Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Whole Story: November 13, 2013

 I've been promising the full story for some time now, so here goes.  People who are close to us on a daily basis already know.  The rest of you have probably been justifiably annoyed at my cryptic references, tell-you-later's, and the stretches of blog silence that usually come when I'm super busy and unable to process, much less write down all that is happening to us.
 As many of you know, Craig's job in Florida as a postdoctoral researcher has been on a temporary basis.  That's what it means to be a postdoc, and we've been fine with that.  More than fine, actually: we're totally in love with the climate, the town, the people.  We've loved our life here, but we've always planned for the possibility of being led elsewhere.
 This journey started in earnest over a year ago.  We were contacted about a job opening up in California.  It was a good fit for Craig, and it meant being within driving distance of family.  We were told to wait just a few weeks for the details to be worked out.  We waited for three months.


We eventually found out that the powers that be had decided not to create a new position after all, so it didn't have anything to do with us.  Still, it was hard not to feel the vibrations from that slammed door.

Well, we thought, we love Florida Maybe God wants us here!  We started looking into possibilities with Craig's current field that he could turn into contract work that would allow us to stay in the area.  For a while, it seemed a real possibility.  We started looking at houses locally.  We made appointments for self-insurance quotes.  We got advice from trusted friends.

Right in the middle of our tough summer, when Devon was having health problems and the housework was piling up as I struggled to keep three kids under four happy in the house during the spring rains, those plans flatlined, too.  I don't mean to turn this into a post on politics, but there's never been a worse time to open your own business.

Another door shut, and nothing ahead of us but a blank hallway. 
I'm so proud of Craig and the leadership he gave our family during this time.  We asked God what he wanted us to do with hands open in a shrug.  We prepared for a nationwide job search that would likely involve over fifty applications and several interviews before an offer came our way.  Meanwhile, the clock was ticking:  Craig's funding was up in April.  Although there was a possibility that it would be renewed for one more year, we didn't want to count on it.
In the meantime, we lived our lives and prayed down worry.  We knew that God would take care of us. 

Craig ran across a job posting in Delaware.  The job looked good.  He applied.  He interviewed (that work trip about a month ago?  Yeah.).

He was offered the job.

As much as this feels like it has been coming on forever, things were decided pretty quickly.  The verse we were reading over and over during the past year is Isaiah 40:11: "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."

That verse is no joke. 
The big question on our minds: Could we see ourselves moving our family to Newark, DE?  We had never been there.  We didn't know anything about the area.  I was even pronouncing it wrong: locals say NEW-ARK to keep it distinct from NEW-WORK Newark, New Jersey.

Here is where the story really gets cool.  A week before the job offer, Craig got a call from a good friend he hadn't caught up with in yearsOne that works at the University of Delaware.  In Newark. 

 We shared the news of Craig's offer, and the two guys spent an hour making tabs on Google earth, looking at the town and surrounding areas.  We learned a lot: everything from major highways to which intersections are bad because of university traffic.  We also found out that another friend of Craig's lives in nearby Wilmington.
Newark is located at the northwest corner of Delaware, a state so small you can already drive it end-to-end in under two hours.  It borders Maryland on the west and Pennsylvania to the north.  It's also only an hour-and-a-half from Washington DC and the same distance south of New York City.  It started to sound like a really interesting place to live.

Craig emailed another friend of his, a University of Delaware alumnus.  He said that he liked the area and would definitely move his family back if given the chance.

From there on, the list kept growing.  Extended family got us in touch with distant relatives close by.  Facebook friends messaged us to introduce us to locals.  Suddenly we had seven small but concrete connections in the area.

It seemed frankly miraculous to me.  I couldn't believe it.  I was telling my friend Jennifer how bizarre it was to find out that so many people we know have connections to Newark.

"Newark?" she said.  "My mom lived in Newark for a while.  I've spent quite a bit of time there.  It's nice."
In the last week of October, Craig and I flew up to see more of the area and look at a few houses.  We took very few pictures, mostly because my iPhone was always on GPS whenever we were in the car.
Having survived two cross-country move, we think its good to rent for a while in a new area and get to know new surroundings.  However, under the circumstances we were kind of hoping we wouldn't have to follow our own advice.  Moving from house to house with three small kids is something we don't want to do more times than we have to.  Miraculously, we found a house!  It's just over the state border.  Every morning Craig will wake up in Maryland and drive to Delaware to work, and his commute will be shorter than it is now!

How are the kids doing with all these changes?  The girls are oblivious, of course.  Mommy has a growing pile of warm clothes bought and packed for the trip.  More shopping needs to take place, as the girls owned NO pairs of closed-toe shoes and ONE pair of long pants when Craig accepted the offer.

Devon wakes us up every morning wanting to "go to the house with stairs".  He is thrilled beyond words that we'll have enough yard to buy a riding mower.  He wants to see the pictures of his new bedroom.  He seems to understand the move and is processing it well.
In the meantime, life goes on.  We're fielding calls from movers, insurance people, and the relocation firm that is coordinating our move.  This momma is thrilled beyond words that somebody else has to pack all our stuff!!!!!
Craig is hard at work finishing strong at USDA.  He wants to get his papers from the research year finished in the next month.  We just found out that his project is NOT set to be funded past April, so we are ever more thankful that something else worked out for us.
Right now our plan is for the kids to finish their TOTS semester in December, load our belongings just before Christmas, spend the holiday in Tennessee with family, and then unload just before New Year's.
January is going to be a very interesting month.  It snows up there.  It gets cold.  Seasonal change is definitely present. 

How will we teach the concept of coats when it's already a struggle to keep the kids in clothes?  What will happen when we tell them we can't put them to bed in a onesie and wet hair anymore?

How will the kids, who this moment are running around en deshabille in the screened porch licking drippy popsicles, adjust?  Devon circles to speak to me.  "Mommy, I'm freezing!" he says of seventy-one degrees.
How will the kids do on a road trip that involves around two thousand highway miles and being without a home for ten days?  Craig and I will have to draw straws for who drives the minivan with three kids and who drives the Malibu with the jumbo cat carrier in the back seat.  As far as which car will be louder, it's probably going to be a toss up.  Ally kitty survived our previous two moves thanks to a prescription for Xanax, but I always said that next time I'd just take the meds myself and let her howl in the back seat.
We're all going to have to adjust.  Mommy's sorting through her winter clothes, all of which predate the kids.  Yikes.


We'll see!

Most of all, we're entering November with more than ever to be thankful for.

God promised to lead us, even at times when we're overwhelmed by the daily pressures of raising three kids.  He's doing that.

We were concerned about the toll a nationwide job search would take on our family, with the after-work-hours tasks of putting in applications, checking postings, and flying to interviews.  God saved us from that.

With the uncertainty and the furlough, we've had plenty of time to read, pray, and listen to Tim Keller sermons.  One thing we've been careful to do throughout this whole process is to ask God for what's best for us, not what we think would be best for us.  After all, says Keller, He knows everything.  He gives us what we would ask for if we only knew the whole story.  We firmly believe he's done just that for us.  

We're looking forward to a great new adventure!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Happy Halloween: October 31, 2013

 Guess who came to trick or treat this year?  The kids were very excited to welcome Grammy and Grandpa from "Callyafornia", as Devon calls it.
 We made the most of their fall arrival, hitting TWO fall festivals and Chick-fil-A on the way home.
 The girls enjoyed beating on the pumpkins and hearing the sounds they made. 
 Devon was king of the mountain... and the bounce house.
Mommy and Daddy had to be away for a week, hence the rather hastily arranged visit. More on that later, but the reason is a whole 'nother post at least.
Devon and Grandpa had deep conversations.
Grammy led storytime.
The kids watched Bambi for the first time.  Mommy's first reaction is that it was a questionable choice for three kids spending their first long separation from their parents, but Grandpa assures me that he skipped the part about Bambi's mother.... you know.
They went shopping and played trains.  They went to the splash pad.
 They went to tots, giving Grammy and Grandpa a little break.  Before she left, Mommy painstakingly laid out the Halloween costumes for the kids to wear.  She just forgot to double check the time and told Grammy that the Halloween parade was Wednesday and not Monday.  Mom of the year!!!

Mommy and Daddy walked off a plane at 2 pm Thursday, just enough time to drive home and get in the car to make Trunk or Treat with the family.  This was the year where nobody wanted to wear a costume,  Devon resisted his engineer's hat and the girls were barely convinced to wear a tutu.
Devon enjoyed playing games.
Once again, king of the bounce house.

Sometimes the girls were convinced to participate, sometimes not.  Devon immediately tried to unwrap each piece of candy, especially the suckers.  This was fine at the first booth, because then he had a sucker in his mouth.  At the second booth, when he threatened a tantrum because it was suggested that he NOT unwrap another sucker, he was allowed to unwrap the second sucker and the first sucker was given to Carrie.  Then storms threatened on the Melina front because she was the only child without a sucker.  Mommy begged a third sucker and everyone was sticky.  I mean, happy.
We got a few family pictures before it got dark.  This one got quite a few laughs because of my unintentional headdress.  I appear to have gone as a palm tree.
Afterwards, Devon went trick or treating.  He was a little unclear on whether or not he was supposed to go in people's houses.  Thankfully, his friends Robert and Ryan didn't mind.
He inspected every decoration, yelled "Trick or Treat" at every door as soon as he knocked, and then conversed eclectically with the neighbors.  He said thank you most of the time.
Grammy and Grandpa go back to California tomorrow.  We celebrated today with one last beach day.  It really did feel final.  Sorry again to cryptically be referring to events that have not made it to the blog yet, but I promise to give an update in a few days.
Let me just say for now that this will NOT be our October next year....