christianity

When Perception Meets Reality

I had a hard truth come to light this week. Realizing I am not where I thought I was in my spiritual walk. I am currently reading the book Absolute Surrender by Andrew Murray and what an inspirational convicting book!

We all struggle with surrender. I haven’t met one person who isn’t stubborn in one way or another. But it’s those times when you realize you aren’t where you thought you were or you weren’t as strong as you believed you were that are difficult.

Looking at Peter’s life in the Bible he is faced with this very thing. Peter tells Jesus that he would go to prison and die for him. Jesus’s response to Peter is that before the rooster crows Peter would deny Him three times.(Luke 32:31-34)

We know what happens next and that is that Peter does, in fact, deny Jesus three times.

But what was Peter’s reaction?

“And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.And he went out and wept bitterly. “ Luke 22:61-62

Peter wept bitterly. Can you imagine looking Jesus in the eye after you denied him and doing exactly what Jesus said you would do? I believe this is the reality moment…the moment Peter saw how weak, how feeble, how unable he was to love the Lord with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. The reality caught up with his perception. He wasn’t as strong as he thought he was.

However, what’s the good news? Peter found out where he was so that he could move forward. Peter did go to prison and even ended up one day dying for Jesus – crucified on a cross, upside down!

The surrender finally came! The absolute willing surrender…to give up self. To give up the self-life, the self-comfort, self-pleasing, and self-will.

How did Peter do it? “The work that Christ began in Peter when He looked upon him, was perfected when Peter was later filled with the Holy Spirit. The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you want to work it out partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work gloriously.”(taken from the book Absolute Surrender)

We have to come to the end of ourselves and cry out. We need to realize we don’t have what it takes to be perfect, but when we surrender, the One who is perfect does the awesome work through us.

I spent a few days in utter disbelief and tears understanding that when I surrender I am free from the bondage of self. I am free from putting my own wants before others. I am free from being afraid of what others think. I am free from wanting the things of this world to desiring God’s will above all else, and that my friend, is a fabulous place to be!

“Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Thank you Lord for your grace enabling us to be perfected by your wonderful power. May we not look at yesterday but look forward to the work that you are doing and continue to do when we absolutely surrender. Amen.

homesteading

You Never Know…

You never know what an impact you will have on someone’s life. We have had several guests at the cabin lately. It’s been a little crazy and we never know what a day will look like.

Last night I sat down with one of our guests and as the day turned into night I started lighting candles, then the kerosene lantern. The conversation was rich. We talked about life, simplicity of daily living at the cabin, and most important our relationship with God which spills out on those around us.

As we were talking her daughter sat down in the wicker rocking chair and started to express her joy and thankfulness that she was able to come for a visit. She said, “It’s so peaceful here and I feel like I’m living like Laura Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie.” She then said, “I also love how I can talk to your family about anything.” (My heart leapt at that moment.)

What she didn’t know was that I was a little nervous about her family coming because we live a rustic lifestyle. Outhouses, hauling water, heating water on a stove for showers, hand watering a large garden, etc. Although they read my book Beautiful Dependence, reading and experiencing off-grid living are two different things. We can easily romanticize something we read about or see on YouTube.

This family came and got to experience Cherith Brook. They were so grateful for so many things at our little hide away. Why? Because they had just been on a camping/backpacking trip. They were eating MRE packs (Meals Ready to Eat), they had no access to showers, and had to use an outside bathroom with no walls.

By the time they arrived at our place, we had a hot meal for them with ‘real’ food, a warm bed, hot showers, fresh drinking water from our spring, and an outdoor bathroom with walls!

Thankfulness is the key to contentment in life. Here, I was concerned that our property would be too rustic. It ended up being a luxurious get away and a place to refresh as they continued their ‘outdoor’ adventures for the next few days.

Again, you just never know what’s going to happen or what an impact you will have on a person’s life. I think of Jesus and how one conversation changed so many lives…the blind man, the woman at the well, the lame man, etc. One conversation. One small moment in time can change a person’s life for all eternity.

Eph 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

homesteading

In the Off-Grid Groove

We’ve been back in the states for about 8 months and honestly I wasn’t sure how easily I would transition into our off-grid lifestyle. But, it has been pretty amazing being back on the property.

The winter was a mild one compared to other winters we have experienced here. It was great having snow again and having a crackling fire to warm up by. Spring is now upon us and we have many projects going on – finishing our guest cabin, log peeling, remodeling the 5th wheel, starting a garden (25 feet by 15 feet), and firewood splitting to name a few. Also, Our discipleship program is in full swing.

We just purchased some meat rabbits-a breeding pair and three baby bunnies. We had to do some repair to our old turkey coop to accommodate the rabbits, but after a day of repairs and keeping a watchful eye on the bunnies, they are doing great!

With the threat of the COVID virus among us our plans had to change as far as being at my parents house more often. They are at the age where the risk is higher so we have stayed at the property longer.

There is always something to do at Cherith Brook and our good friend pruned our apple tree so I had lots of applewood to make a craft project with. I decided to make an outdoor side table. I am happy with how it turned out!

Needless to say, I am loving the peace of the land and the simplicity of life. Things are a little more difficult to do off-grid and they definitely have to be planned out. But in the end, I am home and living in the place where I was set free!

“Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

homesteading

Life As We Know It

It’s been a little over a month since we left Mexico and moved back to Washington. Many things have happened in this time.

I have had to work through and process quite a bit. Some things I expected, others I had no idea I would be experiencing.

Recently the small town we moved from in Mexico was ravaged by fire. When I heard the news I couldn’t believe the damage that was happening. I had received a text from my mom saying that our daughter, Sarah and her husband were safe from the fire and were in the states. My mind started whirling. What was she talking about? Fire? What fire?

You must understand that we don’t get texts at our cabin easily. We have to hike out to a place on the property that we call our “phone booth” which is an old stump about 1/4 of a mile from our house. This particular day we were headed to town and we hadn’t checked any of our phone messages because we knew we would soon have cell service. Once we arrived in town we started receiving more and more texts. Then I received a message saying that one of the homes we lived in, in Mexico was completely gone due to the fire.

I couldn’t believe it. What was going on? I immediately tried to get a hold of our daughter to get more information and to make sure she was, in fact, alright. After several tries we finally got a hold of her. She and her husband were definitely safe and weren’t planning on going back to Mexico for a few days. My mama heart was trying to reign in my emotions and trying not to freak out. I had to give it to God and remind myself that He is in control. There was nothing I could do. I had to pray.

Pretty soon we started seeing photos of the devastation. We saw a photo that showed our daughter, Storm’s little casa was still standing, which is amazing because it was constructed out of wood. We heard reports of homes being burned and others completely unharmed. We continued our prayers for the next several days as the winds picked up and we were getting reports of other fires happening within the area. I thought of all of our friends there, my students, my family.

Then I thought, “God, we were just there. Why now?” I don’t have the answer to this, but I know that God’s timing is perfect and that He uses all things for His glory.

Needless to say, We are loving being back at our cabin and the rest has been very good for us. We have done ministry in some form or another for 20 years – the last 15 have been more intense ministry. Now that we are at the property it’s been great to just take in the fresh air, sunshine, and each other. We have had God divine appointments there and have had several opportunities to minister and pray with those in the area. Ministry doesn’t always look the same, which I believe is a good thing. We are still loving the one in front of us which is what we are all about.

We do travel to my parents home once a month and our church that is close by has hired my husband to do maintenance whenever he is available, which is fantastic.

We were recently blessed with some more solar panels. We are excited to install them especially as winter approaches and our small unit that we have been using doesn’t charge the batteries enough this time of year.

It’s been fairly easy getting back into the groove of living off-grid. I love the simpler lifestyle and the fact that we don’t have access to the internet or technology to waste our time. Things are very intentional on the mountain. Conversations are deep and sometimes silly.

I’m sure I will be processing what we have experienced in Mexico for awhile and I don’t know what that will look like. I have had many moments of tears, but I know that God sees each one and I take comfort in each day that I get to breathe a breath.

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.

Habbakuk 3:19

Photo taken by Love Story Foundation

homesteading

Reliving the Oregon Trail?

Broken down, sifting through boxes that had been packed, making decisions on what to keep and what to donate, headed to an off-grid cabin I begin to think to myself, “Did I just step back in time?”

Years ago, when we first moved to our little cabin in the woods I found myself relating to the pioneers as a result of no electricity, having to haul water, and just the simpler lifestyle. Today, I was having a whole different understanding – one that I didn’t particularly want or ask to understand. We were on a journey to move from Mexico back to our home state of Washington.  After a month of planning and packing, and goodbyes had been said, we were finally on the road.

It was late at night, and we made a stop north of Los Angeles to stretch our legs and use the restroom. We had taken all three of our vehicles and a utility trailer with us. Mark and I were in one car, Storm and her dog, Koda, were in the big truck, and our daughter, Sarah, and her husband were in our little Nissan truck. After our restroom break we were all set. “Head ’em up, move ’em out!” My husband called out. We began to pull forward when we noticed the Nissan not moving. We had walkie talkies in each vehicle as a way of communicating. Suddenly we heard Cole over the speaker say the truck wasn’t starting. No big deal. We have had that happen in the past and even had a few mechanics look at the problem and thought the last mechanic had fixed it. After a few more tries – still nothing. We even tried to push start it as its a manual transmission. Still no luck. We were definitely stuck. After trying to push start the truck it ended up at the far end of the Walmart parking lot where we parked it and we all gathered around going over our options.

We finally decided to go to an auto parts store and buy an inexpensive part that we thought may fix the problem. Mark and I left to search out this store, in an unknown area, at 10:00 at night. What parts store is open that late at night? Thank goodness we found one. (Is this the city that never sleeps?) Our other travelers were left behind to watch over the vehicles and our belongings. When we arrived back at the broken down truck, we were all hopeful that this $18.99 part would fix our problem and we would be on our way north. We all prayed before we put the new part in. My husband easily took out the old relay switch and put the new one in (in the past this had fixed the problem). We all kept our fingers crossed. Cole jumped into the driver’s seat to try and start the little truck…nothing. The engine didn’t turn over. Nada.

With deflated hopes we gathered around again and began to discuss more options. This truck was full of our things. Even if we had the truck towed to a junk yard, what would we do with all of our belongings? We thought maybe getting a U Haul trailer would be the best option, so we sought out the cost of renting one. Whoa, too much money! Another option was getting a motel room, finding a mechanic in the morning, and seeing how much it would cost to fix the Nissan. If they had the part and could fix it that would put us a day or two behind our schedule. More ideas were discussed. When finally my husband said, “I’m going to call our Pastor in Mexico and see if he wants the truck.” We all agreed that was a viable option. We knew it was probably an easy fix and it could be a blessing to anyone if they could just get it started. The phone call was made and things were talked about. It was all set. Some men would be by in the morning to come pick it up.

Now we had a truckload of things deal with. What should we keep and what should be donated? Our other two vehicles and our utility trailer were packed pretty tight, so we didn’t have much room to add more things inside of them. By then it was about midnight and we were sifting through boxes, bags, and vehicles to try to decide what to keep or toss. I was exhausted. Moving is never fun and I just wanted to rest. Rest wasn’t an option right now, so we pressed on. Looking inside boxes I had tea cups, curriculum that I had used to teach not only my own children, but the students in Mexico, shoes, clothes, pots and pans, etc. One by one deciding to get rid of what was not a necessity, I began to think to myself, “Is this a taste of what it was like for those families traveling on the prairie?” We hear stories of how things were left behind – boxes of books, sewing machines, pianos, family heirlooms that had to be tossed to the side because it was too much weight for the rocky hills.

I began to cry silently to myself, thinking its dark, no one will see me. When a moment later my daughter, Sarah, put her arms around me and just stood next to me. No words were spoken. She just rested her arm around me with her hand on my shoulder and everything stopped at that moment. I knew it would be okay. Its just stuff. It can be replaced. How many times have I started over in my life leaving behind everything to start something new? For me, many times. I looked around and saw my family – all willing to help, willing to get rid of their things as well. It wasn’t just my stuff that had to be left behind. Storm left things. Mark left things. They were so willing to make the sacrifice with a joyful heart. God. My family. I love them and they are what’s truly important to me.

Realizing all of these “things” will one day burn made the decision making process much easier. I began willingly getting rid of the things that I thought meant so much to me. Cole and Mark worked hard that night and unpacked and repacked the cars and when it was all finished we were able to fit what we “needed” into the two vehicles and trailer. When it was all said and done, I thought, “Wow. We could have saved ourselves a whole lot of packing if we would have donated this stuff in Mexico.”

My heart has always loved stories about the Oregon Trail. After living in the mountains in a hunter’s cabin I feel even more drawn to the pioneers that settled in the West. Now, more than ever, I have a heart for those men and women who made sacrifices in hopes of making a better life for their family. Many suffered and died along the way. I have no doubt the survivors learned lessons that stuck with them their whole life. My hope is that I will not forget those hard lessons that I have had to learn in life. Today my lesson is not taking for granted each day that I have with my family. I want to keep loving on them, keeping the relationships growing and maturing into something beautiful because soon some of our family members won’t be around. Cole and Sarah will be flying back to Mexico and I don’t know when I will see them again. Our parents are getting older and I need to spend as much time as I can with them. They have wisdom and insight that I want to glean from them. What is truly important? Time. You can’t get one second back. Make it count. Love the one in front of you! 

A verse that kept coming back to me is Matthew 6:19-24 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

Father, thank you for your goodness. Please forgive me when I doubt and things don’t go the way I had planned. I know that all things work together for good for those that are in you. When things get difficult and trials come, I know that you are working toward something greater than I could ever imagine. I pray that I will always trust and rest in you. Amen. 

Below is a link to a song that I love called Pioneer by Nancy Honeytree. I came across it years ago just before we moved to our cabin. It helped me when loneliness and doubt crept in our first year of living off-grid. I thought it was fitting for this blog post.

Nancy Honeytree song Pioneer