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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.

How Low Can You Go?

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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.

Ten Weeks In

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Today marks the end of ten weeks since driving onto our property with our two trucks, two trailers, two kids, and the dog. It seems like so much longer. The hardships, the emotional roller coaster, the rain and mud, the isolation, all add up to make it feel like an eternity since leaving our comfy home and friends in West Virginia.

We rolled in late in the day on July 14th and set up camp. It took a couple days to get set up and we took a few days in St Paul at my brothers house- to rest up and stock up. We got the building permit two weeks after arriving but realized fairly quickly that things were not going to go as planned. Our initial desire for pier and beam foundation was not going to work with the heavy clay soil on our property. The locals were pushing a frost protected shallow foundation but the problem was that no one could do the foundation work for six weeks or more. We finally decided to do the slab ourselves. Rain and more rain kept us from doing any more work, but four weeks and $2200 later, we got our slab done!

By the time the slab ready to pour, we had two family members come up from out of state to help get the building up. I took the kids to my brother and sister-in-laws house for a week while the boys worked. Two weeks after starting to build, they got the house ‘dried in’. They ran out of time to get the roof on, so we had to pay a crew to get the metal on, but everything else was done by my husband, his brother, dad, and some help from my brother and his wife as well. My help mostly involved shuttling supplies, taking care of the two kiddos, camp cook, and support. I wanted to be more involved in the building process, but a three year old and an infant made that pretty much impossible.

We moved into the house eight weeks in, and have spent the last two weeks wrapping the house, putting in the electrical, insulating, and completing the outside insulation for the frost protected foundation. We do not yet have any water, septic, or electricity, but we have a house, we have hope, and we have the excitement of seeing our dream become a reality.

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