It started out appearing as though my problem was just trouble getting help with the responsibilities I have as a nonprofit president. But over the last few weeks, God has shown me that in His infinite wisdom, He was using that for my good.
Remember my "It's a..." post? Where I talk about how I was being convicted of the time I am missing with my 10 year old girl while wishing I could have another one just like her?
I think that was the beginning of all of this. And I didn't even know it.
So here it goes.... this is a long one, and kind of a bumpy ride, so sit back, get comfortable, and hang on.....
I had been spending HOURS upon hours working on the new website I was attempting to create. I was also completely engulfed in the 501(c)3 application, trying to figure out what our tax requirements were for this year, and getting Rachel's Race on line registration all ready to go for when we got the race day approved. I was creating pledge agreements, job roles & responsibilities, proposed budgets, and trying to recruit more people for the board of directors.
And let's face it, nobody can do all of that and still be doing well with running a household while pregnant, working part time, chasing around a 15 month old and homeschooling the others. I don't get a lunch break, I don't send them off on that big yellow bus, it's all on me.
I'm going to admit something that I am ashamed to say. When this all started to come to a head, the first thing I wanted to flee from was homeschooling. I had a serious conversation with Matt and said "I can't do this anymore. I'm not good at it. I'm failing them. I am not cut out for this role and I just want a big yellow bus to come pick them up and take them away for the day so I can make cookies at 3pm and feel revived to see them and take care of them. I need relief."
My husband is amazing. I might have said that before.... and he just reminded me that I hated it when Des was in school. I hated being away from her, I hated someone else being her teacher. I hated the things she was exposed to even in a Christian school. I hated the homework and early mornings - and getting out the door with 5 kids every morning to drop her off certainly wasn't going to be fun.
I felt even more helpless.... I hate it now, I'd hate it then. Is this really my life? What the heck did I sign up for???!!! But I knew he was right... I can't not teach my children. I've tried it and I've never found peace in it because God has called me to homeschool them. But it seemed the only thing I had the control to change....I can't change that Rachel is gone, I can't change that nonprofits take a lot of work, and I can't change how many hours there are in a day....
And that's when God stepped in.
Things have gotten REALLY hard for me. The more I tried to keep going, push through, do it all... the more I was falling apart... completely breaking. I was literally having physical reactions to my stress level. The kids got sick one after the other. Almost everyone I have asked for help had completely blown me off. Asa had been screaming for about 2 months straight at this point (molars were not his friend) and I was on edge, run down, and had lost all my joy. Let's not forget that I was in the first trimester of this pregnancy and completely sick to my stomach around the clock and exhausted. Everywhere I went, people were telling me "You look tired". I would just say I was - but I was more than tired.... I was worn. Losing every piece of my humanness as I just survived my long list of to-do's.
One Friday (the day I couldn't go visit Rachel cause I was stuck on the couch) I was laying here cramping and seriously thought I was going to lose this baby. And all I could think was "It would be my fault". That night, I wrote my I Need You, God post. The floodgates of my heart opened and I surrendered.... and cried....and cried....and cried some more.
And immediately, I knew... If I can't get the help I need to do the things I do for Rachel and not have it totally steal me away mentally, emotionally, physically... then I need to make changes. I don't think any of the things I am trying to do were ever designed to be done by one person - or at least certainly not one pregnant, homeschooling, working mom of 5 - almost 6.
I spent that weekend just trying to really hear what He was saying.... what this all meant. Matt & I went out the next day for our anniversary and talked a little about it. On that Sunday during worship, I had the hardest, deepest, most completely draining meltdown I have had in a very long time. I was sobbing so uncontrollably that even when the music stopped, I couldn't keep it in. I'm pretty sure everyone in the sanctuary could hear my wailing.... and I didn't care. I was broken. Completely heartbroken. I didn't want to make the changes I felt Him telling me I had to. And honestly, I'm so tired of Him asking me to do things I don't want to. Haven't I said "Yes" enough to You Lord? Can you give me a break and just help something to go right...easy... for me?"
I finally decided that if Rachel's Race was going to happen, someone else was going to have to direct it, but nobody wants that job... so I posted "Changes".
The next morning, God again used something very painful to help me come to another conclusion.
We were cleaning up the living room and I picked up the photo of Rachel & I in the operating room. I started talking about how much I loved the photo...how cute she looked... how I'm kissing her hand...Sam was talking with me saying things like "He's got boogers... awww... he's so cute... his eyes are open"
And I noticed it. Des was mad. She is usually really positive about Rachel... she loves her... why does she look mad that I am talking about her photo?
I asked her what was wrong and she wouldn't answer. I wanted to step in and give her some options in case she just didn't know how to say what she was feeling... "Are you sad?" "Are you mad?" "Do you miss her?" But I felt led to just wait. And she found the words.....
"You're always so busy with stuff for Rachel that you never have time for us" she said.
"I'm always with you" I reassured her. "You guys are important to me"
"You are always doing websites and stuff" she demanded.
I couldn't defend myself. She was right. This has gotten much bigger and more time consuming than I ever planned... and I've followed suit... and they are starting to suffer. She notices. It hurts her.
I was trying to tell her the things on my heart... but she seemed completely unimpressed and she wasn't buying it. So I gave her my phone and pulled up the post from the night before. I saw her face changing as she read that I was not willing to miss any more summers with my Desirae.....and then later I saw that at the end of the post, she had commented... "Thanks Mama.... Love, Des"
There are many sacrifices that I am willing to make. I have given up many personal things from privacy to time and energy to make a difference through my pain. But I am absolutely not willing to let down my living children for any of this. Rachel doesn't need me. She is well taken care of. And she will not care if I never did another thing for her.
And what do I have to show if I win the approval of people everywhere... bring people back to Christ... help grieving mothers to not feel alone.... change hearts through Rachel's life - if my very own children resent that she came and went... if my living babies walk away from God because their mother was too distracted to notice that their hearts were aching. If I think I'VE felt alone as I've tried to do this stuff without anyone being willing to give ME their time... how do I think my daughter has felt as I have continuously said "Not now, I'm busy" over these past few weeks ?? And I am not willing to do this. I can't. I refuse to let this be a future regret. I will not sacrifice this. She needs me... the boys need me... and Matt needs me. And they are my first ministry.
This realization set me into a transition where I have made many changes. I cut my hours at work. I now work just one night a week, instead of 3 days and 1 night. Our school days have been much more effective and relaxed. I stopped all work on the nonprofit. This has opened up an unbelievable amount of time that I have enjoyed spending with my kids....reading, talking, laughing...playing... enjoying each other. I had no idea I burned that much time on it. Ironically, the baby has stopped screaming around the clock. Their attitudes are much better. I am not constantly on edge. I even get to shower more.
We have slowed down our school schedule... one day a week for gym instead of two - and we won't be returning to our Wednesdays at Classical Conversations. I have started scheduling time together... doing things they will like and remember. Simple and free, but quality time things...without so many demands on our time and rushing around...and we have decided that the little bit of money I get from working, we will set aside in a "memory money" jar that we will save up to take the kids to a special place each month to make memories, instead of using it on bills.
To counteract the financial loss from cutting my hours, we have done things like make changes to our auto insurance, get rid of unnecessary wants, and put ourselves on a pretty serious food budget... saving $10 here, $20 there - and it makes up for what I've lost in money from working - but I can't ever replace this time. And I am just so thankful that God has brought me to this place... I just know that in a couple of years I will look back on this and see His amazing mercy and grace. I know that I need to be pouring myself into my 'tween' aged daughter right now and building our relationship while I can. He is so so good.
So, here is the reason I am sharing all of this.....
It is with deep regret - and yet an unbelievable peace - that I announce that I am not moving forward with the 501(c)3 application - I am not able to complete it - or move forward with its mission - without it negatively affecting my family. I have not come to a complete peace about if I should let the nonprofit go entirely at this point, so I am waiting on God for that. I think I will try to keep that going so we can use it for smaller, more intimate ministries... and you know me, I already have ideas. But they don't require a 501(c)3 status. And because I know me, I know I am better off to not have the status, as I will be likely to get a surge of energy and forget all the things God has showed me through this past month and want to do something big again.
In Rachel's funeral video, there is a line in the song that says "Through the fire, through the pain, we offer You our 'Yes' again" - and that "Yes" has always been my goal. Many people were telling me when this first all started coming out that I needed to say "No" once in a while and that it was okay to do... to put me first and to take care of myself.
I need to say that this is not me saying "No" - it's actually me saying "Yes" to the new direction God is leading me, just like I said "Yes" to him in all the other ways He has led me. It's not what I want, it actually hurts and has been a very painful decision - and I know I will grieve it. I already am. But I also know that He has shown me over the last few weeks that this is the way He wants me to go now. And that has come with a large amount of pain as well. And at this point, I am just surrendering to what He's saying and trying to trust. Because in my human mind, it seems crazy to let everything I have spent the last 2 years pouring my heart and soul into just go. And I HATE that I am not following through with what I said I would do. But how often does He make sense in my life? He is reminding me that my "Yes" has never been about 'doing' but about "surrendering to His plan". Even when I don't like it, understand it, or when it hurts my pride. He is asking me to say "Yes" to a change in my desires. And I am so willing. Yes ,Lord. Lead me and I will follow.....