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 exposé 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 🙂 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)


Sep 17 2012

Day 1255: Land Ahoy

by andrew

Nearly 3 weeks, 1800 miles, descending 5000 feet, climbing 2000 feet, 107 F degree days, 50 F degree nights, twice stranded, 3 unplanned days at a campground, 12unplanned but blessed days with friends, 1 crankshaft position sensor, 2 fuel injection pumps, 4 new tires + alignment, new fuel tank, new fuel sender, new hydrolic brake booster, and 2 new brake lines later… WE MADE IT TO PENNSYLVANIA!!!!

Again, a HUGE THANK YOU to all you brothers and sisters and family in Messiah out there praying for us and following our epic quest. More specific details for the mechanically curious below, but the short version is that – among other things – we needed a new fuel tank and it originally looked like the parts would not get in until this morning. However, they arrived Friday morning ahead of schedule and the shop was able to complete the work by the next morning. So, Matt drove us out there, backtracking west again, on Saturday afternoon and we were reunited with our home after almost two weeks. We had been really curious how all the food and everything would fare. The only casualties were some books that had received the life blood of a couple tomatoes that we left in a fruit basket on top of them, creating the perfect breeding nest for fruit flies. But even the milk in the fridge was still good!

I wish I could adequately recap our time with Matt and Sara and their beautiful family. Their incredible hospitality in our time of need was such a blessing; words cannot quite convey! Throughout the entire time both sets of children kept asking if we could stay longer – a sure sign that new buddies had formed over night. There were a few minor community pressures (what do you expect trying to throw a family of 9 and a family of 8 in the same house, unplanned, for an uncertain duration) but they walked with us through challenges with grace and humility. And quite honestly, it worked remarkably well all things considered. It sounds like the makings for a disaster reality show, but for the most part it was really peaceful and smooth – even with logistics like meals, beds, work, etc. – which is really a testimony to how well things work when there is generosity through genuine, mutual love of Messiah present. How many people would think it’s “normal” for 2 families and 17 total people to share a house and every day life (inconveniences and all) for 12 days and still be really sad when the time was over? THAT is something that only the love of our Heavenly Father can accomplish.

We are now on the property of our wonderful friends in Pennsylvania where we will be taking care of some animals and chores for them while they are traveling. It is beautiful country here, and fascinating to see what has changed and what is exactly the same after a two year absence.

Report: Day 1 on the Farm

  1. Woke up to fog and dew heavy spiderwebs around the yard. Ventured out with the kids to grab the pics above and several others as well as get re-acquainted with one of our very favorite places (after all, it was well after dark when we arrived late last night).
  2. Renee and the kids walked around the property and reviewed all the chores we’ll be making part of our new routine, while I started to get organized with my work for the day including conference calls and whatnot
  3. A big UPS truck and trailer showed up with a few pallets for the shop and our friend’s worker (a very nice Amish gentlemen who is keeping things running and I will from now on refer to as Mr. S.) asked if I could help unload by driving the skid steer (with forklift attachment). So, I jumped into that and figured it out pretty quickly; it all came back to me from the time I used it to move a temporary fridge from the shop to outside the trailer when ours had died a long time ago.
  4. Killed the internet at the house trying to get it to be more stable, and got help from the provider to bring it back up (honestly, what kind of modem wants you to setup the whole connection again just by pulling the power when it’s acting up?) 🙂
  5. Had our first official Never Settle meeting and started to collect our thoughts after travels, honeymoons, and house moves; while the kids had a fun time finding 11 eggs, discovering kittens, riding scooters down the lane hill, and so on.
  6. Ate the eggs for lunch
  7. Drove Mr. S. to one of the rental properties to measure part of the roof for replacement
  8. Looked for a mini trampoline we left here long ago (maybe it’s no longer here, or very cleverly stored) but instead found and dealt with a rogue bag of bad apples in the house basement that were fermenting and squishy and leaking their juice all over the place.
  9. Got some more work done, while Renee was finishing school with the kids and starting supper
  10. Closed the day as a family by sighting the sliver new moon just above the horizon, which – behind a thin veil of clouds – looked like a faint vertical column of light erupting from the earth; and brought in the High Sabbath of the Biblical Yom Teruah (Day of Shouting, Feast of Trumpets) by blowing our shofar (rams horn) and yelling on top of the highest mound in the yard and singing praises to our King for His victory, looking forward to Messiah’s return ON THIS FESTIVAL in some future year, His faithfulness to bring us safely here even in this timing to be able to celebrate the Festival in this place, and all His goodness towards us of which we have written only a fraction.

For the Mechanically Curious:

Describing it somewhat backwards from the order in which everything was finally solved: I knew I had a steering fluid leak. But it went from once a month top-offs to empty between fill-ups in the short time after leaving Colorado. Turns out there was a leaky seal in our hydro booster (I learned that the brake booster increases braking pressure hydrolically using the power steering fluid). New booster busted a rusty break line when they were bleeding the system. Another brake line blew out over night sitting there before we picked it up the next day. So thankful that happened in the shop and not bouncing up and down the Appalachian Mountains the next day. Ok, so for the real kicker; a vacuum had been created in our metal fuel tank and literally sucked it in on itself to the point where it creased in spots and cracked along a rust line. The final sign of the issue was a leak that probably didn’t develop until right around the time we broke down the second time – at least it certainly wasn’t there on our last fuel stop. On top of that, the tube on the fuel sender had been slowly bent and pinched off by the compression. To some extent it was maybe not getting enough fuel. But what’s weird is that it ran strong until right before it died that second time. So maybe the vacuum finally caused the crease, the leak, and bent the sender all at once which starved the pump. The shop owner (Wesley) said he’d never seen anything like it in 31 years. His brother who also works there – never in 40 years.

When I was getting the final run-down from Wesley, he said it should run better than it ever has before. And he was right. We pulled through the mountains along I-80 (admittedly nothing massive, but still) with more power than the other couple times we’ve tackled that same route. It was almost a joy to tow with it. But that was a LONG day. I realized it was only 500 miles from Cincinnati (where we stopped the night before to spend a few albeit way too short hours with dear friends there) to the farm. Before, I was thinking it was 600, but maybe that was from Louisville. Anyway, we made a family-unanimous decision to push through and get here from Cincinnati in one day. The kids especially. And they did great – even voluntarily foregoing run-around stops at rest areas to pull it off. We’re all so glad we did too!

It is so peaceful here and such a wonderful blessing to be back. The only thing that would make it better would be if our friends were here too. But we’re glad that they are having a special family trip and look forward to their return.


Sep 12 2012

Day 1250: Adrift

by andrew

Thank you! – all of you who have been praying for us and carrying us in your hearts and wondering how we are doing. Here’s how I am doing (delayed by about a day from when this all actually unfolded):

During the last couple days as we approached the 1 week mark (longer than anticipated or intended) of staying with our wonderful and gracious friends in Kentucky while trying to navigate a labyrinth of contacts and delays on the truck repairs, I have been growing increasingly restless. I have felt the expanding sensation of floating in a life raft in the middle of the ocean: safe for the moment but powerless to affect my situation with no land in sight. Despite a firm faith in YHWH having distinct purposes for this sequence of events as they began to unfold a week ago, my grip on that trust grew weary especially last night and this morning.

Regardless, His peace has been ever present – even as my own frustrations mounted. Finally this morning in a bit of calm, desperate reflection, a light bulb went on in my spirit, and the switch had been flipped at least partly by the title of this article: what if one of the main reasons Father allowed this breakdown and subsequent extended strandedness was to throw the breaks on my busy-ness so that I would slow down enough (complete stop) to catch up to Him… In my opinion it would have been much cleaner if He had waited until we got to PA to throw the breaks, but He didn’t ask me my opinion and I probably would have easily missed His cues once we got to PA with the busy-ness that would have ensued there anyway.

The truck should be finally getting some attention in the shop today. I am not sure how long or what all it will need for parts, etc. They asked me this morning if I was aware of a fuel leak in the rear. That’s new and I have no idea what that’s about.

But more importantly, once I had some idea of what it would take to regain my bearings this morning, I started to finally let some things go, to slow down, to push less important things aside, and to return focus and attention and time to my King. In that process this article was an amazing reminder and challenge. It articulates areas in which I need so much growth, but it also inspires me to chase that overcoming with renewed perspective and energy.

Sometimes… Often even… The truest answers are the ones to the questions that haven’t been asked and seem completely unrelated to what we think a problem is or where we will find a solution.