Thursday, August 27, 2015

Faithful, For His Honor

Friends, I have to tell you that the story I wrote nearly five years ago, called A Pillar of Fire by Night and that I had thought I'd seen the end of when I wrote Mysterious, is only now truly coming to its glorious end in our lives.

If you'd like to feel the full weight of the journey of trust that our family has been on, please take a few minutes and read through both of those entries linked above. Read them now, before you read on. But if you're in a hurry, let me try to briefly recap, so that you will understand the stunning realization I had today.

In 2009 Matt and I lost our jobs and our housing at a little Christian boarding school when the economy plummeted and the boarding school lost most of its students. In November of 2010 we had been living with our four small children in his parents' basement for nearly a year and a half. The economy was horrific in this part of the country, with not even the fast-food restaurants hiring. Things were desperate. God was silent. We felt very alone, really for the first time, in our spiritual lives. We wondered where God was.

Matt was briefly offered a job, and we were happy for about 2 hours, until that job offer was reneged. It felt cruel. And with that fresh salt in the wound, Matt and I took our kids out for a night-time walk around the neighborhood one evening and talked about shooting stars, and the first shooting star we had seen together as a couple. I looked up at the sky and longed for the time when God used to miraculously show up in our lives, and then right in front of us, a bright fire-ball of a meteor streaked down from the sky and disappeared just above the ground. I knew in that moment that God had everything under control, that he was with us, and that I just had to trust him.

One year later, I looked back and realized why that job offer had to have been offered to us and also taken from us on the same day. It wasn't cruel, it was a necessary step. Matt had to first get an awful factory job so that we would be desperate enough to take the dirty house in the middle of a dumpy mobile home park in the little town to the southeast. After we were settled in that house, Matt was able to get that phlebotomist job he had been offered several months earlier. This job trained Matt with the skills he would need to land an even better job at the Red Cross just a few months later, which happened to be just one mile away from the house we were now settled in.

Even more amazing, God had planned for me to become the manager of that little mobile home park--an amazing work-at-home opportunity that gave us enough of a financial edge that we were able to eventually buy a home of our own. A home of our own, friends, like we had been praying so earnestly for back in 2010, back when God seemed so distant.

And this is what I realized today. Please don't miss this.

Do you know where Matt and I were standing when God sent us that shooting star to show us that he was still with us, that he was still working?

We were walking in Matt's parents' neighborhood that night, because that is where we were living at the time. That moment is so burned into my memory, I have an exact picture in my mind of where we were, so I went back on Google maps, on the street view tonight and found that spot, then I turned the view to the right. And guess where we were? We were on the corner of the street that we will be moving to just one week from now, less than one block from our new home.

Five years ago, God let me know that he heard our prayers for Matt to get a job and for us to have our own home. He let me know when I was standing just a block from the home he had all picked out for us. He asked me to trust him and to follow him, and it has been such an amazing journey. The story of how everything has fallen perfectly together for this home is amazing in itself: the great deal on a perfectly maintained house, the school system (hopefully) allowing us to keep the same braille teacher, even across school district lines, and the items that need to be changed in my new kitchen (for my super-sized cooking needs) suddenly appearing on craigslist at half the price that I would have had to pay for them new. God didn't just pick out this new house for us, he also picked out a new huge kitchen sink, and an almost new convection oven with just the five-burner configuration I needed. He has been in every detail.

Friends, he is real. He hears your prayers.

The writer of Hebrews tells us, "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Hebrews 11:6)

While I know all Bible passages need to be read in context, I think God works much the same way in our lives as when he told Jeremiah to tell Israel this, "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:12)

Friends, pray to him. Seek him with all your heart. He promises to listen. He promises you will find him. Finding him is the reward for earnestly seeking him. There is no greater reward than to know he is guiding your every step, for his own honor.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Top Ten Things I Will Miss, and Top Ten I Will Not Miss About our House at Skyview

With the announcement that we have decided to buy our own home and leave Skyview, come many emotions. I find myself planning and packing excited and sad all at the same time. Will I miss this house that has been our home for the last four-and-a-half years or will I bid it good riddance? I think I will feel both, and so I present the following:

Top Ten Things I Will Miss:

10) The living room picture window. They don't make them like this anymore--snow-covered pines by a red barn just outside a window like this has fed my soul on many cold mornings.

9) The enormous kids room. They also don't make bedrooms that are 19' x 17' anymore either. It has been a great joy and an awesome bonding experience for all five kids to live together while they were little.

8) The antique hardware. This house has lots of character--so many nice touches you won't find in a new home.

7) Having a cast iron furnace with a coal door, and an axe-hewn central support beam for the house. They're unique. Not many people can still see the axe marks from when Pa Ingalls chopped down the tree and shaped the trunk to support the house. Besides, it's fun to show visitors our furnace and tell them that we shovel the coal into the furnace through this handy door.

6) Knowing every one of my neighbors. Living in the middle of a mobile home park that I manage means that I know all of my neighbors well. Everywhere I go people smile at me and wave, and I smile and wave back. We like seeing each other. We trust each other. We look out for each other's kids. I don't know if my new neighborhood will measure up to that or not.

5) A backyard that is constantly full of kids. Being the only common area for the whole mobile home park means that my backyard is always full of playmates for my kids, and almost always has a soccer game happening. For a homeschooling family, this has been amazing.

4) The magnolia tree. Because if you have to wash dishes, at least you can have this stunning view.

3) The big living room. Our new house has a living room and a family room, which will be nice, but I will miss having one extra-big room for when we want to have half our church over for a Psalm sing.


2) My neighbors George and Patricia. You can't always find neighbors who stop in almost daily just to check up on you and chat while you make dinner, who will mow your lawn just because, or run over to watch your kids when you're in a pinch. They have been priceless.

1) The sunsets. The tranquility of my front porch. The ever-clear view of Venus in the dusky sky. My thinking spot and my writing spot. The Skyview.

Okay, now that we're all wiping tears, I would like to end on a happier note, and so I present:

Top Ten things I will NOT (EVER) Miss:

10) Overloaded electrical circuits. Electricity was a major afterthought for this house that was built around 1890. And when they finally did think of it, they didn't think big enough. I need to choose which appliances I want to run when, because one circuit will not support the window air conditioner, the dishwasher, and the washing machine at the same time. I can't count the number of fuses I've replaced from forgetting about that. Our new house has been updated with many new circuits that have all the power I need available to me, without me having to make mental calculations of how many amps I'm drawing by cooking, cleaning, and cooling the house.

9) Window Air Conditioners. They were better than nothing. That's about all the good I have to say about them. Matt and I will not miss the yearly ritual of installing two window ACs in the spring, or packing them up for the winter. I will not miss my hot, hot summer kitchen that was never properly cooled by the window ac in the next room. I will not miss the extra noise or the fans we had to run constantly to try to circulate the cool air. Sign me up for the house with central AC!

8) Rotten Windows. I am almost positive these wooden windows have been in this house since 1890. Most of them are permanently rotted shut. The window in the kids' bedroom is so unsafe that I had it boarded up just to make sure no one fell out of the second story. The window in my bedroom had to be opened in the summer for the window AC, but had to be caulked shut during the winter because it had half-inch gaps all the way around that let a literal breeze into the bedroom. Our new house has all new vinyl windows! I bet they even open and close with no winter-caulking necessary.

7) Poor energy efficiency. We tried to seal the house and add insulation. The power company sent some people out last year to do their best to help us. This house's efficiency just stinks. Did I mention we're moving into an all-brick house? Bring on the lower utility bills!

6) The 1950s kitchen. Having a nice kitchen that looks like the 1950s might be in style now, however having a kitchen that is actually from the 1950s has significant drawbacks. There is just not enough cupboard or counter space for a family of seven that cooks every meal from scratch. My self-designed wall shelf and hanging pots system helped a lot, but it was still a squeeze. Literally. Just not cutting it.

5) Squeezing between the dishwasher and the cupboards to open the cupboards. See the picture above? Imagine how fun it is to get pots out of the bottom left cupboards. Not fun doing that dance.

4) The portable dishwasher. It was better than no dishwasher at all, but dragging it over to hook up to the kitchen sink was getting a little old. I'm ready to cook and clean in a roomy kitchen with an installed dishwasher.

3) Having a washer and dryer on opposite sides of the basement. This folks, is why you should not design laundry facilities when you are drunk. Not only does every single load of laundry in this house have to be carried down two flights of stairs from the bedrooms to the basement and back up two flights of stairs when it is clean, on top of all that fun you also get the joy of lugging every wet load of laundry across the entire basement to the dryer. Maybe because the people who designed this needed more exercise in their lives? Maybe. But I am ready for main-level laundry where the washer and the dryer actually sit BESIDE each other.

2) ONE. TEENY. TINY. BATHROOM. It started out looking like this:

Then was remodeled last year to look like this:

This was an incredible improvement. But the dimensions didn't change, nor did the number of toilets. Seven people now use this toilet. Seven. We hardly even have time to close the door. Might as well just leave it open. My new house has TWO FULL BATHS! Holy moly. I might even be able to teach the children what "privacy" means.

1) Squirrels in the basement. Squirrels in the attic. Squirrels in the walls, scraping, scratching, chewing, scurrying down the wall just behind the toilet you are innocently sitting on. Hello, brick house on a block foundation! When can we move in?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Wonderful Horses--A Poem by Naomi Eby

With all their spirit and all their power
With all their majesty and all their fire
And since with their fury is a gentle willing heart
It's hard to show these horses as they are in my art

I love drawing them when they are free in the wild
Or showing them carrying an adoring child
And it's such a great feeling, it can't be described
When you get on your horse and go for a ride

They're good, they're great, they're extremely terrific
They're really smart, you can teach them such tricks
They have noble looks and they make great friends
And that's why my love for them never ends

Naomi Eby
Age 11