Parenthood

Rant

My sweet little chilled out Macie has, overnight it seems, turned into a scratching, biting, dirt-eating, roaring, running, scaler-of-all-things-high-and-dangerous. This turn of events, coupled with the sassy-pants attitude of Mr. Four, has pushed stay at home parenthood to a whole. new. level. So here goes my requisite ‘parenting is so hard’ whinge. I figure I’m probably due for one…once a year seems about right.

Before I get into it, I feel the need for a disclaimer. This isn’t going to be one of those ‘find the gold in the hard moments’ posts. Not that we don’t need those, of course, we do. BUT, I read a lot of articles that talk about the trials of parenting and then finish up by talking about how precious our kids are, how cherished this time is, and how fleeting it really is. I read these and initially feel comforted, but somehow end up feeling worse…guilty somehow that in the midst of the chaos I’m not appreciating these years enough. SO…please rest assured, I love my kids to the moon and back, I’m trying to milk the loveliness out of these years, and I understand that one blessed day I shall look back with nostalgia and annoy some harrowed mum by commenting that, “I miss those days!” But today is a vent. Hopefully my venting will let you know that you are not alone in your messy house.

I think the thing that causes me to feel like the breath is being strangled out of me some days is the sheer relentlessness of raising kiddos. On a semi-regular basis, my own version of the Hillsong United song flashes through my head, “This kid is relentless.” Having battled ill-health for a couple of years surely can’t be helping, but I sometimes get to the point where I feel like I’ll explode or just disintegrate if I get asked for one more snack. I have, I kid you not, started sneaking around the house at times, hoping that no-one will notice my presence, quietly going about my business, because I know if I get spotted, Thing 1 or Thing 2 will be inevitably uncontrollably compelled to ask me to do something, or hang on my pants until they start to fall down. I swear they think, ‘Oh look, it’s the lady that does stuff. I must ask her to do more stuff.’

I think one of my main problems is that most days I hunt like a starving stray cat for morsels of the life I used to have. I try and trap moments of time that are uninterrupted and whimsical. I dream of the airy freedom of going about life without having my radar out for a small mountaineer attempting a first ascent. I long for the indulgence of having a grumpy day where I can just shut myself in a dark room and watch Netflix all day. Instead, I am the only introvert in a family of extroverts, and I get approximately 3.5 seconds in the loo before it becomes a shared experience.

Another thing that works against me, is that I am so driven by productivity. There’s nothing that I love more than putting my hand to a worthwhile task, and while I KNOW in my rational self that there could be nothing more worthwhile than raising tiny humans, the productive part of me dismisses the mundanity of daily childrearing as a box I cannot tick at the end of each day. I want to finish a tangible project, email it off to the appropriate parties, and receive constructive feedback and praise on what I have accomplished. Instead I get to scrub the floor, only to have Thing 2 post his newly dismantled banana over the side of his highchair.

I have become scarily adept at spotting the sound of Caleb’s truck arriving home from 14 miles away. Macie runs to the door to greet his D when the workday is done, and I’m about one step behind him. I get almost giddy to have my teammate back at my side. I read an article from a Psychologist recently who mentioned that parents of young children always feel overworked and underappreciated. Never a truer word. But at least the two of us are both clinging on to the same flogged horse together!

So there you go friends, rant over! (For this year). I pray that in this time of our lives God will grant us grace and strength. I also pray that through the continuous squeezing, our characters and personalities become more patient, loving, kind, peaceful, good, gentle, and self-controlled. You are not alone dear parent…and you are doing a great job.

 

Much love,

Deb xx

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Welcome Home

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From the moment we stepped off the plane when we emigrated, there was a settledness in my heart that I hadn’t experienced for the whole four years we lived in Christchurch. That feeling has stuck with me for the nearly three years we have lived here in the USA, however in recent months I started to experience a longing for home like I hadn’t up to this point. It was kind of kickstarted by watching “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (… “and through that door are all the nummiest treats you can imagine; Fanta, Dorritos, L&P, Burger Rings, Coke Zero…”). Something happened in my heart watching that movie. The familiarity and comforting homey feeling of seeing a Kiwi police car, the farmland, native bush, and the Auckland bungalows was almost overwhelming.

Over subsequent weeks that feeling grew. I felt restless. I’ve always had a thing where I feel like reaching my hands to the sky and yelling to passing aeroplanes, “Take me with you!” This intensified to the point where I was in mortal danger of walking into a lamppost as aircraft jetted overhead. And then something magic happened. I received an email from my boss at Thinkladder asking if Macie and I would be interested in being flown over to New Zealand to take part in a writing workshop. Macie was very interested.

From the very moment I received that email, it’s difficult to explain what happened, but all of the normal anxious feelings I would normally have had were quieted by a blanket of grace. It just felt like God was offering me the kindest gift, and he was allowing me the peace to go with it. And believe me, I had plenty to feel anxious about! The chronic migraines I had been battling for the better part of two years were rearing their ugly painful heads. How was I ever going to travel, let alone work? It was at this point that Caleb reminded me that I had now met the prerequisite requirements that the medical insurance required before they would approve the Botox treatment. I received the treatment about a week before my trip. It takes 7-10 days to work and after a course of steroids to break an intractable migraine, I experienced a predominantly pain-free trip. Ah-mazing.

As any parent can imagine, the thought of flying long haul solo with a 13-month old was also a cause for potential concern. But, contrary to what would be the norm, I genuinely felt pretty relaxed about it! (Macie turned out to be a total travel champ, despite a few ill-timed poonamis of epic proportions…I’m talking incinerate-the-clothing type explosions. Bless his good-natured, poopy adventuring soul.)

Arriving back in NZ was totally surreal. The humidity, the familiarity, the lush greenness and vibrant colours all hit me smack in the face (I swear, the colours are more vivid there…the hole in the ozone layer may be burning us all to a crisp, but I think it may be making everything brighter?).

We headed up north to Tutukaka (with a one-night stop in Mangawhai) for the writing retreat – a bunch of nine counsellors from around the country gathered to write content for the app. The specialist of special treats was that my good friend Kayla from the BTI days was also at the retreat, so we got to have a wee reunion with our wee bubbies. From there, Mace and I made the marathon mission back to Tauranga, basically in one shot…put it this way, by the time we had reached the service centre at the end of the Auckland motorway and I was desperate for the loo and a coffee, Mace had fallen fast asleep. So I had to keep driving. With a highly pressurised bladder. For three more hours. Kids.

Getting to see a bunch of my nearest and dearest in Tauranga was the biggest blessing. The week was jam-packed with catch-ups, and my only regret was that I didn’t get to see everyone that I wanted to. It was so special that my fam got to see Macie while he’s still small and super cute.

By the end of my two weeks, I was well reacquainted with Kiwi culture…the best bits (DAIRY!!, the people and the landscape) and the not-so-shining bits (hello, NZ drivers?). Somewhere in the last few days I even encountered the paragon of Kiwi passive-aggressive sarcasm in the form of a note left on my car in the K-Mart carpark. I had been having a little trouble parking due to being on the other side of the road and car again, and I when I came out of the shop to a note on my windscreen, I was gutted, thinking that someone had damaged my borrowed vehicle. It read, and I quote, “I’m super impressed with your parking, well done, keep it up ☹.” With sad face and all! God bless the Kiwis.

This trip was a surreal, beautiful, providential, outrageous blessing. When I was younger, I used to think that one day I’d get flown places because I would finally be important enough…and now I know that I get to do cool stuff simply because God is really kind.

I love you Aotearoa, you’re the best.

Deb xx

A Fish out of Water

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I realise that it’s been some time since I’ve blogged…which is a whole ‘nother blog in itself, but in short, I’m still clawing my way slowly back to health after being unwell for the better part of two years. Thankfully, things are looking up thanks to a big diet adjustment, and hormone and migraine preventative medications.

I also realise that I’m still due to do Part III in my Journey to Freedom series, and fret not, it’s still coming, I just felt like I had something else pressing on my mind.

It’s been two and half years since we gathered our five suitcases, one guitar, and 19-month-old J-Dog, and headed off to the Big Smoke. In some ways it feels like forever, and in others, just yesterday. In many ways, Oregon has become home to me. There was always a part of my heart and personality that felt a bit ‘too much’ for New Zealand, and as soon as I arrived here, I no longer felt that way. Additionally, almost as soon as we touched down, I felt settled in my heart in a way that I hadn’t for the longest time. We have met lovely people, enjoyed the beauty of our mountain town, and just so appreciate our centrally-heated miracle home. And I can’t forget the bargains, it does a Dutch-Kiwi’s heart so glad to get real, honest to goodness coupons for the groceries each week. Heck, I got to double two coupons a few weeks ago and got $27 off my weekly shop! (Cue Caleb rolling his eyes, and my sister peeing her pants in disbelief).

But despite all this, I’m facing something for which I had not been prepared. I feel different. A bit off-centre. A little misunderstood. Weird-ish. The way I think of it is this – if you think about sonar, (my knowledge of which comes from Octonauts and the two submarine movies I’ve watched), a boat sends out sound waves to ping off surrounding objects to get an idea of their location. In life, we are constantly sending out pings to get our bearings and locate ourselves socially, culturally, spiritually. When I left New Zealand, I felt very sure of where I was at. The pings I was sending out were returning from where I thought they would and I felt very centred, accepted, confident and understood.

In some ways, it would be easier to move to a country that was so obviously different in its culture to my own (and in other ways, hideously harder). But, at least, you’d expect things to be really different. Moving here feels like I’ve moved to a parallel universe, that is almost the same, but just a little bit different. It’s enough to lull me into a sense of sameness, until I miss a social cue, or get a response that I’m not quite expecting, or get a blank look when I tell a joke (there’s nothing quite so soul-destroying as having to explain a joke). Then I feel just a touch off-balance. The pings are coming back in a way that is just different enough to make me feel unsure socially and culturally. (This is probably a good place to mention that this has nothing to do with people I’ve met – not at all, like I said, they are some of the loveliest people I’ve encountered).

A good example would be Kiwi humour – the type of humour that uses sarcasm and mockery as a form of affection. I remember at youth group there was a period of about a year where we gave each other the fingers just because. I have encountered scenarios here where I use my Kiwi mockery to let people know how much I like them, only to have them look at me like I’m the biggest meanie there ever was. Neat. (The good news is that there is a fellow kiwi on the worship team, we call him Kiwi-Colin, and when we’re on the team together we basically spend the whole time mocking each other.)

It’s kind of a lonely feeling. I don’t really like it. But I feel God all over it. He’s giving me the tiniest insight into what it’s like to be an outsider – how life must feel to the foreigner, the unpopular, the social misfit. I think this is really important. Because what I’m also learning, is that I am no less loved because of it. I feel like my world has shrunk in many ways, but somehow in this place I’m learning all that really matters is the gaze of my Father, and walking hand-in-hand with Jesus to live out his Kingdom in really small ways. In feeding my kiddos and rocking them back to sleep, in praying for people every day, in dropping a meal to friends in need, in taking the time to ask about a cashier’s day, in giving some cash to a person without a roof over their head.

Much love, from your slightly-off-centre friend,

Deb xx

Musings on Motherhood

imageIt has been some time since I have blogged – the advent of a tiny human tends to hamper ones abilities to do almost anything. So I find myself with a couple of hours to myself, sitting outside at a cafe on a blissfully sunny day, finally with thoughts semi-coherent enough to write. Since my days of late have been nothing but kiddos, poopy nappies and endless renditions of ‘watch this trick mum’ (followed by a suitably unimpressive trick), it is fitting that motherhood should be the topic of this missive. So please find below an absolutely random collections of my musings of late (as befits the state of my addled mind):

Life with a newborn can be terribly isolating. I have to get up multiple times in the dark night while the rest of my family sleeps. My ability to do everyday tasks that used to be simple is greatly hampered; meaning that I can’t get out of the house with ease, and even when I do get to catch up with people, my mind is distracted by lack of sleep, a threenager, or giant froggy-eyes begging me for feedies and more feedies. Additionally, the breastfeeding culture here strikes me as a little less free and easy than it is at home, and even though I use a hooter-hider, I have been in the middle of conversations and had people leave when Mason gets hungry. I get that it can make people uncomfortable, it just adds to the feeling of isolation.

I am nothing without my yoga pants.

People that bring food and coffee are the very best kind of people.

I am struck by the fact that Mason in all his tiny newborn vulnerability and immaturity will never be more or less loved by God than he is right now. It is such a lovely reminder to me that I am wholly loved by Jesus just because I am Deb and not because of anything I do.

Wine.

My theological books can take a backseat for now. In attempt to feel somewhat productive I pulled out one of the more weighty tomes on my shelf and wasted some of my precious downtime trying to read the first three sentences. There will once again come a time when I can put my mind to the advancement of my understanding, but that time can wait until my brain less resembles a pudding.

No-one tells you that the contents of your three year old’s potty can rival that of a middle-aged man the morning after Christmas Day. Then you have to congratulate him whilst trying not to vomit.

It is so easy to allow dissension to enter the marital ranks in the midst of the parenting chaos. I have had to be really careful to stop and put myself in Caleb’s shoes. I have found myself getting jealous that he is allowed to sleep through the night and then leave the house to go to work. In these moments I try to imagine going to work and coming home without having the space to unwind; it helps me to remember that we’re on the same team. We each face different challenges in this season, and it’s essential to the health of our marriage that I do all I can to guard against the seeds of bitterness.

I really need to have a ‘no Face-Booking after 10pm’ rule. I go to bed, my mind starts whirring and I have these ‘epiphanies’ that must be shared with the world – only to wake and discover I’ve posted the half-mad ramblings of a very tired person.

Gin and tonic.

I get perverse enjoyment out of witnessing other people’s kids acting out. It makes me feel better about my son’s behaviour.

Having a newborn is extraordinarily hard on my desire to be in control of life.

Coffee.

Love you friends, so nice to blog again! Hopefully I’ll be able to post a wee bit more now that the fog is slowly lifting.

Deb xx

Thanksgiving

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With the occasion of Thanksgiving I had planned to pen a cute and peppy wee list detailing the things for which I am grateful. However, as I pondered this list, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not because I am not grateful for a million things; I absolutely am. All the usuals; Jesus, family, friends, a lovely home, food on the table, clothes on my back, health etc. But somehow as I considered my list, there was no energy behind it. It would be rote and from my head. Because my heart these days is suffering from what I can only describe as ‘ennui’. (Gilmore Girls super-fans, you’re welcome).

My health turned a corner at about 21 weeks pregnant, and I only face migraines roughly once a fortnight, as opposed to the daily battle that was occurring prior to now. So I’m not as sick as I was. But I’m tired. So tired. I sleep about 10 hours every night and then nap for at least an hour during the day. Doing almost anything requires what feels like a superhuman effort. To add to this, the weather has turned. It is on the verge of snowing on a regular basis, the sky is icy and unfriendly, and my 3 year old has just discovered for the first time that he really doesn’t like going for walks in the cold anymore. I feel housebound, deflated, purposeless and there’s a newborn on the way. Help me Rhonda.

Whilst out for a wee walk (waddle) the other day I was pondering the things for which I am thankful. The train of thought followed something like what I have detailed above; I have a list in my head, but it feels devoid of warmth, so what then do I really feel grateful for in my heart at this moment? And the answer? Redemption.

No matter what craziness happens to us, around us, in us or through us, Jesus is in the most hope-inducing business of making the broken whole, beautiful, purposeful, radiant. I know this to be true, not just because the biblical narrative is predominantly a redemption story, but also because my own life narrative has already taken some stunningly redemptive turns. When I look at the state of my inner and outer world over time, I see formerly painful and dark areas I had just accepted as normal, now peaceful, flourishing and light-filled. This has been purely the result of Jesus’ redeeming work in my world. This gives me such hope.

The thing that fills my heart with joy, is that this journey from death to life is not just for my world, but for the people around me, our societies, cultures, and ultimately for the earth itself. Outside a school down the road, I was struck several months ago at a little plant root that had grown up through the asphalt. Even despite the best efforts of a bunch of hot bitumen, this tiny wee plant had raised its tiny head and cracked through to find the light. And so shall my heart. And yours. Maybe not today, maybe not in the near future, but barring all else, most definitely in eternity. Although, can I just say hurrah and thanks be that Jesus does give us great hope, and often beautiful resolution in the here and now!?

So as I go about the days ahead, as grey and murky as they feel right now, I will continue to look for the small glimmers of redemption that are popping their heads above the clouds. And I will remember that those glimmers represent a tiny portion of what will one day be full restoration. Amen.

Love you,
Deb xx

Americanniversary

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Given that our first Americanniversary (see what I did there?) is almost upon us, it seemed a fitting time to pull together a wee collection of random musings from our time thus far. It was roughly this time last year that we packed all our earthly treasures into five suitcases and headed Stateside. Judah, unfortunately, was too large and wiggly to fit in a suitcase, so we had to buy him his own ticket.

Seeing as I have now experienced all four seasons, I may as well make the obligatory remarks on the weather. Weather is something usually commented upon as idle chitchat, especially when conversation falters, or one is talking to a stranger. However, my dear friend Heidi and I are the closest of friends, and always, ALWAYS talk about the weather. So, if only because I know Heidi will want to know, here’s the low down; it’s dry as a chip here. So dry. My lips are constantly screaming for Chapstick and it’s difficult to stay on top of water consumption. You can’t just have a lawn in the warmer months without irrigating it daily, and then it goes dormant in the winter. And the temps are somewhat extreme compared to what I’m used to. Summer gets as high as almost 40 degrees Celsius at its hottest, and no joke we had like -20 degrees last winter. Which also means driving on ice. It’s pretty scary and I very nearly crashed one icy day!

Another topic that will likely appeal to only a select group of nannery types like myself, is that of grocery shopping. Shopping is a two stop process these days; firstly to a place called Grocery Outlet (or as I call it, Grossout). It’s a shop that sells food that has literally fallen off the back of the truck, or train or whatever (probably not from the airplane though, although that may be the baby food). So you never know what’s going to be in stock, but it’s kind of fun. Then I go to a store called Fred Meyer, largely because they have free childcare. But they also have this app where you download coupons, and on Fridays they have a coupon for a free grocery item. I’ve had bread, muesli bars, drinks, chocolates etc. Caleb and I often talk about how you’d just never see that in New Zealand, because you know that there would be a bunch of thrifty kiwis that would rock up solely for their free stuff. Bless our frugal hearts.

You wanna know what’s fun? Americans!! Seriously, always up for a party! Every public holiday and special or not-so-special event, is celebrated with gusto! Even special days from other countries, like St Paddy’s day. And they don’t just have a casual barbie, oh no, there are costumes, decorations, tonnes of people, dancing, singing, and oodles of food and drink. Sometimes it’s a little much for this Kiwi to take in and I just want to go home, put my slippers on and get a nice cup of tea. But the enthusiasm for a good party is infectious, so give me a few years and I may even join Dave from ‘Hot Rod’ in saying, “Hi, I’m Deb, and I like to party.” (If you didn’t get that, don’t worry. If you did, the safe word is whiskey).

It’s a bit of a shock to the system moving from a country the size of a postage stamp to one that’s got 320 million inhabitants. It’s actually really overwhelming at times. I’ve never felt more like just a number in my whole life. The systems and processes that need to be in place to govern such a monstrous number of people is mind-boggling. One gets the impression that if you really wanted to meet John Key (NZ Prime Minister), all you’d have to do is write to stuff.co.nz or start a wee petition and you’d be in like Flynn. However here, I feel like you could dedicate your life’s work and savings to meeting the president and still fall short. It’s just a completely different kettle of fish. Health insurance is crazy and a bit scary, political happenings resemble a circus, and people have guns. It’s forced me to realise just how much of my security I placed in a small government that would support us if we were out of work, that pays all the medical bills, and seems somewhat accessible. Although uncomfortable, it’s been helpful in directing my trust to where it needs to lie. In God We Trust.

Something I never considered when I moved here is that people would have trouble understanding me when I introduce myself. I shouldn’t be surprised, even when I lived in Australia, I remember ordering coffee and more than once getting a cup with ‘Dib’ written on the side. The puzzling thing is that twice now people have asked if my name was ‘Tim’. Yep, Tim. Of course it’s not Tim. It’s not Bev. It’s not Dave. I’ve taken to saying my name with an accent so people get it, it’s kind of like, ‘Dab’, but it feels wrong saying it that way. Perhaps if I changed my name to Candy I’d have more luck?

I’ve got a few more thoughts about life here, which I’ll tell ya’ll about another time.

Love you,
Deb x

Our House in the Middle of our Street

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I get migraines, which totally sucks. But a wee silver lining is that in my drugged-out post-pain haze I sometimes hear God speak to me really clearly. Once such time was while leading worship at a Getsmart Youth Conference about ten years ago. I was staying at my Auntie’s house in Auckland, and while I lay in bed recovering, I heard God say, “I’m going to give you a house”. It wasn’t an audible voice, but it was the loudest silent voice I’ve ever heard. I was pretty excited and ready for a stranger to waltz up to me with the keys to a brand new house and a story about how the Angel of the Lord came to them in a dream. Of course, as with many things God does, things don’t work out the way we think they will. But He did give us a house…and here’s the cool story:

Our plan upon arriving in the States was to stay with Caleb’s parents for roughly six weeks whilst we hunted for a house to purchase. I had started saving for a house when I was in my early 20s. Due to being extraordinarily single and with no hope on the horizon, I figured I wouldn’t necessarily be able to count on Mr Right to swoop on in with bags of money and a huge property portfolio. As it turns out it was a solid plan; I did meet Mr Right eventually, but he was as poor as the proverbial church mouse when we met (albeit a super hot one). So we had a decent deposit for our house, and a perfect credit score…in New Zealand. Which translated into absolutely zero here. Long story short, we ended up staying with my long-suffering parents-in-law for six months while we waited to build a good enough credit score for a loan.

Once we were finally good to go, the dreaded house hunting process began. The Bend market is pretty hot right now, definitely not as pricey compared to New Zealand’s major cities, but expensive compared to surrounding towns, and very competitive. The first house we looked at was small, on a tiny section, next to a very busy road, and it looked as if it had been decorated by a small well-meaning committee of Grandmothers. But it was in our price range, and it was a bit of a reality check. We concluded that our first home was unlikely to be our dream home, and that significant ideals would have to be laid aside. Not long after that, we got a call from our realtor. He had been chatting with a colleague who asked him if he knew of anyone looking in our price range. She had this house that was on a short sale. A short sale, a misnomer if ever there was one, is like one step away from a bank foreclosed property. It’s basically a precursor to a long and messy process. An investor had put an offer on this property six months previously, and the bank had just decided it was slightly too low. So the investor was going to pull out, and the listing agent said she couldn’t be bothered re-listing the house due to the hundreds of calls she would have to field, given the price.

So, one freezing and dark evening, we armed ourselves with torches and went to check it out. There was something so odd about the house. It felt like a ghost town. So unlived in. And just crazy…like a whole wall in the lounge was a giant mural of tulips. And one room was completely bright pink on one half, and bright blue on the other. And there was a giant jeep mural (badly) painted in another room. And there was a hole just cut out of the wall by the fireplace as a dog-door. So odd. But perfect for us. We wanted a house we could put our own stamp on, but it felt unethical, not to mention unaffordable, to buy a turnkey house and change it just because. We drove away that night and I said to Caleb, “I think that this might be the the house that God has for us.” And he was like, “Same.”

The agent was pretty much sure it was ours if we wanted it. And we did. But then the listing agent got in touch to let us know the dumb news that the bank decided they wanted to put it back out on the open market – they were convinced that they would be able to get much more for it. We were so gutted, and a little disillusioned, but just decided to put our offer in at the price the bank had told the investor. The crazy thing was, the bank accepted our offer like two days later. It was like they’d forgotten they were going to put it back on the market. Which was awesome…for about three hours, until we got the call to say that the investor still hadn’t pulled out. But fret not dear friends, the story ends well. He waited until the very last minute of his contract, then pulled out. The valuation of the house in its current state was $235,000. Our realtor said with a coat of paint it would easily sell for $270,000. And we got it for $212,000.

Friends that visit CANNOT believe we got this house, in this area, for this price. It’s amazing. It’s light, sunny and warm. It has a big yard. It’s right across the road from a massive park. It has views of the mountains from the front yard.

We found out the story of the house from the neighbours soon after moving. It had been empty for 8 years. 8 YEARS! I know that I know that God saved this house for us. And handed it to us on a platter. It’s a total miracle and such a blessing.

So that’s our cool house story. Isn’t it a good one?

Deb xx