Wednesday, March 28

In Spring

We've continued our tradition of update letters in Spring, instead of at Christmas. Enjoy the e-version!

Hallelujah! He is Risen!

We are so thankful for the promises of God that have continued to prove true for His Church! We have seen His faithfulness to us this year as well, in many very personal ways. Here is a snippet of what He has been doing in our family since we last sent a letter!

We celebrated fourteen years of marriage this December, and rejoice in God’s goodness and graciousness to us. We are enjoying every day together! We’ve been continuing the slow process of home improvements, have been able to take a couple of short “vacation” trips this year and are enjoying watching our kids grow. Our Trivet + Board business continues to be a creative outlet! We have been encouraged to be able to make some measurable forward motion in a couple of areas of our family life that we have been trying to be more intentional about – and that is a huge blessing.

Michael continues to work with Bright Construction; he is well into his fourteenth year! He’s also continuing to lead the junior high ministry at our church, both the youth group program on Sundays, and small group that meets midweek. We have been able to join an adult Sunday School class as the youth group has combined for Sunday School, which has been a blessing to us both in the reduced teaching load and in enjoying fellowship with other adults! He’s also serving as a deacon this year! Jenny is homeschooling Cadence (Kindergarten) and caring for Amos during the days, organizing our family calendar and enjoying all the ages and stages of the kids, and a couple of nights a week, dons the alter ego of “grocery fairy,” shopping and delivering groceries for Shipt in our town. After a couple of years of health issues, it has been wonderful to begin feeling well and start getting back to “normal.”

Aaron is 11 and in 5th grade, enjoying his second year of traditional school at a small Christian school nearby. He played soccer, volleyball, and basketball with his school this year and has enjoyed every bit of it! He’s growing in his concern and care for others and in his overall maturity, which is so encouraging to us! He’s a huge help with projects, and mows our grass like a boss! He was excited to win 1st place in speed and 2nd place in design for the 5th/6th category with his AWANA Grand Prix car this year!  

Evan is 9 and in 3rd grade at traditional school with Aaron, and very much enjoys reading. He easily gets lost in a story, and is very creative in his own story telling, entertaining us often. Evan enjoyed playing basketball this year and also participated in the AWANA Grand Prix for the first time, taking second place in the 3rd/4th category in design for his Herbie car! We enjoy watching Evan grow up and are encouraged to see his heart for God grow along with his knowledge.

Cadey is 6 and home with mom for Kindergarten this year. She’s one hundred percent spunky, with some sparkles and rainbows thrown in for good measure. She is such a hard worker when she puts her mind to it! She enjoys reading, imagination play, and especially creating art of all kinds! We have had a great year together and she is making huge progress in her reading. We’ve also enjoyed taking little day trips for hands on learning, and she has formed a very special bond with her baby brother. 

Amos will turn 3 in July, which seems way too fast! He delights all of us with his expanding vocabulary and quick smiles and is getting into his fair share of mischief as he navigates what this world looks like and what his boundaries are. He is a wonderful blessing to our whole family, and it’s really been amazing to watch how he’s softened and brightened the family dynamic.
We hope that as you celebrate Easter, your hope will be in the One who will one day make all things new. 

Much love to you all,
Michael & Jenny, Aaron, Evan, Cadence & Amos Muth

PS – if you would like to pray for our family, we would really appreciate it! We need wisdom with some decisions we will be making with our finances, for direction for our family both in areas of ministry and occupation, and for wisdom in our parenting! As we are seeing marriages crumble around us, please pray that God would protect and keep our marriage strong! We would also love prayer for our kids, that they would seek God with their whole hearts. We are also seeking for answers in regard to Evan’s absence epilepsy, which he was diagnosed with 2 years ago. There are some issues popping up and we need wisdom to know how to help him. We are confident that when we ask for wisdom, God can and will provide it for us! (James 1:5)

Wednesday, September 27

Two Years in the Dark and Dusk

About two years ago, a little more, I sat in my GP's office and looked at her through tears.

I was depressed, unable to deal with "normal" things in my life, suffering from panic attacks, and worst of all, feeling guilty about all of it.

NOTHING in my life was bad. I had a gorgeous 3 month old baby, 3 other healthy and amazing children, a loving husband and and awesome marriage. I also had a supportive moms group, an amazing homeschool community, a church family at the ready to come to our assistance at any crisis, and family that was always, always there and more friends than anyone should be allowed to have. Most of all, I had a solid faith in, and vibrant relationship with, my God who never changes. I was SUPPORTED.

I had absolutely zero reasons to be depressed - except postpartum hormones. And I wanted them fixed. But the doctor had no answers, and she offered me some medicine to deal with the symptoms. I tried the medicine, but I have low blood pressure naturally and the medicine lowered my blood pressure even further to the point of blackouts and dizzy spells. So that was off the table.

I didn't know who to call (for a variety of reasons that I will not go into) for counseling.

So I continued the only way I knew how - one step at a time. My reality was waking in the night with panic attacks, covered with sweat, heart racing and pained, unable to breathe, and unable to sleep when it was over. During the day, I was hiding from the children when I knew a panic attack was coming, locking the door behind me and praying through the symptoms, trying to think rationally and repeating to myself that this was a panic attack and I would get through it, and that I was not dying.

But honestly, a little piece of me was, because I was afraid to go anywhere that I was with my children alone, I was paralyzed by the knowledge that at literally any second, a panic attack could strike, and what if I couldn't hide it from the kids. It was scary enough to suffer through them but how could I explain it to my babies? Or take care of my babies during an attack? How could I explain it to strangers? Or what if one of them called 911? So we stayed home.

I visited several natural doctors, one of which suggested a hormone balancing supplement that contained gluten (which caused 3 days of agony) and for which no substitute existed. The other one suggested I get more sleep and rest, and ordered expensive testing that may or may not give answers. The panic attacks and new baby nixed the "extra sleep" idea, and I decided to forgo the expensive testing. I read pages and pages of articles about postpartum depression and hormones and natural methods for hormone balancing. I continued my THM way of eating, hoping that the lack of sugar would at least keep the symptoms somewhat at bay, or at least allow my body to heal faster. I tried essential oils, supplements, and potions. Nothing really helped. Some things just simply take TIME.

I'm only detailing these struggles because IT. WAS. SO. REAL. And so hard.

Today, it's been about 10 months since my last panic attack, but they were full force, 3+ times/week up until then. I think it's important to note that to the best of my knowledge, these panic attacks were random and without trigger. They were not because of a lack of faith or trust in God. The root of the issue was hormones. I mean, there was more to it than that, our endocrine systems are a glorious and horrifying mystery - but I journaled the situations around the attacks and there was no seeming connection.

I talked to a friend a couple of weeks ago who asked how I was doing. My response was, "OH so much better!" and she was so glad, and asked what I did to help. I pondered that. And laughed a little - "Well, I...I suffered through it, prayed for healing, cried a lot, and waited. And I watched YouTube videos to learn coping mechanisms for dealing with panic attacks."

But the truth is, I also let go of a lot of things. We made the absolutely heartwrenching (at the time) decision to put the boys in school. God provided the perfect solution for us at the exact right time. They are in school for a second year. I don't know if it will be right for us forever, but it is right for us for now. During the years of waiting for the dawn of this healthier time, I learned a lot about hormones and sleep patterns and a lot about myself and my God. I learned in a very tiny way about suffering. There are so many others who suffer more, suffer longer, suffer better than I, but God had lessons for me in my relatively small struggle.

Anyway, that is all background. For this:

The first doctor I talked to mentioned how stress has a "bad" connotation, as in "I'm stressed about a lack of _____ or the pressures of ________" but that good things in our lives can be stress too. Stress is really just too much brain stimulation. Too many instances where adrenaline kicks in can take a huge toll. She mentioned the idea that we have so much fast paced technological stimuli coming at us every single day JUST ON OUR PHONES and we expect our brains and bodies to cope with that as if it's normal. Then add in "real life" and it quickly becomes overwhelming, especially with kids who have complicated schedules and multiple activities, and/or kids who are waking up in the night, or who are constantly needing to be rescued from outlets, busy roads, and other toddler tendencies. We are constantly, constantly multitasking; asking our brains to push to the absolute max without relenting. The expectation from ourselves (and from our society!) is that we should just be able to bounce back from the stimuli and be resilient!

She mentioned that God created the day for work and the night for rest but we are constantly on "go" from before dawn to past midnight and expect our fallible bodies to just deal with it. As she spoke, my heart resonated a big, giant YES to these things. And so it has stuck with me. I'm still learning to let go and learning to say no and guarding my heart from false guilt and expectations that are Other than God's expectations. I'm learning to discern when I'm acting on my own ambitions apart from God's plans. I will never be perfect at this, but it is the best lesson that has come from my years in the dark and dusk.

So if you're feeling on edge today, and Facebook is getting overwhelming, step away. If you can't watch the evening news for awhile, it's OK. If there's a way for you to slow down, do it. Read a book instead of watching a video. Put your phone in time out, even just for a couple of hours. Close your eyes for a few minutes this afternoon. Say no when you can. Breathe. Take a walk without multitasking. Delegate. Let go. Find a substitute. Enjoy the sunset. Watch the stars. God put them there to remind you of Him. Be still, be dependent. It's more than OK; it is good.

We are created to work for God's glory and to learn of our dependence on Him by honoring His design for our bodies in our times of rest. It is more than OK to rest and thank God for His gracious gift of human limitations. May He be glorified.

Friday, June 2

Upon the Anniversary of my Graduation

Twenty years ago, June 6th, I donned a white cotton dress and white pumps, put on my white cap and gown and flung a golden cord around my neck. It was about 95 humid and smelly degrees in the carpeted gym that was crowded with people there to witness our milestone - graduation from high school.

That night, I was filled with many emotions. I'd been with the same group of peers since the tender age of four, and I wasn't in a hurry to leave them. We had become family.  I also had quite a bit of excitement and nervous anticipation about the next chapter of my life. I'm certain it was the most conflicted I had been, EVER. The FUTURE and my potential to accomplish much was an intoxicating combination. Overwhelmingly, I wanted this: to make a difference.

If I could go back, I wouldn't. I wouldn't inform my seventeen year old self of all the sweet (and bitter) lessons that only the years could teach me. I wouldn't change anything because each of my missteps and hard falls and successes have been woven in now, and are part of my story. And God is going to keep working it together for my good, and His glory.

So off I went, to explore the world, experience life on "my own." And I was determined above all that I was going to make a difference, fight dragons, be a strong woman, experience exotic adventures, be used by God.

And time flew by. Twenty years later, here's what I'm beginning to see:

I'm learning that sometimes making a difference is just about plodding along, clinging to the hope that God will accomplish the good. I can't do it anyway, because I am completely empty. Not "completely empty" in a nice shiny sermon illustration kind of way, but in the sitting-on-the-laundry-room-floor-hiding-and-crying-that-ugly-cry-again kind of way. I'm beginning to see that it's more about how God makes a difference in me and less about my claim to world-changing powers. I need continual overhauls.  Most recently, I'm breaking up with the idea of "control" but that is another post for another day.

My expectations have been my biggest dragon to fight. I have learned that not all calls are glory and spotlight. That the place God uses me is His call, not mine. That call to "full time ministry" I thought I had in high school? It ended up being more about how I wanted people to see me then, and in my imaginary future, and less about how I wanted to be before God. I've been fighting dragons, all right, but not how I thought I would!

Being a strong woman is a noble aspiration. Women have been greatly used by God many times through the Bible and history. In my youth, I rolled my eyes many times at the "delicate flowers" that adorned the pages of novels, or were held up as model Christian women (and OK I still do, a little bit...and sometimes, maybe a lot). But strength is not what I thought it was either. I am strong not because of who I am, or what I have the right to accomplish, or even what I have the grit to endure.I don't have any of those things without Him.

Exotic adventures? I don't even have a passport. Maybe sometime in the NEXT twenty years. 😊 I have had some pretty great domestic adventures, and I'm enjoying the story God is writing! It's much better for me than anything I could have come up with! But to many, I'm sure my life just looks pretty ordinary.

Sometimes, in fact, MOST of the time, being used by God looks very ordinary. Ordinary like going to work and doing the job faithfully. Ordinary like preparing lesson plans. Or doing laundry, or feeding hungry little and big people, again, or smiling at a stranger, or being a friend. Or crying out to God on the laundry room floor asking Him to increase your faith. And watching Him do it.

You know, I changed my mind. I would tell my seventeen year old self something. I would tell her not to underestimate the ordinary. I would tell her that if she continues in it, patient in hope, that the beauty in the ordinary will absolutely take her breath away.

Happy 20th anniversary on my graduation to me, and the entire class of 1997. It's been a really quick, sometimes agonizing, mostly good, really ordinary twenty years.

Wednesday, April 19

Happy Easter! (our annual update letter)

Note: We're going against the grain, again, and just last week sent out our second annual non-Christmastime update letter. Maybe we'll start a trend, but this time of year is much more manageable for us to get the letters out. Feel free to email if you'd like to be added to our annual mailing list, but here's the e-version too. 😊

Typically, update letters and photos come at Christmastime, as we celebrate the birth of Christ. This year, ours comes as we celebrate His resurrection! What an exciting time of the year! Christ Is Risen and ALIVE! We celebrate our new life made possible by Jesus, through faith, and because of His grace. And of course, we hope our update letter finds you well, and also rejoicing!

This year has been one of many firsts and new beginnings for us, while many things remained the same. Michael has continued working for Bright Construction, and in his “spare time” is enjoying the opportunity to create cutting boards and trivets (mostly) in the shape of Michigan for our business, Trivet + Board. The growth there has been astounding to us, and we are so grateful for God’s blessing on our venture. We have a full summer/fall show schedule and are excited to see what the future brings!

After homeschooling for 7 years, we put Aaron and Evan in a small Christian school, where they have adjusted and blossomed. We are taking the schooling decisions one year at a time, as always, but are so grateful that God led us to this school for this time in our lives. Evan is 8, and his favorite subject is Art, and he is a prolific writer and illustrator with a collection of his own books. He also keeps us laughing with his creative videos. Both boys have enjoyed playing basketball at the school, and Aaron also played volleyball and is running track this spring. Aaron (10) enjoys Math and Science, as well as Technology classes at school. He’s enjoying time with his friends and has started his own paracord business making and selling paracord bracelets and keychains. It’s great to watch his entrepreneurial spirit and creativity. We are so thankful that both boys continue to grow spiritually and it is neat to watch God soften and change their hearts and mature them. Evan plans to be baptized this May and is very excited about it.

Jenny has been dealing with some health problems and has seen some improvement but it seems like it may be a slow process. God is directing and giving wisdom, and is faithful. She is homeschooling Cadence (5) and tutoring for our local Classical Conversations group, and of course running after Amos, who is an astounding 21 months old. He’s a funny little guy with a BIG personality and growing vocabulary. He loves to play with his siblings and listen to books. Cadey also enjoys listening to stories and learning to read, coloring pictures, art, music, playing outside as much as possible, and anything with glitter, sparkles, and/or rainbows. J She also has a tender heart toward spiritual things and a strong faith even at this early age.

We continue to keep busy as a family with the junior high youth group at church, spending time fixing up our fixer-upper, and art & craft shows (as mentioned). We also have enjoyed taking advantage of some fun local activities as a family this Spring! We’re thankful Jenny’s parents live nearby and anticipate spending more time over there this summer helping renovate their rental property. Dad Forbes is retiring at the end of the school year after 43 years in Christian education! We are so thankful for his faithful service and are looking forward to what God has for him in the coming years. (We are pretty excited to hang out with him more, too!)

This year has been one of many new things, but through the changes and challenges, our GOD remains faithful. He is our Savior and sustainer, and we rest in His trustworthiness and celebrate His provision for our family!

Much Love to you,

Michael & Jenny, Aaron, Evan, Cadence & Amos Muth

Tuesday, December 20

A story of grace (and happy, happy anniversary #13)

Back when I was in college, I traveled for two summers representing Northland at churches and schools, and we'd stay with families overnight. I am TERRIBLE at making small talk, so I had a few questions prepared to avoid awkward silences. And, I used to ask the people who'd been married for many years the secret to a happy and long marriage. Often, I got these answers: 

Have a sense of humor, and laugh together a lot. 

Put the other person's happiness above your own. 

Be quick to forgive.

Stay committed. 

I tucked those words away for later - expecting, perhaps, MUCH later.

It was a series of Very Providential Events. It was Spring of my senior year of college, and I had a very exciting prospect for employment after graduation. I was going to be a world traveling adventurous woman. I was deep into the process of going to Vienna, Austria to teach music in an international school. However, God orchestrated a halt to that process, and I ended up with no teaching job. An offer of employment at Northland in the Admissions department presented itself, with room and board paid, and additional options to take free classes, and I agreed. 

I ended up with a roommate from Colorado, Autumn! I was very excited to be staying with her, and we had so much fun. Most of the people I'd known closely had graduated and left. But two of my closer friends remained, friends I'd traveled with two different summers, Tim and Andrew. They lived off campus with two other guys who were all in their senior year. We all went to the same church, and I knew Jim from music ed classes and Michael from church, and around campus. Tim's fiance Sarah was a dorm student, and my roommate Autumn had grown up with Michael in Colorado, so the three of us girls found ourselves over at the guys' house pretty often on the weekends, along with a huge group of other friends looking for a non-dorm place to hang out, eat, watch movies, do laundry, etc. 

Tim and a few others planned a road trip with a van full of friends to visit a former professor who had moved to Iowa, and I was invited along. I sat next to Michael the entire time and we chatted about a LOT of basics - just getting to know each other, family backgrounds, likes and dislikes, and it was pretty fun! I knew at this point that Michael was a great guy that I wanted to be better friends with for sure. We laughed a lot.

When we got back, I was approached about auditioning for a play. I remember I was nervous about taking the role because the director had told me that I'd be working a lot with the main actor - and that guy was none other than Michael Muth! I remember wrestling with the decision (which seems so so silly now) because I didn't want to manipulate circumstances to my advantage in order to get to know him better. It was serious stuff back then. But I did take the role, as HIS MOM. So funny now. We did have a LOT of rehearsals, much of the play was dialogue that involved the two of us. Many rehearsals with just us and the director, and it was great to work together. We did definitely get to know each other better!  

After the play, we kept hanging out with the group of friends, including Tim and Andrew, who, unbeknownst to me, were trying to work magic and wizardry to bring the two of us together! So, winter came and we went to our respective homes for 5 weeks of Christmas break, having exchanged email addresses. We kept in touch almost every day that break, and when we returned to campus mid-January, I expected to see him a little bit more, but he took his time and stayed away. (I admit, I was a little confused but trying super hard to be cool about it!)

In February, we had a talk. He apologized for his silence and said he'd like to keep going with our friendship which of course I was excited about, although a bit confused why the this was such a "big talk." He asked me to go with him to a concert, and I accepted. I told Autumn about it when I got back to our room and she was almost more excited than I was! She said "this is a VERY big deal" and she, knowing Michael, was right. I didn't know until much later that I was the first girl that Michael had ever asked out on any type of date. Not because he was socially awkward, ha! And it definitely wasn't a lack of interest from girls toward him (oh the stories I could tell!). It was because, growing up as one of six siblings, he had watched a lot of broken hearts happen and he'd decided on his own as a young teen not to date casually. He thought this would be a good way to not build up expectations and avoid heartache. So the asking was more of a commitment than I knew - which was probably a very good thing - I am not good under pressure! I kind of treated it like a casual date!

Fast forward to April, and Michael was driving me back to campus - I was teaching him to drive stick shift in my Mazda and - the conversation went something like, "I think we've been dating for awhile..." and much laughter. We had some serious discussions several times after that about marriage, and timing - he mentioned an October wedding and I panicked a little - OK a lot - and said MAYBE December (I had always wanted a Christmas wedding). I invited him home with me for Spring Break, and we told my parents that we were in it for the long haul. We were engaged on my birthday in August and set the date - December 20! Less than a year after our first official date. 

And 13 years ago today, as I read my vows, I thought I was head over heels in love, as in love as I'd ever be. And boy was I wrong.

It was just the tip of the (glorious) iceberg.

Michael makes it easy to follow those bits of advice from long-married couples. He is so easy to laugh with; life is never dull. His unselfish service to our family makes it easy to want to make his happiness a priority. We wrote our own vows and as I watched our wedding DVD again, I was impressed with his maturity as a 23 year old, promising in front of God and everyone that he would leave no option for divorce. You don't often hear the word "divorce" at a wedding, but he went there!!  I definitely got the best husband and the most perfect one for me. I am continuously out-loved and out-served. I keep trying, but he always wins!

And I say it's Michael, but it's really GOD, and His blessing of grace. He gives the grace to sustain us, on the hard days, through the storms, through the real life struggles of frustration with each other and parenting these four kids - we have been given, and schedules and ministry and finances and oops I forgot to do that again and breakdowns in many categories - emotional, mental and physical. God's grace is what keeps us going, and keeps us growing more deeply in love. He holds us together, with the same power He uses to hold the world together. And that is a humbling realization. We point to Him in awe.

So. On this day - Happy Anniversary to us! Glad to be standing together for 13 years! Amazing. I'm so overwhelmed with thankfulness. Here's to celebrating as many anniversaries as we are given!! (I not-so-secretly hope it's at least 60 more!)

Wednesday, September 28

Simplicity (and a song in my heart.)

I like to keep things simple - my wardrobe, my schedule, my to-do list. I walked down the aisle at my wedding to the folk tune "Simple Gifts." I buy two of most things so I don't have to shop for awhile. I don't enjoy conflict or confrontation. I don't thrive on drama (unless it's on stage!). When I find articles of clothing that work, I stock up or write down the style number so I have a no-brainer choice the next time.You could say I'm not a huge fan of change (you'd be right). Conversely, I also love surprises, colors, and adventures. And I love trying new foods. So I'm not totally boring. HA. I'm pretty boring.

Knowing all this, God decided to give us each other, four kids, a fixer upper, and a ministry outlet with a bunch of energetic middle school people (and the grace to love it all). He decided to throw in a little uncertainty over the future, gifts, losses, some twists and turns, ups and downs, and a whole lot of learning from our mistakes.

And, He made a way to keep it simple.

"Trust Me."

This life, in general, isn't all that simple. And yet, it is. It's heartache and loss, euphoria and happy endings, confusion, fear, uncertainty, joy, pleasure, contentment. It's everything. And it's nothing. And the only One who can make it all work together is the One who has had it all planned from the beginning. There is nothing for me to control, nothing for me to stress about. I have one job.

Trust Him.

And after the trusting, more things will come. The rejoicing, the satisfaction, the peace. I don't always remember this. And so, songs like this help. It has become the song in my heart, the sermon I sing to myself daily (or more as needed). Click the link to listen (and sing a sermon to yourself, if you like).

"My Worth is Not in What I Own"

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

I rejoice in my Redeemer,
Greatest treasure, wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other
My soul is satisfied in Him alone

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom's fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross


Two wonders here now I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed, my ransom paid
At the cross

--Keith & Kristyn Getty

Tuesday, August 30

I Can't Do It All (and other shocking revelations)

So, after homeschooling for 6+ years, my first and second born children are off to a brick and mortar school. I feel...TOTALLY conflicted.

You see, I love homeschooling. The lightbulb moments, the lesson plan making, the TOTAL CONTROL over the curriculum my children are taught, the flexible schedule, the daily interactions with the people God put in my life, and did I mention the total control over the curriculum? So why the change? One reason: God's plan.

About 2 years ago, I became pregnant with our fourth child, which was at once a surprise and a blessing beyond words. However, since that time, I've struggled intensely with anxiety, panic, and mild depression. Hormones can be wonderful and they can terrorize. I muscled through the pregnancy craziness with extra sleep, adjustments to our home school curriculum and the addition of some more independent subjects, and lots of tears. I'd never experienced panic attacks up to that point. If you haven't either, let me tell you - they are nothing to shrug at. They are awful, terrifying episodes of torture. I was waking up multiple times nightly, unable to breathe, heart racing, and inexplicably in fight or flight mode. I'd take laps around the house, worried that something was wrong with the kids or the baby. I'd always been able to trust my instincts and "gut" and this was playing games with my head in a big way.

I thought maybe this "stuff" was a result of our previous losses during pregnancy and that maybe I was internalizing them. I thought, "surely it will get better after the first trimester and I'm past the most common time of miscarriage," and then when it didn't get better, I thought, "I'll feel better when the baby gets big enough to survive on the outside," but the 28 week mark passed and it didn't get any better. "Maybe when the baby is born," I thought, and then, "when I can get through these six weeks of intense sleep deprivation." But, here we are at just over a year postpartum and guess what? I'm still messed up. Irrational thoughts, anxiety, panic. So, I'm on the path to healing, to seeking some opinions and medical treatment, and praying that it will get better, eventually.

We, by God's grace, made it through the school year last year, finally finishing our pared-down-to-the-basics curriculum by mid-July. I was exhausted just THINKING about school for next year, but wearily scrambled to put together my curriculum for the coming year as my school room became more and more crowded with papers, craft projects, origami creations, and dust. I was trying to survive "AND THRIVE" of course, but thinking about trying to home school with an active toddler and a 4 year old desperately wanting to learn to read and thinking about managing the four kids (and educating three!) and the house, and additionally stressed out about other things beyond our control - well. Definitely Not Helping in the mental health arena.

But I would sit and ponder - what are my options? I REALLY wanted a university model school - 2 or 3 days with friends and a teacher, and the rest of the week at home. (I *still* think this would be an excellent fit for us!) I know many people use the public schools and it is a wonderful experience for them, but for our family, it isn't a good fit. I'm NOT saying that to be judgemental, and you'll just have to take my word for it! Anyhow, the elementary school down the street was not on my list of options.

We have a school attached to our church, but that wasn't an option either, mostly because we can't afford to pay more for schooling than we do for housing, and I know (because I went there and taught there) that there are tons of hidden costs when you add in uniforms and fees. Adding that huge reason of simple economics with a few other reasons, it wasn't really a good fit for our family either. Strike two. There is a charter school that I've heard great things about, and I looked into that one also, but it is quite a drive from our house - almost half an hour each way, so also not a good fit. Third strike. My panic built as I began to look into maybe a video school option, checked on some co-ops in our area, began talking with other moms about student swapping a few days a week. I was scraping the bottom. I felt that my only real option was to simplify and press on.

Then a friend moved to our area and found a small parochial school with intensely subsidized (by the church who started it) tuition. I mean, neither one of us could believe how reasonable it was. As in, compatible with my homeschooling budget. And they had extra classes like PE, Technology, Music, Spanish and Art, and sports opportunities and - SMALL CLASSES. And it is a school whose desire it is to teach every subject through the lense of Scripture. My friend's kids who had only ever been homeschooled "just happen" to be in the same grades as my we scheduled a visit. And then we prayed. And cried. And decided. And cried some more.

And two weeks ago, we quietly had our first day of school. I posted no first day of school photos on social media, because we're super involved at church and I didn't want anyone to think that we don't support the academy attached to the church. I didn't want to be "in your face" about this choice we had made. And I didn't want to feel even more defeated by the looks of surprise (or heaven help me, judgement) - remember that school attached to our church? I'm an alumni - K4-12th grade. My dad still teaches there. Awkward. (By the way, my parents are SO amazing. Supportive of us and this and just so so wonderful. They are treasures.)

The bottom line is, I can't do it all. I need help right now. This year has to be about prioritizing my health so I can be better for my family. One year in school, we told the boys. Enjoy it to the max, or endure it well. Our plan is to be back to homeschooling next year, because it is an important part of our family. I miss my boys. I am also enjoying my littles in a way I wouldn't be able to if everyone was together. There are good things and bad things. Equal parts wonderful and awful. The boys are adjusting well, I'm seeing improvements in that process every day. I still cry most of the way home from dropoff and count down the minutes until pickup. I love them so fiercely. I will admit, it is neat to see them become a little more independent, even as it tears up my mama heart. Letting go is so hard.

In the second week of school, I can hardly speak definitively. I cannot draw conclusions. I realize that I have a long way to go and a lot more lessons to learn. I have a lot of personal stuff to work through and a lot of adjustments to make to try to regain my health. It's going to be okay. God will use this year for all of us, to accomplish His awesome plan. It will make us stronger, grow us as people, as a family - and we will give Him glory. These hard choices - to do what's best even when I want things to be different - are so agonizing, but through it all, God remains steadfast and unchanging. He is my rock, my refuge, even as the storms of self-doubt, emotional instability, and wacky messed up hormones pelt me and try to beat me down.  I am so grateful for my God who does not waver.

As a post script - guess what this year's theme at the school is? God is my Rock. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.