Saturday, February 20, 2021

Being a branch

My ears are ringing. All the time. And my mind is alive. All the time. My eyes looking over a room may seem casual, but they're not. They're evaluating each piece of property I own in that room, deciding the weight, size, and breakability of each object. I am mentally packing even when I'm not physically packing, and this all feels too familiar. Weren't we just here?

And I have a zero tolerance level for ridonkulous... What do you mean you didn't think you needed to shower after sweating all day?!? What do you mean my entire downstairs smells like dirty feet?!? What do you mean I still have to make supper after packing all afternoon?!? Okay... in all fairness, I knew I was supposed to make supper... but still. 

And my mind is filled with "what if's." What if we move back and it's not as rosy as we thought it would be? (Spoiler: we know it won't be.) What if we regret leaving behind all the incredible people who have made us their own here? (Spoiler: we will miss y'all like crazy! You are our people, and our doors are always open to you.) What if we don't love the house in Indiana as much as I think we will (and I really think we will)? What if the stupid radon detector the home inspector dropped off is actually a recording device that is permanently keeping track of the insanity in my home? Yes, I know I've gone off the deep end...

And in the midst of all of this there are SOULS in my house. Small souls that are processing a lot of the same questions I am. Well, maybe not the one about the radon detector, but... you never know. And it's ridiculous, but I am always surprised that they are feeling as many things as I am. That the weight of all that bears on me as an adult, one who knows what is going on, is just as heavy for those walking this journey of change who don't know all that's going on via email and electronically signed documents. Their heavy just finds its weight in the unknowns, the vast number of things they aren't given a front-row seat to and that they have zero choice to change. While I am bogged down by all the choices before me, they follow us, burdened by the fact that none of this is their choice. How unbelievably hard.

This is what they do know. Mommy and Daddy are stressed. There are boxes everywhere. All the friends that they have learned to love dearly will not be part of their daily lives in a few weeks. That hurts. The house they live in is being sold to strangers. Their parents are buying a house that we will move into, Lord willing, in early April. They are returning as changed people to friends who, most likely, have also changed. They are returning to a community that, due to the global pandemic, has also changed. That's a lot of change. Some pieces of the puzzle they used to call their life will not fit together anymore. And that has to be okay. 

That has to be okay. And as they process what that means for their lives, I struggle to find the space and emotional bandwidth to decipher what this move back will mean for my life. Will the kids still homeschool? Will they go back to school? What will my days look like if I am kid-free for SEVEN HOURS A DAY? That much liberty is overwhelming. What is God calling us to in this next season? How will we love our family and friends well as we re-enter the community? What will my Reader's-Digest-version explanation be for every time someone is surprised to see me in Indiana? Will they be disappointed that we returned? Will I?

I have no answers for most of these. Dwelling in the possibilities is a beautiful cycle of big, gorgeous dreams and sheer panic. Not really a stabilizing meditation. This week I've been in John 15, which is the only answer I have for the questions. The word: abide. It's really all I have the ability to do. Christ tells us in this chapter, "I am the vine. You are the branches." I have never been so glad to NOT be a vine. I'm not the source of all answers and all strength. Christ is. I'm just a branch. I'm receiving His life, His Spirit, His strength. They are flowing from Christ, who is so firmly rooted in His Father's love, to this lowly branch who feels like she has been pruned beyond all usefulness. 

And Christ continues, "Apart from me you can do nothing." Yep. Got that. Nothing. My ear-ringing meditations that dwell on possibility and catastrophe could not be further from what He has called me to in this moment. I am to abide, to stay, to remain in Christ. To stay connected to Him through His Word and prayer in the moment by moment crazy. Apart from Him, I can do...nothing. And in Him, some things never change. (Yes, I know I'm quoting Frozen 2. I quote Frozen 2 in most of my conversations, and you probably should be too. But that's another post...)

Christ is my eternal friend. His love for me does not change. My eternal salvation (like where I will spend the VAST MAJORITY of my life) is secure and unchanged. I will forever dwell in the presence of my God and Savior. I DO dwell in the presence of my God today. His grace is sufficient for me. And His power is perfected in the weakness where I find myself right now. His Word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path. And though I don't know all the curves of that path, I have enough light to do the next right thing, even when that right thing is retreating to my room or taking a nap. I can choose today to abide and to dream only the kind dreams, knowing that the pruning we're experiencing is preparing us for something good to come. 

 Abiding is my choice to listen to Christ and His truth and to refuse to let the din of this earthly life roar louder. This sounds high and holy until you realize for me it is actively forcing myself to remember that the radon monitor in the corner is JUST a radon monitor, no matter how many times that blinking red light tries to trick me into thinking otherwise. And more often than not, it's remembering that I am just a branch. That in Him, I can do all things. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. My ears are ringing and my mind is alive, but my soul abides in the God who never changes. He is the vine. And I am only a branch.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

There and Back Again

If you think we've been strangely silent here in North Carolina, don't worry. We've found so many lovely people and activities to fill our days that my time to sit and type is limited. It turns out that homeschooling four kids, being involved in a homeschool co-op, caring for a family of six, and establishing friendships with a whole new community of incredible people can make time fly!

Even at this moment, I have more than enough to do right now, which brings me to an announcement that we did not see coming... We're moving back to Indiana! What in the actual world!?!

When I've called family to let them know our next step, there are so many questions. "Wait! You've only been there six months!" "Did something go wrong?" "What happened?" "Couldn't you find community?" And all I can say is, we're not running away from anything here. North Carolina was all we imagined it would be and more.

David LOVES his job working for JAARS. He has worked with a team of kind, Jesus-loving, hard-working individuals; and they've made so much progress in the last six months toward updating systems and infrastructure. I'm so proud of him. He loves Jesus fiercely, and his dedication to excellence during his working hours at JAARS is only one of the ways that this radiates from his life.

The kids and I have found medical doctors, an incredible homeschool co-op, Farm Club (where the kids care for animals and learn about nature), and the most amazing friends a person could ask for. Most days you'll find our boys running around the woods of JAARS playing disc golf, and the girls have a brand new tree fort that David built for them in our woods. It's hard-core awesome. 

"So if everything is so good, why are you moving?" Yeah. I get it. It doesn't make sense.

Back in the fall, one of our children was really struggling to the point that David and I agreed that our life here was not sustainable for us. We weren't sure where to look for help for ourselves or for this child, but we knew something needed to change. As a mom who was home full-time with struggling children in the middle of a pandemic, I was drowning. My whole day was loving special needs children by educating them and helping them process these huge life adjustments. To say, I was exhausted would be an understatement. I fell asleep many evenings at 7 p.m. with nothing left to give.  At the same time, an IT position became available at Taylor University back in the same county we had left in Indiana. We threw a Hail Mary, and David applied for the position, and we waited to see if a move back would be a good fit for our family. 

Let just stop for a moment and make something clear. David and I love Taylor. We were newlyweds when we moved into Fairlane Apartments at Taylor University for David to finish the last two years of his undergrad degree. We brought our firstborn home to the apartments and were humbled again and again by the support the community gave us. David's classes were stretching in the best of ways, and we were sad to leave after graduation. It was a formative experience in every positive way possible. And anytime we were back on the campus (which was only 20 minutes from our home in Marion), I would always sigh and say, "I love it here." And Dave would smile and say, "I know." Taylor is home. And we knew that we would be honored to be a part of the difference the university was making in the lives of the next generation of Christ followers.

Meanwhile, we were faithful to where we had been called to be here in NC. Our children found medical doctors, one of whom actually resolved a lot of the issues we were having with the struggling child (who had an infection we hadn't even known about!). We made playdates and did school. We took long walks in the woods and hosted visitors from Indiana (You made us feel so loved!). We built a treehouse, hosted bonfires, and laughed so hard with new friends that it hurt. We asked for counsel from trusted advisors but did not share the possibility of moving back openly. That's all it was. A possibility. A remote one at that.

And then, a few days after New Year's, we got the text. Dave would be offered a position that would work for our family. And we would have the opportunity to rejoin a community that we hadn't felt ready to leave last summer. We talked. We prayed. We listened to wise counselors, and here's what we heard. Both JAARS and Taylor University are jobs that offered us opportunities to invest in the Kingdom. There are amazing, loving friends in both places. There are beautiful sights and rich educational resources in both places. We have a full, lovely life in both locations. But our families are in Indiana. 

Though our parents need nothing from us right now, the days will come when they will. Through good times and bad, we want to be able to link arms with our siblings and love on their children. It's the one thing NC doesn't have. Our families. And it tipped the scales.

Leaving here feels impossible, unthinkable. When I say we joined a homeschool co-op, let me clarify. I was allowed to learn from (and have my kids taught by) some of the most remarkable women I've ever known. They accepted us, loved us in our brokenness, and spoke truth and goodness over us without reservation. Between JAARS and co-op, I feel like we got a golden ticket to community. And our home in the woods has been dreamy. Low maintenance. Quiet. Beautiful. And neighbors who feel like family and love us so well. We hit the jackpot. We'll be leaving a piece of our heart here in North Carolina and look forward to following these families' stories with loving interest. We are cheering you on!

To the family and friends who are like family in Indiana, we are heading your way and can't wait to catch up on your stories! Our timeline is uncertain as we look for a place for our family of six to settle and would like to be as close to Taylor University as possible. If you have any leads, we'd be grateful. 

And to our friends who have become our family here in North Carolina, don't be strangers! We still have lazer-tag battles to fight here and hikes to take. We have bread to break together, and it is our conviction that we want to love you all right to the very end of our time together and beyond. You've responded to the Spirit when He's told you to text us, bring us food, invite us over, and speak truth into our lives. Thank you for so clearly reflecting His love! You have an open invitation to our home in Indiana. If you're in our neck of the woods, we would be overjoyed to see you!

In meantime, would you pray for us to have love and joy in our daily life and to trust the Father to move us as gently and kindly as He did when He brought us to these beautiful green pastures? I hate change. I hate disorder. I hate goodbyes. And the next few months promise to hold all of the above and probably a lot more. Deep breath. One day at a time. God's been good to us here, and we know He's with us every step of the way back again.