Dec 4 2017

Kyliesha Selah

by andrew

The strong, virtuous woman trusts in the refuge of her Rock (Yahushua the King Messiah).

Well, I was too slow, and the telling of our adventurous journey from Colorado back to Canada has been quite completely upstaged by the birth of our daughter Kylie. This post is hard for me to write because so many thoughts are trying to be put down all at once. So, let me work on it methodically.

3 Days ago (December 1, 2017) at 3:42 pm our 4th daughter and 8th child Kylie was born at home near Winkler, MB in the house of dear friends where they raised ten children themselves. She was 8 lbs 10 oz and 21 inches long. The raw essence of every detail of this pregnancy and birth-journey is captured in Kylie’s name – both as a testimony to Yah’s faithfulness throughout the process, and Renee’s diligent strength, as well as Kylie’s identity and destiny.

With each pregnancy we’ve had various levels of confidence about the gender of the baby growing inside Renee. Some we knew ahead of time from the ultrasound. Some we had a very strong notion (like with Joy who was the promised girl arriving later than we thought after Jaiden surprised us by being a boy). And with others we had no idea. Kylie was unique in that, not only did we lack all sense of who she might be, but we also had no consensus on name candidates for boys or girls. We had name ideas, but nothing that felt right – nothing that resonated spiritually with the life YHWH had knit in Renee’s womb.

Other new factors with this pregnancy were the additional concerns of higher risk with Renee’s age (the medical community is a little confused and thinks Renee is getting older for some reason), the fact that she was carrying Kylie in a breech position, and abnormal antibodies present in her repeated blood work which meant baby’s blood was mingling with hers. The breech factor was particularly bothersome because we really wanted to have another home birth and if Renee went into labor with Kylie breech, our midwife could not attend us at home. On top of that, they wouldn’t even deliver at the hospital near our friends. We’d have to relocate to the Winnipeg hospital over an hour away… not a fun idea while in labor.

We also had an initial 5-hour drive to our friends’ house to factor in. They live in the same area as our midwife and had graciously and excitedly agreed with the idea of us spending a few days here around the due date. But planning the timing was going to be a little like jumping out of a plane with only a rough map of the landing zone and hoping the winds were favorable for touching down in the right spot. Should we wait until labor started (great thing we DIDN’T do that in retrospect)? Do we pick a date and be there way too early? All those kinds of questions were in play.

So, about a week before the due date, with the impending necessity of finding a name in the background of our brains, and wanting it to be connected with the core theme of trusting Yah with all the details (including logistics, timing, breech, age, risk factors, travel, antibodies, etc.) I came across Psalm 18:2:

YHWH is my ROCK and my fortress and my deliverer, my God is my ROCK and I take refuge in Him; My shield and the horn of my salvation (yeshua), and my high tower.

I would have likely just breezed past this verse normally, but it perfectly resonated with the experience of our need in this season, which stirred additional curiosity. I wondered – why was ROCK repeated twice, and what was the Hebrew word behind it? I’ve often found the Scriptures to use repetition when something is being emphasized and/or hinting at a deeper meaning. I was surprised to discover that although the translators used the same word “ROCK” twice, there were actually 2 different Hebrew words behind them. One of those was:

Selah – literally or figuratively a ROCK, a fortress, a stronghold

Up until then I had only thought of “selah” in the musical sense found throughout the Psalms which indicates a pause for meditation or pondering. These two variants of the root have a different last letter. The musical pause “selah” is SLH whereas the rock and fortress “selah” is SLA – the final ayin (A) having the thematic meaning of eye or “to see” which makes sense because a ROCK and it’s defense and deliverance is something that is witnessed. Kylie is a witness to her Creator.

Then, a day or two later I was reading Proverbs 31 again as it happened to fall into my reading schedule with a new translation, and I read verse 10 with eyes that were constantly, subconsciously searching for name ideas: “Who can find a virtuous woman?” Hmmm, I thought, I wonder what the Hebrew word for “virtuous” is in this case. I was floored to discover it was one of my favorite Hebrew words of all time:

Khayil – a force whether of human or supernatural means, an army, virtue, valor, STRENGTH, able, activity, valiant, worthy.

In fact, this word was the original basis for a character’s name in a series of books I’ve been slowly writing for nearly 25 years now. And with the Hebrew word for “woman” / “wife” in that verse being “isha” (“eesha”) I immediately knew in my spirit – if we were having a girl, her name was Kyliesha (“Kylie” for short). When I presented the idea to everyone else it was it was unanimous (a rare thing in a family of 9). Everyone loved it. And a sense of peace settled into me that we had finally stumbled upon the first truly accurate name-reflection of who this little unborn person was to be… and with that sense of identity I tried coming up with a couple boy variations on the same theme, but I was almost completely convinced from that point forward that it was going to be a girl.

With the strong potential for a complicated breech birth, Renee diligently learned and applied new stretches and exercises to help adjust her body and turn Kylie. She was trusting Yah, but also doing everything she could to act on that belief.

As for the timing… Renee and I both separately asked Father to give us a birth date so that we could plan our drive down to our friends. She got Dec 2 and I got Dec 5 (with a low degree of self-confidence whether or not I was hearing clearly or just making something up in my own mind). Dec 11 was the full 40-week count from conception, but the due date calculator (also based on the conception date) said the due date was Nov 30. So, we had a few data points to work with and decided that the right course of action would be to drive down on Nov 30 (unless labor started sooner of course). We also debated whether or not to just stay put and have the baby in our own home. But in asking Father about that, we felt with great confidence that He wanted the bigger story to include the time with our friends.

As it turned out, that ended up meaning we got to meet another dear sister in the area who came over for Shabbat for the first time in two years since having known our friends from a previous church, which was really special. But I digress.

The rest unfolded like miraculous clockwork:

  • We drove down in (relatively) warm and sunny weather on Thurs Nov 30th (the official due date). Some contraction activity started during the trip and I made sure to take the bumpiest gravel-road route for the last 10 miles.
  • We settled¬†in with our friends at their house and had a wonderful meal and time of catching up together.
  • After a profound, restful sleep (everyone in the house – even out friends – reported sleeping better than they had for a really long time), Renee’s water broke at 8:30am. It doesn’t get much more precise than that ūüôā Thank you Abba!
  • There wasn’t really any contraction activity at that point, but after Renee finished leaking we headed out for our ultrasound appointment at 10:15am to go confirm Kylie was head down (and maybe see if we could tell for sure that she was a she). At that point the breech status was still in question (but we knew she was¬†going to be head down, and the chiropractor Renee had visited on Tues had said as much too).
  • More bumpy roads, the ultrasound-revealed position was perfect (although we couldn’t catch a glimpse of the gender), and our midwife wanted to run a non-stress test while¬†we were at the hospital just to make sure everything was good; especially since there had been a little¬†meconium in Renee’s water. Vitals were perfect.
  • We spent a couple hours doing errands including picking up some new sweet games for the kids from an amazing hobby store.
  • Renee was having regular contractions at this point and Cara (our midwife) said to let her know when they were consistently 4 minutes apart.
  • We headed¬†back just before 2pm and as we were pulling up to the house the contractions had been settling in to every 4 minutes.
  • We sat down for some lunch and Renee almost finished a bowl of “Kate’s Chicken Noodle Delight” soup while the contractions increased intensity before¬†finally having to retire to upstairs around 2:15pm.
  • I called Cara and she was on her way. Later we learned that en route Cara had called the other midwives to come (because she’s not allowed to attend a home birth by herself). When¬†she told one of the other midwives about the meconium in Renee’s water, the other midwife said that she wouldn’t come here and that “they need to go to the hospital” for the delivery. So, Cara was actually planning to let us know we had to move to the hospital for the rest of the labor and delivery.
  • In the meantime, Renee transitioned from the medium hard part of labor to the hard hard part and the contractions were coming on top of each other and getting longer. She asked me to keep praying because she did not at all feel mentally ready for this.¬†With all our previous experiences, each stage of difficulty had gradually progressed into the¬†next so that getting through the levels helped mentally tackle the next ones. And, at that point, we still thought we had a long way to go in terms of total time.
  • In addition to asking Father to fill Renee with strength and energy, I asked Him to¬†accelerate the process and allow us to go into Shabbat¬†with the baby born and entering into His rest with us.
  • Cara arrived around 2:30pm and after checking Kylie’s heart rate (which was great) and evaluating Renee’s progression, she started setting up.
  • While she was setting up, Renee hit the shaking and moaning phase … the hard hard hard intense hard hard hard stage and Cara decided she had better call the other midwives and tell them to come here anyway – there would not be time to make it to the hospital.
  • About an hour later I was catching Kyliesha Selah and Renee’s mom arrived very shortly after that.
  • We watched the epic¬†Sabbath-starting sunset from our upstairs room window and held a miracle in our arms.

We couldn’t have planned it better ourselves. YHWH had all the details orchestrated and in motion, and Kylie gave Zach a run for his money on his record for fastest birth. It might have been a tie. Or maybe Kylie edged him out for the title. In any case, this home has been a refuge of peace for us. It has been a blessing to share the experience with our friends and to enjoy their fellowship.

Renee has been healing well and resting. The biggest difficulty so far (aside from the math related to 1 baby and 7 siblings who all want to hold her at the same time) has been Kylie’s extremely tight lip-tie. It has made nursing her extremely painful for Renee. One option would be to have it cut (which is apparently something they do frequently around here). But 1 hospital visit was enough, and more importantly we felt no peace about force-altering the way YHWH made her. If Kylie wasn’t able to nurse at all, or not getting enough, we’d be seriously considering that option. But in our case, Father has provided an electric breastpump that we can borrow and a soft shield that helps dramatically reduce the pain for Renee. We’re confident Kylie’s lip-tie is going to naturally grow and stretch and become a non-issue.

It was once again such an incalculable blessing to have the whole family in one place – the same place that the birth was happening. Joy and Ellie got to observe the whole thing and meet their baby sister first hand, seconds after she drew her first breath. Joy was a hurricane of delight and excitement – I don’t know how the stairs survived – as she stormed down them shouting “It’s a girl! It’s a girl! It’s a girl!” When Joy introduced herself to her new sister, Kylie looked at her with big bright eyes and cooed intently and wisely back at her. She hardly seems like a newborn. We’re already noticing she’s an amazing and peaceful communicator. She recognizes all our voices and listens intently. Even her crying is filled with meaning; not just “i want something” or “i don’t like something” but it carries tones and inflection and deeper senses of communication in a way that none of our other 7 had (at least that we remember).

I had mentally remembered but emotionally forgotten how awe-inspiring and life-giving it is to hold and snuggle and watch over such a little beautiful one. Right now, she is sleeping peacefully amidst a constant background of the noise and activity of the big brothers who will defend and protect her and the big sisters who will tend and spoil her. Many many thanks and blessings to the Elias family for their generous hospitality and joyful help and participation in this part of our journey. YHWH is GOOD. Blessed be His Name for ever and ever.


Sep 30 2017

Fast Forward: Four Years Later

by andrew

Despite the pretty substantial anchor we dropped here in Winnipegosis, Manitoba, Canada a few years ago, we have still made several epic journeys since then which should have charged enough inspiration to merit their own posts on this blog even though many of them were solo or in smaller conflagrations than our former 9-barrel shotgun happy wagon (which, come November is going to be an upgraded 10-barrel beauty if you’re following my metaphors).

For example, my winter mini-journey in Dec 2013 to and from my old stomping grounds in Minot, ND flying out from and back into the airport there for Never Settle’s visit to Creative Trust (a client at the time) in Nashville, TN with a blessed overnight layover in Colorado on the way back. However, after sitting a few days parked at the airport in weather that had turned typical Minot December since I had left, the suburban’s batteries were dead and diesel fuel was gelled or maybe frozen solid. On a Friday night, Father provided a mini-miracle connection to a guy with a big rig shop who was able to thaw me out in a couple hours and get me on the road.

There have of course been the annual micro-trips for summer camping, fall survival weekend with Bennah in cadets for 3 years, winter ski trips (yes, Manitoba has skiing… sort of), and various Biblical Festival celebrations in different parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Then there was July of 2015 which was straight crazy fun. Bennah and I went out to California, and while he was at camp Messiah West Coast I was staying at a nearby Bed & Breakfast, working remotely from there, and making forays (well 1 anyway) into Yosemite to scratch my photographer’s itch.

Flying back to Canada through the Calgary port of entry was memorable because it was my first entry into Canada that made my permanent resident status official. As if that didn’t comprise enough miles, Reayah, Joy and I hit the road right after that (still July) and drove to Colorado for Jonathan and Alexandra’s betrothal, which was an amazing time.


(photo by Ross Folkers)

Then Oct 2015 brought me back to Colorado for our Never Settle company retreat at Revel, and afterwards driving home from the Winnipeg airport, which is a 5 hour trek, the suburban finally told me it was officially done for a while when I had to stop 3 times along the way to add a full container of coolant each time.

BUT, we still had 1 more all family trip to make to and from Colorado before 2015 was over for Jonathan and Alexandra’s wedding in December. So, we piled into another diesel suburban almost identical to ours, which our dear friends in town had recently bought and graciously loaned to us, and to thank them we donated a good chunk of miles to their odometer. That trip was fraught with adventure and wonderful family times.

With the suburban torn apart in our garage so I could replace the head gaskets (presumably the cause of the magical disappearing coolant) Father provided a good deal on a 15-passenger Chevy Express van in Feb 2016, which became our new family-mobile. We had been wanting a van for a while, and finally having one meant we had enough seats for more children even with the rear bench pulled out for extra cargo space. We were no longer limited by the maxed out suburban, which was a handy peace of mind about a year later when Renee started her 8th pregnancy (due end of Nov 2017). Renee still credits the decision to have one more with being at a close friend’s home a few months ago right after she had self-delivered her baby at home. But I think that having the van had something to do with it too.

In Aug 2016 Renee and Reayah flew out to Virginia to visit some good friends out there, but I compensated for the crazy 2015 globe-trotting by staying local all year.

This past summer (2017) needs to be written down so that I can call it the craziest summer on record. Besides the normal spring soccer coaching with 4 kids playing on 2 different teams, and frequent games 1.5 hours away, Bennah taking driver’s Ed twice a week in town, family reunion on Renee’s side (in Aug), and something going on every single weekend, we decided that we should also buy a house (moved in June) and go to Colorado again (for just over 2 weeks vacation in Sep).

In fact, it was this last very recent trip to Colorado that got me really feeling like I needed to shake this blog awake again. We took 3 days and 2 nights to drive down there and it took 5 days and 4 nights to come back with 9 wonderful intervening nights there at my parents’ place in the mountains. I originally thoughts this entry would be writing about that trip, but I realized some fast-forwarding was needed at least as a crude link in the chain and the Sep 2017 Colorado adventure deserves a post of it’s own. So, that should (theoretically) also be along shortly.

As an interesting teaser for what’s to come… one of the catalysts that convinced me to bite the bullet and get this going again (at least in random spurts) around the 4th anniversary of dormancy, was a beautiful piece of foreshadowed symmetry: Upon our departure from the Denver area we needed to get our van looked at before the long trip back, because there was a new vibration happening that I didn’t like. Father brought back to mind a dear brother who manages a shop in Brighton, CO when I was trying to figure out where I could take it. The reason this brother and shop were somewhere in my mind to begin with: they had done some big repairs to the suburban 5 years ago when we were in the area on our travels back then, and we had an amazing conversation for about 2 hours after the shop was closed one Friday evening. That feels like a lifetime ago.


Feb 3 2014

childhood crushes

by andrew

“I think that boy likes me too, cause he was acting kinda handsome.”

(age 5)


Jun 29 2013

Day 1540: Sammy Rides Again

by andrew

I keep trying to imagine how the pioneers must have felt crossing the expansive untamed regions of our country back in the days when all forward motion was biologically powered. What did they do for repairs? If a wagon wheel broke did they stop, cut down a tree, and make a new one right there on the spot (if and once they were out of spares of course)? There were no grocery stores back then or Wal-Mart parking lots to park in overnight either. Food must have been what they could carry or kill, and supplies would come down to what they could find or make. But the things they would have seen! Oh with those first eyes on places never before discovered. And before you say, “well, surely the natives would have already seen those places,” I’m sure there were pockets even they didn’t know about that settlers came across on their travels. What would it have been like at night with no artificial lights? What would it have been like without vast webs of electricity, sterilized water, and concrete running like veins above, across, and beneath the countryside?

And here we’ve just covered in 3 days what would have amounted to a months-long journey for them. And we’re cozy in a campground site next to a heated pool nestled among water and theme parks and other audacious attractions in Wisconsin Dells, WI. We can run the AC if we need to. And when I’m done typing this I’m going to send it into space and back to earth after it hops through a series of towers at the command of a little box not much bigger than a deck of cards. Did the pioneers have and play cards back then?

If you’re not in the know, Sammy is the family name for our ’98 GMC 6.5L turbo diesel suburban. It has dutifully lugged us and all our belongings across roughly 60,000 miles over 4 years which is no small miracle considering where all we’ve been and how much it has pulled there. Oh, it’s had its share of fits and tantrums and somewhere along the way (not too long ago) we officially crossed the threshold of having put more into total repairs than we had originally spent on the vehicle itself. But Sammy has been taking this trip in stride, running smoothly, and strongly and enjoying the last second maintenance and repairs (leaky power steering line swap) that we got done before leaving Pennsylvania.

Leaving Pennsylvania.

Wow.

It’s truly like leaving a home especially in the way when you feel like part of yourself is still attached to a particular geography because of the relationships anchored there. We are grateful for every experience we had there since last September. Departures are (or at least should be) every bit as much a part of life as miracles, and there’s nothing like traveling again to combine both in such a concentrated and potent dosage as to be reminded all over again why we set out to do this in the first place. For us, the Road compresses nearly the whole dynamic spectrum of life into such rapid bursting moments along a highly accelerated timeline: good-byes and sadness, open possibilities and elation, soundtracks, storms and trials, tests of faith, tests on wisdom, unexpected unique decisions, problem solving, strategizing, thinking ahead, coping with failures, basking in successes, memories, discoveries, and on and on.

But by far the best part is the miracles. The things that many people might write off as coincidence or mere “positive perspective” when confronted with trying to explain 2 or 3 of them. But when they happen by the dozens like they do for us on the Road, by the grace and provision of our Heavenly Father, I don’t care how you try to explain it – life is miraculous.

I was trying to find a good analogy for it. I love the mind-opening affect of the Road. As the driver I have lots of time for mind-wandering exploration – something in which I almost never indulge because I almost constantly have my brain focused on some particular issue or problem or situation with family or work. Even with a substantial amount of concentration on gauges, and sway correction required by the blast of passing trucks, and the GPS, and road signs, and the current pulse of passengers, there are open stretches where I can mentally wander into scarcely trodden paths.

And, so, I came up with the back yard analogy. Life for those who walk in a pure and practical daily trust in their Creator is very much like the life of a child sent out into the back yard to play. The child basks in the freedom of the whole yard, of getting to decide the games and activities, to feel like the master of his own destiny, oblivious to the parent’s watchful eye behind the window, of the carefully crafted fence around the yard, of the deliberate selection in the objects filling the yard. There are certainly dangers: toys can be abused, a child can employ foolishness to great effect, and even tragedy can happen in the relatively safe environment. But their parent is always there, and the permutations of things that could go wrong are almost all within the realm of something the child can handle. But for those other situations the parent is always ready to intervene directly. Even when it’s not a matter of safety or crisis, the parent still delights to intervene in response to the conditions: to supply a sprinkler on a hot day, snacks and drinks at intervals, and encouraging word when the child does something particularly creative or clever, and so on.

And that is very nearly exactly how I feel traveling. So much can go wrong, but YHWH knows we can handle it and we know that He will intervene for things completely beyond us (because He already has time and time again). But even more miraculous are all the little things He puts together for us to discover along the way… almost a reverse breadcrumb trail for us to follow – even when our waypoints are not predetermined in our own minds. Now I’m sure you can think of countless real-life scenarios that seem to break the parameters of this analogy, but it’s completely consistent with my personal experience so far. So here’s a list of Miracles and Memories that we’ve collected so far on this trip:

  1. After departing our friends’ farm in PA I felt like I should stop one last time a few miles down the road before getting on the interstate to connect the anti-sway bar and check a few final things. As a result I discovered that we had developed a pretty bad fuel leak, which explained the slight fuel smell we noticed since picking the truck up from the shop and the fluid leak evidence Joe noticed as we were pulling away. With all the other vehicle issues we’ve had I thought we might not be leaving PA for a while after all. My heart sank. But looking at it there in the parking lot, tracing it backwards, I figured out that the fuel filter had vibrated loose and I was able to tighten it down all the way again which fixed it completely so that we could keep on rolling down the road. That could have been major serious if we hadn’t stopped and caught it, not to mention expensively drooling fuel all along the interstate. Joe had prayed right before we left that we’d discover any issues before we got too far.
  2. Dad and mom recently sent a CD that became an instant soundtrack. Everyone had a favorite – Zach was the first to start asking to play that one particular song on continuous repeat – and the beauty of it is that even in the children though they might not consciously understand it, the song resonates so deeply with the entire context of this trip itself, where we are going, why were are heading there, and the trajectory of our entire lives. I can’t listen to it without tearing up from the expectation. It blows my mind and heart to know we’re alive in these days and our King is letting us play in His back yard even while He prepares to renovate and re-landscape it completely. The song is “Prepare the Way” (Spotify) from Paul Wilbur’s album “Your Great Name” (iTunes).
  3. One of our rear / side trailer light covers has been missing for month. It got smashed when I parked a little too closely and Bennah opened the door into it. On a whim, I looked in Wal-Mart. Lo and behold I found an entire light module that included a cover the exact right size and color. It fit like a glove and even included a rubber seal. This unexpectedly completed a bunch of little external trailer repairs that I had been slowly working on.
  4. The first night we stopped I had a perfect place to walk across the street and catch up on a few hours worth of emails. Maybe doesn’t seem miraculous given the scourge of 24-hour McDonalds covering the land now, but the fact that there was an outlet to plug into and other minute details which rarely all come together keeps it on teh ledger of Provision in my book.
  5. Our second and a very long day of driving landed us in an epic Storm. I’m talking about “Master! We are perishing” epic. Traffic on the 70 MPH speed limit interstate was none existent or going 30 MPH. There was nowhere to pull off and weather it out. Trees were bowing and branches were flying along horizontal trajectories. Visibility was 10-20 feet with wipers full blast. Father provided an escort. A car just in front of us was traveling slowly with blinkers flashing and I could just keep those flashers in visibility and follow. ¬†The road lines themselves were scarcely visible, and the wind kept trying to push us into the other lane, but our Shepherd kept us safe and brought us through the storm.
  6. At the 2nd night’s Wal-Mart stop-over south of Chicago Renee went in to pick up a few things. The cashier turned out to be from Manitoba – just south of Winnipeg (Renee’s home city) in fact – and warned us that it was a very unsafe area (the store next door had just been robbed a few nights before) and advised us not to stay overnight. We were all settled in and the kids were asleep and it had been an 8 hour + stops driving day: a fear-based reaction wasn’t an option. I was talking to my business partner and brother in Messiah Kenn when Renee came back with the report and we put our phones on speaker so that our wives could join the conversation and we all prayed together in agreement for safety. The night passed in restful non-adventure.
  7. Right across from that Wal-Mart was a Home Depot and we were able to easily swing by there on the way out the next day. I had been looking for one. I needed new 18V batteries for my drill that I use to help speed up the stabilizing process of trailer setup and Home Depot is the only one that carries the brand I need. Just in time for the setup I would have to do that night.
  8. I had really wanted to take the kids into one of the walk-way bridges at the oasis stops along the Chicago area tollways so they could stand over the crazy traffic passing beneath. I stopped at one because we needed fuel but the signage was ambiguous and I ended up on the wrong side for diesel. There was no way back. I figured it wasn’t a big deal cause we could just stop at the next one 13 miles up. But before we got there we had to exit onto a different route. I was so sad, because it looked like that was the last chance and we had missed it. But unexpectedly there was another one – the last one furthest from Chicago, several miles down the other route. It was such a fun blessing.

These are just a fraction of the little provisions and adventures that fill our days on the Road. Our King is such and awesome Brother and Father and what a joy it is to play in His back yard. Well, we got free passes to an insane water park down the road from our campground so we’re off to play on some slides and pools.

Shabbat Shalom!


May 4 2013

Day 1484: Shabbat Shalom

by andrew

From blessing to blessing, the seasons have changed and with them we have followed the pillar of cloud and fire into a new plunge of our journey. It was very hard to leave the amazing house upon which YHWH’s favor rested to provide our home for the winter months. How we enjoyed that place: the sunrise view of the river, the adventures in the woods, the cozy fireplace, the room to host friends and spread out, the dedicated and quiet office space, the trampoline, the in-house washer and dryer :), the forests of driftwood that formed Fort Superior, the large kitchen, the big table we could all fit at, the budding relationship with dear neighbors, and so much more.

A big part of me didn’t want to leave at all… wanted to plant and take root and grow more comfortable and stay forever. But a blessing can turn to bitterness if we disobediently refuse to let go of it, and a few weeks ago Father provided clarity to the question about which we had been seeking Him through prayer for many months: what next? Even in asking the question we were torn. We wanted the answer to be to stay right there in PA; and we wanted the answer to be Denver where my family and company Never Settle are; and we wanted the answer to be Winnipegosis which has also felt like home to us in so many ways. And honestly, I think I wanted those answers in that order – not that I wanted any of them more or less than any other, but each successive option presented additional layers of logistical challenges and complexities. In fact, in the moment YHWH made the answer clear in my heart I started asking all the “but what abouts” and He just said, “I will take care of all those – don’t worry about them.” The answer was Winnipegosis and independently confirmed to Renee and I both.

That eventually launched us into the crazy blur that was this past week as the first step towards making our next northward voyage was to move out of the house and back into the trailer. Renee and the kids, especially the oldest, performed a lion’s share of the packing, carrying everything back into the trailer, and cleaning the house. I had a typical over-full work week and took care of all the dad-jobs related to moving. We had planned to pull away on Wed and were pretty much at the point where we could have, but the day was so beautiful and perfect for taking our neighbors up on their standing boat ride invitation. So we decided to have a break and spend a couple hours taking turns on the river. What a glorious decision and the kids had an absolute blast!

So, we finally pulled away Thurs and made the long and arduous ūüôā 15 minute drive over to our dear friends’ farm where we have quickly settled in for a month or so of transition before hitting the road again come June: dewinterizing the trailer, testing everything out, learning how to live in 250 square feet again now with 9 of us, working from my bed office, preparing meals with almost no counter space, making hard decisions about what to keep or throw out in attempt to limit overall weight, and so on.

If any of those items on my list of adjustments sound at all like complaining please don’t take it that way. These are glorious challenges and merely the very small costs involved in gaining the far more massive rewards of adventuring with our King into all His plans for us. And in our opinion the challenges of this mobile lifestyle are far outweighed by the benefits: being so close to the night sounds and patter of the spring rains, being free to roam wherever with everything we own (which still often feels like too much), getting confronted with tests that stretch and teach and refine us, spending time in so many different environments, eating fresh produce from our friend’s gardens like the amazing asparagus we had today, catching frogs, making dandelion root coffee, basking in the outdoors, and on and on.


(clean zone decontamination sector before re-entry into the living quarters)


(dandelion root coffee)

Even so, we’ve been slowing down and have spent a lot longer in each place. In fact we have spent the last two years in primarily 3 places – the same places that were on our heart in our question about what (really where to) next. And it isn’t 100% certain as YHWH’s spirit is constantly flowing, but perhaps out next destination will usher in a much longer season of planting and growing and extending roots and contributing to an expression of our Messiah Yahushua’s Kingdom community in the beautiful north.

We will discover what He provides as we go and how He directs along the way.

I personally have come to terms with new profound glimpses of how Father uses and wants to use our large family. We are such unfit vessels but He seems to do amazing things around us when we just BE (doing our best to live in His ways and obey his loving instructions to us). It is humbling and sobering at the same time. A great example of this happened several weeks ago. On the sunday after Renee’s birthday we went out for a rare family celebration meal. Sitting down at a restaurant as a family can be an epic undertaking and we talked to the kids ahead of time about shining our lights and being a witness with our behavior. Well, they were all amazing and did a fantastic job, and several people came up in rounds to compliment our family as they were leaving, which led to a few neat micro conversations. These encounters were quite unexpected, and I wished we had better words in the moment for turning each one in the direction of bringing the direct honor to our King.

But the most incredibly humbling aspect of the experience was yet to unfold. After we were done we divided and conquered as we often do – Renee taking most of the kids on ahead to the truck while I handle the checkout. I went up to pay and the manager said, “sir, it’s already been taken care of. A gentlemen said he was really impressed with you and your family and wanted to cover your meal.” Wow. That was not a cheap meal. And a flood of emotions immediately penetrated my heart. I knew on one hand it was a wink from YHWH reminding us how effortless it is for Him to provide for us under any circumstances. It also cut deeply into my soul because because it was such a big blessing for what felt like such a small thing. We were just being what we think of as normal with the added element of being out for a special sunday meal.

What I realized in that moment by the generosity of that anonymous gift was that our “normal” – that ideal for which we aspire in Scriptural obedience to our Creator – has become very abnormal in the world at large. Where it once used to be much more common it is now so rare that it shines brightly with a deep impact on people who find it very strange and unusual because they are inundated daily with mostly opposite cultural influences and messages. The new normal is darkness, and Renee touched on this in her last post in a different context. Our mission is to be bearers of the Old Normal – the Original Normal – the Creator’s Normal; to invade darkness as vessels of the King’s Light. How eye-opening and thought provoking that the darkness in our society is so pervasive and encompassing that it can be noticeably cracked by a simple large family peacefully eating a meal together at Perkins.

We rejoiced in the gift while grieving for what is being lost all around us all the time. But it also renewed our hope in what will be completely restored when our Messiah returns to the earth and inspired us to do more to testify to that coming restoration with our daily lives. This is a big piece of what we hope to carry with us wherever we go, knowing we have so much more to learn to fully walk in it. And we rest in how that fits into our answer – even as we rest in the delights of Shabbat on the exact same farm that provided a transition point between our old life in DC and our new life on the road exactly 4 years ago.


(Our amazing Elie Poof Ball)


(Reayah’s evening knitting)


Apr 1 2013

original sin

by andrew

[in all seriousness]:

“dad, if Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned, would squash taste better?”

(age 7)


Jan 21 2013

Elianna Yireh

by andrew

My El (God Most High) has answered with Favor (Grace) and Provision.

Our beautiful baby girl, Elianna Yireh (aka Punkin Seven), was born at 1:43pm EST this afternoon in an amazing house our Father YHWH provided for this event and season surrounded by dear friends and family after 19 hours of labor while the snow fell softly outside. My beloved Renee was once again a champion shining example and the epitome of enduring, authentic womanhood. Baby Elie is a pink miracle of perfection and a self-contained testimony of our Creator’s awesome artistry. At birth she was 7 lbs 11 oz (same as her oldest brother Bennah) and 21″ (we think this is also the same as Bennah was but can’t remember for sure), sporting a full head of black hair (also like Bennah and Reayah had). She resembles her oldest sister quite a bit, actually. We were assisted by an amazing midwife from the area and her assistant.

Part of the story behind Elie’s name comes from our current situation and its testimony to the Provision of our King. I covered it extensively in a previous post – the story of our present rental house. But, as if that wasn’t enough, there remained one more fingerprint from our Father placed upon the story to imprint itself on the destiny and identity of Elianna Yireh. We met our midwife through an incidental acquaintance. She is the sister of a lady we have bought fresh goat’s milk from in the past. As confirmation would have it, that we are exactly where Father wants us for this season and that our King is gracious, on the second visit / checkup a week ago, Renee discovered that the other midwife who works with the one to whom we were referred knew exactly of this house. In fact, she specifically used to clean it 2 days per week during her high school years for the previous owners. This was more than 20 years ago. What are the odds? Well, pretty good when the Supreme Storyteller is at work!

Without further, inadequate words:




HalleluYah!


Dec 26 2012

Day 1355: Winter is Here

by andrew

…and we are nestled into our new Winter Ark. This¬†is the view from our bedroom / office balcony on the lower floor, and there are several more photos at the end of this post.

The saga of our house-finding-quest is long and winding and carries with it hints of the coming oppression as well as testimonies of our King’s loving provision in the midst of it. Some of you reading this might already know bits and pieces of this tale, and unfortunately all I can capture here is more bits and pieces that will largely overlap but also hopefully be new to many and additional for some.

Shopping for rental living space with a large family produces a fascinating expos√© on the state of our society and culture and its unfortunate trajectory if left unchecked, which by all present indicators it will be. Even in this relatively rural, community-oriented area of Pennsylvania steeped in a history and active presence of Amish and Mennonites, it was incredibly hard to find a place. It wasn’t for the lack of available homes – there were plenty of options. But when owners or agents discovered how many of us would be occupying their place, reactions ranged from polite disinterest based on our numbers to completely ignoring our requests for information. Our personal experience is one thing – we appreciate that potential landlords have no idea who we are and what our values are and we do not begrudge their reluctance to have a large family with many children in their place, especially when there’s a hard logistical limitation like size of the septic system, etc. And many of them were very nice and apologetic that they could’t¬†accommodate¬†us. ¬†However, it was all the incidental conversations and observations our quest generated that painted a more sinister picture. Stories of neighbors turning in neighbors for occupancy “violations” and families getting kicked out of their rental (like a family with 3 children displaced from a 2-bedroom apartment). Owners / agents with 3-bedroom homes unwilling to rent to us for fear of locality inspections. Naturally, we don’t have all the details surrounding all the stories we heard, but they are generally consistent with a large scale trend towards governmental and¬†bureaucratically¬†driven self-centeredness that assaults common sense.

Actually, it wouldn’t stand out so sharply if it wasn’t for the stark, dwindling contrast that still exists: others willing to rent us a furnished and nicely painted / decorated 2-bedroom unit, knowing that we’d figure out how to make the space work for us and that was our problem not theirs. I think at the core that’s what really bothers me: more and more so, the increasing¬†prevalence¬†of a¬†mentality¬†that says people don’t know what’s best for themselves and some “authority” needs to #1 decide for them and #2 enforce / execute that decision on their behalf. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that there are all too many examples of irresponsible behavior that only strengthens that twisted justification. And on the other side, far too many people willing to¬†publicly¬†agree with that justification as it applies to “others” while remaining in complete ignorance that they are simultaneously committing treason against their own freedoms.

So, in this general climate we quested for a winter home over the better part of a couple months (or longer) and began to wonder if maybe we were just supposed to tough it out within the tight blessed context of the survival elements that camper life can dish out over the winter months in non-southern latitudes. And actually, the ups and downs of the search are also very much a part of this story.

It began with Renee’s foresight of our near future needs generating a lot of motivation on her part to find something, whereas my specific busy-ness and natural affinity towards hardship for the sake of answering “can we handle it?” produced a fairly weak motivation on my part to find anything. As you can imagine, this produced some tension. The early conditions of a “suitable” place were also extremely unrealistic. Business was steady, but we were still playing catch-up and getting a couple companies off the ground. Our budget was therefore small, and of course we needed something furnished, big enough, and affordable. Basically we set out looking for the impossible, and I was trusting that if we were supposed to move out of the trailer and into a home it would be a miracle home.

Over following few weeks, the miracle started to unfold, but it happened gradually and not all at once as I narrow-mindedly thought would be necessary to indicate and usher in such a significant transition in our situation. My heart started to change, and I began to think more reasonably in terms of what to expect of my family and space for winter, logistics with a new baby arrival in Jan, etc. Business kept picking up and our budget increased. Doors kept closing and taught us what was really important to us, what we really needed, and how to recognize amazing deals / situations when they arose. A storm blew through and wrecked our awning, which couldn’t be repaired locally and resulted in some unexpected insurance money that ended up being the exact amount of our first month’s rent nearly to the dollar. Renee was watching Craigslist daily and had done a majority of the calling and rejection-handling. Then, one night we were looking at the latest options together and one caught our eye. It was more than we were talking about or seriously considering and Renee might have completely passed over it, but I said we should call and check it out at least for fun.

The owner’s returned our message and we set up a time to come look at it. The day before we had looked at a much smaller place that was fully furnished and all utilities included, and we were excited about the place itself, but it was 40 minutes away from our friends and all the local resources we’ve grown to appreciate in this area. When we looked at this new place – the one that was more than we were thinking we wanted to spend – we were smitten. Everything but the price (which was incredibly reasonable considering the property) was perfect: 4 bedroom, 3 bathrooms, 9 acres in the country for the kids to roam around on, (more than) fully furnished down to linens and kitchen utensils, view of the river from the window room, very close to our friends and still in the area, kind and wonderful owners, wood fireplace for fun, room to park the trailer by the house, and the list goes on and on.

As if that wasn’t enough, and for extra confirmation, the owners were willing to come down on their price a little which matched the amount of the insurance payout that had just hit our account. And since we’ve been here we found an unexpected blessing / confirmation: a trampoline in one of the sheds – an all time favorite. I’ve asked the owner if we can set it up.

We are still settling in. There was a lot of re-organizing and additional packing to do. Like I said, the house was (more than) furnished, and we’ve been packing things away that we aren’t going to use. Thankfully there is plenty of room for the bins in the attic ūüôā It is quite cozy and we’re excited to be on the final last-month-home-stretch leading up to the birth of #7 around mid Jan. We haven’t decided if we’re going to have the baby here in the house, or go into the birthing center where our midwife has a really nice place setup there. But everything is looking really good for that: baby is head down and snug and Renee’s levels are all where they need to be for a home birth. We’re feeling very blessed and thankful.

We haven’t even been in the house for a week yet, and today we had our first real winter storm. It has been really cold and snowy all day (that picture above is from this morning).¬†Here are some other views of the new Winter Ark from a few days ago… once we get everything a little more organized maybe I’ll get around to doing a photo tour of the rest of inside as well.