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 zach

[in all seriousness]:

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

(age 7)


Mar 9 2013

Adventures out with a new baby

by renee

Even with my predictable night time Ellie-boo feedings and my sweet 2 year old’s very early morning wake up cuddles, I awoke yesterday feeling pretty rested. So, I decided to venture out to the library and Walmart with almost all the kids in tow. Bennah, who wasn’t feeling that well, volunteered to stay home with Sky so Andrew could get some rest after working all night.

We got a great start in the morning and headed off to the library. Without a 2 year old to chase around, it was a very quiet, uneventful visit. I fed Ellie in a comfy chair in the corner before we left to do our shopping. The children’s section of the library is, of course, very family friendly so no one paid much attention to me while I breastfed Ellie underneath my big and brightly colored covering. I absolutely love this thing. It’s so wide that it completely covers my front and sides and has a strap attached to the top that goes around my neck so there is no possibility of it sliding around or Ellie pulling it down. I feel comfortable breast feeding in public with this. At least at the library. Walmart is a different story.

Life with a newborn changes things. Well, duh. Of course it does. Most things take twice as long or longer. Even a quick trip to Walmart to pick up a few things can take hours. People stop to look at baby Ellie, give their congratulations, comment on her awesome punk rock hairdo and share their own baby stories. Then, there is the inevitable likelihood that Ellie will want to eat and fill her diaper while we’re there. Ellie had waited patiently until my shopping list was almost done before she declared very loudly that she was hungry now, and was done waiting. Hmmmm… where was I going to feed her and occupy 4 other kids? I found a nice bench by the back restrooms and storeroom doors. And it was right around the corner from the wall of televisions that were all playing a movie based on Messiah’s life, of all things. Perfect. Kids can watch the movie while I sit and nurse Ellie under my big orange and yellow hooter-hider (yes, I said hooter. My apologies).

I guess I should have known I would attract a bit of attention. I realized while nursing, that where I sat was a very high traffic area. Great. Lots of staff coming and going from the storeroom. Lots of customers coming and going from the restrooms. And me. Sitting right there, in front of everyone coming and going, trying to be invisible with my bright orange and yellow covering.

I got a lot of attention. Most people would lance my way and just politely looked away. But I saw that I made a lot of people awkward. Embarrassed even. Some old ladies even looked very annoyed. I’m not sure why. Maybe if I didn’t have a cover and bared it all for everyone to see, I would understand. This is a completely natural and “normal” thing to do. But, it has become very “abnormal.” The thing that’s funny about this, and sad really, is that just beyond where I was sitting, there were movies and video games with women in bikinis or very revealing clothing that showed way more than I would have, even without a blanket cover. This is the new “normal.”

I finished feeding Ellie, gathered the kids and we continued on our way. I was now on a mission to just finish as quickly as possible and get home to finish school and chores before Shabbath. I had one more item to grab and was headed there when I large man in a motor cart stopped and asked how old Ellie was. Oh boy.

“She’s just over a month old” I smiled politely.

“Hey monthie! What a sweetie. Hi honey. What’s her name? I just love kids…”

Our conversation went on for a few minutes. He asked each on of my children their names and was pleased when we told him how big our family was.

I need to go. I still have so much to do today.

“I just love kids.” he said again, not in any rush to leave. “I lost my wife and kids to a drunk driver.”

I wasn’t in any rush to leave anymore.

We spent another few minutes talking about our family. I mentioned we pray for protection and guidance for our kids everyday.

“That’s good.” He said “I will pray for that as well. There are so many people that I pray for. God bless you and protect you.”

“Thank you. He does, every day. We are very blessed.”

And we are very blessed. We are blessed with so many children, although our culture views them as a physical and financial burden. We are blessed with so much stuff. We are blessed with so much food. We have too many choices. So many that it’s sometimes even hard to decide what we want!

I enjoyed the rest of our shopping trip and looked at my full cart and my smiling kids and thanked my Creator again for all His wonderful gifts and provisions, and especially our brand new gift. It is because of her that opportunities arise to meet and connect with people (at Walmart, of all places).

So, that was my day yesterday.


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.


Dec 24 2012

going somewhere

by andrew

Dad: I’m not going to take you seriously…

Joy:

Where are you going?

(age 4)


Nov 9 2012

Day 1308: Waiting on Winter

by andrew

In the middle of some uncertainty about where will actually be for the entire duration of winter this year we’ve started building a Winter Ark. Our friends here in PA have been awesome and have made it clear that we can stay as long as we’d like. And we have truly felt blessed being here, ¬†although it has been very very hard to watch what is likely the final decline of our dear friend to cancer. She was always so full of life and energy and laughter, that the extreme opposite just doesn’t seem like reality. But it is. For whatever bigger purpose, it is, and our friends, her family, have been an amazing testimony of grace and trust and love in the middle of a situation so tragic.

Renee has had some really wonderful moments with her over the last few weeks since they returned from Israel. We’re very thankful for the time we’ve had here with all of them. And the community living is working very well so far in terms logistics and the blessing of fellowship between busy routines.

Our biggest motivation for keeping our radar out to see if Father will provide something else like a cheap, furnished rental or a house sitting situation really boils down to one simple equation:
((Sky Aysh Yachalel + 200 sq. ft * 12 hr / day) * (Zach + Jaiden)) ^(Bennah) * (Joy + Joy) / Reayah = mass chaos @ 9K PSI & 6 megajoules

So far leads have been dead ends and I am more than content to winter it out here in the trailer, but Renee deals with that equation more directly than I do in many ways, and so, we’re praying looking. In the meantime winter isn’t waiting for us. Overall, it has been mild so far, but our hose did freeze up the other night as I had not taken any precautions with no freezing temps in the forecast. Thank you weather men. Anyway…

With the possibility for a few months of winter in the trailer and at the very least a few more weeks when it’s already November, I have been building up the battle lines, digging the trenches, and constructing elaborate winter weather defense systems this week while Renee continues her prenatal nesting patterns. I’ll have to post some more project pics another time when I can get some daylight shots, but for now, here is the latest from our cozy little pre-winter den:





Sep 18 2012

sibling conflict

by andrew

[in response to the investigation into shouting at the other end of the trailer, Joy explained in a huffy, pouting voice]:

“Zach didn’t ask for anything, and I’m going to say no!”

(age 3)