Post edit: I wrote this post several days ago and for a number of reasons decided to wait before publishing. I worried that it would sound like I was fishing for encouragement. I realize that many of my recent posts have been bemoaning our move to Florida. I’m sorry for that. This move has been more emotionally exhausting than I ever dreamed it could be. Thanks for your patience in letting me process in this space. I promise I won’t always talk about moving. I’ve got other things rolling through my head right now – get excited! I mean…ya know…if that sort of thing excites you…*sigh* I’m a dork. Read on…
You remember that awkward time in your early teens when you were gawky and moved clumsily through each day like a Great Dane on crack?
Remember those days?
Do you recall looking in the mirror at your oily, marked skin and wondering if you would ever grow into your nose and OMG why did your hair always look so weird and would your teeth really be straight when you finally got all that metal off of them?
Did you ever wander through your days back then feeling small and insignificant?
I mean, I didn’t, of course…but did you? Ahem.
I remember one conversation in particular. I was twelve and we had recently moved from Wisconsin to St. Louis. I felt lost in this new and foreign town. While I still harbored a small crush on the New Kids on the Block (Jordan and Joey...sigh), the people in my new classroom considered them soooo 1991. How did I know this?
We were in 6th grade art class and “The Right Stuff” came on the radio. I, of course, began humming along softly and suddenly the class macho man – let’s call him Troy for kicks because I honestly don’t remember his name – popped his head up.
“Who’s singing along to this song?” he demanded, his eyes scanning the room. I immediately froze and look up wide eyed and innocent.
“The New Kids are stupid,” he declared and everyone laughed and nodded in agreement. And thus ended my love affair with all things New Kids (publicly anyway). Tragic, indeed.
This incident combined with several other prepubescent crises caused me to come home and fling myself on the couch. It was totally melodramatic and very Disney Princess. “I don’t mean anything to anyone here,” I wailed, my hand over my eyes. My mom sat quietly next to me, just listening. After a few minutes, she finally spoke.
“You mean something to me,” she said.
I’d like to tell you that I smiled and leapt into her arms in a true After School moment, but I’m pretty sure I just huffed and rolled my eyes and muttered something incoherent about how she was only saying that because she had to and so on…
I was a peach.
But that conversation never left me. I bet she doesn’t even remember that moment, my mom. But I do – I remember. Because even though I didn’t really accept it, I knew that I mattered to someone. At twelve, I needed to know that.
I’m not twelve anymore.
But moving has brought on that feeling of insignificance once more. The other night we watched the most beautiful, glorious sunset I’ve ever seen. Seriously in all my life, I’ve never seen anything like it. And as I watched God paint the sky in brilliant purple and orange, I realized something.
I’ve felt insignificant since we moved here. Small.
Things happened and came about during the move that I didn’t foresee or expect and as I’ve dealt with those things, I’ve found myself shrinking back against the tapestry before me. And I’ve felt terribly insignificant. Suddenly, all the things that gave me comfort and…well…significance have been stripped away leaving me with nothing but my husband, children and a few earthly possessions that are easily within grasp. I tried to convince myself that these things should be enough. I don’t need any more than that in life, right?
I mean, I guess if I wanted to give the Sunday School answer, I would solemnly say, “All I need is my Jesus and my family. Nothing else matters.” But that’s not true. Relationships do matter. Taking care of my home does matter. Being in fellowship with others and taking part in a community matters. It matters to me.
I didn’t realize how small I felt until I was swept up in the glory of that sunset. And it made me emotional. Sad, even. I just felt so small.
Not that this move has been all stressful, of course. In the past few days, I’ve been overcome with peace regarding some of the bigger aspects of the move. Schooling, housing, etc…These are things that have caused a bit of stress in the last few weeks, but today, I feel nothing but rest when I think of them.
The other day, however, as I watched the sun dip beyond the horizon I wondered how I could feel such a combination of emotions. Peace mingled seamlessly with insignificance. And in a last burst of orange, the sun disappeared and I suddenly felt like that twelve year old girl lying on the threadbare couch once more. Only this time, I felt the Lord sitting over me and smiling gently.
“I don’t have anyone to share my heartaches and joy with,” my soul whispered. “I feel like I don’t mean anything to anyone here.”
And the breeze caressed my face as the sky grew darker, orange fading to deep blue and finally to black. “You have Me,” I heard deep inside.
And I do. I also have the many who are loving us from afar and online and I thank you all for that. Sincerely and truly from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for loving our family. I have received several emails from people I don’t even know that have lifted my spirits in ways I can’t express. And the phone calls from old friends have served as a constant reminder that I am loved and blessed.
I will still feel small from time to time, I suppose, but isn’t that a good thing? Being stripped of all the things that gave me a sense of identity leaves me with nothing left but Him. And for the first time in a long time, I think I’m okay with that.
The doorbell rang and I answered, my four month old tucked snugly in the crook of my arm.
“Trick or Treat,” he cried, thrusting out his bag. He was three, dressed as a Power Ranger…or something like that. I pulled Sloan close and tossed some candy into the bag, his eager little face lit with joy. Sloan was dressed as a lion. Cruelly, I had even drawn whiskers on his chubby little infant face.
“Hi, I’m Carol,” she said reaching around the stroller to shake my hand. I also shook her husband’s hand and cooed over their brand new baby girl. We were fairly new to the neighborhood. Having only moved in a week after Sloan was born, I had spent the first several months in first time parents survival mode. I didn’t know many neighbors.
But here they were on my doorstep. And over the next few years, our relationship deepened. We borrowed sugar and eggs and carpooled to preschool. We celebrated birthdays and mourned the loss of beloved pets. We loved and lived and grew together. We created memories in the cul de sac and a beautiful thing happened:
Three months ago, Carol came over and sat with me on my back porch. I forgot to mention one other shared love we had with these dear neighbors and friends:
“So we’re really feeling like God is leading us to Florida,” she said. And I stared back my mouth gaped open. “Um…Lee is in Tampa right now interviewing for a job,” I told her. They were words I hadn’t been able to utter to anyone else.
“We’re thinking about going to Tampa too,” she said with a smile.
Saturday night we sat together and watched our children play as we’ve done countless times over the last eight years. Only this time…they were playing at the beach. Mike and Carol moved into their house last week. When it’s all said and done we will likely live within 15 minutes of one another.
One of the biggest surprises in this move has been the fear that crept in and pounced upon us like a lion in the night. We weren’t prepared to confront the attack. The questions that came up sent us into a tailspin. Did we make the right choice? Are we really supposed to be here? What were we thinking? Will life ever feel normal again?
The deepest sadness I felt was saying goodbye to the people who had known my children since the day they were born. People who visited us in the hospital and watched our children grow from chubby babies to tall, lanky little people. There is something special about having your children surrounded by people who have known them from day one. And I mourned the loss of that. Our move here felt like the end of such a blessing.
Why do I worry? Why do I fear?
This weekend, God gave us what can only be described as a miracle. We had a perfect sunset in the place that is to be our new home with comforts from our old home. By our side were people who had known our children from infancy. They’ve watched our children grow and we have watched theirs. And our hearts rejoiced as all those questions melted into the ocean with the sun. Rays of hope splayed across the sky.
As daylight faded into darkness and the past faded into tomorrow, I once again heard the whispers. “I was here before you and I will remain. The path is laid out before you and blessings abound.”
And we did count our blessings that night. They were wrapped in the rhythmic waves of the ocean, full of giggles. Friends from afar brought near. Love poured forth. Peace beyond what we can understand. Grace and mercy in the sand – dancing in the moonlight.
A lifetime of memories still to be made.
Anybody else want to join us?
I never planned to be a homeschooler. It was never something I desired to do. Never. In fact, I’m pretty sure my exact words in the past were, “There’s no way in H@#! I would ever do that.”
But something happened earlier this year and a transformation began inside my heart.
Sometime after the New Year, Sloan began struggling in school. It wasn’t a major struggle. He was getting by just fine, but he wasn’t thriving. Part of that was my fault. Life was just so overscheduled. We had something almost every evening of every week – all good things, but it left my kids bouncing in the wake of life and they were tired.
So we started cutting things out. Good things. And I hated it. All the while, I shipped my worn out child off to school for eight hours a day despite his daily pleas to let him stay home “just this once.”
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. I don’t have major issues with the public school system. I have nothing but respect for the men and women who choose to teach our children. Some are better than others, to be sure and the system is far from perfect. But it deserves respect and it has that from me. I wasn’t necessarily upset with the quality of education my son was receiving so much as the time it seemed to take to get it. I feel like one of the biggest flaws in our school system (and this applies to both public and private schools, incidentally) is the amount of time we are keeping our children in the school building.
Sloan got on the bus at 8:00 every morning and he got off at 3:30. This left very little evening time for us as a family. It also left him tired and unwilling to concentrate on any kind of homework. He never wanted to sit and read a book and I didn’t blame him. If I were forced to sit and listen for roughly 30 hours per week I wouldn’t want to read a book either. That’s a lot of time for our little guys to be away.
This combined with a lot of prayer led me to seriously begin considering homeschooling. I entertained that idea alongside the idea of checking myself into the loony bin, because I felt sincerely crazy. Homeschooling? Really?
I mulled all these things over by myself for awhile, then I went to my husband. I was positive that he would have his head squarely placed on his shoulders and would practically and reasonably talk me out of this silly little notion.
“I think you should look into it,” he said. And then I passed out.
When I came to, he continued. “Obviously the Lord is working something out in your heart because I’ve never heard you talk like this before, so I really think this is something we need to research and pursue.” So being the dutiful wife that I am (wink, wink) I took his advice and began talking to every single homeschooling friend I have. I asked them all for the exact same information:
– Give me every reason I should do this and…
-Give me every single reason I should not.
Not surprisingly, the reasons I should far outnumbered the reasons I shouldn’t, and the reasons I shouldn’t were mostly selfish in nature. But I still wasn’t convinced, so I researched and prayed and waffled and wavered and questioned and finally decided that homeschooling was something I needed to do. Not for me, but for them. (When I say them, I’m referring to the children…you already knew that, didn’t you?)
Ultimately, I knew that I needed to get my clutches into my kids and show them what a joy learning can be. Even if I only do it one year, I want the year to count. I want them to know that I was willing to give up everything for them so that they could see the magic of opening a book.
Now I’m not sure I can show the the magic in math. Because math is not magical. It’s just numbers. Lame.
Right after I made the decision to homeschool, we found out we were moving and the timing just felt right. It also felt horrible. How would I do this without a local network of support? HOW?!
I’ll tell you how. Yesterday, as I watched Landon at swimming lessons, one of the other moms walked up to me. “Do you homeschool?” she asked. I was taken aback, because why would she ask that? What a random question? Was I putting off some kind of homeschool vibe? It must have been the denim jumper I was wearing…the one with the apple and ruler appliques on the front.
“Yes,” I answered. “This is my first year.”
“Oh you’ll love it,” she said with a smile. “I’ve been homeschooling for years. What curriculum are you using?”
“Sonlight,” I replied.
“Wonderful!” she cried. “That’s what we use. Let me know if you have any questions about it.”
Is it coincidence that she randomly struck up a homeschooling conversation? Maybe…but I doubt it. Because today our curriculum arrived in the mail and I am thoroughly and completely overwhelmed by it all. Thankfully, I have a new friend who will be able to show me the ropes. And for me, that was one more confirmation that we are in the right place, doing the right thing.
Now if you will excuse me, I am going to go churn my own butter while simultaneously working on my needlepoint and baking homemade bread.
I kid. I’m not going to do any of those things. I’m going to finish my wine cooler and go to bed.
So this is the part where you join in, my bloggy friends. Would you ever homeschool your children (or are you currently)? Give me the best and worst. I want to be prepared.
This is the child who never says no to sleep and food. Ever.
More than once when she was younger, she would vomit in the middle of the night and go right back to sleep in it and we wouldn’t know she was sick until the next morning when the house smelled like death. Hope you’re not reading this while drinking your coffee.
So we knew something was wrong. The Walgreen’s Walk In clinic nurse lady said Swimmer’s Ear. It was a best guess since she couldn’t see past the impacted wax in Tia’s teeny tiny ear canals. So off we went with drops and an Icee, because Tia didn’t scream bloody murder when the nurse lady looked in her ears.
She spiked a fever and her ear hurt so bad she couldn’t even eat a Wendy’s Frosty for lunch. This was bad. So we made a phone call to a local ENT and I bribed her a second time in three days.
“Be brave and I’ll get you a little treat,” I promised. Because in the past it’s taken me and two nurses to hold her down for an ear exam. Bribery is my only defense.
“That is a nasty looking little ear,” the doctor said as he peeked inside. Her eyes were squeezed shut and she took big deep breaths to keep herself calm. “Most adults wouldn’t be able to function under the type of pain she is probably experiencing.”
Her ear canal has swollen shut, a negative reaction to the medicated drops. Does she have an inner ear infection in addition to the outer ear infection? No one can say because she has so much wax in her ears and it’s packed in tight like cement.
“I’m surprised she can hear anything at all,” he said. I told him we repeat things a lot.
So Friday morning, we are headed into a local surgery center to have her sedated and have her ears roto-rooter’ed (Yes, that’s a word…it’s a verb). From there we will better be able to determine exactly what’s going on inside her ears and hopefully relieve her of this nasty, ugly pain.
Until then, it’s lots of Tylenol and hugs and probably a few more sleepless nights. The little radiator climbs in bed with us around 1:30 when her current dose of medication wears off and sleeps on top of me the rest of the night. The good news is that last night, for the first time in several days, she hasn’t cried throughout the night. And she’s still asleep this morning.
Probably because it’s raining and dark outside.
Look at that, I somehow managed to tie that random title into this post after all. Go me…
How is your week going?
Three weeks ago Landon wouldn’t put his face under water without a good deal of weeping and gnashing of teeth. If water splashed even in the vicinity of his eyes, he wailed and stumbled around blindly until he was given a towel to wipe away the unwelcome and foreign liquid from his face.
Then one day he decided he wasn’t scared anymore. And now I’m the one who is terrified. Because my cautious baby with a healthy respect for the water has turned into this:
While in the ocean, he is required to leave his swim vest on. As soon as we enter the pool, though, the vest comes off and he is ninety to nothin’, balls to the walls, kamikaze, I’m-gonna-cause-Mama-to-gray-early scary. Twice we’ve had to tell him not to do front flips off the side. To which he replies with wide eyes, “Why, Mom? It’s so fun!”
This is why, starting tomorrow, he will be in swim lessons every day for the next two weeks. Fun for him, peace of mind for me – everybody wins. I knew swim lessons were going to be important when we moved to Florida. Now, however, they have become a necessity.
While the other two were brave in the water, neither were this…um…terrifying. Here they all are (with my cousin Leslie’s little boy) jumping off the back of the boat together:
You’ll notice the older three are all wearing masks to prevent salt water up the nose. Not Landon. Nope. Salt water doesn’t phase him a bit. That kid’s gonna have the cleanest sinuses on the block.
He’s a brave one, my little guy. I have no idea where he gets it from:
What about you? Do you have a child who is aging you early?
We live in sunny Florida now and I have to say…it becomes my minivan. If you thought she looked hot cruising the streets of St. Louis, you should see her down here.
But there’s a problem. “What problem?” you might ask. “What could possibly be bothering you in sunny Florida?” I’m so glad you asked! The problem, you see, is that is appears her hotness does not garner the proper respect down in this beach town.
I know, right?! How could it be? At first I thought that maybe it was Florida. Maybe FLORIDA didn’t understand the royalty of the minivan. But then I realized that I’m living at the beach right now…where a bunch of teenagers roam free at a time in life when most of them are pretty sure they know everything about everything. You know…teenagers.
So anyway, as I cruise down the highway between here and Tampa, the ocean spread on either side, I have to tell you – my van? She sings. The ocean becomes her. BUT every time I drive that strip of highway, despite the fact that we’re zipping along a little above the speed limit (ahem…we’re at the beach – don’t judge) inevitably, some teenage boy in his sports car drives right up on my tail. One even flashed his lights at me.
Flashed his lights.
They then buzz past me, their tatooed arms hanging out the open windows, leaving my poor little van quaking in their base filled, disrespectin’ dust. But not to worry. Nope…not to worry a bit. Because I know something those little boys don’t know…
You see, I know that there’s a good possibility that 15 years from now, most of those boys are going to be haulin’ down the highway in a sleek black minivan filled with young ones. I know that someday most of them are going to trade their unintelligible rap music for Kidz Bop and their ears will bleed as do mine.
I know that someday, they’re going to be driving down the road and some hot shot is going to whip around them, laughing at the power he thinks he wields in the tiny little sports car that he got from mommy and daddy. And they’ll mutter under their breath something to the effect of “Jackass,” which their oldest child with the eagle ears will hear and shout, “What’d you say?” over the screeching sounds of kids singing the latest and greatest hits and they’ll shrug and yell back, “I said he’s got no class!”
I know this.
And so I drive in confidence down my beach highway. In my sleek black van…with scratches down the side from the numerous times small children have run into her with their bikes.
*sigh* No matter what I do, driving a minivan is never gonna be cool…is it?
“I have a secret,” he whispers. Or a “theekwet,” in his lispy language.
“What’s your secret?” I ask, leaning down so my nose is inches from his freckled face. (Oh how I love his dotted little nose.)
“I wub you,” he answers with a grin.
And then I melt. And promise him all the Cheezit’s he could ever want. And a pony. And his sibling’s inheritance.
How is it that children know the exact words to say when we need it most? I was tired this morning, and a little crabby. I wanted to sleep longer and wake up happier. My yummy little guy was actually still waking up himself and had snuggled his warm body close, his sippy cup tucked under his arm. (Because my third born does not function in any capacity in the morning without a sippy cup of juice or milk first. He’s a toddler coffee addict…without the coffee.)
How did he know that I just needed some kind of encouragement to get the day started? When I pulled back from our “theekwet” he grinned at me slyly. He’s a heartbreaker that one. Mama’s lock your doors, cause this kid is trouble. Adorable, squeezable trouble – the most dangerous kind.
There have been so many encouragement’s these past few days. Are you guys praying? Because I am feeling the power of God working in ways I didn’t imagine. Tangible delight being poured upon us. From “theekwets” to the making of new friends. From house hunting encouragement to just an overall feeling of contentment.
Today, I went with Lee to the bank to be added to our new account. The woman who helped Lee last week when he first went in wasn’t available, but another woman was there to help us. Her name was Ekaterina, or Katya – her accent was Russian. After we sat down, she left the room briefly and Lee looked at me with eyebrows raised.
“Hmmm…” he said, all smug-like.
“Don’t, please,” I groaned. “I don’t feel like it.” You see, friends, my husband feels the need to tell every single Russian we ever meet that his wife speaks Russian. Then he slaps me on the back and tells me to talk. It’s not my favorite.
But I’m also really grateful to him for it. Because, honestly, my personality is one that I would let all those opportunities just slide right by because it makes me a little uncomfortable and embarrassed. And this morning…well, the “theekwet” hadn’t totally burned off my crabby mood.
When she returned the firs thing Lee asked was where she was from. “Russia,” she replied in the accent that is so familiar to me. “Huh,” he said, looking at me. I sighed and turned and began speaking with her in Russian. And you know what?
It was awesome!
Why do I resist that sexy man of mine?!
So my new friend and I will be getting together sometime soon to go shopping at some local Russian stores. And it was yet another whisper – a “theekwet,” if you will – that everything is going to be okay. I love making Russian friends. Love it, love it, love it. And I would have completely passed that opportunity up today had it not been for my
annoying supportive husband. And God once again whispered to my heart. “I’ve got you covered, young one. Just enjoy the ride…and stop complaining when your husband brags on you.”
I feel like I’m getting a lot of those whispers lately. And a few slaps upside the head.
Moving is hard. But right now, in this moment, I’m kind of enjoying the ride.
Thank you for riding this roller coaster with us and praying us from one side to the other.
*For more awesome pictures of my kids, and my nephews, visit my sister-in-law’s blog. Not only is Becke’ an amazing photographer, but she is a spectacular writer as well. She inspires me. You can see more of her photography here.
Do you ever wonder if, perhaps, we as Americans have gone to far with our freedoms? Do you ever wonder, when you walk inside a church that looks more like an amusement park than a house of God, if maybe we’ve lost sight of what faith is?
Do you ever wonder if maybe we’ve made church a little too exciting for our little ones? Do you ever wonder if maybe they’ll grow into adulthood and not know how to worship unless they’re being entertained? Do you ever wonder if we’re short changing our kids by not exposing them to the beauty and theology of the hymns?
Do you ever wonder why we feel we need to put on a rock concert in order to make church exciting?
My friend, Joe, recently posted this article on his Facebook page. I found it both hilarious and fascinating. And by the end, I was a little sad. Do you ever wonder if we’ve made church so much like the world that we leave our young people with very little challenge to be separate of the world?
Do you ever wonder if American consumerism has, perhaps, gone just a bit too far? When you walk inside a church and are immediately faced with a Starbucks, do you wonder if maybe those things should be kept apart? Do you ever find the blending of the two a little uncomfortable?
Do you ever wonder if maybe the very thing that is our greatest strength in America (freedom) has, perhaps, also become our greatest weakness? That maybe faith has become a little too easy? Do you ever wonder what those who sacrifice everything in the name of faith must think when they see that we can sacrifice nothing for the same faith? Or is it the same faith?
Do ever wonder if we even have the ability to possess the same kind of faith as those who suffer true persecution?
Do you ever wonder if maybe church has become a little too easy – too…comfortable? Do you ever wonder if you possess strength strong enough to truly make a difference in the world?
Do you ever wonder any of these things?
If you do, what is your response?