Category: the inevitability of change

12 months of Chicagolina: Better

“We had everything right except the year. And the place. And the people!” – me to Rod, in one of those moments than rang a whole lot more true than what I had initially intended.

We have been here almost a year. (I started writing this a month ago…)

But we aren’t in the same place we were when we arrived. Not really.

Turns out, what we thought was a destination was just a direction. And moving here? It was never about a job. It was about obedience.

People told me upon the move that it would take a year to get settled. Little did we know. So little did we know.

The thing we thought we moved here for…it collapsed. Right on top of us. We thought it collapsed around November, but now we look back and see that it was a house of cards all along.

That collapse took my wind. I literally stayed buried in the house for days at a time, unsure of what to do, not wanting to see anyone, having no idea what was going to happen and so, so sick of talking in hypotheticals, again!

Every time hope started to rise, something squelched it. And before long, I went from feeling depressed, anxious, and scared to something worse: apathetic.

What carried me through those weeks turned into months? Well, there is always my one-two punch of God and Rod. Fortunately, God never changes, and my Rod and I naturally take turns on our emotional see-saws. A support network was available at home (here in South Carolina) and ‘abroad’ (Chicagoland). My kids’ school, in ways the staff doesn’t even know, was invaluable to us. And our church? Oh journeychurch. All I can say is I am pleased to finally introduce you to me – not unsure, beaten down, needy me, but fun, capable, what-can-I-do-for-you me.

There was one other thing as well:


I can’t say that the beach always solved my problems, but without fail, every visit there calmed my soul.

~

We were on the beach with friends and family on the day last month when our new steps were ordered. Pieces had been coming together for a few weeks, but there was finally a call to Rod that said: You have the job… and all the while the details of my new job were lining up.

By lining up, I mean doors have been flung open before us. No more kicking down walls. The way is being paved!

And it was time to let go of what was and what could have been, and march/saunter/skip toward a new day.

It’s amazing how quickly something can go from being the question and topic of your every day to something you just want in the past, or as one of my oft-quotes Buffy episodes puts it:

Burn it down, gentlemen. Burn it down and salt the earth.

I don’t mean that to be harsh. I know people were hurt by the failed project for which my family moved to town. But I have had to make peace with that. None of us can get back what we lost; but I do believe that the same God Who provided for us when we were at our lowest will restore to those who gave of themselves truthfully.

Just two months ago, we were semi-employed, benefit-less, beaten down, depressed, uncertain, embarrassed, defeated, and struggling. Everything from our security to our ministry to our rental agreement for our house in Chicago seemed to be falling apart.

~

Now here we are: one year as residents of South Carolina. We came here to run a theatre together. I struggled with putting my girls in school, we struggled with letting Paige go away and leaving Josh and so many others. We struggled to find  church and friends. We struggled with living ‘so far away’ from the people we went and places we go. And here we are.

Better is one day in Your courts than thousands elsewhere.

Rod is now a corporate manager with a telecommunications company. I am a manager for…a new, family and Christian-focused… theatre! We are both highly involved with our church. We’re planning to homeschool the girls for kindergarten. Paige is home after her first year of university, and Josh and Kirsten are moving here in June. I was able to visit Chicago 5 times and haven’t lost any connections just because of geography. Also, we’ve had a unique and steady stream of loved ones coming to visit us. Next month, we are moving to a beautiful house in Murrells Inlet, closer to “everything.” (And if a 45 minute move from a one-level house to a one-level house really isn’t so-much-easier than moving 1000 miles away from a two-level house with basement while your husband’s back is out, don’t tell me!)

All of that sounds great. Even as I am writing it, I can hardly believe how our circumstances have changed in the course of the past 6 weeks. There is so much more to the story: people and conversations and decisions that paved the way, lessons learned in the desert that have permanently changed my perspective, and the absolute deepening of my faith in God.

So here’s to you & happy anniversary to this world I exist in called Chicagolina. Here’s to piles of flip-flops in my foyer, sand in the car, pork BBQ/hush puppies/chicken biscuits/shrimp&grits, sweet tea (once a day!), Donut Man, azaleas, the state park, Market Common, knowing the difference between business and bypass, knowing which Walmart has the cheapest milk depending on the tourist season, still watching the Chicago local news and craving Aurelios, belonging to two churches, new traditions and sweet memories, saying “y’all” in my head but still saying “you guys” out loud, feeling at home in two places, and quite possibly, never having to wear winter gloves or snow boots again.

My Chicagolina, you have not been what I expected. You have been better. … not only because of what exists in this place where I have settled, but because of What is constantly with us, guiding us, rescuing us, comforting us, blessing us. If a year of mostly uncertain times is what it took to get me focusing my efforts in the right place, than I probably got off pretty easy.

And it’s better…so much better…

different strokes

I am still mulling over and writing the story of our now, and honestly, our now is so chaotic that it’s taking me awhile to piece my thoughts together the right way.

We are out of practice for chaos. Seems unlikely, considering this time last year our possessions were in South Carolina, our family was in Illinois, we were trying to live on our bus in our church parking lot while starting new jobs in SC, working on Branson GMR 2011, and embarking on the goodbye tour. During that time, Rod threw out his back, I got sick, and still, the move and the summer…happened.

It seems like kind of a dream now.

The last six months or so have been the opposite of chaos for us. I wrote often about the quiet, the waiting, the oddness of having nothing pressing to do.

I knew when it was over, I’d be grateful for that time of rest. And even though it was often uncomfortable and scary, I am.

I learned so much.

I grew.

And now I stand as a person humbled and confident, gun-shy and wiser, enlightened, emboldened, somehow edgier and gentler all at once.

The lessons of this last year have brought me to where I am now.

This May, Rod and I are each starting new jobs. And for the first time in 3 years, we won’t be together all day, every day.

Can I pause here and say that I like being with my husband all the time? He is fabulous. He makes me laugh. He gives great hugs. He is smart. And he sings beautifully. Good company. The best.

It’s an adjustment for all of us that comes in the middle of other whirlwinds. Kid stuff. Family stuff. Possible moving stuff. House-in-Chicago-getting-new-tenants stuff. Life stuff, you know?

Thankfully our world of iPhones and Skype and Facetime and iMessages and FB and photo-texting will keep us in contact a lot.

Thankfully, we are both excited about where we are.

It feels like the time for which we’ve been waiting. And so, this song keeps going through my head…

Are you still waiting for your time? How will you know when it’s here? What will you do with it?

Let’s go light up the darkness.

the Chicago ones

they are the ones who text random moments so I feel like I am still part of their everyday lives, and the ones who text from the emergency room because we know mileage does not equal distance.

they are the ones who book a flight, extend an invite, or “swing by” (even 8 hours out of the way) on the “way home” from Florida.

they are the ones who send a card or picture in the mail.

they are the ones who kiss my children’s heads and hug my mom and dad.

they are the ones who will meet late at night, drive 30 miles early in the morning, or help me clean out the basement trash on the way to dinner (we’ll laugh about that…someday…).

they are the ones who appreciate my laugh.

they are the ones who know my cousins’ names and ask about my grandma.

they are the ones I don’t talk to for months but then connect with for hours.

they are the ones who have read all about it and prayed for us and cared.

they are the ones who wish we were still here but love that we love where we are.

they are the ones who listen to a story and understand a struggle and appreciate an answered prayer.

they are the ones who want to meet my dog.

they are the ones who extend genuine curiosity over sweet tea and chicken biscuits and pork BBQ, and barely make fun of me for saying “y’all.”

they are the ones whose children feel safe in my arms.

they are the ones that song* is about.

they are the ones who are far away, except not really. they are the ones I left behind, except they are still with me. they are the ones who welcome me with hugs that say I miss you and smiles that say But we’re still doing this life thing together.

And they are so, so right.

*Friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them. And a friend will not say never, ’cause the welcome will not end.* – Thank you, Michael W. & Amy!

this wonderful week in photos

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Celebratory dessert. These are the cupcakes and the icing on the cake.

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Our village. From start to finish, Wednesday was an “it takes a village kind of day.” It included our last Search for Significance Bible study, which was packed with revelations for me until the very end. It included some time to laugh and dream with my husband. It included a fun reunion with my MB sister-friend who is flexible enough to meet me and the girls for a park/library combo and brought them treats, too. It also included a a few impromptu and very fruitful meetings… with more people who are more than happy to include our kids as part of what we do.

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New doors are opening. And let me tell you, it feels good to walk through open doors, especially without having to kick them down first.

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A new Plan A. I am really, really, very excited to be embarking on a new plan with people I trust, respect, share faith with, and enjoy. Getting flashed a note like this during a meeting is much better than weighing the consequences of homicide.

We are energized, blessed, grateful, and ready to run. Happy Weekend!

the heart won’t lie

Before the rain came last Monday (yes. The metaphorical rain I prayed for was delivered!), I made a decision. It was always in my soul to do, but a series of “God winks,” confirmations, and my own heart opening my head up to possibilities, it has been reaffirmed over and over to me over the past weeks.

When we moved to Myrtle Beach, it was a given that I would have a position in our new business venture. It was a new career step for me, and while it was exhilarating, challenging, and at the same time ego-crushing and ego-boosting. And as I recorded here, transitioning from being a work-at-home mom was so hard.

Well, the position seems to have only lasted for awhile (understatement and oversimplification, but whateves). And during that ‘while,’ my little girls had a very adventurous and unforgettable summer with their amazing big sister

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and then began attending a truly wonderful school where they have been loved on and where they have grown and learned and made friends. My ‘mommy-guilt’ was replaced by a dependency on their school, as it became one of the few constants in their lives – and mine! – over the past six months.
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(the Christmas program)
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(The trike-a-thon)

But when it became time to really start thinking about schools for the fall, when Miranda will need to start kindergarten, I found myself dealing with a different frame of mind: avoidance. We had a few options, and none of them were jumping up and screaming, “We are right for you!” There is the public school, and the bus that comes to pick up our sweet neighbor boy at 6:45 in the morning. There are several Christian schools, none in great locations from our current house ‘in the boonies,’ and all with rules about skirts (4 year olds having to wear them and middle-schoolers not being allowed to wear them seems a bit against the laws of nature to me), and the one most appealing to me cost twice as much as the others.

The factors that seemed to surround our decision included our geographic location (we are basically in an unincorporated area that is close or on the way to nothing), our unknown job situations (just a week ago, we were unsure where Rod would be working and whether or not I would need to work and if so where that would be and then what sort of after-care we might need for the girls and of course, whether we could afford private school), and who I have as a support system. Almost every mom I know here works full time outside the home and/or has kids older than mine. All my close friends who are homeschoolers-of-little-ones are back in Illinois. And there is also the question of my own confidence. It’s been a little rocked by decisions gone sour.

Three or so weeks later, I can’t recall the exact moment that it hit me again, like truth. I only remember the series of moments that confirmed it. The sight of Miranda sounding out words with Kirsten on the couch. The friendly librarian who interrupted our reading time to admire it. The preacher whose prophetic words to me were not about my career path or our ‘big thing,’ whatever that might be, but about my own intelligence and ability to train my kids.

You know what my reaction to all this was? Duh.

I am going to homeschool my girls next year.

It’s not all that dramatic. It’s kindergarten, for crying out loud, and I am sticking by my policy that we will take all school decisions one year at a time. But since making this commitment for the fall, I have felt such peace. And, since I made the decision, new projects have been put in front of me to battle for my time commitment. It’s all good. My decision to homeschool is in part so peaceful and comforting because it is a commitment that does not depend on any circumstance:

money? Don’t need it. I already own the curriculum, and even if I didn’t, I’ve learned a lot about homeschooling for free.

– location? Home. The beach. The library. The state park. Trips to Chicago and Florida and Charleston and North Carolina and Lexington and other places when we can. Since we’re learning about the world, why shouldn’t we see it? Nothing I taught Miranda during our home-preschool time came so alive as the first day I was able to show her the horizon line over the ocean. Suddenly, the idea of the heavens and earth being separated was illustrated before her eyes. Homeschool=everywhere school.

– dress code? We are all finding our own style around here. It’s part of learning and part of growing into who we are, for the girls and for me.
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work? Thankfully, God has provided a job for Rod that is going to meet our needs and settle our concerns. While I have some opportunities before me, they will have to fit in around the anchor of homeschooing my children. They are my job, they are my calling, they are my ministry, first, for this season of our lives.

support? Well, my HS friends in Chicago are as much an intimate part of our lives as ever, as we can be with 1000 miles between us. I have a strong group of friends here now as well, including past homeschoolers. There is a well-rooted co-op in town that I am reaching out to. And who’s to say which of our family members will be living here by fall…?

time? This is the one that makes me the most nervous, because the projects on the horizon for me will require me to work and meet deadlines. This is the one that I must work through with my husband and ‘support team’ and godly wisdom. And this is also what will show our family’s unconventional tendencies… Because whatever work I do, my kids are going to be a part of it.

There are so many other positive aspects in my head… the freedom of our schedule… the freedom in our finances… the ability to discover so much about nature, culture, industry, history, and faith with my kids… the time to allow them to follow some of their individual interests, like dance and instruments and swimming.

I am so excited about where we are heading.
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Six years ago, my life was forever changed by the promise of motherhood. Today, two lively, creative, and smart little girls need to raised up, and I remember more than ever what a blessing and privilege it is to be allowed to be their mama. They are my heart, and I’m grateful I’ve been reminded to follow it. When it comes to my babies,
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it hasn’t led me astray yet.