Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give Thanks

Many people like to take time in November to think of all the things they are thankful for. I was challenged to write down something I was thankful for every day this month. I don't have a problem with being thankful, but I do have a problem coming up with just one thing a day. I tend to think in clusters. So I decided to work up my short list of things I am thankful for. :)

I am thankful for:

God, who is all. A child can grasp "Jesus Loves Me" yet the scholar can spend a lifetime probing the heights of God and still not fathom all that He is.
God, who has a strange sense of humor! How else could He take a child from RUSSIA, half way around the world from NY, and put her in our home and have her be JUST like me???
God, who comforts us when we mourn, smiles in satisfaction when we are happy, delights to bless us
Jehovah Jirah, the God who provides, often "exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or imagine" (paraphrase of Eph 3:20)
El Roi, the God who sees our needs and is working to meet those needs often even before we recognize them
Elohim, the God who creates amazing, beautiful, original artwork all around us every day
Jehovah Shalom, the God of peace, who brings us peace even in the midst of chaos
Jehovah Roi, the shepherd God who leads us, guides us, tends to us
Jehovah Mekeddeshem, the God who draws us on to higher living, brings us to where we can learn more of Himself
Jehovah Rapha, the healer God who has brought me to a place where I can be healthy

Rodney, who knows how to dream
- who remains faithful in a world where faithfulness is the exception, not the rule
- who desires to honor God with his life
- who still makes me laugh
Our kids - it is such a priviledge to grow with them and learn from them
Andrei, who is so tender hearted, thoughtful and caring
Oksana, who overflows with joy and exhuberance for life
Sergei, powerful in body, he is gentle and caring with the weak and unable

My mom and dad, who lovingly realeased us to move to Alaska, even when it really hurt them to do so
Awesome relatives, brothers and sisters, inlaws and outlaws, nieces, nephews, cousins and all - we're sooooo blessed to have so many GREAT ones! They say you can't choose your relatives, but if I could, I'd choose the ones I have.
GREAT friends - we have been blessed "exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or imagine" with a multitude of AMAZING friends

Pastors - Uttley, so honest and gentle in his faith, he instilled in us the passion for missions
McNabb, FRIEND, neighbor, herdsman, shepherd, he showed us that the mission field was right outside our door
Beachy, a servant who truly carries the burdens of his flock

The priviledge of having loved and lost. For Milt and Eric, knowing that they are with their Lord and Savior who loves them even more than we ever could.

Alaska, the beautiful, wild, open, peaceful, AWESOME
Victory, where the community lives, grows and learns together
This house, peaceful, beautiful, warm

Email, Snail mail, Skype, Facebook, Blogs, Phones, Cell phones, they all keep me in touch with those I love

Cars, trucks, atv's, snowplows, airplanes, they bring the miles closer

Our ice road! It is beautiful (bubbles, cracks, color), great to drive right to the house, skate on. It is cool (literally and figuratively)!!!

Electricity & not having it - it makes me mindful of how much we depend on it and helps me discover that being without it frees me to enjoy simple things like:
Cheerful chick-a-dee-dee-dee's at my feeder and washing dishes by hand - there's something so peaceful about washing dishes by hand, hanging up laundry too

Carharts! Wool socks! Fleece lined jeans! FIREWOOD!

Sunshine! Beautiful, bright, cheerful SUNSHINE!

That the house in NY sold so quickly in a poor economy, for more than we asked! No more property taxes!!! No more money pit and endless projects!

Freshly ground peanut butter! Chocolate! Reeses! Sweet juicy peaches and tart juicy apples right off your own trees.

Moonlight. Mountains. Sunsets. COLOR!!!

A HEAT wave!!!! Indoor plumbing. TP

So there's the short list. I'm sure I could come up with a ton more, but I'm sure you get the picture by now! ;) Happy THANKSgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Sorry it has taken me so long to make another post! I had no idea it had been so long but people were calling wondering if we were still alive, so I figure I'd better let you all know that we're doing fine! We're just busy catching up after having the flu. I've been making quilts for the windows to help keep out some of the cold (literally and figuratively). I got one of the pieced ones done for the kitchen:

I couldn't find the backing for the second one so I had to wait until I got more. The day after I got more material, I found the other piece! Isn't that how it always goes? Anyway, I took a break from the pieced ones (I will NOT make it as a quilter!!!) to make some for the living room. I made two of them, but only took a picture of one:

Right now they are just sort of hanging there. I still need to make a way to roll them up and attach them to the window. They can come down though and just be used as quilts. The Sherrer kids used them that way when they were over the other day watching a video. They're nice to snuggle up under when you're just hanging out.

It has been good to have the window coverings. It has been coooooooold! We're making up for all that mild weather we had all fall! It is so pretty out though! Here's a picture from last week:

We had below zero temperatures for more than a week. Fortunately it has really warmed up and is a lot easier to manage. Rodney was really busy with freezing water lines in that below zero stuff. He hasn't had time to work on the water room/basement on the back of the house. They finally did get a day to work on that and made a lot of progress. Now that the temperatures have moderated, hopefully he'll be able to get it all done this coming week.

That leads me to the topic of this post. I've been waiting for the lake to freeze up so I could go out there and lay on the ice and look at the stars. I wanted to go out last week to see the meteor showers but it was too cold and with having had pneumonia I figured that probably wasn't too smart. Last night everything was finally right. I felt pretty good, it was a lot warmer out and it was nice and clear out. I got to lay out there for about 45 minutes watching the stars. They are AMAZING up here! They are so clear and bright and twinkly! It was a delightful time! I even got to see a number of shooting stars anyway! :) Oksana and I saw an AWESOME bright and long one on Friday on the way back from her violin lesson but it was still nice to lay out and just admire the stars!

Psalm 19:1-4 says: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." Wow! What poetry! Those stars were sure pouring forth speech last night!

I thought of all of you while I was out there. A friend of ours, Mr. Weaver, wrote to us, "We look up and say we see the same moon, sun and stars as you do only thousands of miles apart." I thought of each of you out there under the same stars as I was admiring. I figured ya'll were asleep though!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time to meet the camp staff!

I promised I'd start to introduce you to the camp staff a while back and haven't gotten there yet. Time to get started! We'll start with the Regier (first e is short, second is long and gets the emphasis) family, Nate, Maggie and Katie.
I hope I don't mess up all these details! I may need to save these posts and have Rodney fill in what I've messed up! Nate and Maggie came out of the same church in Kansas as the Theissens (we'll get to them later). They came up in the summer of 2004 to build the horse arena and then came back in 2005 to live. If it has a motor, Nate can fix it and/or operate it. If it can be cooked, Maggie can make it taste great! If it has 4 legs, Katie can speak it's language. That doesn't begin to describe them, but it does showcase their talents! Katie and Maggie also enjoy quilting and they've introduced me to some of the better second hand stores around. :) Nate is one of the hardest working individuals you'll ever have the pleasure to meet. They've all become very dear friends very quickly. Nate's primary responsibility at camp is the auto shop but he's equally handy at heating, plumbing and a lot of other things. Maggie runs the espresso machine in the gift shop when groups are in, bringing joy to many people on early mornings after late nights. ;) She and Katie do a lot of the cleaning of buildings between groups, a never ending job! Katie also does dishes with our kids for many of the weekend groups so the kids spend a lot of time with her. Her real calling though is working with the horses. She's a real natural.

The VanDaams are another family you'll hear a lot about. Below are Rod and Dianne with a bunch of their kids who currently live at home though even this is out-dated because Andrew has now moved out on his own:In front is Haley, middle row from left to right are Sam, Tasha, Dianne and Eli. In the back are Rod, Andrew and Robert. Tasha is a senior in high school and Robert a freshman, so our kids see them every day at school. The boys hang out with Robert quite a bit in addition to doing a lot of dishes together. Eli works at camp cleaning the main lodge. It's hard to characterize the entire family quickly. Rod is a riot! He's got such a sense of humor and can deliver the lines with such a straight face! He is the director of maintenance but has just recently decided to cut back to 4 days a week. He went through a number of health problems this past year and seems to have discovered that it wasn't so bad having a bit of time to himself. He, like Rodney and Earl, 'retired' to Victory after a career elsewhere first. Dianne feels like someone I've known my entire life. She's lived through a lot of the same things with her kids that we have with ours. She anticipates what the kids or I might need before we realize we'll need it. She's helped me settle into life here in more ways that I can enumerate.

Next are Earl and Elaine Anders. Earl is the camp electrician and boiler man who "retired" to camp after 30 years as a Mennonite pastor. He is a WEALTH of patience, wisdom and insight! Elaine is the receptionist and all around office person. Between Elaine and Sandy (we'll get to her later), there's not much that happens here in the camp offices that they don't do. Elaine has a tremendous amount of experience in EVERYTHING, having raised a family and been a pastor's wife for all those years. She's a delight to work with and get to know! They have a lot of family back in PA so they are leaving this weekend for a few months to visit family back there. They will definitely be missed! I was so glad I was able to stop over today for a minute and say goodbye to them before they leave for the winter.
The Sherrers required two pictures to get them all ;) Not really, but they weren't there the night I was taking pictures this fall so I grabbed some pictures of them that I took this summer when we visited. From left to right are Aluara (Oksana's friend), Molly, Carole, Clint, Tessa, Karina and Drew. Matt is talking to Rod in the second picture. Matt does grounds and propane at camp and also does the weekly camp run to town (which takes an entire day). He is currently working half time at camp while he trains to be a level 3? EMT. I think he'll become the camp nurse at that time. Carole home schools the kids. She's helped me with many things parent in settling in ;) She told me about the violin teacher and has helped connect me to the local natural food co-op in addition to helping us identify local flower and fauna and is just a joy to talk to. If you're looking for prayer items, Drew could really use prayer. He's got some health problems that have the doctors stumped at the moment. He's had problems in the past with his skull not growing fast enough for his brain (can't remember the name of it) but that was surgically repaired and they don't think it is the same problem this time, but a lot of the symptoms are the same. Anyway, he's been a rather sick kid lately and there don't seem to be any answers.

So there's the short list of just the families in maintenance! It's hard to characterize everyone quickly, but at least now you have a place to come when I talk about people to put faces with names (like when I was talking to my brother the other day and Clint, Karina and Alaura were playing in the background). I'm sure some of the stories will help flesh out these little blurbs! I hope ya'll can grow to love them as we have through the stories we share together.

It is WINTER!!!

So maybe ya'll would think it was already winter here, but without snow, it just didn't feel like it. NOW we have winter! :) Ain't it purty??? :) This is the first really good, big snow for the year. The valley (Palmer/Wasilla) was supposed to have gotten as much as 20" but I haven't heard if they really did or not. We sure didn't. We got just enough to make the ground white.
They plowed our lake yesterday so now we can drive across the lake to get to and from the house. This is the only time of year we can actually drive right to the house! First they went through with the chainsaw testing the ice periodically to make sure there was at least 9" of ice all the way. It just doesn't seem possible to me that there could already be 9" of ice! It has not felt like winter yet! But there must have been enough ice, because here's the proof:
While I was taking pictures, I figured I'd take a few of my little chickadees too :) They are so cute! There are at least 3 in this picture. I've drawn some crude arrows to help you find them. If you double click on the pictures, it will take you to a larger version.
I'm still working on getting over the flu. I got a bit of pneumonia to draw it out even more. Thankfully we were prepared for such an event though this means that I REALLY need to get the insurance figured out now. I think we have the makings of a plan. Now to check the details. We'll probably go with that NY plan which WILL cover hospitalization here, Andrei's psychiatric visits and all medications. Any annual visits we'll do when we are at home for a visit. That just leaves urgent care stuff which we'll just have to cover out of pocket and then submit to the insurance company and hope to get at least some of it back. Anyway, I suppose I ought to get to work a bit and try to catch up from being sick for more than a week! Rodney did bring the truck over for me this morning since I'm still not feeling well enough to take the ATV. It will be good to get out for a bit today!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And a third short one!

I just got an email that as of 3:58 EST today, our NY home is sold, papers recorded and $ in the bank!!! I can't begin to explain what a relief that is! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

One little unrelated problem. Health insurance. Even if we switch to the cruddy plan we used to have, there are STILL no "participating providers" within 100 miles of us in Alaska. Well, there are for physical therapy and mental health services, but that's it. No GPs or family docs or any other specialists for that matter. Guess I'll be off to do some creative brainstorming...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

And another quick one!

Mark this on your calendars! Two quick blog posts in a row!!! You KNOW that something must be wrong with me to have two short ones. Well, remember that "cold" a few posts back? It wasn't just a cold. It was probably the swine flu. I rarely get a fever. 99 is fever for me. Yesterday BEFORE things got really ugly it was 101. I've sweated more in the past few days than I did all summer. I'm hungry, but all I can stomach is dry toast, crackers, etc. What fun. I seem to be about a day behind Rodney. He was really bad the day before and he's up and around a lot better today. Oksana has had it all week too, but we just thought it was a cold so she went to school all week. I hate to think how many people we've passed it on to! Well, three down, two to go!

Rodney went out to get mail today for the first time in 3 days and we had a BOATLOAD of mail! Wait, make that an ATV load, we've put the boat up for the winter! There was a HUGE box from all of our friends in Middlesex FULL of all sorts of goodies, and better yet, NOTES from all sorts of people!!!! What a blessing that box was on a day when we were feeling as cruddy as all get out!!! Even Oksana commented that though the goodies were wonderful, even more wonderful were all the notes inside! She's certainly growing up! I couldn't agree more! Ethan even wrote a "Little Willie" poem! I'll have to initiate ya'll on "Little Willie" another day though because there's another migraine coming on. Not over this flu yet! I am feeling a ton better today than I did yesterday though, so I'm sure I'm on the mend! So a HUGE THANK YOU to all involved with putting together the box of goodies and all the notes inside! Oh yeah, and FIVE tubs of delicious, fresh ground peanut butter!!!!!! :) Oh, and with all the coughing we've been doing, those throat lozenges will come in VERY handy right now! As will the toasty socks, the cheery waxed fall leaves...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Really quick one! Honest!

Those of you who REALLY know Sergei will appreciate this! He has changed so much it is truly amazing! Sunday afternoon Rodney gave the boys three jobs he wanted done by the end of the week. MONDAY right after school Sergei roused Andrei out there to get to work. They finished the insulation, then Sergei pushed to do the second job (moving plywood inside the "shack" so it would stay dry) and then when Andrei was ready to come in the house, Sergei said he was going to split the wood too! Andrei decided he might as well stack as Sergei was splitting so they got all three jobs done on Monday, mostly because Sergei kept pushing to get it done.

Nate had been promising Sergei that he'd get him the pellet gun that camp keeps around to shoot squirrels that get into the buildings, making quite a mess. He finally found it and got it to Sergei this week so Sergei (after a few lectures on what he could or could not shoot) went out to do some hunting! Sergei trusted with a GUN???? Even if it is a pellet gun, it is still a gun! Well yes, you did read that here! It is true!

Last night Sergei wanted to go play basketball at the gym at camp, a good 15 min jog. Sergei had already been skating for about 2 hours with a friend so it wasn't like he NEEDED more exercise. Rodney let him take the four wheeler all by himself! Really! It happened! And he didn't even crash it!

Last, but certainly not least, Rodney bought Sergei his own chain saw! Honest! No joke! An honest to goodness, cutting chainsaw! It is lighter weight than Rodney's so it will be easier to handle and he'll have to wear the cutting chaps, helmet and goggles, but he's all set to cut! Yeah, SERGEI! Who'd have EVER thought it was possible that he'd turn into a responsible kid?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bits and pieces

Sorry I've taken so long to come up with another post! I sort of had writer's block! There's nothing BIG to post, so I just didn't quite know where to start. I finally started a list yesterday of things I wanted to post. I took it with me to town and filled in a few missing pieces so now I think I'm ready to type! I'll apologize right now for the scattered nature of it though. Since there's no big items, it is just a compiled list of bits and pieces of stuff. I know what I want to start doing once this is done, but also knew I needed another "update" first.

I guess we'll start with yesterday's town trip now that I've mentioned it. I found another violin teacher for Oksana! She used to play with an orchestra (well, she still does, just a small one now - she used to play with a big one) and teaches a lot of kids how to play. She and Oksana both have an up-side-down/backwards way of thinking so they PERFECTLY understand each other! Oksana is so happy to have someone challenge her and really help her to perfect her playing. That is a real answer to prayer! She so enjoyed playing with Mr. Rossi that I knew it would be hard to find a new teacher that she would like that would also really help her along in her playing.

As far as progress on the house, it is currently stalled a little bit while we wait for the parts to finish the water system (Matsu water ran out of tanks for the first time ever) and while Rodney learns from Earl the details of daily checks of buildings plus how to run and fix toyo stoves. Earl and Elaine leave in two weeks to spend a few months back in PA where they originally came from. Nate did get the holes backfilled and the lawn cleaned up as much as possible until everything froze. Now any yard work is on hold until spring. The boys just finished most of the insulating up in the crawl space. Just in time!

Again, since I've mentioned it, it has been COLD! It was 0 degrees farenheit yesterday! Ick! We've had a good week or more of temps below 20 at night so the lake is freezing up quickly! Rodney, Sergei and Katie went skating Sunday afternoon. We ought to be able to drive over it pretty soon at this rate! We are SOOOOOOOOOO thankful that the cold held out until we got all the cement work done!!! Praise God! Even I have to admit though that the ice is BEAUTIFUL! It is so pretty with the swirls in the ice out on the lake and the mountains are even more beautiful with snow on them! Silly me forgot the camera on the way to town yesterday!

We don't have much snow yet though. I'm sure it will come eventually! Actually, that isn't such a bad thing either. Rodney's ATV is a woos in the snow. We just got chains for it yesterday so that should help but it was quite a job to get out of here a few times! That hill behind the house is STEEP! Which also explains why most people up here drive trucks or Suburbans. FOUR WHEEL DRIVE! It is practically required up here unless you live in the city, and maybe even then! We may not have snow yet, but we DO have ICE! Lots of it!

Rodney did pick up two more ATVs Monday so we're a little more mobile than before. All of them need some minor tinkering to be ready to run as we need. Rodney's needed chains and some sort of different oil ? because it doesn't want to go into gear when it is cold. You need to warm that one up for at least 20 min before it will go. Mine needs a new clutch lever thingy? or something like that. Rodney says it works, but it is temperamental because it doesn't fit quite right. The third one needs brakes, but it is geared so low that you can still ride it without. I'm afraid I can't help much on man details right now! Rodney isn't here at the moment and neither is that third ATV. He took that one this morning because his takes so long to warm up. I DO know that mine is a Honda that came with enough spare parts (including a frame) to practically build another machine. I don't know about the third. I haven't even seen that one in daylight. Some friends are giving Sergei a snow machine (snow mobile in the rest of the world) but it too needs a little work. He's supposed to go help them put it back together at some point when they get back from "outside" (meaning the lower 48). Here's Rodney's Grizzly:
And my Honda. You can also see some of the yard cleanup in those pics. The platform in the Honda pic is the beginnings of the floor over the "basement/water plant" we just put in: Yes, winter is officially upon us! Rodney has been working hard at breaking a bone or two. Or three. We went to dinner at the Thiessens the other night and they had also invited the Gerwigs (who are giving Sergei the snow machine). Chuck Gerwig had quite the broken ankle story, starting with how he got it (a moose) to how it ended (8 mo pregnant wife, needing to get fire wood and finish building a house, since he had a "walking cast" he figured that meant he could walk on it). So Rodney has been trying to keep up with Chuch Gerwig. He took THREE bad falls on Sunday (ice skating and walking home from church) and Monday (stepped wrong off the ATV trailer). You'd think he'd be old enough to recognize the pointlessness of keeping up with the Joneses (or Gerwigs) by now!

I'm discovering why women quilt. I'm making "quilted" curtains for many of the windows to both keep heat in and to cheer up the windows. I foolishly decided to piece the kitchen ones like a quilt in order to utilize material that I had and really liked, but didn't have enough of. Sunday night I decided I HATED quilting. Monday morning when it was 0 degrees outside I decided that quilting was DEFINITELY more fun than being outside! Here you can see stage 1 of my "quilt". Now I'll cut this in vertical strips and offset them to make a patchwork quilt. I'd say this is the last time I do this, but the winter is long... It probably doesn't help that I have ANOTHER cold! Grrrrr!! It's like I've got to go check out all the new viruses in this new town. Sigh. Ah well! I feel better today than I did yesterday.

The wildlife is changing, but still entertaining. We haven't seen any moose in a while now, when we were seeing them almost every day. We are REALLY seeing the snowshoe hares now since they are white and there's hardly any snow on the ground! Silly hares! They really stood out when there was no snow, but I'm sure they'll be much happier when they fully blend into the background! I'm getting tons of chickadees to the bird feeder now. There's even one that flies across the lake to come to the feeder! I'm also starting to get a few different birds too, but I don't know what they all are yet. I got a bunch of different food yesterday so we hope to attract even more birds. I already had birds at the suet this morning within a half hour of putting it up! I can see most of my feeders from the kitchen sink so there's plenty of entertainment while doing the dishes!

The kids are doing well. Sergei and Oksana both had birthdays since my last post, so they are now 15 and 16 respectively. We've been using Skype to talk to my parents, sister, brother, etc and then Skype offered unlimited calling for $3 a month so the kids (especially Oksana) have made great use of that. They've really enjoyed talking to so many people. Oksana can't figure out what to say on the phone, but sit her down at the computer and she'll talk for hours! Just like her normal self!

The dogs are doing well too. Ellie hasn't disappeared in a while. Eider kept tricking her to get her bed (he'd bark to try to get her to jump up and see what was going on) but I just got the last parts to finish another one so now EVERYONE is happy! Ellie was on the new bed in this picture, but that was the last time. Just as when we had two different size beds in NY, Eider prefers the small one and Ellie prefers the big one. Silly dogs! Oh yeah, and Eider has the perverse distinction of being the first dog we've ever had to discover the freshest source of water in the house now that the lake is frozen. Ick! He used to go outside JUST to get a drink of water! Can't do that any more so he had to find another source! WHAT is wrong with a DISH???
On a slightly more somber note, camp said goodbye to Jim Raymond who up to that point had been with camp longer than anyone else on staff. He started coming to camp in the late 70s as a young teen with his family. He later worked at Li-Wa, Victory's sister camp in Fairbanks, and then came to Victory where he has been ever since. He has gone back to Portland, Oregon to help his aging parents and the church that has sponsored him all these years. Additionally, the pastor of Glacierview Bible, who has been there since its start 23 yrs ago, has felt the Lord leading him on to a new work. He will remain here until the summer, but will be moving on at that point. He too will be difficult to replace! It just reminds me again what an AMAZING community of people this is! We're so blessed to have been made so welcome so quickly! We're having a lot of fun getting to know everyone. Which leads me to the NEXT series of posts! I plan to introduce you all to all the names I keep mentioning! I figure it will help put faces with names and stories ;)

On a final note, we're looking forward to the house in NY closing, probably Monday of next week. While I'd LOVE to drag all our loved ones up here, I have no qualms about saying goodbye to that house. The new kitchen was beautiful but we were both just sooooooooo tired of all the work and $$$ that house sucked up! I confess though, I can't wait to see pictures of how it looks when they side it! It sounds like that is the first job on the new owner's adgenda. We always wanted to do that but did NOT want to see what our taxes would be like when that happened! Now we'll get to see it done but not have to pay for it!! Yeah!

Morning commute

Morning commute