3 years later!

Has it really been 3 whole years since our last post?? I can’t believe how fast time flies!  One of our readers came from Michigan to see the house months ago. He asked why we stopped blogging. We’ve had other readers ask the same question.  Amazingly, 7 or 8 of you have told us that you’ve completed or are starting a log home of your own after reading about our log home. This humbles us to the core.  God is so so so so good to use our personal story to help others become mortgage free as well.

So, why did I stop the updates?  To be honest, I didn’t want to be obnoxious or annoying, and I’ve actually become a pretty private person. But the other reason is detailed in the next post.

Hearing from the first few people after my silence was amazing and uplifting. Then, over the course of time we heard from many more through email, text, wordpress, and visitors, and just couldn’t believe it.  We’re sincerely touched that not only are some of you out there actually reading each post…but that you made the life-changing decision to sell your homes and invest your time and money into BUILDING a log home of your own because of this blog.  How can I respond to such a deeply humbling thing?

I recently came across this verse (again) in the Bible: “Publish HIS glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things He does.” (Psalm 96:3) …

The Holy Spirit gently reminded me that this verse is the sole purpose of our blog, in a nutshell; Cottonwood Creek, and the blog about it, isn’t about my family and me…it’s 100% about Him

So many people don’t believe in God anymore. Or they don’t believe that He actually answers prayer.  Many others have very confused and incorrect philosophies and ideas of “who” and “what” God actually is….

For each of these reasons, from what we’ve been told by readers, He has used this blog to reach people in over 120 countries to let them know that He’s real, that He’s alive, and that He responds and guides and actually does have a plan for each person’s life, just exactly as Jeremiah 29:11 in the Bible says. He’s precisely the same God (YHWH/Jesus; John 1; Romans 8; Colossians 1) today who led and communicated with every person in the Old and New Testaments.

He’s not some faroff God Who doesn’t care. His whole desire is YOU; after all, He lovingly and deliberately handcrafted you. (Psalm 139:13-16; Isaiah 44:2). He craves to bless and to do life alongside each of us. That’s what this entire blog clearly demonstrates and illustrates.  

So, in light of realizing all of this, why would I stop “…sharing His glorious deeds among the nations”?  For those of you who have actually enjoyed reading this, I sincerely apologize for stopping, and you’re not going to believe what all has occurred out here since the last post. There’s so much, I need to dedicate 2 full posts to it.

With that said, let’s begin playing catch-up!  We’ll start by going back to the last two posts I wrote. They described a church elder dinner we hosted in April 2017, and the tearing down of a 100-year old farmhouse.  I recommend that you read the post called “Our Next Project”, about the farmhouse, if you haven’t already, because the next many posts will be entirely centered around it…

Rewind time back to the elder dinner of April 2017, and let’s focus our attention on my husband Steve for a minute.  As you might recall, he’s been a San Antonio fire fighter for 24 years (and I kinda have a crush on him…).  Other than Jesus Christ, my husband is my absolute hero and best friend.

He has remained at the same station all 24 years.  It’s an area filled with gang and Mexican Mafia violence, weekly shootings, rampant drug abuse, overdoses on every block, and drug dealings. That side of town also has the San Antonio’s oldest neighborhoods, which results in the most structure fires. He’s had guns pulled on him several times, and has seen more death from drug overdoses, shootings, health issues, and car accidents on a weekly basis than he cares to remember. In all those years there has only been one lost fireman (Jesse Bricker) and many wounded.

However, on Steve’s birthday in 2017 (three weeks after the elder dinner) two firemen were trapped in a 3-alarm fire. One was Brad Phipps, who managed to escape with lasting bodily damage; but the other one, Scott Deem, died in the fire.

It shook the whole city. Firemen from around the country came to the funeral, and 1000’s marched for miles through San Antonio in honor of Scott. (Another fireman, Greg Garza, was killed stepping off the fire truck over a year later, in 2019, and was given this exact same kind of procession and funeral).

The tallest head in this black/white pic is Steve

Steve is bald with sunglasses behind man in blue)

Steve loves his job. He’s a proud, dedicated fireman who happily serves his city.  However, these tragedies definitely put more immediate ideas of retiring from firefighting in his mind, perhaps replacing it with construction instead.

Not long after the fireman funeral we had one pretty huge positive.  We attended the San Antonio Witte Museum grand re-opening from a massive remodel and expansion. Steve was asked to repaint and/or clean every bird in their entire museum, as well as mount a new owl, vulture, Cara-cara, a brown pelican, ducks, quail, and several other birds that were donated to it. It was so much fun to walk through the enormous museum with our kids and see birds in all of the wildlife displays, knowing that each one had been at our house, and that Steve had cleaned, painted, restored, or mounted them. I’m so proud of and impressed by him.

Following that, we went full-throttle into prepping the land for another father/son campout in October (2017) for 75 people. (We’ve had several more campouts since then.) Here’s my friend Gina helping us with breakfast biscuits; the guys were outside cooking the rest over dutch oven…

 

After the campout we left for our cabin in Ruidoso, New Mexico for much needed rest and recuperation.

Upon getting back, more tragedy occurred. On November 5, 2017, we were at church. On our way home ambulances passed us. We received a text from Steve’s sister telling us that a church in our tiny town of Sutherland Springs had an active shooter who hadn’t been found yet. Minutes later we pulled up to that church. Steve jumped out to offer emergency aid, telling us to stay in the car in case the shooter was still there. He helped other medical volunteers put bodies on air-life helicopters and ambulances.

The scene was horrible.  The shooter had entered the tiny country church containing a little over 50 people and opened fire, while the pastor was out of town.  A brave neighbor of the church shot him. The gunman drove off and ended up committing suicide minutes later. 27 lives were lost, and 20 others were severely injured.  Details of it are all over the internet, if you want to learn more. We pass this church every day; we live only a few miles from it.

Steve said in all his 24 years of working the toughest part of San Antonio’s gang violence, he had never seen anything so bad all in one place.  At the church, he worked alongside other volunteer firemen/women in their early 20’s whose FIRST call EVER was this one. He said they were in complete shock and didn’t know what to do.  (I don’t blame them!)  Some were marred by the experience and considered ending their plans to work in the emergency field. That evening Steve went to their station down the street to tell them how proud he was of them, how highly unusual this was, how great they did, and to keep going…

For a whole week our town was in shock, followed by being infiltrated with news reporters from around the country. Their satellite vans literally lined our small town bumper-to-bumper, and took up EVERY parking space at the post office, gas stations, Dollar General, etc. What used to be an unknown town had officially become national news and a highly-known name.

To show you what I mean, I took pictures from my steering wheel (shhh, don’t tell). For perspective, normally there might be *2 cars in post office driveway, and 2 in each gas station, and none along the streets. To see any more than 3 cars on the road driving is a “busy” day.  You can clearly see the difference (plus, you know you’re in the country when you’re following behind a hay bail truck)…

Can you see the Valero gas station sign on the left? We couldn’t get gas without reporters approaching for potential interviews.

US Vice-President Mike Pence arrived at the end of that week to give our community his condolences. After he left, the media-dust settled, and a missionary from North America Missions Board stayed in our McGuire House b-n-b to find out what that church needed…

Between him and other friends of ours who knew church victims and their families, we learned that over 23 people (that we personally know about) turned to God for the first time in their lives, and not only fully believed that Jesus Christ IS God, but also willingly received Him to be the Lord and Savior of their daily lives and soul that week, *because of the unexpected shootings. There were probably many more that we don’t know about.

The missionary also learned (and told us later at home) that the church’s needs were so well-supplied from people everywhere that they didn’t know what to tell the missionary! They were showered in gifts and ministry.  They were in need of nothing.  How amazing is that?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from God the Father.” (James 1:17)

A brand new, far larger church was one of the outcomes, built on the same grounds as the original church structure. (The original church is the white building behind this one, in the distance, to the right, with reddish brown roof..in the bottom right of picture).

The new church was so overflowingly-full on its Grand Opening day that not everyone could get in. (If only every Bible-teaching church had this turnout …)

Rather than people abandoning that church out of fear, membership has flourished more than ever. God provided and provided and provided.

The missionary who stayed in our McGuire House gave us this cross as a gift before he left. It’s a daily reminder to us of that event. (The other cross was given to us by another blog reader.)

 Only a couple weeks later, in December, God brought our wounded community SNOW! Pretty uncommon in South Texas, and especially in the first week of December! It was such an unexpected and rare blessing of utter purity and refreshment that blanketed our town after such a horrendous few weeks of loss, bringing additional smiles and joy.

Anything I have to say after that account seems highly insignificant, but life does goes on…

Shortly after that tragic time we unexpectedly received two new dogs!  We had recently lost both of our 13-year old dogs, Buddy (the Lab) and Aspen (the Boykin Spaniel). They were indoor family members who went on vacations with us to Colorado and New Mexico, so losing them was horrible. It took me a long time to be remotely ready emotionally to have another dog; I wanted to mourn both of them and not feel like I was “replacing” them. (I know some of you pet-lovers out there can identify.)  

We finally put our names on a waiting list for another Boykin, knowing it would be at least 6 months for the female to get pregnant. But, one random day weeks into our wait, God brought a bird customer to Steve who “coincidentally” had a 6-month old female Boykin that he needed to find a home for!  WOW!  Only 2 hours later we were driving home with our new, highly unexpected, but precisely desired, hard to find 6-months old female Boykin; I couldn’t believe it!  (God-wink!!!)   So, meet Flicka (Swedish for “girl”).

Her daddy is apparently pretty “famous” in the birddog world: Waylon. He represents the Heybo outdoors company. Here are pics of her daddy Waylon, and her grandmother “Gracie Pearl Brandywine Ducky” (how’s that for a name!)…

A few weeks after getting Flicka, the girls and I arrived home one evening to find our next dog (a mini-Buddy). She was literally abandoned at our house with her 3 sisters. They were only about 6 months old. (The 4th one isn’t in this picture; she was solid black.)

We weren’t planning to have two dogs again, but she reminded us so much of our old dog, Buddy, we just had to keep her. (She’s the one sitting by Reese’s knee.) It took the following 6 weeks to find homes for her three sisters, amidst all of the other things we juggled at that time (which you’ll see pictures of in a minute).

We named her “Agatha Christie” because it’s a “mystery” how she got here, but call her Aggie for short…(or Agz, Aglaggie, Agudeez, Lag, Laggie….you get the idea).

I have been posting pics and video of these 2 on our Instagram (@OurCottonwoodCreek), if you’d like to see video footage and silly pics of them.  

In addition to these things, my sisters and I helped my 80-year old mother through a couple of shoulder replacement surgeries. The process of both surgeries, their necessary appointments for x-rays, blood work, cardiology, etc, followed by weeks of recovery and PT was spread over a year and a half.  It was wonderful mother/daughter time, which we filled with family centered around her.  I threw a Downton Abbey Tea Party and a Mad Hatter Tea for my family (both of which I hope to do for ladies church groups in the future).  My mother has always loved a party, and loves to dress up!  (As you’ll see in the pics, my daughters don’t like to dress up.  LOL)  

During this same time period, in 2017 through 2019, we had many more visitors, hosted many father/son camp outs, a youth campout, many young adult Bible studies, hosted many dinners (that I never took pictures of), welcomed a new member of the family (baby Taylor), housed many speakers and praise bands, and of course holidays, family vacations, and quality time with friends and fam. Here are a few pics of some of it to give you a quick visual.

 

We as human beings tend to live our lives taking one day at a time, always thinking about tomorrow, or week/months to come. Not until I stop to deliberately write about our past out here, and share pictures to illustrate what I’m saying, do I stop to consider what all He’s actually done out here and brought into our lives as we gave Him the elbow room to do so. This post in NO WAY scratches the surface of what all was occurring in our lives in the midst of these pictures, in-between these pictures, and what’s still occurring….

There are many more major updates to be shared, but this blog post would be three times longer if I wrote them here. So, I’ll continue with the rest of the updates in the next post.  Learn about our new business, our current building project, and something I’ve been doing for 14 years. I’ll meet you there!  (Believe me, you do NOT NOT NOT want to miss these other updates!)

4 thoughts on “3 years later!

  1. Thank you for posting Gretchen. I know it’s time consuming and a lot of work..its a blessing …. Phil.

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