son running through the field shrieking because a cricket (or was it a frog?) attached itself to his Spiderman boot.  I see the MUD everywhere from the torrential rains that had to come the summer we camped in a tent.  I see my son learning from his father how to hold a hammer, how to light a fire, how to be a SURVIVOR.  I see our younger son sitting on the floor ‘carving’ with his papa.  I see the baby smiling at her brothers and completely, blissfully unaware of the unfinished drywall, the madness and mayhem of an unfinished home.  I see my husband and I up on a lift at 10:00 at night trying to put the stove pipe up by headlamp while the boys are sleeping inside- he keeps trying to move around on the lift and there is no room because I am so pregnant.  I see my older son riding his bike with no training wheels, racing down the driveway ahead of me while I walk with our younger son.  I see the boys running to the garden to pick the ripe tomatoes and bring them back to me, squished by their fat little fingers, but offered up as a wonderful delicacy.  I hear the boys giggling and playing in their bunks in the travel trailer and I want to be mad because they should be sleeping, but it reminds me of my brother and I in our bunk many years ago….  I remember playing cards with my husband by oil lamp and talking about what God wants for us.

There are so MANY things that I remember, and many of them are hard.  It is my hope that as a family, we can all look back on these years and remember the moments that brought smiles, laughter, and love and that these moments will hold more POWER than the moments that brought sadness, anger, or tears.  I never really thought about it before- how much power a moment can have, and how much power I can have if I choose to redefine the moment and make it something positive to help me get through my day.  It is interesting to look at the definition of the word MOMENT.  Websters defines it as 1. a brief period in time 2. importance 3.  a tendency to produce motion..  What a cool idea that a MOMENT can be an important period in time that has a tendency to produce motion!!   May the moments we play over an over in our minds at the end of the day be something that we choose to hold onto to help propel us forward instead of keeping us stagnant or held hostage to our fears and anxieties about what the moment COULD have been.

Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: