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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.

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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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.

 

 

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!

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.

From Cabin Fever to Spring Fever

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I was thinking the other day about the blurry line between cabin fever and spring fever.  This winter seemed particularly long to me.  Perhaps it was the new baby in December that made it drag on, or maybe it was the snow cover that remained into March, but it was well into March before I began to feel the stirring of energy and motivation.  It is still much to muddy to begin doing many outdoor projects, although I am slowly plugging away at the garden expansion.  The energy is being focused into finishing the house.  I am beginning to look around at the unfinished drywall, uncarpeted floors, doorways with no doors, and I want to see it finished!  We have come so far and it will be such an amazing feeling to see things come to completion.

It is difficult to believe that we are almost two years into this project.  Our  younger son was only seven months old when we came here, and learned to crawl in a tent!  He is now running, jumping, talking, and doing his best to keep up with his big brother.  This is all he will know- this property, this house, this way of life.

Spring is running quickly into Summer, and before we know it, Fall will be knocking at our doorstep.  I have such high hopes of getting this place whipped into shape before we begin another Winter in the harsh North.  The past two years have made me jaded, though, and anxiety creeps in when I think of the possibility of another winter without the comfort of having a home to relax in.  Yes, we have a house, but I am so ready for a home.  I know, realistically, that time and money will both restrict how far we can get on this project.  There was a time, when we were still suffering with cabin fever, that we looked around at this place, and hoped for a house fire while we were away at the store.  We have been beaten down by challenges, and have become much more realistic about the struggle and strife that come with the realization of a dream.  As we move out of the season of struggle and hardship, I am trying to keep my chin up and believe that the warm Summer sun will thaw out our dampened spirits and that we will be able to find the energy and stamina we need to finish our house and begin to make it a home!

Why Our Family Needed This

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I didn’t know if I wanted a baby girl. I knew what to do with boys. They were familiar, even in their madness and mayhem.  I felt strangely indifferent. Then I saw her. In the first hours after she was born, my husband lay sleeping beside us after a long night, and the boys were watching cartoons with the midwife. I lay awake and just stared at her tiny face, her soft lips, and silky hair. I could not stop looking at her.

Almost a week later, I have not put her down for more than a few minutes at a time. I have the bassinet next to the bed, but she hasn’t slept in it yet. She sleeps snuggled up in my arms, cuddling her soft face into my neck. I have so few moments to myself, but what time I do have, I spend in precious quietness with her.

I didn’t know how much I needed her until I held her in my arms. She brings softness and beauty and grace to a world that feels out of control. It has been a year and a half now since we left the comfort of our home to come to this land and build a homestead. In that year and a half we have lived in a tent for five months, a camper for another six months, and we are now living in a partially finished house. I am surrounded by harshness. Our reality consists of chopping wood every day for the stove, using a generator or oil lamp for light, hauling water in blue seven gallon jugs, trying to keep the house clean with two boys, my husband, and two dogs crammed into a tiny living space- it makes me weary. Concrete floors and unfinished drywall glare at me downstairs while I am attempting to make dinner on a camp stove by oil lamp. I look past the card table that serves as a dining table and see tools in the area that should be a living room. The boys are loud and rambunctious upstairs and keep wearing holes in their socks and pajamas on the unfinished wood floor. They run and scream and jump and the only quietness comes when they are sleeping.

And then, surrounded by madness, I look down and see little Sophie sleeping in the sling, completely at home against my chest. It melts my guard. It softens my weariness that this life is giving me. It lifts my burden of stress and anxiety and makes me feel quiet and soft and peaceful. At night, I rub my cheek against her hair and drift to sleep listening to her breathing. This is why God gave us a girl, and this is why he gave her to us now. We all needed her gentleness, her softness, her beauty. Even the boys seem to recognize that she is different. They whisper around her, and stroke her soft hair. They tell her that they love her and then run off to continue screaming and jumping and playing. My husband says that she is the rose among the thorns.  I thank God daily for giving her to us and pray for him to continue using this little rose to  lift up our tired and weary hearts.

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