Exactly Where We Are Supposed to Be

It’s funny how time seems to go by so slow while you’re in it and then feel so fast as you look back. However, with all that has been going on in our world and in our little corner of it, I (Mel) can’t really say that time has had that slow feeling at all over the last year. Even with the pace of life seeming to roll at full speed, we know we have been placed in our little spot for such a time as this, and with that knowledge there is a peace, excitement, and greater feeling of purpose than we have ever felt before.

On Wednesday, we will have lived in Texas for a year. We arrived February 17, 2020 for what we thought was a 3 month visit, right before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Seattle, and then in the rest of our country and world. When the virus hit, we at first exclaimed that we “got stuck” in Texas. As the months progressed, we began to realize that “stuck” wasn’t the right word; we were carefully and lovingly placed here. Not too long ago, as we came to that realization, I had a vision of God’s hands gently coming in around our family in Seattle, a place where we had been nurtured in the soil there for a time, then lifting us up and placing us in a pot (our RV) to transport us to our next home. The Master Gardener of our lives planted us in a new garden that would allow our family to grow our roots deeper in Him in the nutrient rich soil of this community. What an amazing assurance we have in knowing we are exactly where we are supposed to be during this crazy and uncertain time in our world. It is a gift we don’t take for granted. We desire to grow and live into all that God has for us to do here; to spread His love that is overflowing in our hearts to all those He has brought into our lives, near and far.

We pray that all our friends, family, and readers find that peaceful assuredness that you are exactly where God wants you to be. It may be exactly where you already are; praise God for that! Or perhaps, there is a place He has prepared for you and longs to lovingly place His hands around you to plant you in that spot, He’s just waiting for you to trust. Wherever that place is in our world He has for you, grow in it and spread His love to all those in your sphere of influence.

And because a blog post isn’t complete without a few pictures, I leave you with current pictures of our friend’s garden, where God has been teaching us many lessons in how He cares for and grows us as we have been learning to tend and care for His creation. With the extra cold snap happening, we needed to cover the few plants growing to protect them. Even in the winter, there is life resting under the soil (and covers), soaking up the nutrients, ready to grow when the sun warms the earth again.


I (Mel) can’t believe it’s been since the middle of July since we posted last! Quite a lot has happened over the last month and a half. I’d say we’ve been busy, but as one of our dear friends, Shahar, said, we’re not just busy, we’re accomplishing what’s been put before us.

We have so much to share. I’ll try to let ALL the pictures tell the stories. 🙂

This has been a summer of learning to homestead with our dear friend, Sheila, at her home. We’ve learned about various types of plants and their biology, planting, weeding, tending, watering, various kinds of bugs and natural pest control, harvesting, seed saving, food preservation, threshing, winnowing, milling, and different ways of preparing and eating new-to-us plants! We have had so much fun learning and we are incredibly thankful to Sheila for investing her time in teaching us. She is a true gem!

Taking what we’ve learned from Sheila, we’ve been working on and growing our own garden. What an incredible joy it has been to tend it and watch it change! A special bonus from our garden, we discovered a couple of black swallow-tail caterpillars munching on our dill. We brought them inside to watch them make their chrysalis and turn into beautiful butterflies. How exciting it was to release them back into our garden! ❤ (Having nothing to do with our garden, also pictured are the kids helping me make butter for the first time out of fresh cream from our friend’s cows. Yum!)

Chickens, chicks, and more chicks. From our chickens, Caleb (aka “the chicken man”) has hatched not one, but two batches of chicks now. These pictures are a mixture of our first 14 chicks, who are now almost 10 weeks old, and our newest batch of 6 chicks that are 3 weeks old. Caleb hatches them and Lydia mothers them. Caleb makes the outside shelters, Lydia makes all the creative chick housing and loves collecting grasshoppers in old milk jugs for them. They are quite the pair! 🙂 The last picture is of our rooster and hens. They enjoy sleeping under our trees. (By the way, Caleb just started incubating two different breeds of chickens than what we already have. This is thanks to two different family friends who let him have some of their chickens’ eggs. There will be plenty more cute chick pictures to come!)

You saw Josh’s mobile home he renovated in our last post. That’s in closing! He now has a new project he’s working on. It’s a 1938 house that needs a lot of fixing up. He’s working hard on it and including the boys in the renovations. He also has a friend in the community, Ken, who is helping him out once a week. On top of that, he’s doing some electrical projects at our friend’s house which the boys also get to help out with on occasion. Caleb and Asher love working with daddy. What a blessing that they can!

We had the wonderful gift of having our first family members come to visit us. My cousin, Magen, and her husband, Martin, live in Fort Worth. They came and visited us for a day. Then our nephew, Kaden, visited us for a week from Seattle! The kids loved having their cousin with them! We had a fun time showing him around and including him in everything that we’re doing! Those visits deserve their own post, so for that reason (and for the sake of the length of this blog post!) I’ll just post a couple preview pictures here.

On August 28th, Caleb turned 14. I don’t even know how that’s possible! He’ll get a post devoted just to his birthday. I’ll leave a teaser picture here, though. 😉

On September 3rd, Josh and I celebrated 16 years of marriage! Our anniversary is also deserving of its own post. Here’s a teaser picture of that day too. 🙂

As you can see, there is a lot that has been accomplished over the last couple months. As I look at all these pictures, I can’t help but thank God for all His goodness for where He has placed us at this time in our lives, in our world, and in our history. The following lyrics sum up my thoughts and emotions perfectly:

“All my life You have been faithful. And all my life you have been so, so good. With every breath that I am able, oh, I will sing of the goodness of God.”

Before and After

One of my favorite parts of remodeling is remembering what the structure was like before remodeling began and then to admire what it has now become.  We have completed all remodeling projects on our investment house and the house will go on the retail housing market this week.  Today’s blog will simply be a gallery of before and after photos of the investment house we have finished remodeling.

Summer Time Heat

As we enter July, we begin to experience the rising heat of the Texas Summer.  We have already had a few days break 100 degrees; something that we are not accustomed to as native Seattlelites.  Last week we kept the A/C on all day, and we have not turned it off since.  Though we are still getting acclimated to the hot weather, it is not keeping us from staying active and continuing to step out in faith and experience new things.

The biggest news in our house this week was the birth of 14 baby chicks that we hatched from the eggs of our own chickens.  3 weeks ago we borrowed an egg incubator from a family in our community and took 22 of our own chickens eggs and put them inside.  We must give all the credit to Caleb from planning, initiating, watching, worrying, praying and caring for the eggs while we waited for them to hatch.  Then, like magic, 4 days ago, tiny baby chickens began to peck through the shells with their beaks, until they cracked completely and new life emerged.

To accommodate these new chickens, Caleb with no assistance from me, built a chicken tractor with the plans he read about in a book.  In less than one week, Caleb built a 10′ X 6′ chicken tractor.

For Father’s Day, Mel cooked eggs Benedict for breakfast and quesadilla burgers for dinner followed by ice cream.  We spent the time in between meals playing my favorite board games.  It was my kind of day.

Also, we have been making great progress on our investment home.  Our contractor finished all his work on the inside of the house and our landscaper is scheduled to come out later this week.  Our family had a work party at the house last week and are planning one more this week.  I have a meeting scheduled with a real estate agent at the end of the week and we plan on listing the house by the middle of July.  (And yes you can see that Caleb is now taller then Melodee as the picture below clearly proves).

For the Fourth of July, we had dinner with a family who let us milk their cow, and then made homemade ice cream with their cow’s milk. What a difference between homemade ice cream made with fresh milk vs store bought ice cream!

We are also visiting with a couple two days a week learning to do gardening from them.  They have taught us the common bugs of Texas, how to know when to harvest, how to save seeds, and best practices to plant and grow garden plants in Texas.  This couple also runs a BBQ brisket stand and I did a quick electrical project for them in trade for BBQ brisket.

Our own garden continues to grow as the heat of the summer increases.  As long as we keep the soil well watered everything continues to flourish.

My, personally, most exciting event happened yesterday when I received my truck (and bike), which I had shipped from Seattle to Texas last week.  Now I no longer need to pretend our minivan is a work truck.

All and all, we are getting along well here and are continuing to build relationships with the families in the community.  We feel blessed to be here, where we are able to participate in “small church” groups and stay connected with others.

Catching up on the details

Between birthdays, Mothers Day, and hanging out with friends, I have had little time to blog about all the small details of everyday life.  So, today I will be catching up on all these details.

  1. Village in the woods:  Our four children have been cooperating together to build a village in the backyard woods of our property.  They have spent countless days and hours sawing, raking, collecting, piling, rolling, building, and playing in order to create the perfect place for adventuring and hanging out.

2. Roosters:  A friend of ours had a rooster, named Big Bird, that they needed to find a home for and asked us if we wanted him.  The kids became very excited about the idea and we accepted the offer.  But after only a few days of being with us, the rooster developed a major limp.

After our best efforts to help Big Bird recover, our friends told us that they would take him back.

Instead of Big Bird, they offered to give us a younger rooster they had, which we named Ebony, Ebon for short.  This rooster has been getting along well with the ladies and has helped our hens to get along with each other in a way that was not happening before he came.  He is now one of the family.

3. The Garden:

One of my greatest joys living here on the farm is watching the daily changes of our garden.  We have begun harvesting tomatoes, which we keep on our kitchen window sill after we pick them.  We have also pulled all our garlic.  We can see bell peppers, cucumbers, and cantaloupe starting to develop as well.

Unfortunately, a week and half ago, our garden suffered greatly after a Texas summer hail storm wreaked havoc on all our green plants. Thankfully, the plants are springing back and we are seeing growth again. (Some of the harvest/garden pictures above are from after the hail storm, so not all is lost.)

This week, we expanded our garden’s planting space by 3 times after borrowing a friend’s two-wheel tractor.  We now have much more space to plant!

4. Fun

Don’t be fooled, we don’t only work all day.  There is plenty of time for some play and recreation here too.  Last Saturday, we woke up early and the boys went fishing with friends.  Asher was the first of us all to catch a fish and we finished the day by catching three fish.  I caught two fish and Caleb caught one fish.

Also, our neighbors had another batch of puppies.

Photo Jun 02, 6 25 57 PM

5. Business: Though I do not have a “normal” paying job in Texas, I have found a few ways of creating revenue without spending much time doing so.  Since we have moved into a home and are not currently using our motor home, I have found a few families to rent it and get some extra spending money.

Also, I went to a foreclosure auction with my friend who I have been helping at his woodworking shop.  After learning a little about how the auction works and attending a few more, I purchased my first investment house at the auction this month.  It is a 3 bed, 2 bath mobile home on 1 acre.  After talking to a real estate agent about it, I was told I can fix it up and sell it for a favorable profit.

So life goes on and we continue to find new ways to learn, grow and discover life on a farm in Texas.  We pray all our friends and family are staying safe and healthy.

Happy Birthday, Lydia!

Lydia is a lot like me (Josh).  She likes to plan things and doesn’t like surprises.  For her 12th birthday last Saturday, she had her entire birthday day planned out weeks before it ever came.  Even the day before her birthday, she began preparing for the festivities by making her own two-layer vanilla and blueberry cake.

The menu for her birthday breakfast was no less than crepes, Dutch babies, blueberries, and turkey sausage.  We feasted while watching her open cards and presents from friends and family near and far.

Before we could finish stuffing ourselves on sweet breakfast goodies, Lydia rushed off to her next birthday engagement.  She had a birthday brunch date at the cafe with two of her Homestead girlfriends (and mothers).  I was told when she got back that she was still able to eat 2 bacon and 2 pancakes.  Wow!

Lydia had finished her second meal of the day and it was not even noon yet!  She had things to do and places to go.  Though not part of her original daily plan, she gracefully accepted an invitation to do crafting (crochet) with her friends at a lady’s house who lives in the community.  While there she got to open more presents and play with kittens.

The day was half way through and Lydia was still spinning the web of her master plan.  Now a third girlfriend had joined her party celebration during the craft and they all headed back to our house to begin the process of making home-made pizza.  There was dough to knead, cheese to grate, toppings to slice, and smiles to share.

The labor of love was complete and the celebration was well on its way.  The pizza was delicious and the company was divine.

The climax of the evening was at hand.  The birthday girl tasted the “ceremonious first bite” of birthday cake accompanied by strawberry ice cream.  Look at her face and judge for yourself how good it tastes.

Photo May 23, 7 37 14 PM

As the evening labored on and the sun began the set, Lydia and her friends (and siblings) squeezed out the last ounces of daylight to play games in the grass.  The birthday celebration was complete and had been a smashing success.


Celebrating Mothers

I can reflect back on every Mother’s Day over past years as a day of celebration and honor for my mother and, more recently, for the mother of my own children- my wife.  There is a special quality of observing a tradition year after year.  Tradition helps us to feel a sense of normalcy, predictability, and security.  In fact, I believe we all long to be connected to something everlasting and unchanging.  Tradition helps us feel that connection.  I realize that our modern culture often resists things labeled “traditional” yet, it seems to me, in these past months where change has become rapidly unpredictable, tradition could serve to reconnect us to peace.  Anyways, our Mother’s Day celebration here on the Texas farm was filled with peace, fun and joy and I am grateful that nothing can take away the enduring love we have for our mothers.

Mel’s first order of business on Mother’s day was to relax in the morning sun, reading and working on her sun tan.

Photo May 10, 1 00 07 PM

It was a casual carefree day of sunshine and smiles.  As the day progressed, the kids and I busied ourselves in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal for the woman-of-honor.

By request of her excellence, Mel asked for a good-old hamburger and Greek lemon-potatoes.  The meal was accompanied by a Greek style salad and a refreshing iced sparkling fresh lime and mint beverage.  And for dessert we had Greek style baklava (left-overs from Mel’s 40th Birthday Party that we saved in the freezer).  A meal fit for a queen.

The banquet table was set outside on the front poach and our admired lady was brought to the feast.  One smile says it all.  The meal was worthy of royalty.

Photo May 10, 7 33 24 PM

And, through the advantage of technology, we video-conferenced both our mothers back home in Seattle.  Happy Mother’s Day.

Breathing in the Fresh Air

At the start of this month, our friends, the Haugens, whom we have mentioned several times in previous posts, visited our 2-acre farm and stayed with us for four nights.  Our land was more than large enough to accommodate their fifth-wheel RV and give us plenty of space to “practice our social distancing”.  After over a month of sheltering in place and living like isolated hermits, it was a breath of fresh air to enjoy the company of real live people face to face.

As you can see from the pictures above, all our meals together were eaten outside.  We had sunny, 90 degree weather without a day of rain.  It was especially refreshing to watch our children play together with our friends’ children, a lost past time in these last days.

Nothing earth shattering, just people socializing with people, like we used to back in the good-old days.  A familiar feeling of times that now seem distant in the past.  Camp fires, board games, and sidewalk chalk art.

Those four days swept by us like a gust of wind.  A pleasant reminder of the past life previously filled with endless social interaction that I took for granted.  I treasure the opportunity to breath in the fresh air once again.  To remember the feeling of being alive.


Puppies, Tomatoes, and Camp Fires- “The Little Things”

I’ve heard it said that “It’s the little things that make all the difference.”  After the last few weeks of “big” things happening such as Mel’s 40th birthday, the funeral of our beloved pet chicken, and being marooned in the city of Waco due to the shelter in place order, it seemed to me that there was nothing important to talk about today.  That is, except for the little things.  Little things like our neighbor’s puppies, who are small enough to squeeze through the fence and parade through our yard unannounced, playing and tackling each other along the way.  The kids have been spending most everyday playing with these white furry intruders.

Like waking up each morning to admire God’s miracle of life in our garden.  With the warm rays of sun radiating on my back, I love strolling passed the rows of fruiting tomato plants.  Day after day, I examine each plant individually to see the growth which, like magic, has happened while I was asleep.  I have never known before the joy that a tomato plant can bring.

Photo May 03, 9 56 23 AM

Perhaps the most enchanting of little things is to step out of our house each evening at the first sign of the setting of the sun to watch the fire flies dance together in a twinkling show of dazzling lights.  With a gentle breeze, the cooling air refreshes our spirits after a hot Texas day.  After the sun fully sets and the fireflies find an evening place of shelter, the conditions are perfect to enjoy a family evening next to an outdoor fire.  Our bright smiles reflect the alluring flicker of flames as we laugh and savor the moment before us.

In fact, as I consider these, I realize the little things are all around us.  Small things, like Mel and the kids doing home school outside on a sunny day.

Photo Apr 27, 11 11 50 AM

Eating take-out Olive Garden outdoors with Mel’s birthday gift card.

Photo Apr 25, 7 21 38 PM

Sleeping in a tent that Caleb and I built in the trees.

Caleb building a shoe rack out of scrap wood.

Mel hanging clothes out to dry in the sun.

Photo May 01, 3 31 49 PM

All these many little things become one big thing.  One big life of adventure and wonder which always keeps us guessing what will be the next little thing we’ll be privileged to enjoy today.

Over the Hill

When I was a child, I remember looking at my parents and thinking how very old they seemed to be.  I lived with a false belief that I would never become as old as them.  That growing up to be 30, not to mention 40, years old seemed like an entire lifetime away, something that would never happen, that I would somehow perceptually stay young.  But, as is the obvious truth, we do in fact grow a day older every day.

April 23rd, 2020 was Mel’s 40th birthday.  Several months ago, when I asked her how she wanted to celebrate her entrance into the 5th decade of her life, she told be she wanted to celebrate by visiting her close friend, Ruth.  Ruth and Mel have been close friends since middle school and Ruth was even a Maid of Honor at our wedding.  Several years ago, Ruth and her family moved to Tennessee.  In December 2019, Ruth turned 40 and Mel was unable to travel to visit her friend during that time.  So Mel had it in her heart that she would instead visit in April 2020 and they would celebrate their birthdays together.

As life has unfolded during the past few months, we found wisdom in suspending our road trip to Tennessee and sheltering in place for a season.  This also meant the postponing of the 40-year-old friends celebrating their over-the-hill experience with each other.  When I asked Mel how she felt about this, she told me she was sad about not seeing Ruth for her birthday and that she even had a cry over it as she let the desire go and mourned the lost of being with Ruth for the big 4-O.

When mid-April was upon us and it was quite obvious we would not be traveling any further east, I asked Mel, “So, what do you want to do for your 40th birthday now?”  As we discussed this question, she mentioned wanting to go out to eat at a Mediterranean restaurant.  Knowing that restaurants are still closed, she consented to instead allow me to cook a Mediterranean meal for her birthday.  After mentioning this to our friend, Kash, he asked if he could host a “small” party at his place.  I told him Mel would be thrilled.

As the day approached, I became intently focused on shopping, preparing, and cooking.  I was in charge of making the baklava, hummus, tzatziki sauce and drinks.  I learned first hand the intricacies of making Baklava.  40 sheets of paper thin dough, each individually hand brushed with butter and layered five times with crushed nuts (sunflower seeds by request of the birthday girl).  Once out of the oven, it was then drenched in sugar syrup, honey and lemon juice, then drizzled with dark chocolate.  It was a labor of love that turned out perfectly.

Then April 23rd, 2020 came.  In the morning, our children confined Mel to our bedroom as they finalized her first birthday wishes of the day.  Leading her into our living room, the kids wished her a very happy birthday and shared with her gifts they had made.

Photo Apr 23, 9 00 53 AM

Among the gifts were cards, a cat made from recycled materials (Asher’s masterpiece), a phone case decoration (Lydia) and a special birthday wish from our Lego friends from Antarctica (also a display created by Asher).

Not much after that, a surprise breakfast was delivered to our door of fresh baked cinnamon rolls from the Homestead bakery.

Photo Apr 23, 9 33 36 AM

Most of the afternoon, Mel spent talking on the phone with family and friends calling to wish her a happy birthday and get caught up on life.  I continued to run around and finalize the last details for the evening party.  Our friends were also hard at work.  Mid-way through the day, I received a text with a sneak peek of pictures of their contributions to the party.

When dinner time was upon us, I drove our family to our friends’ house and Mel, once again, was asked to “hang out” in the front yard as we finished completing the Mediterranean feast in the backyard.

Photo Apr 23, 6 59 49 PM

The menu consisted of a Greek salad, fresh baked pita bread (made that day from the Homestead bakery), hummus, tzatziki sauce, labneh, an olive tray, stuffed peppers and mushrooms, baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, and grilled chicken.  Mel was given a drink (Fresh mint, ice, carbonated raspberry flavored water, and simple syrup (sugar)), and lead to the outdoor party buffet.Photo Apr 23, 7 01 47 PM

It was a party fit for a queen.  In fact, I believe it was the greatest party in Waco that day (literally).

And what party would be complete without desert; a layered cookies and cream cake and the baklava.

As the party came to an end, Mel had forgotten about any sadness she might have once had about not being in Tennessee and thanked everyone present for participating in the celebration of her life.  She exclaimed in complete truthful sincerity, “This was the best birthday ever!”