Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017 Family Christmas Letter/Family Photos

Dixie, Josiah, Rina, Michael, Hailey, Feathers and Jackie

 2017 Family Christmas Letter

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!

God Bless,
Michael, Jackie, Josiah, Hailey and Rina

 No, I'm not taller than Michael. The girls and I are standing lump of dirt in what will eventually be our front yard.
 Can't forget Cuddles and Champ or beloved pets! Got new school bell I can ring to call the family in for dinner or homeschooling.
 We all love our new kitchen so much! We spend a lot of time in it for sure.
Hailey with one of the baby chicks that hatched naturally on our homestead a few months after the fire. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Homestead Happenings - Feb 2017

Because of the fire, blogging has taken on a different significance to me. Since I learned about blog books, I'm determined to keep blogging instead of scrapbooking and then print my blog in sections instead. I lost over 35 scrapbooks in the house fire. Now it feels like now such a waste of time and money. I will probably scrapbook my kid's baby books again, but that is about it. Losing those scrapbooks was probably the most painful loss of all, but I'm super thankful the hard drive on our desktop was able to be saved. A miracle, if you saw the burned out room it came of. I got my first digital camera shortly before Josiah was born, but anything before that time was lost.

 That said, I'm going to start where I left off. It's honestly a bit surreal looking back over these photos. Life was so normal in Feb 2017! We had snow storms and the kids were able to have more than their share of snowball fights. It was a bitterly cold winter. It was all we could do to keep the pipes and the pressure tanks from freezing. Our little stove wasn't enough to keep the whole house warm, so we did everything around it.
Michael got caught up on things and was determined to make an oak barrel mug. He cut all the wood himself and then welded the bands and handle together out of scrap metal. He made several of these, and they actually didn't burn up in the fire, but they were so smoked damaged that we couldn't use them again. Oh well, he had fun making them. I told him he would make a good "cooper".

 We used these big crocks in the living room as a place to put Rina's toys. She enjoyed playing in them, too. We'll have to get Rina a little cleaning set like this again. She loved it. A toy with a purpose, I love it!

Hailey is starting to have fun dressing Rina up. I love watching them play together. This used to be Hailey's dress.
Rina loves to help in anyway she can. I've used these Pampered Chef safety knives with all my kids.
Josiah received his Second Class BSA rank. We're so proud of him. He's learning a lot in Scouts and gaining confidence and skills.
Troop 700, small but mighty!

Valentines Day came around, and I always love to get the kids books they've been longing for. They got their traditional chocolate heart from the grandparents.
Josiah went to the Klondike with Troop 700. They did their best but the weather was not cooperating with them. A cold, extremely wet snow forced everyone to have to leave early. Still they did well in the few events they got to participate in.
That's okay, because the troop got to go ice skating at our local rink instead. Much warmer and drier!

 My sis and some of her kids came for a visit. We love to go to Rooster's for dinner when they come up. Haley got a new book called The Story Thieves. These cousins are such good friends.
We walked along the levee with Mom, Stacie and the kids. My niece, Jessica, enjoyed pushing Rina in her stroller.
Our newest board game tradition we play when Stacie is up is The Oregon Trail Game. We have so much fun playing this together! It is based off the old computer game.
Hailey is starting to cook meals now. Top Roman with homemade deviled eggs. Interesting combo, but hey, I didn't have to cook and those eggs were delish!
We went with our local homeschool group on a field trip to the local radio station. It was really quite interesting. 

The kids learned a lot.

Right after that, the flu bug hit. I was the only one who didn't get it and was able to play nurse to the rest of the family.

Rina loves to help do chores in the morning and Cuddles likes having someone else around to pet him.

Rina was able to make friends with Angel, one of our ewes. She came to us, scared to death of little kids, but Rina won her over.

Rina with Grandpa Ernie at Michael's Uncle Frank's funeral. Such a neat tribute to the life of a wonderful man who ALWAYS put family first. 

Uncle Frank taught his son, Joey well. He feels exactly the same way about family and just has a way with little ones.

Michael's mom, Kay and brother, Nathan, look on as Auntie April gets some Rina loves. It is so nice to see her coming out of her shell and going to family members.

We spent the night at Michael's folk's house and Grandma Kay played with our kids. 

Rina discovered Grandma's cool toy box!
Then we visited Auntie April's home and played with more cousins, Layla and Cash (both redheads btw).
Josiah and Cash adore each other. Love this picture so much!
Back home, Rina enjoyed playing with my Grandma Mary's tea set. 
The older kids made some delicious limeade all by themselves. Love that they are old enough to clean up the mess of making it.
Wrapped up the month by giving an Underground Tour to our local homeschool group. It was fun to get to show them the speakeasy door and so much more. We've got some pretty awesome history in this town!

That finishes off Feb of 2017. I'm so far behind, but determined to catch up for the sake of making the blog book. This is a year I don't ever want to forget. It was a turning point for our family and we've learned so much along the way. God has moved mountains for us.

God Bless,

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sifted But Not Forsaken!

As I was looking back through pictures of the last 8 months, I realized what a truly crazy season it has been for our family. 
March 14, 2017 started out a normal homeschool day that turned into a nightmare when the heat lamp we had over our baby chicks got knocked over. By the time I realized what was going on, it was too late. Smoke was too thick to try to put out the fire and I had to run out with the kids. We were barefoot with just the clothes on our backs. I managed to grab my purse on the way out the door. Just so thankful I was able to get everyone out in time. I hope to have time to blog my journal that I wrote about this day. God is good. He was with us during these dark hours. 

Friends and family worked hard to get us set up in one bay of Michael's shop and we borrowed a friend's travel trailer. We had an outhouse for months. So many people donated essentials to us. God showed us His provision by the generosity of many family, friends, acquaintances and even strangers.

Rina's play area in the shop. We homeschooled, cooked, ate and hung out in the shop. Let's just say the shop was cold when it was cold and hot when it was hot. So blessed to have been able to camp on our property and be able to take care of our animals. It was quite an adventure!

 The kids got to take a few baths in the canner kettle before we had a way to heat water in the trailer.
 In the meantime we worked hard at the painful, depressing task of inventorying all of our stuff that was lost in the fire. Some rooms were completely destroyed and we had to do it all by memory. God was good. He gave us some miracle saves on a few important items, or what I call "God Smiles" that I will share in other post.
We needed to give back our friends' trailer. Our insurance paid for us to buy a trailer. Again, friends stepped in and helped us find a trailer that fit our needs for a fantastic price. It is a toy hauler and we'll be able to use it for years to come. It is such a blessing and I can't wait to actually camp, camp in it next year. 

 We were able to take longer showers and have hot water to do the dishes. I mostly did them using the outdoor shower during the summer. Such a blessing!
 I learned how to live with sheep, since we were camping in their pasture. Dixie became part of our family. I'd have to reach over her to do the laundry in my outdoor washing machine.
 She'd even insist I share my coffee with her in the quiet of the mornings when I would sit on my bench swing and pray and do bible study before the kids got up.
We always had to keep the doors shut to the trailer, shop and outhouse as the sheep would always be wanting to come in. I'll do an "Adventures of Dixie" post another time. She gave me a lot of material to work with this summer!
 And then we started building our new house. We were blessed with an amazing contractor, Daniel Jacobson. He worked so hard for us. Got the main build of the house done in about a month and a half. We decided to do much of the finish work ourselves to save money. God is so good. He moved us to the front of the line, over and over with contractors, inspectors, ect... God allowed this house to be finished enough for us to move in before Nov 1st. Four and a half months from breaking ground to living in it. Crazy, huh? But God knew our needs and provided an army of people to help us along the way.
 This was the house we had expected to build after most of the kids were out of the house. God decide that wasn't a good plan. I know He sped up our timeline to match His.
 We are going to make so many memories in this house before our children are grown and gone. Oh my, are these days fleeting! The adventure will continue. We are determined to use this beautiful home God has given for His glory. We can't wait to use it to bless others through hospitality. I look forward to new memories that will be made in this house. It is a balm to our hearts and we can't help but remember all the special things we lost. But they truly are just things. We have a new perspective on life because of this experience. We can appreciate so much more now.
Here's the family taking a little ice cream break this summer after working hard in the extreme heat to paint the house. Our kids have been amazing through all of this and have embraced the adventure of the situation. We're so proud of them! We pray God will use this is their lives and bring them a new perspective that they will remember always. We're victors not victims!

So now we are living in our new house, have sheets for doors, we've got kids homeschooling in the bathtub (just for fun), and I'm doing dishes in the shower as I wait for the plumber to come one more time to get my kitchen fully functioning. We're still very much in the middle of our adventure with lots more to come! It's been tough and will continue to be tough, but we've gained so much in our relationships with others who've taken the time to help us and also with each other. We've grown closer through this and have learned to truly lean on the Lord and wait with bated breath for His provision. It ALWAYS comes! He did not forsake us, even when He said no. It was always for our good. He loves us and wanted us to grow and be sifted through this trial. We won't always get it right. We'll probably panic when more trials come our way, but hopefully we can look back on this experience and be reminded that God truly does have our best interests at heart despite the pain and inconvenience He has allowed in our lives. We hope our story can encourage others who might be going through a difficult time as well. We trust not one tear will be wasted from this trial. I will try to be doing catch up posts when I have a chance because I want to make a blog book. We'll see what happens. I'm so glad I started blogging all those years ago because all of my scrapbooks were lost in the fire. At least I have some years chronicled.  Praise God through whom all blessings flow!

God Bless,


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