Home Again

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“Texas” from Alpha Stock Images

We have moved back to Texas, and it’s good to be back. I truly didn’t know how I’d feel coming back to this state that holds one-third of my life’s history. Last year, when we were still in job limbo, I thought I wanted to go back to Minnesota—where I spent the bigger part of my history. But now Texas feels like the right decision. It feels like home.

As far as new starts go, this is a BIG one. When we left Texas 3 ½ years ago, we had one child: 11-month-old Sam. Buc worked an 8­–5 job in the finance industry. I wasn’t working in the traditional sense, but I was getting off the ground as a writer, developing this blog and the book that became Ending the Pain.

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 Now, we have returned with two children: 4-year-old Sam and 2-year-old Seth. Buc’s career in finance is at a pause after a merger of his two former companies, and I have been hired as a full-time English instructor for next year at Southwestern Adventist University. Starting next fall, I will “work” in the traditional sense, and Buc will stay home with the boys and begin his own business.

Buc and boys
A dad in his glory:) I am so blessed to be married to this man, and I don’t tell him enough. (I just prefer to embarrass him occasionally on this blog…he’s been suffering the side effects of marrying a writer since this blog’s beginning in 2013:) 

Am I excited for this new chapter? Oh, man. You don’t know the half of it! Not only does this new job feel right, but being back in our old home feels right. Yes, we were able to move back into our first house as a married couple—the house whose white walls I filled with color and whose big, empty rooms I filled with couches and friends and prayer groups. There are a lot of good memories, and good feelings, in this house.

Amanda and me

I am writing this post as if I’ve reached the mountain top after experiencing near death. I know that’s being a little dramatic, but it’s not dramatic to say that the last couple years in Missouri were hard.

I’m still kind of asking God, “What just happened, Lord?

 

Seth and Sam in Truck
Sam (left) and Seth exploring the moving truck on March 27, the day we loaded it, a day before we moved our lives from Missouri to Texas.

I still don’t understand the emotional roller coaster we faced after baby #2. I don’t quite understand the anger. The anxiety. The marital strife. I don’t understand how moms of little children survive if they don’t have help (from family members, church family, a spouse). While in Missouri, I don’t feel like I ever figured out how to mother my two boys and keep my sanity on a regular basis—without regular breaks. I still don’t know.

All I can say is praise God those years are behind me; and praise God that He provided the help I needed to survive. Praise God for my husband who has never given up on me, even through the defects of character the last few years brought out it me.

Praise God for Janice, our babysitter/nanny/cleaning lady who helped me stay afloat and who invested so much love and energy into my kids several times a week. (Praise God for the fruitful job that allowed us to hire Janice for those years!)

Janice and Emily
Janice went from being our cleaning lady in 2016 to our babysitter/nanny in 2017, to my friend. I didn’t know when I hired her what a godsend she would be to our family, and I really don’t know how I would have survived without her. (This is a story for the next book:) Thanks Janice (and Emily, pictured on the right). We miss you both already!

Praise God for the MOPS group I belonged to that gave me moral support and a break from the kids every other Thursday morning.

Praise God for the handful of mom friends I made at my Missouri church whom I didn’t spend nearly enough time with, but who still encouraged me through emails, texts, and phone prayers, and allowed me to do the same for them.

Church friends

No, we didn’t thrive in Missouri, but we survived. Maybe the lesson was this: No mom is an island. Before motherhood and Missouri, I was at a peak place in my life, feeling pretty good about myself and my abilities. Feeling, maybe, a little too self-sufficient. Well, that feeling is gone.

Maybe I needed that 3 ½ year lesson in seeing my need, so I could appreciate what I had, and have, here in Texas. Got it, Lord.

Today I am so thankful for new starts—the new starts God gives me daily, and other new starts, like this one, where my whole world kind of gets picked up, rattled around, and set back down. I may not understand the clunkiness of what happened in the past 3 ½ years, but I trust that God is working out those years for good—in our lives and in the lives of those we came into contact with in Missouri.

me and kids in truck

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Happy First Birthday, Sam!

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The Gendkes, November 2014

Today is Sam’s first birthday, so I’m pausing my focus on New Year’s goals to take a look back at one significant way Sam changed my life this past year: my relationships with my in-laws.

This past year I connected with my husband’s family more than I ever have. I think I even started referring to them as my family. And I finally felt at home in Texas. Ironic, right? (If you missed it, we recently moved to Missouri.)

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First Attempt at a Family Photo, November 2014

To understand the change, you have to know that I joined my husband’s boisterous, fun-loving family nearly ten years ago…at a time when I was dejected, depressed, and not good at opening up to people. I was sad and quiet, and the Gendkes were happy and loud. At family gatherings, I felt like an outsider. I thought I didn’t belong in this close-knit family where kids were among the top topics of conversation.

Sam and "Tia" (Aunt Joanna)
Sam and “Tia” (Auntie Joanna), the night before we left Texas

Over the years as God healed certain parts of my heart, I inserted my voice more, but it wasn’t until I had Sam that I felt I could really join the conversation. When Sam came along, and even as he grew in my womb, I saw my in-laws, especially my mother- and sisters-in law, open up in ways I hadn’t seen before. And this allowed me to open my heart to them.

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Sam with Aunt Deb

Sister-in-law Deb orchestrated a beautiful baby shower and lovingly made the only wall decorations that hang in Sam’s room. Mother-in-law Margie dropped off gifts—picture frames, Christmas ornaments, a night-light—in anticipation of our new baby. A few days before my due date, sister-in-law Joanna called to ask if there was anything I needed her to pick up at Target. After Sam’s birth, the aunties alternated gifting baby clothes and toys they “couldn’t resist.”

Sam and "Tio" (Uncle Brady)
Sam and “Tio” (Uncle Brady)

Sam’s uncles, Brady and Bo, even stepped up. When Sam was two months old, pediatric nurse Brady wowed Buc and me with an expert football hold and showed us how to pull the bottle in and out to start a baby sucking again when he’s stopped. Bo would hold Sam for long periods of time in those early months, Sam napping in his arms, until the day Sam decided to cry at the first sight of Bo (sorry, Bo!). Though often chair bound, my father-in-law, “Pop,” even found ways to bond with Sam.

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Sam with Uncle “Bo-bo”

I can’t express how these precious memories overwhelm my heart. And that’s to say nothing of all the times Joanna, Margie, or Deb babysat for me. That’s to say nothing of how my nieces and nephew attached to Sam, or the many times a family member stopped over at just the right time—usually Sam’s five’o clock meltdown—so I could make supper and take a few deep breaths. Oh yeah, and I’m not sure this move to Missouri would’ve gone off without their help.

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Sam with “Nanny and Poppy” ( Margie and Mike)

I credit my mother- and father in-law, Mike and Margie, for building something beautiful with the Gendke family. Though the Gendkes’ Southern/Italian customs, loud conversations, food choices and pastimes did not always translate to the liking of this quiet Northern girl, the love of this family, and its strong bond, has come through loud and clear. Especially now that I have a child.

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(Not to leave out my own side of the family!) Sam with Grandpa Daryl (my dad). My own parents and step-parents have shown the same love to Sam that the Gendkes have each time they’ve had the chance…but living 1,000 miles away for his first year, they had far fewer chances. Ironically, now in St. Louis, we are in the middle of our two families, so we hope to get to see my side more often.

A baby provides a fresh start, a clean slate, for people to grab onto. Maybe adults don’t feel comfortable exposing their true feelings to other adults, who could reject them, or not reciprocate. But a baby is different. A baby needs love, feeds on love, and gives love without restraint (unless you’re currently Uncle Bo. Sorry again, Bo).

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Sam with Grandma Su (my mom)

I understand now, like I didn’t before, that to show love to a person’s child is to show love to that person. I regret that I have not been very good about showing love to my nieces, nephew, and siblings in the past. But until Sam, I wasn’t a kid person, I thought. I wasn’t a family person, I thought.

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Sam with Grandma Juanita (my step-mom)

During this past year, Sam (along with his uncles, aunts, cousins, and grandparents) has taught me that all human beings have it wired into them to be “baby people,” and “family people.” That doesn’t mean we all need to have babies. Certainly, it is not the best option for all.

Sam and Me, ready to visit a new church
Sam and Me, ready to visit a new church

But after my first year of parenting, I’m glad I’ve gotten this chance. Though life has definitely become more complicated, my relationships have been enriched—not only my relationship with my husband (my co-worker in this awesome job), but also my relationships with extended family. And then, there is my precious Sam. Adorable. Irreplaceable. Heaven sent.

Sam and Duck
“Duck” was Sam’s second word, second only to “Mom.”

Happy one-year, dear Sam! And thank you, Family, for making the first year of Sam’s life great. I’m not sure I would have survived (at least with my sanity intact) without you. Please visit often!

 

 

 

 

I Prayed a Prayer in Texas . . . and Wound Up in Missouri

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Photo Credit: jodyandjanie.blogspot.com

Several months ago I prayed: “Something about our lives and our home feels broken; we need a change.” I haven’t posted for the last month because, in that time, my husband got a job in St. Louis that we could not at first make public; and we have been busy moving. Now that we are here (as of one week), I finally have some room to exhale, rejoice, and explain how this move answered my prayer.

When I prayed my prayer a few months ago, our lives looked pretty perfect. Buc had a good job; we had a nice house, a good church family, and a beautiful baby; and I got to stay home with that baby. But there was definitely a problem: Our family of three wasn’t “gelling” like I knew we should. We weren’t bonding and creating traditions and just “being a family” like I knew God intended.

Details like Buc’s early commute, Sam’s erratic sleep patterns, and Buc’s arrival home around Sam’s bedtime made Daddy-and-Baby time nearly impossible on weekdays. These facts also made it hard for us to eat meals together or have family outings. And for those months when Sam was waking through the night, and waking at 4 and 5 and 6 a.m. for the day, I was plumb exhausted. I had nothing left to give.

As I looked around our home, saw our neglected dogs, overgrown flowerbeds, unused backyard, and the garden Buc had failed to plant, I realized Buc had little left to give either. We were just “getting by.” We didn’t have energy to really enjoy life, and enjoy our baby, together.

You might say there was nothing deeply wrong with our setup; they were just logistical things keeping us from family time. But I would be careful about saying that. A lot of wise people have observed that it’s the little things in life—the daily patterns and routines—that make up the whole life. If we’re not careful about those little patterns that are just a degree or two off target, we will soon find ourselves far from where we originally intended to be.

Originally, we decided to have a baby because we wanted to grow our family; we wanted to create new traditions and spend time together and just be a unit. So the fact that I was doing most of this baby stage by myself, without my husband, was sort of devastating. I found myself growing resentful of my baby and even my husband, and I didn’t want to resent them. So, in addition to complaining at home a whole lot (sorry honey), I prayed.

As I prayed about our brokenness at home, Buc felt things breaking work. Situations pushed him to seek employment with another company. And he started praying too. He set forth a number of conditions that God would have to answer in order for him to move his family over 600 miles from home. Guess what? God answered every single one.

So while our church and Texas family members scratched their heads over why we were leaving such a nice life, I sighed with relief. No more breakfasts alone. No more days of waiting until 6 p.m. to talk to my husband. Perhaps some lunches together (we now live within ten minutes of Buc’s work). Perhaps some suppers out with the baby. No more yard upkeep, at least while we remain in the townhome we’ve rented. No more dogs to take care of, for now (two kind families at our Texas church adopted Bill and Ted). A much needed break from church positions that were gobbling up precious weeknights. Just…a much needed retreat from a life that had grown too busy and clumsy to facilitate a new family learning to “be a family.”

No, I’m not happy to have left all the wonderful family, church members, and friends I’ve gained in Texas over ten years, but I know this is God’s plan for us, for now. And for that, I give thanks. For me, the New Year ushers in an exciting period of growth and change, and hopefully a well maintained blog so I can document what God is doing in our little family of three, and stay connected with my friends and extended family. Happy New Year, dear readers!