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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tender Mercies

Today I was visited by two angels. They came and folded all of my laundry while they insisted I sit and rest. They are Sister A and Sister W from my current ward family. This is the second time they've visited and served my family this month. Last time they scrubbed bathrooms after cleaning the laundry. While they worked they talked of faith in our Savior and appreciating life's joys. My spirit feasted on their friendship and I was left feeling so strengthened and loved. I will sorely miss them when I move away. 

The Lord has been blessing me with many moments like this one, where tender mercies are extended to answer my prayers. I feel like I need to start writing these down before I forget.

Last Saturday our new congregation welcomed us into the ward with a large service project to help us clean the property and scrub the home. We met many friends and the many hands made light work. I felt especially blessed by the brave souls who volunteered to tackle the messiest or most difficult jobs. They saved me weeks of work! (A new post about this project will follow shortly- as soon as I can upload the pictures.)

Brother O offered to tackle the largest pile of trash in the pasture. This particular pile was as tall as Sarah. This man carried the debris by hand across the property, and he did the entire project while smiling and joking with those around him.

Sister W in my new ward cheerfully stayed an extra hour so she could scrub out all of the kitchen cabinets. Goodness gracious, I'm so thankful for that service! The kitchen is the most important part of the home to me, and I really dreaded cleaning out the webs and grime from all those nooks and crannies.

Sister S has volunteered to come help me scrub the house a few times. The last time she came, she was prompted by the Spirit to bring her leaf blower and garden cart. Those two tools have proven to be much-needed and very valuable. I'm so thankful for her thoughtfulness. The Lord worked through her to help avert some minor emergencies.

Sister H has helped me many days to prepare my current home for the real estate market. She helped me pack boxes, deep clean, stage the house, and landscape the front yard. Friends like this are better than earthly treasures. The Lord has been reminding me repeatedly of our blessings- and true friends are such a priceless blessing!

We were notified by the county that we had made a mistake in where our friends relocated the trash pile. Even though it was still on our property, we were going to be fined by the county for 'illegal dumping' unless we could clean it up immediately. Boy, were we stressed about this! The F family let us take their vehicle and trailer for the day so we could haul away the trash. Nathan took the afternoon off work and we worked together all day to remove this monstrosity. The Lord blessed us with health and strength to get through the long job. I was so very thankful.

 I have been a bit worried about providing for our new baby. I haven't had time to hunt thrift stores for baby clothing or basic supplies. I figured if we just had a car seat (so we can take him home from the hospital), we could make do without the other accessories. The Lord knows I have been thinking about this and has blessed me abundantly. I've been given a car seat, baby swing, baby carriers, and a crib. I'm so thankful to have friends who ask if I'd like to inherit their old baby supplies.

Our family has been blessed with health so we could work hard and prepare our new home to receive our family.

It's temptingly easy to be negative--- I'm 8 months pregnant and trying to fix up a new house, sell our old house, and pack everything. I'm so tired all the time. But this experience has been a fantastic time of personal growth for me.

As I've read the scriptures in my daily study, the Spirit keeps whispering the same lessons lately:

1- Express sincere gratitude to the Lord for our blessings, for they are many. Appreciate the little things.
2- Be cheerful and not down-trodden. Even if everything else fails, I can always have deep joy through our Savior and His gift of the Atonement. 
3- Trust in the Lord and exercise more faith.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lisa's Wedding

I love the temple so much! The Spirit of God is so powerful and the peace and joy are as thick as pudding. I can never go as often as I'd like. 

My sister was married in the temple to her sweetheart last month. I loved seeing them hold hands as they listened to the inspired words of the ceremony. I was filled with so much joy for my sweet sister. I'm so very happy for her. Celestial marriage embodies the greatest promises and blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

My heart is so full. The Lord is wonderful. 

Here are glimpses of the wedding day.

Grandparents House

Here are glimpses of our stay with Grandma and Grandpa Muir on their farm.

The cousins all enjoyed Grandma's wooden swing that overlooks the farm.

Daniel found something to conquer. Doesn't he look pleased with himself?

Visiting the horses is always a much-anticipated part of every visit.

Daniel really wanted to help Grandpa drive in fence posts for the new pasture.

Sarah with cousin Abigail. Sarah LOVES playing with babies. 

We enjoyed a Spring Egg Hunt in Grandma's home with all the cousins. 

We really enjoyed staying up late and playing games and laughing. It was such a treat to deepen our family friendships. We only see each other once every few years. I really cherish the time we were blessed to spend together!

Road trip rest stops

Adventures in Albuquerque

We had the blessing of traveling to Idaho for my sister's wedding last month. We had the treat of bringing my sister-in-law and nephew along with us. Albuquerque is the half-way point for our travels, so we always stop there for the night. There is a delightful aquarium and botanical garden that we have a tradition of visiting. It's a nice way to let the kids run off energy after driving an entire day. 

The children's fantasy garden is our favorite part. The entry is a big castle and the inside is made so the children are the size of bugs. It's like the movie "Honey I Shrunk the Kids".

We have lots of memories in this park. I'm so thankful we can explore unique places like this together.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Progress is slow and steady

Some highlights of the new house from the past few weeks-

We've been going to the new house several nights a week to clean it up. Our kids love playing on the property. They've climbed up to an old tree house in the pasture and created another play house amidst a circle of juniper trees. They all purchased slingshots with their birthday money this year. The pasture is the perfect place for target practice. We encourage them to shoot the cacti and bugs they find.

We didn't have water available at the house for several days, so we had a perfect excuse to meet the neighbors and fill up water containers. They seem very friendly and they have five kids. We're SO excited to have children living next to us! They are very kind and have let us borrow several tools already. They saved the day by lending us a shop vac when we had a water leak fill the laundry room with hot water. (Yay for running water!) We are so thankful for our kind neighbors!

It's been a bit of an adventure to turn on the water to the house. Each time Nathan switched the water main on, we'd find new leaks in diverse places. Luckily the neighbors had a wrench for us to borrow and fix the spewing faucet. The other leak was in the pasture, so no big messes happened. It just created a colossal mud puddle to play in.

We had a family party and ripped off all the old wallpaper in Sarah's new room. It was lots of fun when the paper came off in big pieces. The remaining bits and glue was more tricky to remove. It took two afternoons to get it most of it off. I'm still working on it. I'm never wallpapering anything. Ever.

It's been like a treasure hunt at this place. Our children have so much fun discovering what 'neat' trash has been left behind. Some of their favorite discoveries include a train set, dolls, cool wire springs, a horseshoe, and a bright pink bowling ball. Doesn't the landscaping look terrific? What a great modern art sculpture we get to have in our pasture!

We transported our chicken flock to the new house. We're testing out the chicken coop facilities with out old flock of birds. We'll see how predator-proof it is before we invest in our new batch of chicks. (I can hardly wait for the new chicks!) I have been told that we have bobcats, coyotes, snakes, and raccoons that will eat our birds. So far everyone's accounted for and happily scratching up bugs.

There's the update of some of the things we've been working on. I feel like there are a lot of challenges as I find more things that need repaired (only one toilet works), replaced (all the baseboards, window screens, etc), or removed (we found a strong, healthy colony of mold growing in a wall). It's easy to feel completely overwhelmed.....

The Lord has great ways of reminding me to count my blessings. I was asked to give an hour-long devotional last Sunday on the topic of the pioneers who sacrificed everything to cross the plains. I was reminded by the Spirit to bear all things with cheerfulness and gratitude.

Compared to the pioneers I live a posh life, right? How can anyone complain about anything when they have air conditioning and running water? Compared to my ancestors, I'm living the high life. I need to keep reminding myself this.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Hitchcock House - our moving story part 2

Let me tell you about our new home. I guess I should call it a house. It's not a home yet. I affectionately call it my house of horrors for now. But I see it's potential- that's important to remember.

Apparently the previous residents didn't own a garbage can of any kind. They'd throw trash on the ground wherever they happened to be standing. The 4 acre property has wrappers, bottles, cigarette butts, and other random garbage scattered across the grounds. There's also large trash. Imagine the queen-size mattress on the front lawn. Bucket seats from a missing vehicle. Pipes and tires and tarps galore. Behind a thick stand of trees there's an actual dumping spot full of rusting cans, bottles, and other garbage. The interior of the home is similar. Did I mention the dishwasher full of dead leaves and cigarette butts? How about the attic full of pornography? Yikees.

Let's move on. The previous occupants kept dogs. A lot of them. There were nearly a dozen dogs on the property, given open access to the house and outdoors at all times. There's even two dog doors cut into the walls of the house to let them roam freely. The dog doors were always open- there's not even a flap to cover them. Imagine all the dirt and pests they brought in. The animals chewed up the door frames and baseboards as well. There's a LOT of scrubbing to do.

The entire home smells....really badly. I think they were chain smokers. We'll be repainting every surface in the home. This is the only time I'm not happy to own vaulted ceilings. I'm scared of heights. I should clarify this: I'm TERRIFIED of heights. I can't imagine climbing a ladder high enough to reach the ceilings.

There's literally pages full of home repair items waiting to be addressed (honestly, who in their right mind BURIES the dryer vent?!). The 'to-do' list will keep us busy for a long time, but I can deal with it. 

There's only one thing I really can't deal well with: pest infestations.

This is where the Hitchcock-element comes in. Imagine cobwebs in the corners and ceilings of every room. Cobwebs draped in the windows. Various beetles crawl along the floor of literally every room. Some of them are cockroaches- shudder! There isn't a space without a resident insect.

 The pest inspector was kind enough to point them all out to me, then he'd try not to laugh at my reactions.
At the end of his inspection he asked us to sit at the table with him while he presented his report. I could only imagine what was crawling under the table, but gingerly pulled up a chair, trying to touch as little as possible. At one point of our conversation, the inspector asked Nathan, "Will you please get that off your sweetheart?" EEK! There was a beetle on my forehead! 

After the inspections were complete, Nathan and I were a bit in shock. How could people live like this? Could we handle the repairs ourselves? Was it going to be worth it? Should we back out of the contract after spending almost $1,000 on inspections? I felt a bit panicky and we couldn't sit to think anywhere in the house. We sat on the front steps to talk.

We listened to the birds and looked at the trees while we thought. We love the property, specifically the trees. They are perfect, like from a fairytale. Huge ancient oaks spread their limbs across the yard. They are beautiful, and will only become more beautiful when they support a tree house and swings from the branches. All I can think of is my children playing under these trees. I've long fantasized about owning a home with huge trees for my family to enjoy.

Our kids hate this house. The rooms are smaller and the house needs a lot of work. They ask me, "Why on earth would you want to leave our big, beautiful home in the city and move to such an ugly, dirty little house?" I tell them it's an adventure. 

We've been reading the "Little House on the Prairie" series this year in home school. In one book Laura lives in a sod hut. I keep telling them that anything is better than a sod hut. That makes my new home look like a palace. 

We can fix the house, even if it takes a long time. We can make it into a lovely home full of love and laughter and cleanliness. We decide to go for it. 

So now it's official: we own 4 acres of Texas hill country. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Still Alive- Our moving story part 1

Yes, we're still here. We ARE indeed alive, just crazy. 

Who in their right mind would think it's a good idea to do a major lifestyle transition and move into a major fixer-upper house? Isn't it crazy to do this when I'm in the last trimester of my pregnancy? Let's add to the fun mix that my sweet husband has a major deadline this month which requires extra hours at work. Sound fun yet? 

Miracles have been happening in our little lives.

Let's start at the beginning of our 'moving' story.

Originally I planned on placing our current home on the real estate market AFTER we moved out. It sounded so easy that way. There'd be no home staging to worry about. It's hard to keep a home staged and immaculate when we're a home schooling family. We're always HERE.

After some praying, Nathan and and I felt like we should list our house as quickly as possible. We were leaving in a week to drive across the country to attend my sister's wedding. Could we get our house packed up and cleaned and staged in one week? Not a chance.

Enter miracles here. The Lord poured out blessings on us abundantly. Several friends offered to come over and help me pack boxes. It was such a blessing- especially since my pregnancy fatigue severely limits how much work I can do in one day.

Some days I packed all day only to realize around 6:00pm that I had hungry children and had no idea what to feed them. I had put off the trip to the grocery store and had no food for them. More than once I answered my door to find friends standing there with a meal for my family. The Lord answered prayers, even when I didn't have time to actually kneel to pray and was merely carrying a prayer in my heart.

One day I was feeling completely overwhelmed and exhausted emotionally and physically. I was doubting myself. I prayed for increased strength and confirmation from the Lord that we were doing the right thing. That afternoon I opened the door to find a friend that I hadn't seen in over 3 years. She asked if I like Indian food (how could she know it's my favorite cuisine?) and gave me take-out from a local Indian restaurant. There's nothing as comforting as hot Na'an and Chicken Tikka Masala after an exhausting day. It was such an amazing 'coincidence'. I feel like the Lord was blessing me with a tender mercy through this friend. He wanted me to know that I was loved, that He knew me, and He was watching over me.

One of the biggest challenges was this: how could we hide all our food storage? I didn't want to rent a storage unit for it. Nathan stacked all the 5-gallon buckets and boxes into the shape of a queen bed and two nightstands. Viola. Doesn't it look like a nice guest room? No one knows it's all long-term food storage.

Several friends from our home school group and church congregation helped me stage the house, landscape the front yard, and deep clean. With their help we were able to list our house on the market the day before we left town. I am so thankful for their generous hours of service. I feel so richly blessed. Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.