Friday, July 28, 2023

NF Concert

On Wednesday afternoon, John took a group of six kiddos to Nashville for an NF concert! He is a very clean, Christian rapper that I actually like! His car riders include: Isaac (15), Sidge (14), niece Charleigh (14), Malachi Gray (16), Gabe (almost 18), and Micah (16). They had a blast. They got an airB&B nearly next door to the concert location and returned home by 5pm on Thursday. 

While they were gone, I had some girl time at the house! I’ll post about that in my next post :)

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Yesterday was a fun day! It started hard with about two hours of farm work. We have meat chickens now, and they add a lot to your farm routine. 

After that, I got to meet with my friend Katy Higgins and talk. She’s a 17-year-old gal I’ve helped homeschool. I am so blessed that all of a sudden, I am able to use my specialty (high school teacher and coach) to help stand aside young girls who sometimes would like another adult to speak truth into their life. 

My dad and mom and the two friends staying with them: Jan and Ms. Debbie, came over and we had an early dinner at Yoders. Then later in the evening Gabe and Maryah stopped by and we played a few rounds of THINGS (super fun game!) 

John worked the 2p-10p shift yesterday. This is only on Mondays and Tuesdays where, due to high volume that often comes after the weekend, they have two docs on for a few hours. 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Teenagers are exhausting

I really, truly, honestly believed that once my kids weren’t little, I’d feel better. But man these teenagers and their hormones are exhausting. I also feel like 17 days away, without fighting, messed me up a bit. I forgot what the bickering is like. I’m exhausted. John’s job means relief doesn’t come until 8p. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Reentering the Atmosphere

I am returning to life here on the farm. It hasn't been as difficult transition as I thought it might be, but it is hard to all of a sudden be around fighting children. No one was fighting for 17 days. (I'm serious. No arguments. Not one!)

I am so glad to be back with my husband and the other three kids. I really missed John. I am so blessed to be married to my BFF. He truly is the sweetest, most wonderful, best fit for me in the whole-wide-world.

It was hard to communicate with Sidge and Isaac while I was gone. Teenage boys aren't really interested in shooting the breeze with you on the phone. As I return, their cousin Charleigh (who was born just two months after Sidge) is here hanging out, so I am not that important ... still. But I am glad to see them. I'm learning how to find ways to "hang out" with teenage boys. 

The farm has gotten a lot hotter since the day I left. There are 350 meat birds in the tractors and the little laying chickens I left behind have gotten significantly bigger. 

I truly witnessed Jesus during the 17 days I was in Jackson, Mississippi. I pray I never forgot the things I saw and the miracle in Maryah's life that I had the pleasure of witnessing. 

But, life must go on. So go on it does. :)

Monday, July 17, 2023

Ballet Magnificat! Recap

Yesterday around 3pm, we pulled back into our farm in East Tennessee. I had come with Abigail, Kari, and Ana. I had left Ana at camp for two more weeks and returned with Abigail, Kari, and Maryah. 

It was Abigail's 12th birthday. For the second year in a row, we were driving home on her celebration day. 

And we were celebrating still. 

Celebrating the opportunity to spend 17 days walking hand-in-hand with Jesus. For over two weeks, I was given the opportunity to wake up each and every morning knowing that HE was the only thing I needed to focus on. 

Sure there were other requirements of the day, but they all circled back to helping the young people around me be able to look to Him. And to be able to spend time myself looking to Him so that I could help them do the same. 

It's amazing that in three days of orientation for being a "Dorm Mom", there was almost 0% of discussion given to ballet. Yes, these were dancers. Yes, that's why they were coming. Yes, there would be in injuries and emotion surrounding that fact. But there were dance teachers there to deal with the dance. We were there to make sure these young women were safe. To help make their days incredibly smooth. To help direct them to Christ. Safety and Jesus. That's really what the three days were about. 

From the moment I sat down at the first Orientation meeting, I felt honored to be chosen for this position. I truly knew and felt that Jesus wanted me there. Seven dancers from Central Ballet Theatre (CBT) in Greeneville, Tennessee would be joining us. They were the three girls I had brought (my daughter Abigail and my nieces Kari and Ana), Carlie and Grace (rising Seniors at the studio), Alyssa who would be Abigail's roommate and is her age, and Maryah. (Gabe's girlfriend and a very close family friend.)

When I opened my packet, I prayed that the Lord would only put girls from CBT in my group if he felt that I needed them or they needed me. I knew that some of the girls might be uncomfortable with me as their counselor and would prefer a new person. The first face that jumped out at me was that of Maryah's. I knew, therefore, that her roommate of choice, Grace, would be in the packet as well. And she was. 

Maryah was battling the "thought" of coming to Camp. She knew she wanted to be there. But she also knew that she was incredibly shy. She struggled with "new-things" anxiety. She got stuck in her own head a lot. And this was a big step, despite the fact that she is heading into her senior year. She's incredibly attached to her little family back at home, best friends with her Momma, and coming to Jackson for two weeks was a big leap of faith. When I texted her and told her "on the sly" that she would be in my group, I was pretty sure her reaction would be what it was: relief. Relief that at least one aspect was a bit more "familiar" to her. 

The two weeks that followed were an incredible blur of hard and powerful and amazing and challenging moments. The biggest obstacle I faced was actually not amongst the fifteen girls (ages 17-20) that he had placed in my group. The biggest obstacle was my little Abigail (age 11). 

Many, many, many years ago, around the time she was about 6 years old, Abigail had a panic attack one evening, randomly, as she went to bed. This lie from the Devil truly became a major aspect of our lives for every day of sleep that followed. There was an entire year that she slept in our room. There were countless evenings of her coming down and us taking her back up to bed. There was prayer. There was praise music. There was strategy. There was counseling. There was medication to help her sleep easier. There was brainstorming. There was "back to the drawing board."

Last year, Abigail attended Ballet Magnificat! but stayed off campus. I got an AirB&B property with my friend Jessica, and her daughter Bailee and Abigail danced together. It was an incredible experience for Abigail, and she became insistent, almost the moment last year's camp ended, that she wanted to return and stay ON campus. 

Her desire to do this lead to my decision to apply to be a Counselor. We really felt that me being close with her still so young would be a good idea. While the camp ages range from 11-24, there are very few kiddos there in the 11-12 range. It is young. Maybe too young. She is still very little. We wanted her to grow up a bit more before staying on campus. 

But she was insistent and as the months went on, her desire to return AND stay on campus, lead to me applying to be a Counselor. I would be able to see her and be with her everyday as she adjusted to sleeping in a new place without Dad and Mom nearby. 

We worked tirelessly at home to prepare her for the dorm life and not having us there in the evening to tuck her in for bed. She was ready. In the six months or so leading up to our arrival in Jackson, Mississippi, we felt that the sleep issues were nearly gone. John and I still hadn't taken an overnight evening away from the house, but we felt she was ready.

But I was assigned to a different dormitory, something we didn't really think about prior, and once we were there, Abigail thought she would be fine. But that first night, as sleep came on, another panic attack ensued and many of the days at camp were filled with difficult anxiety. However, beauty comes out of ashes, and it did in this case as well. The Lord had placed Abigail with a counselor who had faced a smilier circumstance with her own daughter and had travelled the road of fear that isn't "true" fear. Together, we were able to formulate a daily plan for Abigail, and by the last few nights of camp, she was going to sleep without much anxiety at all! Praise the Lord!

Watching your child suffer is incredibly gut-wrenching and painful. You want so badly to fix the problem for them. You are willing, if it were possible, to place the problem on your own back so that it didn't have to affect them. Of course, this isn't actually possible, so the only thing you can do, is try to place the problem on the back of Jesus. You must give it to him over and over and over again. On repeat. You have no control. They have no control. Jesus must take the wheel. 

Meanwhile back in my own dormitory with my fifteen girls, I had the privilege to walk alongside them through Bible studies, Creative worship, chapels, ballet level assignments, sore bodies, and lots of sickness. Some sort of 24-hour bug swept through our group, and it didn't leave many free from its wrath. I, however, begged the Lord to not let me get sick. And I did not! I was able to lead, healthy, which was great for me, considering the daily schedule (going to sleep much later than I would at home) was a bit of a challenge for me. 

I spent my days running errands for my girls (both in my group and with CBT), checking up on them, eating my own meals, watching dance classes, leading Bible Studies, attending daily chapels, praying with kids who needed it, being prayed for as well, watching the Ballet Magnificat! Jackson and Brazil companies perform, and spending time with my fellow counselors. The days were so full, but I always managed to have a couple hours of quiet in the afternoons, in my dorm room, to listen to Jane Austen's Persuasion on audible, color, listen to worship music, or nap.

On the last Bible Study our group would hold, I had the experience of watching the Holy Spirit move. I am sure I've seen this before. Maybe? But I don't remember ever truly seeing it while I had a front-row seat like I did that evening. One girl shared a story about failing to listen to the Holy Spirit's instruction and the nearly devastating ramifications of that decision. And what followed was teenager after teenager, opening themselves up to the room with incredible vulnerability so they could share the deepest places of their hearts safely. It's hard being a teenager during any era. But right now? With sin being thrust at you left and right everywhere you go? It actually seems an impossible task. These are Christian girls in Christian families feeling the struggles of the world upon their backs. And because the Holy Spirit convicted them, they were able to open up and realize: "I am not alone. These people love me despite my sins."

I went to bed that night barely able to believe what happens when you devote two weeks of your life to Christ. When you have time to listen to Him. When you have time to Heed. Time to worship. Time to pray. Time to BE. When you give him your time, He can do incredibly big and amazing things. And he did. 

The next evening, I was able to have the same encounter with my dear sweet Maryah. Of course, her story is her's alone to tell, but I can tell you that she came into my room thinking we were talking about someone else, and in the course of the conversation, as we talked about and prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to be present, it became apparent that she was really there to deal with herself. It was incredible to watch. Suddenly, it was like weights had been taken off of her and she could run freely! Suddenly she realized that the protections she had put around her heart had prevented her from being able to be the amazing child of God that He had made her to be. She was hindered and held back.  

When she walked into that room that evening, I saw NONE of this. But as she started talking, it was like the Lord pulled the blinders down from both Maryah and my eyes and the boulders she was carrying began to roll off her back. During our subsequent two-day drive home, I watched as she willingly shared the story with Kari and Abigail in the backseat. They listened in deep emotion, with tears often flowing down Kari's cheeks. 

What an incredible privilege to watch God meet someone where they are at, reveal himself, and allow them to start healing. I feel so incredibly thankful to the Lord and Ballet Magnificat! for giving me that incredible honor. To be a part of the moving of the Holy Spirit was something I will never, ever forget. 

To a person, the staff and dancers at Ballet Mag! are Jesus-livers. They are there simply to worship Jesus with their dance. Their kindness and love and hearts are SO big and SO open. They don't hide their own struggles and sin, even if those sins are incredibly personal and BIG. They hug quickly. They pray easily. They LOVE JESUS SO MUCH! There were 200 or so dancers there and dozens and dozens of adults, and I simply did not meet an unkind person. I only met people who loved Jesus and were striving to love like He did. 

There is so much more for me to unpack from this long trip I am now home from. But right now, the house is quiet. No one is yet awake. And I have a moment to do what I love to do: sit down and write and share and type with no interruptions. So I share. 

I never want to forget the name of any girl in my group. I am in the very back (obviously). Back row from left: Maryah, Faith, Laura, Asst. Counselor Sonia, Noel, Grace, Elizabeth, Katie, Christies, Naomi, and Haley. Front row: Abi S., Hope, Vale, Abi B. and Caris

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Camp comes to a close

Abigail and her level 5 dancers

My counselor group. There are 12-15 girls together on a floor and a “team.” This is separate from your dance group. These girls danced on different levels from 5-10.

The 7 CBT girls: Ana, Maryah, Grace, Abigail, Kari (in brown), Carlie, and Alyssa 

The dancers before performing in the Gala — each dance troop presents 1 or 2 numbers. 

Here is a link to Abigail’s dance in level 5

Ana was giving a coveted PPL spot (pre-professional league). She therefore will perform at the end of 4 weeks a full-length ballet. 

Friday evening is the end of camp. On Saturday, we will begin the pack-up and drive home. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The zoo!

Back at home, the kids are everywhere! Abigail is of course in Mississippi with me. Hannah went to Charlotte with Genevieve for some fun of their own. Isaac is at his high school youth retreat with Charleigh. Only Sidge is home. And he’s running the farm right now while John is on nights.