Tuesday, June 16, 2015

That Time I Needed a Babysitter

Since moving from California, I have had to become much more flexible.  I haven't always been that way.  The first thing that prepped me for this big adventure was having a slew of kids.  I can't ever predict what will come on any given day.  And flying by the seat of my pants has become QUITE an art.

This has helped me in our various moves.

I always figure, I will get it done somehow.

Nevertheless, on the flip-side, my real bent is toward organization.  Truly, it is.  I am a fairly organized person.  So while I fly by the seat of my pants most of the time, this "chaos" is organized.  It's also optimistic.  Remember, where there is a will, there is a way.  I always figure, I don't know how, but I will get it all done.

Moving frequently, every 8-9 months, to different states, schools for kids, lifestyles, etc...has only added to this "flexible" side of me.  I've had to up the organization though to keep myself sane.  You would think these two attributes would put me into total chaos (and at times I feel it) but for the most part, they balance each other and have really just made me a better person.

I remember that it was the first week we were in Colorado that I discovered I'd need to find a babysitter.  We always had access to babysitters in CA (often free from our parents...we still owe them big time), and if they couldn't do it, we had known people for a long time.  There wasn't much of a need for babysitting in Albuquerque.  Steve still worked a fairly regular schedule and the few times we got out for a date night, we could ask someone at church.

But Colorado was different.  Steve was gone.  Nonexistent at times.  And I had situations come up where I needed a babysitter simply because I have five kids total who sometimes need to be in different places all at the same time-and I quickly discovered, I am no Houdini!  Especially, since we only had one car!  I couldn't get around it.  I had to accept help.

A major character flaw I have is that I don't like asking for help.  I assume the other person hates me asking and doesn't want to do it.  I feel like they'll think I'm not pulling my weight which I abhor more than just about ANYTHING.  This is an area I've needed to grow in so much.

Colorado had it in for me.  

When Steve started the semester, I looked at him and said, "Do whatever you need to do to succeed.  Even if that means you're gone all day and every night.  The kids and I will be okay.  It's just nine months."

How nice of me right?  I meant it though.  I am one determined cookie.  And I wasn't going to allow us to bog him down at all.  He needed every hour, every second, to try and keep up with the younger students who had way less home responsibilities.  I wasn't about to stop him at all.

But this also meant I'd have very little support.  Now, no pity here people.  I chose that.  And I chose it for the good of our whole family.  In fact, we both chose that together.  My husband needed me to release him so that he could go and work his tail off and survive.  However, I learned fast, that with him gone all the time, I would need support...I couldn't get around it anymore.  I had to ask for help.  Getting outside of myself and stretching in that way though, led me to great blessings.

So back to my story.  We had been in Colorado a week and I found out that there was a Back to School Night at the kids' school and it was a parents' only event.  I immediately thought, "Oh great!  I've been here a total of 4 days and I need to find a babysitter already."  I started to pine for New Mexico where I had at least one great babysitter in my back pocket, or CA where we had two sets of grandparents!  But I was forced to face the reality that I had only been in Colorado a short time and would need to find a babysitter stat.

One of the administrators at the kids' school was so kind.  She heard about us just moving in, anticipated my need without my asking, and wrote down some numbers of high school girls she personally knew for me who could drive.  Sweet!  Phew!  Glad I had some options.

And then, in the midst of all the unpacking, I lost the numbers.  I was mortified.  I hardly lose anything.  But I lost those precious numbers at a very critical time.  I was forced to reach out somewhere.  I did know one family from back home that lived in our general vicinity but they had already been extremely kind over the weekend and helped us move in.  I'd rather die than ask for help again so soon (see...my proud nature?!)  What was I going to do?

Well I got desperate.  We had been to church that past Sunday for the first time and I had met a young girl in the nursery who looked capable of handling my kids for two hours while they watched a movie.  So I called the church office and with a harried voice, practically begged the admin there   to connect me with this random girl I'd met that Sunday.  How humiliating right?  How was I even going to call this poor high schooler, "Hi!  I met you Sunday.  Can you come over?"  Totally embarrassing.  I break out into a sweat just thinking about it, even now.

What I got was a beautiful response from the girl who answered the phone at church.  Without skipping a beat, she said, "Here's her number.  And if she can't do it, I will."  I literally burst into tears.  I am not a crier.  But the desperation, the fear and the pressure of being in a new place and not knowing a soul but NEEDING help and not knowing where to turn, hit me.  And this kind person, who I had never met, offered to come help.  Just because I needed it.  Just because she cared.

That sweet girl who answered the phone ended up becoming a dear friend to me.  She saved me from a few other situations I was in (some my own doing by being over committed) by helping me with my kids.  She was my friend.  She picked Steve up at CSU in the snow when we only had one car.  She came over and drank tea with me once a week throughout the fall into the spring and laughed with me about life.  She provided me community.  Not because I had built up rapport or even favors with her-which is normally what I'd try to do, because I hate to put people out.  But just because she wanted to.  I didn't even know her before.  But her kindness connected me with her right away and endeared her to me forever.

What that showed me was that we need people!  And that being weak only ties us faster to those around us.  Believe me, I would try and pay her back in different ways for all of the things she did for me just because.  But I just couldn't.  It was too much.  And I was in such a place that I needed all the help I could get.  My pride had to die.  Before I would try to do everything on my own.  But I just couldn't anymore.

That was the first step for me into community.  And it wouldn't be the last.  I learned early in Colorado.  If we were to survive without Steve, I'd need to grow personally and learn to rely on others.  The thing I didn't know was that I would make lifelong friends in the process.

God always meets us where we are and gives us what we need.  For me, it was the opportunity to reach out and be filled with the love of others.  It was one of the first times in my life where I felt at a total loss as to how to repay all of the people in our lives the same kindness they'd shown to us.  I couldn't.  It was too much.

But this changed me.  I am a doer.  I will do for other people, no problem.  But I am not a receiver.  And I hate being weak.  But being like that isn't strength.  It's arrogance.  It's pride.  And it's rigid.

That my friends, has been worked on.  Another addition to my flexibility.  Another tool in my belt.  As a result, I made beautiful friendships, gained a reshaped outlook on life and obtained a heart full of love from the friends and community we had in Colorado without whom the kids and I would not have survived.  God provided so many people like my friend the church admin, who played such crucial roles in our survival.  In fact, I wouldn't even call it that.  With their support and love, it wasn't a survival...it was a triumph!  Praise God!

Thinking of Colorado.  Missing dear friends.  You will "meet" many of them as they all played crucial parts in our year last year.  Thanking the Lord that he forced me into a place where I needed people so that I could begin to learn to receive.  Deep down, I still hate it.  But I know that God intends it for my good.  Reaping His goodness through these friendships last year showed me how when we are weak, HE is strong.  Treasuring the time we had there with all of my heart.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Story of Colorado...

I haven't paused to catch my breath in about a year.  The sprint we've been on has been like no other adventure we've encountered so far.  No other.  No amount of children or anything so far has been like this last year.  It wasn't horrible.  I don't mean to make it sound like that.  In fact, in some ways, it was incredibly beautiful.  Difficulty breeds perseverance, darkness gives birth to hope, and uncertainty to trust in our Savior.

I still remember our first night in Colorado.  We pulled up just as the sun was setting around 9 pm.  It was beautiful everywhere.  We found our apartment and my children immediately ran for the playground to stretch their legs after hours of driving.  Yet before they reached the swings, they saw the grass.  Grass.  We hadn't seen grass in months after living in the desert.  Without any prompting from me, they plunged into its softness, rolling around belly laughing.  The night was warm and crisp.  We had made it.  A new state again.  All new surroundings, new people, new systems, new school for Steve and the kids, new pressures and new beginnings.

The grass was a good omen.

After getting our keys and such, we settled the kids and the children climbed into their sleeping bags to calm down for the night.  I went to explore the kitchen-my domain, and quickly discovered there wasn't a dishwasher.  No dishwasher.  As that realization began to wash over me, I felt it might sweep me away...but I quickly dismissed it and focused on where I would put things.  It was the first sign though that things may be more difficult than my optimistic self might think.

I moved from the kitchen into the family room.  The apartment was furnished so, there was a kitchen table and chairs.  There was a spot for the tv.  There was a couch.  And yet there was not room for it all.  While Steve was upstairs showering after a long day of driving, I imagined in my head how we could place the furniture to have both a "family room" and a place to eat dinner.  It seemed literally impossible.

But where there is a will, there is a way....

I went back through the kitchen just a few feet away.  Would I be able to fit the "third" of my kitchen that I had brought?  It would be tight.  Where would a pantry go?  My mind began to swirl.  Instead of worrying, I decided to retrieve some things we needed from our car.  Feeling triumphant that I found what we needed, I bounded back to our little abode determined to continue organizing things in my mind.

However, my optimism soon faded when I found the door locked.  I was locked out.  I pounded on the door.  How could it be locked?  I had checked the handle as I left to be sure it was open.  But it was a new door, I was in a new place, it was late now, and my assumption that our new door acted like our last door had proven unwise.  Much to my surprise, it was locked, it was the only way in, and my husband couldn't hear me upstairs because he was showering.

So I plopped down outside the door, listened to the crickets, took in the sweet night air and welcomed Colorado.

I knew I would love it.  From the second Steve got connected with Margaret (his advisor) I knew I would LOVE Colorado.  I didn't know how hard it would be to accomplish what we needed to do there.  But I knew that I would be head over heels in love with Colorado.  I always say that Fort Collins had me at hello.  And that is true.

We spent some of the HARDEST months of our lives so far, there.  But the hardest are always the sweetest too, right?

Pretty quickly, after that night, we plunged into the depths.  Into the depths of darkness.  It was a journey we didn't expect.  It was long.  It was a grind.  It was immense.

But God was long suffering, He was a daily companion and He was bigger.

As things come to me, I will chronicle that time.  It's the story of Colorado.  Our story.  It's one of incredible heart, fight and victory.  God's victory.  Only He could've done what He did.  And all through the darkness, He weaved such intense light into our lives through friends, our church community, LOVE from neighbors and our kids' incredible school.

I am proud of that time.  It was a time of weakness for us.  But God was strong.  It was a time of intense focus and God was the source.  I am proud of my husband and the incredible spirit he showed in overcoming times of defeat and pushing on to victory.  And I know, it took an amazing amount of courage to keep pushing, to keep fighting and to slay the dragons he slayed.  When God says His strength is perfect, He means it.

I haven't even opened this blog in months because I had no self reflection in me.  None.  It was one of the first times in my life that I simply trudged on.  I laughed when I saw that the last post was of us vacationing in Breckenridge, CO just a few weeks before we moved to Colorado from Albuquerque.  You see, I have not chronicled this last year on paper.  There was no time.  I had no time to process anything.  And you know what, that too was an experience.  I didn't pine for yesterday or long for the future.  I just lived and took it all in...all the hard and all the beautiful.  There was LOTS of both.  I loved the people God put in my path and held on for the ride He had us on.  I simply lived in the moment.

But now it's time to tell the story.  I don't know how consistent I will be.  But I will tell it.

Into the depths...the story of our beloved Colorado.  And the time we took our amazing five children to grad school for a PhD in Mathematics.  A time when every ounce of strength and courage we had within was expended to run through the tape.

Yes...that time.

The sweetest and most difficult of times.  Full of memories, laughter and wonderful, life changing friends.

The story of Colorado.