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The Price of Freedom

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All my husband and I have always wanted was to own property and build our own house. Over time, the dream morphed a bit and landed us here in Northern Minnesota.  We have been building our homestead for over two years now and could write a book about all of the many things that were different and much harder than we ever envisioned. The one thing that has been the toughest on me has been the lonliness and isolation.  There are five of us in a tiny home- it seems like we are never really ‘alone’ but it is absolutely astonishing how lonely I still feel while surrounded by the noise and madness of three small children.  I really do feel that God has a purpose for us here. I pray often for him to reveal that purpose to us.  Sometimes I wonder if he wanted the isolation for us, so that we would turn to him and seek him out in all that we do. But it is hard to seek God in the bathroom, while changing yet another poopy diaper, or in the kitchen, doing the millionth load of dishes, or in the dark of night when  the kids are in bed and I hang my head in exhaustion. There are so many things about this life that are hard… Super hard.  It is made even harder by the lack of community. There is no one for us to talk to, or have over for dinner. There is definitely no one to watch the kids so we can go on a proper date.  I want to be happy here.  I want to embrace our life and all the blessings that we have.  What will the kids think about this life? Will they need more of a social life than we can provide? Will they be happy?

I read a quote today from one of my many books that basically said not to cry over things that cannot cry back. I do not want to whine, or cry, or moan and groan about our life here.  I want to be positive and uplifting. Today, though, I am just lonely and a little sad. I miss family and friends, fellowship and community. I think often about my grandparents, living on their farm in Iowa.  They never went on vacation, rarely had company, and I do not know how much of a local support system that they had. I do not know if I want to live that way. I wish she were here still so that I could ask her how she combated the lonliness.  I think it would be less challenging if it were not for the three little ones. We have stretches of days upon days where we talk to no one but each other and three kids under five. Life is exponentially easier than it was before. We no longer live in a tent, or without running water and electricity. It is my hope and prayer that this coming year will be a time when things not only settle down a bit for us, but allow us the opportunity to start putting down roots and establishing a church family. In the meantime, I will continue to pray about God’s will for us here, and hope that he will send people to us that can become a soure of fellowship and friendship.

Little Sophie Rose

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Little Sophie Rose

Oh how I love you so

There are so many things

that I want you to know.

During the time that you came to us

there were so many fears

The loss of someone dear to us

had brought a flood of tears.

The darkness was unbearable

our hearts were full of pain

It seemed that life could never

be the same again.

We had left our home, our comfort

to move out to this land

to forge a new road

to follow God’s hand.

The road was fraught with peril

the boat was difficult to steer

When I found out you were coming

I was overcome with fear.

How could we find a way

to make room for another.

We were not even sure

when we had your brother.

You came into our life

on a dark and rainy night

A mere 3 hours and you were here

You came in without a fight.

No water, no power, no comforts of home,

I had no idea how we would get by.

So many nights I held you close

and tried not to cry.

But Sophie Rose you shook our world

You grabbed us by the heart.

Your smile, your laugh, your gentle dance,

Have held us from the start.

We were fragile, sad, and overwhelemed

When you first graced our day.

But Sophie Rose, I took one look,

and you took it all away.

God knew what he was doing

When he blessed us with your smile.

He knew we needed you right when you came

He knew it all the while.

Little Sophie Rose

from the moment you were born.

Little Sophie Rose

our Rose amid the thorns.

Blast From the Past

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phone

Today we brought something back that some people’s kids may not have ever seen—- the good old telephone.  When we moved here over two years ago, people who knew us probably thought us a bit odd for our extreme views on cell phones and Smartphones.  When we got here, we ended up with a SmartPhone in an order to connect with family and make the many calls that we needed to make while living in a tent in the field.  Not only did we not have phone or Internet service, we also had no home to plug a phone into!  We have become regular users and went from using the phone on occasion, to having it on all the time, and often in the same room with us at all times.  It became a perceived lifeline for my husband while at home with two, then three kids, while I worked twelve hour shifts.  We went from never sending texts to sending regular texts as a way to communicate quickly without the commitment of talking on the phone.

Well, we have no more excuses.  We came here to provide a different way of life for our children.  We came here to build a farm, build a life, build a family that values experience over objects, that understands and appreciates how each person fits into the harmony of our life, that would always rather be outside than in, that still knows how to think critically and survive over just knowing where to look the answer up on Google.  We have been derided, teased, berated, and belittled– but we stand firm in the belief that we will be smarter, happier, more well-adjusted, and able to survive without the constant bombardment of technology all around us.

We are returning to the days of the house phone and prepaid cellphone for travelling.  If people want to talk to us- they might have to just call and leave a message.  I want the kids to still know how to write a letter or make a phone call and understand why that is even important.  Perhaps we are as misguided as people seem to think, but I do not think so when I see the kids and how happy they are, how connected to one another, to us, to the world around them.  Feel free to leave a message after the beep, we will hopefully be doing something outside, in the kitchen, or somewhere else together as a family and we will be happy to call you back later!

Happy Autumn

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Typically this time of year finds me feeling nostalgic as I look back on the Summer/Spring and all of the fun that I had.  I begin to feel some mixture of sadness and resignation at the coming of Fall and the long, cold Winter.  This year is proving to be very different.  The days are already feeling colder, and the leaves are beginning to turn.  I find myself looking forward to the Winter and the opportunity to snuggle up on the couch with a good book, or spend more time playing games and doing projects with the kids.  I am absolutely amazed by all that we have accomplished since Spring, but  I am also completely exhausted and overwhelmed.

I look back at what we have done and it seems unreal, but when I look at how far we still have to go, it seems just as overwhelming.  I never imagined it would take this long or be so difficult.  We installed our bathroom vanity at the end of March, and here is all that we have accomplished since….

We started off the Spring with just the utility sink and a working toilet and shower.  Dave spent March getting the bathroom vanity and sink installed, while working part-time and taking care of the kids when I went back to work after the new baby.  We spent the last part of Spring and early Summer doing drywall.  We hung the last of the drywall and Dave taped and mudded while I took care of the kids.  When he was done, I would do the painting on naps and after bedtime.  The tongue and groove went up in July, and the kitchen cabinets and sink were installed in September.  We also prepped a new garden bed and planted a full garden.  We have harvested and stored cucumbers (into pickles), zucchini relish, carrots, green beans, squash, and tomatoes.  I have yet to put away homemade ketchup, tomato sauce, salsa verde, tomato salsa, corn, and herbs.  We also stopped working on the house long enough to split 3 cords of wood (only half of what we need), build an 8×16 shed, and start on a 12×16 shop for Dave.  We still have to finish the shop, add some extra stove pipe to the chimney, install the range hood and hook up the gas lines to the oven/range.  Then we will finally be ready for winter.

Last winter I was facing this moment without running water or electricity.  We have come so far!  We are so exhausted and I will shamelessly admit that I am just ready for the snow.  I am ready to be hunkered down in the house with nothing better to do.  We can celebrate birthdays, enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas, and perhaps find a hobby that doesn’t involve our house.  There is still much to do, and it can wait until Spring, when the snow starts to melt and we begin to feel the yearning of finishing things unfinished.  For now, though, I long for the days when we can make homemade tapioca pudding, start homeschooling our Kindergartner, and enjoy a book by the warmth of the woodstove.

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

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The sink

This sink and I have a very love/hate relationship.  This sink was one of our first purchases at Menard’s shortly after we moved here.  We set it up  in the kitchen tent when we were camping in the field two years ago.  I cannot quite remember, but I think the kids may have had a bath or two in that sink.  We had a blue water jug above it and I did so many dishes in that sink, with a bucket underneath for the gray water!  I got used to it after awhile, but that bucket overflowed a few times before I got the hang of it.

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The Kitchen Tent

At the end of our three month camping adventure, the sink went with us into the house.  We set it up with the bucket below and the water above.  For over a year we washed dishes that way.  We still did not have officially running water when I came home with our new baby last December,

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The first winter

I carried that gray water bucket out in the snow, the wind, the rain, when pregnant, postpartum, tired, sick, and overwhelmed.  I stood at that sink so many times washing dishes, feeling bitter, feeling overwhelmed, feeling so, so tired.  Each time we upgraded to a slightly better kitchen, the sink stayed on, alongside the Coleman camp stove.  I began to forget what it was like to live comfortably.

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The Upgrade

This was my ‘new’ kitchen shortly after my daughter was born this past winter.  I was so excited to have a ‘real’ countertop!  THe sink and stove had become a part of my new normal.  It never occured to me that most people would think we were nuts if they really knew how we lived, how we cooked, how we cleaned, how we raised our children.  We had an oil lamp in the evenings, an eventually got a rudimentary electric lamp that we plugged in to extension cords running across the kitchen floor.

This past week it happened. The sink was disconnected and moved out to the lawn.  Every time I walk outside, I take a bit of satisfaction in seeing it there, but it is some weird bittersweet feeling.  I cannot begin to describe the joy that I feel in seeing my new sink in the house.  I somehow feel like I am cheating, though, that life should not be this ‘easy’.

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The imposter

It feels as though an imposter has come into the house.  What is this thing that makes my life so much easier, so much more convenient?  What do I do with all the time that I have saved?  I walk by the sink outside again and again and admit that I feel a little bit of nostalgia for what it represents.   Do not mistake me, I am glad to see it go, but I feel like I am saying goodbye to an old friend.

Building a Garden Shed – Part 1

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As is always the case on our homestead there is never an idle moment. If it is not working on building and finishing the house, doing driveway improvements, or any of the other homestead chores, I …

Source: Building a Garden Shed – Part 1

Blinded by Your Presence

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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.

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