Though all love originates in God and is for that reason God's own love, yet we are permitted to catch and reflect back that love in such manner that it becomes our love indeed, in much the same way that sunlight reflected from the moon becomes moonlight. - A.W. Tozer

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Soaring like Eagl...I mean, Sea Gulls

So here's a little run-down of our days with MDS. In the morning, we get up early enough that Aaron can come into the bunk house and pack his lunch with the rest of the crews at 6:30. We join him and the others for breakfast at 7:00. After a group devotion and job assignments for the day, everyone heads out to work at the job sites by 8:00. They won't return to the bunk house until 4:30-5:00.

The kids and I stay here. They begin on their school work and I work in the office, trying desperately to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing and keep up with the new information that comes in daily. So far I love it. It's been a long time (10+ years?) since I worked in an office, but it's a fun challenge, and I love knowing that I'm able to contribute just as Aaron is, only in a climate-controlled, padded desk chair kind of environment.

In the evenings, we all gather in the bunk house again for supper at 6:00, followed by a debrief of the activities for the day. The short-term volunteers have a recommended lights out at 10:00, and my kids keep pointing out that the schedule says "10:00" right there in black and white. Nevertheless, their bed-time remains at 8:30, and there it will stay for the foreseeable future, all protests aside. (Unless game-time goes too long, that's a Daddy over-ride.)

However, they do get the chance to play games in the evening first. We've played a lot of checkers, Uno, and chess. Aaron even got all the Dominion cards out last night, which lasted a little longer than we had anticipated. In the picture below, Mim takes great delight in ruling over and then skunking the men here at a game of Pass the Pigs.

We (MDS) are currently working on about 6-8 houses here in Crisfield, but some weeks we may concentrate on three or four specifically, depending on the status of the project and the amount of short-term volunteers. They do foundation work, drywall, painting, roofing, you name it. When a job requires a professional, then locals are hired for those tasks. Aaron is a crew leader, meaning he takes a small number of volunteers to a particular site and works with them through the day.

I'll share more about the town itself in the future. There are many people here with interesting stories, and I look forward to introducing you to them in posts to come if I'm able to do so.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Maryland or Bust

Off to a Stormy Start
The Mississippi River

I’ve finally found a place to connect my computer to the internet after a long week of sketchy connections and very little communication with the outside world. We love it here in Crisfield, and love our work with MDS thus far, but we have no phone service and no internet in our trailer.

See Fungus- Take Picture
We took eight days to get here, starting in western OK and winding our way across the country. Our first five days were supposed to be easy, if not to say leisurely. We planned to arrive at our destinations before dark, having plenty of time to settle in, figure out what we were doing with the RV connections, and perhaps take a walk.

Tunneling Under the Mountain

In actuality we didn’t get to any of the first five
locations before dark. At Cumberland Mountain State Park in Tennessee we had to back into a site that took at least 10 tries before we were successful due to the darkness, the curve of the road, and the ditches on either side. I’m sure glad our friends and family were sending out extra prayers along the way. We certainly felt it.

Daddy and Zaya Roast Potatoes
The scenery made all the long drives worth it. We were especially impressed with Tennessee. The Great Smoky Mountains were a big hit with the kids. (I can’t wait to take them to the Rockies someday.) The trees hadn't turned yet, but they were just beginning. The hillsides had a maidenly flush of color, as if they were embarrassed about their slight kudzu problem.

We had driven one mile short of 2000 when we pulled into the MDS Crisfield Project Headquarters on Tuesday afternoon. Aaron says he felt a lot more confident by the end than he did in the very beginning. We had a much better feel for all the little things like how long it takes to come to a complete stop, and the undeniable fact that GPS devices assume you are going the speed limit and have extraordinarily large bladders when they tell you how long your route will take.

 I’ll tell you more about Crisfield next time, which should come more quickly now that I’ve achieved some connection with the outside world on my own computer. For now, we are happy, we are healthy, and we are meeting great people, and doing work that feels worth it. What more could you want in life?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Can I Have the Envelope Please...

This Monday we will officially head out to our first disaster-relief project. We will be working for the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) in Crisfield, MD. Aaron will be helping to rebuild homes from Hurricane Sandy damage, and I will be working as an office manager and teaching my kids.

We're very excited about the upcoming weeks/months in Maryland, and spending these last few days soaking up family time and trying to get our new home ready for full-time living. We've got brand new curtains in the windows, courtesy of my awesome mother-in-law, and an original Thiessen Metal Buildings bike rack being installed on the back as of this afternoon. Those bikes are not going anywhere! The whole back side of the RV may fall off, but those bikes will still be attached to that bike rack.

I'll get pictures up as soon as possible. It's starting to come together. Now we just have to learn how to drive with it. That's right, that means two things. One - we bought a new pickup. I'll introduce you later. Two - We have never actually moved an RV. We're about to be hauling a fifth wheel to Maryland, and have never driven with one before.

These last few days are being filled with frantic attempts at pipe and valve repair, (Leak Count: 3) valiant if fruitless efforts at smell removal, and what may be the greatest tax on my organizational skills in my life. Frankly, I'll be perfectly happy if we can just find and fix all the water leaks and figure out why the whole kitchen area smells like the foulest feline den of iniquity.

The Enemy

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Moving Day - Part the Second

Last Monday we recruited a handful of family and unloaded the shipping container that will be storing most of our earthly possessions while we gallivant around the country.This was no easy feat. When we first bought it, we thought Grandpa O could just take it off with his SkyTrak, but it was too heavy for that, so more creativity had to be used.

We loaded the container in Missouri, then unloaded almost all of it onto the driveway in OK. When only a few tubs were left in the end, Grandpa O and Uncle C employed a little farm-boy know-how and came up with a workable solution.

They used the same SkyTrak to pull the box into position, and we began to reload it. It is now accessible. I have to say, there's nothing really valuable in it. It's just books, photos, etc. But it's nice for the kids to know that Grandpa's watching their extra toys and stuffed animals for them. And it's nice to have a place that we can switch out our reading material when we get bored.

We're living with my parents for a couple weeks while we prepare the RV for travel. Not only does it need a good cleaning, but there are a few leaks we've discovered as well, and some cat hair removal from a previous owner. (Well, from their cat, anyway.) There's evidence of a mouse, too, but we haven't caught the little beggar yet, so we're hoping the farm cat took care of it. If you look closely at the picture, you'll see a little girl scrubbing a window.

Both sets of parents have been absolutely wonderful as we make this transition. They've helped, fed us, given us places to sleep, watched the kids...just too many things to list. I'm so grateful that we have a great relationship with my parents and with my in-laws. I know that can be a rare thing. Even though they probably think "the responsible first-borns" lost their mind and went off the deep end, they're still being the kindest and most supportive they could possibly be. What a blessing!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Big Move - Part the First

It took a couple of months longer than I thought it would, but we have finally arrived in Oklahoma, our home base, which means the house is finished and sold and our container has been purchased, packed, shipped, unpacked, unloaded, placed, and repacked. Yes, it was about as complicated as it sounds.

There were a few unexpected bumps along the way, like Aaron hurting his back two weeks before M-Day, but our family and friends were absolutely amazing. My in-laws came up from Oklahoma and they helped us finish the re-model, pack, and maintain sanity. A cousin, his wife, and his extraordinarily well-behaved little family brought our container on a truck, helped load it, and then hauled it (and the van) to western OK for us. 

And not least, our Nevada friends came by day after day with hugs, words of encouragement, and open arms that I could fill with things we no longer needed/wanted/had room to pack. I watched our aloe plant walk out the door in the arms of good friend, and it was easier to let it go that way. (Our aloe plant was big enough to deserve its own particular mention. It was huge, and would've taken up most of the RV kitchen, but we loved it dearly, as it and the cactus were my only house plant successes in a long history of trial and death.)

On moving day, lots of people came by to help, and it was all relatively painless - physically, that is. It's always hard to say goodbye, but especially so when a person is right there helping you and being generally wonderful. Mrs. B even came by after everyone but Aaron and I had left, and helped me scrub the house. She washed my bathrooms. Yes, it's embarrassing; yes, it was wonderful.

There are many, many more people, but I will not mention everyone individually. Suffice it to say, they know who they are, they were fantastic, and we will all miss them very much. Thank you to everyone for the support, the meals, the childcare, the prayers, the place to sleep when our bed was gone...just everything. You all made this move possible, and we are eternally grateful for who you are and the blessing you have been in our lives.

We are now in Oklahoma, and will be here for a couple weeks - fulfilling some promises, searching for cell reception, and preparing for our new life out on the road. (More about that in Part 2).