When push comes to shove

Dear people,

I’m sitting here in my quiet living room, with the sunshine streaming through my sparkling new windows, taking a breather after a seriously intense couple of weeks.  I’m exhausted but I’m also deeply joyful, grateful, satisfied.  

I know in theory that God’s timing is always perfect but I’ve never quite felt the truth of that fact so strongly.  This fall has been busy.  I always think that we are busy but things kicked up yet another notch in October and we were busier still. And through all the busyness loomed the nagging reminder that this house of ours that has come so far was still not ready to handle winter.  But the weather kept lulling us into a false sense of security- it was just.so.warm.  We were comfortable, the sun was shining, the temperature hovering around 80 degrees.  

But then the first cold struck and it was time to do a little panicking.  At least, I did.  We had the heating systems in place but still, due to all the myriad little things that always seem to accompany final inspections, we had not been granted permission to actually turn on the gas.  We prayed, we worked, we worked a little more, we prayed and finally all systems were a go.  The heat began to blow.  That night, the temperature dropped to thirty degrees. I breathed a sigh of relief- but just a little one.

We had heat now, but not much to actually keep it in the house.  Plywood and plastic can only do so much.  We had managed to install most of the windows in the two bedrooms upstairs, so we were comfortable up there but the downstairs was just so cold.  So every evening after work, the hubby and I bundled up and headed down to work.  Not only were we in a race to beat the bitter cold, but we had also made the slightly risky decision to host our first Thanksgiving here this year.  It was now or never.

I am continually amazed at the human psyche- how it can go from thinking a project impossibly big and never ending to a weary resignation that the task must be done to a grim determination that ‘as God as my witness’ (and helper) we will get this job done and in record time. And so we did.  The process went something like this-

-Pull one of the empty, half painted window frames into the workroom and put it on the table.

-scrape any paint residue off the interior and prime the wood with clear primer. Let it dry.

-apply the first coat of glazing. (For those who don’t know, glazing is kind of like clay- pressed into the inner edges of a window frame, helping to insulate and hold the pane of glass in place) 

-cut glass to size (after hunting around town for salvaged windows, prying the glass from the old frames and cleaning it) 

-carefully tape all panes to 1/16th of an inch from the edge for easier painting later. (Each window had an average of eight panes)

-install glass and staple it in place, praying that it won’t crack and need to be replaced. (This happened with about one out of every eight panes)

– apply second coat of glazing, scraping and smoothing it as straight as possible with the special technique your hubby tries to teach you.  This step usually took about two hours.

-scrape and remove any excess glazing from both sides of the window.

– allow to dry at least three days and then sand it.

-prime and paint again.

– carefully remove tape and clean the entire window.

– finally install.

-repeat 28 times

With three days left before Thanksgiving, we really went into overdrive, working late into the nights, getting up early, trying to clean and prepare for guests and getting what cooking done that we could. Wednesday night, while the turkey brined and as I prepped stuffing and sweet potatoes, the hubby and his brother installed the final window for the front of the house.  It was an amazing feeling folks. And the next morning, coming down into the blindingly bright rooms below, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness.  Happy Thanksgiving indeed.  

Now I wish I could say that this is the end of the window saga. The windows we completed were only the original ones we had refurbished from the front of the house.  There are still some to be made from scratch for the back of the house. But the biggest hurdle has been jumped and those remaining ten will come and now I will know how to help when they are ready. For now, they are insulated against the cold and we are toasty warm, incredibly tired but looking forward to a joyous Christmas season in our increasingly beautiful home.  

When I think back to where we were last year, I can hardly believe that things have come this far and I thank you all, from the bottom of my heart for the faithful love, prayers and support you have extended during this time.  We can’t say it enough. God bless.  Now here’s a photo dump for ya.






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The roller coaster called Emotional

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I’m not sure what to write tonight, but I feel like I need to write something to update y’all on what is going on in our crazy lives since so many of you keep asking and it is difficult for me to give you a very clear picture as we pass in the hall at church or bump into each other around town.

As you might have guessed from the title, life has been really up and down lately.  I often find myself asking God to please just give us a few quiet months, where nothing dramatic happens, either happy or sad so that we won’t either be holding our breath in worry or anticipation or letting it out in a terrified yell or a burst of relieved laughter.  I’m just feeling emotionally drained.

I told my hubby the other day (not that he needed telling as I’m sure he noticed the fact) that I have cried more in the last six months than I have in my entire life combined.  But not all the tears have been sad.  Happy tears are kind of a new experience for me, but I am finding that joy is just as prone to turn on the water works as grief these days.

Take my dad, for instance.  A few weeks back he had a pretty serious brush with illness involving a collapse at home, an emergency surgery and a gangrenous gall bladder removal.  His subsequent painful recovery was incredibly difficult for my family nearby to watch and incredibly difficult for those of us living far away to feel so helpless and useless.

But this painful recovery was very short lived and he was up and about and released from the hospital far earlier than his amazed doctors thought would be possible.  We know how heartily he was prayed for by hundreds of people and it is always amazing to feel that kind of love and support when it comes in the hard times.

And yet, in the midst of all that joy, it was brought home to me stronger than ever the realization that my father is fading out of this life and that his ultimate recovery will not come this side of heaven.  And so the ride continues.

Of course, the saga of the house rolls on.  This trailer life (combined with a dismally rainy autumn) seems to wear us down little by little so that by every Friday night, I feel as if I just can’t make it another week.  But then Saturday comes and another work party and the sight of those good people with their servant’s hearts tromping up through the muddy yard to help us realize our goal makes me feel ashamed for my complaining spirit. And then comes Sunday and the refreshment of worship at a wonderful church and comeraderie with fellow believers riding their own roller coasters and encouraged again, we find the strength for another week.

We have had to give up on the dream of getting into the house by Christmas (definitely some sad tears there) and are buckling down to endure the winter’s cold as best we can, but I am currently snuggled up cozy in my sister’s bed with the prospect of a little house sitting while she and and her husband travel the world to help orphans in far away Romania. A very welcome gift from my amazing and generous little sister.

And let me just say, all of my sisters (and of course my mother) are amazing women and I have cried and laughed so much with them of late- the last few months having impressed upon me on a whole new level that the bearing and nurturing of children takes a special kind of courage that the world will always underestimate.  Motherhood ain’t for the faint of heart, folks.

The hubby’s business continues to grow slowly, one step at a time and there are days when my patience wears thin and I want him to realize success all at once- I want to see that all of his hard, hard labor will pay off sooner rather than later.  But then I see the evidence of how far we really have come, how much he has accomplished, how people are coming to recognize not only his remarkable talent, but his upright character and integrity as a man of business and I am ready to burst with pride that I get to call him my husband. And his brother is here for an extended visit to help push things forward and lend a hand where needed.  Another joy.

My work at the church continues, and although I am often physically drained at the end of a long Wednesday of cooking for 300 and singing in the choir, they are deeply satisfying days for me and I am enormously grateful for a job so well suited to my talents and one that has allowed us (in conjunction with some very generous people) to finally purchase a new and reliable van.  I still can’t turn the key in the ignition without ‘feeling all the feels’ as some folks say. 

So as we enter this season of Thanksgiving, I can’t say that everything has turned out exactly how I would have planned or wanted but through all the ups and downs, I am above all grateful for a God who doesn’t change and who can be depended on in all seasons of life.

And in spite of the fact that He doesn’t change, he loves us enough to meet us where we are- either rejoicing on the heights or wallowing in the depths and even, in clearer moments, gives us the ability to enjoy the ride. 

Be it ever so humble…

Well folks, I have a funny little story to share with you this evening.

A few years ago, the hubby and I, in keeping with long-standing tradition, were trying to decide what to do for our anniversary at the very last second. I had been hinting for a long time that I would like to go somewhere overnight- somewhere quiet and lovely where we could enjoy some natural beauty, but we were broke and had four kids and getting away was tough. Well we managed it in the end by asking some friends if we could stay at their riverfront property where they kept a trailer and a screened in porch for shelter. They graciously said we could and we had a lovely time and I blogged about it here.

I blogged about how we stayed in the cozy screened in porch, but what I did not blog about at the time was that we had planned to sleep in the trailer.  However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the porch ended up being a better option.

Now I don’t write this story to embarrass our good friends.  They had an unbelievable amount of crazy going on in their lives at that time.  Being in the hospital for months with premature twins who were hanging on to life by a thread was just one thing they were dealing with. But apparently, what with all the hubbub of their lives, they were unaware when they gave us a key to the trailer, that the electricity had been unplugged.  This wouldn’t have been a big deal at all, except for one minor issue- the fridge and freezer had been left full of food.  And folks- when you leave a fridge full of food unplugged in the shimmering heat of a Tennessee July, you have a problem.

I probably don’t need to ask you to imagine the smell that reached our noses when we first entered that trailer, nor describe in any detail the cloud of insects that suddenly made a desperate bid for freedom through the open door where we were standing.  We stood there for a moment, retching slightly, closed the door, and made other plans.

But all through that lovely evening, as we kayaked in the river, cooked steaks and corn on the cob on the grill, watched the sunset and finally dozed off to sleep to a chorus of singing frogs, we couldn’t stop thinking about the trailer and the unpleasant surprise that would greet our kind friends, when and if they ever got out of the hospital and out to their property again.

So the following morning, we made ourselves a lovely breakfast, took a few deep breaths of sweet, dewy morning air and headed back to the trailer.  Thankfully, they had everything we needed- lots of paper towels, scrubby brushes, rubber gloves and plenty of Lysol.  Gas masks would have been nice, but we made do, holding our breath and scrubbing as fast as we could until we had to run out again, gasping.  The hubby even had some heavy duty garbage bags in the back of his car for us to haul out the rotten food.  It didn’t need much help mind you.  That food was nearly walking out the door on its own.

As we drove away later that day, our trunk full of smelly food, we felt happy.  Happy that, even though we had spent a good part of our romantic getaway in less than romantic circumstances, we had been able to repay our generous friends a bit and perhaps make their lives a little easier down the road.

Fast forward a few years, and you find me sitting on the couch in my older sisters living room, laughing heartily at her new plan for us to finish our house- by moving a trailer onto our property and working from there.  I soon realized she was in earnest however, and she asked me if I new anyone who had a trailer we might be able to borrow.  And guess what, I had an answer ready.

Turns out, our friends had let the riverfront property go, and the trailer had been in storage somewhere for some time. I’m not sure they even used it again after our stay there.  And when we asked, they once again graciously allowed us to use it, albeit for a longer period this time.   So apparently we had tackled that awful fridge, not so much for the sake of our friends as for ourselves.  God has a sense of humor I guess.

And now I suppose you would like to see some pictures.  Well, here you go.

The boys are really excited about the whole set up, at least for now, and it is a lot bigger than I remember it being, so that’s always a bonus!  And most important of all, it will allow us to take full advantage of all this wonderful outdoor space, and Lord willing, eventually, our home.

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We spent most of the afternoon over there today, getting things ready for the final move and doing a little yard work. The bulbs we planted years ago are finally up, which makes this place feel more homelike already, despite everything else that still needs doing.

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And a cute baby picture, just because. She spent most of the afternoon happily plucking clover or being raced around the yard in her stroller by her brothers. I am so thankful for a happy baby!

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And I’m thankful, more and more each day, for good friends. We are so blessed!

Your mission, should you choose to accept it…..

Dear Readers,

Next week (Lord willing) will be the beginning of a new era in the life of our family. And, as promised, I am starting the whole process (and hope to continue doing so) by sharing with you what we are about to undertake. The story of how we have arrived in our current difficult position is so long and convoluted that I cannot explain it all here, but along the way, I can’t count the number of times I have been asked the following questions-

“How is the house is coming?”
“What do you have left to do on it?”
“Is it at least livable?”
“Do you know when you might get into it?”

And perhaps the most frequent of all-

“Is there anything we can do to help?”

I hope to answer these questions in the following post.

They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, and if we had known eight years ago what was going to transpire in our lives, what with job loss and financial upheaval, family emergencies and unexpected moves, (not to mention another baby and another and another) we never would have bought the house. But wise or not, we did it, and against all odds, we are still the owners. As I posted before, we have reached the point where it has become necessary to do something desperate. This will be the last try. If we don’t succeed, we will at least know that we have done everything in our power, and we trust God to open another path for us.

So, you asked how the house was coming on? What do we have left to do on it? Well, here is where we are at-

This is the front of our house. As you can see it has lovely dormer windows and an enormous porch. The entire front of the house needs to be scraped, sanded and repainted. The windows (throughout the entire house) need to be replaced, and the hubby is custom building them himself. These are just two “small” projects that need to be tackled.

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This is me, walking around the exterior. You will notice that about half of it is painted a different color than the original yellow, and all the windows are boarded up. We have had to go to some length to keep the burglars (and pigeons) out.

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This is the yard. Oh man, I feel like I would be willing to live just about anywhere to call this yard our own- even a trailer. The trailer has not yet arrived, but will go in the back corner where the parking area is. The boys have already marked out the spots for their new forts.

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I just realized I forgot to take any pictures of the front yard. It’s a good sized front yard that we leveled out a few years ago and ambitiously planted bulbs and trees. The bulbs and trees are starting to bloom, which seems like a good omen.

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You ask if the house is livable? I’ll let you decide by showing you the interior.
It’s a little difficult for me to share these with you, because it makes me feel vulnerable, like the whole world can now see what a mess we have to tackle. But I’m going recklessly on in hopes of some really amazing before and after shots down the road.

When you enter the house you are welcomed in, not by one, but by two living rooms.
The left one (which will hopefully be a library)

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And the right. It already has a functioning wood stove set up, so we won’t freeze to death if we haven’t finished before next winter. There is also a piano. We have to warm the soul as well as the body, right?

As you can see, the entire house needs to be wired and sheet rocked before anything else can be done. You might notice lots of empty blue electrical boxes which once upon a time were wired and ready to go. But stolen copper is good money apparently. So all that has to be redone.

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Walk through that room, and you arrive in my kitchen, the size of which makes me feel a little giddy. It’s not quite ready for cooking, unfortunately.

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And such a large kitchen needs a corresponding dining room. As soon as we move over there, I am tearing down the plywood on these enormous window holes. It will be such a beautifully light-filled room.

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I’m not bothering to show you any of the four bathrooms, (FOUR BATHROOMS!) or the enormous laundry room, (LAUNDRY ROOM!) since they don’t look like much yet. There are two very large bedrooms on the ground floor- our Master Suite, of which it is hard to get a good angle-

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And the guest suite, which is currently home to eight years worth of our excess stuff. The reason it looks so jumbled is that it has been ransacked on a few occasions by a person (or persons) unknown. Whoever they are, I hope they are enjoying all my old books. (Grrrr). My first job will be to go through this room, reorganize and probably throw most of it away. Fun!

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All right, bear with me- this is a huge house. Let’s head upstairs, shall we?

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This is the view at the top- the door to “The girl’s room.”

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We have called it the girl’s room ever since we started on the house. I am so glad we finally have a girl to put in it! Although it does seem like an awful lot of space for one little peanut, who currently lives in this much space.

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To get to the boys room you cross this large open area we aren’t sure what to call- the den? The playroom? The ‘what on earth am I gonna do with so much space?’ room?

20150317-224042.jpg. And then the boys room itself. (Pardon the sawdust. Daddy uses this space as a workshop)

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20150317-224237.jpg Oh, but wait- it goes around the corner too, and ends in some secret tunnels Daddy built in, just for his boys.

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Oh, and then there is this room. Just an extra, you know, for whatever.

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But the best of all, is of course, my own especial room, to do whatever I want with. There will be a lock on the door and much crafting within.

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So then you asked, “When do you think you might be able to move in?”

Well, I hope you have seen that we have a looooong way to go before this house can become a home. That is obviously the scariest and riskiest part of this whole venture. There is simply no guarantee and no timeline in place. All I can really say is, the sooner the better. Which leads me to your last question-

“What can we do to help?”

Oh friends, the time has come for me to be very transparent. This is not an easy thing for me.
There are two things that we need- skilled labor and money. My hubby is one of the most skilled laborers I know, but he is one man and he is finite. If he must, he will build this house one inch at a time over the next twenty years. Obviously, this is not ideal, and we would like to be able to hire out most of the work. But without going into financial detail, we are stuck. We don’t have the money to finish the house, and yet we cannot keep the house if we do not make this last effort. We have prayed so long for an answer to this conundrum, but it has seemed insurmountable. My hubby has worked tirelessly over many years now to build his fledgling business, and has accomplished amazing things. But it is a fledgling business still. I would like to build my own business as well, but cannot without a larger space.

Then one day a friend suggested that I just ask people for donations.

I snorted- I scoffed- my pride recoiled at the suggestion. But the idea wouldn’t leave me alone. A thousand objections arose, but still it nagged. I wrote my family about it, asking advice- they said I should do it. I still resisted.
Then one night, before I went to bed, I asked the Lord to make it clear what we should do. Before I even closed my eyes, a message pinged on my ipad. It was a facebook friend, not someone I am particularly close with, but someone who apparently had been thinking of us and our situation. She simply asked if I had ever considered setting up a fundraiser so that people who would like to see us get into our house could donate. Stunned by the timely message, I asked her if she had been talking to my family at all lately. Perhaps they had mentioned the idea to her. She said no- that the idea had just popped into her head.
Well folks, what would you do?
I caved.
So without any more hemming and hawing, I am here today to ask if you would consider helping us reach our long-awaited goal by donating to the following site.
http://www.gofundme.com/pctz2w

And of course, if you are not in a position to help financially, any and all prayers would be most welcome!
We (and the children) thank you!

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