Saturday, March 03, 2018

We're Moving!

Right before Thanksgiving, our friend Troy called Mitch about a job opportunity he had come across. Troy works as the Area Director for a Timber Bay group in Elk River. Troy and his wife Deana have been our good friends since a couple weeks after we married and moved to Minnesota 21 years ago. Troy raises his own support salary for the work that he does, and we jumped on board to support him as soon as we heard about it a couple years ago. Timber Bay is an amazing group, and I encourage you to visit their website and read about the work they do. (note: I'm going to be writing a lot about it in the future, too.)

An integral part of Timber Bay is taking kids to camp a few times per year. Timber Bay Camp and Retreat Center is located near Onamia, MN. Their motto is "The Camp That Comes Home." It is about an hour away from where we live now--60+ miles--just a stone's throw away from Lake Mille Lacs. Timber Bay Camp is not exactly like other "church camps" that you may be familiar with. Many groups come just for the weekend or shorter trips, even through the summer. Groups come up to work on special projects. Kids take ownership in the camp because they have helped to build the camp. Camp doesn't necessarily organize any of the programs that go on--the area directors who bring their groups to camp arrange that. Other groups occasionally use the camp too, and the camp is open (and busy) year round. And take everything that I say with a grain of salt--I've only known about the camp since early December and I still have a lot to learn!

The job opportunity is for Camp Caretaker. The caretaker of the camp does just that--pretty much overseeing and doing any of the work that needs to be done to maintain the grounds and buildings. The camp caretaker doesn't work alone but often works with volunteers, summer staff, and kids who come to camp for work weekends. Large jobs or projects requiring certain specialized skills are contracted out.

Given our background of loving working with kids and always desiring to be missionaries, Mitch and I responded quickly to find out more about this job. We were invited up to camp to take a tour and have lunch in the kitchen (AMAZING food!!). It is in a beautiful setting, and our hearts ached to be able to move there. The application process was quite a long one, however, and there are many steps to complete to make sure this is a good fit for everyone. We told our family and some close friends that we were exploring the possibility, but didn't want to make a public announcement until things seemed a little more firm. Mitch and I attended the winter staff retreat in January. Mitch attended a winter work camp weekend in January also. He loved every minute of it. In February Mitch went down to the cities to the central office to meet staff there and go over some more parts of the job. The following weekend he shadowed someone at camp who showed him how to do some of the caretaker responsibilities during an event weekend. He texted me and said, "I feel like I died and went to heaven." Mind you, that was after the septic system had a little problem and the basement of one of the cabins flooded with gray water. On Sunday of that weekend, the kids and I joined Mitch up at camp so they could see it for the first time. We helped clean the main lodge and the cabin we would spend the night in. We got to see the camp residence (a 6-bedroom house, that is only a bit smaller than our house here) and go sledding down some insane hills (ok, so I opted not to get on a tube). It snowed overnight and our stay felt magical. The cabin reminded me so much of my grannyham and papaw's house that I was over-the-moon with nostalgia.

{beautiful EagleView cabin}

 We built a fire in the fireplace and Mercy loved it so much!!

 It kept snowing all morning, and at some points you could hardly see across the bay. 

Mitch took some of the kids out on a tour of the camp, and they got to see the animals from Rae's Hope. While they were there, Mitch helped remove a young raccoon from the duck coop! He released him up by the woods, and Rachel planned to board up the entrance where he got in.

Needless to say, we were hopelessly falling in love with camp and hoped we would know with some finality soon whether we would get the job.

The next weekend we were expecting back-to-back snowstorms, so Mitch again volunteered to go up to camp. He used the truck plow to clear the roads and trails. He got the truck stuck, someone locked the keys in the truck, and he got to meet the tribal police when they helped him unlock it. ;) He also got to work with the septic guy again when more troubles caused the residence house to flood. :( He again loved working there and meeting each challenge that arose. They set up a final interview with him for Wednesday of this past week.

His final interview went well, and they gave him a job offer!!

Obviously, we were preparing for this moment since the day we heard about the job. We had many major questions right from the start, and we had potential answers to most of them worked out already. I made myself lists and took it one step at a time. I really can get myself anxious and struggle with change, but I would approach Mitch and say, "I know this isn't important right now but can we talk through it so I can get it off my mind?" He was gracious to help me through those puzzling moments. And this is where my blog post is about to get disorganized and random. I'll do my best to make sense as I try to share the important details and answer some of the common questions.

Salary. Yes, camp had our personal family budget and offered us enough income to cover our budget. Our salary is not dependent on how much support we raise (ie: it is fixed, and we can start the job right away), but we will raise support. Some benefits may be added to our salary if we raise enough support, but for now, we are praising God that camp so thoughtfully is meeting our needs. We need to go through training for this and there are a few steps ahead yet for us to complete.

Our house. We will live at camp (for obvious reasons--like--it's a crazy amazing opportunity!) in the residence. The home is included in our salary, but we will pay utilities. This frees us up to keep our house in St. Cloud, but our salary does not cover the mortgage payment here. If we want to keep it, we need to rent it. Right now we are planning to rent to our oldest kids and their friends. If they pay us on time, most of the time, we will have no problem meeting our budget. {insert laughing/crying smiley} We will save as much of our tax refund as we can in order to cover shortfalls. Our house needs some repairs done before we move away, so some of our refund (and time) needs to go towards that.

Caleb. He is a junior in high school, and he's taking PSEO classes at the college here in town. It's awfully convenient. It makes so much more sense for him to stay in St. Cloud and continue his senior year as a PSEO student. He is doing excellent. I'm nervous about having him live here without us under the same roof, but I also know he is capable. Micah and Eden will be around too, as well as our amazing church family. And we'll only be an hour away. It will take us a little longer to help if they need help, but it can be done.

Church. One of the first things we asked when we considered the move was where we will go to church. We visited Lifespring Church in Crosby 3 years ago when a friend got married there. We met the pastor and his wife and really enjoyed that. So that is a's about a 30-minute drive from camp. (I apologize to the friends who asked and I said the church was in Aitkin!) Brainerd has many churches and is also a 30-minute drive. It will also be possible for us to drive back to St. Cloud to worship with our church family here. It's an hour drive, and that may be difficult, but it isn't impossible. The hardest change for us will be not being able to participate in the children's and youth programs. This year I volunteered to be the 9th grade girls' small group leader. It has been such a privilege. I am disappointed to say goodbye to the girls. I wish I could have stayed with them all the way through 12th grade. Zeke and Josh are really going to miss youth group. So it will be a priority for us to seek a group that is closer to camp.

The new baby. Let's face it, the camp is located out in the woods. That's kind of the point. It's a half-hour to Brainerd, which has a great hospital, but only an hour to St. Cloud where all my records are and where my doctor is. I did a little poll on an online message board and I found that MANY women travel that far (or that long if they live in a city with bad traffic) to see their doctors. I plan to continue coming to St. Cloud for my doctor visits and for the delivery. I'm trying not to be naive, I know it will be more difficult to be an hour vs. 10 minutes away. But the last two babies were induced, and the two before that my water broke but labor didn't get going on its own either. They weren't exactly fast and I needed a little Pitocin on board (or a lot in Obi's case). The doctor also said that she could plan to induce me at 39 weeks, that there are many very good reasons to induce me then. It will be a lot of driving in May and June, but I can also plan my grocery store trips in St. Cloud and have a smoother transition without changing absolutely everything at one time. And the roads should be great (ie: not snow-covered)!

The rest of the kids. They're thrilled. They loved camp. Zeke and Josh are back up there working with Mitch today. Even Genna astounds me with what she seems to comprehend. She often asks me if we can move to the new house now.

Eevee. Yep, she's moving with us. She'll still be an inside dog and she won't have free reign of the camp. But I got her shots updated and stocked up on flea/tick medicine. She's ready and she doesn't even know it. I hope she will get lots of exercise at camp--she's a little (10%) overweight.

Mitch's teaching job. Mitch heavily weighed the pros and cons of completing the school year. Completing the school year would put him starting at Timber Bay in early June. Camp told him that would be like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. :) He is volunteering as much as he can to learn as much as he can right now, but some things will only come when he's there on a day-to-day basis. He asked for advice from a veteran teacher who suggested he try to complete the year through the standardized tests (super important), then it wouldn't be so bad to have a sub finish the rest of his year. His tests are scheduled for mid-April and take about 2 weeks. We told camp we would be available to start May 1st. We don't have the confirmation or details of this yet, but we still anticipate that date.

The move. The house will be ready for us to move in sometime in May. That may happen over a couple weekends. Some of the really big things (tools in the garage, for example) may wait until after the busy summer is over. My hope (which is different than Mitch's hope, as can happen with couples) is that most of the main house stuff will get moved right away. Unfortunately, I'll already be 30+ weeks pregnant at that point. Yikes! So I have already started organizing and purging things right now.

Ok, well I'm not throwing *all* of it away. I have made two large runs to the thrift store already and I hope there will be many more trips. I even got Mitch to spend a couple evenings sorting through 21+ years of memorabilia that we've stashed. Surprisingly, we got along nicely...but I might have felt a little like this at one point...

And I haven't even started packing yet!! LOL

Eden is so anxious for us to move out that she already adopted a kitten from the humane society. ;) I noticed she started cleaning and purging her room too.

Speaking of cleaning and purging, that is next on my list for this afternoon so I will close here. Fire away the questions...I just don't have all the answers yet. And if anyone has experience with renting their home and wants to help us walk through some of that (it is different since we're renting to our kids), let me know. I could use some help!


  1. I'm so excited for you all! I'm sure that it's a little disorienting right now, but like you said, at least you're only an hour away from what you already know. Prayers as you prepare for this new journey!

  2. I think this will be quite an adventure funny things are happening things were prophecied after billy grahams death that there would be a big church revival before return of jesus

  3. I am so very, very excited for you guys! Our family lived at Oak Hills Camp full time (Memorial Day through Labor Day) in Bemidji for several years and we loved it! The memories my kids have are so fun to recall! While there every summer, Nick and I would take every spare moment looking for a home to buy because we did not want to leave! I am trying not to be jealous! HA! We love the Timber Bay program as well. When I used to work for the Forest Service, we did some work with the Timber Bay kids as well. Blessings on this new adventure for you all!