Thursday, February 11, 2010

I Get to Keep Them

We are preparing for our world to turn upside down in a month when we head to Europe for the rest of 2010 for my husband’s dissertation research.

We five have become quite comfortable here in our Philadelphia suburb--as comfortable as we can be in a small two bedroom apartment! It took a very strenuous move and a couple years of disorientation and loneliness, but four years later, we are thriving:

(1) I have met several lovely friends of the soul whom I can call on anytime, to drop the kids off and go to a doctor’s appointment or just to get together for some cheer

(2) I know all the shortcuts by car and walking in each direction from our home

(3) Our health insurance is excellent and affordable, our phone and internet plans and other services are just what we need, we have a great car mechanic, great babysitters, great pediatricians and midwives

(4) We have a handful of favorite restaurants, some family-friendly, others romantic, where we can always get an impressive meal at a great value

(5) I have figured out how to use the stores and markets nearby to prepare meals efficiently, healthily, and on a tight student budget; in fact, I’ve figured out through trial and error how to work our area inside and out to get the most and the best for our money

(6) We have found the little classical Catholic school of our dreams just one mile down the road, and our almost-5 year old daughter is thriving there

(7) We have regular confession and means of formation, and great parishes with convenient daily Mass times and holy liturgies

(8) I am using the resources nearby to establish healthy and happy daily routines for my sensitive 3 year old and my energetic toddler

(9) Socially, we are edified constantly by our new friends here, both Christian and non-Christian, with whom we share family life

(10) Our life has been simple, inexpensive, and rich in fellowship and discovery and the joy of young family living

And now this chapter comes to a close, as easily as that! We will be back for a year or so as my husband completes his writing, but in a different apartment and neighborhood next time… and then we’ll be on to his first teaching position, which could be just about anywhere.

This minor earthquake will require me to wean myself from the comfort and regularity and trappings of daily life as I know it. We’ll store all our worldly possessions except a few suitcases of clothes and head to unfamiliar places surrounded again by strangers. We don’t get to keep our things or our home or our friends.

But we do get to keep each other.

In August of 2004, the day after our wedding, my husband and I headed to the airport for our honeymoon—and until that day, the airport had always been a place for our goodbyes. After five years of courtship, it took my breath away to realize that we would never have to say goodbye again (barring extraordinary circumstances or death). I got to keep him now, in fact, my new vocation was not just to keep him but to love him above myself and give myself completely to him.

In May of 2005, my first daughter was born, and our two days in the hospital seemed like a hazy dream—the intensity and reality of new parenthood didn't quite sink in inside those hospital walls. But I’ll never forget my grateful exhilaration when we left the hospital and strapped her into her brand new car set. I got to keep her now, and not only keep her but bring her along with me to show her the way to Jesus. She would go wherever I went, at least for now.

I get distracted by the great responsibilities of serving and shepherding, and the more mundane responsibilities of feeding and diapering and clothing and providing. But what a gift to savor, the gift of getting to keep them all, for now. They are my love and my purpose and are polishing me into who I long to become, in Christ. Family life is glorious!


JMB said...

Good luck! You are so fortunate to have an adventure like this. Except for college and a few years after living in NYC, I have lived in NJ for my entire life, and I will be here (most likely) for the rest of my life. I live 3 miles from my home town:).

godandchocolate said...

What a beautiful reflection on family life! Thank you for sharing...and many blessings to you and your family on your next, new chapter together.

- Rachel

B-Mama said...

JM, I am so excited for you for this next phase of your family adventure. While in the midst of it, you might miss the creature comforts of your current life. But I'm sure you'll look back so fondly on this time and the chance your family had to experience the world together! Who knows? Maybe you're starting a family tradition that involves taking sabbaticals and hitting the road together! Exciting!!! Many blessings and prayers.

Juris Mater said...

B-mama, great suggestion for thinking of this hitting the road as a family tradition!

And I sure don't mean to sound ungrateful here for the amazing possibilities for adventure. I think it's making me MORE grateful for our blessings.

By the way, hats off to all you military families and other traveling families. I know you're old pros at these details and emotions, and you're my heroes!

Molly said...

This is such a wonderful reflection heading towards Valentine's Day! Thanks, JM!

We'll be praying for your beautiful family as you start this new, but slightly daunting, adventure.

Molly said...

ps--LOVE the picture of your little pirate, your little indian princess, and your little princess. how lucky that you get to keep them!

Right Said Red said...

Beautiful reflection JM!

Like you, I was incredibly overwhelmed when we strapped Gianna into the car seat and brought her home from the hospital. That "I get to keep her" feeling was AMAZING, and I literally broke down crying. I was just so thankful for the amazing blessing of her life. We of course had lost our first previous baby, and so I knew what it felt like to not get to keep our Therese. That loss has magnified the blessing of Gianna's life, and the life of all of our children, and it is one of the great graces of Therese's short life. We get to keep our other children--and that is a miracle all of us should be thankful for EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Thanks for the reminder!

We will miss you terribly in the Philly area! I'm so glad that you are sad to leave, as in the beginning there were days when I thought you would love to leave!!! Philly is a great town, and we can't wait to welcome you back at the end of the year!

Anna said...

Thanks for the beautiful reminder, as it is so easy to get lost in the day in and day out and forget what a blessing our families are!

Have fun on your adventure! I'm actually quite jealous!

Kat said...

I loved your post, JM. It gives me a real feeling for what life has been like for your family recently, and it sounds (and looks) like you guys are doing great! Your children are blessed to have this opportunity to see different parts of the world with their parents - they'll never forget it!

Kathleen said...

Having lived in 4 cities (six different living arrangements!) in 4 and 1/2 years of marriage, I really love your description of a good strong stable community that lends itself to fostering good family life. Moving does keep life exciting and foster real unity in the immediate family, but it can be hard socially to break into a community and feel you've found your niche. I always feel like just when things are coming together its time to move. I think this is one of the reasons I hope we get out of the military as soon as possible, that and deployments that seem unending in our current international climate! With my husband currently deployed, I can't deny that I would probably move anywhere if you guaranteed me that my husband and kids would be right by my side. I do however share your desire for the stable community you described so nicely in your post. Best of luck on your adventure.

Lauren said...

JM--We're accepting applicants for our little Catholic haven in the Bronx. Hubs could teach at any of the NYC schools and we could cook dinner together at least twice a week.

Just throwing it out there!

Kate E. said...

Wow, what a lovely sentiment. I just have to say that you are so very brave, you will have your beautiful family with you, but like JMB I have lived in NJ my whole life and I sort of panic at the idea of leaving. Enjoy the freedom of a new beginning secure with the knowledge that you are with those you love the most!

(We will miss seeing you so easily at reunions'll have to make the journey just a bit farther!)

Jennifer Frey said...


I know exactly how you feel, as my husband is just finishing up grad school as well, and so we will be packing up our whole family this summer and moving someplace new. It is very unsettling, but also wonderful and exciting.

Being married to an academic can be hard, precisely because of the instability and uncertainty (at least until he gets tenure!) But you have an amazing attitude, and I know that you will help your family to flourish in these conditions.

AWOL Mommy said...

Hey, I don't want to be your hero, but I will be here for you through the trials and tribulations to come. I can offer empathy and that is about it.

I am going to e-mail you about the important things to have in those bags for Euro-travels with a "big" family, but despite the logistical nightmare, the travels will make for unforgettable memories for sure.

Now to make everyone jealous... SEE YOU IN ROME IN APRIL!! That's right, readers, stay tuned for the most exotic BC-reunion picture yet!

mad cow said...

Very nice, JM. Thanks for sharing.

Though you never mentioned whether your "favorite" restaurants and markets carry grass-fed beef. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt.

helen said...

Which part of Europe are you moving to?

All the best with the move. We did the same thing last year with one bubs (to Oxford). It's scary to do but at the same time it's exciting to move away from the mundane of home and meet new people and see a different part of the world! Your children and you will be all the richer (emotionally and spiritually) for it.

The Book Girl said...

Hi Casyn, my name is Tess and I went to The Willows in the same year as your in-laws Susie and Tommy. One of my friends recommended this blog and it was such a pleasant surprise to find a familiar face! I have heard so much about your family and I still remember getting an ecstatic phone call from Sue the day that your oldest was born. This post was beautiful and inspiring- such a good reminder of how lucky we are to have our families with us. Good luck with the move!