Archive for August, 2010

A Place Called Home

Originally published on The Testing of My Faith.

We have been in our little house now for 3 weeks. Most of our goings on have included the kids and Joe. You might be wondering about me…what am I doing.

I haven’t been doing anything exciting, but definitely necessary. I have been given the task of making this house a home (of sorts) for us. I have cleaned and organized cupboards, cleaned bathrooms, and done extensive yard work. I also have the job of taking care of the little ones…no easy feat some days! I plan the shopping and cooking…the later of which I am not the best at. These are all not tasks that make for a very interesting blog. And I have tried to create a blog that others would find interesting. After all, I can’t have an impact if no one reads my blogs.

But I am coming to realize something…being a servant of Christ is not about being interesting or having a great readership. I think that I had glamorous visions of traveling endlessly with interesting stories of faith to share on a daily basis. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with living a life of faith and “boringness”.

I met a woman last night who when she came upon the scene lit up the environment. She had a glow and a kindness that can not be described. She was older and you could tell had a wonderful Godly maturity about her. As she introduced herself to the group, she described herself as rather boring. She said she lived in the same place all her life. She later said she always hoped that maybe she could be the charismatic one, but all she could seem to convey was boring contentment. I told her to me she seemed anything but boring. Like I said, she radiated the joy of Christ.

I once read a book by Brother Lawrence. It talked about having a close relationship with Christ even in the midst of the mundane. He talked about conversing with God as he did the dishes. This struck me right to the heart. So much of my life is filled with the mundane. I spend hours cleaning, picking up, organizing. But I have found such extreme joy in doing these things, and I love being able to converse with my God. I love serving my family! I love creating a home!

While traveling is temporarily off the radar, I am realizing that it is very important for us to have a home base. We need a place for winter/summer clothes, extra food…a place to spread out…a place to come home to. So I am doing my best to create that little sanctuary for us.

But I do know that God has called us to travel. I just don’t know exactly when that will be. For now, I am creating a place called home.

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A JoKars Tale

Well, we finally got some pictures up of our journey from Ohio to Oregon. My wonderful photographer, Michaela, took almost 400 pictures…mostly of the scenery. So after much editing, we narrowed it down to 70 or so, and made a video for your viewing pleasure.

At first in making it we thought we wouldn’t be able to create it because it had so many pictures, but the new Muvee Reveal allowed us to use that many…and many more if we wanted. But we thought we would spare you the endless landscape pictures! Michaela is a great photographer though, so it was hard to narrow it down.

Because Michaela was in a different vehicle than myself, Josiah, Kira, Hanna and Nehemiah, she didn’t get very many phots of us. But I hope you enjoy a glimpse of our trip from Ohio to Oregon….

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School, school, and more school…

Our philosophy in teaching our kids is to figure out what interests them and then give them the tools and skills to pursue those interests.

One of Josiah’s interests has been football. While in Ohio, Josiah played all that he was allowed to play and still be a homeschooler. The school district did not have very favorable guidelines for homeschoolers and sports. We could have driven a long way away for a homeschool football league, but just didn’t think his level of interest warranted it.

Here in Oregon, the rules are different. Josiah can play sports and not attend any public school classes if he so chooses. But after looking over the classes available to him, both he and Michaela decided they would like to take some classes. Josiah will be taking some science classes, and Michaela will be taking some fine arts classes. They will also be taking some physical ed classes.

All the rest of their schooling will continue to be done at home, but we are thrilled that they have this opportunity. It is not all that different than them taking classes through a co-op, except they will have to go every day.

We have had to spend the last week registering kids as Oregon homeschoolers, getting a physical, filling out paper work. Thankfully here in Oregon, school doesn’t start till after Labor Day, so I have a little time to get it all taken care of.

It has been a whirlwind of activity, and now Josiah will be playing in his first high school football scrimmage this Saturday!

As we enter this new schooling experience, another has ended. Joe graduated from the University of Phoenix two days ago. He now has a Bachelors in Management. I couldn’t be more proud of him!

I have already gotten back into schooling the younger ones and will go full throttle very soon with everyone. Petra, who technically starts kindergarten this fall, completed her kindergarten handwriting/reading book today. She is very eager to do all she can. Tonight I will be getting together with other homeschoolers in the area for a mom’s night out. I am very excited to be meeting some other people.

Well, I think that “sums” up all the schooling stuff for now. Happy learnin’…

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Mere Words Won’t Do

Originally published on The Testing of My Faith.

In case you haven’t heard, JoKars Wild is now located in Central Oregon.

Elijah

When we left Ohio, I didn’t know what to expect. I fully expected to live in our travel trailer for at least a year. I didn’t know how or where. I figured if anything we would live in Walmart parking lots and taking showers at the YMCA. I didn’t know that as much as we wanted to be here, here wanted us.

When I went through our belongings, I kept saying, “God can give me these things again.” I gave away some glass bowls (since glass is rather heavy and breakable for RV living) that we had gotten for our wedding, and said, “God, give me these things again.” I ended up throwing away a ton of food that was all opened and wouldn’t fit into our trailer. I said, “God will provide.” I got rid of a vacuum, pie plates, cake pans, glass storage containers, tons of clothes, and so much more you could not even fathom. A lot was easy to part with, but some was not.

So then, to come here to Oregon, and be told we can stay in a house for as long as we wish…what a shock! I was prepared for RV living…not house living. But God knew what we needed. We have a couple of beds, a couch, a dining room table and chairs, and a couple other chairs. And the kitchen has a few various items…Like a pie plate, 3 cake pans, cookie sheets, and the same bowls I gave up…just in a cooler color! LOL It blows my mind away. And yesterday, I was given a bunch of food! Again, humbled. And a friend has given us some clothes and is going to give some more. And I bought a vacuum for only $18 and it is totally awesome!

Another thing that is awesome, is that I haven’t really asked for these things…God has supplied them even before I knew I needed them. God really does supply our every need. It really is mind-boggling and my words just are not doing justice to the greatness of God.

I can not express in words how amazing this all has been. I gave up things not really thinking I would get some of those items “back” so soon. I figured way down the road if at all. I also realize how blessed I am to have a house when I have 8 kids to feed. I wish you could see all that I lost…and all that I have gained! And what I have gained is SO much MORE than what I gave up.

We hear preachers talk about trusting in God. We sing songs about living by faith. We need to walk it out. You will not be disappointed! God does provide. God is so much more than we have ever in our wildest dreams imagined. But don’t take my word on it, test Him. Just see if He doesn’t knock your socks off!

(Thanks, Angela for the inspiration for today’s blog. And, FYI, don’t brown meat and type a passionate, tear inducing blog at the same time…you WILL burn the meat.)

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2 Weeks in Oregon

We have now been in Oregon for two weeks and God has done some amazing and crazy things. We now live in a house in area I never thought I would live in. And I am totally loving living in Central Oregon. Joe is helping out his father and uncle with odd jobs…and the kids can be a part of it! Joe took on a volunteer job coaching 6th grade football. Today, Joe got a call that they are interested in hiring him to be the 7th grade football coach…a paid position!

Michaela was a part of a week-long theater camp with the Missoula Children’s Theatre. She played Queen Guinevere and did an amazing job!

Josiah got to go hunting…and I mean some real, nitty-gritty hunting. He, Joe and Joe’s uncle hiked over hundreds of acres of brush and grassland looking for feral hogs. They saw lots of tracks and heard noises, but didn’t see any. But that just means they get to go out again!

And one other thing has been happening…

I haven’t shared this online yet, but one of the reasons we wanted to come to Central Oregon is because of a church plant we were aware of. Some friends of ours, that I have known for 21 years now, had posted about a church plant in Redmond, OR on Facebook several months back. This was at the same time that we were talking about coming here and seeing if we could help Joe’s dad out. Both of us were rather excited about the possibility, but didn’t want to jump into anything. So we just committed to praying for the church.

As for our mad dash across the country, one of the things we were trying to make was a BBQ they had planned. Unfortunately, we were too tired, hungry and dirty by the time we got to Oregon that Sunday morning. But, yesterday, we did make it to church. (The church, which is still very young, only meets every other Sunday right now.)

We also got to hang out with our friends for the rest of the afternoon, and I am sure over-stayed our welcome by not leaving until 7! LOL But I think a lot of good came from our meeting. Joe and I were worried that we would be viewed as the young, inexperienced couple they once knew. But they didn’t treat us that way at all…we sure fooled them. 😉

One thing that really blessed Joe is that the pastor (our friend) asked if Joe would be willing to be a part of the preaching team. Joe was so humbled and honored by the invitation!

It was an amazing day. We are still in prayer as to what God is calling us to do and don’t think we will ever stop!

We are praying for more income opportunities and for a place to live closer to Prineville/Redmond. I am continually amazed at the greatness and blessings of God. It is such a humbling experience.

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The Coupon Queen is Back!

Oh, I know I should be blogging about the changes and decisions being made at JoKars Wild, or about the kids activities like theater camp and feral hog hunting. But I’m not going to…yet. I am going to talk about me!

Only a very few people who read my blog know this little secret about me…I am very frugal. And not only that I have some strong opinions about spending money. Did you know that if you get 40% off on an item you don’t actually save money, but spend it? I know crazy! Only if you actually needed the item and you got the item for cheaper than you could normally find it…then you might have saved money! For example, you go to a department store. Wow, coats are 60% off. What was $100 is now only $40! You buy two. You didn’t need two, but maybe down the road you might or maybe you could give one away. You go home and boast to your husband that you just saved $120. He asks how much you spent. You reply only $80! But wait, you could have not bought either or you could have gone to Goodwill and gotten one for $7. So don’t kid yourself…you saved nothing!

OK, I just totally went off course…back to me!

When we lived in Oregon before, I was a coupon and food shopping queen! Our budget for a family of five was $150, I think. That included food and household supplies. I doubled, tripled, and rebated my way through the grocery isles. Upon moving to Ohio, I did the same thing at first. But…I couldn’t find stores that doubled or tripled. Rebates were usually only for stuff I didn’t need. Also, as part of my money-saving strategy, I used coupons for items that were already on sale. And I knew when items were on sale because I had a price book. But in Ohio, the items that went on sale were not items I would buy. And the coupons were for things I wouldn’t buy. I hardly ever saw flour or sugar on sale, and never a coupon for them! No, it was always some microwave meal or sugar laden kids food. But mostly it was for non-food items. With my price book, I soon discovered that Aldi was about 1/4 the cost of the other stores..and no coupons! So I gave up clipping coupons in Ohio. I tried a few times over the years, but every time wielded the same result…it was cheaper to just shop at Aldi. The time invested versus the savings gained was not worth it.

Now I am not saying it isn’t right for anyone in Ohio. It just wasn’t right for us. We didn’t buy a lot of pre-made food or name brands.  Two years ago, my food budget was $400 for our family of 9(with household stuff). Since then, we have been on food stamps, so I have been less concerned with a budget. I would say that without my really thinking about it, it averages around $700 now (without household stuff).

Since I can’t get diapers and toilet paper on food stamps, I am trying to be a little more creative in how to get these items here in Oregon. With the coupons, I can get some of these items for free. For example, yesterday I went to a store that if I bought 10 of a certain food item, it gave me $10 off on a future purchase. So I bought the 10 items on the food stamps card and next time I go, I will buy diapers and paper towels using the coupon…essentially costing me nothing.

It is my belief that as a wife and homemaker is it my responsibility to save my family money. Since I am able to be home, I choose to spend some of my time planning out ways to bless my family. I was given some fresh apricots and raspberries last week. With them, I made apricot pie (although it didn’t turn out very well), fruit leather, and froze some of the raspberries for future use. It would be irresponsible of me to let them go to waste. I want to be a good steward of what God has given me.

So what are some ways that you help your family save money? Do you have any tips for me? I love hearing how others use their time and resources wisely. And please remember, it does not bless your family if you save hundreds of dollars and then lord it over them or make them feel like they are not contributing. It is supposed to be a blessing…not a curse.

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One Week in Oregon

We have been in Oregon  for one week as of Sunday. It has been hard for me to adjust to the time change. Nehemiah wakes up at the crack of dawn if not before. I have been slowly trying to adjust his sleeping schedule, but it is a slow process. I think most everyone else has adjusted but the two of us.

There have been other adjustments as well. The dry desert climate of Central Oregon takes some getting used to. The kids were quite shocked at how cold it was in the morning. I thought, “What a relief from the humid summer we were having in Ohio.” Also, we have had our fair share of bloody noses.

Joe and the older kids are working on cleaning up Grandpa Howard’s yard and home. I have been working on cleaning our trailer and on setting up house.

We are living in a 3 bedroom house in Madras, Oregon for the time being. We have not ruled out trailer life, but some adjustments need to be made on the trailer. We discovered a leak in the water line. Also, the floor has become increasingly unstable. Disheartening news. We are hoping to save some money to do the work needed on it.

I learned a valuable lesson on our trip…never leave raw meat in the freezer while traveling. I had hamburger patties in our freezer which thawed and made a bloody mess all over the fridge and kitchen floor. What a stinky mess!

We are in earnest prayer as to where God wants us to go and what to do…as we should be at all times. We want so much to do the will of God. I am continually amazed at His provision and care for our family. We are completely undeserving.

May you seek God with all your heart…

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Final Day, But the Beginning

We woke bright and early Sunday morning to another beautiful day with the smell of pine in the air. It was very brisk out and Joe and Azariah, who were asleep in the truck without blankets, were very cold. Josiah and Elijah were in the car, but I had made them get blankets the night before. We were on the road by 6 cruising along the beautiful eastern mountains of Oregon.

I have to admit I was very scared as we descended those hills toward Central Oregon. I kept repeating to myself. “I trust You. I trust You.” We had used up everything we had. We had used the kid’s money for some of the gas, antifreeze, and food. We had used our debit card hoping it wouldn’t be rejected. We had no idea where we were going or what we were going to do. We figured we would boondock at Walmart that night.

As we came down the last hill toward Prineville, Joe called me on the cell. He said how about we stop at the parent’s on the way to Redmond. (What was in Redmond? Walmart and also some friends we thought of stopping and seeing.) So we headed to the first parent on the way…Joe’s dad.

At Joe’s dad’s house, his uncle (who lives with him) and dad were getting ready to go have breakfast and invited us along. Azariah enthusiastically said yes and exclaimed, “We haven’t eaten for four days!”

Because we had very limited funds and were unable to stop, our food for the trip consisted of bagels, chips, popcorn, dry cereal, and jerky. By the time we rolled into Prineville at 10, we had a very hungry crew.

During breakfast Joe’s uncle shared about how he had a house that we was trying to sell but because of the economy it was just sitting empty right now. He and Joe’s dad also needed some work done. His dad is trying to clean up his house to get it ready to sell. Also, the house we are in needs a little TLC. They wondered if we could make a trade. We help them and in turn we get a house.

After talking it over, we decided we would take them up on the offer. We don’t know how long we will be here. We set out on this journey saying we would be the hands and feet of Jesus. Well, we are very much needed here, and we will stay as long as we are needed.

I am still amazed how everything worked out. By the end of the day, Joe’s mom gave us food, we were given some cash, and we had a partially furnished house to sleep in.

This house is amazing! The water works so well! And no rust!!! I have an enormous kitchen with the largest oven and fridge! I am flabbergasted!

The kids are also loving it for the most part. Michaela misses her friends, but she does really like the area. Joe, Josiah, Michaela, Elijah, and Azariah are all working over at Joe’s dad’s on the house and yard. That was one thing we really wanted…the ability to work together as a family.

Some have asked whether the adventure is over. No, I don’t think so. We still have plans to go to the coast in the trailer and to Washington. But for now, we are here where we are needed.

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Day 4 (July 31st)

Saturday, July 31st, we headed out from the truck stop/gas station in Point of Rocks, Wyoming very early in the morning. Again we made good time. We spent the morning playing catch up to Joe since I stopped at a Walmart to get us some much needed drinks and food. Because of the nature of the terrain, I only let Josiah drive for a little bit of Wyoming and Idaho. This pass through the mountains is the easiest I know of (which is one of the main reasons we chose this route).

For our entire trip the weather was fantastic. The most rain we had was a few minor sprinkles. We could see storms in the distance but none came to us. We cruised through the rest of Wyoming, Utah, and into Idaho. In Idaho, I decided to pass Joe so that I would have enough time to nurse Nehemiah when he was ready. Josiah and I decided we would drive as long as Nehemiah let us. He was happy through the whole state, so we stopped in Ontario, Oregon. Also, we thought we would get some more drinks for the last leg of our journey. Ontario is kind of confusing, but eventually we found a Walmart. It was difficult to tell Joe where to meet us, but eventually he found us.

From here out in our journey, we had to drive on US 26 which is not a freeway and only has less than half a dozen towns on it. Joe was at half a tank and I at three-quarters. When leaving Walmart we knew we needed two things, to make sure we found the right way through Ontario and gas. We found the right way although that wasn’t easy, but we didn’t find gas. We thought we would just get some in the next town. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon.

So on we drove through the beautiful farmland and hills of eastern Oregon. Finally we got to a town that had a gas station. Unfortunately it recently had a fire and was under reconstruction…no gas. Joe pulled out and his gas light came on. So Joe decided to park at the Brogan city park. The nearest gas stations were 26 miles back or 43 miles forward. We decided to head back. So back I went to Vale. I had $40 for gas for my car, a gas can, and gas in the can. In Oregon, you can not pump your own gas, so I told the attendant what I needed. He went and found a 5 gallon can, filled it up and my car all for only $35. He gave the can for free!

At around 7:30, I made it back to Joe and the other kids. We put the gas in and hoped to make it to the next town with gas which was Unity. After traveling over steep hills and curves, we made it to Unity, but the gas station was closed. To have them open it up would cost $20. I went into a local bar, and the only place open, to ask how far the nearest gas station was that would be open. One local informed me that this was the #@?! part about Oregon. After being told we would have to go 51 miles to John Day, a man said he might be able to help. He told us to drive down a little ways and meet him there. I went back to the gang and showed them the way. Joe maneuvered the trailer and truck into a very tight spot and was given (for FREE!!!) 10 gallons of gas…enough to get us to John Day.

It was now getting dark. We had gained an hour with the time zone change and were exhausted. I had driven almost the whole day due to rough terrain and construction. And Joe of course was the only driver for his vehicle. Honestly, I don’t know how he does it. As we drove into the mountains, it was getting dark, dark, dark and I was getting tired, tired, tired. Even my energy reserves (licorice and 5-hour energy drinks) weren’t cutting it.

We decided to park along the road, but needed to find a cell signal so that Joe could do his daily schoolwork. Just when I didn’t think I could drive any further, we found a nice wide pull out area that had a signal.

Through the grace of God, we made it to one of the most beautiful places in the world. We rested underneath the stars in the Malheur National Forest.

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Day 3 (Friday, July 30th)

We have been living on faith for quite a while. Yeah, sometimes we make choices based not on faith but on fear. But for the most part, we have tried very hard to live each day as God would have us live. We set out from Ohio on faith that God would get us to where He wants. Yes, we had a plan of getting to Oregon by noon on Saturday, but we KNOW God is in control. And we are thrilled that he is! We are not omnipotent. We make plans based on the knowledge we have, but if our plans change that just means God knows something we don’t! LOL

Today (Friday the 30th), we were making great time across the states. We had a fantastic night’s sleep in eastern Nebraska, and were on the road by 7 am. We were trying to make a curving pass in Utah before nightfall. Josiah and I were well rested and driving ahead of Papa Joe’s crew. We were trying to find a place to get food with the EBT (foodstamps), and decided to give Buford, WY a try. They didn’t, but they are great capitalists! Joe caught up with my gang while we were there. We headed back out together onto the interstate. As Joe was going up the on ramp, steam came pouring out of the truck. Josiah quickly pulled behind him. After seeing all of the antifreeze on the ground, we tried to back down the ramp. A patrol man came behind me and wouldn’t allow us to do that though. We sent Josiah to walk back to the store for antifreeze. After a few minutes of sitting in the vehicles, the officer told us that we could use an emergency turn around just up the road. So I went and picked up Josiah, and he bought antifreeze while I got some water from the restroom. It cost him $20 for diluted antifreeze! We headed back to the truck. Joe tried to fix the sprung hose which was the result of a half broken connector piece. We put all the liquid in and headed back on the road. After only a few miles, again steam and liquid poured forth from the truck. This time the other side of the connector was busted.

We decided my crew would drive to Laramie which was 20 miles ahead and get the part and more antifreeze. Off we went, leaving Joe who was quite frustrated and the other kids on the side of the interstate in the truck. When I pulled away, Petra went into hysterical laughter which made all of them break into laughing. I think this must have broken some tension because when I got back with the $3 part they were all laughing and enjoying the “rollercoaster” otherwise known as large trucks driving by.

Joe quickly had the part put in and the truck up and running. We were on the road again.

Later that day, we stopped to get gas. Before pulling out Joe noticed he didn’t have any lights on the trailer, and it was dusk. After trying to fix the problem, we decided to park and call it a night. We were at Point of Rocks, WY.

Some might say that God has shown us favor on this trip. I disagree. I think God wants to show favor to all those who are co-heirs with Christ all the time. Sometimes though, we live lives that leave no room for God to show His love. This trip has left lots of opportunities for God to show His love and mercy to us. When Joe broke down the second time, he had plenty of room to pull off the freeway. Another half a mile (which he couldn’t see) was one lane construction and the highest elevation of our trip 8600 feet. It could have been far worse for his hose to come off just around the corner.

We did have a plan of Joe attending his 20 year high school reunion, but God had other plans. We gladly step aside and let him lead.

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