Dixie, Josiah, Rina, Michael, Hailey, Feathers and Jackie
What started off as a normal year on the homestead turned into an extraordinary year full of tears, joy, laughter and a lot of hard work! On March 14th, our 1975 double-wide caught on fire due to a heat lamp accidentally getting knocked over. Thankfully I was home at the time and was able to get the kids out. We were barefoot, but we were not hurt. Eventually we were able save perhaps 1% of our belongings, each a miracle story of its own. People from all over the country helped us in many different ways as we got back on our feet. We decided to camp on our property using the shop to live in during the day and a travel trailer to sleep and take (short) showers in until our new house was built. It was quite an adventure to be sure. We had an amazing contractor, Daniel Jacobson, who broke ground for our house the end of June and finished the basic house structure by the end of August. Over and over, contractors moved us to the front of the line and friends and family stepped up to help us so we could live in the house before the snow flew. We moved in the end of October with a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy and continue to work on the floors and finish work as we live in the house. We are so pleased with our new home and look forward to using our home as a place to bless others as we have been blessed. God has truly brought about beauty from ashes!
Michael continues to work as a Federal Technician for the Oregon National Guard out of the La Grande shop. He will soon be promoted to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2. He is in year 21 of being in the National Guard and he still enjoys it. He was able to enter his T-Bucket into his first car show in April. He has kept very busy working on the house whenever possible. He is constantly learning new skills and saving us a lot of money. He is also an Assistant Scout Master in Josiah's Boy Scout troop.
I continue to homeschool the children and was able to give quite a few Pendleton Underground Tours this summer and fall. I learned how to rough it on the homestead while camping on the property for 8 months. Now I appreciate indoor plumbing and a furnace more than I could ever imagine. I learned to do laundry while reaching over our favorite ewe, Dixie. Dixie also tried to get into the outhouse, shop and even the travel trailer! One of the big highlights of the year is when I got to go to Greece with my sister, Stacie and Stacie's in-laws. It was a life changing experience. I loved eating like a Greek and walking in the steps of the Apostle Paul!
Josiah is 14 now and almost as tall as me. He likes being homeschooled and is thriving in Boy Scouts. He has been a big helper this year as he learned many new skills while working on the new house. He is 2nd Class rank in Boy Scouts and hopes to earn his 1st Class rank soon. He was excited to get to hunt for the first time this year. He filled every tag that he drew or was given to him through special farm control hunts. He got two cows (elk), his first buck and a really big doe. It means a lot to him to be able to provide meat for our family. Really proud of him!
Hailey is 10 and is a full on tween! She also likes being homeschooled, although we enrolled her in a special skills reading class for one hour a day at the local elementary school. She is a hard worker and loves to learn. She still enjoys gymnastics and will be starting sewing lessons with a friend after the first of the year. She is also teaching herself to sing and draw and is particularly fascinated with mermaids and Greek and Roman mythology at the moment.
Rina is full on toddler at 2 ½. She is the cherry on top of our family sundae. She's a delight to us and we all love watching her grow and learn. She's smart as a whip and has a sweet, tender heart, and yes – she's spoiled! She enjoys singing and dancing and playing with her animals on the homestead. She always wants to help and is in the middle of everything. We can't imagine life without our surprise baby. What a blessing she is indeed.
It's been a challenging year for us, but all the children were remarkable in their attitudes regarding our living circumstances and losing most of our stuff. God was gracious in using family, friends and even strangers to provide clothes, toys, labor and more. It was an incredible thing to witness.
A friend, Beth Stafford, gave us a gift certificate after the fire for a free mini-photo session and we finally had time to redeem it this fall. Our favorite family photo is the one of us in front of the new house with a few of our animals. We are truly thankful to our God who brought us out of the ashes and provided us with a home that was beyond our dreams but is now a reality. God showed us how truly loved we are by family and friends. Some of the things we lost will always be painful, but God always redeems that pain and grows us through it. We are victors, not victims! We have much left to do on our house and property, but we are getting to a point of feeling more settled and able to relax a bit and do some regular family activities.
As we move into the Christmas season, we are praying a special blessing for each of you who helped us. Without your prayers, we wouldn't be in this miracle house that was built in 4 ½ months. We wouldn't have made it through 8 months of camping. We are very grateful for you all! We don't have time to send out individual thank yous because there were so many of you that helped and we know we would miss someone, so we hope you know by this letter just how appreciative we are.
May God bless each of you this Christmas season and this coming New Year. May you find true joy and peace in the Lord because as we discovered, He desires good for us even in extremely difficult circumstances. May you look to what is important - the people, not the things around you, and see them for the truly wonderful gifts they are. We REJOICE in our God and Savior and for His goodness in seeing us through 2017. We look forward to 2018 and some REST!
Michael, Jackie, Josiah, Hailey and Rina
Hailey with one of the baby chicks that hatched naturally on our homestead a few months after the fire.