THIS is our story. It's a lovely story really, at least we think so, full of clouds with silver linings, raindrops on roses, and brilliantly colored rainbows with huge pots of gold laying all around at their bases, free for the taking. But, hold on, now we're getting ahead of ourselves. If we're going to tell the story properly, we need to begin it properly.
This story, like any decent one, has a beginning, and ours will start in a bar of all places. Yup, a little crowded, corner bar, full of smoke, loud music, pool tables and the smell of alcoholic beverages. But those things aren't exceptionally noteworthy, so we'll move on to the young lady sitting on a stool near the door and a young man with long hair who walked up to her and asked, "is this seat taken?" motioning to the stool next to her. You see, it's those two random individuals that are noteworthy because, if you haven't guessed it already, they are our parents.
A year found the two married and living in a suburb of Chicago in the largest house our Daddy has ever owned (and that was before our existence!) We've only heard stories about the guitar room and the permanently set up chess set in the den, but we find these stories a little silly, because, If you think about it, they rarely got to enjoy these things anyway. They hardly ever even saw them. But do you want to know what is even sadder than that? We don't find this part is silly at all. In fact, this is one of those little rain clouds we told you about earlier. They rarely ever saw each other. And they loved each other a whole lot, so that made them sad.
"We only have one life," they said, coming to their senses one day. "And we don't want to miss spending time together. Not any of it." So, they bravely marched into the offices of their high paying jobs and handed in little resignation slips. While they were at it, they sold the big house, one of the cars, the stereo and five of the seven guitars. They moved to a small town in Wisconsin, all for our sakes, you see. Because, even though we weren't around yet, they didn't want us brought up in such a place as Chicago. To this day, we thank them.
Together they started a small home business which grossed about $50 in its first year.
Then, completely placing all of their trust in God, they started making us. One at a time, of course. :) Andrew came first, followed quickly by Mary twelve months later, then Annie, never one to be left out, joined us a short sixteen months after that, and Stephen, evening out the boy-girl ratio, nineteen months later.
In this time, their home business grew some, and God provided, but always just as and just when we needed it. Never before and never more. It wasn't easy after their successful jobs, but in time Momma and Daddy grew used to having an empty bank account. There was no 'rainy day' jar in reserve, no college funds and no retirement plans. When the roof needed to be replaced on our little town house, the exact amount came in the form of an early Christmas gift from generous, yet unaware, benefactors playing a role in God's providential plan for us.
When Momma started to worry for us, her pure little angels, in the city environment, they bought a country house just outside of town. Theresa was our first country baby, gifted with such treats as warm goat milk bottles and abundant baby animals to hold and pet. Mom homeschooled us at her knee and Dad was always close at hand, in our home office. It was a wonderful time for our whole family. One of those 'raindrops on roses' moments.
It was around this time that Mom entered the realm of healthy eating, even going so far as to be all raw for awhile. It was a great learning and exploring time for all of us. We all learned about such things as milking, animal procreation and death, hatching eggs, and little spoiled bucking ponies (ouch, do we ever remember that pony...). Amidst all the animal births happening out in the barn, Michael came about somewhere in there, too. We're not exactly sure how. We think we may have found him out in one of the animal stalls and brought him in to Mom, but we don't remember exactly. ;)
It seemed like the perfection was near at hand for our growing little family, when almost at once, my parents started noticing us, little 8-7-5-4-2 and baby, year olds, becoming lonely. Mom was just slightly surprised, as she had hoped that raising a big family in a productive, interesting lifestyle would be enough activity and socialization for us. Evidently, it wasn't.
We moved, after only two and1/2 fun years on our country farm, up into a community of big homeschooled families in the northern backwoods of Wisconsin. It seemed like a wonderful solution with the only negative being that Dad was temporarily commuting the two hours back to civilization to continue offering our home business to his customer base. This 'temporary' situation ended up lasting for five long years. In those years we continued to homestead, owning a horse ranch for a few years, and raising chickens, goats, cows and kids. (Elizabeth was born at home, assisted by our neighbor midwife).
Dad prayed daily for direction, but when he did finally hear from the Almighty, it wasn't at all what he was expecting. He was clearly instructed to remove our debt, which at the time, was a mortgage on our thirty acre property. Without any sort of plan or place to go, we sold our land. And it sold quickly! The new owners were kind enough to allow us to rent while we gathered our thoughts.
Now, if you learn anything from our story, learn this: be specific when you pray. God is a very literal entity. When Dad prayed for direction he also asked for clarity, complained that he was dense, and asked that it hit him like a ton of bricks. Ouch. The next time he delivered work to his main customer, they handed him a pink slip. Ouch. That was tough. He knew he wanted a simpler life for his family, he wanted to be home, he didn't want to miss a single detail of our lives. His little toddler daughter, Elizabeth, treated him like a stranger when he would come home to us on the weekends. But was he really ready for it now? All at once. Just like that. No more outside income. No paychecks. Could he just do it, without any kind of plan?
He prayed. So did Mom and so did all of us. He considered his motives for coming home. They all pointed back to goodness. He wanted it for the goodness for himself, his wife, us, his lifestyle. He wanted them all improved and bettered by his coming home. Just for goodness' sake. Could God not smile upon a decision like that and grant His blessing on it? After all, money means nothing to Him, but His children mean a lot... a whole lot.
So, he came home. Never looked back. We full time homesteaded after that, all the while being held back from sinking any lasting roots into our farm by the fact that we were renting our property and looking for a place to move. If only we had each gotten a penny every time Mom spun away from the Realtor listings on her computer screen declaring, "I found our farm!" Our finances would have been in much better shape. As it was, being pregnant at the time left her with little else to do. (And yes, nine months found a fat 11lb 9oz Johnny joining the clan.)
After our Grandpa died and we ran into some inheritance money, we finally relented in our search, deciding that there was no place like home and presenting our landlords with an offer to buy. To our surprise, they refused and within a few days, an eviction notice showed up in our mailbox. Not for the normal renter's reasons, mind you. However, we were never given a straight answer, so we have none to pass on to you.
We were given six weeks to be out and, after the first week, we narrowed our search down to two possibilities. There was an old farmstead on 23 acres, with a large older house and a maple grove that would have used up all of the inheritance money and there was fifty cheap, bare (save for a tiny, old mobile) acres in the middle of nowhere in the Upper Peninsula. Well, Upper Peninsula came out of the hat three times in a row, so that's where we moved.
(Oh, and If you happen to live in between the three hours that separate us from Northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan and you happened to see a tastefully rusty fifteen passenger van packed with kids and pets, pulling a four horse stock trailer with an angry stomping cow making a racket, backed by the complaints of an unhappy goat herd and followed up by a large brightly colored Uhaul van... that was us.)
In the first year of living in the U.P., rainbows fell on our land, their ends visible all the way to the ground, our ground. Oh, wonderful years!
Andrew was thrilled, always having wanted to build a house. At fifteen, he was eagerly reading and absorbing every book on the subject. Dad; not so thrilled, but again, praying, trusting, surviving. The leaning little garage housed all our goods, stacked to the ceiling while we packed the ten of us into the 740 sq.ft. mobile/camp as we built our house. It was okay, really, once the mice moved out. ;) Somedays us girls actually miss sleeping in the living room. :o)
Two wonderful hardworking years completed our natural cobwood handmade home. You can view an overview of our house building HERE. We moved in just before Thanksgiving 2007, and we had a lot to be thankful for. A year later, our beautiful baby sister was born to the immense gratitude and enjoyment of our family.
We absolutely love the way we're living. We feel that we've found a great treasure in this laid back pot'o'gold lifestyle and we kiddos desire it for our futures and for the future of the world.
Thanks for joining us, reading and reminiscing with us about our beginnings!
Andrew, Mary, Annie, Stephen, Theresa, Michael, Elizabeth, John and Donna Lund.