A number of you expressed interest to read the “how we got here” posts I promised in my last entry. Those are coming, but I confess that they will involve more work than I’ve cared to tackle this past week. So for now, allow me to share a few observations from our first week HERE.
School is in.
On Monday, our two oldest began second and first grades at Bethel Christian School. On Tuesday, our youngest started at the same-leadership-but-different-location preschool. It’s Friday, and we have three happy girls! Really, we’ve been quite impressed with everything on this front. The schools are well-run, faith-focused, lovingly-staffed — easy places to entrust one’s children to others. I have no doubt that there are good schools everywhere, but since we’re here this year, allow me to say that we think these ones measure up very well! In addition to regular classes, the oldest girls will stay for an hour-plus of “daycare” afterward, once Shannon and I begin our classes in September. Their four-year-old sister simply has a longer day of class, meaning she has jumped from a ten-hour class week last year, to a thirty-two-hour class week this year! And she’s all over it! In great wisdom, the state of California legislates nap times into such schedules, so she comes home hoppy and happy at the end of each day.
Schedules are forming.
With school now providing a framework for life, the most obvious change here is that days start early! The oldest girls are considered late if they’re not in their desks at 8 AM, so they are generally dropped off around 7:45. Then I head to the preschool to drop the youngest right after. Needless to say, our alarms are set for earlier than they used to be, and our bedtimes have adjusted accordingly — most of us! I’ve renewed my efforts at an exercise routine (with encouragement from my better-at-it wife) so school drop-offs are followed up with a DVD workout that forces muscles to strain, limbs to stretch, and sweat to flow. If sports opportunities arise down the road, those would be more fun, but a guy has to start somewhere. Daytime hours are still being spend on sorting some life-in-a-new-place details, but we did receive our first letters in the mail last week, so thanks to sweet friends who have confirmed that our mailbox is officially locked and loaded! (Upon re-reading this draft, I’m seeing that last sentence features a poor blend of Second Amendment meets “going postal”, but I’m leaving it in as an honest new-to-America accident. 🙂 )
Time to prepare.
As the year unfolds, I’ll continue including some daily details from our family in these updates. A number of those who read are folks who have loved us for a long time and care about such things. But I imagine that future updates — particularly once our classes begin — will involve more sharing of the truths we’re tasting and the responses that are brewing inside of us. The past few days have provided us with some precious child-free hours. Besides house-stuff and life-errands, we discovered a very tasty India lunch buffet for a daytime date. I’m sure we’ll return! But beyond even tandoori chicken, we’ve designated some of those hours for quiet.
Some is task-oriented: We know a number of the books we’ll be assigned in the year ahead, and we want to get a jump. But some is just about placing ourselves before God in quiet — Scripture, music, worship, prayer, journaling. There were so many levels of logistics to wade through just to make this trip happen that I somewhat-intentionally neglected any focused soul-prep until later. And later is now.
We’re here for a season of restful listening to God and receptive learning from His people, whatever He has to say and whomever they may be. We’re trying to be available and attentive and adventurous, and it’s all a very profound privilege. But I’m still all-too-often all-too-poor at such things. I hesitate, I ride my brakes, I overthink, I drag my feet, I slack off, I get scared — I’ve got a bunch of unhelpful tendencies that I can sometimes hide in my average flow of life. But I feel as though they are going to be pulled out into the light this year, and that makes me uneasy. See — more foot-dragging.
But my slowness to plunge in is also being offset with a building anticipation for a year of learning. I love school and Scripture and spiritual formation, and chances to blend all of those have marked several of my best seasons of life. So I do have expectations of good things. That said, I feel a pleasant freedom from pressure. I actually have a healthy dose of what was described in a friend’s thoughtful text the day after our church family lovingly sent us off:
A note for you as you drive. A strange thought popped into my head yesterday [at church] that I thought I’d share with you. That thought: “I hope Jay & Shannon don’t feel any pressure to have an amazing experience in Cali!” There was so much talk yesterday about excitement, and how great this experience is going to be. And that’s all good. We share some of that excitement for you! But for some reason I felt the need to clarify. Whatever experience God gives you in Cali will be good enough. Even if it’s not earth-shattering. Our prayers go with you! We’re sad to see you go but know that God’s called you to Cali for a purpose.
Of course, the Father expects faithfulness and devotion from us, but those are our responses to the His initiations in our lives. He moves first, He initiates contact, He issues invitation, He makes things happen. And that’s the pressure I feel pleasantly free of: I don’t need to make anything happen. I don’t need to force anything or strive beyond myself. But I do need to receive, and then I do need to respond. And that’s not a sabbatical-specific pattern. God always works that way, and the temptation to seize control or charge off ahead of His lead has been in our hearts since Eden.
It’s here in Redding too.
I have moments of self-centred thought-floods. Mixed in with the desire to pursue God with purity and passion is this reality: I waste brain cells and heart beats on where I’ll fit in the “pecking order” of my class. Will people be impressed by me? Will I appear as smart or skilled or likeable as I hope to be? Will I appear authentic and genuine? Is there a safe way to appear as authentic and genuine without actually taking the risk involved in being authentic and genuine? Is there a place here for me, the real me, the one who’s not entirely sure he’s going to fit here? Some moments, I’m peaceful about it. Our being here has God’s fingerprints all over it — I’ll still aim to tell more of that story in future posts. But some moments, my own hands are too eager to get graspy and grabby.
Sitting quietly with oneself can be surprisingly loud.
And it’s not always as tasty as butter chicken!