blackout

This poetic piece of awesomeness is a finally-finished post I began writing a month ago… Enjoy!

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A  month ago, we experienced our first Portland blackout. We were without power, internet and phones for 6 hours. <gasp, I know> We couldn’t watch the tele or cook or use the internet or make phone calls or go on Facebook or participate in any other nonsense we need electricity to take part in, and guess what…?

We survived. 

How, you might ask? 

We played outside soaking up our last bit of evening sunlight, we snuggled under blankets and read books by the light of a candle. We talked. We told silly stories. We laughed. We played games with the flashlights… and then we went to New Seasons for dinner.

We survived #Portlandblackout2014 by having fun and going to the grocery store. YES. You read that statement correctly. I said, we had fun going to the grocery store. 

We are experts at surviving blackouts.  

We’ve been thru several blackouts before. From Ohio to New York City. Remember #Northeastblackout2003? Yep. We survived it. We were living in NYC at the time and working at our church. When the city went dark, everything shut down… except for the people. People were still on the move. We responded by handing out water to thirsty tired travelers from the steps of our church in mid-town Manhattan. The city air was thick with August humidity and millions of people sweating their way thru the city. People were still on the move. They needed to get home, to pick up their kids. People had basic simple needs – like water.

The truth is – we are experts at enjoying simple things – such as going to the grocery store. In fact, the simpler, the better. If a task is too complex, detailed or complicated – forget it. Anxiety will overtake me and… the end. I will shut down. 

When there’s a blackout, life shuts down. There are fewer options and simplicity takes center stage. When there’s a blackout, I can only see what’s right in front of me. In the dark sky, I can see the moon and the stars. Oh, how I long to take joy in seeing the simplicity in front of me! Take it all in. Breathe in the wonder. Trace the stars. Stare at the moon. Soak in the sounds of my children. Slip into the arms of my husband.

I come alive when I ‘shut down’ and enjoy the simplicity of who is in front of me… My family. My friends. My neighbors…  The blackout forces life to slow down. To darken our ‘world view’ momentarily. To take hold of what we can see. The blackout changes our lens to purely see. An unfiltered view. To truly see. What is right in front of us.

In the blackout, life can shut down… And in the simplicity, we can thrive.

Do you thrive in simplicity? Please share! Our story rages on… In Him, Leslie

A.L.W.Y.P. (Adults Living With Your Parents)

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Sometimes it happens. Adults need to move back in with their parents. Dear ALWYP, we know how you feel. It’s not easy. You’ve moved back in with your parents after living life on your own – you don’t have to explain. We understand. When we moved from Ohio to Oregon in September, we began our Oregonian lifestyle by living with Adam’s parents… because we’re so cool. It might be hip to be an ALWYP … or … it might not. Either way, that’s what we did… for 7 weeks.

Adam’s parents graciously made room for our family of 5 in their 1,600 square foot house. We crammed ourselves and a lot of our crap into 2 small bedrooms and their garage, while the rest of our belongings spilled over into a friends storage space. It’s very humbling to be an ALWYP. You appreciate your parents opening up their home -again- yet you want to move out ASAP.

So our journey to finding a rental home began… We were looking for homes in the Portland burbs, an area nicknamed the Silicon Forest of the Northwest because many hi-tech and well-known name brand companies such as Intel and Nike are headquartered here. The rental market in this area is nuts. Places turn over fast. We found cookie cutter homes, with identical floor plans, and a 6×8 foot strip of grass for a “backyard”.  We found a place where the management company was showing the house from exactly 2:00-2:10pm, to our family and a “few” others. I mean 20 others showed up to see this house. We weren’t prepared for a brawl over a rental house, so we left. We found a place with “good energy” filled with fumes of incense and marijuana, Catholic altars and a picture of Jesus on every wall. I love Jesus, but…no. We found a place with a strange landlord and so many mirrors thru out the rooms, my hunch was it might have been used for porn movies. aaand… No. We found a place that was smelly and dark and the tenant had so much stuff in the home, we could barely walk thru it. As we toured the home, her two adult sons —ALWYPs— were on their computers glued to the screens playing video games in the living room / bat cave. Umm. No. I was bound to have nightmares if we would’ve rented that house.

After searching several weeks and becoming discouraged we might be ALWYPs, forever… we found a home we loved. With a ginormous backyard, a tree house, a chicken coup, and a hot tub, beautiful hardwood floors, an open living room, a wet bar – turned coffee bar, well taken care of and best of all – very reasonable rent. When we walked into this house we knew – this is the one! As we were leaving, another family was coming to see it. In Oregon, it is first come first serve. The first ones to have their application in have first dibs on renting the house. The landlord didn’t have an application printed, but she emailed one to us. We knew how quickly decent rental houses turned over and we should not waste any time.

We left the house and went to see one more property in Portland we had previously scheduled. As we were rushing around the city, dinner time was quickly approaching. Our plan was to see this last house, go to the church, print the application, turn it in, secure the house and get some dinner! We saw the last property and headed to the church. The printer was out of ink! So we went to the store for ink, grabbed a quick dinner, filled in our applications and headed back to the house. I called the landlord, and she still had not received any other applications. By the time we got back to her house, the other family had already applied……

Ugh. We were SO frustrated. For certain we’d be ALWYP’s forever… we went back to our friends home we were staying in while they were out of town. We were so thankful to be staying at our friends house, in the area we wanted to find a house. Our van was not working and needed new tires and a new battery, so we left it at Adam’s parents house for the week, and we were driving Adam’s car around, while staying at our friends house. Then his car broke down, and thankfully – we were able to borrow their car, while another friend was able to repair Adam’s.

Car-less and Home-less, we slumped down on our friends couch and prayed. We prayed the other applicants would fail their application or background check or credit check or all the other checks … and prayed WE would get this house! A selfish prayer – yes – but we were desperate! The next day, discouraged, Adam went to work and we went to homeschooling. After lunch, we got a call – the other applicants FAILED! Praise Ye the Lord, Hallelujah! The house was ours! I felt a tinge of guilt celebrating their failure and our win, but it passed quickly.

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Our story rages on. We are now moved in and so thankful to have this home. Built in 1949, It’s a quaint 1280 square feet. The floors are slightly slanted and they creak. The heat wasn’t working the first 2 weeks. We’ve had to call the furnace guy, the plumber, the locksmith when the front door knob came off, and fix the disposal. But it’s ours. Next door, they have a rooster, chickens, a dog and peacocks. All of our neighbors are very friendly and have young kids as well. We live conveniently close to everything, and there is a beautiful park within walking distance. We love it!

After living in transition for several months, selling our home in Ohio, moving across the country, living as AWLYP’s for seven weeks, unpacking and setting up house again, we have found a place to dwell and we are home. Thanks for reading and sharing in our story! In Him, Leslie

Life’s a beach in Oregon.

We’ve been Oregonians for five weeks now… aaaand… what does it even mean to be an ‘Oregonian’, you might ask? While I’m certain the answer varies from peeps to peeps, for us ‘Life in Oregon’ has been a b**ch. It’s been HARD. but hey, we’ve been to the beach. and that’s really why we’re here. Well, not really. but it helps. It helps to know when things are hard, we can go to the beach :).

When our cars break down… we can hitchhike to the beach.
When we can’t find a rental house… we can live with our parents… who live close to the beach.
When our kids are fighting… we can yell at them… and then take them to the beach… where no one ever fights.
When homeschooling at home sucks… we can go exploring… and learn something new… at the beach.
When we’re stressed out from moving cross-country, living out of boxes in disorganized chaos, living with our parents, starting over, Pastoring at a new church, selling our house we left in Ohio, and homeschooling in the middle of it all… we can say ‘screw it’ and head to the beach!

We’ve been to the beach twice since we’ve moved to the Pacific Northwest, and it’s been wonderful. I wish I could say things have been smooth sailing, and coasting on over to the beach has swept away all our problems, but no. Since we’ve moved, we have walked on water thru some very hard days. Wave after wave, the difficult circumstances have washed over us. At times, treading water, at times being pulled under. Sooo many days, I’ve wanted to run away to the beach, but there’s been too much to do. And reality is – life is hard – and we have to walk thru trials and circumstances without going to the beach to escape.

Have you ever worn a wetsuit? They are a pain in the ass to put on. Imagine squeezing a watermelon into some pantyhose. That’s me – squeezing myself into a wet suit. The last time we went to the beach, I was so frustrated with squeezing myself into the wetsuit, and I was very close to giving up. Selah was in the bathroom with me, encouraging me to finish putting on my freakin’ wetsuit. “C’mon mom, you’re almost done.” I was so glad she did. The time spent in the ocean was amazing. Although I was frustrated with the work it took to put on the suit, I knew I would regret not going into the water.

If you want to enjoy the Oregon coast, you need a wetsuit. You can dance on the waters edge without one, but if you dare to go deeper, you need a wetsuit. We can dance on the edge of Christianity without a care, but if we dare to go deeper, we need the armor of God to protect us from the enemy. 

As we prepared to move from Ohio to Oregon, I knew we would be swimming into darker, deeper waters of ministry. I knew it was going to be a lot of work. I knew our faith would be tested. I knew attacks of the enemy would come. I knew it was going to be frustrating to step into unknown territory. And I knew if we did not make this move, we would regret it.

We are not battling the raging waters. We are in a spiritual battle, unseen to the human eye. In the midst of this move, it has been easy to become distracted with the external problems, shifting our focus from the reason we are here. God prepared my spirit for this battle in prayer. As the trials have come, He has been showing me how to battle in prayer. We are here to know HIM and to make HIM known. There are times, a wetsuit and a trip to the beach seem like the ideal way to deal with the difficulties we face… but Oregon is so much more than a trip to the beach. This is a place full of people living in darkness, yearning for One they do not yet know. And I will spend my life making Him known here.

My armor is on. It is His presence. I fight from my rightful place in His presence. In His strength. His love. His hope. His joy. His peace. 

Our Story rages on… In Him, Leslie

*All water and cursing puns intended for the authenticity of this story.

east to west

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It has been a year… God whispered GO… the time is now. He stirred in our souls a desire to leave comfort and a place we were known and loved by beautiful people, to a place of unknowns. We responded to God – yes, we will go. Unsure of exactly ‘where’, we knew He was calling us to the Northwest to plant new roots. Our hearts were drawn to Oregon, where Adam’s family lives… and to the Nations, our desire to serve in overseas missions has burned in our spirits since we began dating over 18 years ago.

We said ‘Yes’ to the GO. We began the process of discerning the ‘next step’ early summer. We resigned from our church in Ohio in June, and began the process of saying goodbye to the church family we’ve loved for 10 years. We knew we would miss the hell ‘outta them. It was not an easy process. Some people excited for us, some joy-filled for our journey, some sad, some confused, some without understanding, and some angry we were leaving… It’s hard for a church to lose a Pastor. We’ve walked this church thru that loss before. We don’t recommend it just for kicks or anything.

We became very comfortable with the answer ‘We don’t know…’ We don’t know where we’ll end up. We don’t know which country we’ll be going to. We don’t know which church we’ll be joining. Slowly, the next steps began to unfold, along with many more unknowns and many times the answer to questions about our future was ‘I don’t know.’ He never promises us a map of the journey, but He promises us His presence on the path. 

We began to pursue YWAM. Their mission, their ministry and their movement inspired us. We connected with the YWAM leaders at their base in Canby, Oregon and began the next steps of applying and raising funds for the Discipleship Training School. Meanwhile, we connected with many Pastors and leaders in the Vineyard Northwest region, knowing we would need a new ‘home church’ to plug into. “Our plan” was to attend YWAM, and plug into the Portland Vineyard church.

God had a different plan.

Mid-August, a few weeks before we were planning to move, the Northwest Vineyard leadership contacted us, and we learned another Vineyard church outside of Portland was in need of a Pastor. The same week, we learned there were no other families beside ours attending the YWAM. Regardless, we were moving to Oregon. Now, we were faced with a decision before we began the journey from east to west. Which next step were we to choose? Where was God leading us? What was He calling us to do?

We became more comfortable with the uncomfortable.  

We choose to say ‘Yes’ to God, and Pastor the Hillsboro Vineyard Church. We chose an ‘arranged marriage’ of a Pastor and his family to a church Bride we barely knew. We met her once, we took her hands in ours and said ‘We Do.’ This church was not on our radar. This was never part of ‘our plan’, Yet God knew.

The process has been a journey with confusion and clarity, anger and joy, sadness and excitement as our companions along the path. Yet God spoke. You were made for this. Don’t look back. When the road is expansive and the pathway clear, you just drive… and 4 weeks ago, we began driving.

Wednesday, September 10th 2014 – Day 1. We left our unsold, still-on-the-market, only home our kids have ever known, in Ohio and started driving… Adam, in a 16ft box Budget truck with no cruise control, cd player or companion, towing our CRV chained to the auto transport. Me, in our ’97 Odyssey with our 3 wee Babs, all of our crap, and the beautiful mess of our temperaments and personalities. At least I had a cd player… We made it thru Ohio, Indiana and the torrential rain storms and flood warnings to arrive safely in Danville, Illinois. We were blessed to stay with a family friend the first evening. We even washed our wet towels we left home with. I wasn’t particularly excited about traveling for 5 days with wet towels, but we had to take showers and clean the house until it sparkled, before we left Ohio. We were a sweaty mess from loading the truck, loading Adam’s car and cleaning our house to keep it “show ready”. Barf – house showings make me want to throw up… I digress.

Thursday, September 11th – Day 2. Well rested, we drove on I-80 West, I-80 West, …and drove some more I-80 West thru the rest of Illinois, thru Iowa and made it to Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska is a “I was surprised by its beauty” beautiful state. It’s vast and somewhere along the way, I lost all cell phone coverage, so that became torture for me. We just kept – on – driving. I could handle the kids on my own, but without the ability to make phone calls… I began to doubt my sanity.

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Fun at rest stops in Nebraska

Friday, September 12th – Day 3. Somewhere in Wyoming… which is also a beautiful expansive state with barely any people living in it, and with sketchy cell phone service. While driving, we got a call for 2 house showings. Have I mentioned how much I love hate house showings?!? Oh. but this time, I didn’t have to clean for it & we moved all of our crap out of the house – SO bring on the showings! We continued driving on I-80 West, landing in our super cool hotel room for the evening in Laramie, Wyoming.

Saturday, September 13th – Day 4. We found a super cool coffee shop near our super cool hotel. We can deal with sketchy cell phone service, crazy kids and tiring days driving 2,500 miles cross country, but we can. not. deal. with bad coffee. We’ll be coffee snobs, and drive miles away for good coffee if need be. Driving along thru Wyoming, we made it to Rock Springs and we got a call from our realtor and received an offer on our house. BOOM>>>! Oh yeeeee, of little faith. Why did you doubt ME, thus sayeth the Lord? Oh Lord, forgive us! We knew You would come thru! Some 8+ hours later, after driving thru the rest of Wyoming and the blow-me-away beautiful state of UTAH, we dragged our tired selves into our hotel room in stinky, smells-like-manure- Burley, Idaho and came up with a wicked counter-offer. Would they accept it…??? drum roll please…

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Sunday, September 14th – Day 5. I can’t take it any longer!!! We’re almost there!!! How much longer? When will we be to Grandmas? Blah blah blah blah blah! And this is ME (Mom) asking the questions 🙂 In the meantime, was our counter-offer accepted??? YES! They accepted our counter offer and the real fun I mean, real driving began. Selah became ridiculous and no amount of threatening her while flailing my arms from the drivers seat was improving her behavior, so I screamed at her while I was talking to our realtor (thankfully also an understanding friend, also with three small children) trying to work thru all the details of selling our house… WHILE DRIVING CROSS COUNTY!!! We had to pull over to deal with Selahs craziness, and the only place in cow-town Idaho was near a farm with cows and flies. We rolled down the windows for fresh manure air, Adam stood outside the van, staring at Selah to keep her behavior in check, she settled down and I called Amy back to finish talking thru the house-selling details. Did I mention we SOLD our HOUSE >>> WHILE driving CROSS COUNTRY!!!???  Yep. Yep we did. Oh, Leslie – what did you do on Sunday, BESIDES DRIVE ALL DAY LONG? Oh. We sold our house. 🙂

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Late that evening, tired and weary, our bodies in a permanent driving position, we wedged ourselves out of the vehicles we had come to love hate for the past 5 days, 2,500 miles. We made it to Oregon. Thankful for no injuries. No road troubles. No flat tires. No dead car batteries. No sickness. Full of so much to be thankful for. Five thankful hearts arrived at Grandma and Grandpa’s home in Oregon.

Stay tuned for the next installment of our half written records. Our story rages on… In Him, The Babs Fam

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The Happiest Place On Earth ~ Disney

Nine. Seven. Three.
Seems like the perfect ages to take our kids to the
“Happiest Place on Earth”. 
moon gazing on an evening hike
We love these kids to the moon and back. 
Like most parents,
We want the best for our kids. 
We want them to enjoy life to the fullest. 
We want all their dreams to come true… 
But we probably won’t ever take them to Disneyland.
Or Legoland.
Although we have taken them to Portland.
Several times. 
I know. Disneyland is where “dreams really do come true.” 
But is that really true? 
Has anyone’s life ever been changed by a trip to Disneyland? 
Is it really the ‘happiest place on earth’?
Maybe… 
Perhaps… 
for some…
As much as we want our kids to have the most. fun. ever. on our family vacation, 
we’re not cut out for Disney.
and we’re (all) okay with that.
For our family of five to walk thru the gates of the Magic Kingdom, it would cost us $442 *plus* the cost of travel, food and hotel.
Well, lucky us!
We were staying with a friend, who lives 20 minutes from Disneyland. 
We could see the Disney fireworks from her house every night. 
We didn’t go.
We couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. 
The kids didn’t even ask to go.
The money, the time, the energy to walk around the park all. day. long.
Hmmm… no.
We even had the opportunity to go to Legoland-with 2 of the tickets already paid for.
All we had to do was buy three more tickets, pack a lunch and hop on a bus.
We opted for the beach instead.
As the comedian Jim Gaffigan says, “How can I spend an enormous amount of money, be uncomfortable, and listen to my children complain and whine? *I know* ~Disney!”
Adam and I experienced Disneyland as kids, and went to Disney world as married adults.
We know all the Magic Kingdom has to offer.
Maybe our kids will resent us for not taking them…
Maybe they will need counseling once they grow old enough to realize they were denied going to Disney as children… 
Maybe they will decide to go to Disney as adults…
Nah. Probably not. 
Perhaps we are denying our kids of a priceless life experience…
well, I don’t think so.
Everywhere we turn, someone is trying to sell us an “experience”.
What about the experiences creation gives us?
What about the people we encounter?
We have family in Oregon and California. 
So when we visited this summer, we went to the beach, the lake, the mountains, hiking, to national parks, and quirky places like Portland. 
Portland is a magical city filled with wonder, crazy characters, yuppies, hippies and homeless people, unique restaurants, loads of local shops, farms and markets, and countless state parks.
We visited Adam’s Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Dolores on their farm ~ and their house is a state of California historical landmark. 
They are in their 80’s and have had quite a life adventure.
The kids chased their peacocks and picked fruit off their trees.
We shared stories and had a wonderful meal together.
The kids still talk about their dog, Keepers, and how much fun they had playing with him.
These are some of the happiest places on earth,
where we have created some of the most wonderful memories.
Where is your ‘happiest place on earth’?
Maybe for you it is a trip to the Magic Kingdom…
Perhaps the happiest place on earth can be right in your own backyard… 
Time with our kids is precious.
No matter where you go and what you do with your kids…
live the fullest. love the deepest. laugh the hardest. 
In Him, Leslie 
***
What has been your “Happiest Place on Earth” experience? 
I’d love to hear your stories! Yes, even the Disneyland ones 🙂