Our family is in a time of great change and to many people, change is scary. I am one of those people. Change is scary for me. It does not matter how strong my faith, it is not a reflection on the people I love and support and support me, it is not any of those things. It is just me being me- and I fear change. I also fear roller coasters, but I still go on them over and over because I love that tingly feeling in my belly. I love that moment where it is ok to not be in control- and change falls in that category, too.
This summer we will experience change. Our oldest will embark on the next stage of her journey. She will be attending a special summer camp to help her deal with her illness. We hope she will come home understanding more about it, about herself, and be ready to face her next challenge and opportunity when she moves to Maryland in August to be part of a special program at the National Institute of Health. This program will help get her moved to medications that have a higher success rate with her symptoms- but the program takes four months. So going from a family with four busy daughters, to three busy daughters will be change. And, change scares me. The fears with this change are many- and mostly they are selfish. I am trying to let them go. Being a parent involves making deeply difficult decisions that are not necessarily in your best interest, but always in the best interest of your child.
Our newest change happened last week. The economic recession hit our family. My husband was laid off. This statement probably would freak a lot of people out. Remarkably, it didn’t freak me out, my husband either. We saw it coming- who couldn’t? It looked as plain as a giant tornado coming down the street. What else would happen to a company that is not bringing on new business? They can’t float payroll forever. Since we had seen it coming, and since we have never taken the approach that “it won’t happen to us”, Phil and I had a plan. We made ourselves have minimal debt, and put our expenses in line with a one paycheck household and stockpiled as much as we could into savings for emergencies, and we finished most of our home improvement projects. So, worst case scenario, we can meet all of our needs and the girls’ needs for a long time. Of course, there won’t be luxuries- and I am considering McDonald’s a luxury, but again, we will be fine. Financially, we are ok and in much better shape than 99% of those facing the same circumstances. But again, change scares me. The layoff actually answered many questions we had been praying about, and so we feel this is all part of God’s plan for us- which leads me to the main point of this blog.
The homily yesterday was based on the bible verse, “I am a shepherd and you are my sheep”, or something close to that. I think most of us are familiar with this symbolism used by Jesus. The Priest was explaining how Jesus was saying that a Shepherd had a vested interest in his sheep, while a hired hand was only interested in the paycheck. Fr. Robert went on to talk about how sometimes a Shepherd even needs to have a vested interest in sheep that are not part of his own flock, because it is the right thing to do. This really made me think, and it made me cry. I questioned myself on whether I am a Shepherd. Do I take care of my own flock as I should? Would I stand up to the wolf for them or would I turn away? Do I take care of sheep that are not my own, because it is the right thing to do? Or do I view those sheep as a paycheck? I realized, this homily was written for me and my family.
One of the questions Phil and I have been praying about is how to do a better job of putting the kids first, to continue the transition into a stable environment for them? How do we rebuild any damaged parts of our relationships with the girls that the turmoil of moving, building a new house, new careers, new schools, etc. may have damaged? Our question was “Have we been taking care of our sheep?” And in honesty, we have been meeting their basic needs, but we could do better. Meeting their basic needs is all you can do when one parent is gone before the kids wake, and too often home after they go to sleep. Meeting their basic needs is all you can do when the other parent is torn between four kids needing four different things, the housework, the insurance questions, the bills, the returning of calls, homework, and their own job. Meeting their basic needs was not good enough for us- but we didn’t know how to get beyond that given Phil’s job.
The next question involved sheep that didn’t belong to our flock- and I thought of my students. Then I thought of all the teachers I know. It is obvious that we do not work for a paycheck- my pay alone qualifies our family for free lunch and other benefits (pretty sad eh?) But do we always tend to these sheep that do not belong to us as if they did? And I had to say no. Do I try, absolutely, I try. But can I do better? Yes. Have there been times I have turned away from a stray sheep for whatever reason, and left them to the wolf? Yes. I also thought of Phil, and by the way he dropped his head, I knew he was asking the same questions of himself, his role as a father, and his performance as an employee, and finding the same answers.
So, while change is scary, I know I need to move forward in a way that improves my role as Shepherd to both my own flock and to sheep that don’t belong to me. In one fell swoop, God answered all of our family’s questions through a layoff and a homily. Kind of ironic isn’t it? Our largest opportunities are coming from something that is so often perceived as bad. So, while change is scary, faith is not. Faith in His plan, and the desire to do what it takes to go where you are led, will lead you to happiness. We know now that His plan for us involves a lot of elbow grease, a lot of love, and the need to strengthen ourselves in God, our children, and each other.
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