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Our Story – Detailed

UPDATED November 5, 2010

This is where I hope to give some of the details of how we came to this property and how we ended up living in our little RV on the Hillside. It is not yet complete, but I will keep adding to it.

We came out here in December of 2005 from California so Dave could work at a museum. It was an eleven-day journey in which God’s hand was so evident. It was absolutely amazing! Obstacle after obstacle confronted us, yet God moved in each instance. It took 8 pages to write about all the ways we saw God moving and I’m not even sure we remembered all of them! God clearly protected us and brought us out here as people on both sides of the country prayed for us.

While we were driving, our belongings were shipped out here in a cargo container, which is another story in itself. That container, dubbed “the box”, was delivered to the museum parking lot. In April 2007, we were able to get it moved onto our land, where it still sits, holding most of our belongings.

When we got here, we lived in our RV on museum property while we looked for housing. We got hit with some financial surprises, including property being more expensive than we had understood it to be. Ironically, the places we most wanted had older trailers on them, which would actually have been fine with us. However, we couldn’t afford the more expensive loan requirements that the banks wanted on those. We qualified for a quite a bit of house, but did not want to end up with something we would be unable to keep.

We looked at house after house, but even our Realtor agreed that the only houses we could realistically afford to buy were ready for demolition. They either had crumbling foundations or other serious structural problems. Rent was even more out of our range, so we ended up living in an RV park while we tried to figure out our next step. Buying land seemed to be our only real option.

We bought land in April. At that same time, we bought the materials for a large two-story workshop. It was our plan to build the shell, pull the RV inside and then slowly put a small temporary apartment in one end of it to live in until we could afford to build a house. The weather, however, worked against us. It rained just often enough to keep the contractor from getting the Pads cut into the hillside and the septic and water put in. We moved from the RV park onto our land on September 30th, the day after the power was turned on.

Living in the RV park and trying to get onto our land had drained what was left of our resources. When we moved here, we had no vehicle debt. We ended up having to borrow against our van to put the septic in. The plan was to sell the van after we moved and just use the car. However, the car was totaled while we were still in the RV park, so we were also stuck with a vehicle payment we had not expected to have. Out of funds and out of time to build the workshop, we just hunkered down for the winter… our second in the RV.

Since that time, we’ve found ourselves struggling to keep up with the basics of just dealing with our land and our 24 year old RV. We drive through a creek to get home, which has a lot to do with why the land was affordable! We were able to get the crossing drivable in the beginning, but we could not make anything permanent. So, it kept getting washed out each time there was a heavy rain. Dave has had to keep repairing it by hand each time because we couldn’t afford to rent the equipment. It’s been very time consuming and kept him from being able to finish other things we’ve needed to get done.

Thankfully, we did get quite a bit of help with that crossing from others. We have been so blessed as equipment’s been brought over, work’s been done, and more pipes have been donated. During the time we have been here, progress on the creek crossing has been moving forward and then getting pushed back as storms would wash out what Dave had done. Little by little, though, he got more and more of it to hold as he cemented the sides. The top is still not slurried, but the crossing has held in the latest storms with fairly minor washouts. It still needs to be properly finished, though.

In April of 2007, we started to build a laundry room in order to save the money being spent at the Laundromat. We were blessed by being given a washer and dryer. The laundry room was meant to be a temporary structure, but it’s pretty much turned into a “permanent” one. It’s useable, but still unfinished. It has an upper half story where we were hoping to store things, like off-season clothing. We were also hoping to make a closet in the bottom level for coats and long items like my dresses and jumpers. Our RV closet is very short and not very wide. When we left the RV park, we had to stop using our shower as a closet! So, I have clothes I really miss being able to wear.

We also have a very crude tarp shed that was built as a temporary storage place. Dave was hoping to build a room off the side of the RV to give us space and privacy. The things in the shed would have gone in there, too. Oh, and it would be another place to put a clothes closet.

Dave was able to get a platform built for a room, but between weather and work and sickness, he could not get the room done either. So, the shed’s still there and, not being designed to last this long, has problems of its own.

We’ve had to deal with two years of creek crossing washouts, driveway washouts (read “deep gullies”) and large amounts of trenching that have had to be hand dug. Thankfully, the ones who have helped us with the creek crossing, have also helped us to get most of the trenching work done, too. We are VERY grateful for that.

We’ve also had to deal with an underground water leak and leaky roofs on the RV, the tarp shed and the laundry room. Each winter we have to watch for mold inside the RV and the shed, deal with ice on the inside of the windows and keeping the RV warm using everything from insulation on the roof to straw bales and some insulation panels on the outside of the RV. We also have to protect our hoses that bring water into our RV and into the laundry room from freezing. We have to protect the black water tank dump valve and the washing machine pump from freezing.

For those of you who are not familiar with RV’s or camping trailers, the black water tank is the one that fills with “solids”. While we can leave the gray water valve open, gray water being sinks and showers, the other tank has to be filled and then dumped and rinsed. If the valve freezes, we cannot dump the tank…which could get a bit…well, shall we say “problematic”?

Our common living space is 11′ by 7 ½’. That constitutes our living room, kitchen, dining area all in one. It contains the couch, small table, cabinets, refrigerator, stove, etc. Our couch makes into a bed at night and is transformed back into a couch each evening. When someone gets sick…well, I think you get the picture.

At one end of our RV is an over the cab bed space our son uses. At the other end is a tiny bathroom. Remember the old telephone booths? Well, it is about the size of two of those put together! For someone like me, who really needs solitude in order to work through the things of life, this is a situation for disaster.

I know that our whole situation sounds pretty dire to most people (or just plain insane!)…but I have to say this:  God has been with us every step of the way. He has walked us through it. Three people in a tiny living space is really hard. Having almost everything we own either scattered about or locked in the “box” is frustrating. Constantly having things to work on or fix, making it difficult to make any real headway, feels very overwhelming a lot of the time. Trying to home educate our son without adequate table space is a challenge.

Yet, it is by the grace of God that we have done it. If you want to know where God is in all of this…He is right there in that RV with us! He has kept us “sane” (although some might question if we ever were sane!) and has been growing our faith in unbelievable ways.

I won’t pretend that this has not affected us in negative ways. I don’t want to paint a romantic picture of year round “camping in the woods”. What I do want to say, however, is that God has been with us. He has shown Himself to us even in the midst of some incredibly discouraging times. And yes, we have been discouraged…and even deeply disappointed at times. However, God has used it ALL for His glory and our good. We simply would not be the people we are today if we had not gone through all this. Does that mean we want to stay in this situation? Not at all!

We do need something! Whether it be to build a temporary big room off the side of the RV, a workshop to pull the RV into (which one person suggested), a shell of a cabin built with permits (using our workshop materials) that we could finish the inside of over time, or a used trailer (which others have brought up). We do need something. We don’t pretend to know what God wants. We try to stay as open as we can and are grateful for whatever He sends our way.

If I had to make a list of words to sum up our experiences over the last three years it would include these: heartaches…and healing, hardships…and growth, challenges…and creativity, stretching…and faith, needs…and blessings, loneliness…and God’s presence, faraway friends…and new friends, losing much…and gaining more.

We have been unable to make any progress on our own. However, there are those who are reaching out to help us. For what is happening now, go to Yahweh’s House/Beit-Shalom.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Charles Buffington permalink
    March 18, 2009 4:52 AM

    Well, You’re right! It would be fun for a summer, but going on 4 years is a bit long even for camping in such a pretty place. My wife might get annoyed at it, but I bet I would enjoy the natural solitude and never get tired of it!!!

    • March 18, 2009 8:58 AM

      Well, brother, in our situation, you would have plenty of “natural” solitude…just no personal solitude. Although, I guess you would have a certain amount of personal solitude, too, while you are outside in the cold and heat working on the creek crossing and the drainage and all the other things that Dave has to do when he is home. It would be nice to have the creek crossing finished and an adequate living space so that we could just sit back and enjoy the natural solitude for awhile. I am looking forward to that…someday. *smile*

  2. Gayle Griffiths permalink
    January 8, 2010 11:36 PM

    Saint Abi… I might have been able to do this when I was a hippie girl living in Cripple Creek, Colorado, riding donkeys and smoking pot…. but I would be really really struggling with this at my age…the small confines and lack of privacy and alone time. We take so much for granted like closets, bathrooms you can turn around in, having a bath to relax. But, it is true, as you have well spoken, that we see the Lord’s work in our lives more clearly in the times we struggle… we have no where else to turn or things to be distracted with and you find yourself sharing every little thing with Him… and then, there it is… His answer comes shining through… sometimes in big ways, sometimes in small ones…. but you feel His presence, and that is the greatest miracle of all. I have been there so many times when I was a single Mom.

    • January 9, 2010 9:49 AM

      Saint? LOL Well…if you mean the true meaning of saint which is “set apart for G-d”…I do try to be one! I had single mom days, too..and yes, He was definitely with us the whole time. I saw His hand and relied upon Him so much. Hardship definitely does bring closeness…IF we allow it to!

  3. Gary Watkins permalink
    August 30, 2010 8:21 PM

    Wow I had no idea of what you guys have gone through now for 5 years, you sound like a modern day little RV on the prairie. I would love to talk sometime on the phone its been a long story, mine was quite a story coming out here now 12 years tomorrow.

    • August 31, 2010 8:25 AM

      Hey, brother! It is good to hear from you! Sure…it would be really nice to talk on the phone sometime!

  4. September 27, 2010 2:23 PM

    You certainly have been through so much. Its amazing how even in hard times someones faith can always be there to help get through the rough patches. Our trailer is small as well but we only have 2 people, I couldn’t imagine 3. I hope it starts getting much better for you and your family.


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