note: As we prepare for another move, I was recently cleaning out some files, and came across some of my old articles and essays. I wrote this back in 2004, for a now-defunct military homeschooling newsletter for The Old Schoolhouse magazine. Not much has changed--we still seem to spend a lot of time living out of suitcases, and this is our 5th move since then. It spoke to me again here in 2011, and was a good reminder to myself about being grateful and mindful in everything. God is good.
Fall is in the air here in North Dakota. A cold wind is blowing colorful leaves across the sidewalks, and we are huddled into our warm jackets. It's quite a change from our last military assignment in Guam.
Change is never easy, is it? We move away from familiar faces and places, and have to start over and over again. Sometimes it doesn’t seem worth the effort, when we know most friendships will be temporary. It takes effort to plug into a new homeschooling group or a new church, find a new hairstylist or even a great thrift store.
Our family of six lived out of suitcases for five months this year. Our household goods were packed in Guam in March, and little did we know then that we wouldn’t see any of it again until August due to housing mix-ups and waiting for base housing to finish construction. We were given the option to live in the TLF (Temporary Lodging Facility for you non-Air Force folks!) until it was ready. Our TLF was basically a very tiny, 2 bedroom furnished apartment. What we thought would be a 4-6 week TLF stay turned into three and a half months!
We learned much through our experience of living with only what we could fit into luggage. A suitcase doesn’t hold much, but we soon found that it’s still more than we need. Going through our clothing before we moved into the house, I discovered items at the bottoms of our suitcases that we hadn’t seen, much less needed in all those months! It’s truly amazing how little we need to ‘get by’ and how much excess stuff we tote around.
Living in close quarters can bring out the best and the worst in our children and us. Nerves seemed to fray more easily, but in another sense, every day was a new adventure. “What are we doing today?” was a common question that began our day. We spent time taking lots of long walks, going to the library, reading books, watching movies together. We read aloud again several of the Little House books this summer, and happened upon the book On the Banks of Plum Creek. Reading about the Ingalls’ family’s experiences living in the sod dugout home, and how little they owned was an eye opening experience for us, as we realized we were truly not deprived. True, we only had one tiny bathroom for the six of us, but it was indoor plumbing! We looked with new appreciation at the TVs, stove, and even furniture that had been provided for us. Reading that book reminded us that family and relationships are much more important than houses or things.
About two months into our stay, I realized that we would be spending the beginning of our school year moving into our new quarters (again!). I opted to start the kids on some of their schoolwork, knowing that we would want to take some time off in the fall to move in and enjoy being in a real house again. Having as much of a normal routine as possible helped the time go more quickly those last long weeks. I was surprised by a writing assignment my 11-year-old son turned in one day. He had written about our family and our experiences the past months. I was a little nervous about reading it. What would he write about? The disappointment of having our move-in date delayed several times? Mommy’s too-often short temper or the days it was too cold or buggy to go outside? No, instead he wrote about how much he loved us all, and how he had discovered how fun just being together was. Tears filled my eyes and I lifted a prayer of gratitude to the Lord for teaching him this lesson. I do know that it was only the Lord’s grace that brought us through. There was nothing magical about it, we will all attest! As one of my friends says, the only way through hard times is through them.
So please be encouraged. You may not be homeschooling under what others would consider ‘ideal circumstances’. Family may wonder and question why you continue to homeschool when your spouse is deployed in a war zone, or you just moved again for the third time in as many years, or you’ve recently had your fourth baby and your oldest is only seven. Much of what happens in our lives as military families is out of our control, and can seem arbitrary at best.
Please rest assured that God is in control and does hold you in His hand, even through particularly trying times. Especially through trying times! One of my all time favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11 where God says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” I pray that you will trust in His unfailing love for you, as He unfolds your future before you, and reveals to you what is truly important.
|Our then 6-year-old helping unpack our new house, fall 2004|