three things i learned from the dumbest and best decision I ever made

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A year ago at this moment, my husband was driving a moving van up I-65 toward Nashville,  an elderly golden retriever curled asleep beside him.  I was about an hour behind, in a minivan packed beyond reason with children, ipads, Dora stickers, snacks, diapers, pack-n-plays, and lovey blankets.  

A year ago today, we left our hometown for the last time.  We were driving home.

On paper our decision looked foolish.  We cashed our retirement fund to move, rented out our house that never would sell, left both of our extended families and almost all of our friends (except my best friend, who took the same risk by moving across the country with us), and moved our large, young family across the country without any prospects of employment.  We originally planned to join a specific ministry, but even before we left the South, our hearts were moving away from that faith tradition.  On top of all that, I'd only been to Colorado twice in my life.  My husband had me beat; he'd visited the area five times.  Neither of us was exactly familiar with the climate or culture of Denver.

Yet it was the best decision we've ever made.  A year later, my only regret is we didn't move sooner.

In honor of my family's Colorado birthday, here are three things I learned from the dumbest and best decision I've ever made.

1.  There are worse things than financial ruin.

Before we could take such a big risk, we had to accept we could fail.  We could potentially go under, lose our house in the South, and go bankrupt.  While we have worked hard to handle our money and credit with integrity all of our lives, we knew God did not promise us financial success.  In fact, we have more debt than we did a year ago.  If money is the measuring stick, we have not been as successful here as we would have been on our old trajectory.

We don't care.

We believe there are worse things than financial ruin.  We decided our family's wellness mattered more to us than the financial risk.

2.  It takes a village to raise a child.  But ...

There is a lot of talk about the importance of community in raising a family.  I agree with that sentiment, and I make this point with some trepidation.  My kids have grandparents who love them dearly, and I do not want to downplay their significance.  But in a larger family context, how do you grow out of being seen as the kid who snuck out when she was 16 to go eat frozen yogurt with her friends?  How do you form a family identity outside of your family's expectations?  How do you learn to lean on your spouse?  How do you fully grasp that you - not your extended family - YOU are the leader of your home?  How do you not just defer to the authorities of your childhood?

Some people can successfully transition into parenthood with the whole world watching.  But we needed distance. We needed room to grow in order to become our own nuclear family.  It is impossible to raise children without support.  It is equally difficult, though, to raise them without a family culture or confidence as a parent.  We needed to learn to rely less on our extended family.

It takes a village to raise a child.  It also takes healthy boundaries.

In fact, once we moved, relationships with most of our extended family improved.  My mother-in-law commented during a recent visit that she didn't really know me until we moved.  It's true.  I didn't really know myself either.

3.  I can do hard things.   

Eight weeks after we landed in Denver, my husband was in a life-changing bicycle accident.  I had a nursing baby and three other kids under six years old at home.  He spent six days in the hospital, but more significantly, his injuries required us to examine and rework most of our daily schedule.  Still, it was easier to deal with the sudden life change here than it would have been in our old life.  

The reason was simple:  I had to dig deep, believe I could do something hard, then go do it.  Don't get me wrong, my best friend is here, and I cannot overstate how well she loves us (and how much my children love her).  I've also made new friends here, and they are an important support to me as well.  All the same, it has been my job to shepherd my family through a hard season.  Not someone else's job.  Mine.

I moved away and learned that I can do something hard.  I can let go of the crippling fear of being wrong, I can trust myself.  I learned how to to recognize my own limitations and extend grace to myself. I learned how to ask for help, and how to accept it.  I learned to nurture my own passions, even if it's only for two hours a week.  I am a better mother and a more confident person because we moved.  I can do hard things.

Why am I sharing this list?  Not everyone needs to cash their assets and move far away.  Not everyone is staring down the task of raising a lot of little kids, not everyone's spouse will have a life-changing health issue.  Not everyone is going to do what I did.

But we all have something to do.

We all are called to do something.  We are all called to raise our children - or, if you have no children, to nurture the people God puts in your path - well.  At some point in our lives, we all have to decide between our family's health and financial gain.  We are all called to trust ourselves, to forge our family's culture and identity, to dig deep when life gets hard.  

We are all called to do something.  Whatever God has given you to do, do it.  You may fail, you may go broke.  And I can guarantee you will embarrass yourself in front of the people on the sidelines.  Do it anyway.  Jump with both feet and don't look back.  You won't regret it.

A year ago today, my family made the dumbest decision of our lives.  And it was the best thing we have ever done.  

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