The part of the newspaper I most look forward to reading is the obituaries. I love obituaries. As in, sometimes I save them for last like dessert.
There is something profound about the entirety of a person's life reduced to a short column. I'm fascinated by what the family or designated writer chooses to include in the brief summary of their loved one's life. Do they focus on achievements? The facts? Do they give a rundown of various places lived and survivors? Do they capture characteristics of the person? Their passions or their faith? I feel the sorrows listed- they fought in war, they lost a child, they lived with debilitating illness. I study the small black and white picture, imagining reasons said and unsaid for every wrinkle. Can I read between the lines at what their purpose was? What drove them?
This fall Sean and I attended parent/teacher conferences at the small Christian school we send our older three kids to. Everett's kindergarten teacher opened with praying for Everett. Through her simple prayer we could see how she understands and knows Everett, and is perceptive of his strengths and weaknesses.
Hudson's teachers encouraged us with news of Hudson's academic progress. Attentiveness from teachers and a small class has helped him get not only to 2nd grade level but to a place of enjoying learning and loving school. He graduated from speech therapy and his confidence is building.
Darla's conference was last. Her dear teacher has been teaching for decades and knew my great grandparents. She began talking about the prayers of my Great Pake and Beppe, their desire to pass down a legacy rooted in God's Word, and their faithfulness to the Lord. She told me stories I never knew. Tears filled her eyes as she shared what a blessing it is to have Darla, to see the prayers of my great grandparents answered through their great-great granddaughter sitting in row three. She spoke of Darla's gifts, her sensitivity to Jesus, and her contribution to the third grade class.
As we left conferences I was dabbing at teary eyes and Sean said, "How soon can we write another check out to this place?"
It's become the joke at our house. When Darla memorized the birth of Jesus from Luke 2 and recited the entire thing at our dinner table, "How soon can we write another check?" When we all squeezed inside the tiny gym to watch a Christmas chapel focused on Christ with performances and Scripture memory, "Can I write a check, please?" When Darla's bunny died and her class prayed for her and a classmate drew bunny pictures "in memory", "Check please?"
That writing the check part can be challenging. Every month I've prayed over tuition costs and each month it has happened. I knew as December was approaching that we'd have to do something a little more drastic if Christian school was to remain a priority. Sean put on an event in December with hopes that we would raise money that could go toward tuition. While the event itself was a success, it was not financially lucrative.
Halfway through December I was asking the Lord, "Is this school thing my idea or yours? I believe it's the best thing for our kids but if it's not within our means and not a good decision for us... I don't want to press on." Do we need to go back to homeschooling? Should we enroll in public school for the second half of this year? We've said having our kids in this school is a priority... but at what cost? Well-meaning Christians have told us we should be involved with the local public school. Am I stubborn holding to my own ideals or are they desires you've given me, Lord?
One evening I was praying while prepping dinner. "Lord, the only thing I can think to cut is rent..." While waiting for water to boil, I perused craigslist only to get depressed by my findings. I shut the computer and resumed dinner.
Then I remembered a friend who's parents were trying to find renters for a house my parents had once rented fourteen years ago. I re-opened the computer and sent a message. By the end of the conversation, I concluded it was another dead end.
"Okay, Lord- now do I conclude we need to make different education choices?"
Two days later my friend's mom messaged and asked if we could see the rental and talk about options. Maybe we could work something out after all. Hopeful but hesitant, we piled into the suburban.
There are some funny ironies in this. "Funny" as in "why is my life always circular?!" kind of funny. Fourteen years ago my family lived in this rental for a few months for the same reason- to save money. When Sean and I ran out of job options our first year married in Spokane, we ended up living in a trailer in the driveway of this rental while we worked berries for the summer. "At least this time we'd live in the actual house," I said wryly as we drove out to look at the house.
As we drove into the driveway, the kids were squealing in the back. They saw llamas and sheep in the field, trees to explore on the side of the house, and they were enamored. "PLEASE let us live here!"
After looking through the house and discussing options with the landlord, it began to look like this might be the answer we were hoping for. It would cut costs and our kids saw it as a step up. They saw a treehouse and were ready to pack boxes that moment. I was whispering thanks to God for that added grace.
For Sean and I it was initially harder. We had hoped to stay in our house for much longer than the two years we've been here. The sunrises are spectacular through picture windows. The master bathroom is indulgent and beyond what I would ever ask for. I have a rose garden, hydrangeas, and a closet that still has empty drawers. Sean has a big garage and an office. We love being in town with a private, quiet yard.
Yet as all those things ran through my mind, I realized they are all things I'd gladly give up for my kids to have the quality of education they're getting now. They've been sweet gifts, but they're temporary and held with open hands. As I evaluated and prayed I found myself looking forward to the Northwood home- a great kitchen, a patio to watch sunsets after two years of watching sunrises. It's cozy and Darla already has plans for transforming a basement corner into a library corner. Hudson can't wait to organize a music area in the basement toy room. Suddenly it didn't seem like a loss, but another adventure. The weight that has lifted knowing our expenses are about to be cut is worth losing a little closet space.
While all of these house decisions were bouncing around last month, a friend called Sean to his office and said, "I know the event you planned for December didn't go as well financially as you hoped. We are advocates of Christian education and would like to write a check to help with your kids' tuition." He encouraged Sean in our priorities and prayers, something we needed as much as we needed a check.
He did all of this having no idea what we were choosing and praying for, nor did he know that the check was the amount we needed.
The questions I've been asking the Lord this past month are being answered in the way He answers- with attention to detail, tenderness even in the hard answers, and never quite the way I expect.
Oh... and this blog update is actually a sneaky way to enlist help. Come the end of January we have some boxes to move. As usual. Nothing new about this year, folks.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...