Failing into Grace

As I stared blankly ahead into the snow covered hills and ashen skyline, my mind reeled with reflections of this past year and the countless changes that have occurred. Beginnings, endings, failures, successes and all of the in betweens.

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I thought about how this move to Montana had changed and shaped me. Us. How I felt like I had fallen flat and failed on so many levels, yet maybe those failures were successes in their own ways. How our family had changed, evolved, and grown through it all.

We moved across, and into, the country for a change. But I don’t think anyone could have ever explained what that change would entail until we experienced it for ourselves, even if they had known what the future would hold.
No one could have told me what it would feel like to step into full-time ministry, trusting God to provide for my family, and asking others to join us in that. The mix of fear, excitement, joy, faith, sadness, doubt that came with raising financial support… How incredible it would be to watch at-risk teenage girls grow in their faith as they faced adventure and challenge through rock climbing, or how they would shatter my preconceived notions of what a girls group home was like. How lonely it would feel to serve in this foreign work territory anywhere from 50 to 70 hours a week while my husband and kids were at home facing the challenges of adjusting to a new house, lifestyle, and all that they/we knew, far away from our family support. The fun and fulfillment that would be had in learning and serving at a Christian adventure camp with many beautiful, faithful leaders, versus the sadness and isolation that would be felt each and every moment, leaving my overwhelmed husband to work, homeschool and care for two young kids who desperately wanted their Mommy back, leaving before they awoke (or crying as I left) and arriving back home as they prepared for bed. Or the conflict, confusion and guilt that I would feel when I tried to decide whether to stay in ministry or be home with my family, then after much deliberation and prayer, decided that my family needed me home, and I was not fully serving anyone in my current state of being. How on the one hand, I knew how deeply I was needed at home, on the other I felt that I had moved all the way to Montana only to let down my supporters, myself and Bighorn family and friends (resulting in the guilt and self-doubt that I continue to carry). Yet… Today, I finally saw in that “failure”, the success to show my children that sometimes, often times, the right decisions aren’t easy.

Sometimes, “failing” leads to grace.

I don’t have it anywhere close to figured out. My depression still gets the best of me and I’ve been battling a heavy, dark cloud for far too many months now. I get sad and mad that this disease robs me of the emotions that I want to feel and that God doesn’t fix it. Fix me. Country life has completely won me over as has an overwhelming passion and love for horses that I never knew I had, and in a cruel twist of fate, this peace that they bring is now being taken by a horrible allergic reaction to their hay. We spent too much money to figure out what has been causing my health issues only to get one simple explanation (nerve damage caused foot drop) and far more questions (no idea what’s causing everything else). Some days we question the validity of our efforts in homeschooling as we beat our heads into the wall over a simple concept. And then some days we see the light in why we are doing what we’re doing, whether that be a conversation with a public school family and the struggle they’re facing, the ability to adapt our school schedule to family visits, or the smiles on the kids faces when they learn/master something new, often times that never would’ve been taught or understood otherwise (or in Lulu’s case she’d be waiting at least another year to learn). Our new church family has helped and supported us in spite of and in light of, our newness when I’ve needed it the most, in ways that would be unheard of in the city. We long for the leadership and teaching of our pastor in Utah. We miss our family dearly and at the same time now feel most at home in Montana, where the tranquility and work of the small town country life has re-shaped our souls…

And in it all, all the while, we’re learning, changing, growing. I wouldn’t say I’m falling or failing gracefully, but I would most definitely say I’m failing to grace. The concept of that may not make sense, and maybe it’s not supposed to. We all fail. And in all of those failures there is some sort of success if we can just see it as such. But moreover, in all that we learn, all that we do, and all that we are, there is a whole lot of grace.

As our (Utah) home pastor puts it best “Grace and Peace”. Cheers to failing (into the receipt of) grace…

New, New, New, Collapse – and Phew?!?!

New home, state, job, lifestyle, parental roles, pets, diet, church, trials and celebrations… New. Do you ever have those times in life that months fly by, and you feel like it has only been a few days in one sense, yet in another, it feels like eternity? Well, that’s where I’m at right now. It has been a looooong time since I’ve updated my blog. I HAVE sent out some email updates about my ministry, which if you haven’t gotten those, and you’re interested, send me a message and I’ll keep you in the loop… But… Here it is. Confusing. Messy. Our life the past few months.

Welcome to Montana

After accepting the position at Camp Bighorn in November, we started getting really serious about raising my ministry support and finding a home in Montana to pursue a “simple life”. Ha… Me. Simple?.?. After many months of searching, we made an offer on one house that didn’t go through, and ended up really liking, and then purchasing, a house that we had originally ruled out without seeing. In April 2016, we packed up a moving van, our car, a trailer, the kids and our little dog Zero and headed North. Our new, 100 year-old, 30 year “updated” home has a laundry list of repairs, but the peace and tranquility of the 11.5 acres of land, small town, abounding nature, and wide, Montana skies have won our hearts.

With all of our acreage we figured we could use a large dog, so naturally, a german shephard mix named Dudley came home with us two days after our arrival. Why wait?!?!. We quickly fell in love with this sweet boy and he was amazing with our family. Of course, as with any new dog, we were overcoming some behavior issues, but he was learning quickly and seemed to be adapting well to our home and Zero. However, we quickly realized that his drive for attacking animals was greater than his desire to listen. He was doing really well off leash and then out of nowhere, in the middle of a game of fetch, he took off and had an excursion with our neighbor’s cows that resulted in a lot of blood and my ensuing “accidental vegetarian” diet. No, the cows and dog didn’t die, no bones were broken that we know of, but it was a horrible, gruesome scene, and I haven’t been the same since. In tears and hyperventilating, I took my boy back to the shelter as Terrance and I agreed that the liability of having a dog who was obsessively lusting over cows in every direction in an unfenced yard was not a good plan for him or us. I am still heartbroken questioning the “what if’s” and three months later, I still cannot bring myself to eat meat.

Our home felt quite empty without Dudley (still does), then, a few days after his departure, we acquired some lawn-mowers to trim down our land – I mean, two horses and a mule… And, the greatest part is that we get paid to have these three beauties around to pasture. I’m trying not to become too attached as I know that they will return to their owner soon and it would be a huge undertaking to claim such large animals as our own. But wow, they are quite majestic. I’m also learning why the locals complain about deer as “pests” as they’ve mowed down our little vegetable garden. Definitely need to get some fencing in before we start a large garden…

Animal Love

On to the craziness of adjustments. I was forewarned that working at camp would require long hours during the summer, but I was bound and determined to follow God’s call on my life. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fact that long hours meant working 60 to 70 hour weeks at a new job and the impact that would have on our family – this, in addition to Terrance taking over home-schooling and caring for the kids and house, then him working from home and traveling to and from Utah for at least a week at a time every couple of weeks (during which time I’ve had our truck break down, mouse invasions, a tree limb collapse into our deck, sprinklers explode, set a toilet by myself, and more). In addition, my foot decided to stop flexing toward my leg and half of my toes went numb about a week and a half ago and I’ve been going to doctors trying to figure out the cause, meaning I’m dragging my foot as I walk and my body is sore from compensating. It’s been rough. We’re trying to muck through it all and trust that God is faithful, while in the midst of that determine what is it that God is calling us to and for? What are we supposed to learn from this and how do we pursue in faith? How do we serve God, our family, ourselves without collapse? We are both exhausted and beaten; the kids are doing okay given all of the change but still not great. The long days of summer are drawing near to an end at camp and I/we have learned a lot in this time about our capabilities, loving others, the importance of family and taking time to live and be present in the moment in the midst of craziness and hope that these lessons will carry over into the future. As things begin to slow down, we are praying for wisdom, peace and direction in the days to come. Phew…

Breathe, Laurel… Breathe friends…

 

 

Homeschool Trials and Celebrations

One month ago, we decided to officially homeschool Westin, our first grader. In that month there have been trials and celebrations as we begin to discern what works and what doesn’t. We have let go of the 7 hour school day and seen how quickly the days can fly by without getting anything done (or so it may seem from the outside). We have wondered why on Earth we thought we could take control of our children’s education and then, what would happen if we didn’t and why we chose to homeschool in the first place. It’s not always happy-go-lucky and then, some days or hours it is. It’s amazing the learning that can be done having the freedom to take learning outside the classroom –  when you have the time to do so. 

Thanks to the recommendation of a seasoned homeschooler, we were able to start teaching Westin how to write in cursive and he is doing amazing and enjoying it! We are hoping that this will help with his dyslexia as others have found to be true. Sad to think that this is an art that most schools have left out in keeping up with the new common core curriculum.

 

Allowing him to help decide some of our curriculum means that he has the opportunity to learn more about things that interest him and to dive deeper into subjects that he finds interesting. We are focusing our primary efforts on math and language (which can be our biggest battle depending on the day) but beyond that, we’ve been exploring his new passion for rocks, delving into history and whatever else may come our way.

Lulu has taken an interest in learning more as well, and it’s fun to see the two kids working together. Some days, it seems as if they do nothing but fight (sibling love), yet I can see their relationship strengthening as they create, build and play together. They both miss their school friends at times, even though Lulu still goes  to school twice a week, so I am hoping in time we can start connecting a bit more with other kids to fulfill that need.

I’m not doing everything perfectly, and I have to be reminded and remind myself that’s okay. We are learning and growing in this homeschool journey and each trial and celebration helps us grow in ways that wouldn’t be possible in the public school system. 

Following God’s Call

Montana Ministry

We are moving to Montana! There, I said it.

Why Montana???

Simple answer? Why not? Or…

We are accepting God’s call to go into ministry!

Okay. Maybe that’s not such a simple answer. The truth is, I had never considered going into ministry. The thought had never crossed my mind. But, God has used a series of events in our lives to bring our family to ministry at a non-profit Christian adventure camp named Camp Bighorn in Montana and we are accepting the call. We will be sharing more about this journey, and inviting you to take part, in the weeks and months to come. This is beyond exciting. Beyond crazy. But sometimes, God will invite you to do more than you ever imagined in ways beyond your comprehension. And along the way, He will remind you, “you are not alone”.

So here we are. Homeschooling, listening to God, and stepping out in faith to wherever this adventure may lead! I hope and pray you will join us!

Goodbye First Grade, Hello Homeschool 

Last Thursday, I officially withdrew Westin from first grade at his public school. It was a decision that I had pondered ever since he entered Kindergarten, as we debated the pros and cons and logistics of how to make homeschool work, or if we could make it work, with two working parents. Or if there were other options that we could try. Or… the list goes on. It was a decision that I (we) had been wanting to make, but were afraid to make the plunge; that is, until I just couldn’t take the devastation anymore.

As I had posted recently, with common core, kids are no longer allowed the time to be kids. We were fighting every single school night to get through over an hour of homework that was often times absolutely pointless, poorly written, and/or made no sense. One of my many breaking points with trying to help Westin with his homework came when he was supposed to read a sentence which asked something along the lines of, “Why did the judge dump rocks in the pit?”… Yeah, can you explain that one to me? And there were many, many math problems with the new common core format that were an absolute joke. Well son, let me have you solve the same problem three different ways, thereby taking at least three times as long, draw these twenty-nine blocks for me, solve this equation using terminology and wording that you (and I) don’t understand, and tell me how you feel about your answer?  No thanks.

I wish that I could honestly say that was the worst of it. Sadly, first grade was progressively getting worse and worse, as was Westin’s attitude, and there was more and more homework. His test scores were falling despite his intelligence and ability to comprehend the subjects at home. I considered changing teachers or schools rather than homeschooling, but after many discussions with parents seeing the same thing in their children, stories of teachers leaving the profession due to their unwillingness to conform to the governmental overreach and detrimental effects of testing and pressure to their students, more information coming forth on how they are using student data, Westin (and every child) being treated and lableled as a number rather than a human being, as well as a big move in our horizon (more on that later), I was not willing to allow my baby boy to succumb to the disaster that has become public schooling any longer.

So, this marks week one of our new homeschool adventures. We have a lot to figure out, and I genuinely wish that public school was what it once was. BUT, I came home to a smile and hugs at the door after our first day of homeschool and only a few hours apart on Monday instead of the normal whining and frustration that had become the normal, school night battle. And even with a bit of a challenging day yesterday, I’m already seeing a significant change in attitudes for the better of everyone at home. It’s definitely not the easy path, but I hope it will be worth it!

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