Thursday, February 25, 2010

Part 1: A funny thing happened on the way to Saint Louis...

A man's heart deviseth his way:
but the LORD directeth his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

The story you are about to read is true.

As we have alluded to on this blog a few times, we moved to St Louis in December. I think we also previously alluded to the very wonderous way in which the Lord brought us here. In fact, we have done little else but allude. But we have been keeping a running list of all the ways in which the Lord has directed our steps to get us here, and we felt it was time to share them.

This is a long story, so we will relay it here in parts. This will keep your eyes from glazing over and my fingers from cramping up.

It all started on a small acreage in south central Wisconsin...

The small acreage was about an hour's commute from Dave's workplace in Madison, and this was partly by design. We decided it was time to give country living a try. The acreage (some might call this a slight exaggeration, but it was nearly 2 acres), was a fixer-upper in a wonderful woodsy area, etc. The distance from Madison kept it affordable for us.

After three years in the country, the two hour daily commute did begin to get tiring for Dave. However, coupled with some backwards steps in technology on the job and an effective decrease in his pay, the job situation began to become a strain. We began praying and seeking and knocking, but no better local options opened up. So we just waited...

Well, in God's timing, an opportunity opened up. It was what could be called a "dream job" if a person was a dreamer of jobs. It was several weeks until things were finalized with this new job, but we were so thankful and waited. The most wonderful part was that, the client agreed that until we could sell our acreage and move to St Louis, Dave could work from home most of the time.

We made the strategic household adjustments, purchased very fluffy slippers for Dave's commute upstairs each morning, and put the house on the market. However, as we headed into winter, we had very few showings on the house. By summer, we planned a trip to a St Louis homeschool conference coupled with some house hunting. Our patient realtor showed us a few places, but the heat, the enormous distance between houses, and the complication of our family size greatly hampered our efforts. You see, St Louis county, and some others in near proximity, have rules about how many people may occupy a residence. Fifteen people, in some towns, would require an 8 bedroom home! So, we really needed to do more research, and we headed home with no prospects, but more direction.

Dave made another trip to St Louis, with the boys, a little later in August. This time, with Debbie at home scoping out possibilities on the internet and relaying them to the realtor, we could cover a lot more territory. Dave and the boys were ready, willing and able to do some intensive house shopping. They brought tools, flashlights, and of course, our copy of "House Buying for Dummies."

The main search criteria was that the house be affordable, not too far from downtown St Louis, and NOT in St Louis county. Outside St Louis county, we could pack ourselves in like sardines and nobody cared. Inside St Louis county, we were looking at having to renovate a small motel.

The best housing prospect we found was about 40 minutes from downtown, but all things considered, we felt good about it. It was being rented, so the tenants had to have 24 hour notice before house showings. This made it so that the guys had to wait until the following Monday to go by for a second peek. The investigations and the very reasonable price made us feel pretty okay about putting an offer on the house that Monday. Though the Wisconsin house was still for sale, we were told by our bank that we were pre-qualified to purchase a second house before the first one sold. So Dave had a pre-qualification letter to present with our offer.

(Foreshadowing alert: The reader should suspect that there is a reason we are putting pre-qualifed in bold. The reason is, I don't know how to put in ominous music.)

Since Dave would be in St Louis on Monday anyway, he decided to go into the office and sit in on a meeting scheduled that day. (Normally, he would "attend" by phone.) So, Monday was the big day. They drove by the ATM to withdraw money for the deposit on the house, Dave went in to the office for his meeting, and then he found out his contract was terminated.

As Dave and the boys headed back to the car, of course, the whole plan changed. Though we had never experienced unemployment before, that was really only part of the adjustment. We knew that it was not something the Lord would want us to worry about, so that saved us some time. However, we had made many plans during the previous 8 months, and with the termination news, it took some concentration to figure out what had changed and what hadn't.

For example, we were wondering if we should keep the house on the market. Hmmmm. We decided to keep it on the market. Since we were already willing to move, we'd just open the job search up nationwide and see where the Lord led us.

One thing we knew for sure, it would NOT be St Louis, Missouri.

Now, by this time, Dave's Grails computer book was finished and scheduled for printing. While Dave was willing to take any position that met our needs, we were all really hoping for a programming job in a shop using Grails. But these jobs are rare! So, he cast his net pretty wide, hoping for a Grails job, but knowing it wasn't too likely. He looked for openings and sent his resume. He posted his resume on nationwide job boards. He waited. Nothing.

We tried to take advantage of the time, going on nice walks and pondering the next step. The Lord really gave us peace, but the waiting got old.

Eight days after the job search, he got a call from a recruiter. This was for a job which Dave had never seen or applied for. Initially, she didn't seem to understand Dave was hoping for a Grails gig (as they call them). When he mentioned Grails, she matter-of-factly said, "Oh, yes, yes, I know, I know," but as Dave awaited the phone interview, he wondered if she had her details straight.

However, she did. It was for a Grails job. The interviewers tried to minimize their surprised reaction when they learned he was the author of a book on Grails. The interview went well, and Dave received a satisfactory contract offer the same day. We were amazed and just thanking the Lord!

We knew already to brace ourselves for the fact that this was not a job where he could work from home. He would have to be on site daily, starting immediately. As we began packing his bags and making preparations, our main consolation was that the job was located in:

St Louis, Missouri.

(da da dum dum da da da!!!)

Is that weird or what?

Okay, we are almost done with this installment...

So as soon as he hung up the phone, he's on the phone to our realtor. The realtor who led us all over the St Louis metro area twice. The realtor who heard we had lost our job and were not moving to St Louis. That one.

Was that house we almost bought still available? we asked. We already felt good about it, had checked it out, and it was a great price. That would be the quickest route to getting us all down to St Louis, since Dave could not work from our home with this new job.

But no, it was already sold.

So Dave prepared to head down to the new job in St Louis, and we began scrambling to find a suitable second choice. We were so thrilled about the new Grails gig, we just trusted that the Lord would show us the next step. And he did.

But that step was followed by a lot more steps than we had bargained for!

This story continues here, but you might want to take a stretch break first!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


A favorite Klein family past-time is discussing the many happy memories we have of time spent with the many friends the Lord has blessed us with. Traveling and meeting people has taught us much, but one lesson that is basic is that of the importance of hospitality.

This lesson did not come instantly for us. Years ago, any time we expected to be away from home overnight, we planned to find a motel along the way. Staying with a host seemed too much of an imposition, especially as our tribe expanded. And getting a motel room (or two...or three... depending on the fire codes), allowed a certain feeling of privacy. For example, only a few anonymous neighboring motel guests would hear the occasional FRANTIC pounding on the bathroom door.

But, in 1999, something changed our perspective, and we had the chance, out of necessity, to experience hospitality first hand: We took our first trip to southern Mexico.

The two day (24 hour) drive through the interior was briefly interrupted by an 8 hour respite at a hotel (that is Spanish for hotel ). But the 8 or so days at our destination was at the home of our missionary cousins...all 800 or so square feet of it!

That first trip, which combined a week long stay, 10 or so extra people, lots of pasta, toilet paper, canned green beans, and bushels of extra dirty laundry not only introduced us to a new culture, but the necessity of hospitality.

If an afternoon rain comes, you run to the roof,
snatch up your laundry, and hang it inside your house!

In the States, it is so less common to stay in the home of your friends, but in Mexico, its nearly a certainty. Mi casa es su casa! Though we felt a little under and on foot, we were told that they had actually hosted a couple of dozen folks at one time! The idea of sending your guests to a hotel was thought pretty strange and certainly unnecessary.

Limonada....the pause that refreshes!

The intimacy that comes with hosting a family (or being a guest) is something that is not natural to many of us as Americans. But we noticed that with time, we really preferred the togetherness. Also, we began learning ways to try to be better guests (including, but not limited to: bringing large cookware, extra toilet paper, and extra food!). We tried to demonstrate our appreciation. And before we left, we all wished we could return the favor!

We were much more sensitive to parenting gaps, too! "Please get off the table!" Ug!

The perfect plate-less thing to serve for a big gathering:
tostadas topped with guacamole!

After the first few trips to Mexico, when we were back at home, we realized one hindrance to hospitality was in the layout of our house. Our house was not really designed for offering hospitality. The dining area was small, the rooms were not very open. From visiting various homes, we began to get ideas that would make our home more open. For example, we sold our couches and coffee table, cut and finished a pass-thru in the wall which connected the kitchen and living room, tiled our "living room" and set it up appropriately as a large "everything" room. Since we generally had people over for a meal anyway, the couches weren't as practical as places to serve a meal.

If you only remove one serving from a dish of tamales, you have a tamal.

The world tells us we need to have a showpiece home, classy decor, and gourmet fare to offer our guests. But our experience as guests was that it was the fellowship and love that really made a visit become a precious memory. (Though we never had any complaints about the food either!) Knowing that we were welcomed, having time to get to know others, gathering around for devotions and songs and prayer, that was the most comforting thing about our time with friends! Running out of hot water or places to hang the laundry added to the camaraderie and fun!

Why is it that helping to clean someone else's kitchen is so much more fun???

We also found that the extra cleanup and meal preparation time made for good chances for the children to work with others and enjoy true teamwork. Many opportunities for mischief are avoided when everyone is occupied with something helpful or potentially yummy to do!

We Klein girls love to learn new home organization tips and recipes
from friends.

If we'd have not had these expressions of hospitality, many of our travels would have been robbed of the best memories we now treasure. So, we are thankful for what God has taught us, through something that initially made us feel pretty awkward.

And besides all these important benefits and lessons, we have realized we have saved tons of money through the hospitality of our hosts! Many of our travels would not have been possible if not for God's provision through other's hospitality!

Taco soup: an offer you can't refuse!

We are thankful for the many wonderful examples with which our family has been blessed. They have helped us realize the need to learn a foundational part of Christian character, and a foundational ingredient in real Christian fellowship: hospitality!

Monday, February 08, 2010

He prepareth a table before us...and more!

We are finally posting some photos of the inside of the new house, since we are more or less moved in. Much of the moving in took place after the bus was unloaded, because we came from a much smaller house, and so had very little furniture. We were just rattling around inside this place! Of course, we were thankful to have the space in which to rattle! But, furniture was not at all in our budget. However, what a wonderful provision the Lord has given us through free stuff for our house!

The front living room, which we use mostly as extra work space, now features this oak dining table which seats six. It was being given away. The hanging light above it was free as well; Ben rewired for us so we could plug it in. Also given to us was the brown covered couch, AND the nearby chair, and the cooly-colored throw pillows on said couch and chair! We use this area for working with the little boys in the morning, and when we spread out to do our Bible copy and letter writing, or chore brainstorming sessions. Wow -- space!

This monster desk with hutch was also a free provision for us, from a sweet lady up in Madison. The boys dismantled it, put it together in the old house, dismantled it again, and installed it here. This is the "formal dining room" adjacent to the front living room, but it Mommy's office area. The hanging light (matching the other one over the oak table) was also free. The pink and green quilt was made by my maid of honor!

Behind the oak dining table is this lovely desk for Abi's work area, also given to us. Abi helps with proofing and copying the outgoing family correspondence (we keep copies of the children's to serve as a family history). She will be helping to keep us on track with our Spanish lessons, so her books and a CD player for that purpose are nearby.

This nook off of the kitchen is the creation room. This corner table with the three chairs were also a free provision for us. This is more space for quiet reading or writing.

Welcome to the basement office of Silver Chalice (Zak and Ben's start-up). They let Daddy hang out here too. This work table (minus the shelf thingy) is one of THREE such work tables given to us. The easel and whiteboard is one of two given to us, by the same lady (Abi has the other one by her desk).

Another provision from the Lord, this desk for Zak.

Piecing together my monster desk was good practice for piecing together THIS monster "desk". It was also a free provision from the Lord. It is in perfect condition and the quality is nearly Klein-proof. Sarah did most of the reassembling. Sarah also installed the vinyl tiles in this basement nook which is the sewing/project room.

Back on the main floor, this is our previously empty "den". Except for the rocking chair in the top corner, these pieces of furniture (plus a couch which is not visible) which nicely fill up this HUGE room where we gather for devotions in the morning and evening, were all more of the Lord's provision for us.

The fireplace heats this room. It's really a room made for having company!

This lovely Bible verse picture was also a provision from the Lord. Dave's mom had an identical one, and I was so happy when my friend Linda offered it to me. Thanks!

There is much more to the house, and the stuff the Lord has provided, but you get the picture! We give thanks to Him, not just for this stuff, but for everything He has done for us. To whom much is given, much will be required.