It’s no secret that I talk to God. I’ve told you that before. Over the past two years, I’ve done a whole lot of talking and praying, seeking and asking. When we first moved from our home, we did so out of necessity. The contract job I held was ending, and there were no jobs in my field available. We could stay and be homeless, or go… and be not homeless. And God opened a position way out in the middle of nowhere for a company that wanted me to come work for them. The choice seemed clear. Don’t be homeless. So we went.
God answered my immediate need for housing as I stayed in a crazy dorm on a college campus for the summer. And then He answered the next need to move out of the college dorm and get all of our family together, with what I like to think of as the manna house. It would provide. It was what we needed (a roof over our head in a semi-safe place) but I sure did start looking for quail pretty quickly.
Thank you for the manna, Lord, but… our rental house was also on the market which meant we’d have a 10-minute (or less) notice before they wanted to show it, which meant we were always on edge. My suspicion was that the owner didn’t really want to rent his house, and because it had been on the market for four years, he was concerned that “renters” would ruin his home that was ahem, probably going to sell at any minute.
Thank you for the manna, Lord, but… there were ants everywhere that wanted to eat all of our everything. “It’s okay,” I said. “We’ll just eat standing up. No biggee.” And we did. We went weeks without hot water, and weeks without gas to cook on the gas cooktop, but I was patient, and I took the manna that we had and told myself that it was okay to buy a $20 hotplate from the store and cook on it, lest I seem ungrateful for the manna house.
Thank you for the manna, Lord, but… the schools, and the bullies, and the constant threat of fights. Manna was nice, but our weary hearts longed for peace and rest, and specifically? The peace and rest of home. So three months after moving the first time, and five months after that, God brought quail, in the form of another move.
Again, God provided exactly what we needed at the time. For the first time since we’d moved away, we had little friends to play with next door, the kids could play outside until the streetlights came on, chase fireflies, and spend the night on the trampoline outside.
We could unpack, hang things on the wall, and the kids each had their own room. We had a little church down the road that we thought we’d make friends at, and the bathroom doors at school actually locked and didn’t have swear words carved on the walls like our last school did. Hashtag winning.
But the town wasn’t so welcoming and the little country church wasn’t so friendly. The hubs and I talked about church, and he said, “You’re probably not going to find friends from school at a church 30 minutes away.” So we went to the local church. Because it’s church, and church family are supposed to be family in and out of church, right? Good theory, but very rarely true.
I remember one Sunday morning thinking, “I’m going to bring breakfast to the Sunday School group.” I brought grapes, and made blueberry muffins with homemade honey butter and fruit tea. I brought cups and napkins, and a tablecloth, and dragged the table from the room next door into our room, and set it up for our class, and I was so excited. But as we started our class, the gal next to me snidely commented that she wished she’d have known we were having breakfast so she wouldn’t have eaten at home. And all I could think of was that if she’d have ever thought to share her contact info with this new person who was trying so hard for months to fit in, perhaps I could have called or texted to tell her. So much for thinking we could make friends at church that would carry over into school. In those first few weeks, I asked for prayer that the kids could make friends in the town. And I remember looking at these women, at least seven of whom had kids my exact same age and thinking, “Wouldn’t you be the answer to my prayer, oh you with children our age who are just nodding along, as if God will magically bring some other women with other kids to be our friends?”
But we kept praying, and thanking God in faith for the friends that would come someday.
We had about six good months of rest before even the quail wasn’t enough, and the rosy picture I always tried to paint wasn’t fooling anybody. My friends took on the brunt of my burdens, because I refused to let the kids see me as ungrateful. After all, quail is quail, and as bad as things are, at least we don’t live in a hut, I’d remind the kids.
Thank you for the quail, Lord, but… the kids next door began damaging things. Breaking things. Taking things out of our house and destroying them. The day they spray-painted the house and yard and trees was the day I snapped and told them they weren’t welcome at our house. These were the same kids that I took to church on Sundays and Wednesdays. Not the best witness for Jesus, I’d let my anger over the situation (and to be honest, the past two years’ of stressors) control my words.
Oh I tried to make amends, and cooked an apology casserole. (Because who can say no to an apology casserole?) I’ll tell ya who can say no to an apology casserole. The neighbor lady could. I surely thought she could forgive me telling her I forgave her children when I yelled at them after she didn’t yell at them for spray-painting the house but she couldn’t. And as a result, her kid began an all-school quest to alienate and berate my kids in their daily school life. Kids who just the day before were best friends, and had even won the school art contest by painting one half of a heart on two adjoining canvases.
They stood strong, but I know that entire year was tough for the twins. We had more talks and prayers and hugs and tears than I could count about the definition of integrity and doing the right thing even if the entire school is against you. Even when others are trying to verbally gang up on you. We also talked about choosing your words because you can’t take them back (even with an apology casserole in hand, and even when someone does you wrong to begin with.)
Eventually, those neighbors moved away. They packed up in the middle of the night and were gone, and for the first time in awhile, there was no stress at school.
Thank you for the quail, Lord, but… there’s one window air conditioner to combat the 100-degree-plus summers in a 1900 sq ft house. No one is sleeping because everyone is sweaty, but thank you Lord that we don’t live in a hut.
Thank you for the quail, Lord, but... although there are no curse words on the wall in the bathroom, the school had no desire to help my son with his educational needs. After his teacher returned some classwork with a note at the top that said “You need to try harder,” I took the bull by the horns and asked for testing, which they couldn’t provide even though the state mandates that they can and should. I knew he was trying hard. We took him for and paid for outside testing to confirm that he had dysgraphia, ADHD, and what used to be called Asperger’s but is now simply Austism Spectrum Disorder. There would be no more, “try harder.” Instead, we needed help to get what was in his head onto paper. Armed with results, I gave them to his principal and teacher. Two months before the end of the school year, his teacher gave up and he was transferred into another teacher’s class. And five months after I’d initially asked for help, he was signed up for THREE tutoring classes. And this was only AFTER I’d had a discussion with the school board. Three. Not three hours per day. Not three times per week. But three individual tutoring meetings before the end of the school year, with a promise to “look at the following year.”
REDEMPTION, and what I haven’t told you…
What I haven’t told you is that almost 10 months ago, I began hearing God say that we would move one more time, and this place would be perfect for us. What I haven’t told you is that the place I know I heard God say was on the “no way” list for the hubs. And the place the hubs wanted was 45 minutes from my job. I prayed for wisdom as I submitted to my husband’s desire to NOT move to the town God whispered into my heart, but almost exactly two years after our first move, in the middle of the summer, I heard to start packing, so I did. With no clue which place He had in store for us, I packed one room every other weekend.
Midway through July, the hubs sent me a text with a link to a house in the “no way” town. That night I met him at the house on the way home. It was still being built and to me, it looked much smaller than the house we were in. But the plumber pointed us to the house across the street, which was finished, and it was lovely. Within the next two weeks, we’d put a deposit on the house, packed up almost all of our things, changed our address, got new licenses, applied for utilities, registered the kids for school, booked movers and a rental truck, moved our things across town AND I took a week off right in the middle to chaperone our kids at a church camp.
The timeline itself was amazing – start to finish in basically ten days from the time we first look at it to the moment we moved in – but that’s not where God met us with his grace.
When we registered for school, I sent the counselor a copy of Nathan’s testing report. You can’t even imagine the elation I felt when we met not one but TWO intervention teachers, designed to help him through the tough subjects. Even the schedule, with his harder classes early in the day before his brain gets worn out – every detail was perfect. I felt like he’d finally had a chance to excel.
The night before school started, LH reminded us that we still hadn’t found a Star Wars backpack for him, and I’d just about given up. But then after a full day of unpacking, we went out to eat. And afterwards, we stopped two doors down at the GameStop store so they could look at the used video game pieces. And that’s when we found it. The perfect Star Wars backpack.
Because God is in the details. A sweet reminder of Psalm 8:3-4, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you have set in place. What is man that you are mindful of him? The son of man, that you care for him.” The very God who created EVERYTHING cares that Nathan found a Star Wars backpack.
He wore that backpack to school, and made a brand new friend – his first real friend in over four years – who also loves Star Wars.
One move. One move across town answered so many prayers that we’d prayed for years.
A clean, nice-smelling house. Air conditioning. No ants, bugs, or crawling critters of any kind. More than one functioning bathroom. Good schools. Intervention. New friends. A functioning oven. A dishwasher. It even has stairs, which has been on the kids’ wish list since they were small.
A friend summed it up perfectly. She said,
“You went to Game Stop. Games. I would never have thought about backpacks being sold there.
Nathan couldn’t rest til he got a Star Wars backpack.
And that tiny little backpack helped him have a connection the very first day at a new school.
In a city you’ve known for two years you would end up.
A city where there are great interventions for Nathan.
In a state you needed to go to before you would even discover he needed help.
You had to be stripped of all things comfortable in order to get to this point.
And you got an amazing new home as your reward for obedience.
A home you couldn’t find anywhere else.
A home you found the exact week y’all decided to move to that city
And everything worked out perfectly.
And your debt is lower because you obeyed. And your debt is now lower because you may need it for Nathan’s intervention.
And you’ve stripped away the extras. So God could give you something better.
So God could give us something better. All along the kids (and maybe me) have held out hope that we could get back to where we were. But God had to bring us to this place of redemption, and heap more grace and love on us in a month than I can even describe. And this week I heard the most beautiful words come out of their mouths.
“Mama? Maybe we’ll just stay here awhile. I really like it here.”
Yes, sweet pea. Let’s stay here awhile. Maybe the long road home was just around the corner the whole time.