Monday, February 5, 2018

"God Smiles"

"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of the our God will stand forever." Isaiah 40:8. When I came back the next day after our house fire to survey the damage and see if there was anything we could save, someone had already pulled out my two favorite study bibles and they were on the deck rail. This verse came to mind as I looked at them. I've never felt so close to God or been the recipient of such love and care as I did during the day of our house fire and the weeks/months that followed. I started to call these little miracles that constantly popped up my "God Smiles".  God really does care about us. Yes, we lost 99% of what we owned, but some of the few things that survived were really miraculous. Those are the things I'm choosing to focus on in this post.
 This metal plated old trunk my friend, Amanda, gave me years ago was in my living room serving as an end table. I had forgotten I had put all my kids' Antiquity photos and a picture of Hailey in my wedding dress (the dress burned of course). These are a few precious photos of the kids that I didn't have digital copies of.
 These survived without water or smoke damage. Amazing!!!  I'm thankful I got my first digital camera just before Josiah was born, which means I have digital copies of most of the kids' pictures since the hard drive on our computer miraculously survived the fire as well. 
The is where the computer was, down at the bottom of this well-built, solid oak Winners, roll-top desk. Can't believe we were able to save the hard drive with all our pictures and documents.
One of the first things Michael pulled from the house was my antique school bell I always use to call the kids in when it's time to eat or start homeschooling. My friend, Danielle, polished this up and looking prettier than it did before the fire.
Even though our social security cards didn't make it, my passport did! My sister and I had a trip to Greece planned in May and because the passport survived, she told me it was a sign that  I still had to go with her. Another God smile. 

My favorite cast iron pan was in the oven, and came out in great shape. Eventually, we were able to save all our cast irons pans and Dutch ovens. 
 We found the "God Made Me Special" plate I made for the kids when I was in MOPS in La Grande. If anyone had a birthday or had done something extraordinary they got to use the plate. Unfortunately it was made of plastic but when I saw it burned with the words still visible, it felt like a "God Smile" and I knew He had something very special in store for us indeed.
 Hailey found this bracelet in our burned-out trailer. The bracelet was a fundraiser for a homeschool family we knew whose young daughter was fighting brain cancer at the time. She has since passed, but this bracelet symbolized the hope we have in Christ and the things that are eternal- all the things that Julianna and her parents put their hope in as they bravely fought the cancer. This picture is a very precious "God Smile".
When I saw the seeds I had just purchased for spring planting scattered on the dining room floor, this verse came to mind.
 "For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring Word of God." 1 Peter 1:2
So many of Josiah and Hailey's friends, especially from the homeschool community throughout Eastern Oregon gave the kids some of their most special toys and lots of Legos.

I had a shamrock flexi in my closet and was waiting until St. Patrick's Day to give it to Hailey. Sadly it burned, but my cousin Laura, a Flexi consultant, sent this flexi to Hailey in the mail. Another "God Smile". Several of my friends, knowing how much I love to wear flexis in my hair, gave me theirs.

The same day, Crystal, a friend from MOPS, gave Hailey a brand new American Girl doll (who happened to have red hair). She had bought it for her own daughter and was saving it for her, but was prompted by the Lord to give it to Hailey instead. To say Hailey was thrilled, would be the understatement of the year!

Another friend, sent Josiah this dinosaur skull dig kit. I was unable to keep track of all the things we were given because it was so much. 

 Another friend from MOPS gave us these gift cards, movie tickets and a dinner at the Olive Garden. We finally got to use them in July for a much needed weekend away, just the two of us. Seriously, people thought of EVERYTHING!
 More Legos from friends. What a blessing! 
We received these homemade blankets from a homeschool family with adorable handmade cards. 
A friend was cleaning out under our tv armoir, which was made of solid cedar. The movies on the bottom, while a little smoked, made it, including "Narnia". The majority of our movies were stored in our bedroom and were completely destroyed, so it is nice to have a few that survived. 

 The Usborne Illustrated Classics are some of our favorite books. Quite a few of these were able to be saved. My friend, Amy, a consultant for Usborne, also gave us some new ones to replace some that were destroyed by smoke or water.


As I was attempting to inventory all the books in this mess that was my homeschool room, at the bottom of my burned out bookshelf I found these very wet but not burned photos of our high school prom/winter formal as well as my senior pics. Irreplaceable! So glad I didn't scrapbook them as everyone of my 30+ scrapbooks burned. These were the only items that survived in this entire room. Another God Smile. The vintage navy recruitment poster hung in my childhood room at the ranch. My Uncle David had given it to my mom when he went into the Navy during the Vietnam era. The top of it is burned but I think I can do something fun with it someday.
My nephew, Andrew, and I were able to carefully extract the delicate silver necklace and bracelet from this pile of melted jewelry in the picture on the right. Michael had bought me this set when he was serving in Iraq. The earrings were destroyed but these were saved!!! They were the most meaningful pieces of jewelry I owned besides my wedding ring which I was wearing at time of fire. Wow!!! PTL!!!
All the books in the house were either burned, smoke damaged or waterlogged - EXCEPT THESE! My absolute favorite books, four of which were from my childhood that are also my children's favorite books, and the three antique bird identification books that belonged to my deceased Uncle Bert, managed to somehow survive. All the rest of the 50+ books in that shelf were ruined.
  
My friends Vickie and Dawn (a Unique Consultant), got together and gave me a bunch of amazing make-up. I'm not very good at putting make up on, so my niece, Jessica, gave me a tutorial. I felt like a million bucks when she was done with her "Auntie Makeover". Like I said, people thought of everything!

We are a family who enjoys our Celtic heritage. When we were going through the kids' rooms to see what we could salvage, we found the antique trunk that was my Grandmother Mary's. Inside was all of our son's Scottish outfit, in perfect condition. We also found our daughter's tartan buried under a pile of ruined clothes in her closet. It was still in good shape. Both kids still had their clan badges attached to their tartans. They were so excited! Yet another God smile.

 People gave us many nice clothes. We only had one tub each to store our clothes in, so we had to really pair down what people gave us. Rina got this cute outfit from our friend Kat whose daughter is the same size as Rina.

 Got this package of brand clothes and towels from my blogging friend, Camille, who lives in Canada. Such useful items!
 Another good friend gave us the money to buy an ILife robot vacuum cleaner. This worked great on the shop floor and made my job so much easier. Keeping a shop floor clean enough to eat off of is not an easy task. Now "Gizmo" works great in the new house on our plywood floors.

 Our friends, Gracia and Naomi, where staying with us at the time of the fire while their dad was in the hospital. They lost some of there things, too, and people were so kind to think of replacing things they lost. One of my mom's friends gave all of us, including Gracia and Naomi, handmade quilts.
I've been waiting until Passover week to post this God Smile! Many of you know our family enjoys celebrating Passover by putting on a traditional Seder meal with a Messianic focus with a few friends every year. The skull caps and a prayer shawl were literally "passed over" from all smoke and fire. They were in the bottom of my grandma's hutch. The top part of the hutch burned but these were safely tucked away in the bottom cupboard of the hutch. Look how white that top kippah is! They didn't even smell like smoke!
 Hailey worked so hard sewing this bonnet by hand when we did our "Little House on the Prairie" unit study. I was thrilled that it was one of the items that could be salvaged. Rina is modeling it in this picture.
I found a few of the kids' special baby clothes that were in partially opened plastic bins in the their closets. Josiah and Hailey's dedication outfits (couldn't find Rina's) and some of their special costumes that we use for homeschooling. All we're smoke damaged but my friend, Danielle, managed to save these with minimal to no staining. Couldn't believe it! Thought they were goners. Thanks to my friend for all her hard work in restoring these treasures and saving Michael's leather holsters, too! There were several other items friends and family worked hard to save especially dishes and some special bedding that I don't have pictures for, but did manage to survive. It is so nice to have a few familiar items in our new home. 

I know this seems like a weird God Smile, but as I was rifling through my kitchen, trying to find stuff I could salvage, I saw this burned loaf of bread on top of the refrigerator, and I couldn't help but laugh. I texted Michael this picture with the caption, "Honey, I think the house is toast". It made me laugh for the first time since the fire. That was an awesome God Smile!

God Bless,
Jackie



Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Homestead Happenings - March 2017


March started out so normal for us on the homestead. Michael was trimming sheep hooves.

 We were excited to try raising another batch of chicks (the year before they were all eaten by a fox)
 Our "Pink of Perfection" was growing like a weed and bringing us so much joy.
 We had our first lambs born -twins. Their mother, Pixie, was such a good mom to her lambs.
We where baking up a storm, as usual. 

Then the fire happened on March 14th when the heat lamp got knocked over and caught the chicks bedding on fire. It was such surreal moment watching it burn. See "Sifted But Not Forsaken" post for that story.



 What was once our living room/dining room.

 We spent the night with my mom, but then friends lent us their travel trailer to camp in, understanding that we needed to be living on our property to take care of our animals since we were right in the middle of lambing season. Also, Arne's brought in a port-a-potty for us to use, free of charge. I didn't have to clean a toilet for months!


 So many friends rallied around us during those first few days in particular. Here are two of my besties, Cora and Dorene, who brought us some "essentials" like towels and my favorite tea. They made me laugh, which was truly the best medicine.
We had these little guys to watch and cheer us up. Buff and Tuff were adorable black lambs. 

 A few days after that, Michael's niece, Crystal, came to visit with her three sons. They loved the lambs!


 It was raining really hard when Crystal and the boys were visiting. We didn't have the shop set up yet as a living space, but we quickly figured out how to at least eat in there as a family.
 Crystal rescued us that night by inviting us to to swim at their hotel. Gave us all something fun to do and kept everyone busy and out of the mud.

 They visited us in the trailer one more time before they left the next day. Love these guys. Wish they didn't live so far away.

 The next weekend, a bunch of friends came over and worked at cleaning, salvaging and getting the shop insulated and things moved around so we could start living in there during the day.
What a blessing to have such good friends!
And family! Michael's folks came up to help as well.

Our pastor and his wife took a little spin around the shop floor during the work party. They are so cute!


Fluff, another black lamb, was born that weekend in the middle of a rainstorm.

 While everyone was working hard on the homestead, I slipped away for a much needed break (and shopping trip to the big city for some much needed and hard to find items. Stacie and I met up with one of her dearest friends who flew down from Alaska for the weekend. Rachel, Stacie, Rina and I had a wonderful weekend of talking, eating, shopping, and did I mention talking? Such a needed mental break from the constant stress of decision making for me. It was also a time when they let me really grieve, something I hadn't had time to really do. It was a huge blessing!
 Josiah was able to go to a paint ball camp with his cousin and one of his friends at Camp Morrow. It was a much needed break for him as well. I'm so glad he was able to go. He had a blast!
 It was fun for us to come back home to see the new lamb, Fluff! What a cutie pie. We had many visitors during spring break including the Lenardson family and my sister and her kids. Everyone brought things that we needed and offered their support.

 Two weeks after the fire, we had a dry kitchen set up in the shop. my running water was an igloo container. But we had a borrowed stove and fridge and we kept the food mostly in tubs as we fought the mice for 8 months while we lived in the shop. Don't mind the grease stains on the floor, it is a shop after all, ha ha.
Stacie helped me get a good deal on this large carpet remnant that really helped cozy up the place. 
Not everyone gets a Harley D. and a T-Bucket in their living quarters ;) Almost everything you see was donated to us by family and friends and we are using all of it in our new house now. 
Rina got really comfortable going up and down these steps. Again, so grateful to our friends, Tiffany and Don, for letting us use their trailer until we were able to buy our own. We only used the trailer for sleeping and showering. The rest of the time we were in the shop where I homeschooled and did all my cooking.


 These little guys just cheered us up so much. Our old burned out house was on the property until the middle of May. We had to smell it and look at it constantly. The lambs would draw our eyes past the burned out house because we couldn't resist their cuteness and adorable antics.

While my sister was up, we took a girls trip to the nearest city and Hailey got her ears pierced. She loves wearing earrings! She enjoyed getting to do it when her cousins were there.

The day after the house burned down we started the arduous, overwhelming task of inventorying all our belongings. It was not fun and an extremely painful process where we had to be full on confronted with all we had lost. There were several rooms we had to do completely from memory as they had been destroyed. I'm telling everyone to take a picture of all the rooms in their house, and even open drawers and closets and snap pictures, as well as take pictures of open cupboards. Then store them at someone else's house or in The Cloud. Here is a picture of my friend, Cora, helping me inventory over 700 books. It was a huge process, and one that she even did in the rain, with a smile on her face. It was our friends, family and even strangers who made this process bearable. We're so thankful!

 That wraps up March of 2017. I will do a separate post on all the "God Smiles" that occurred during those first few months. We were truly sifted but not forsaken. God had us in the palm of His hand and in the shadow of His wing in ways we couldn't fathom. He is so good!

God Bless,
Jackie

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