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I’d like to introduce you to this wonderful place that adopts children in Hermosillo, Mexico, offering them resources to meet their full potential, compassionately raising all there as their own family. I’m going to talk about it some more. So enjoy the conversation and get to know the wonderful folks that live and thrive together at Casa Esperanza Para Ninos (“House of Hope”).

Meet the founder, Adonna Cullumber, as she discusses raising children (and those who live/work there) in a home as a family… “not just raising them so they had clothes and food and shelter, but we wanted to mentor them and give them the opportunity to reach their full potential and be individuals that can take care of themselves in the future.”

Obviously, you’ll note that this ministry has made a huge impact on the lives of many families, and for the long-haul.  It’s one of the unique things I love about this ministry.  Not only do they share the gospel, but they make disciples.  (Matt.29:18)

Here’s where our family comes in:

My grandparents were missionaries, traveling all over the world – primarily Africa – up into their ripe old age.  In fact, when I saw Grandpa last, he still talked of going back.  Tho’ their traveling years are gone, Grandpa always told us that he prayed his children (and beyond) would be missionaries.  We carry that mission – every day, wherever we are – with purpose and gratitude.  My grandparents laid the foundation of living our faith out by “going” in our daily walk, as well as to places far away.

Adoption is also near to our hearts, as I come from a large mixed family; 7 of my siblings being adopted.  Not all of my brothers & sisters are related to me by blood, but we value the picture that familial adoption gives of Christ’s adoption of all of us.  We are family.  No matter our genes.  We are reminded that our brothers & sisters in Christ are our family.  My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. (Luke 8:21)  We all have a wonderful opportunity to ‘adopt’ daily those around us who are our family.

There is also some family history behind this place in particular, this house of hope.  My Dad (Mark) and Mom (Chris) used to go to this orphanage every Christmas, and still travel down to Mexico (for this and various other projects) over a dozen times a year.  They were a part of this ministry when it first began, helping build from the ground up.

One of the directors at Casa Esperanza Para Ninos has recently suffered some health issues, and so a team has been set up to go down and help organize and support them while mending takes place.  They’ll work on some projects and strategize how to make the recovery process as easy as possible while keeping the house running full swing.  Adyn will be joining this team.  His travel expenses have been earned and covered, but he would like to raise funds to take to support the ministry in general.  If you feel so inclined, you can donate directly through their website (below), or you can give funds to Adyn to deliver.  Thank you in advance for supporting this wonderful ministry!

Please check out more info about the place:

http://www.casaesperanzaparaninos.com

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Well it seems about time for a homestead update.  It’s been a while, and – as usual – things seem to be changing.  Aren’t they always?  Boy have I changed my perspective on “change.”  As much as I still say I don’t like it, I’ve learned how to take it in stride, and have learned to appreciate it much more!

Adyn has been progressing nicely on his aviation studies.  He’s earning A’s in his classroom, and is currently filling out scholarship applications for flight training.  He’s joined a local aviation club as well as AOPA.  On top of that, he landed himself in Driver’s Ed for five weeks.  Unplanned, the class is all boys, all homeschoolers, and all folks we know.  That was a huge blessing to us as parents to know they have each other during this experience, as we had heard only horror stories about every driver’s school from here to tim-buck-to.  His first car is being picked up this weekend, thanks to lovely friends that offered him a set of wheels to start on.  He’s driving almost daily, and will be well-equipped for a lot of road tripping we’ll be doing this summer.

Kendra has been blossoming artistically.  She “opened shop” on Facebook, creating a page (Kendra Rayne’s Art) to show her gallery and begin making prints of her work to share.  It seems there is endless exploring with mediums and accessories.  Her latest is a moldable graphite – possibly one of the messier products she’s used yet.  She’s just now working on some spring projects to submit into galleries.

All three of the older kids have been working diligently on schoolwork.  In fact, more so as deadlines approach.  This school year has been our first of such independent self-motivation on their part.  They have really taken the torch of academic responsibility and run with it.  Where both of the olders were on the path to early high school graduation, Adyn is re-evaluating and considering a junior college “running start” program instead, to gain more opportunity before graduation.

Until now, Colby has shown less interest in schoolwork.  He has learned at an acceptable pace.  We’re seeing glimmers this year of him wanting to excel more.  It’s great what a little patience and perseverance will accomplish, seeing fruits of that work in your children.  His energy-filled, attention-seeking personality has just started shaping into a motivated, people-loving depth.

Aside from school, our family enjoys hosting weekly studies (that often end up late night play) once a week with young & old – with food, of course.  I wouldn’t be my grandmother’s granddaughter otherwise.  Saturday’s have been filled with snowboarding and preparations for several dear loves’ upcoming weddings.

The homestead is slow.  We’re in a time of waiting, mostly for lambs.  This year we are not adding to (or keeping lambs) our flocks (birds or sheep), and will likely not be planting any annuals in the garden this summer.  Instead we are heading north on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, adventuring through the Yukon and up to Alaska, circling back through Idaho on our way home to share in our annual family reunion camp.  We’ve been planning and preparing – new camera lens’, regional wild eats books, Milepost guide, upgraded roadside membership, passports, etc… With the shortage of online practical information on RV’ing with children, I suspect we’ll set up a site to post many notes of our adventures for our own memories & others’ benefit.  I’ll keep you looped in!

My perpetual spring cleaning mode has continued.  It’s clearly become a lifestyle instead of an activity.  As things come and go, we’re enjoying the more simple way of handling stuff… life, really.  Despite having rid of most of my non-maternity clothes, my closet is bursting at the seams more than it should, and so our 3rd annual “Girlie Clothes Swap” is happening in a couple of weeks so that we can have a fun girls night, and end up with less.  Kendra now dips into my section of the family closet, as we seem to be coming closer to sharing clothes.  How did this happen?!

Flynn has entered the baby steps of reading.  By the time we’re on our trip, he should be dabbling in simple reader books.  It seems since Aury was born, Flynn really aged.  Funny how this happens.  He’s still our snuggly, sweet-hearted boy who is so similar to his older brother Colby.  And he’s madly in love with the baby.

The baby.  We can’t forget the baby.  He has brought so much joy to our family.  Just yesterday the kids were discussing how glad they were he is here.  This boy, tho’ – he is sure breaking the mold in the family!  At 4 months, he weighed the same as all four of the others at twelve months. He already has 2 teeth (months earlier than the others).  He’s tall.  He’s an introvert.  Big crowds or running errands make him uncomfortable – and often requires a little quiet time at home to recoup.  He’s easily worried with new faces or deep voices, and will look around for his family to save him.  He’s shown some familiar traits – ones that I adore – as several of his siblings: he loves snuggles.  He’s crazy ticklish.  His hair seems to be coming in very blond.  Some of his newest activities are holding toys, rolling (belly to back solo; back to belly with a wee encouragement), staring in awe at his own hands while they move…

Scott has been in excellent health now for a while.  It’s so good to say that!  I really wasn’t sure I ever would again, for which we are eternally thankful for a God who chose to spare him to us just a little bit longer.  We know this earth is not our forever home, and tho’ we long to be with Christ, we are so thankful for the earthly blessings we have!  Life is short, kids.  Use your days to the fullest!  Leave all of the distractions and do not dwell on anything other than what is true and good.  It’s a game changer.

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Our Budding Artist

Earlier this Spring Kendra painted this beautiful agriculture piece on a large canvas and won first place in the first contest she entered it into. The Washington State Farm Bureau then purchased it from her to frame and showcase in their state office in Lacey.

Last night at the Washington State Farm Bureau’s 96th Annual Conference, it was offered up during the live auction with the proceeds to support the Washington FFA.  Guess how much it sold for?  $800!  Her very first art piece that she’s shared publicly!  We are so proud of her.  Her natural artistic inclination will do her well for years to come.

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One of our young friends was embarking on an extended road trip, which aroused a lot of family discussion. Among the several questions, the one that held the most conversation time was: why might this be a good use of one’s time?  It led us into the several-week long discussion about gaining perspective.  Life permitting, everyone could benefit from a retreat.  A rest.  A time to focus on few things; things that matter.  To reflect on life, and what matters.

You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything. – John Maxwell

We discussed how almost every year that I went to Idaho in the summertime for our family reunion (a tradition that carries on still) as a younger girl, I learned something new that impacted my life significantly.  Things that I’ve carried with me into adulthood.

Our last road trip was to Arizona for a couple of weeks with our whole little family.  Getting out of our comfort and familiar zones, we were able to experience new things and – most importantly – learn together.  How to be flexible, adaptable, to see from others’ perspectives – to serve.  To be reminded that our wee little life bubble is simply that: a bubble.  That life is much larger than our wee bitty (seemingly huge sometimes) issues.  This can clear a lot of fog.

Here are some things that we all spoke about on our return from holidays in Arizona, true to many’a times we’ve taken a reprieve:

Road tripping and vacationing make me realize how little we want.

#majorpurge

We live in a culture of consumerism.  It’s not something I want to be a part of.  And so, with renewed energy, we see our things differently on our return.  We realize that the bulk of our things are non-essentials.  That they are easily replaced or shared or borrowed.  And that sometimes they take more space visually, mentally and resourcefully than they’re worth.  We also realize that our time may not always be managed well, and extra activities also may need to be reconsidered & some purged.  Knowing when to gracefully say “no” is a good thing.

Road trips & vacationing made me realize we always end up sleeping in the same space.

#wedontneedmuch
#makingmemories

Sure, we visited lots of places that sported beds for all, but still we’d end up squashed together – usually spending the late night dark hours talking about the day.  When camping, we always end up sardines in our rig or tent.  Even in the bus, all four kiddo’s end up crammed on the wee futon to sleep instead of the double bunks when they pull an all-nighter out there.  Every morning at home, for at least a half hour, everyone’s piled in our bed.  It’s time we cherish.  And recognize there is little need for so many mattresses.  It’s a luxury we’ve noted unnecessary but handy from time to time.

Road tripping and vacationing make me realize how very not-real Facebook is.  It also reminded me not to take it too seriously. And that friendship/communication (or lack of it) on it doesn’t count for diddly. 

#interactionsmatter
#legitimatefriendship
#lifeoutsideofascreen

I have learned to be very comfortably using the “do not follow” button, restrict button, and [less often] the “block” button.  Because folks can pursue me in real life, not glean in a false world without investment.

We’re pretty old school with our phones.  Our family currently shares one non-smart flip phone (one that has better coverage than any of our smart-phone-friends, I might add).  That means that when the kids and I are in town (and Scott’s got the phone at work with him) – or when the family’s on vacation – we don’t really give a rip what’s happening on social networks.  The drama of people’s opinions – and my incessant need to respond just as excitedly – now come out in face-to-face communication.  Our conversations, in turn, tend to be more civil as we practice manners and listening skills.  Our differences (or similarities) are more productive and beneficial to relationship and life.

The adverse affect is that it makes us want to have a little too much “fun” when we get back to posting on social networks.  Because it just isn’t real.  It’s entertainment, at best.

Road tripping and vacationing make me realize I should not be afraid of people.

#fearnoman
#biggerpicture
#knowyoucouldbewrong
#livegracefully

We are faced with this conundrum daily as we face ‘superiors’ and ‘inferiors’ in our workplace, business, schools, church… heck, even the grocery store – despite knowing what God’s Word says about who we “follow” or to think less of, even subconsciously.  Always comparing.  Our culture defines value based on position, instead of recognizing the wholeness of each individual together in community.  As we walk away from familiar politics and social circles, we are free to be just us together.  In all of our mistakes, our smarts, our stupid, and our yearning-to-grow-ness.  There are fewer expectations and pedestals, and there is a lot more humility, raw reality, and growing on all our parts.  A lot of lovin’.  It fosters an environment of regeneration.  And it’s our natural inclination to bring that home with us, reminding us to pursue that perpetual ideal within our community.

What we need is not “sustainable,” but regenerative. – A Simpler Way

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I’m Pregnant!

I’m pregnant!  Yeah, yeah, we’ve known for a while.  Many months, in fact, but man, time has flown so fast that it’s really been hard to believe.  We’ve also had several projects on our plate that have been taking most of our time and energy – ones that we love – that have just really absorbed our thoughts.  Yes, we’re excited.  Yes, we want a hundred kids still – we adore the blessings we have.  Yes, we’re making all kinds of plans for how to use vacation time, where this one will sleep (well, there’s actually a lot of haggling over that in the family…).  Yes, I’ve been feeling the signs of pregnancy.  But if we’re being honest, the bonding and thrill that comes with pregnancy has been slow going.  It’s all been really factual in my head.  And then it hit me why: I’m subconsciously what-if’ing.  What.  The.  Heck.  How’d that happen without me even knowing?!

Last Wednesday at a prenatal appointment I got some excellent news, and that’s when a switch went off in my head and I realized what was going on.

I’ve been trying so hard this pregnancy to be a brave. (by denial?)

Flynn’s birth was much different than any before as our birth team was 90% different.  That 10% of the birth team that was the same made all of the difference.  We opted to have just our wee family there (the kids ended up sleeping through it – things went so fast!).  The days after were even more different than prior births.  Wonderful, but different.  But it was in the midst of some chaos in our life, and I was in the habit of barreling through things.  But this last season of life has been so very different.  The strength I’ve had to hold has not been mine (but a gift), nor has it been so intense.

But here we were: My medical team was going to be all new.  No 10% for comfort.  I was afraid.

Everything was going to be different.  I hate different.

Still.

After all of this.

Go figure.

I’m still learning.

So the unexpectedly good news is this: there is a solid chance my medical team will not be entirely different.  That there will be at least one birthed-with-us-before face besides Scott.  The time after will be different as well.  Scott is able to take more time off work this time.  And I have – theoretically – learned how to reach out better and ask for what I may want or think I need.  And we’re surrounded by loving community and family.

Until now, I was trying to embrace the change.  Be fine in it.  But apparently I wasn’t truly.  It was a facade.  I want to be able to barrel through things, and be flexible and adaptable.  And I think I am, in most ways.  But this was apparently really getting me because these two bits of news have shifted my entire perspective.  And I’m so thankful for good news.  I’m so thankful for the “little” blessings that I know was orchestrated to bless us by a Shepherd that joys in our joys.

Now here we are, halfway through.  Just feeling small wiggles.  Just learning if we’re adding a boy or girl to the family.  And suddenly I’m ecstatic like a wee child.

Let the guessing game commence

Let the guessing game commence

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[Almost] Spring Update

Just wanted to give you an update on the homestead.  It seems like it’s been an awful long while since I posted.  And even then, it’s been sparse for a long while.  Ebbs and flows, this life.  I suppose that’s reflected in a blog as well.  The good news is: life is good.

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We’ve started Locavore Deliveries back up.  We’ve been doing this since 2004 (?), when we first started sharing farm products.  We’re doing every other week right now, and are doing bulk buys until more spring local farm fare is in.  We’ve bought a pail of real maple from our Maine farmer friend.  Many pails worth of honey from the beekeeper that only keeps her hives from Ridgefield to Woodland.  We’ve had plant starts, eggs, teas, frozen elderberries… Mostly winter goods.  We’re anticipating our first winter greens hitting Deliveries this coming one: spring Nettle.  Our farm has been blessed with abundance in this area.  A wonderful addition to this pregnancy as well.

We joined a CSA!  This is the first time we’ve been the customer of one vs. the producer of one.  We’re really looking forward to picking up the cream of the crop: veg picked moments before it’s in our hands, from a farm only a hand full of miles away.  Glad to support agriculture with my pocketbook and palette.  Especially as Clark County politics muddles through their lack of interest in it.  Speaking of, there’s a fantastic fundraiser happening Saturday that I’d encourage you all to attend.  You can click here for info on how to sign up!  It’ll be a farm dinner with farm foods and farm-friendly friends.  One of “those nights”.  You know the ones: the magical ones.  Yep.  A date night far superior to the average night out.  My favorite kind.

Though we’ve joined a CSA, we still hope to plant lots.  We paired up with a co-op and bought seeds from Baker Creek this year.  Paired with last years remaining seeds from Annie’s Heirloom  and Adaptive Seeds, we expect an entirely hybrid-free garden.  I suspect we won’t work as hard at it this summer, as we have a lot of projected things going on, but we’ll do what we can.  And we’ll enjoy it instead of stress about it, knowing we have a CSA box coming as well.  Our goal is to plant enough that we can do some seed-saving, whether or not we do a ton of harvesting.  The greenhouse and outdoor perennials are, meanwhile, budding and flowering and going crazy!

Marley & Willow have both lambed this spring.  We are waiting for Scarlet.  It will be her first.  Marley struggled with toxemia, but recovered (miraculously) and is doing well.  We’re easing her off of milking sooner than later, and will work on putting weight on her.  She’s always struggled in this area.  It’s why we kept her Scarlet – to perhaps take over where she left off in the milk line.  Marley has wonderfully long teats on a beautiful udder.  We hope her daughters will be the same!  Willow, meanwhile, is a generous milker, giving a gallon a day from her wee bitty teats (but class A udder).  She’s mellowed a lot this season, and seems to have graduated to “wise older woman” instead of “ornery hag”.

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Chores have been so easy since September, until now.  Monday we started milking twice a day.  And bottle feeding babes (a couple of lambs & a new ram lamb that will service the ladies late summer).  We have replacement laying chicks in the brooder and baby quail in the hutch.  We have two well-trained LGD (livestock guardian dog) Great Pyrenees’ on the farm for an extended stay in addition to our family dog, Sage.  We’re trying to pace ourselves, but you know, it’s Spring.  It’s a difficult task. 😉

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Just yesterday we – ahem – harvested Ramsey I.  He is just at a year old, and has proven to be the kindest wether we could ask for.  His departure means a huge ease on chores, as the remaining adult sheep all eat the same, saving about 20 minutes per chore time.  We had planned on doing the deed ourselves, but I chickened out last minute.  After watching the custom slaughterer do it in less than 20 minutes, I realized that I should re-commit to next time.  Easy peasy (tho’ will no doubt take us hours).  We’re looking forward to farm-raised gyros (and the first of the filling of the freezer this year – something I note every year), though The Deed was no easy task for any of us.  It never has been.  And I suspect it never will be.  Nor do I really want it to be, I suppose. (more…)

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A girlfriend posted this article the other day, sharing how painful it is to receive questions like: “Why don’t you have kids?”  Infertility is an ugly thing.  One that can devastate and discourage.  One that isn’t talked about much, and is rather swept under the rug.

I think the overall flavor was “just because we don’t have kids doesn’t mean our hearts don’t break on a regular basis from it.” (equally, it might be a choice for some).  Here’s what I gathered: be kind, sensitive, loving.  Know that things aren’t always as they appear.  Know that fertility & infertility are very deep, very real – often painful and scary and awesome and crazy – seasons of life.  I read it and loved the article.  I disagreed with one part: it’s NOT a private issue (sort of).  And here’s why:

I momentarily conned myself into thinking this [miscarriage] was a private matter just because no one knew.  It’s not.  No more than the birth of a healthy, fully-ripe baby would be.  No more than the death of a fully-formed family member of any age.  If I am going to stand behind life beginning at conception, then I should stand behind honestly sharing the wonderful and devastating news that another Steenbarger went to be with Jesus.  Please pray for us as we muddle through this emotionally.  Mostly, for tender, receptive, changing hearts always.

There IS a private piece to this (in/fertility).  This season (puberty through menopause) is one of the most emotionally vulnerable of a persons life, I suspect.  Whether you have 0 or 10 (people still ask: “When’s another coming?” “Your baby sure is getting old… <hint, hint>”).  There are moments in life that are more tender than others.  More intense.  More fragile.  Not everyone is invited into the secret moments, thoughts or places.  But I can’t find usually that line.  I can’t buy into it all.  I’d generally rather err on the side of sharing.  It’s who I am.  We’re not meant to live this life alone.

And so I share.  We were/are sad.  I lost my mind for a minute or two (shared here intimately).  But I never lost the truth.  And we couldn’t help but be encouraged.  What better way to contribute to a kingdom of forever?!  We are thankful for our earthly losses and voids, even when it hurts.  We would welcome more happily, but are content to be fully living in His Will in this area.  Meanwhile, we embrace others’ children as our own.  Because, after all, we are a family.

It all makes me uber thankful for my “red tent” of ladies that walk with me in ALL of the colors of all of the seasons of my life.  We are blessed.

... our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2 Cor. 4:16

… our inner self is being renewed day by day. 2 Cor. 4:16

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