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.