Saturday, June 27, 2009

My Very First Construction Project

Let me go back to the beginning, to the time before, "the next step is..." Because sometimes, a return to the beginning is what renews our excitment with something that has become tedious or laborious.

Okay, here it is, my very first construction project. I built a (drum roll, please)... TIRE SWING!

I can almost hear your eyes rolling. A tire swing? and he's proud of that? Well, truth be told, since we began this project, I have done more lofty and complex projects, but the tire swing was the first thing I did on the new homestead and there are a few good reasons for that (some practical, some philosophical).

In a very real way, a tire swing sums up what the "charis homestead" is all about. As I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, charis is the Greek (Biblical) word for grace, and this whole endeavor is a grace deal from beginning to end. So, what does a tire swing have to do with grace, you ask? Well, I'll tell ya.

When we got the contract on the property, we realized that we were getting a great deal, but we also knew that we would have very little (read: no) money to do all the work that needed to be done before we moved into it. I couldn't just "do nothing", so I went to a tire store and rummaged through their old tires to find a tire for a tire swing. Living by grace is kinda like that. You go to God empty-handed, knowing that your screw ups are bigger than you are. You stand there, feeling a little uneasy, wanting to rationalize, make excuses, essentially "take control" of a situation that is far beyond your control, and suddenly you have a moment of honesty and lucidity and blurt out, "Okay, God, you're right - I've got nothing." And to your surprise, you are met with a kind, gentle voice who says, "It's okay, child. I'm God. I've got everything. And I'm more than willing to share it with you." Shortly after putting the contract on our new place in the country, my wife was getting really nervous about our "daring new move", so she sat on the front porch one Saturday afternoon and prayed, "God, I don't normally do this, but if you really want us to move out of the city, allow our land in Arkansas (we had a little piece of land in the Ozarks) to sell this weekend." She came in and shared this prayer with me, because we typically don't "bargain" with God like that, and before she finished her sentence, the phone rang. It was our realtor in Arkansas saying he just got a contract on the piece of land we were trying to sell. (Insert spooky "twilight zone" theme music here). The sale of that land, once it is final, will free up enough money to go a long way towards making our new place in the country liveable.

So, as I start down this road of following God out into the country, I start out with nothing. All I have to work with is an old, grimy, worn out tire, that someone else discarded. But God honors humble beginnings (I remember reading something somewhere about God's only Son being born in a manger), and I look to God to provide the rest.

Also, a tire swing speaks volumes about the new lifestyle my wife and I are trying to provide for our kids:
  • It's all about the kids. The very first thing I built was for the kids - something they could have fun on while I worked to get the place in order. And the kids are what this change is all about. My wife and I want to get our kids out of the city with all the crime, violence, bright lights, bells, and whistles, and provide for them an environment that is quiet enough that even someone as driven and hard headed as myself has no choice but to "be still and know that He is God."
  • It's simple. You don't plug it in, there are no batteries, but with a little imagination, you can be Tarzan, an astronaut, or whatever else your mind can conjure up.
  • It's good stewardship. It is recycling something that would have ended up in a landfill somewhere. Sometimes we evangelical Christians align ourselves so tightly with the Republican party (I'm pro-life, anti-gun control, etc, etc.) that we forget that God's first command was to "tend the garden." We have abdicated good stewardship of our planet to someone else in some other party, and I thind God blushes at that sometimes.
  • It's fun. 'Nuff said.
By the way, those are my kids by the tire swing (except for the really furry one, that's our dog). Aren't they awesome?!?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The next step... and the next step....and the next step...

Sometimes life is just as simple as the statement, "and the next step is..."

That's my default position when I am faced with the age old task of "eating an elephant - one bite at a time." Right now, that's where we are in the whole "charis homestead adventure." We are keeping up a fairly steady pace of getting things done (either to prepare one house to sell, or to prepare another one to occupy), but there always seems like an endless list of things that still remain before any real significant progress (i.e. living in the country) is made. So, when someone starts asking when we will be able to move into the new place, my answer is, "Well, the next step is..." and I fill in the blank. When the next step gets accomplished can depend on the weather, the availability of funds, or the amount of time I have to get it done. But that is life. And that is the life of one dependent on God's grace. Grace is funny like that. It rarely affords the instant answers we desire (and sometimes demand) but it always provides just enough progress to let you know that you are not alone and that the journey is "going somewhere" even if you're not sure where.

Since I last posted, we have made a good bit of progress at the new homestead considering the limited funds we have had to work with. We have rewired the breaker box, wrapped the unsided portion of the house in Tyvek, cleared out alot of brush and ivy around the creek, cleaned up alot of debris on the property left from previous construction projects, and (as my daughter just reminded me) hung a tire swing. We also have gotten some estimates on some of the "big ticket" projects that will have to be done before we can move in. Hopefully, if we close on the sale of some land that we own, we will have enough to get at least part of those projects accomplished. Also, my parents, who are wonderful and generous people, have graciously donated $1,000 to our budget so that we can complete some sort of storage outbuilding.

At our current house, my wife has painted much of the interior, I have installed gutters and completed some landscaping and flowerbeds in the back yard, we have installed a dog run, and I have replaced some rotten wood (the result of not having the gutters and letting the dogs have free run of the back yard).

So, the next step is...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

So it begins

My wife and I have prayed for a while about moving out of the city. By profession, I am a fulltime firefighter and reserve police officer in one of the more violent urban areas in the country. I'm fine with that. It was a choice I made years ago, and in all honesty, I love my job. But the more I thought about raising my three precious kids in close proximity to such madness, the more uncomfortable I became. If I weren't a Christian, it would be simple. The answer would be something like, "Get the hell out of dodge, take care of number one, and damn the rest." But God calls us to be salt and light; to spread His love and grace to a world that is bruised and broken. How can you do that if you are nowhere near those who are suffering the most?

He also calls us to be holy, which means "set apart." For a while, I have felt that God's way is simpler than ours. Our culture is constantly entertained and numbed by TV, computers, etc. I really think we need more silence, more time alone with God, more solid, productive work. So it's been a long, prayerful process; a process that has, I hope, led to some tangible answers.

You see, every once in a while, even for those of us so hard headed that we seldom hear the still small voice of God (only a 2x4 upside the head will get our attention) God speaks. I know, I know - "God speaking, what kind of whacko is this?" Well, I'm not talking sky-writing or loud, booming voices from heaven. I'm talking about God laying a clear path before you. Well, He's done just that...

After a good long time of praying, we found a new home. And not just any home. One that we could afford while we are still paying on our current home - and on a firefighter's salary, that's saying something. Today, we closed on a 4 bedroom, 3 bath, 2200 square foot home on 4 acres with a pond and we got it for a grand total of 40,000 dollars. Up until now, the best stuff we had seen was on about 2 acres and came in at about 70,000 dollars. That, coupled with a few other things has led us to believe that God is giving us the green light to move out of the city.

What's the catch, you ask? Well, the house was in the middle of a remodel and is unfinished in some respects. Alot of the work that is left to be done is stuff that I can do with the help of some friends (every firefighter in the free world has a side job that is construction oriented). But if I am going to be honest, I'm not "Joe-handy-man." After 12 years in firefighting, I'm good at tearing stuff up, but putting it together?!? Not so much.

So, some questions remain.
  • How am I going to do all the work that needs to get done when I am so construction-ignorant?
  • How do we keep reaching out to a world that desperately needs God's grace when we are moving out into the middle of nowhere?
  • When will our current house sell? and for how much?
  • Should we homeschool or continue to use public schools?
  • When do we move?
  • What toll is such a radical change going to take on my family?

The answer to all of this is that a loving, omnipotent God is calling the shots. (Y'all remind me of that later, when I am frustrated and on the very edge of apostasy because things aren't going as I had planned) That's why I am calling this blog the charis homestead blog. Charis is the Greek word for grace. And at age 40, I can tell you that it is God's grace alone that has made the difference in my life. I am counting on it even now as we embark on our new adventure.

Y'all pray for us. We need it. Let the adventure begin...