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Friday, August 28, 2020

We'll figure it out.

 Never in my life have I used that phrase more. "We'll figure it out" has been my answer to almost every question imaginable over the last four months. The reason? We moved.

Even typing that sentence, I don't fully believe it. We moved. For those of you who are more connected with our family's day-to-day life, you know that up until a month ago, our family lived in the same community where my parents are located, where we went to college, and where David or I have had a job for the last thirteen years. Some people are wanderers. Our family are stayers. Yep. I just made that word up. Because we stay where we are planted. And it takes unbelievable forces to move us when we are capable of doing the next right thing where we already are.

Let's rewind the story, shall we? I know 2020 has been hard for so many, but if I'm being perfectly honest, 2019 was harder in our home. Multiple children in our home were struggling with what felt like insurmountable obstacles. Just caring for basic needs took everything I had and more. Way too many nights I fell asleep in my bed, wearing my clothes from that day and collapsing into exhaustion. Our hard felt too hard. And in the midst of this, one day on a drive I sensed the Lord saying to me, "I'm shaking your roots. And it's going to be okay." Weird, I thought. Everything in my environment was just the way I wanted it, even though our family's struggles were hurtful and challenging. But that's the phrase that kept coming to mind: "I'm shaking your roots. And it's going to be okay."

During this same period of time, I had a dream. A dream so vivid that I actually woke up in emotional pain, feeling like the dream had actually been real. In the dream, our family was moving far way so that David could work at JAARS. Wait...what?? I had no idea where JAARS was or what they did. My only connection was knowing that some retired friends of ours sometimes served at JAARS during the winter months. Again... weird. I remember making my bed that morning and just being thankful that it was only a dream. That I was safe in my comfortable, loving community where I knew where to shop and had all my kids' specialists on speed dial. I didn't even tell David right away. Frankly, the less he knew, the more likely the whole idea was to go away. 

Three days later, David and I had a rare evening where all of the children were having fun at VBS, and we actually got a chance to talk about real things.  And by "real things" I mean the stuff that really matters, like our kids' hearts, the mission-fit of our work and family life, etc. David shared the same thing about sensing unrest in his work, like he was being moved on to something else but had no idea what. Do you know where this is going? Reluctantly, I told him about the dream, and being the problem-solver he is, he checked out JAARS and found out two things. First, JAARS is a missions logistics organization, which means they help with communication, transportation, and education obstacles to make missions and especially Bible translation happen. Second, they had one opening at their headquarters in Waxhaw, North Carolina. In Information Technology. He applied that week and heard nothing back. And I was grateful. No response meant no move. No change. No challenge. No response meant my sense of control could relax back into the throne it had created. 

Ironically, as much as I fought for "normal," our "normal" was horrendous that year. I just didn't want anything else to be harder. Time moved forward. The children started a new school year, and we put one foot in front of the other to serve and love well in the place where we had been planted. It felt like our life in general was being uprooted in different ways (both big and small), but we walked with confidence that God was at the driver's wheel in the midst of those changes.

Fast-forward to this spring. While everyone was panicking about sheltering at home, I felt like the moment I'd been training for my entire life had ARRIVED. I love planning out menus and shopping for a couple of weeks at a time. I love being at home with my kiddos and finding ways to use our time creatively. I love to read, and one of the last trips we made before life shut down was to the library to restock our books and movies. The whole world felt stuck at home, but I was ready to suck the marrow out of this staycation now that I wasn't needed for carpool or doctors' appointments or therapies. It was hard and scary as we watched the world outside from the safety of our home, but we were really making the most of it and gelling as a family. 

But in the midst of this, David knew his roots were being shaken. In fact, though the kids and I were feeling more and more settled, David couldn't sleep, knowing that where he was was not where he should be. So one night at midnight, he was awake, sleepless, and looking at the JAARS website on what I'd like to call a holy whim. This time he found a different IT position, one that seemed tailor-made for his combination of education and experience. So he applied and heard back in a matter of hours. They were very interested, and I was terrified.

Thus began the battle period of 2020 for me, where I fought everyone. I fought God. I fought Dave. I fought my kids. And I fought myself. No part of me wanted to move to North Carolina. It didn't matter that it was "so beautiful" and that "Everyone loves the weather down here." I had found home in a small Indiana town surrounded by the most loving people I had ever known. Not wanting to look like a hindrance, I kept doing the next right thing to make working at JAARS...well, work. I figured if God wanted to stop us, then He would figure out a roadblock. Let's be honest, I prayed that He would make a roadblock, but in the meantime I kept doing the next right thing. (Frozen 2 is really the soundtrack of 2020, right?) I went with Dave to see JAARS, and we ended up putting an offer in on a house in the country. I put the Indiana house on the market. I started collecting and packing boxes. I researched homeschooling in North Carolina. I sold SO many things on Facebook Marketplace. My entire existence became a struggle between "I don't want to move." and "What would the next right thing be if God really does want us to move?" Let me just tell you, living with me was DEEEElightful. 

Even down to the day that we packed the moving truck with a group of the most supportive, incredible friends a person could find, I was wondering, "Will God stop us so we can stay?" It also didn't help that our home in Indiana didn't immediately sell. My mom wisely said, "Maybe it's because you have to step into the Jordan before the waters will back up and make a way." I hate it when she's right. But she was.

Today marks a month since we moved to our little house in the countryside of North Carolina. And the many questions that I answered with "We'll figure it out"...well... we're figuring out. We ended up closing on the house here in North Carolina on July 30th. After wondering for months if all our stuff would fit, we figured out that it did! That all our months of selling and giving away had given us a more streamlined life that was easier to clean and full of the things we actually love. (Yes, I brought most of my books.) The Indiana home has an accepted offer, and we'd appreciate your prayers that it closes soon. The boxes are all unpacked! And though I'm still learning where everything ended up, it feels so good to be surrounded by the things that bring us joy. 

And we've become homeschoolers! For the first time, all four Compson children are being homeschooled, and we are LOVING it! Plus, we were able to join an incredible co-op group that we're excited to meet in September. School is pretty much done by lunchtime, and you can find us in the afternoon at the pool (at JAARS or at the neighbors') soaking up the sunshine and playing infinite games of "Submarine Swim." We've already been blessed by an amazing community at JAARS that we've met at the pool, and we feel like we hit the jackpot with the kindest neighbors imaginable. Oh, and we've found our local library and made a couple of Costco runs. Sigh. Life is always better with new books and gigantic bags of Boom Chicka Pop.

It's helped my heart to be here. To not be in the in-between. To know the answers to a few of the "figure it out" questions. But there are still some days that I wonder if God will take us back to a place where we aren't "figuring it out" every day. Where every errand isn't an adventure and every drive doesn't need to be directed by Google Maps (WHO MAPPED THESE ROADS, NORTH CAROLINA???). Where family is not so far away. SO. FAR. AWAY. But I also see good here. So much good.

David loves his job. He is thrilled to be working every day for the benefit of global Bible translation and missions logistics. The kids are thriving being at home for school, and I'm seeing the amazing giftings they each have up close and in a new light. While we long for the friends back home, we have begun new friendships here that lift up our hearts and remind us that new beginnings are possible. 

We'd covet your prayers though. Some days are just hard. We long for the people and places that feel comfortable. Some days, each of the kids comes to me at a different part of the day, crying and hurting because they miss their friends back home. And honestly some days, I'm a real grouch because I just want to run over to my friend's house, my friend whom I know and am known by, and have a cup of coffee or a bowl of popcorn. I want things to be easy, and they're not, and I no longer have the busyness of unpacking or starting the school year to keep my mind from thinking about how this hurts and is hard. We're mourning what we left even though we are blown away by the loving people we've met in only a month's time. 

So if you've been one of our friendly faces in North Carolina that has made this place feel like home, THANK YOU SO MUCH! And if you are one of our friends who walked alongside us to the final goodbye in Indiana, THANK YOU SO MUCH! We have seen Jesus in the Body of Christ throughout this transition. Though I wish that the pain of leaving never had to happen to anyone, I am amazed by the grace that God has extended to us through our family and friends, both old and new. We are grateful for you! 

Now to get back to life today. The dog is barking at me. Someone is laughing. Someone is yelling, "Hey, Mom!" And my phone has new messages. Not sure which one to deal with first, but that's okay. We'll figure it out.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Please pick the blue jeans

Does anyone else's clothing choice determine their level of tolerance for adventure? Like if you put on your sweatpants, you automatically cozy in for a long day of tea and books and fuzzy blankets. If you're wearing dress pants and a button-down then, of course, you won't be getting out the finger paints that day. That kind of crazy will have to wait for another day.

The last few days have been hard for everyone. I don't want to make light of the hard so many of you are experiencing. So many families like ours have autoimmune illnesses and need to avoid people, even the people we love most. So many families are dependent on an hourly wage and a predictable school schedule, and they have been robbed of those things they thought were the most reliable. Lots of you are extroverts, which means the next few weeks look bleak. Coffee shops are closed. Restaurants usher you out with a to-go bag. And playdates are not going to happen for a long time. It's hard. That word seems so inadequate, even trite. Decisions that used to be perfunctory are now matters of serious contemplation and prayer. It's a whole new world.

In the midst of this, one really trivial decision hits me every morning. What will I wear? What will I prepare for my day to hold? How will I be ready in every way possible to love my children and my husband, to serve and benefit my neighbor, and to not go crazy (it's the little things, right?)? I have an idea I want to sell you on: pick the blue jeans.

"What?!?!" you say. "I finally get to work from home and wear my pajama bottoms for 24 hours solid. Why would I wear blue jeans? No way." But give me a second to explain.

When I wear my pajama bottoms, I'm pretty engaged in my own comfort. What do I want to eat? What should I read? How can I get everyone to leave me alone so I can enjoy silence with this cup of coffee? What are my personal projects that will make me feel successful? I'm fully focused on pleasing myself, but what if it's not about me?

Right now we have the opportunity to do (and not do) a lot of things for the good of many... so that they might live. I'm just going to be honest that if I'm wearing my sweatpants my mind just isn't tuned in to the frequency of thinking that involves others. I am putting myself first and am unwilling to rise to the occasion because, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm in my comfy clothes and this day is about me. I am far more likely to snap at my children because how DARE they behave like...ahem... children in need of guidance. I am far more likely to snap back in disrespect to my husband because how DARE he interrupt my alone time to communicate with me about our shared life. I am far less likely to run across the street and take in my neighbor's trash cans or answer their messages because obviously I'm the highest priority around here.

And none of these responses sound very much like Jesus, who at the end of a very long day was approached by a group of children. His response humbles and inspires me every time I read, "Let the little children come to me and do not forbid them for such is the kingdom of heaven." It's time to invest all we have in others. These souls that need us to love them are HERE and NOW. We don't get a second chance to do this virus thing. So I'm putting on my old blue jeans. The ones with holes in the knees that I so often use for gardening because I want my exterior to match what is going on in my heart. I am willing to do whatever is necessary in this moment, and how things (including me) look matters so much less that what they truly are. I'm here, and I'm ready to be poured out.

I am willing to drop dinner prep to answer a struggling friend's Marco Polo. I am willing to take a walk with the dog and the child who just canNOT handle the indoors another second. I am willing to use my evening alone time to plan for the next day so that our minds are kept focused on what is true, beautiful, and interesting. I am willing to pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, even if that means showering before and after I make the delivery. I am ready to offer ideas and educational assistance to any friends who may feel like their creativity is buried under the weight of this difficult moment. I am willing to give up my quiet time to hear a child share their heart about all that is happening right now. I am willing to stay home far more than I ever thought possible and even stay six feet away from my dear friend at the grocery store because doing the right thing doesn't have to feel right to be right. There's critical intentionality to this moment, and I don't want to miss my opportunity to be a light.

And please know that all this pouring out would be fruitless and pointless if my heavenly Father weren't pouring into me with His Word and His Spirit. I would just end up depleted and cranky, probably wearing those sweatpants and locking the door to my room. Wearing my blue jeans means I'm gearing up for each day, trying to wake up before my children so I'm ready to respond and not react. It means I'm putting on my armor, and I'm entering the day ready to fight for what is right and not just what is comfortable. And let's just be honest, I'll most likely be declaring a comfy day soon because I'm just as human as the next guy and Sabbath rest is a part of our plan, for sure. We're on day six of this crazy here with no end in sight. Today I'm hanging a lot of my hope on the promise that we are not to grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest IF we do not give up.

Just because we aren't going out doesn't mean we are giving up. So pick the blue jeans, preferably the ones that you are willing to get messy... because we don't know what tomorrow brings and we're all rolling with the punches. And even if they don't get muddy dirty because all you did today was play a six-hour game of Monopoly, maybe those jeans will remind your heart to chose the hard work of sacrifice over the enticing promises of selfishness. Because it's not about me. And it's not about you. It's about us. You, my friends, are in my thoughts and my prayers. Our family fighting alongside you (from our house or at least six feet away) and rooting for all of us. So.. please... pick the blue jeans.