38 years wise...
Another year has passed in the blink of an eye. I am 38.
I’ve been out of high school for 20 years. I used to think that seemed like a lifetime, being twenty years past high school. Now it’s me! Other milestones are present in my life to show me there is some sort of next chapter I have stepped into without realizing. I no longer have toddlers for children. My youngest child is eight and I’m about to have a teenager in the house next month. We don’t have many toys anymore and the shoes by the door are bigger than mine. In some seasons, we do more sports than suppers around the table. My boys are capable of staying home without us and are still alive when we return. I’ve gained some independence back that I lost when they were little. All of these things happened without me realizing it. So it’s even more important that I stop and take a moment to reflect on my last year of life.
Our family has had a difficult year.
Our normal was uprooted when we left school in November 2022. Quickly after we experienced a fire in our home which we are still dealing with eleven months later. We almost lost our dog to the fire and then literally lost him in August 2023 when he got lost with another dog. It might be easy to say ‘woe is me’ or focus on these things but I do not feel that way. I know better. While each obstacle has been awful and horrifying at times, it has also taught me important lessons: walk by faith, trust in God, and be grateful for life’s blessings.
I choose to be grateful as I reflect. The theme over my year has been ‘God is faithful.’ He gave us a rental home that is just right, a business when I had no job, and guidance and love when we were lost with homeschooling. He has been our anchor and our lighthouse this year.
After leaving school, (or it leaving me…still unsure about this), our homeschool journey began. While I knew in my heart I would find myself here at some point, I was not prepared for it. Neither were our kids. The road has been difficult and my reflections on this topic will be saved for another time. Either way, I know it has led me closer to God and Jesus. I’m not sure I have cried this much in my life. Homeschooling has left me raw and vulnerable, attempting to do something I never thought I could. After one year of it, I am coming out the other side stronger, more sure of myself, and confident in my own intuition. I have had more fun and joy with my boys at the center of my world than I did when I was working full-time. I have always put other’ kids and families above my own. Homeschool has really been about putting us first and focusing on what we need.
The fire seems like ages ago and just yesterday. It was horrific. It’s hard to put into words the shock of coming home to your house burning. The panic I felt when running toward the house, wondering if Mo was dead. The first steps into the black and charred floor, scrambling over parts of walls mixed with toys. The smell of our possessions burning combined with the freezing air of winter, and the water that drenched everything else. Once the fire was out, I walked into our home to all of this. To a whole life in one house, my life, gone.
The fire was a tragedy and a blessing all in one. It’s been awful dealing with the effects of rebuilding a home and working with insurance. But it also has blessed us in disguise. I was very possibly depressed or maybe the word is distraught. I could do little to focus on homeschool.
Right before the fire, I was consumed with trying to figure out what to do for homeschool, how it could look, how much was enough, and trying to convince my boys to walk along the unwanted path with me.
With the fire, I was distracted trying to figure out what to do about the business I just bought and where to live. Daily living had become our focus. The hotel helped distract us too. But once we moved into the rental, the tragedy of it all came back again. Moving into a house with a car load of possessions is filled with gut-wrenching pain. No furniture, no coffee pot, no silverware, no bath towels. Those first days brought us back to the reality of what was happening to us. I could let this be my story, but it’s just moments of it. Not all of it. My story is so much bigger.
God showed up. He showed up through our family and friends. People offered us money, food, and time. They called, they visited. They reached out to let us know they were praying for us. Classmates and long lost friends were reaching out to us. A new town embraced us and held an auction for our benefit. So many people in so many ways touched our lives. It was miraculous.
We are still feeling the effects of the fire, living in our rental while our home is being finished. We know our house is going to be beautiful but we are unsure if it’s right for us anymore. It feels like a betrayal happened there and I don’t know if I can go back. This adds a whole nother layer of difficulty.
Losing Mo a few months ago felt like rubbing salt in our already open wounds. I couldn’t believe it happened. One minute Josh is chopping wood while Mo is playing with the other dog, the next they are both gone. One came back but not the other. Mo was gone for two days. The first night without him, we prayed and cried. The boys slept in the bed with me while Josh was still out looking. I remember thinking ‘is this how we lose him? Not to a fire but this way?’ If he was to die, I prayed for it to be quick. I was convinced there was no way he could survive.
Mo had been a comfort and solace after the fire. We had waited two years to get another dog because we loved our last one so much. Mo is such a good dog; he listens better than any dog we have had. He is playful and loving with our boys; it was hard to imagine him dying all alone in a field.
Mo’s story is truly miraculous and deserves to be told again. He was found 40 miles away from where we lost him. He was discovered by a farmer and eventually someone who knew me from high school stopped to stay with him until we were able to get there. He was ten pounds lighter with some cuts and scrapes but nothing else wrong with him. I still cannot believe how far away he was and how he survived in the wild. He’s a city dog, not cut out for the rough and tumble of living outside.
These events of the past year have stripped me to be vulnerable and shown me how good people truly are. If you are reading this, I am thankful for you. I feel more and more grateful each day. Each tragedy has shown us many blessings and those blessings came through people.
I have always thought of myself as a faithful person but it feels different now. It’s like all the faith I had up until these key points wasn’t even close to what He produced in my life. What He delivered doesn’t compare to how much I prayed and how much I love Him. It makes me feel unworthy of His love.
I have been searching for freedom. I have been on this search for a few years now. I wanted to break free from the system of school, find freedom in my day-to-day life, and discover financial freedom for my family.
At 38, I am closer to each of these things today than I have ever been. And it all came through God, not my own doing. Each tragedy of year 37 has brought me closer to God.
So as I say goodbye to 37 and hello to 38, I am a little wiser, a little more bruised, and a lot more faithful and thankful. Thirty-eight will be great!