Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thank God we're Home!

And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, 'They are my people';
and they will say, 'The LORD is my God.'"
Zechariah 13:9

On December 10, ten months and 13 days after our house burnt to the ground, the Dueck 6 moved back to 583 George Road, very tired, but very, very, thankful. While there is still work to be done (in the form of unpacking and setting up), and the effects of the fire still linger (and probably always will) we praise God that we are back in the country and living in a beautiful new home.

Having never built a house before, it has been up to others to comment that the speed at which everything has happened is truly amazing. From having no concept of a house design, to designing, building, choosing cabinets, fixtures and paints, to having everything completed (the trim is all up, the garage door openers in, you name it, its done!), God has led and guided us on every step of the journey. The results, as you can see below, are beyond what we ever could have imagined.

Back in May when we went "shopping" for kitchen cabinets we were completely ignorant of pretty much anything to do with kitchen design, and tired and cranky from life. God, and the helpful folks at Tri-Me Cabinets in Kleefeld, MB helped us come up with this.

We love to host people and are excited that our new kitchen dining room area is large enough to have many people help prepare food, and lots of counter space for potlucks. There is one furniture shop in Emo, and it is entitled Strictly Amish. They sell amazing (but not cheap!) quality solid wood furniture. We like wood furniture, and with the money from the insurance buyout purchased this new table set, as well as other pieces throughout the house. Dave Rempel is the owner, and he is a super gracious guy, being patient with us as we walked through the store multiple times without buying anything, allowing us to pay when our money came in when we actually made a decision, and he even borrowed us his 16ft covered trailer for our move! Our "fire blessings" will continue as these pieces will last for generations. (As a plug for Dave, if you live in Wpg, and are looking for quality furniture, you can check out their store on Regent Ave!)

With the living room, dining room and kitchen all connected, we look forward to being able to host many large groups. We are also very excited that there is NO carpet on the main floor, except in the guest bedroom, and that we don't get cold feet at all due to our infloor heating system. The main heat source for the house is a geothermal powered furnace, which new lines being tied into the old loops that were used for the previous house. We also are getting a wood stove this week, which will be for emergencies and ambiance only (and it won't be going at night!).

My Mom and Dad came down the first weekend we were here to listen to Lorianne and Caleb sing in the Emo Community Choir, and help get us set up. They had been here already in October staining and varnishing all the doors and much of the trim for the house. God has blessed us with great parents, and their support and wisdom, but mostly their daily prayers for our sanity and strength were a precious gift. Lois' Mom came for the same concert, and stayed in our guest bedroom on the left for a whole week while helping clean, sort through boxes, and set up the kitchen.

Putting in the guest room increased our main floor footage to 1256, and resulted in the upstairs being that much bigger as well. With there being no steps into the house, and a bathroom right next to the room, the house is "senior guest" friendly, and we expect that God will give us many opportunities to share his love in the coming years with people who stay in this room. There are still many things in our house (like the lamp and afghan) which are gifts given to us when we had nothing. We are thankful that we have had the chance to pass some things on to others in need in the past weeks and months, and we look forward to other opportunities to be generous as people have been generous with us.

As you can see, are kids are thrilled to be in our new house, and happy that mom had the time to make 6 new stockings to help us celebrate the Advent Season this year. We were blessed by people giving us their old Christmas decorations, and Lois was surprised to see that with our other garage sale and thrift store finds from the summer she had enough things to make the house look "Christmassy." I am thankful that Lois was willing to spend many hours while I was at work varnishing the banisters and spindles and newel posts (might be a new word for you - it was for us -newel posts are the larger posts between all the little spindles that support the banister). She never complained about going back to do the second and third coats, even when the Gerald the contractor kept giving her more trim to on top of all the railing stuff. God has blessed me with an amazing wife, and for that I am very thankful.

The "bonus room" (another of those great new building words) is almost 600 square feet of kid fun above the garage. It has a place for Stephen to do his crafts, room for mini-stick hockey at the back for Caleb and Joseph, and a great sectional coach which Lorianne loves to read in on Saturday mornings, and we all enjoy watching movies on.
This room will allow us to host all sorts of family and youth group events, and keeps all the noise above our garage rather than under our feet or over our heads. As you can tell it isn't all set up yet, but it has truly been a blessing already. The big size of the house in general means that the kids aren't always in our space, and we have even heard them say on a number of occasions "Hey, do you know where ______ is?" Again, we never imagined we would have a house this big, and are glad that the insurance money made it possible to build what we did.

The kids' bathroom, shower, and laundry room are to the right at the top of the stairs, and then all our bedrooms are down the hallway. Lorianne's room is the first on the left, I'm standing in front of our door, Stephen and Joseph share the room beside us, and Caleb gets the room on the right, which is the front peak of the house.

As you can see by the color of Lorianne's room, we let our kids pick their colors! The furniture in Lorianne's room was part of another of God's acts of grace, as he made it possible for us to get three 2nd hand solid wood furniture bedroom suites in one short trip to Winnipeg this past fall. Lorianne's room is the biggest of the kids, but she has to share her queen size bed for when guests come over. She still loves her cats, and even though we tried to convince her that girls usually outgrow pink when they hit their teen years (she turns 13 this Friday!), she still loves the color. She is growing into a talented young lady, and was given the opportunity to accompany the different classes at school for the Christmas concert last week. She did a great job, and we are thankful for the opportunities she has to use her music skills at school, at church, and at home, as she teaches Joseph and Stephen piano lessons.

Joseph turned 9 in November and still loves his Mustang cars and sports. He is playing hockey as a part of the "Saturday Morning" hockey program. It is the recreation version of hockey here in Emo, and takes place from 8-9 am once a week. Most kids here play 3 times a week, and go to tournaments in Dryden, Kenora, and Thunder Bay 2-4 times a season (even the 6 year olds!). That was to much of a commitment for us, and we are thankful that this new program started. He loves to skate, has learned to stop, and even scored a goal!

Stephen turned 7 last Sunday, and is still the life of the party, both at school and home. He loves to dance to music, has tons of friends, and is enjoying developing his new found artistic talents through drawing and making crafts. It was special setting up his bed in the new house because it is actually my old bed from when I was his age. We had borrowed it out to some friends so it survived the fire. It is amazing how grateful we are for every small item that was either in my office or borrowed out to someone which reminds us of our BF (before fire) life. And for those who are wondering, Stephen picked the orange color, and Joseph picked the blue!

Caleb shares his wacky bright room with Liz his orange bearded dragon (a lizard) and his drum set. (Mike Dick, our amazing drywall/painter friend said that all our kids were going to go crazy with all these bright colors - we told him it was too late!). He enjoys drumming, and has been asked to play in church. He faithfully helps fold bulletin at church, and enjoys going to the Cadets at the local Christian Reformed Church. He is a rock-solid dependable kid. He is collecting hockey cards and coins, and I enjoy that as well, as it allows me to help someone else collect things I used to collect. In the whole pile of rubble that was our old house, we actually found my old coin collection (much of which I had received from my Dad), and together we managed to salvage some for his collection.

Lois and I had always wanted a roll-top desk, and wouldn't you know it someone living 2 blocks from the parsonage had one for sale! It is her special housewarming gift, and it fits in great in our bedroom. We again have a balcony off our bedroom, which we pray will be just to enjoy the view of the forest and not be needed as a fire escape! The room is really big, but again those with experience (and with older teenagers!) say it will be something we will be thankful for in the years to come. We have a walk through closet which leads to our bathroom, which has my special housewarming gift in it, a heat lamp! With no basement in the house, our closet is kind of a storage room as well. We are thankful that we don't have a lot of places to store a lot of stuff (except the garage), and we pray that even with a big house we will be able to keep our stuff purchases to a minimum. Obviously the fire helped us downsize a lot, and we have prayed, and will keep praying for wisdom as we purchase things in the coming months and years.

So, that is our house - pretty crazy eh!? After leaving our small house on Oakland Avenue in Winnipeg in July of 2007, God has taken us through 2 1/2 years of non-stop transition, which included a 5 month road trip and 4 different huge moves after that. Today at church we received a note from a friend, and in it he wrote "Thank you so much for listening to the voice of God, which among other things brought you to Emo. Thank you for being faithful." God knew all that he had planned for us back when we left our great church and life in city for our Adventure with God trip. He brought us here, and has given us much joy in getting to know this great community, and sustained us in the trials that have come.

As a family, as a husband and wife team, we have so much to be thankful for. If in looking at these pictures of our house you in any way think that we are really smart designers or great interior decorators, we say - not a chance! God brought so many wonderful, helpful people into our lives this past year, and he has answered the prayers of many of you who couldn't be here to help, but could (and did!) pray. Among the many people who helped us, we would like to specifically thank the following:
  • Dan Mack, for taking us from our really, really, bad first house plan, and providing ideas and input together with his wife Elaine to create the functional and friendly layout we ended up with. Thanks also to Phil Whatley for teaching us about sunlight, angling the house, and drawing up dimensions so that we could see what would all fit on the main floor.
  • Gerald Wieringa, owner of Trueline Construction was our general contractor and helped us dream about what was actually possible to build with our insurance money. He was always smiling, was gracious in answering our many, many questions, and did excellent work. He ran a great crew who were quick to make changes as needed, and when we needed to get in, he put in the extra time to make sure the house was finished. He understood our financial situation, and helped us keep on budget.
  • Jack Wielinga was our electrician and Jon Hettinga did the plumbing and most of the heating. These two guys were incredibly knowledgeable, and did a great job of not making me feel stupid when I asked a lot of dumb questions. Because this is a small town, and they go to the same church as Gerald, there were some pretty funny moments between them as they worked together to build our home. We thank God for these guys, their humor, and the gracious way they treated us.
  • Finally, Emo doesn't have a Home Depot, and I am glad because then we wouldn't have met George and Jerry, two of Tompkin's Hardware's finest. Being able to stop in and talk to George about ordering a toilet, or picking out a baseboard trim or house siding while walking the dog in the morning or getting the mail over lunch was a really, really handy thing (though Caleb was getting fed up with me saying "I just have to stop in at Tompkins for a bit!). And the long process of picking out flooring was made easy by Jerry who had great suggestions, while letting us make decisions we could afford.
Building a house is a huge job, and we are thankful that in a sense, it was a whole community effort. The whole town was giving us advice and cheering us on, and many people in the community and even some from our church worked on it to make it happen. We don't take the credit, and ultimately, all the credit belongs to God who orchestrates all things for his glory. We praise him for keeping us as a family together, for the ultimate gift of love, the coming of Jesus Christ to earth to save people from their sins. That is what we celebrate at Christmas, and while being in our house is a huge bonus, it isn't necessary for us to know that God loves us.

One final note of praise and thanks. That bare piece of concrete in front of our house which will soon be an ice rink was once our old home. When it burned down, people warned us that dealing with insurance was going to be a brutal struggle, that it would take years, and that we would have to fight for everything we would get. Well last week, just 5 days after we moved in, Keith Knapp from North Country Adjusters in Fort Francis phoned and told me that I would receive my last payment, for over $70,000, that day. And we did. Surprised? In a sense we are, but on the other hand, not really, because God is an amazing God. Did I have to push to get some stuff done - yes. Did Keith do what he could to make sure we would get a fair and quick settlement - absolutely. Am I thankful that after only paying insurance to AVIVA Canada for about 6 months and for the amount of around $1000 they paid out over $400,000 to settle the claim - you bet! While my thanks goes out to Keith and the AVIVA people in Toronto, I give all the credit to God, who worked what many people (including I think if you asked him, Keith Knapp) would call a miracle.

I close with two promises that we know to be true, from a God who is gracious. If you don't know Him personally, He invites you through Jesus Christ to experience these promises and so much more as well.

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the LORD of hosts.
Zechariah 4:9

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,
to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

Monday, October 26, 2009

"So, when are you moving in?????"

I guess we should have known this would come, but the uniqueness of our situation (new pastor, well known around town, house burns down, entire district knows, etc) means that not only do family and friends know we are building a house, but the entire town does, and are excited for us to move in. And that means that when you go to the ice rink, the grocery store, the post office, church, school, or even Wal-mart (in Fort Francis!) people stop to ask you "So, when are you moving into your house?!" While we have tried our best not to focus in on a date, with things getting closer, excitement (and weariness) is building.

Life has continued in many other areas (summer holidays, Fall ministry start-up at church, kids back to school, Lois back on school parent council and praying for the school), it seems that the house project and the recovery of a "normal" life after the fire still takes up a large part of our day to day existence. So what has happened on the house? My apologies for not sending out pictures and updates - I just looked at the last half finished exterior picture I posted and feel bad that I haven't put anything else on the blog recently (I actually thought "Well, not much has changed on the outside, but it sure has in the last two months!). Here are a few pictures of what has been happening.

The new house at the top of the driveway. You know see our house as you drive up (Our old house was to the right). We hope to make the driveway wider and include a turn around at the top to make it more functional for hosting large groups.

The bonus room above the garage being framed in. We are very excited about this 24x24 room, as it will be the big rec room/youth room/sleepover room, and more. Since the house has no basement, this is the spot for the kids to hang out, especially when there are others adults visiting downstairs.

Spray foam on the interior walls. One of the reasons we chose Gerald as our contractor was that he has a spray foam system. This soya based product is used in place of pink insulation. It has twice the R-value, makes the house air tight and much more rigid, and is all around well recommended. The cost is higher (but it worked within our insurance budget) which is understandable since Richie (Gerald's son) had to walk around in a space suit squirting out this stuff out a long hose attached to a huge trailer. And precision is really important, since the foam expands by 200% in a couple of seconds! Lois has really stressed that she wanted a warm house, and currently, with one construction heater going in the house, it is already warm!

The house the past month. Basically this is what we saw when we came to the property for most of September and October. We tried to go there three times a week to clean up, and it is amazing what 6 people can get accomplished in an hour or two! We pay the kids to help, as it is a big job, and not terribly motivating when you don't see any big changes.

Tompkins Hardware taking the returns. While we have purchased light fixtures and doors "over" at Menards in International Falls, most of the material for the house has come from Tompkins Hardware, a Home Hardware store here on Front street. It has been quite a learning experience working with George (one of the sales guys) in picking out stuff, ordering things, finding out when I have to pick out bathtubs, decide on siding etc. The great thing is I can stop in there in the mornings (they open at 7:00 am) as Caleb and I walk Kelly around town, or pop by at lunch or whenever, since it is only 1 block from the house (which means it is two blocks from church!). They gladly refund or exchange stuff, drop things off when and where ever we want them, and even take back stuff that we don't use! They are a real asset to this community, and their kindness and willingness to work with building novice's like us has been a blessing. (The only downfall is they close at 5:30 like everything else in town except Cloverleaf Grocery Store and "The Village" -the local 7-11).

People have asked if we are doing any of the work on the actual house itself. For the most part the answer is no, except in the last three weeks we have been very busy with painting the porch trim, staining 600 square feet of pine tongue and groove boards with the kids, and working with professionals (aka, my Mom and Dad!) varnishing 20 doors and over 1400 linear feet of baseboards. It was a huge blessing to have my parents spend 4 solid days working with us on this massive project. Our friend Henry from church let us use his shop which was a huge gift from God as it was heated, and we could lay out all sorts of stuff all over the floor.

While there were some fun moments and good conversation, it ended up being more work than we thought, and very tiring. We put in a couple of 10 hour days between doing trim, doors, and the pine t&g with the kids, and could never have finished it without the many people from church who were praying for us. Lois knew we needed some motivation to keep us going, so we had booked a two night get away for the Dueck 6 to go to Bemidji (our new "Grand Forks" get away - only 2 1/2 hours away!) on the Sunday night, meaning we had to finish by Saturday. Well we "got er done" with many thanks to my parents, had a great get away time, and are looking forward to enjoying the doors in our new home.

Doors, painting, cleaning up, that is all pretty earth-focused stuff. Had we been dreaming about building our own home some day, you could say we are living the dream, but since God is the one who decided we needed to go through this process, the growing pains have been pretty severe at times. Trying to be "A family living to glorify God" when you are picking out siding colors, trying not to get angry at your kids for missing nails in the dirt, and dreading sitting down to make one more "decision" with your wife about anything is tough. Here is how Lois described our journey to the church during our Thanksgiving Celebration service a few weeks back.


Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

This is the verse that the banner outside our church is based on.

January 27 is the date of our house fire. The fire is over but the Refining Fires are still burning as we live our lives and do all that is required of us. A quote from a missionary that I can really appreciate at this time is “When I can’t praise God for what he has allowed, I can praise God for WHO HE IS IN WHAT HE HAS ALLOWED.”

Another quote from my journal which I took from a book called Secrets of the Secret Place describes refining fire situations and our life right now:

When the (refining) fire hits your life, you will know it. You will lose control, your pain level will skyrocket and your desperation for God will intensify. Your flesh will want to collapse and give up but since your spirit is alive to the beauties of Christ the fire will be used of God to drive you into the face of Christ, the fire will be used of God to help you run even harder and not give up. Your primary source of sanity in the midst of fire will be your secret place where the Spirit will sooth your tortured soul and the word will sustain your hope and faith.(p.140)

God has provided truth from his word through books, the Bible, and people to keep s focused on him and to refocus on him. He has provided in so man y ways. As we stumble along and often grumble, he lets us refocus. We need to continually go to him for help and strength.

Psalm 27:14 Wait on the Lord. Be of good courage and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait I say on the Lord.

Chronicles 20:12 We do not know what to do but our eyes are on you.

As we experience so many new situations and do not know what to do, we seek God and he provides wisdom in various ways – resources and people. He has provided wisdom with insurance dealings, designing and planning a house, how to balance life, what and when to buy things, what and how to serve and share with others…

Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit says the Lord. Zechariah 4:6

As we struggle with our fears and insecurities, as we have many weary and dark moments, we need to follow the advice of Isaiah 50:10. “Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God.”

God has healed us physically and is working on emotions and our spirits too. Our frailty and weaknesses have pushed us to rely on God more and appreciate the love and care we have received from so many.

We would not be where we are today without God and the people he has sent our way.

“Because He lives, we can face tomorrow.” God has allowed us to continue to serve in ministry and to live, and he shines through our frailty, brokenness, and humanness.

Psalm 32:8 God instructs us and teaches us in the way we should go and he guides us with his eye upon us.

Immanuel mean God with us and we are grateful for this truth. One day at a time, one decision at a time, one step at a time. He has helped us work together, love and care for one another, and forgive each other in the stressful, frustrating moments when we have lost it on each other.

As we experience the refining fires, we need to stay within the shadow of the cross always, or not survive in a God-honoring way!!

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 40:2 He drew us up out from the pit of destruction and set my feet upon a rock making my steps secure.

The banner, “Give thanks to the Lord”, which hangs outside our church right now, hung at our Open House about a year ago at 583 George Rd. By God’s grace, it will hand again at our new house at 583 George Rd in December for another Open House.

So where are we at today? After a good day of school for the kids, a full day of shopping for Lois and I (10 stores, two countries, almost another $1000 spent), Lois headed off to art class and Stephen, Joe and I walked with Lorianne and Caleb to their Community Choir practice. I played tag with the youngest two, and a board game, and they went to bed. Lorianne and Caleb came home laughing and happy like they always do after choir, and Lois enjoyed her three hours of painting.

And the house? Well, the siding is coming on (and notice the nice white porch posts!) and the garage is finished and we are starting to put up some shelves in there. Mike the entertaining and incredibly skilled drywall guy is finished inside and will begin painting this week. We are praying for Gerald who was hoping to put a big push on the interior floors, trim, and cabinets in a couple of weeks but is now at home recovering from breaking three ribs in a fall. We pray for patience for him (he really wants to work!), and for us, as this will delay things for as long as God wants them delayed.

One final picture to share with you. We had a nice sunny day a few Sundays back and through the generosity of Dave Goodman who not only is a friend who attends CBC and owns the local Artic Cat and Kia Dealership and Esso Station (small town businesses are very versatile!), he also is a pilot with a small two seater plane. This is what we saw when we flew over our the house portion of our 140 acre property.

Crazy, isn't it?! My first thought as I flew over is that our friends in Wpg and other cities just won't believe it (and we have another 3/4 mile of bush to the left that you can't even see!). Truly it is a beautiful location, with a sliding hill off to the right, and miles of hiking trails and hunting spots. And it is going to be a beautiful house, with a great basketball court/ice rink on the pad of the old house (you can see it just in front). We do thank God for all that he has done in sustaining us, and what he will do in the coming months and years here as we seek to equip God's people here in Emo, and extend his kingdom.

Yet as I showed this picture to Lois and said "Would you have believed me if I told you five years ago we were going to have this amazing 2900 square foot house with a big porch in the middle of a forest?" what she said kind of sums up the reality of life - "No, but if you would have said that you would have to buy another house first, have it burn down, lose all your stuff, go through months of insurance dealings, spend days and weeks making decisions on house stuff . . . I would have told you I didn't want it."

God is refining us, thank you for praying, and please keep lifting us up before the One who loves us dearly and will help us finish this stage of the journey well.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

By Wisdom a House is built

Many of you have been asking, or probably if you haven't asked, are wondering "How is the house coming along?" A verse that we have on our fridge is "By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established." Prov 24:3 While the context here isn't of actually building a physical house, the verse has definitely applied to our current situation, as we have sought much wisdom from many people and leaned heavily on God to guide us through this process.

And how is the process going? Well, it has seemed quite slow to start, with many delays in waiting for the plans to be finished resulting in actually pouring of the foundation only happening in mid July. Then there was further waits as our contractor Gerald (who is a great guy and being really helped us a great deal in planning the house) worked on a massive cottage project in the lake district north of here (it is amazing how many wealthy Americans spend obscene amounts of money on places they will spend about 2 months living in).

In the beginning of August they poured our porch, and then stamped it and colored it to make it look like slate rock. It really looks amazing. Here is how it works.

1. Sprinkle the color on the cement

2. Stamp the rock/rough look

3. Stamp the pattern of the bricks

4. Repeat all the way around the 1/2 the house!

The finished product looks really great, and we will put in a picture of that next time.

We also had fun putting our hand prints in the wet concrete, which is something none of us every thought we would do.

The most exciting part of the building project, is of course when you get to see walls. The framing crew arrived on Wednesday, and boy can they work fast!

Day 2 all interior walls up on main

Notice the stamped concrete in the front

Day 3 Main floor done and 2nd floor trusses up. This is how it looks as of today!

We are heading on vacation this week to see some of Lois' family in southern Ontario, so we will miss a lot of the changes that will happen in a week. But we are glad that things are progressing, that God has given us chances to learn patience, and for the many people who care enough to ask how things are going. (And of course the big question they all want to know is "When will you move in?" Answer "Hopefully before it gets really cold and snowy!")

God is good, we keep learning, the summer has been full of lots of other fun events like... celebrating my parent's 40th anniversary with everyone in Bemidji, MN, having our cat have 5 kittens, learning much through preaching "The Bible's Top 10" series, etc, helping with Vacation Bible School (thanks for the prayers, it went great!!), Caleb going to camp, going to Winnipeg, having guests over, and life just flies along.

We thank God for each day, and as the house goes up, we continue to remember that we have been saved by God, and for a reason.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Faith in a God who is Faithful

Faith is an important word at any time, but it needs to be clarified. Faith in what? Or better yet, faith in whom? In a world where we can't have faith that our jobs will be there in 10 years, where families who have pledged to be faithful to each other break apart at an alarming rate (even in the church), it becomes apparent that the things of this world truly cannot be where we put our faith in.

The above picture is of a Christmas ornament I made for Lois about 5 years ago. It survived the fire (as charcoal!) along with the 9 others I made her because they were in one of our M&M Christmas tins. It survived the fire (with damages) because it was protected. Our family has survived (and even at moments thrived) the fire because of the gift of faith in an amazingly faithful God. God has been our protection, holding our family, our marriage, and our home together. We are not without our damages, but we want to proclaim to the world that the house has been burnt, but the home is not destroyed, because of a mighty Savior who has chosen to show mercy to us. In moments of doubt and discouragement over the last few months, God has time and again shown himself to be kind, gentle, and faithful to the Dueck 6.

Family is truly a gift, and are thankful for supportive parents, siblings, and extended family who continue to pray for us and help as they can. Lois' mom came for Easter, and we all got dressed up to go to church. Our boys were blessed with about half a dozen suits from one boy in town who went to a lot of weddings over the years! I got some new clothes from my folks shopping in Phoenix, and I continue to ask Lois and Lorianne when they pull out some really nice clothes "Where did you get that outfit?" and the answer usually is "I have no idea!"

The kids received a lot of gifts after the fire, including these handmade sweaters from our only neighbour on George Rd (it was their house we were heading to the night of the fire). They all also received homemade blankets from people we had never met (both for summer and winter!), and lots and lots of toys. When we went "Garage Sale"ing in Winnipeg in May, there was a few times where we shared with people why we were buying so much stuff. Most were shocked that we had lost everything, and just loaded up the kids with all sorts of free stuff! They thought that was great, and have enjoyed the chances to buy things after hearing their parents say for years "You don't need anything." Lorianne was in Winnipeg this past weekend, and she ran into a friend from Princess Margaret School, who at her birthday party had asked friends to bring money for her. So Lorianne received $82 that her former school friends had collected for her - wow! God's grace through others.

Our kids have had lots of adventures in the past few months which have been kind of overshadowed by our house situation. Caleb and Lorianne were involved in the Donald Young School Suessical Musical back in February, and preformed 6 times to over 700 people. Caleb was the lead role of Horton the Elephant, a kind caring, and responsible soul who saves the tiny planet of the Who's. He was very suited for the role (he is kind, caring and very responsible), and did a fabulous job, singing over a dozen songs, including multiple solos. Lorianne was a dancing Bird Girl, and was her energetic and loud self, having a blast with her friends. I enjoyed being a "prop guy," meeting new people and serving behind the scenes.

Exciting news around here for our children has also been the arrival of our first ever kitten, Pebbles. One of Lorianne's cats had 4 kittens, but only one survived (which was a blessing, since we only wanted one!). We have learned lots and had lots of fun watching him grow up. We had to move our cats back to the property because they were being a nuisance in town (that was how Seashell ended up pregnant), but it gives us a good excuse to head out there often to hang out at the old place. Pebbles is actually Stephen's cat, and so he has a pet back. Joseph is thinking he might get a goat instead of a guinea pig, but Lois says she gets her chickens first! Both will have to wait till next year though, since we have enough going on this summer!

It seems that in all we do, the fire is not far from our thoughts or day-to-day reality. Lorianne was involved in a speech competition at school and she titled her speech "Facing your Fears" and shared about her life after the fire. The speech was truly moving, and I am humbled that God has gifted our girl with the ability to speak so well, and from the heart. She won for DYS, and went on to represent the school at the district championships in Fort Frances. If you want a refresher on what the fire was like for our family, and want to hear how Lorianne has wrestled with fears through the help of God and others, I encourage you to click on the link below and listen. It is about 4 1/2 minutes long. (We recorded her at home)

What Lois and I have been up to:
Two weeks ago, Lois and I celebrated our 16th anniversary, and I can honestly say I love my wife more today than I ever have. Truly God has protected our marriage in these last few months, and we thank those of you who have been praying for us. Dealing with thousands of dollars and making hundreds of decisions isn't something we are used to, but we still manage to smile most days as we plug along. Here are some of the things we have been up to:

We now own two vans that look almost identical. We had the old one parked with the seats out (its reverse still barely works) for a month but re-insurred it to take to Wpg as our "truck" for the Whyte Ridge Garage sale weekend in May (we did bring it back almost full!). We will keep it going until we are moved in in fall, and then see what happens.

Through the generosity of a logger friend from church, we have a place to sleep on the property - a bush shack! It sleeps four and our "truck" sleeps two, so we can all camp out in relative comfort. Right now the shack is sitting on our old house concrete pad, but when the building starts in a few weeks, we will move back into the bush, so that we can be away from the noise. The plan is to camp out there as much as we can this summer, so we can still get the benefits of the bush that we so love.

Lois was thankful to be able to hold the last of our kids Sunday School Class parties at the end of May. There were about 20 of us who went for a hike on our property to Humble Hill, which is about 1/2 mile from our driveway. It was a beautiful day, and we showed off God's creation, and had a competition to see who could get the most ticks - the winner had 13! The church continues to be a place of learning and growing. God used the book of Habakkuk to preach to me as I preached it to the church. The closing words of the book point to the truth that joy in the God of our salvation is possible, no matter how rough our finances our, how hard the relationships are, or how many decisions need to be made. Habakkuk lists all possibilities of financial ruin for his people, yet he still clings to his faithful God (very different than his response in Chp 1. Check it out for yourself.)

3:17Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.

How are the feet?

We still get asked about our feet periodically, and I respond by saying the kids are fine, and I am jogging again. In fact this past Saturday, my feet ran faster than they ever have before as I was running in the Willie Walleye 5k race in Baudette, Minnesota. Me and the boys took the 45 minute drive early Saturday morning, and they had a great time cheering me on and taking pictures. I told them my fastest time to date was 25:34, and that if I beat 25:00 we would all get slushees (sadly, there are no 7/11's around to by a slurpee!). Well, to their surprise and mine I actually ran the race in 24:34, which meant that we all got a drink and I also received a medal for being third place in my age bracket (middle age guys -30-39). It was a lot of fun, and I am thankful to be able to do something to keep myself in shape.

So what about the New House?

Well as I mentioned in an email, God wowed both the insurance adjuster and us back in April by having all four bids for our house come in with less than 6% difference. He said that was the closest bids he has seen in years! We will receive $265,000 to replace our house, which is amazing (but as we are discovering, very easy to spend!). We have chosen a local contractor named Gerald Wieringa who attends the local Christian Reformed church (actually most of the carpenters in town go the CRC- we have the loggers at CBC, they have the carpenters!), and he has been very helpful in helping us decide what kind of house we should build, and if we can afford what we want. Preliminary drawings were done up by a friend, and have been sent to the architect. While right now the house site looks like this:
(You can see the location of our new house in comparison to the concrete pad which was where the old house used to sit on)

When it is done it should look something like this.

While we are incredibly thankful to God that we will be able to build such an amazing house (we always liked the idea of a wrap around porch!), it has never been a dream of ours to build a house, and the amount of work involved has been trying at times. Lois and I have asked for advice from many people in this whole process, and it is amazing the different opinions you get when you ask how to build a house! We have looked at magazines, catalogues, and I have spent hours at Tompkins Hardware picking out windows and planning window sizes. We are learning patience (the plans were delayed by about 3 weeks, which I believe is God's way of saying "Just take it easy, this is going to be a long process - why don't you relax and trust in me right from the beginning), and look forward to seeing concrete poured, walls come up, and all the rest that comes with new house construction. And in regards to actually receiving $ to rebuild the house, God has again supplied, and we already have $190,000 in the bank waiting to be spent. As we have heard so many horror stories in regards to insurance, that in itself is a testimony to how God has worked on our behalf.

"You know who I work for" -The miracle settlement of our Contents

Of the three major things you have to do after a total loss house fire -list the entire contents of your house, redesign your old house to get an accurate amount for rebuild value, plan and design a new house - the one that has actually taken the most time so far has been listing our contents. After a few months of working with Barb from e-adjuster in Winnipeg, Lois and I by God's grace and with our minds still intact, completed a list of over 2500 items that were printed out in two booklets totaling 230 pages (You really can tell a lot about a person from what they own - we listed over 1200 books, and only about 30 DVDs!) Supposedly we listed twice as much as most people, which is mostly due to God bringing things to mind, and the fact that we had just moved twice and recently had handled much of the stuff as we set up house (even though were not yet finished unpacking all things).

Once we completed our list of items Barb and her amazing computer program put a replacement value to everything we last, as well as a depreciated value of the item based on age and the type of items. The replacement value is the amount of money they would give us if we actually went and replaced things, while the cash out payment would be made at the ACV (actual cash value) depreciated amount, which is on average 42% less. The big "fight" with insurance companies is always trying to get more than the ACV in a settlement process without having to provide receipts for everything, which is what you are required to do if you want to receive the RV and not the ACV.

Lois and I knew that we did not have the time or energy to replace all of our stuff and to match up every item on every bill with a numbered item on our contents list. Also it would have been almost physically impossible to spend $150,000 in the next couple of months, which is what we would have had to do to get our full RV. So we prayerfully looked at the list of items, and wrote a letter explaining our situation, and then asked for an extra $31,000 on top of the ACV that they were required to give us. I presented this request to our insurance adjuster Keith in Fort Francis, and he looked at it and said "I don't think it will work. You might get $6 -8,000 more, but that is it. They will let me know and we can talk." He submitted our request to AVIVA in Toronto, and said wait a month for the response. That was at the beginning of May.

On May 26, 2009 I went to Fort Francis to pick up the two cheques (house rebuild + contents), and was mentally gearing myself up for some serious negotiating. People were praying for me, and Lois and I had decided that even in the end we would take whatever they offered, because we were too tired to fight it. I got to my meeting, after visiting for a bit, Keith handed me the two cheques. To my amazement the contents' cheque was exactly (to the penny) of the ACV plus the extra we had asked for. I was stunned. "You mean they accepted my offer without any comments?" I asked. "Yes," Keith replied "and 99% of the time that does not happen." "Well," I said "you know who I work for!" To which he responded "Yes I do, and I guess He gets the credit."

How do we respond? God again, as with the house replacement value, has demonstrated his sovereign hand over the things of man. He has chosen to reveal his power, even though my faith had not believed it possible (at least not to such an overwhelming extent). God has glorified himself before many people, and we have benefited from his grace. Our bank account has more money in it than it ever has before, and we can throw away the hundreds of receipts we have been saving (yeah!) for months, because we don't have to spend hours trying to match them up. We are free to buy what we want when we want, and to use God's money to equip his people and extend his kingdom however he leads us. We are humbled, and thankful, and rejoice.

Lois has been reminded recently of a verse in Zechariah 4:6 "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts". That has been so true in our case. God and his Spirit have worked on our behalf. We have not had the might or the power to accomplish things. We have done what we could (He provided the strength for this too) and have committed it to His care. Time and again God has blessed us beyond what we deserve, and we know it is because He desires to glorify Himself to the watching world in our lives, and because He delights in answering the prayers of his people. We have had many opportunities to share about His goodness, and what it means to trust God in times of suffering, and we know there will be more to experience and more to share in the weeks and months ahead. The Adventure with God really never ends. Let's continue on the Adventure together - Go with God, He is good always and life is never boring as you follow His lead!!!!

Please pray for the following adventures this summer:
-Celebrating Conrad's parents 40th anniversary at cabins with the whole family in July
-Building a house and making decisions (The "plan" is to have the house finished by mid October)
-Lois and Lorianne helping with the local DVBS program in the preschool area. Lois is the Preschool Director and wanting to mentor Lorianne and other youth in using their gifts to serve God. This is all new territory. We will need God's wisdom and strength. "When I am weak, he is strong" "God in me the hope of glory"
-Using time, money, and energy wisely and in a way that honors God and keeps our home balanced.

Thanks so much for joining us on our journey!