2007 was a difficult year for us--perhaps the hardest one we've ever faced in our nearly 19 years of marriage. We had been working for a well-known Christian ministry for a while at that point, but our little valley was having a hard time getting behind the idea of supporting us so that we could do the work full-time--and it is very full-time work--more like double time, actually. By the spring of 2007, we were stabilizing a little bit, but not much. Finances were very tight. Some months we would receive our full salary, some months only half.
This was stressful, but we did have one great thing on the horizon to look forward to. Andy's folks were planning a move to Montana to live next door to us. Woo-hoo! This was great news for all of us and we went scurrying around town, securing permits to subdivide our property, looking at builders and learning home design software to help them design their dream home.
They arrived that summer, full of hopes and dreams--and stuff. Lots of stuff. They were moving from one good-sized home to another, once they got the new one built at least. To ease the transition, Andy and the kids and I moved to an apartment half an hour south down the valley so that his folks could live in our little home, keeping them on-site while the building of their home took place. Through a ministry connection, the apartment was available to us for a very affordable rate and it would work just fine. We moved everything out of our home, down to the bare walls, put most of our things into storage (the apartment was mostly furnished), and helped his folks move their furniture and basic belongings into our house. With our house so small, though (you've seen my kitchen, right?), they could only fit a third to a half of their belongings (and Grandma's belongings, which they had just inherited before they moved here) into the house, so the rest of their things went into storage with our things--into the barn, the garage, the storage trailer, and the unfinished room above the woodshop.
At this point, I suppose I should mention that those storage areas were already occupied. When we purchased this house from my grandfather in 2004, he left the barn full of his own things and the house itself still contained quite a bit of his things--like all the kitchen cupboards were already full when I went to move my own kitchen in--things like that. Oh, and when we moved here, it should be noted that we moved from around 2000 sq. ft. to 1100 sq. ft. Much of our stuff went into storage immediately, waiting for us to remodel and add on.
We had a lot of stuff on the property. Our house, a little two-bedroom ditty with a single bathroom and a cockpit for a kitchen was completely insufficient to meet the demand--enough stuff to easily fill three good sized homes.
By the end of the summer, before we had even broken ground on their new house, Andy's mom--a health and exercise nut--was diagnosed with a nasty and rare cancer, vascular angiosarcoma, and it was spreading fast. She was already at Stage IV, and very few people survive this one. We were thrown into a tail spin.
We moved his folks into a vacation rental house by the river, a beautiful and tranquil setting, a home that didn't take the work of going up and down the basement stairs to keep it heated, a front door that could accommodate a wheelchair without having to take it off road and up several steps, a driveway that was paved and level--much easier to deal with when the snow flies. With our own home now empty (we were still in the apartment), we rented it out to some family friends that were in a bit of their own crisis and needed a place to live. So, keeping score, that means the four of us were in an apartment half hour to the south, Andy's parents were in a rental home 15 minutes to the north, and our own home was occupied by a nice young (pregnant) couple, their two year old daughter, their three large dogs and two mean-spirited cats--oh, and our own two big dogs, too.
At the same time, our ministry job began to really lose its footing. Our income was reduced to 25% of full support. Ugly things began to come up. The chairman of our committee accused us of embezzlement and began an investigation. He never found any wrong doing (because there wasn't anything to find!), but he never backed down or apologized. He did his best to turn people against us. We have still never been able to figure out why. It was terrible.
By mid-September, we all suspected Mom wouldn't be able to beat this one. She was going downhill fast. Andy and I were spending all of our time driving back and forth between our apartment, the rental house and our own home, where Andy was desperately trying to finish the basement so we could move back in eventually, moving his dad in with us. Dad would need one of the only two bedrooms in the house, so it was important to add more downstairs, along with a second bathroom.
Then my own dad had his heart attack. I flew to Portland to be with my family and stayed for a week. His quintuple bypass went well, fortunately, and he recovered fully, but it was a pretty scary time--and only the beginning of a very stressful time for them as he also lost his job and was unemployed for over a year, close to retirement, but not close enough.
In October, our truck was stolen, adding insult to injury, piling stress upon stress. It was quite the ordeal. It was recovered, then mistakenly towed to impound at our expense. We had no idea it had been damaged in the getaway/joy ride until we had paid quite a bit to get it out of impound. Then we were also stuck with the cost of repairs. This was a hard pill to swallow on our quarter-time paycheck.
A few days after Thanksgiving, fortunately while all the family from near and far was gathered for the holiday, Andy's mom died. A week later, we held her funeral and stood out in the heavy, falling snow to bury her in the little country cemetery by the church.
Very soon after, the ministry we had worked so hard to establish was shut down for good, with hard feelings and bitterness all around, unfortunately. It was ugly. Our meager paychecks ceased all together and with the loss of the ministry connection came the loss of the apartment.
With the basement only half finished and the tenants still living there, we all moved back into our 1100 sq. ft. home. A few weeks after we moved in, another baby was born into the household--not to us, but to our tenants. We made the best of it, but life was really hard.
Like I said, 2007 was a hard year.
When our tenants' situation changed and they moved out, they were not able to take all of their belongings with them. Guess who inherited them? Guess how full our various storage areas were at that point. Guess how cluttered our construction-site-house became. Guess how chaotic our lives became.
That was four years ago. We are just now making an attempt at recovering. The chaos is real. It's big. It's important, both physically, emotionally and spiritually to recover from this pit.
I started this post at the library this afternoon, while I once again waited for my son to get out of his film making class. And that is a story unto itself. Chaos breeds chaos, it seems. I'll tell you the library story tomorrow.
Your chaos has its own story. It may include tragic loss. It may include just a gradual downfall of expectations and energy. It may include both--or neither. Only you know the source and the impact it has had on you and your family. But I hope you also know how great it would be to be free of it, to be on top of it, to rise up with wings like eagles. Ask God for strength and courage. Rise above.
Love to you all.