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.






Progress and patience

There is a scene in one of my favorite Narnia books that goes something like this-

“Quick! Quick!” shouted Aravis. “We might as well not have come at all if we don’t reach the city in time! Gallop, Bree, gallop!”

It was all Shasta could do to prevent himself from shouting out similar instructions, but he thought, “The poor chap’s doing all he can already,” and held his tongue. And certainly both horses were doing, if not all they could, all they thought they could, which is not quite the same thing.

But at that moment everyone’s feelings were completely altered by a sound from behind. Shasta knew it at once. It was the same snarling roar he had heard that night by the river- the roar of a lion. Bree knew it too. And now the horses discovered that they had not really been going as fast- not quite as fast- as they could.
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, we’ve been feeling a little bit like those horses lately. Of course, we have had nothing so terrible as a lion on our heels, but let’s just say, a few months ago I thought we had a lot on our plates and now I feel like they were only half full. I thought we were stretched to our limit this past winter, but I’m starting to feel like Elastigirl from the Incredibles and hoping I can return to my normal shape some day. Just when I thought we couldn’t go any faster, we needed a fresh burst of speed.

There were many months, you know, where I sat in the trailer and just looked at the house, wishing there were something I could do to forward the work. Now, there is so much work to be done, painting, sanding, slowly and painstakingly making the downstairs habitable, that by the end of the day, I hardly have the energy to fall into bed.  

The hubby’s brother was here for another month long visit, to help push the business along, and let me tell you, starting a business from scratch is not for the faint of heart. It.is.hard.

They were both so busy, I felt almost like a single mom for the time, but I was so busy, I hardly noticed.  

The biggest project we tackled during the last month, on top of all their business craziness, was refinishing our floors downstairs. Having had some success with the sanding and floor painting technique upstairs, we wanted to see what we could do down below. It is the cheapest solution out there, but in order to make a sub floor work as your actual floor, you have a little bit of labor to put into it to make it look half way decent.  

The problem with our floors is that some of them are original hardwood (in very bad condition) and some are just sheets of plywood screwed down. We debated for a while what to do. Carpet was out of the budget and some kind of cheap linoleum went against our inclination, but floor paint would not hold up so well in such a highly trafficked area as we knew the living room and kitchen are going to be.   We tried staining the plywood, but it failed to cover the myriad of old paint splotches and other messes that nine years of construction had left behind, so we sanded off as much of all that as we could (oy, my knees are still sore) and decided to see what a brown floor paint would look like.  


We painted the old hardwood first, after much patching of cracked boards and gaping holes. The first color we chose was a kind of reddish brown, but we thought it had too much of a purple hue to it. 


so we tried a darker one next- it was called ‘black bean’ (which still makes me laugh.We liked it better, but the floors ended up looking kinda plasticky so my brother in law suggested we ‘distress’ them a little bit. (of course, he described his technique in French, so it sounded much more artsy and interesting). 


All he did was take the sander and run it lightly over the top of the ‘black bean’, to make it look a little more authentic, or something of that nature.  Anyways, the result was that the reddish brown of the first coat underneath peaked through a little and we really liked the effect. So we finished up the hardwood and headed to the plywood to do the same thing, hoping the two floorings would sort of look matching by the end.  


But man, there was a lot to do to the plywood first. Wood filler and a putty knife became my best friend as we filled in all the myriad seams and nail holes and cracks and tried to level out discrepancies with a belt sander between the different boards that had shifted over time. Then all that wood filler had to be sanded smooth again before we could finally put a coat of paint on. Then, once the paint had dried, it had to be ‘distressed’ as well. 


We liked the result, but had discovered the great drawback to floor paint. It shows absolutely every footprint and smudge of dirt and scratches ridiculously easily. I was trying not to panic, imagining how much of my future life would be spent scrubbing my floors and hiding scratches when the hubby just suggested we slap a little polyurethane on it.Eureka! It worked! Although the super fast drying poly we bought turned out to take much longer to dry than the can claimed, so we had to construct an interesting network of planks around certain areas for a while, so as to be able to access the toilet and avoid stepping on the floor. 

After the polyurethane had cured for several days, we were finally able to install what I have been longing for for many years- a second toilet and a sink with actual running water! Of course, it’s only the half-bath that is functional, but it’s a lot better than nothing.

As for a bathroom with an actual bath, I’m trying my best to be patient. There was a good weekend that we set aside to start working on it in earnest, but both the hubby’s work cars died on that day and so the days had to be given to fixing those vehicles instead. The old van is still dead. You could pray about that. The hubby really needs a truck. 

And then, as many of you have asked about, there’s my kitchen. We haven’t been able to install a sink there yet, since we have been working towards replacing some expensive plumbing parts that were stolen a while back from under our house. But we were finally able to reorder them today. I have a fridge and a stove, waiting to be delivered, but without a sink, there isn’t much point in cooking up there yet. So the trailer still continues to serve as our life line for food and (tiny) showers.  

We have also been busy collecting furniture from people. Folks told me that when the time came, we would have no problem filling up this giant space with stuff, but I admit, I doubted them. I was a fool. So.much.furniture has been given. I am overwhelmed. Beds, chairs tables, dressers, rugs- all in good condition and some of it absolutely beautiful. Some old friends gave us the most beautiful dining room set- hutch, buffet, all matching and the table that can extend to fit about 20, if we squished (and had enough chairs).  

I finally got it all moved in yesterday, and last night, in spite of plebeian paper plates and grilled burgers for dinner, we ate our first meal in our dining room. I might have cried a little. 

We aren’t quite out of the woods yet. As you can see, we are still without windows. We are going to need some prayer for what to do about those as well as the days get hotter and hotter and we have no HVAC installed. AC is fairly useless without windows anyway.   

And for those who have asked, our options for the windows are either the hubby continues to build them little by little as he has time, or we hire someone else to do it.  And unless things change, the first option is our only feasible one, which means p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e for me.

So all in all, lots to be thankful for but still lots to be done.   

I am torn most days between being gratefully excited at how much has come together and a bit overwhelmed at how much still needs to be done and praying, praying, praying that God will prosper the work of our hands, both with the house and the business. But I am finding that the more exhausted and overwhelmed we feel, we feel God drawing closer still, in new and unexpected ways, to strengthen and encourage. 

My mantra every morning as I face the day has become- “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.” And it’s a good one.

All things bright and……

   
Sometimes as parents, we say things to our children without thinking them through- sometimes make rash promises to them that they somehow remember with remarkable clarity, considering how everything else you tell them seems to slip in one ear and right out the other. And sometimes these words and promises are spoken by the other parent without you even being aware and then the parental ‘unit’ as a whole is held responsible. For instance-
“Mom! I’m tired of sleeping in Lina’s pink, girly room. When are we gonna get around to painting our room?”
“I’m not sure about that buddy. It’s not exactly on the list of priorities right now. But we’ll do it soon.”

“Well, when we do paint it, I want it bright red.”

“Bright red?” 

“Yes, and maybe dark blue and turquoise.”

“Hmmmm. Well, I’m not sure that will happen.”

“But mom! You said we get to pick out all the colors for our own room.”

“I said what?”

“Yah! Remember? Or maybe it was daddy? Yep, it was daddy. He said red would be fine.”

“Well, I made no promises of that sort.”

“But daddy said…..” etc. 

You get the picture.

Fast forward a few weeks and still, not having forgotten ‘the promise’ and ignoring all mommy’s suggestions of how nice and boyish a tasteful sage green would be in their room, they begged to go to the paint store. I finally yielded, with the proviso that I would have at least some small say in their final color choices.  

“Oh, you poor chump,” you might well be thinking to yourself at this point. “You took all your children to the paint store and let them pick out a color? How long have you been a parent?”
And yes, in hindsight, I now see that I should have gone to the store alone, picked out a dozen colors that I myself liked and then let them pick from my choice, thus fulfilling the terms of the promise and making myself happy into the bargain. But no, naively thinking it would be a fun outing, last week, I and my five children marched into the paint aisle at Lowes and approached ‘the wall.’

You know what wall I mean- the wall covered with little squares of every possible color shade imaginable- ten bajillion little colored squares, all shiny and bright like candy and every one ‘the perfect color’ for their bedroom. 

Thus the battle began. 

“This is the red I want mom! It’s perfect!” says the oldest child, holding up a scarlet card so vividly bright that I can hardly look at it without watering eyes.

“I don’t think I want red at all,” says the second. “How about a nice orange? Look- this one is called psi, psi….ummm.. What kind of pumpkin?”

“Psychadelic pumpkin,” I reply drily.

“Have you ever seen a black bedroom?” the third dreamily asks, thumbing through a rack of ‘midnight dreams’ and ‘matte ebonies.’ “A black room might be cool.” 

“I have to pee, mom,” says the fourth. “and look, Haha! the baby is running down the aisle pushing a paint roller!”

Back and forth we went, I trying to explain to my children about matching tones and how a color on a small card might look pretty, but once painted on four walls would be absolutely overwhelming, they insisting that it would be ‘so fun!’. I finally talked them down from the red, only to have it replaced by an almost equally garish blue. From ‘stormy sea’ to ‘tranquil sky’ we fought it out but in the end, the promise won out. Eight tearful eyes stared up at me and pled- “but daddy said we could choose.” ‘Ballistic blue’ it was.

The only thing I could do now was try to tone down the blue with a milder color- perhaps a gentle yellow? But once yellow was mentioned, out popped the ‘egg yolks’ and the ‘tropical sunshines’.  

I was so exhausted by this point that I said yes to the first one they agreed on but when I got to the counter and saw just how French’s mustardy it was, I quietly whispered to the lady to make it two shades softer. At long last, foot sore and battle weary we took our cans and headed to the car.

But once we were home and I had opened the yellow paint can, I saw my breath had been wasted on trying to tone it down. It looked three times brighter than in the store, and once on the walls, well, you’ll see.

 
It is difficult to describe the bedrooms in the upstairs of our house and even more difficult to get a good picture of them. There are crazy angles and rooflines everywhere and are full of what would generally be called ‘character.’ The boys room is particularly character-ful. It is an enormous space in the shape of an L (“L for Lewin!” the boys like to say) 

There is a small platform running around half of it with two steps leading to the ‘main floor’ if you will. There are sloping ceilings and big skylights and four enormous holes for windows without, of course, any windows in them yet. So deciding where to put our lovely colors was a challenge. But I did my best. 

I hoped the color would grow on me as I progressed but by the time I got it all up, I texted the hubby.   

“What do I do if I really don’t like the color we picked?”

“Do the boys like it?” he texted back.

“Ummm, yes. The boys love it,” I grudgingly admitted.  

“Then keep it.”

“Maybe the blue will make it look better,” was my next hope. But I guess I’m just a boring person. I don’t care for loud colors in a house and by the time I was done, I felt like the room was screaming at me. It didn’t help matters when the little neighbor girl popped her head in the door to see the progress and immediately said, 

“Oh my goodness! It looks just like my school gym! Those are exactly our school’s colors!”

  
 I’m sure some of you locals know exactly what school she was referring to. And although I have nothing against said school (Go Chargers!) it wasn’t what I was hoping for in a bedroom.  

But of course, the boys loved it.

By the end of two very long days of painting, I was exhausted and frustrated and trying to think of a way to make the room look better. I looked at the yellow and blue and tried to think of what it reminded me of, other than a junior high basketball team and then it hit me.  

It looked like Legos.  

Maybe I could salvage the situation by making a Lego themed room. We already had Lego yellow and Lego blue- since we had come this far, why not go all the way? I asked the hubby what he thought. He said he would try and find some accent paints to go with what we had chosen- in Lego colors.

To make a long story short, he came back with these.   

 My hubby has a gift for choosing colors and he suggested using gray to go on the platform part of the floor. (we are painting all the floors upstairs and saving up for carpet some day). I never would have thought of gray, but heaven knows, I’ve stepped on enough gray Lego pieces in my life. So on went the floor paint.  

   
And by the way, in order to give you a sense of the size of this room, the hubby and I measured just this back section and realized we could easily park the trailer in it.

Well, I thought the floor looked okay. But where to put the other colors? I couldn’t decide if his next idea was insane or brilliant. He suggests painting the light wells to the skylights different colors. Would that be totally over the top? But I figured at this point, there was no going back- might as well embrace the insanity. I got a ladder and started in.  

After the first light well was finished, all I could see was another sports team (Go Seahawks!) but I kept going.   

 And by the time I had finished the fourth, I had to admit that, although definitely bright, the effect was at least interesting.   

But I still needed to tie the colors in more.  

Underneath the plywood covered, windowless windows are four rectangular holes in the wall with storage space behind them.  

  Eventually the hubby wants to finish these out and put little hinged doors on them, to keep toys in etc, but that probably won’t be happening for a while. So to cover them up, I cut four ‘Lego bricks’ out of wood, painted them and nailed them in place, along with some very temporary curtains to cover the ugly plywood windows. 

We also needed some kind of rug to cover the vast floor space, so on our way home from church one day, we swung by a salvage store that just happened to have the very rug we needed. It had just come through the door and was priced incredibly low. We grabbed it, along with some smaller accent rugs in equally loud colors. At this point, I was all in. Go big or go home, right? And somehow, remarkably, the room came together.  That, or I had just been looking at everything so long that I was willing it to work, whether or no.

    
    
   
Yes, it’s bold and loud and childish and Lego-y, but really, nothing describes my children more. And after all, it is their bedroom. Why shouldn’t they have a say? They have certainly waited long enough to live (and play Legos) in it. 

   
 

The half way house

I’m not really sure what would be considered the half way point on this monumental house project of ours. Was it way back when we restructured the whole thing, gave it a new frame and floor plan? Was it when we spent two months digging out a full basement just so we could jack the whole building up a few inches and put some proper feet under it? Was it before the first or after the second complete wiring of the house? 

The hubby says, on average, that the half way point for most home construction is the sheetrock. Of course, I don’t think that average really counts for our house considering all of the special, extra and unexpected things that came with it, but it is true that a myriad of tiny things still need to be tackled now that the sheetrock has been installed.  

Obviously, there is the painting- lots and lots of painting- priming and cutting in and spraying and rolling and the backbreaking labor that results in 4,000 (4,000!!!) square feet of colored walls and ceilings. But we are nearing the end of that.   

 There is all the extra wiring that now needs to be done- the outlets and light switches and smoke alarms, not to mention (we counted twice, thinking we must be mistaken) the seventy-two (SEVENTY-TWO!) light fixtures that need installation. To be perfectly frank, at this juncture, we are nowhere near being able to afford real light fixtures in numbers that large so if you ever come a visiting in the future, you will probably be greeted with the sight of a lot of naked light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. We’re taking baby steps here, folks.

But naked or not, we finally got them all installed and today, for the first time ever, instead of searching for a plug at the end of a bewildering tangle of extension cords crisscrossing the house, you can now flip a switch and get some light in return. And you can’t imagine the wonder of a plug in an outlet! Don’t get me started on the marvel of outlets! These are exciting things folks. 

Even more exciting are the two bedrooms. For all intents and purposes, the house is still a construction zone. We are still functioning with one toilet and no other running water. There is no kitchen of any description unless you count the recess in the wall where my fridge will someday go. But last night, Oh Joy! we ditched the trailer for the night and slept in a couple of upstairs bedrooms we had been pushing to get ready.  

    My craft room and my girlie’s room were the first rooms we had painted and we got to thinking that maybe, if we could put a few finishing touches to them, we might just make them habitable. This meant dealing with the floors first, which were really in terrible condition.  

They are original hardwood, but after much consideration, we decided they were too damaged to try and restore. So this meant me and my palm sander got down on our knees and tried to remove as much of the ancient rubbly mess, sheetrock mud and paint residue as possible.    

   
Then lots of shop-vacuuming and damp-mopping and finally, several coats of a good floor paint.  

   
   
Then, there was a little trim to put up and we even managed a few doors.    

    

Eventually, we want the entire upstairs carpeted, but since that isn’t really in the budget right now either, we found some nice carpet remnants and had the edges bound, just to make the floors a little comfier.  (And please disregard the plastic where the windows should be. Be patient. I imagine we might just get those durn windows finished sometime this century.)     
   

But windows aside, some generous folks donated a few used beds to our cause so that by the end of a very exhausting day, we were thankfully able to collapse onto something comfortable.

   
   So now, although I nearly despaired many times along the way, I can finally say, nearly nine years (NINE!) to the day after we purchased this place, we are sleeping in it. 

Of course, we aren’t technically living in it yet. We are still going to be in limbo for a while, trudging back and forth from trailer to house for our water supply and a place to cook our meals. We are now working hard on completing one of the four (FOUR!) bathrooms and the kitchen will be after that, although it might just be a hot plate and a sink for a while. 

All that to say, I think we can safely say that we are past the half way point now, although I’m not sure we will ever be able to call this place truly finished. But isn’t that true of most things in life? What good would heaven be otherwise? 

For today we are grateful- grateful no longer to be seven people sleeping in a thirty foot camper- grateful for a couple of rooms that (when the door is shutting out the rest of the house) actually look mostly completed- grateful for so much support and help from family and loved ones and grateful for a light at the end of the tunnel. (and a light at the end of a switch.)

Once more unto the breach, dear friends

Way back in high school, I was required to study a lot of Shakespeare.  And even after all these years, I still have a fair portion of it stored in the back of my brain, ready to pop out and serve in the place of more prosaic words when I’m feeling a little dramatic about life. 

For instance, I am currently sitting in a cozy chair before a warm fire, with the smell of fresh baked bread wafting through the air and trying to gear myself up for what I know is coming this weekend- the moving back to the trailer.  I find that boldly reciting speeches that begin “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!”  is a better way to psych myself up than your standard, “Alright! Trailer living! You can totally do this, Nicky! Home comforts are totally overrated anyway.”

Of course, I know better now.  After almost a year of living like a nomad and then the unexpected relief of being granted this month-long little breather, I know only too well that home comforts are nothing to turn my nose up at.  So I might as well look at leaving this cozy house and moving back to the construction zone for what it really is- a reentry into battle- a battle for patience, a fight for hope,  a struggle for contentment in the midst of uncertainty.  No use in a soldier being unprepared.

My kids have been struggling with this lesson as well. It’s been hard for them to understand the upheaval in our lives.  We have been bouncing around so much this year that I often hear them yearning for the last time that their lives felt stable.  I listen to them waxing lyrical about our old, way-too-tiny house in the terrible neighborhood that they couldn’t wait to move away from a year ago.   “If we could just move back mom, we would be so much happier!” they pine. “And what do you mean that house was too small for us? It was enormous!  It had two whole bedrooms! And besides, we only remember a couple of drive by shootings.”  

Or if we find ourselves staying temporarily in someone else’s home, “if we could just stay here mom, we would be so much happier.  Everything is so quiet and clean and comfortable. And look at this big screen t.v- with Netflix! I hope we never leave.”

Of course these are difficult things for me to hear from my kiddos and of course there are a million spiritual lessons I could apply to all these conversations with my boys. But I feel like the one we need most is to remember that God has not called us to live a life of looking longingly back over our shoulder to what was, nor of sitting comfortably on our backsides in a cozy, Netflix induced stupor (although don’t get me wrong, occasional times of rest are not only pleasant but necessary).  We are called to a forward looking life, a fighting life, a life of stepping out in faith.   

And so, after a pleasant respite, I am praying and hoping for the strength for all of us to jump back into the fray, not just to finish the task before us and then sit down with arms folded as if we have finally arrived, but so that we will be able to move forward with the next stage of life that God sees fit to call our family to. (‘Cause I’m not gonna lie to you, I grow a little weary of the whole ‘building a house’ thing)

So, once more unto the breach dear friends.  And thanks for praying for us.

Saying Uncle (temporarily)

Hello dear friends.  Thanks for sticking with this poor old blog.  Writing has been on the bottom of the list just now. 

  It’s been an encouraging few weeks, despite the pessimistic title of this post.  Work on the house has progressed steadily if slowly.  Our glorious white drywall is beginning to bloom with painted color and every weekend more and more work is being done on the long suffering windows.  

It’s a little eerie, wandering through the cold, echoing, empty spaces of that house.  Large sheets of plastic shroud the holes in the walls where the windows should be and they seem to whisper “just wait a little longer- just a little longer.”

I am willing to wait, but the wait has been cold- very cold.  After an abnormally warm December, January’s frosts hit us hard and I won’t lie to you- it’s been a little tough. The trailer was not built to weather the cold and the interior of the house has no defense against it. Seeing as we are hooked up to a hose for our water supply, there have been several days when the water has been kept a frozen prisoner in the spigot. 

“We can do this!” I have been telling myself. “Think of the pioneers! Or better yet, think of the Walmart down the street that sells water!”

  But when the toilet in the house froze solid, I began to lose my nerve a bit.  It’s kinda hard to watch your kiddos huddled in blankets over their schoolbooks and after all that, running to your sister’s house everyone someone ‘has to go’ can be a litttle wearing.  

I talked to the hubby. We talked to God and we asked him if he could help us find a way to get tolerably through the frigid month of February or at least help us avoid becoming victims of cabin fever induced insanity. 

The next evening we received an offer of a temporary house- a house sitting gig that would extend (you guessed it) through the month of February.  

I debated the question for a while.  After all, I don’t like to back down and we have stuck it out this long, I kinda hated to give up.  Fears of the work grinding to a halt or people breaking in to steal more of our stuff have also plagued me, but the offer seemed like a pretty clear sign.  And then there were my kids to think of.  

So starting Monday, we will say farewell to the trailer for a while.  At least the kids and I.  The hubby will be dividing his time between the two places to make sure things stay secure and so the work can go forward.   

There are definitely mixed feelings of relief and uncertainty floating around in my head, but I am choosing to look at it as simply a vacation.  Y’all can pray that I will use it as such and that come Spring, we will return to the work with renewed vigor and (God willing) an end in sight.

Not your average White Christmas

Shards of papery board litter the floor I walk on. Plastery crumbs crunch under my feet while small clouds of chalky dust rise at each step. The December breeze blows through the window frames still awaiting their shining panes of glass and I shiver in cold and delight as I look at our smooth, snowy, brand new walls. This may not be your average white Christmas. But after a particularly wintry year, it’s one of the happiest I’ve known.

A few days ago, however, I was not this happy. I was all kinds of discouraged and depressed and convinced deep inside myself that this important step towards completing our long-awaited home would never come. My life, you must understand, was doomed to be one weary, interminable ‘work until you drop’ cycle with very little to show for it. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been having a hard time facing each day.
But this morning I woke up long before the sun- expectant, excited, nervous- although still trying to wrap myself in that self-protective cushion that would prepare me for any dashed hopes or further delays.
This morning there was none of the usual grunting at the children to leave me and my caffeine fix in peace and get themselves a bowl of cereal- I had a broad smile with a side of sizzling sausage and eggs waiting for them when they woke up. The coffee was hot for daddy, the baby changed and dressed before she had a chance to complain, the blankets folded, the pillows and beds stowed away. I felt like my old self again- that self that decided to move us to this place nine months ago- full of optimism and energy and hope- that self who was so confidently sure that life in a trailer would never get her down.

Still I was cautious in my optimism. Only a fool wouldn’t be. But lo and behold, the work crew arrived exactly when they said they would. Not only that but they started in right away- no forgotten tools or last second runs to the hardware store.

Then I watched, breathless,  as the first heavy board was lifted overhead and the first screws went in to hold it in place. I may or may not have wept a little. Then I may or may not have danced a little jig and the workers may or may not have thought me crazy.
I have been sneaking up to the house all morning, in between school lessons, just to see how much they have gotten done. Man, those guys work fast!  Then back to the trailer, dancing another little jig. The boys may or may not have thought me crazy.
But throughout all my joy, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt- a shadow of shame, knowing (as I very well did) that the only reason I was so happy is because things are finally going right, at least for today. Today was a good day.  But alas, I have failed myself and my family over and over again on this journey as I have let the bad days negatively dictate how I have interacted with my husband, my kiddos and with the God who has written this story for us. I have been weak, I have lost faith, I have listened to the Tempter who told me to despair.

In the window of the trailer hangs a snippet of a Bible verse. It simply reads ‘Rejoice in it.’ The words catch my eye each time I head out the door and it is astonishing to me how many different ways I have reacted to this simple imperative.
Sometimes it does the job I wanted it to do when I first hung it up so many months back. It serves as a reminder that this day (good or bad) is the day that the Lord has made- so please, my dear, act in accordance with that fact.
Sometimes it prompts a guilty and grudging obedience and helps me to put on a plastic smile in the face of adversity.
Sometimes I have a little argument in my head with that snippet which usually consists in listing every excuse I have, to show how and why I should be exempt from such a command. After all, my life is legitimately difficult right now.
But more often than not, I feel fear when confronted with those words.  Yes, fear. I am afraid to rejoice because perhaps, if I allow myself to be glad about the fact that I live in a trailer with seven people while I stare at that stubbornly incomplete house, God will look down and say,
“Oh look, she has finally learned her lesson of contentment. She has finally understood what it means to be joyful in all circumstances. I think I will just leave her there. Why mess with a good thing?”
This fear makes me want to cling to my melancholy as a kind of insurance that we will get out of this situation some day.

Of course, in my more rational moments I know that this is nonsense. I know that God wants us to strive for better things and I know that he doesn’t want us to sit on our hands and accept that this life is always going to be hard, so why try?

I also know, in my better moments, that it is not the actual circumstances we are to rejoice over as if God is pleased when we laugh lightheartedly at the grief and pain and struggle in our own lives and at the world at large.
We don’t rejoice because of the mere physical day (good or bad) but because of the Lord who made it. We don’t rejoice merely because of the sheetrock we can finally see, although it is a wondrous sight, but because of the Lord (and his people) who gave it.
And we don’t rejoice at Christmas, merely because of the snow (if you are so lucky) and the lights and the music and presents. These things are just a bonus from a bountiful God. We rejoice because now we can say, every single day, in every single circumstance, that Emmanuel has come to be with us.

Oh Come, thou dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh.
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!