Pillars of Pine

Pillars of Pine

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A LIttle Too Close!

Over the past few days, we've had a lot of time to further survey the damage caused by the fire.  Our poor trampoline is 'toast', as well as a few other items around the yard.

But the interesting thing was my deck chair.  I went to look for it, thinking it would be great to take it up to sit by the river, but all I found was old, metal bars.  And then I realised.  The deck chairs, which were on the verandah, had caught on fire, and their canvasses were destroyed.  But the remarkable thing was that they were leaning up against the wooden cubby house, and right next to an old wooden cupboard, which is more than past its time, and ready to be split up for firewood. 

In this photo, you can also see our dining room window - which gives you an indication of just how close we came to losing the house:

Our yard is littered with amazing sights like this;  someone was most definitely watching over us!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Update on our move.

Well, things continue to move along, and, after the excitement of the past few weeks, thing have been remarkably calmer these past couple of days.

I'm also feeling much more positive on a personal level, and feeling more than ready to leave the emotional 'baggage'  and hurt behind, and ready to begin a whole new life in NSW.

We had an excellent day today, taking several loads to the dump, putting aside a heap of items to be delivered to St. Vinnies, and clearning out two whole rooms.  We are getting there!  

Although we are all very tired, the excitement is building, and the reality of our move is truly setting in.  The children can't wait to get up there and see all their friends once more, and I am very much looking forward to visiting with my own friends up there, and being able to pop in for a cuppa on occasion, rather than invading their houses for an entire week when we make our 'Interstate' visits - how they managed to put up with us for that long is most impressive! We will forever be grateful to them all, and hope we can return some of their kindness by having them over to 'our house' for regular visits.

We just can't wait for the next few weeks to go by!  Here's more reasons why:

Every fortnight, we'll be joining in with a group for a shared dinner and prayer evening.

The Clarence River - our new home is right on the banks of the river, and it's going to be absolutely lovely to sit out the back and ponder away the hours while overlooking the water (and maybe, even do a spot of fishing!) 

Lessons at the Conservatorium: 

Helena - Private Lessons, Concert Band, Stage Band and Clarinet Ensemble.

Daniel - Singing Lessons, Vocal Group

Lizzie - Trumpet Lessons

and Me - Concert Band, String / Flute Ensemble, and I may possibly enrol for some private lessons as well. 

And Bill just may be joining the vocal group, too.

I also have a flute teacher lined up for Emily, as well as, of course, a brand new Sing Australia group for us all.

TAFE - it seems my daughter and my son will be attending TAFE next year, and fortunately, the Grafton TAFE offer some wonderful courses!  Helena's application is in, and Daniel is making the final decision as to which course he'll take.   They are both very much looking forward to taking this next step towards adulthood.  Of course, that'll mean that I'll be only homeschooling four next year - which will be quite an adjustment.

Scrapbooking and Card Making - I am already in contact with a few ladies in this area, and I hope to finally get my Kaszazz business up and running.  I look forward to running workshops and meeting a heap of new friends who enjoy using the 'creative bug' as much as I do!

Art and Craft fairs and opportunities - still following up on these, but again, have been given several leads regarding opportunites for art and craft around Grafton.  Several of us love to draw and paint, and my girls are very much looking foward to showing off their creative talents in our new home town.  

Edited to add:  Also mixing in with the Grafton Homeschooling Group!  How could I have forgotten to mention THAT??!!!

Won't WE be having fun????  

Just eight more rooms and two more sheds to clear, as well as about twenty cars to get rid of (I just HAD to marry a mechanic, right?), and we'll be done!


Thursday, October 25, 2012


Well, they say that ‘whatever can go wrong, will go wrong’.  It certainly seems as if it is our time for things to go wrong.

As you know, we are in the process of moving, and part of that involves sorting, packing, and getting rid of the rubbish.  We organised an incinerator, and for the past few weeks, have been busily burning off rubbish, old school books, broken furniture, etc. 

On Tuesday, we continued this process, and as usual, we carefully put on only a little at a time.  Once the fire had died down and was only smouldering, we stepped inside for a break.  I was tending to a few things inside, when I stopped short, as I smelled smoke, and thought that it was a little too much smoke for our small fire.  Then came the terrified scream from my 15 year-old:  ‘The yard is on fire!’  It sure was.  Racing outside, we saw that the fire had somehow escaped from the incinerator, and not only was the grass burning, but the pine tree as well.  As we grabbed water buckets, blankets, and whatever else we could find, we realised very quickly that there was no way we would stop this fire on our own (Orson – where were you?  Of course, by the time he put on his fire gear, I guess it would have been too late, anyway – he does have a few issues in that area (another story for later blog post!)). 

I ran inside and called the fire brigade and was just giving them directions when my daughter screamed, ‘it’s about to get the house!’  At that point, it was time to simply grab what we could, and run.  ‘Everyone to the bus!’   I grabbed my bag, my phone, and of course, my laptop (!) and was just running out the door, when my husband rang, and was merrily leaving a message on the answering machine – ‘Hi, how are you?  Anyone there?’ I grabbed the phone, screamed into it, ‘The yard and house are on fire – we’re getting out  - now -  I have my mobile!’, and slammed the phone down in his ear.  I haven’t actually asked him yet what he did or thought at that moment – must do that….  Poor guy, at the time he was 2000kms away, so unable to do anything but wait.

By the time we got to the cars, the smoke was so thick we could hardly see or breathe, and we all piled in to take off.  ‘Have we got everyone?’ I screamed, and my sixteen year old, who was busily still pouring water on the fire, thought, ‘Wait – you don’t have me’!  and dropped her bucket and ran.  I only found out afterwards that she had just dumped a heap of water over a bush that is right next to the house, and it had just caught on fire.  That simple act saved the house, for that bush lies directly under a wooden beam, which, if it had caught, would have certainly set the roof ablaze. 

With all the girls in the car, we called out for my son, not knowing where he was.  He, too, was busy pouring water over other items close to the house, when all of a sudden he realised that a tyre was burning right next to our other car, and the car was very close to catching fire itself.  He ran, jumped in the car, and drove straight past me and down the driveway.  With that, we slammed the bus door shut, and flew out the driveway as well, heading for the neighbour’s house.

The neighbours (who live about 1 km away), had looked up to see billowing smoke.  Fortunately, they had just fitted fire units to their utes, and quickly put them into action.  We met in their driveway, I shouted that everyone was out and safe, and they took off.  Their actions also saved our house, for they were able to spray water over the house and anything close to it.  I rang the fire dept again, and they said yes, a truck was on the way.

In the end, we actually five or six trucks from all the various local towns, as well as several police cars and water trucks.  The flames rose around 30 feet in the air, and they reported exploding fridges, sheds filled with flames, and burning cars.  But, they saved the house.  In a couple of hours, the fire was contained, and the trucks were able to leave.  They certainly were not happy with us for burning off our rubbish, and gave me and my son a terrible serving of abuse.  I could understand their frustration, but we were not burning in fire-ban season, it was not windy when we lit the fire, we had taken steps to ensure the area around was clear and we only burned in the incinerator.  Still, the police say that someone may need a ‘rap over the knuckles’, whatever that may mean – I guess charges may be coming my way – we shall see.

There used to be a heap of trees and bushes between here and that line of trees.

Apparently, the heat that came out of these fridges was unbelievable.
Jessica's car - first wiped out by a kangaroo, and now by fire!

Later that day and all through the night, we checked for hot spots and wandered around with buckets of water, and the neighbours continued to check with their ute as well.  During the night, shock began to set in, and understandably, there were several tummy upsets, headaches and lack of sleep.  By morning, I found I was short of breath and struggling to stand – it had certainly been an experience.

On examination, the electrician decided that power would not be restored to the house without a lot of expense and work, so for now, the house is without electricity, and given the age of the house, it may remain that way. 

Yep, I'd say this one is totalled....
As we inspected the damage that day, we found that one shed had been completely gutted, as had three cars.  But somehow, the house was saved, the main big shed (which was the closest to where the fire had started) was fine, as was our other cars and the shearing shed. 

I’ve spoken in recent posts about miracles, and I believe we just had our third one in a fortnight!  How our entire house did not go up is absolutely amazing; when we sped out the driveway, the fire was about to take it, and I was positive we’d be returning to nothing but a pile of smouldering ash.  But no, we still have a house.  However, with no electricity, we decided to move into my parents’ home, 15kms away, which has been standing empty since they made their move into the Old Folks’ Home a few months ago.  The plan now is to sleep there each night, and go out to our house to finish the sorting, packing and moving during the daylight hours.

Can I just say that I have the most amazing, brilliant, children?  Even in the event of a fire sweeping towards our home, they kept their cool, worked together wonderfully, and with cool heads, saved our home, our car, and even grabbed the dog.  The past couple of days has been an incredible experience – not one I’d like to repeat – but just watching them and realising just how much they have matured, even in that short space of time, has been an honour and a privilege.  And again, we have spent time in prayer together, holding hands, and thanking God for his providence once again.  

Bill's Tool Shed

Bill's Tools and Work Table

As if my last post on moving was not convincing enough, now we are certainly moving!  Our whole focus now is the cleanup and packing up, and heading off.  Bill left NSW the day after the fire, and is now back with us (praise the Lord!).  I still can’t quite believe we got through the whole affair without him, but, we did, and we are still standing tall.  And I discovered a strength within myself I never knew existed.  They say what doesn’t kill you makes your stronger – and this month, October 2012  – has certainly made me a much stronger person.  I think by the time I get to Grafton, I’m going to be the strongest woman out; maybe it’ll be my turn to sing, ‘I Am Woman’ at our next homeschool concert! 

We are alive. We are safe. And we are together. 

And..  umm..  I guess we’ve taken care of that yard cleanup.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Kaszazz Card Making

After all the dramas of the past few weeks, and with all the packing and sorting, we decided to take some 'time out' to do some cardmaking.  As many of my friends know, I am a Kaszazz Consultant, so out came all my Kaszazz products, and we set to work.

The girls were most receptive to the instructions, and soon we had some wonderful cards in the making:

For some, perfection was certainly an issue:

Others took the idea and got a little extra creative:

And in the end, we had a stack of beautiful butterfly cards:

Well done, girls!  Next workshop - using the EzyPress Die Cut machine - now that WILL be fun!


Left with No Doubts

Today, I am left with no doubts.  We are supposed to move to Grafton; God has chosen this path for us, and has shown us, without doubt, that it is where we are meant to be.  We have known for some time that were to move on, and for the past few months, Grafton has become the obvious choice – we tried Dubbo, Wagga, Adelaide, and other centres, but each time, the doors firmly closed, leaving us frustrated and confused.  But in Grafton, the doors swung open.

Firstly, the job.  We arrived in Grafton for our ‘holiday’, the Thursday before our annual homeschool camp.  Dear hubby, Bill, looked online for work, and found a job he thought he’d apply for.  He sent through his application on Saturday, had an interview on Monday, and was offered a weeks’ trial straight away.  Now, he has not started in that work as yet – due to lack of rain, current work opportunities are minimal (it’s at a lawn mower workshop), but he has been told once, and then again this week, he is at the top of their list, their employee of choice, and once the rain arrives, the job will be his.  And even if it doesn’t work out, Bill has a great sense of peace that there is a job waiting for him, and it will come at just the right time.

Next, the house.  With work looking promising, the hunt for a house began.  We applied for several, and were knocked back.  But all along, we knew that if possible, we did not want to go through a real estate agent.  So, we put up signs, and put an ad in the paper.  On the very morning we were leaving to come home, we received a text message about a house just 10 minutes from Grafton.  The house contained 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and overlooked the river.  We went to inspect it, and both Bill and myself felt such a sense of peace in the house, that we knew, despite the fact it was a much smaller house than what we have now, that it was ‘the one’.  It was also private rental, so no real estate agent, and was around $100 per week cheaper than any other house we had looked at.  Perfect!  And, after spending hour after hour filling out forms to apply for rentals, providing identification, proof of income, etc. etc., this house was offered to us on the spot – no application forms required – it was just ..  easy.

But as if that wasn’t enough, after being knocked back for so many other houses, it was as if God said, ‘and just to show you I mean it – here are three other houses for you’.  Yep, one was through a real estate agent, and two others were offered to us because of our ads in windows.  So in the end, we would have had a house, whether that be through the real estate agent, the signs in the windows, or the ad in the paper.

Anyway, we returned home to begin the packing.  The whole ‘removal truck’ thing concerned me, for we currently live in a rather rural location, and I wasn’t sure how to go about finding a suitable removal company.  One email later, I had a company willing to do it for us, and they so happened to have a truck coming through our area two days later, who would deliver the boxes.  We were on our way!

But you know, it seems that whenever God is doing something great in people’s lives, the devil is there, willing to do whatever it takes to prevent it.  And he has tried.  Some people began to spread lies and vicious rumours.  With great sadness, I told my parents and close friends the news, and the next visit to my parents turned out to be one of the most difficult days of my life.  They had both sunk into depression, and I left the homes terrified that one (or both) of them had given up on life, and were now simply waiting to die.  With the stress of it all, I collapsed, and nearly ended up in hospital.  My health has suffered greatly, and in the end, I was simply unable to move on the date we had set for the removal truck.  But, we packed anyway.  And my husband headed north with the truck, leaving the rest of us here to finish the packing, cleaning and sorting. 

Some wonderful friends then stepped in to help, although, they said, it would be with sad faces, as they would greatly miss us.  In the end, we had two families helping us out.  But in the two weeks that have followed, one family hit a kangaroo and totalled their car, leaving them unable to help, and the second family were rear-ended, leaving them also without a vehicle.  And so, we were back to just the children and I to complete the task. 

But, it doesn’t stop there.  First came the near accident that I wrote about in a previous post, where we nearly wiped out the bus (and ourselves).  A miracle of God saved us that day, and more were to come.  Earlier this week, we were driving along with my son at the wheel, when another driver turned without looking at a t-junction and nearly hit us.  My son handled it beautifully, swerving quickly to the left, and going out and around the shocked driver, who suddenly became aware of our presence as we darted around the front of his vehicle.  But the most powerful sign was today.  On the way back from Port Pirie, I took the wheel as my learner driver was feeling rather tired.  We were travelling along a straight stretch of road, when I looked up to see a taxi driving towards us.  Slowly and gradually, the taxi started to drift, and suddenly I realised, the driver was asleep at the wheel, and his vehicle was headed straight for us!  I slammed on the brakes and pulled off to the side of the road, but still he was drifting in our direction.  My son braced himself to rip the wheel out of my hands and take us further to the left, when suddenly, the driver straightened up and yanked the wheel to take him back to his own side of the road.  As he scooted past, we came to a complete stop – but he didn’t, and casually kept going down the road (thanks a lot!). 

And with great trials come great graces.  On Sunday, we were privileged and blessed to be able to attend the Port Pirie Cathedral for Mass and veneration of the right arm of St. Francis Xavier.  For an hour, we knelt in prayer, as well as praying before the relic itself.  It was a powerful morning, to be sure, and I left with a sense of peace and purpose I had not felt for weeks.  I knew God was about to do some marvellous works in our family, and all we needed to do was just keep going.  And he has.  Over the past fortnight, He has shown us marvellous works, protected us, and taught us powerful lessons in trust.  He has shown us things that normally we would not see; let us know some of what awaits us in Grafton, and shown us perhaps a little of the unexpected.  .

And now I realise.  Situation after situation, disaster after disaster, and there is no doubt.  We are supposed to go to Grafton.  There are those who oppose it, and those who are definitely making things difficult for our journey.  But there are others who have encouraged us, held my hand, and threw their arms around me.  Some have helped us here, and others and have supported us across the miles. And I have learned the true value of friendship, and who our true friends are.  After today, I am left with no doubt.  Our family will be in Grafton, and we will arrive with joy and thankfulness, and no-one, not even the devil, is able to stop it, because we have God on our side.  He is the one who has chosen this path for us, and we will follow wherever He leads.

May God bless you day,


St Francis Xavier, Pray for Us!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Midnight Assassins

Well, it's midnight!  And the Midnight Assassins have been hard at work.  Although there have been a few changes to our original plans regarding dates and such, the boxes still needed to be packed, as the truck arrives at 6am tomorrow (er...  make that today).

The last box has officially been packed and sealed, much the relief of the packing team:

Next step - dismantle beds, grab a little sleep (and yeh, probably in that order), and pack that truck!


Friday, October 12, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Hand of God

Now here’s something I’m not going to miss when we move:  Dirt Roads!

In all seriousness, today nearly saw the end of all my worries.  It had been raining, and as we drove into town along our dirt roads, our bus hit a soft spot, and was sent zig-zagging out of control for about 250 metres.

We slid directly for a clump of trees, and just as we were about to hit, the bus scooted off to the other side of the road, straight for another tree.  But somehow, we again managed to miss that one, and once again, the bus slid over to the right side of the road, heading yet again for another bunch. Twice the bus was completely sideways.

All the time, I was praying (loudly) for heavenly protection, and Bill was silently at the wheel, keeping as calm as possible, correcting the steering wherever he could.  I truly thought, though, that this ‘was it’, and I remember at one point, as we plummeted directly towards one tree, that all I could think of was my orphaned children. 

And yet, somehow, we managed to not only survive, but to miss everything – every tree, every curb, and every dry spot that would have otherwise made controlling the vehicle impossible.  We did take one branch off of the middle tree, but apart from that, our harrowing ride came to an end at the end of the hill, when we calmly and slowly turned the corner.  At that point, my husband turned to me and simply said, ‘Good Prayer’.  Later, we went back to view the skid marks - and were absolutely amazed at how close we had come to not only the trees, but to the edge of the road, where each time, somehow, the bus had missed the edge by a hair's whisker, and changed direction.

Do you believe in miracles?  I do.


Friday, October 5, 2012

An Empty School Room

Our schoolroom, usually completely crammed with books, resources and whatever else will fit, currently looks like this:


And our Living Room looks like this:

Why?  Because we are packing, and we are moving house!

We are currently on an incredible journey, where as a family, we have learned much about trusting in the Lord, stepping out in faith, and building our family relationships.

Although we had not originally planned to move so far north, in the end, we have decided to move to Grafton, NSW.  The removalists arrive with the truck on October 16th - so we have just over a week to have everything packed and sorted.

It all still seems a little surreal - we have talked about moving for the past couple of years, and seriously for the last 4-5 months, but talking is one thing, and making it happen is quite another! 

On our recent holiday to Grafton, Bill picked up some work in nearby Coff's Harbour, and the house-hunting began.  We were knocked back on several houses that we applied for, but all along, I had hoped we would be able to find a house to rent that did not involve a real estate agent.  We've always had private rentals, and life is so much easier that way! 

A dear friend suggested I put an ad in the local paper, and on the morning that we were leaving to come home, we received a text message about a 4-bedroom house near Grafton.  We drove out for a look, and later rang them to say that we would like to rent it - and they agreed to have us!  It's a beautiful house on the Clarence River, and just minutes from Grafton.

After all these years coping with only one toilet (to share with our seven girls!), I'm delighted to report that we also now have two toilets, and two showers!  I know that may sound funny to some, but it's one thing that has been quite a challenge at times - so it's delightful to finally have a house with two!

And, we have music teachers!  Grafton has a lovely Conservatorium, and while we were there, we met with the staff and teachers, and we are very much looking forward to being involved with their various bands and ensembles.  We will also be involved with the local choir, and look forward to meeting with our new group soon.  As well, there are several art & craft groups, and I'm already in contact with a few ladies who are involved with scrapbooking, whom I am looking forward to meeting face to face once we arrive.

We also have the bonus of having several other homeschooling families in the area, and we are all excited to get to know these wonderful people more.  And, I have two nieces just a couple of hours north of where we will be living - so maybe I can finally find some time to spend with them as well!

How it all worked out is a long, wonderful story that is still unfolding;  and as I am able, I will share some of the exciting developments, especially in the area of our faith, friends and our family;  our relationships with God and with each other have absolutely blossomed these past few weeks / months, which has been very special to witness and to be a part of.

For now, though, it is back to sorting and packing, and making ready for our move!

God bless,