Losing Someone Dear

How can we ever be truly prepared to lose a loved one, whether suddenly or expectedly?  Today some dear friends lost their 16 year old son quite unexpectedly.  God answered prayer in awesome ways early this year when he got a heart transplant.  All has been going so well, and suddenly a virus ended it all.  This home-educating family like us (ATI) just lost their only son, and first-born of five children.

We are overjoyed that he was a godly young man with a passion for Jesus, and are confident that he is with Jesus right now.  But how does one prepare for a time of loss such as this?  It feels overwhelming.  We have lost five children to miscarriage, but as dark as those times were, we know nothing of a loss as great as this.

One thing that comes to mind in preparing for the death of a loved one is to resolve anything that will make an already grievous situation even more unbearable.  If we have unresolved conflicts in relationships at home, how will we bear it if we are not granted the time to make things right?

Do I regularly evaluate relationships with those nearest and dearest?  The kind of care I demonstrate here tells me who I really am.  When I realize I’ve been wrong, am I quick to admit it, and care for the pain I caused?  Or do I simply try to “make up” by being nicer and sweeter for a while, hoping that will cover it all?

The Bible calls it restitution.  If I’m on my way to do some great thing for God, and I remember that I wronged someone and didn’t make it right, Jesus wants me to stop in my tracks and go care about them first, then go do the great thing for God (Matt. 5:23-24).  Saying “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” just doesn’t cut it.  That’s appropriate if we accidently bump someone (equivalent to “Excuse me”).  If I was insensitive, proud, irritated, grumpy, dishonoring, or unloving, I have a responsibility to humble myself and say, “I was wrong when I ________.  I realize I made you feel _________, and I want you to know I care about that.  Would you forgive me?”  If it comes from the heart they will feel it, and if past offenses are cleared, it gives me the joy of knowing I just touched the heart of someone dear to me, someone whose heart I don’t want to lose.

Losing Someone Dear

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Off the Grid! Part Five

One stressful thing after Hurricane Charley was not having much practice living without power.  We had all the basic supplies needed, but had not tried things out to see how everything would actually work.

There were a number of things that all needed to be done while the generator was running, so we had to do a lot of trial and error for a few days to make it work out.  Our cell phones needed to be charged, as well as any rechargeable batteries and rechargeable equipment (flashlights, hand-held vacuums, drills, laptops, etc).  During the few hours each day the generator was on we needed to replenish all our water supplies for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and animals.  That was the time to do a load of laundry or take a real shower, and run the air conditioner to cut humidity.

If we would have done some practice runs periodically, things would have been less stressful.  Imagine the massive messes we had on our hands from the storm, horrible mosquitoes, medical issues with some of the animals caused by the standing water and dampness, no answering machine, no air conditioning, and no electricity.  In a disaster these kinds of difficulties are unavoidable, so it makes sense to minimize the unnecessary stresses ahead of time.  Having some kind of schedule for fun practice drills with the whole family is a wise idea.

Off the Grid!  Part Five

PS. Don’t miss Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four of this series.

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Off the Grid! Part Four

One thing we learned during our 13 days without power after Hurricane Charley is that running a generator can be very inefficient if that is your only source of power.  The fuel is expensive, especially during an emergency.  If you can store many gallons of fuel ahead of time, that is a definite advantage, but there are problems with that as well.  If you don’t rotate and keep a fresh supply or don’t use proper preserving additives, the fuel gets old, and money is wasted.

To optimize generator power, it makes sense to store some of that power for when the generator is not running.  That is where a battery bank and inverter are very valuable.  Our goal was to run our generator only two to four hours each day, just enough to keep the freezer and refrigerator cold enough if we kept them shut when the generator was off.  We learned the hard way that a battery pack and other rechargeable batteries and equipment make life less stressful in between times.  That crisis was a good learning experience.

Since Charley we have accumulated more hand-powered equipment that we can use any time in the kitchen, for camping, or just to save on the electric bill.  Our favorite food choppers and processors are hand operated.  We have hand-cranked/chargeable LED flashlights and radios, and several battery powered lanterns.  I love my laptop which has a long-life battery.  Whenever possible, we choose equipment which has the options of using battery or manual power.  The more accustomed we are to using things that don’t require electricity, the less stressful it is when we are suddenly without it.

The last in this series will come tomorrow!

Off the Grid!  Part Four

PS. You can read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three here.

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Off the Grid! Part Three

Our level of preparedness greatly affects the stress level of a situation.  This applies to crises as well as planned events.  In the aftermath of Charley we were completely at ease about some things, yet faced some real stresses about others which we were not prepared for.

We never feared losing the food in our freezer, running out of water, or being unable to cook or do laundry.  These are some basic necessities.  But before long, we started seeing how unprepared we were in some other areas.

The first night was unusually cool for August, which made it bearable without a/c. Outside, the mosquitos were thicker than we’ve ever seen.  They must have blown in from the Everglades.  One swipe through the air with a hand guaranteed hitting at least half a dozen.  We went in and out a lot to care for animals and run the generator, so an unhealthy number of the miserable creatures was inside our house.

The cool front soon left, and the air was damp and sultry with no breeze…and we had no fans that would run without the generator.  Fuel for the generator is too costly to run more than necessary, especially with limited supply.  Sleep became scarce.

Thanks to family members who are electricians, life was soon more bearable.  My dad came out and set up a battery bank of four golf cart batteries hooked to an inverter.  This he wired into several circuits bypassing the breaker box to provide current for some strategic outlets near the bedrooms for fans and lights (this should ONLY be done by an experienced electrician!).  He also brought an old window unit (a/c) and temporarily installed it in our dining room so we could have a little cold air in at least one room of the house during the few hours each day that the generator was running.  Our central a/c took too much current for our little generator to start.  More tomorrow

Off the Grid!  Part Three

PS.  Read Part One and Part Two here.

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Off the Grid! Part Two

Sometime soon after the wind started to blow and the rain began pounding horizontally on our walls and windows, the power went out.  This time it was out for 13 days.  Were we glad for the preparations we had made?

During the storm one of the unboarded windows trapped rainwater between it and the screen, causing water to gush into the bedroom.  While we were tending to that mess, one of our massive live oak trees lost some huge limbs which fell onto the roof of our garage, taking a tall palm tree with it.  The palm tree missed the garage, and evidently broke the fall of the oak limbs enough to prevent much damage.  It did, however, break a garage window which had to be blocked immediately to prevent more water and wind damage.

When the storm ended the late afternoon sun came back out, smiling cheerfully on the absolute chaos around our house.  It was impossible to get a vehicle out or even walk around our house with large tree limbs and debris everywhere.  We stared in amazement at the change in appearance in our landscaping.  The huge live oaks were still standing, but completely thinned out.

We gathered our wits and thanked the Lord for his protection!  We had a lot of work ahead of us, as well as figuring out how we were going to make dinner, do chores, shower, and prepare for the night with alternate power.  To be continued

Off the Grid!  Part Two

PS. If you missed Part One, click here.

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Off the Grid!

Remember the tropical storm that hit us in 2001?  Well, after that we decided to make sure we were always prepared with a few things like water and alternative lighting in case we faced something like that again.  Experience is a good teacher.  Sure enough, in 2004 soon after we moved out here to our hole in the country, we faced an even bigger challenge:  Hurricane Charley! We had the usual items recommended for hurricane season like extra batteries, fuel for the generator and propane for our camp stove.  We had clean five-gallon buckets to store water, jugs of drinking water, extra food supplies, and a weather radio.  This house has tons of windows, and it seemed over-zealous to purchase plywood to cover them all, but when we heard Charley might be coming fairly close we decided to get enough to cover at least all three sides that would be hit the hardest according to the path he seemed to be taking.

To make a long story short, we boarded up and then heard that Charley had suddenly changed course and was headed almost straight in our direction, but south rather than north of us!  That meant that the side most directly affected by wind was not boarded up!  It was too late to do much but pray.  As the wind and rain descended we secured all the animals, brought all loose objects into the garage and locked it shut.  Our tub of basic supplies and a few games as well as a tub of family photos and keepsakes were in the hallway which is the most sheltered part of our house.

When the 120mph winds hit our house, we forgot about the tub of supplies and games in the frenzy of trying to keep the torrents of water and falling trees out of the house.  It was a spectacular display!  One that is fun to remember, but we don’t want to repeat.  More tomorrow.

By the way, Tess did not die! After a long day and night of working to get her gut cleaned out and running again, she was finally able to start passing “stuff” again this morning!  By this afternoon she seemed basically back to normal.  We are saying, “Praise the Lord!”

Off the Grid!

Off the Grid!
Caring for Tess in her misery yesterday
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Crying Out

Today our oldest daughter spent most of her time out with our beloved purebred Arabian mare named Tess.  She was given to us nearly seven years ago and is now 25 years old, but still quite full of life.  That is, until today.  At 6am the older girls found her rolling and moaning with colic.  Evidently with the lack of rain and grass not growing, she ingested some sand and got her intestines in a wad.  This can be death for a horse.

What is our response when we are in a crisis that looks hopeless?  Our children have been very concerned all day because Tess is a dear member of the family.  For them this is a crisis.  When the younger ones got up from their afternoon naps, they started asking if they could pray for Tess again, and cry out to God for her.  I came in from helping with Tess and we knelt down and all cried out to God in a very loud voice on Tess’ behalf.

The important thing here is that we are in the habit of crying “Help” to our Heavenly Father.  Are the communication lines open?  Is our attitude right?  I well remember when we were at PGM Church about two years ago and our newest daughter’s adoption had ground to a complete standstill.  The entire congregation cried out for help (loudly!) and a few days later the Kazakh consul who had told us “No way!” said, “Go ahead and send it to me quick!”  We sent our documents and she forwarded them on to Kazakhstan in less than 12 hours, a process that normally takes a few months. 

We are ill prepared to survive any crisis well without that childlike trust in our Father.

Crying Out

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Backyard Pharmacy

 
 
Backyard Pharmacy

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) growing beside our lane

 

When we came home on Friday from our trip north we found the Black-eyed Susans in full bloom.  These beautiful flowers grow in the fields and along the roadside out where we live.  This evening we went on a drive on the ranch behind our house and enjoyed the flowers, deer, and wild turkeys.  This time of year is one of my favorites, and we love to bring bouquets of flowers into the house.   

Did you know Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are valuable for much more than their beauty and fragrance?  I didn’t, until recently.  According to Wikipedia their roots can be used much like the related Echinacea.  It is an astringent and a diuretic.  Americans Indians used them as an infusion for sores and swellings, and to treat colds and worms in children.  Some made a poultice for snake bites.  The juice has been used as drops for earaches.  Who would have thought?  And there it grows in abundance right in our backyard!   

Goldenrod is another one just coming into bloom here.  As we traveled north last week we saw it in abundance everywhere.  It also has great medicinal properties.  Our heavenly Father in His love for us gives us many gifts of beauty and healing.  They’re all around us, but most of us have no clue because we are completely dependent on modern systems.  What happens if these systems fall apart?  

What a wonderful gift to our children if we can educate them about these useful blessings.  We can store up food and supplies to prepare for a crisis, and they can be taken from us by hungry people.  However, knowledge we gain cannot be stolen but can be one of our greatest assets, and a powerful tool in reaching out to others who are in need.  

We are putting together a hands-on training weekend where your whole family can learn from experts.  What a great way to learn to identify wild edibles, build a fire without matches, make shelter, find water sources, store food, and so much more.  More details coming soon!  

Backyard Pharmacy

Backyard Pharmacy

Sun setting on the beautiful 2600 acre ranch behind us

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Surviving Jamestown

Surviving Jamestown
In the stocks at Williamsburg

Our family just arrived home from a short stay in Williamsburg, VA.  It was a great field trip and an awesome way to teach our kiddos US history!  We also learned some important lessons about survival. 

One thing that impressed us about the Jamestown settlement was how few survived.  There were many causes for this, but one that stood out was the fact that some of the Englishmen evidently considered themselves better than other people.  They enslaved Africans and Indians to do their work, and there are some reports that indicate they felt that men in their position should not have to do any dirty work or be deprived of the comforts of life.  The result?  They starved to death.

In studying survival we have been struck with how critical it is to have the right mentality.  If we think we can’t live without certain comforts, or we are dependent on others to do things for us that we could do ourselves, we are much less likely to make it in times of crisis. 

One remedy for this is practicing before a crisis arises.  Go tent camping (without the kitchen sink), or choose one night per month where you eat only rice and beans.  Have a family slumber party on the living room floor, or practice taking a shower with only a quart of water.  Can you do it cheerfully, or do you feel like a poor victim?  Choosing to take things like these as a challenge and having fun with them is taking a huge step in preparing you and your family for any crisis, large or small.

Surviving Jamestown

Surviving Jamestown
Checking out laundry equipment in old Yorktown near Jamestown
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Out of Power

Three days after the eventful 9/11 we were suddenly hit directly with powerful Tropical Storm Gabrielle.  The power went out and did not come back on for three days.  I basically grew up in Florida and in 28 years I had never experienced anything like it.  I remember howling winds and branches flying when hurricanes were nearby, but I never remember driving through town like we did that night and seeing total darkness in the middle of a normally busy city.  It reminded me of a ghost town.

We had our own home-grown organic beef in the freezer, and lots of delicious homemade applesauce that we didn’t want to lose.  We were caught unawares, and were certainly not prepared to live off the grid.  Or were we?  Thanks to the Y2K false alarm, we did have a generator and some extra fuel that saved our frozen food, and we had a little camp stove and a supply of propane that allowed us to cook as usual.

That widespread power outage caused many people a great deal of stress and loss.  For us it was an adventure.  My brother also had his family prepared, and that night they hosted a birthday party for one of their children in an otherwise dark neighborhood.  Life was interrupted, but didn’t grind to a halt.

Was it foolish to be prepared for the worst, even when it didn’t happen?  We don’t think so. We are very glad the worst (Y2K) didn’t happen.  But being prepared for the worst has several benefits:  it greatly reduces anxiety (notice the Proverbs 31 woman in verse below), and it gets us ready for lesser crises that may come our way.

Out of Power

“She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet.”    Prov. 31:21 KJV

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Was Y2K a Waste?

Planning for a possible crisis caused us to take inventory of our resources and supplies, and make a plan for our needs to be met if we were suddenly not able to access our normal suppliers.  We had already changed our lifestyle greatly soon after we married and had our first miscarriage.  Our diet is now geared to build up our bodies and maximize our productivity for God’s glory.  To us it is a matter of wise stewardship. 

Most of our diet consists of natural whole foods that are not processed.  One great advantage in this is that unprocessed foods are not as expensive as most foods purchased in the grocery store.  In 1999 Silver Oak was teaching school, an occupation not known for high income, so we had to be extremely frugal in our planning.  Our oldest child was four, and our only child at the time, so storing up basic food staples was not nearly as large a project as it now is with eight hungry mouths. 

Among other things, we stored wheat berries, brown rice, and pinto beans in five-gallon buckets with sealed lids.  A few years after Y2K we were still eating some of the supplies we had stored up, and they were such a blessing during some financial difficulties we faced.  Since that time we have made storing such supplies a way of life, and have learned some tricks, such as freezing grains for several days before storing in airtight containers to kill any larvae that may have come along in our bulk order.  Placing dried bay leaves just inside the lids also deters bugs.

What about the “wasted” money we used to purchase a generator, propane camp stove, and other items?  Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the tropical storm that left out our power for several days.

Was Y2K a Waste?

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Getting Started

When was the first time I thought about being prepared for something that I wasn’t sure was going to happen?  When we first got married 18 years ago I wasn’t even sure I knew how to prepare for things I knew would happen.  I am naturally good at procrastinating, preferring rather to remain engrossed in the more interesting activity of the moment.

 I have learned a lot of hard lessons over the years about the foolishness of not thinking and planning ahead.  Studying the Virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 gives us a picture of the productivity that is possible when we learn to stop what we’re doing and put plans in motion that will allow us to be prepared for whatever may happen.

Eleven years ago we were facing the possibility of our world falling apart, depending on who we listened to.  We prayed about what we should do, if anything, to prepare for Y2K.  We eventually felt we should invest in stores of food and supplies that we would use whether or not there was a crisis.  We learned how to store grains and beans and other non-perishables in Florida’s warm, humid climate.

Getting organized for such a project was a great learning experience all its own.  We purchased our first small generator and accumulated inexpensive items that would make life more bearable in case of a power outage.  Little did we know how these preparations would greatly benefit us, even though Y2K never materialized.  More tomorrow…

Getting Started

Getting Started
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