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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.

Turning Form Into Function

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When we finished the sheds in the Fall, we were totally burned out and overwhelmed.  We decided that we would take the winter off and not work on the house.  We needed to recharge.  In typical Dave and Megan fashion, though, we cannot sit still and let life go one while we sit idle.  We have done a few small projects that have ended up having a big impact on our happiness.  It seems like it is finally time for our form to turn into functionality.   We have built the house and still have some major projects (flooring, trim, a bit of drywall, etc) but this winter has found us looking around to finish projects that make the space more useable and enjoyable.  Today we moved the kid table downstairs and did a bit of rearranging.  The boys needed a space downstairs to do projects, paint, do schoolwork.  We all have a tendency to sprawl about on the dining room table and with five people, it can get a bit crazy.  This way, the boys can have a kid zone.

We installed the door a few days ago and today I attempted to put one coat of paint on the jamb.  I still need to do a second coat and then tackle the door itself, but finding time for that with three little ones around is proving to be a challenge.  I kept asking for the door to be installed and Dave was dragging his feet a bit.  He kept thinking that it would not make that much of a difference in such a small house, especially since we had been in such close quarters for so long.  We both agree that it has made a definite difference, though!  It is quieter in the morning when the kids wake up and play.  We can close the door on naptime or in the evening, when we want to watch a show.  It also seems to be good for the kids, because now they have a more defined space that is their own.  They spent a good hour the first day knocking on the door and letting each other in!

Last, but definitely not least, we have finally installed the shelving and rod for hanging our clothes properly in the closet!  Now I have to find a place for the mass of bins that we had piled in the closet, but that is for another day.  It seems that with each small project we are exponentially increasing our happiness and finally getting the opportunity to enjoy the space that we have created.  We also have a new coat rack that has replaced the mountain of coats piled in the corner!   As we turn this form into something functional, we are learning a great deal about ourselves, about each other, and about what each of us needs, wants, and can do without.  It has been really exciting to watch this place transform and become a warm, cozy little abode that the five of us call home.

Making New Memories

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My last post probably seemed a little bit on the negative side of things.  In typical Megan fashion, I have to follow-up with a brighter message, because, thank goodness, that is how my heart works!  I had a wonderful thought tonight while laying in the pop-up hunting blind tent in the boys’ room.  We were up there telling stories by fake candlelight and I just felt super happy and warm in my tummy.  We had roasted hot dogs and marshmallows on the woodstove, gone out for a night hike, and were now getting settled in for a camping adventure in their bedroom.   A few days prior, I had been having severe doubts about our life, our isolation, and whether it was good for us, the kids, etc.  As I sat in between the kiddos, telling camping stories, I realized that we were making memories.  SO much of who I have become was shaped by the memories that my parents made with us.  We camped, we hiked, we had adventure upon adventure, we were read to, and sung to, and loved beyond belief.  It does not really matter where we grew up or what our experiences were, because we were loved, we were surrounded by people that wanted what was best for us, and we had parents that believed in making memories.  I am certain that it was not as fun and exciting for my parents as it seemed for us.  I have so much more respect for my parents now, as we attempt to make these memories for our own kiddos.  It is hard work, and not always very gratifying.  I questioned my sanity at 10:45pm when the kids were still squirreling around in their tent whispering to each other.  But I know that no matter what happens, no matter where we are, or what we are doing, we will be making memories with our kids, and they will be memories that help shape the people that they will become.

 

 

Blessings on Our Home and Family

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I want to tell you a possibly long, but very wonderful story. It is the story of God’s blessings on our family, and how those blessings got us to where we are now.. You may be the type of person that does not believe in God’s blessings, and I am not going to convince you otherwise. I will tell you, however, that many of the blessings that we received were specifically prayed for, and had one thing not fallen into place, it would have been the domino that knocked down all the other dominoes. God is blessing us each and every day and it is so obvious to us that this is exactly where he means us to be, doing exactly what he means us to be doing!

In the Fall of 2013, we flew to Minnesota from West Virginia to do a land search. We rented a car and with an extremely uncooperative three year old, we executed a painstaking search across Northern Minnesota to find a piece of land to call home. Our land in Alaska had finally sold six months prior, after being on the market for almost four years (blessing). We had the money for the down payment, but just needed the land. We drove over 3,000 miles in our little rental car, and after two weeks of looking at over forty properties, we were ready to admit defeat. The last day in Grand Rapids, we prayed and prayed for God to show us his path for us. We expanded our search to include properties above our ideal price, and found the piece that we are now building a home on (blessing). We drove out on the last day before returning to St Paul. When we got out of the car, my husband knew immediately that he liked the property. It had a field, a creek, wooded area, and was close to 40 acres. It was everything that we wanted, except the price was slightly higher than we were comfortable with. We ended up having almost exactly enough for the down payment and closing costs (blessing), and purchased the property later in the Fall, after returning to West Virginia. We did not know the exact timing of the move, or how it would play out, but when Spring came, I prayed about it, and felt that we should try to sell the house and if God wanted us in Minnesota this year, he would make it happen.

We listed the house on April 14th, 2014, at 4pm, and received an offer the next morning, at 11am (blessing). It took a couple of months and another offer to finally sell, but the closing date was ultimately set for July 11th, 2014. In order to get out of the house on time, we had to take most of our belongings to storage at my parents, pack up an entire machine shop, and house, and use a fork lift to move my husband’s machines to storage, while also managing a three year old and a six month old. The last two weeks, God was again answering prayers to provide people to watch the kids, help us pack, find someone to move the machinery (who charged a nominal fee), obtain the needed trailers, get work done on the trucks (that would have prevented us from moving had it not gotten done), and other odds and ends that fell into place at just the right time. By God’s grace, we closed on the house at 11:30am on Friday, July 11th, and drove away in the two trucks, with two trailers, the two kids, and the dog at 1:30pm.

We arrived at the property on Sunday, July 13th, around 4pm. We set up the tent and settled in for our first night. We were excited, nervous, and hopeful. Little did we know the rain, mud, muck, and hardship that we would face for the next ten weeks. The neighbor introduced himself the next morning, and offered to let us get water from his well as long as we needed it. We gladly filled our tanks next door instead of driving in to the local campground (blessing). The second night in the tent, a storm blew in that brought 70mph winds, rain, lightning as I have never seen before, and fallen trees. My husband and I stood braced against the poles of our cheap Walmart 10×20 tent for about 25 minutes while the winds howled and sounded like a freight train bearing down on us. We still have no idea how that tent stayed in one piece (blessing). Eventually the lightning, rain, and wind subsided and we went back to sleep to the sound of cracking and falling trees in the forest around us, praying again that none would fall on us (blessing). That was the beginning of many events that started in prayer, and ended in blessings. The next six weeks seemed to be anything but a blessing, with rain, rain, and more rain. The rain stopped our progress, the rain kept contractors busy so we could not find anyone to help with the site work, or the foundation, the rain dampened our spirits. Everything was wet and moldy, the tent was leaking, and we had yet to get anything substantial done on the house, but we spent those four weeks learning so much about our family unit. God used those four weeks to strengthen us and bring us together (blessing). As a result of the delays, he also allowed the next sequence of events to happen just the way he intended.

My husband’s brother and dad had planned to come and help get the shell of the house up, and we needed to get the foundation done prior to their arrival, but the rain just kept coming. Finally, we got the site work done, and my brother and sister-in-law had one last day to help before returning to work (blessing). They came out and helped get the forms ready and do the ground work for the slab foundation. We had one day to pour the foundation during a break in the weather (blessing). My husband’s family unexpectedly were able to arrive a week earlier than planned, and arrived two days before the pour (blessing). They were able to help get the concrete work done for the slab and then spend the next few days waiting out the rain to get started on the house. I took the kids down to my brother’s house in St Paul and over the next two weeks, the guys built the house from the ground up. They were able to get the house almost completely ‘dried in’ save the metal roofing. They were able to stay an extra three days to help finish things up (blessing). After calling over twenty five roofing contractors, we finally found one that could get the roof done and came out the day after the family left, and got the metal on in about six hours (blessing). The roof was paid for with the completely unexpected gift from family in Texas (blessing). The roofing company was the last option before we would possibly lose the entire house to the weather if we could not get the roof on (blessing).

This was the first week in September, and we moved into the house fairly quickly after the roof went on because the temperatures were expected to drop into the forties at night. Once in the house, work slowed considerably, but we were dry, and fairly warm. We still had no electricity, no running water, and no septic. The house was uninsulated and completely unfinished, but it was better than the tent. We began attending a local church shortly after moving into the house. The pastor and his wife offered (after meeting us once at church) to let us house sit for them and get hot showers, do laundry, and relax (blessing). They offered again the following weekend, and we were able to continue getting work done on the house while having a much needed break at their house on the weekends (blessing). The following week, my husband’s grandparents came to visit, offering us an extra room at the lodge they were staying at ten miles from the property. We spent two wonderful days with them, letting them get to know the kids, and talking about God and his plan for us, and they surprised us with another unexpected monetary gift (blessing). The same week, my parent’s gave us a loan with no conditions that would allow us to spend the next four weeks trying to get the house insulated before returning to work (blessing).

I was able to find a job just in time with a flexible schedule, not horribly far from home, and they were going to allow me to start a month after hiring me to give us more time to work on the house (blessing). We still had no electricity, no running water, no septic, no heat, and no insulation. The second week of church, we were approached by a couple who had heard our situation, and pleaded with us to move into their vacant home that was for sale, and refused to take any compensation (blessing). We began house sitting two weeks ago, and have since been able to complete the insulation, get the permitting process started for the septic system, find someone to do the work for the septic, and I will get paid just in time to get the system in and ready. Tomorrow we will begin with the drywall, and with more of God’s blessing, we will hope to move back into the house in the first or second week of November.

It would be so easy to see all of the hardship, all of the arguments, all of the rain, and pain, and not see God’s blessings on us. The truth is, though, that if just one thing had not happened in the sequence of events, we would not have gotten here when we did, or we would have run out of money, or we would not have had enough help to get the house built, or we would not have gotten the roof on, or we would have had no jobs, or we would have had no backup plan, or we would have simply flopped in this crazy plan to move across the country, live in a tent with two kids, and build a house. Many people would think we were foolish, or hasty, or just plain dumb. But we were relying on God every step of the way to guide us and protect us. We asked him for help daily, and prayed for his direction in our lives. He has blessed us so richly and deeply, and we are so thankful for his love. It is so exciting to be taking on this adventure, knowing that his plan for us is so much grander than we can imagine. We know without a doubt that this is where he wants us to be. God wanted us to be here, building a home from the ground up, building our family from the ground up, and rebuilding our lives with God at the center.

How Home Birth Healed a Family

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Another Boy!

My husband and I found out that we were pregnant with our first son on October 2nd, 2010. We knew from the start that we wanted a home birth and researched extensively on the topic. We knew the risks, the benefits. Having lived in Alaska for years, we also knew it was something that was common, normal, and did not need to be about fear or uncertainty. We watched videos, we read books, we planned and prepped. We began receiving prenatal care from a home-birth midwife. The baby was breech at most of our appointments, but we all tried our best not to be concerned. A breech baby could turn. I read more, I performed strange stretches designed to turn the baby, I went to a chiropractor. The day before my 39th week of pregnancy, I had an appointment with the midwife. My husband and I stopped for our customary greasy fish sandwich at the restaurant on the way home. The midwife was mildly concerned that the baby had not yet dropped. We discussed an ultrasound. I woke at 8:00am the next morning with contractions. They were 4-5 minutes apart fairly consistently and quickly. We went in for the ultrasound at 3:00pm and discovered that he was still breech, and probably not going to turn. I remember crying on the way home and my husband just holding my hand. Everything we had worked so hard for was about to fall apart. I was in constant communication with the midwife as we tried to decide what to do. At around 9:00pm, my water broke, and I knew it was over. The midwife still wanted to talk options, but I knew that it was time to go to the hospital. Our son was born at 11:04pm by cesarean section on June 1st, 2011. It was devastating. Of course we were happy that we had a healthy baby boy. But we were also completely shattered and traumatized by an experience that was everything that we did not want. Our son had problems with his feet from being breech that resulted in 18 months of braces. He had problems with his head and neck from the delivery. He screamed more than he slept, it seemed, and we cried more than we laughed. We both struggled with postpartum depression- my husband and I both grieved in our own ways, and often separately. We felt detached, we felt disconnected. We felt like it was difficult to really bond with this little person that was handed to us wrapped in a blanket behind the blue shroud that was my open abdomen. I don’t think that we really healed until December 15th, 2013, the day that our second son was born at home, assisted by the midwife.

The day began like any other day. We had just had company, and I was feeling unusually tired. I felt like it was fairly difficult just to get up and off the couch. I was making dinner at about 5:30pm and felt a little tightening in my abdomen- similar to the Braxton Hicks, but this one was slightly uncomfortable. The second one rolled in like clockwork 15 minutes later. This continued for about an hour. I casually mentioned it to my husband, cleaned up dinner, and put our son to bed. We decided to let the midwife know that things were probably starting. The phone call did not go through. I tried again…and again…..and again. The contractions were about 7-10 minutes apart when we finally got in touch with the assistant. She decided that she would need to drive the 3.5 hours round trip to our midwife’s house and pick her up, since the phone seemed to be out. That 3.5 hours seemed so long. I had sent my husband to bed to rest, and as I paced downstairs, he jumped out of bed upstairs every 10 minutes or so to see if they were here yet. I listened to music and prayed. I prayed like I never had before! At this point I had a pretty cool talk with God. I was feeling grumpy because I was uncomfortable and felt like I shouldn’t have to be alone. I was feeling a little bit abandoned. God and I had a pretty serious discussion about how delivering this baby WAS something that I was alone in, but with God by my side, I really wasn’t alone. He made it clear to me, though, that no one but him could really walk with me in this journey- that it was just him and I dealing with this pain. I felt him in the room with me that night, touching my shoulder, and reassuring me that even though there are times in life that I will feel totally alone- I will never be alone with him by my side.

The midwives finally arrived at the house at 1:40am. By this time, the contractions were taking a little more concentration, but we decided that everyone should try and rest. I was having a tough time resting, so I paced for awhile.
At about 3:30am, the contractions were getting more serious and the midwife came upstairs with me. I do not have a very good sense of time from this point on, but I can tell you that from about 6:00am until our son was born, I experienced some of the most intense moments of my life! My husband was absolutely wonderful- rubbing my back, whispering how much he loved me, encouraging me to keep going through each contraction. It was super tough, though. I felt frustrated, I felt hopeless at times, I felt exhausted, I felt like giving up. And then, in an instant after what seemed like an eternity, I held our son in my arms with my husband behind me, looking down on us with such an intense expression of love and joy.
There are so many things that stick out in my mind about being at home, delivering this new life with just my husband and midwives present. It intensely bonded my husband and I, and strengthened each of our separate and combined relationships with God. It bonded us with this new life in a way that I cannot even begin to describe. One of the coolest things about it, though, is what it did for us as a family. In many ways, it healed much of the trauma from our first son’s birth and changed how we view the whole experience with him. It really made us all feel more like a family, and not so disconnected. I cannot say that a home birth is for everyone, but for us, it has been, and probably always will be an extremely powerful moment in our lives as a family. I am so thankful that we got to experience it together, in the quiet of our own home. Welcome, little one!

The Alaska Factor

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denali

Well, our land in Alaska is under contract and we have been discussing why exactly this makes us sad.  It makes us sad even though we know that  selling that land will allow us to buy our homestead land somewhere in the Lower 48.  We have finally identified the difference between our experience in Alaska and our experience thus far in the Lower 48.  The places we lived in Alaska were sometimes remote, sometimes not, but there was a pervasive feeling of remoteness, maybe because the state itself is cut off from the rest of the country.  As a result, people banded together, and everyone made their own family out of the people around them.  Few people actually had blood family, so we learned to make our own families.  We had dinner nights, we had game nights, we had pajama and movie nights.  Holidays were never lonely and the people we went to church with were also the people we called our friends.  Maybe it was the winter darkness that brought us together.  Maybe it was the cold.  Maybe it was the distance from everything else.  I don’t know the reason, but it was different.  Since moving down here, people don’t seem to need each other the same.  People don’t help each other the same.  People don’t need to make their family out of strangers because their families are close by.

As we move into this next chapter in our life and begin to look for where we want to buy land, I know what we are going to be looking for.  We will be looking for a place that we can we go that the environment, the circumstances, or the geography forces people to live as they lived so long ago- as a community of people joining together, not solitary people simply occupying the same space.

I Love You More!!!!

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I remember when Dave and I first got married, I was always amazed at how my love for him would grow more and more every day, month, week, year…   It always seemed so wonderful to me that I could love someone so much and love them in new, exciting ways with each shared memory, laugh, triumph, tribulation, etc.  After six years, I have discovered a love that is deeper and richer than I ever imagined possible.  Last night our son woke up with what must have been a night terror.  He was screaming and screaming with eyes wide open.  There was nothing I could do to comfort him and I quickly became distressed.  Dave came into the room, snuggled him into his arms, and our son turned his face into Dave’s chest and immediately quieted and went back to sleep within minutes.  I cannot describe the love that I felt for my husband at that moment.  Seeing this little guy snuggle into him with absolute trust made me love my husband more than I ever imagined possible!

I think that these two boys might very well succeed in melting my ice-coated heart!

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