Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chicken Envy

Ok, I have to admit, I had the title of this post before we ever went and visited my sister. She lives on almost an acre out in almond tree country with her husband and their cute baby girl. They are on an amazing property with fruit and nut trees, and have recently added about 15 chickens which have begun laying eggs. I actually bought a book about 4 months ago titled, "Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces". Shocking, I know. Someday I would love to have some chickens (we go through a LOT of eggs!), and maybe a small cow. I'm only half-kidding about the cow. I guess it's because we grew up on almost an acre and were surrounded by horses and other farm animals. We actually had chickens for a while, when my brother's snake Stanley decided he wasn't hungry- we ended up with 3 chicks that followed us around the yard. They turned into 3 hens that would wait on our porch for us to put them to bed. There is something slightly disfunctional (on someone's part- not sure who's at this moment) in that last sentence, but I'll have to deal with that later...

It was so good to be with family. Our mom was there, and will be staying with my sister and her husband for a few months while she undergoes radiation treatment. We are all thankful that they got all the cancer removed from her breast, and it hadn't spread to her lymph nodes. Our other sister, her husband and son came to visit for the day. There is something so comforting about hanging out with family. No crazy agendas, just being together talking and laughing, and usually eating amazing food. I have to say, we made the BEST fig crostata (tart), with most of the ingredients coming fresh from the yard. I am getting a fig tree asap!

I realize things from the outside always seem more romantic than they are in reality. Having chickens, for instance. Some of you may not call the idea romantic, or even remotely appealing. Bear with me. Fresh eggs every day, plenty of compost material for the garden. The amusement of watching chickens chasing bugs in the yard. The reality, however, also includes raking out chicken poop- lots of poop! And dealing with any chicken who starts eating eggs and other problems that arise with keeping any animal. Life is like that. Relationships, having children, artwork, a beautifully set table with amazing food -things that are wonderful usually take lots of hard work and dedication to get and keep them that way. It's what makes the end result even better, knowing that you were a part of shaping something amazing. I won't be getting chickens any time soon, and that's ok. I'm enjoying every blessing in my life right now, and am constantly thankful for family and friends. :)

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Challenges of Living Large in a Small Space

First off- a big hello (and hugs and kisses) to all friends and family who are taking time to read this. I can't promise brilliance, regularity, or anything more than updates in our adventure in Ventura. Anything else you get from this is a bonus! :) Warning: this first posting will be unusually long, because it's kind of a summary of what's been going on. So grab a cup of coffee and settle in...

Yesterday I
was standing in the kitchen of our new place. YAY! (I had more to say, but I was suddenly compelled to stop right there and say how AMAZING that is to be able to say!) I was in the middle of the 20+ boxes of kitchen things that need to somehow be fit into cupboard space half the size of what they came out of. As I was taking tape off the spout of the dish soap dispenser, I was struck again by the kindness of all the people- friends and family- who came to our rescue as we were at the end of the very long journey of moving our 5 kids, 3 fish, 2 dogs, 1 cat and all our belongings from Galt, CA to Ventura, CA. Someone was thoughtful enough to take the time and tape the spout, and all the shakers with the extras for the espresso machine (cinnamon, chocolate, etc.) so that it wouldn't be a mess when we unpacked. Which brings me to the purpose of starting this blog. So many people have been a part of what God has done and is doing in our lives, and I wanted to be able to share it with you all.

To catch some of you up, about a year and a half ago, Rob and I felt that God was calling us to Ventura. That's a whole different story. So we geared up and 6 1/2 months ago moved down here- with no house, no job, and everything we owned in storage. Our good friend (and my godfather) Jack has been over the top amazing and let us move into his beach house on Silver Strand, while he moved onto his boat (at the expense of turning his car into a mobile closet!). We thought we'd be here for a few weeks while we looked for a house, a month at the most. It's a perfect vacation house for us- 2 blocks off the beach, a 1 bed, 1 bath, cozy(as in 750sf) little spot to crash. When we would come for vacation, Rob and I would take the bedroom, the kids would crash on the floor. The place actually is a very big house- 1 bed/1 bath downstairs, and 3 bed/2 bath upstairs. The upstairs was being renovated and the guy stopped after he tore everything apart, so that wasn't an option. So we stay downstairs, and for vacation it's perfect. For long term living, it has it's challenges :)

Challenge 1: I guess it's pretty obvious- 1 bedroom and more importantly, 1 BATHROOM for 7 people! (Ava thankfully is in diapers). Rob and I take the bedroom with Ava sleeping in her pack n' play, the kids make beds on the floor in the living room. (If you've never been displaced for a while, it's hard sometimes to see your kids sleeping on the floor.) On the up-side: this whole time we have not had one accident with 1 bathroom-whew!!

Challenge 2: Small bachelor kitchen with no storage space. Since all our stuff has been in storage (with no way to get to it- it was all buried by the big furniture), we have learned to downsize in a big way. It's amazing all the stuff you don't need. Jack has an extra freezer and fridge in the garage, which has been great.

Challenge 3: No storage space for the rest of the house either! Since it's still Jack's house, his closets are full of his stuff (gasp!). Which wouldn't be a big deal except for our clothes. We all packed a suitcase full of enough clothes for 1 week (remember- we thought we'd be here for only a few beach-filled weeks of relaxation til we found a house...). I was able to clear enough room out of the linen closet for everyone (except me- I've been in a suitcase this whole time- almost literally!). It works. I realize that we could actually backpack through Europe with 5 kids, no problem! I'm saving my change...

Challenge 4: About 3 1/2 months ago, they started building a mega-house in the empty lot next to us. At least they start at 7am instead of 6...

Challenge 5: Jack is deathly allergic to cats. Poor Gracie (that would be the cat). We had to get her an extra-large dog kennel to kick it in until we could find a place. Again, thought it would be a few weeks...3 months into it we realize it was time to get her out of there :) We had actually tried to find her a temporary home to no avail. Thankfully our friends came to visit from Galt (we love you Wendy and Jodi!) and they took Gracie up to my mom's for us. We pick her up next weekend-yay!

Challenge 6: Being in a small space with lots of people and no personal time for any of us ("Hurry up, I have to GOOOOOOO!!!!!)

Challenge 7: Three weeks ago, 2 guys moved into the upstairs house to fix it up for Jack. Our small space felt like it was getting smaller by the moment.

For every challenge, though, God has met us in amazing ways, and we have much more to be thankful for than to complain about.

#1. This small house has made us realize a lot about our family and what is and isn't important. We realize we can get along with much less than we think we need. Lack of space has knit us closer than ever, and I am so thankful for this time we've had to really be with each other. We have had some awesome times of worship with our family. We've gotten to do lots of fun stuff. Some highlights: Easter service on the beach! I've rediscovered my love of looking through cool thrift stores. :) Gabe was sponsored for a sailing program (which he's been crazy about since being on Jack's boat). We've had lots of fun at the beach learning to boogie board and surf. The kids and I made strawberry and peach jam (we've been bitten by the canning bug! Can you can pizza????). Did I mention thrift stores...

#2. Being in a small space has readjusted our size perception (I'm not talking about # of children either!). Coming from a 2,000sf house to this has been more than a shock, but most of the houses in Ventura are older and not as big. If we would've gotten our own house right away, I would have been unhappy, comparing it to our Galt house. Now, anything is big!

#3. It has taught us to keep the essentials, give away the excess.

#4. I will value even more the absence of noise from hammers and saws. :)

#5. The beach has been our saving grace.

#6. Rob has a job that he loves. We are still trusting God to meet our needs, but his boss loves Jesus and it shows in his business dealings.

#7. The guys that moved in upstairs are great. They both love Jesus also, both are going through extremely hard times as they go through divorces after 20+ years of marriage.

#8. We have regained a relationship with Jack. The kids have gained a "grandpa" that they haven't had, who loves them (and loves to treat them to fun things). It's been great to get to see him so much.

During this time, God has spoken 3 things to me: wait, trust, hope. He has taught me endurance and perseverance in waiting, trusting, and hoping in Him. At times I have had to majorly wrestle with my faith- not the whole believing in Him faith, but trusting him deeply and constantly with everything I am, even when I don't see or understand what is going on. Why things aren't happening when or the way I expected it. When what I was sure was going to happen doesn't, and instead of it getting better, things keep getting harder and harder. Where are you God? How long do I have to wait? How much more trust do I have to give? Can I dare to hope again when I've been so disappointed? I was hoping at one point just to be able to walk away from this with my faith still in tact. My kids have seen me cry, maybe for the first time for some of them. It was hard to grapple with such deep things with no where to hide- but it proved to be true lessons of what it means to give your life over to the only One you can trust it to. It is hard at times to follow Jesus, to give everything up and trust Him. But he never asks us to do anything he wasn't willing to do first, and He has taught us all to trust Him deeper. I have learned to quickly catch my thoughts when I start pondering all the things that are going wrong- to train myself to not slip into frustration, but to make the choice to trust, even when my feelings are all over the map. To trust is a choice, not an emotion, and I have learned that once I choose to trust, my emotions will soon follow.

I have also discovered something basic: This is not all about us. Sounds almost obnoxious, huh?! But it's a cool lesson. It was a couple of weeks ago, and I felt like that's what God was speaking to me. This whole move was not just about us. There are so many people (You! The reason I started this blog in the first place...) who have invested their love, time, prayers, house, money, ministry experience, life experience into us, and they are watching. Watching to see what happens, how we are responding, what God is doing- and it will impact people's faith, their relationships with God- to see how amazing He is and what He has done in our lives. That same day that I was realizing all this, Sophia came to me and said, "Mom, do you know what my favorite Psalm is right now?" It was Psalm 40. I have read it lots before, thought it was cool 'cause U2 made a song of it...but this time reading it through struck me like never before.
Psalm 40 (1-3)
I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me up out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and will be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.

That totally hits the nail on the head. I guess I could've saved you an hour and summed it up with this. :) We are so thankful to everyone who has poured into us, your love, prayers and encouragement (not to mention the visits of all who have come to stay with us and our one bathroom!)- those things have sustained us as God has been working on our hearts during this time.

I'm almost done!! One very cool thing. Two months ago, a friend from church mentioned that a house was coming up for rent in Santa Paula on her street. We have felt like we're supposed to be in Santa Paula since before we moved down here. We were supposed to drive by and see it but never got to. I called her a week later and she said they had just rented it out. So this Sunday I saw her and told her we finally were renting a house in Santa Paula. She asked me where and I told her. Her jaw dropped open and she said, "That's my street!" It's the same house she told us about 2 months ago! The guy was only there a month and decided to leave the state! I know this is God's timing, as we have made a huge connection with one of the guys upstairs and seen God move in his life tremendously (but that's a whole other post!). We never would have met him had we moved out in our timing. So it's not just for us- the things we go through can affect everyone around us- if we can keep our hearts soft and our eyes open.

It's been a long road, not done yet, just a new chapter in the story. We are excited to be moving, thankful for where God has kept us this long, and looking forward to experience all that is coming. Congratulations for making it to the end of my first post!! Love to all- xoxo