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!

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