Venturing into the Unknown: When the Answer is “Wait”

I haven’t shared a lot about what’s been going on for our family in the past few months…mostly because I wasn’t sure where to start, at least not with much clarity or direction.

The lack of direction has not necessarily improved, but, perhaps, the clarity has.

Back in January, John found out some major changes were coming at work. His team would be changing and, for the most part, moving overseas. His position would be dissolved. We didn’t have a timeline.

At first, it was okay! There were other options. We thought answers would come quickly…we thought we’d know more in a week or so (hah!). So, we committed it to prayer and waited for what we thought would fall into place quickly…only then it didn’t. We continued to pray for open and ::key:: closed, doors.

Friends, the “Waiting Place,” isn’t new to us. Just three years ago, around this time, God made it abundantly clear that we were to uproot our family and move to Asheville, NC. We grew and out lives changed dramatically. It then became clear again when it was time to come “home,” to the place he chose for us. (I’ve included links for those of you who may not have been a part of that journey, though many of you have!)

Well…back to now…possibilities that in the beginning of our new “unknown” seemed sure have become not just closed, but slammed doors.

But, one felt a little different.

A clear, open door presented itself, a dream job, if you will. A dream job across the country. A great possibility. A sure thing.

We committed it to prayer like we have all other things. We were nervous and heartbroken about potentially leaving family and friends here, yet, unspokenly, excited about the adventure, the newness we loved during our last relocation.

But (see the pattern…there are many ‘buts’ involved in this one!), it didn’t settle. That clear leading we felt during our last two moves just didn’t come. We prayed and asked others to join us. We fasted.

Through scripture, conversations and answers in the quiet, we did receive a clear answer, but, it sure wasn’t what we hoped for. It was a loud and resounding “no. trust. wait.”

Guys…this is scary. It got even more scary when the very day we received this answer, we also received another slammed door, our last potential “sure” option. This answer? The one we received? It meant (and still means) moving forward without a direction – at least not one we can see. It means trusting again in a plan that’s so much greater than ours.

Today in church, we felt even more clarity as we sang the words:

“We won’t move without you.
We won’t move without you.
You’re the light of all and all that we need.”

And our pastor shared thoughts like:

“If I really follow God, what will that mean for…family, career, etc?”

And:

“Do not fear. The moments of our greatest needs and fears and weaknesses, God shows himself great.”

It spoke to us.

We don’t know what’s ahead right now. When we end that thought right there, it’s a little terrifying.

But there’s more to this story. Somehow, inside, we feel a great sense of peace.

I talk a lot about how we are to trust a plan greater than ours. Right now, we’re being forced to live it out. In some miraculous way though, we feel comfort in this. A real “peace that passes understanding.”

The future? It’s in a state of complete unknown, which I guess it always is for everyone, right? We don’t know what the next hour will bring, let alone the next month or year. But, we are committed to praying it through and walking forward with confidence; the one who made the stars is telling us to wait. To stay. To trust.

So…here we are. And somehow…that feels right. There’s nothing better we could be doing.

Are you being asked to “wait?” Can you find comfort in that?

 

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When Blessings Become Focus-Central

If you’ve spent any time around me, AT ALL, you know I’m a planner.

When I say that…it’s more than a word. I remember being so excited for syllabus week during each college semester. I’d come home with my new semester plans for each class, hand write them in my big giant planner and schedule library time to start serious research sessions for each paper (I was a writing major) that was due over the following weeks. At home? I can’t do clutter…my mind can’t keep up. I spend a solid chunk of every day making sure there are no piles of “stuff,” that the crumbs are off the floor – there are a LOT of crumbs! ha – and that family events, from meals to events and vacations are organized and written in the calendar. Planning is an integral piece of who I am, organization and order often rank top and center.

In recent years, especially since kids, this has started to change. I think our God has a sense of humor, and that it manifests in the fact that I have four kids fairly close in age. Sometimes, chaos reigns supreme and we’re forced to just go with the flow. I’ve learned to accept it, even seeing it as a welcome break from my standard plan-controlled life.

But in other areas, I’m not so easy going.

Over the past year, Johns and my professional lives have been busy, to say the least. From his international travels, crazy work hours and pursuit of an MBA, it’s been interesting, to say the least. But then, things started changing for me as well. A regular opportunity became more of a full time opportunity. I’ve begun work on my own book. I’m taking part in another writing project that I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of. I have a little passion project that I get to be a part of.

Through all of it, I’ve tried to keep part of my focus on anticipating my kids’ needs, spending one-on-one time with them, building it up and ensuring they get to chase the dreams that they’re starting to develop on their own – which is amazing to watch, by the way!

When life feels “crazy,” it’s easy for me to snap. I think a lot of you can probably relate. While it’s my goal to stay level headed and to keep a sense of order in our home, when I feel like things are “out of control,” I start to spin. I become short tempered. I feel like the water is moving in and it’s a downward spiral from there.

I think, though, that through this season in life, that there’s a specific lesson that I’m supposed to be learning. Once I caught wind of it, things started to change in big ways.

It’s no secret that ever since our move to NC, and the following move back to PA, complete with added children and many unknowns, God has been working in our lives. He’s been working on opening our eyes and making sure that we are open to following his plan…even if it feels “crazy” on this end.

See…these opportunities that I’ve been presented with, they all center on something I LOVE to do, something God has blessed me with: writing…creating. Even better, these opportunities are with good people, people I truly love spending time with, learning from, creating with and growing with. I find that instead of feeling bogged down or tired after a trip for work or a day filled with more work hours than planning, I feel invigorated, I feel proud and I feel ready to keep pushing through.

Maybe this is standard for some of you. But, for me, as a planner who likes anticipating what’s around the corner and maintaining a sense of “peace,” this is new to me.

I think for me, it has a lot to do with this ongoing initiative to look for and appreciate blessings. I think we, as a culture, are trained from a young age to find stress in what surrounds us. We inherently look for and focus on the negative, not because we’re negative people, but because that’s what we are trained to do. After busy workdays on television shows, most of the characters meet at a bar, or pop open a beer with the need to put there feet up and unwind themselves from a day that has wound them tighter than they think they should go.

Are there days, situations and ongoing life events, losses, illnesses and dire situations that warrant this kind of unwinding? Absolutely; I want to be clear that I’m in NO way undercutting this. I don’t think, however, that that’s supposed to be our norm, or that those are the situations that tend to consume most of our thoughts. I don’t think we’re supposed to live in that space.

I think that, when we can focus on what and who we’re designed to be, and the gifts, abilities and other positives that stem from that, and when we purposefully remain open to whatever lies ahead and thankful for all of it, that those “stresses” can instead be re-framed as blessings, things to be grateful for.

I don’t know what that looks like for you. For me, it means that when the whirlwind inside seems to start picking up speed, I stop, I shut my eyes and I  remind myself that I’m surrounded by things I’m passionate about: my family, work that I get to love, beauty outside, the ability to remain active and more. I also remind myself that it’s okay to break the bigger picture down into smaller chunks, and to work slowly toward end goals, that I don’t need to have it all wrapped up tomorrow.

This life is a journey. One filled with highs, lows and lots of in-betweens. But, I think that when we focus on the stress, on the harder parts, that they become our focus. I think we’re made for more than that.

 

Grace that Falls Like Rain: Starting Year Ten

When people ask how John and I met, when we started dating, or more about our “story,” they’re often shocked. We’ve known each other forever. We started dating in high school. John proposed while he was still 19. We got married in college. Started our family right away.

We get mixed reactions, ranging from “aww” to very uncertain “wow’s!” The truth is…the way we did things doesn’t necessarily reflect today’s normal. And for us…that’s okay. We’ve struggled and we’ve celebrated. We’ve grown up together and have learned how to face this life together.

Today, as we celebrate nine years married, and get started on living year ten, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting.

For our wedding celebration, way back when, we had a slideshow made to the song “A Page is Turned,” by Bebo Norman. It’s a sweet song, perfect for a wedding slideshow…which is why we picked it. But, today, one of the verses of that song means so very much more to us; in fact, it brings us to tears whenever we hear it:

“A page is turned in this life, he’s making her his wife,
And there is no secret to the source of this much life.
When the grace that falls like rain, is washing them again,
Just a chance to somehow, rise above this land.

Where the God of second chance
Will pick them up and He’ll let them dance
Through a world that is not kind
And all this time, they’re sharing with the one
That holds them up when they come undone
Beneath the storm, beneath the sun
And once again, here you stand
And once again, here you stand
Your day has come”

We thought back then that we knew what this song meant. That we were made for each other. We were THRILLED to jump into everything married life had to offer and we did just that.

But then…like many married couples, real life hit. We experienced lay-offs. Health concerns. Complicated pregnancies. Long commutes. The loss of loved ones. Cross country moves. Life got real. It got hard.

But, there was also a lot of joy. In our nine years, we’ve gotten to welcome four amazing new lives into this world…lives that we created together. We’ve traveled and seen many parts of this crazy world. We’ve made lifelong friends with whom we’ve celebrated great victories and mourned absolutely heartbreaking losses. We’ve watched pieces of complicated puzzles come together in ways that were better than we could have ever dreamed.

Most importantly, we learned to trust. We learned how true the words of the song above really are. We learned to follow and to embrace grace that truly falls like rain.

In our early stages, we were both Christian. We believed in our savior and used our mouths to claim we were ready to follow his leading for our lives. But, our understanding, our beliefs, were shallow. They failed to reach what mattered most…our hearts.

But somewhere along the line – I think mostly because of the hard parts – we learned to follow. We gave up control and learned about what faith and reliance really are. Most importantly, we found out that our efforts, desires and plans would fall short every time if they were not inspired and directed by our Savior.

To some, this probably sounds hard to swallow. Who wants to learn through hardship? But, I don’t want to focus too much on that. You see…when we learned to rely upon God’s plan for our lives…the struggle and the conflict that we faced so often early on actually lessened. We found a joy greater than anything we could have worked for, accomplished or achieved on our own. We felt the power of saving grace and are still brought to tears when we think about what that has meant to us, on a personal level.

We are grateful. We are changed.

As we look forward to the next year and beyond, there’s a sense of lightness that comes with just following and looking forward to the surprises that might be in store, instead of dwelling on what we “need” to accomplish, work for or push toward.

It might be hard. It might be easy. It will probably be both. But no matter what, I’m grateful for the foundation we have that’s so much more than we could have imagined; and I can’t wait to face it with the one that was created for me.

Happy nine years, John!

Seeing the World: Kids in Tow

This year has been a whirlwind!

In addition to doing day to day life, we’ve had many opportunities to travel, that we have taken advantage of to the fullest extent possible. So much so, that I’ve had a lot of people ask me to start sharing how we do it. Based on this, I thought I’d share a few lessons (most of which we have learned the hard way) that we’ve picked up traveling by plane, train and automobile – seriously – with the kids in tow.

Before that though, I wanted to share why we do what we do.

I think that this world is an amazing place. But, I think when we stay in one place, our view of the beauty that is “out there” – both natural beauty and cultural beauty – becomes limited. I think that when we think how we do things is the “only” way to do things, we lose a feeling of connectedness that brings people together, that helps us to appreciate day-to-day life, and so much more.

As such, I think one of the best gifts I can give my kids – even if it’s at the sacrifice of how I’d like to see the world – is the opportunity to take it all in. Sometimes that means a road trip a state or two over. Sometimes it means a trip across the ocean (we took on Spain with the twins a few months ago!). Sometimes it means leaving our bubble of comfort and going down town to connect, learn and show a little light to someone who could use a pick me up.

At times this sounds better in theory than in practice. Sometimes it means massive breakdowns that leave people staying. Sometimes it means seriously questioning my ability to parent after I lose it for the 10th time in a day. Sometimes it means tired kids who are off schedule and unable to cope (through no fault of their own).

But for us, the challenges are worth the reward. I love the discussions we get to have as we travel. I like getting to share history with my kids while watching them interact with it in person. I enjoy watching curiosity and comfort grow through nothing I’ve done, but rather, through experience.

Full disclosure: this does not mean we live a life of extravagance by ANY means. I am a bargain shopper. I look for deals like crazy. During our last trip we probably made 50 or more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We find ways to travel in a way that fits our budget and means…which is part of what I’ll share a little as we go along.

Pulling off my last post, I’m grateful for the opportunities we’ve had lately, even when it feels like we are barely keeping it together. I’m learning that a little travel leads to a great desire for more, and I hope we can continue to find ways to see the world as a family. I also hope that by sharing some of our experiences and lessons, that we can make others feel a little more confident in taking that first step or two out into the world…with a kid or two along for the ride.

Next stop: travel bucket list. Have one? Please share!

Ready to Settle

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For those of you who have been following along with our adventure…whether it’s been for the past few months, or the past few years…THANK YOU. Your support has meant the world!

We have some excited changes coming! We are excited to announce that our house has gone under contract. We received an offer on Thanksgiving Day and have been pushing forward since then! We’ll also be settling on our new home next month.

It all sounds SO exciting..and it IS. But, I want to share a little more about why it’s so exciting…and that starts back awhile ago.

John and I got married young. We went through a few bumps and figured things out, fell short more than we didn’t but eventually found a good life pace. I’ll have more to share about this time period in the future! But, then, in June of 2014, John received an offer for a great job in Asheville, NC with his company. It was an amazing opportunity.

We were terrified to leave, but felt like it was right for us. We knew the move wouldn’t be permanent…to move up within the company he’d have to come back to Harrisburg. If you’ve read the posts, you know our time spent in Asheville was amazing. We grew our family by two, we learned to make it on our own and we developed a new love for an amazing active, outdoor lifestyle. We also developed deep friendships, quickly!

Fast forward a bit…starting back in June of this year, we learned we’d be coming back. We didn’t know exactly how it would look, but the process got underway. Once again, the process had many ups and downs and big decisions, but it was right. We listed our house and hoped for the best! After listing, the election, a gas crisis, wildfires and a number of other events all took place that changed how we thought it would go. I like to think the wait is what led buyers who will make the most of our home to us!

We moved back to PA knowing where we’d end up…but without a way to  make it happen until we had a better feel for our home sale. We moved our 4 kids into a hotel (a great hotel! but, a hotel none the less!). And we waited! We are still waiting, but an end is in sight!

That’s obviously a Cliff Notes version of everything…but, the past few years have felt like a whirlwind…but it has been filled with a lot of waiting as well. Waiting to decide what was right for our family. Waiting for kids. Waiting to feel at home. Waiting to move to new locations. Waiting.

It’s also been filled with lots of movement. Of literal moving between homes (this purchase will be home #3, in addition to the hotel and an apartment back in the beginning of our relationship). Of growing our family. Of running after those new family members. Of trying to stay in touch with everyone back home.

It’s been quite an experience…we’ve grown. We’ve learned. We’ve figured out what really matters. We’ve developed a level of gratitude and living in trust that we never could have imagined in the past!

But now, I’m excited for a change. Obviously, this life isn’t based on our own plans; that is one of our big lessons of the past few years! But, for the foreseeable future, it looks like we’re moving into a period of settling. Of moving into a home that we hope is our forever home. Of moving into the molding our children stage of life instead of starting over. Of getting closer to friends and family here. And, of finding a new routine.

I don’t think we’re meant to feel comfortable in this world…to feel completely settled; so please don’t read this as a “we’re going to sit back and do nothing,” message. We will be starting up Friday night dinners again soon! We will be following where we feel led!

All of that to say…thanks for sticking with us, for supporting us, for listening, for praying and for being available on so many levels! We are very ready to settle!

We’re Coming Home

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We’re coming home. We’re also leaving home.

When we moved to Asheville, we had no idea what was in store. We knew we likely wouldn’t be here forever, that it was a part of our journey, probably not the destination…but something happened that we never expected…Asheville became home.

Coming to this beautiful place, surrounded by mountains and the most natural beauty I’ve seen in one place was exciting…something we thought would feel like an adventure; and it was. But, that adventure became a part of our lives, and slowly, it just became our life.

We doubled our family size (as far as kids are concerned). We gained lifelong friends. Our children gained friends that they can run around the neighborhood with whenever they feel like it. Our oldest started at a brand new school that feels like something out of a story book (it’s that amazing!). Hiking and exploring became a part of our routine. We’ve learned to appreciate amazing restaurants and breweries (something this city is known for!). It’s been an amazing, amazing adventure.

We left our family behind and truly learned to rely on each other (it happens SUPER fast when you move a few states away from everyone you know!). We learned to deal with issues before they became issues and it made us grow closer than ever before. We grew up and we grew together.

This was something we never imagined.

And now we have a date. October 8, we will be moving home.

John has received a promotion that includes a relocation package back to PA!

It’s exciting…another new adventure that has a hint of familiarity to it! We’re looking forward to weekends at Hersheypark…to everything fall in Pennsylvania has to offer (hello corn mazes and hayrides!). We can do family dinners whenever we want. We’ll be close to our parents and siblings, to aunts, uncles and cousins…we’ll get to reconnect with friends without having to start over again. We’ll get to actually connect with our nieces that we’ve been watching grow through photos and videos!

We’ll get to feel settled. To (oh my goodness) go out to eat together with family around to help with the kids (we have not left the kids except when family has visited from PA!). We’ll get to spend Christmas in our own home without having to travel the country to see everyone. To spend weekends at our favorite vineyard shooting the breeze with friends we have dearly missed.

We get to reconnect. This is huge.

This all probably sounds very factual, but it is, in fact, very fueled by emotion!

We are SO, SO, SO excited to come home. But, we are also extremely sad to leave this place that became our unexpected home, the place where our family has become a family! It’s a crazy set of emotions to try to put into words!

When you can…think of us! We are praying for the sale of our home. Currently, there’s not a lot of action happening on the market because of the Labor Day holiday and start of school…but we need our home to go under contract as soon as possible. I don’t do well with unknowns…getting a few of them checked off our list will help with the moving forward business. Please pray!

There you have it…our latest update. We’re coming home!

Tomorrow my Baby Enters the World

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Just thinking about it all brings tears to my eyes and a million feelings I didn’t expect! But, as the title implies, tomorrow my baby enters this big world on his own two feet…tomorrow, my boy starts kindergarten.

Saying those words makes me think back. I think back to the months we waited for his arrival, to the long delivery that we never thought we’d get through…to the first time I held him and smelled him and cuddled with him. To milestones…to his first steps…to a funny dance he did over a gift at his first birthday party that had us rolling with tears…to the day he became a big brother and beamed brighter than any other time in his life. To his first soccer game.

I think of our times together…reading book after book because one is simply not enough. To his questions…to the million “why’s” and “how’s” and other engaging thoughts that show me how his intricate mind works. To the feel of his hair when it rubs against my face. To the way he smiles in his sleep, always cuddled with a stuffed animal, dreaming dreams I can’t imagine.

But now, it’s time for me to step back. To be there for him, but behind him…not right by his side as he takes those big boy steps into his new school.

I worry. Not because he is worried, because I can tell you with certainty that he is not. But, because I’m putting him into someone else’s care. The only people in the world that have watched him are his grandparents, two aunts, one uncle and Miss. Carol. That’s it. I can count them on one hand. These people have loved on him like no one else, but, kindergarten is different.

I want his teacher to see him for who he is…and after meeting her, I know she will! Not because he is “special,” but, because all students are special. I hope he listens and absorbs all there is to absorb and that he remembers his manners, his pleases, his thank yous, his hand raising and his turn waiting.

I hope the other students are kind to him. That they all want to be friends and that no one is excluded. That his “let’s be friends!” comments are met with “yesses” a games of tag and make believe. That his day is filled with laughter and adventure.

I hope his school is safe. I fear, deep down inside like every other parent, because of news stories and the scary world that we live in, that seems so much more scary when we are separated from our children and when they are left to their own devices.

I hope he thinks about me. Not that he misses me, but that he remembers how much I love him while we are apart and that he smiles because of it. That when he gets home, he’ll share with me about his day, about his new friends, about the craft he made, the books he’s read and the things he’s learned. I pray that if something hurts, he’ll share or if he needs a cuddle that he’ll remember that my lap is always open for him!

When my mind starts to roll, I think. I remember that children are a gift from God and that he’s given us the responsibility of raising them to be who he wants them to be, that they are a loan from him, designed for his purposes. I pray that he remembers what we’ve taught him and that we’ve raised him for this day, that he’s ready for the independence he’s about to encounter.

I cry, tears because I’ll miss him, but also because he’s so ready. And I know that’s a gift.

I know I’m not alone…that there are millions of other parents thinking the same thing, ready to send our babies out into this big world. I’m with you all in spirit. We can do this. We can take this first baby step in letting go. Here we go!

World…be kind to our babies!