Hey y'all!! This post today was originally a monologue submission for an upcoming variety type show called Expressing Motherhood. So, if it seems as though I'm just addressing California peeps, that's why. I'm sure many, many more mommies around the country have been in my shoes!!:)
Time to Unpack“You can't raise kids in California! You just can't. It’s Hollywood, fast living, dangerous, and you can't even mention Jesus out there!” Growing up in the South, that was kind of my overall perception of life in California. I guess what we’d seen in the movies and on the news just seem so wild, or risqué, to say the least. It certainly didn’t seem like the best place to raise a family, especially when compared to the way I was raised. I mean, take my mother and grandmother for example: Instead of seething out a four letter word when they stubbed a toe or realized they just totally messed up a recipe we would hear, "ohhh ssssssugar". I mean, it wasn’t exactly Leave it to Beaver but, it was a relatively wholesome upbringing.
My motherhood journey started off with a bang when our twin boys were born. You know, hospitals will let almost any woman deliver and a day or two later just leave with 2 babies!! As we pulled out of there that snowy February day with 2 baby boys in the backseat looking all alike and unconcerned, all we could do was laugh. Craziness I tell ya!
No one told me, though. No one ever told me about the baggage that I would be bringing home with me that day. The sheer love and joy, the fear, the guilt, the exhaustion, and the angst over Every. Single. Decision, kind of baggage. I didn't have a place for all of that stuff!
I never really knew what it meant to pour into someone's life quite like this where every decision felt as though it could scar them for life. Nearly every waking minute went into teaching them safety, manners, sharing, fairness, and Jesus, among other things. I can't tell you how many afternoons I spent in the backyard throwing a tennis ball up in the air so they could learn to catch pop flies with their gloves instead of their faces. I can't tell you how many times I totally blew it with them, either. Then, after almost 9 years, we started afresh when our baby girl, Jude, came along.
She came home with just as much baggage and even though I was more familiar with it, I still didn't know quite where to put it. This girl, you can’t imagine the doting she received. We had to have her birthday parties in the fellowship hall of the church because so many people loved our little spitfire. I taught her please and thank you, just as I had the boys. (Only, for the longest time she said, "nank you".) I poured into her little life just as much and weighed every decision just as heavily. So, when a job presented the possibility of us moving our 3 kids to the LA area, you can imagine the contortionist type knots that formed in my stomach: "But, we are so rooted here." "But, but....it’s California! We can't raise our kids there!!”
Well, the short version is that we both realized that California was where we were supposed to be. So, we loaded up our kids, our dogs, and all of our baggage and headed west. While I was on board and “prayed up” about it, I had a few, "what have we done?" moments, too.
We moved in time for the boys to start 6th grade and it was a few months before Jude's 3rd birthday. Her birthday was one of those “moments”. My parents came out to celebrate. My dad and I went out to pick up the cake and when we got back, instead of being all excited about her party, Jude was in tears!! I asked what was wrong and she couldn’t explain it but had told my mom, "My friends aren't going to see me for my birthday." It had hit her…. and those tears hit me like a ton of bricks.
I scooped her up and talked to her for a while as she sobbed. In a little while she switched gears and said, “But, you didn’t get me a cake.” I said, “Aww, of course I did, baby!” I pulled the cake out of the freezer and knelt down beside her. Her tears stopped when I said, “See, this is your ice cream cake!” She threw her arms around my neck and said, “Oh, NANK YOU, Mommy!!” She just kept hugging and kissing me as we admired her fairy themed ice cream cake. Words simply can’t describe the mixture of emotions I felt in those moments.
She had so much fun the rest of the night. Her heartbreak had been painful to see, though. So, the next day, in concerned grandmother fashion, my mom suggested that it might be best for the kids if we considered moving home. In that moment, I didn't even have to think, the words just came out. I told her that if we were where we were supposed to be, then as the children God gave us, they were where they were supposed to be, too. If I was supposed to trust God with our future, I should trust Him with theirs, too. Right then, without realizing it, I had begun unpacking all that baggage that I'd been wagging around with me for 11+ years.
It goes without saying that we always miss our Tennessee peeps. However, nearly four years later, we love it here. California is home to us now. Peter and Preston are in 9th grade, on the high school baseball team, and have a great group of friends. Jude is totally rocking kindergarten. I’ve been blessed with an incredibly awesome network of moms here and we’re just doing this thing together.
When I take into account the major adjustments the kids had to make with this move, I see that God was working on all of our behalves and has done above and beyond all I could’ve asked or imagined, just as my favorite verse, Ephesians 3:20, always told me He was able to do. Whatever decisions I make as their mom in any given situation, whether I handle it like a pro or totally blow it, not even I can screw them up beyond the grace of God. Our family itself has not only grown closer together here, we’ve grown spiritually. Here… In California….where you can, in fact, talk about Jesus! I’m continuing to unpack my proverbial bags in California. As I do, I can’t help but wonder, “What if we’d said “no” to California and missed all of this? And, What is He doing next?”
To all of you fellow moms and lovely, California peeps, I just want to thank you. Or, as Jude use to say, “Nank you”, so very much.