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