Being Thankful (November 27)

Days passed at a curious pace. I had unexpectedly encountered a seasonal job, with a company called Wreaths Across America, in which I would be working as a customer service representative assisting the Locations and Logistics department. I wasn’t exactly sure why I was led to go to work during such a busy time for our family – until, on my first day, my boss Julie said to me, “I have just been praying and praying for someone for this season. It’s hard to find seasonal staff, and last year, the person I hired quit after just a week.” And so I knew that, among other things, the Lord was using me, very simply, to answer a prayer, and I was certainly glad to be useful! So, in the mornings, we would get up around 5, have coffee, and get ready for the day. We would try to get to the house and start the fire in the woodstove around 7:00, so it would be warm for everyone to come back and work. Then it was off to the office by 8:00, where I would work at a fast pace at a variety of support tasks like phone calls, email, online chat, stuffing envelopes, data entry, straight through lunch, until 4:00, while Joe and the kids worked all day at the house. After work, we would head to the house for another hour or so of work all together on the homesite, or sometimes run necessary errands like grocery-shopping or laundry, and then head back to the motel for dinner and showers and settling down for the evening. 

Saturday was a full work-day at the house, and Sunday was no longer a day of rest, as we continued to work diligently toward moving into our home. We figured that we would move in once we had completed: 1) insulation and plastic sheeting, 2) painting the floor, 3) a toilet, and 4) a shower, and so we worked steadily each day at the tasks that would make these things possible.

The interior work was straightforward, just a matter of putting in the time and effort, but for the toilet and shower, there were quite a few things to figure out, including the septic, the electric, and the well…

The septic was fine, once we figured out where it was. We dug it out, had someone come pump it and inspect it, and it was good to go.

The electric started out simple, with a survey from the electric company, who advised that the poles were in good shape, and we just needed to have an electrician come install a box and a grounding block. We would also need to clear a path 2 feet on each side of the length of the line for the crew to come out and turn it on, and so we set about clearing the land amidst our other activities. 

In the meantime, we hooked our well-pump up to a generator and tried to run it. It did pump water, but it cycled on and off continuously, so something was wrong. We pulled the pump and looked at it, and Joe began to research and learn and pray. We discovered that our well was about 100 ft deep, and the water level began at about 20 ft. This is a pretty shallow well, with a pretty high amount of water, so that was good! It was hard to tell if something was wrong with the pump, or if it just wasn’t meant to run on our generator, so we determined to leave it until we got electricity hooked up, and then try it out again.

And then the electrician arrived. He installed the grounding block, but it was all bad news from there…The main electric line from the last pole to the house had failed, and had been replaced at some point with a smaller, temporary line called a “jumper”. The jumper worked, but the electrician said it wouldn’t be enough to run a house, and advised that we needed to trench a path and have new line installed. The path from the pole to the house led directly through the mobile home, so this was a project that was both costly and infeasible with winter coming. Even if we just cut a path through the mobile home, it would take too long to clear all the garbage and debris in a wide enough path to get the trenching done…And so, we determined to wait and Joe began to research and learn and pray.

In the meantime, a new dilemma was underway. The toilet. What to do about the toilet. The septic system was fine, and the appropriate drainpipes and vent pipes were all in place…But, where the PVC pipe entered the concrete foundation, there wasn’t enough room to mount a standard toilet on the floor. The solution for the previous homeowners was to build a platform for the bathroom floor and put the toilet on top of it to allow room for the necessary plumbing underneath. But, with 7-foot-high ceilings and a 6-foot-high husband, the platform idea was not preferable for us! The solution was a wall-mounted toilet. It’s no problem to order one – but it’s not so easy to install them! They are typically commercial installations, and so Home Depot doesn’t really carry any standard fittings for them – you have to get creative! So, we spent an evening sitting on the floor of the plumbing aisle at Home Depot, mocking up configurations until we figured out what we needed 🙂 

We also began to purchase some electrical supplies, as a solution solidified itself for our electrical situation…As it turns out, because we are weird and have very few electrical needs, the jumper wire is more than sufficient to run our house, at least for now…And so, the existing wires could be used, and Joe could do everything else himself! And so, although there were a couple of weeks of delay, we were back on track with a plan to get our electrical hooked up…

And while we waited and puzzled and prayed and learned, the work to clean and seal and prepare the interior continued. Slowly but surely, every nook and cranny of the interior was sealed with insulating foam. The sound of a staple-gun filled our days as new fiberglass insulation went up all over the house, and then was covered with a final layer of plastic sheeting. The concrete floor was scrubbed and patched and sanded and painted. The rickety old staircase was torn down and replaced, for now, with an 8-foot ladder. The door jambs and hinges were repaired, and the locks were replaced. This work was all about making our home snug for the winter, and clean for living…And then, one glorious day, we finally emptied our 5 x 8 trailer into our clean house! Yay! 

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An empty trailer also gave us the ability to take more loads of trash and recycling to the dump – bringing our overall tonnage of garbage removal up to 5 tons, so far! (not even counting recycling!)

We had hoped to be moving in to our house by Thanksgiving, but the delays with the well and the electrical had set us back…

But we celebrated a victory as, on Thanksgiving Day, we cooked our first meal in our little home, and gave great thanks for it! Chicken stew on the woodstove-top, with hot apple cider!

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…And we were so thankful that the kids could enjoy playing in their stocking feet in a nice clean home!

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That weekend, there was Spencer’s 8th birthday…He chose his favorite meal (hotdogs!) and his favorite dessert (a birthday-doughnut!), and we shared a meal and blew out candles and opened presents in the comfort of our little home!

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Then, Spencer led us on a walk around the property, showing us all of his favorite spots, like the pond, and the climbing tree, and the stream…

Soon enough, the electrician was out to hook up the power…Now, we could run the well-pump…which still didn’t work. 😦 So, we ordered a new one and began preparing all the electrical and plumbing for installation…And the weather held as we worked, which was also something to be thankful for, since this was still the potty whenever we were working at the house!

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(I have often thought about the twinkle that would be in my dad’s eyes if he were here to hear me describe our “facilities”! I know it would have just tickled him, since he grew up out in the country, with an outhouse, and spent most of his young life going out in the woods!)

There were so many delightful moments. Like the day when an early fog left the forest on both sides of our driveway decorated with a million sparkling droplets in the morning sunshine, ready to burst into showers at the slightest rustle of movement…Or the ice sculptures that the boys would find after a frozen night, having grown in crystalline mimicry of a summer forest…

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And like the crisp stillness of the early nightfall, when the sky was clear and black and filled with a million stars, and your ears strained for the slightest noise in the quiet forest around…

And soon, there was a trip to Bangor, with our trailer, to our storage unit, where we loaded up all of our remaining worldly possessions and brought them back to the house! It was the first time in many months that all of our belongings had been under one roof, and it was our roof!

Soon, rugs and cots and pillows were unpacked, and we began to talk about spending the night in our little home, one of these days…Just a toilet and a shower to go!



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