Three years ago.
We made the choice three years ago after walking through some deep waters as a family, to pull our older two children out of a school we loved. A school where we had community... had families that we loved. It had been a provision from the Lord, evident that He had made a way for Josiah to be able to attend there starting in kindergarten, in a way that only was a work of the Lord.
This school was part time private, part time home school. At the end of our time there, I was not handling myself well on home school days. When I met with Diane Comer, a woman I love and respect, to get counseling over my situation, she labeled me as being empty. She said on the days I thought I was doing well, it was not thriving, it was surviving. For the sake of our children, we chose to move them away from this family and familiarity we had come to love at that school. We had to do it, so that we could make sure our children were taken care of, while I got better.
I remember touring through the halls of a new school we were considering. Everything inside me wanted to cringe. I didn't want to be here. I didn't want my children here. Not because it was a bad school, but because it wasn't my family. My community. But deep down, I had a peace that surpasses all understanding, that it was where we were suppose to move our children to.
So we filled out school application papers, and started saying good bye over the next few months to those families and teachers that we loved. I hated it. I knew I had to do it, for my children. I knew I could not do homeschooling in this season anymore, that it was the right decision. But my heart broke over the loss. It ached over watching my son, who didn't want to leave our school, learning to say good bye. Finishing his third grade year, he was the most affected by the loss and change.
That summer was a dread for Josiah. He was unsettled, and anxious, and we all felt that turmoil inside of him. It was a long drawn out summer filled with unknown of what the new school year would bring. We prayed much over him, for him. We found out that over half the students in Josiah's class would be new to the school, which brought a little peace to me, knowing he would not be alone.
Then that first day of school came. As I walked them to their classes, in the unfamiliar territory that laid before me, and new faces that I didn't know. Some of my anxious thoughts were relieved that night, when my son came home all smiles, saying, "I had no fun at all!!!" Very loud and hyped up, partly from the Dairy Queen blizzard my husband had given him on his way home, we knew he was settled and that both Josiah and Ava would be okay.
However for me, I had another loss to grieve that first year. Waves of sadness washed over me, when I would sit at school soccer games, watching Josiah, with no one to talk to, feeling so lost and alone. I remember coming home crying for a half hour one time I picked my children up in carline from school. I had gotten reprimanded that I had not done carline correctly, and I was so embarrassed and confused. I felt completely awkward as a mom at this new school. I kept the tears hidden behind my sunglasses, to keep my children from seeing my sadness in the midst of the light they were starting to see at their new school. I would not squelch their hope of new adventures in this place. But I felt lost and unseen.
I thought I would get more involved that year at the school. But it quickly became evident to me, that both Josiah and Ava were taken care of, and I needed to pour some time and love into Mallory and Lena, who had taken a bit of the brunt of being dragged around everywhere their older siblings needed to go in the prior years. So I let go of the hopes of volunteering, and attended the occasional class party, and put my focus into my twins preschool experience, and the times I had at home with them on their days off.
I slowly began to heal and process through past pain. God started to show me redemption that He was doing in the midst of those dark moments, where I struggled with so much hopelessness and loss. And He taught me that my identity is in Him. Period. That He is a God who sees me. He is my Redeemer who makes beautiful things out of brokenness. That He is My Shepherd and He is everything I need.
Mallory and Lena started kindergarten this school year. Last winter, we spent a good month, praying about what we should do for them. I wasn't wanting them to go to full time kindergarten, and I wanted them to go to the original school we had left, so I could do part time private part time home school with my babies of the family that were growing up way too quickly. Nick and I took a date night and went to pray at both campuses, and seek the Lord on what we should do.
We discovered pretty quickly it was evident, God wanted all of our children together at the same school, so we would enroll them at my older children's school.
As we entered this school year. Our third year here, I started to feel such a place of being settled. The horizon of the future sat broadly before me, and I could picture our family being at this school until they all graduated high school. Dreams of my kids maybe marrying high school sweet hearts someday... For Josiah the teachers were so great at working in keeping him challenged, for this being his first year of middle school, he was thriving and it was a joy to see that in him. Ava was plugging along doing well in her class, social as ever. I began volunteering at the school, specifically in Mallory & Lena's class. I fell in love with these beautiful kindergartners, and pictured getting to be "Mama Kari" to these kids as they grew older, that they would find a safe spot as I was making long term plans and dreams to stay committed to this class all the way to graduation. I started to get to know the staff, and build relationships with all of them. Getting to know these people who had been and were caring over my children, I began to for the first time in our three years of being at this school, feel settled and found a sense of belonging in this place.
Yet there was some sad dark things stirring and lurking under all of this seemingly great place of being settled.
Two Sundays ago, after church a friend drove me back to my house after we had all gone out for lunch. We talked a little bit about school decisions. I talked through something that God was showing me. I had been struggling with a tighter budget this year for extra yearly expenditures, and although we had enough for our children's upcoming school expenses, I wondered if we should pull our younger girls out and I should home school them, to save money. Because I had this stipulation, that I wanted to guarantee that we could afford private school when we got to high school. And since I didn't know and couldn't control what the future would hold then, I wanted to control it now, and in my bubble of control make sure we would have our savings. Nick was sure that we should keep our kids all in school, so I was letting go of that.
The realization hit me. I was trying to control things that I didn't know how they would unfold. Trying to make sure, to manipulate the future to guarantee the things that I, Mama Kari, wanted for my children, would happen. There was no surrender in there. Realizing the sadness in this choice, I had to let go once more. It was a good revelation for me really.
Phil Comer told me the day Josiah was born, that even if things worked out and we were given Josiah, he didn't belong to us. He belongs to the Lord. That has always stayed with me. So was I really giving the Lord my children completely? Laying down my Isaac's before the Lord in complete surrender?
Monday morning of last week came. I looked ahead at my Bible reading. Job and James. You know, there is something about both of those books that when they come around for spending time in, there is just no guarantees of what could get shaken, right? Monday afternoon, we received an email from our principal at our children's school. She was resigning.
We were shocked. And concerned. There was no explanation of why. So we started to pursue and pry for answers. Her heart and passion for the school, the vision and direction that she was bringing about was the exact reason we wanted to be there. When we started to unravel that there was some disagreement between the our principal and the leadership over the school of where she was taking it, concern elevated it. What were those differences. And if they were big differences, what could we expect for our children the next year. A meeting announcement went out for Thursday night, where they would discuss and answer what was going on.
Wednesday, a night Josiah normally has youth group, he came home sick that day. It was a weird sickness, one that we thought he was going to get the full on stomach bug, but instead he just rested and read books the rest of the afternoon. So we kept him home from youth group. This ended up being a big unexpected blessing, because it gave Nick and I a chance to process.
Nick and I talked about and prayed through what our options would be if things fell a part what would we do. We decided to make an appointment to tour a different school the day after a big meeting was scheduled to share the new direction of the school. Hoping we could cancel it. That our fears would be relieved once we went to that meeting. That it would just be some minor things that we could handle.
We started to get the feeling that there was something big about to happen. In the middle of our praying, our principal had responded to an email that we had sent her regarding why she had resigned. She was very vague, but said that her and her husband had prayed and fasted over this decision, and she used the word "clarity" in her message to us. When I read those words, a weird peace fell over me. God was showing me something very clearly. Nick and I could not put our stability in our children's school situation. It needed to rest in God alone. And that no matter how this came out, that He would be with us. So I fell to my knees and we prayed for clarity over the situation and rested that night knowing that He was with us in this.
Thursday night came. All of us parents filled the room, unsure of what was to come. If I think through what I was looking for that evening, I hoped for answers about simple questions... like if their vision was different than our principal, would they still keep the same form of testing that we appreciate. How would the offering of types of classes look like for the next year. What would they do with technology, and would my children continue to be challenged in the areas that God has wired each one of them. Simple questions like that.
As the time began, and speaking and questions and answers began, we saw something deep and dark and unexpected. An understanding of the foundation of the school and how it was operated. And as the meeting progressed, our hearts slowly began to break and yet we hoped that maybe there might be light found. Sadly by the end of the meeting we knew. Our prayer for clarity was answered. Nick and I drove home in tears filled with sadness, and I realized the one thing I never ever wanted to do again to my son, to my children, but especially to my son, we were going to need to do.
We came home to Josiah, who we had for the very first time babysit our girls while we went to this meeting. He is growing up so fast. Sitting down with him, we told him, that we were going to have to look for another school. That we could not put our children under the leadership that was left at the school. Unless something drastic changed, we would be finishing out our year here, and then moving ahead.
You know, it's so hard to see your children that you love and want to protect from pain like this walk through the hurt of it. But it's an opportunity. A chance for us to trust our children and their life circumstances up to the Lord. To be able to walk along side of something with them when they are young, and have them know we are there, to help them navigate through all the hurt and pain they might be feeling, to pray with them, to show them that in this life, things do fall apart. Not everything goes the way that we plan.
The thing I have learned and seen, in my years of walking with the Lord, that if we didn't have these trials, and everything went perfect in our life, that it would be very easy to not see our need for Jesus. I know I need Him, and I know my children need Him, and even though I hate that Satan brings darkness which looks to kill and steal destroy, I believe with all my heart, that it is where God does His greatest works, in redeeming the yuck and making beautiful things from the dust. A chance to find hope in Him once more, to lean into Him when it hurts, to find our comfort in Him. Believing Him to be faithful, and believing that some day we will be able to praise Him for what He did in the midst of the brokenness.
Right now, I am watching all these families that I have more fully opened my heart up to this last year. There are many broken hearts, dreams that are crashing and hopes that will not be fulfilled here at this school. You know what I have found. That God has prepared me for such a time as this. That my years of grieving and losing our first school, has show me how to have empathy and love to those that have been so deeply vested into the school for many years. He is showing me how to pray, how to be quiet, how to lean into Him. I know there are many days ahead that won't be easy for so many of the families at this school, including ours. He wants to show them that He loves them, and He takes there dreams, and hopes and broken hearts, and is already starting to pick up the pieces. I know He is going to do many new things in this. Satan may have wanted to mess up and cause division... he is good at that... but our God is greater and He is the master creator of new things. And I know He will have victory once more.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.
Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?
I will make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
They will be like a tree planted by the water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.