Great Expectations

Recently Jonathon and I had some conversations about raising children. We currently use the Teaching Family Model, but that’s not something we will strictly use when our kids share our last name. As most couples (should) do when talking about family, we have continually discussed what our life and relationship will look like when we raise “little Sampson’s”.  (Not) Surprisingly, preparing for the practicalities of raising children outside of Family Teaching, it has brought me to a place beyond my expectations.

I have learned to check my expectations a lot in order to avoid disappointment or anger, and it has been very helpful (when I remember to do it). But being the planner that I am, my expectations of starting and raising a family are not being met. In some ways that is disappointing, but in so many others it is a blessing. Let me paint you a picture:

How I was expecting to raise kids? Having cute, little, cuddly babies. Teaching them to love Jesus. Showing them how to serve and help others. Teaching them to be responsible citizens contributing to society. Raising them to be a better version of myself and Jonathon. (Because we’re pretty awesome with a few [a lot of] flaws thrown in) Obviously I figured there would be bumps in the road, sick days, times of being overwhelmed, failing or messing them up. But generally, as normal as any family could be.

I like this idea. I have desired this picture. I wanted to choose that life.

But brokenness happened.

Diabetes, POTS, and other chronic illnesses, depression and anxiety, schooling, money, other priorities, trips, losses, friendships, and myself.

God has obviously led me to and through those things, and in the process has showed me the discrepancies in my finite expectations of life.So this is the picture that I currently have, the changed, but only partially complete one that is still a bunch of moving pieces:

Broken parents living with messed up kids who may or may not want to be there. Having their needs met, but missing their blood relatives. Struggling. Struggling to trust others, fighting with school expectations, attempting to make friends, battling with themselves, with fine motor skills, to move past their trauma, to function normally in society.Similar to who we live with now.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE living with and advocating for children of trauma and neglect. I feel alive when I see the potential and actual growth of kids in a healthy environment. But this is a stage of our life. We don’t always plan to be Family Teachers. It’s our current plan, but not a long term one. . .Or so I thought. Now that I have fallen in love with little (and big) boys that start to grow mentally, spiritually, physically, and socially in ways they never had a chance to before, I don’t believe there is any going back. Our ‘stage’ of life helping foster kids dealing with trauma and neglect has turned into now a lifetime of helping, feeding, raising, and loving these kids. And it won’t be our salaried job or come with a benefit package or be under the name of any organization. It will be our full time life and family. It will be our legacy, our children.

Thinking of a future like this causes me to doubt our ability to work in the lives of hurting children, and it makes me wonder if we’ll ever be able to raise kids to be successful adults. But that’s not what God does. He doesn’t make things simple and easy. His power is made perfect in our weakness. He waits until we realize that we can’t do something. That’s when we can prove that it really is God who provides, loves, creates, and works.

Our family will be a mess, I’m sure of it. I’ll be overwhelmed and emotional. It won’t be conventional. It will test our marriage. We won’t be able to guarantee success.Our kids may not love us in return. It will be fulfilling in God’s will, but maybe nothing else. . But then again, that kinda sounds like every other family.



Part-time Lover, Full-time Friend

I think people knew since I began to show my personality as a child that it would take someone extra special to marry me. I have always danced to the beat of my own drum. (if you can even call that dancing) I lack tact, social graces, and really any etiquette, despite my parents’ best efforts.  My health is a handful to say the least. I’m a control freak, nail-biter, list-maker, nerd, and hypochondriac. Put me in any life circumstance with those traits, and it doesn’t normally end up well.

But this post isn’t about me. I’m writing this to tell you about the Ginger that I’m married to.

I don’t appreciate him nearly enough. People rarely get to see how much of himself he pours into his patients, his kids, and his life. Daily he performs tasks that make up the mundane, but never requires recognition. He is so much the opposite of myself. To say he completes me would be very accurate, but I would only admit to that on the days he doesn’t drive me crazy. Our polar personalities bring balance to our life and to others when we are working to compliment each other. I would assume that is true of most marriages. Anyone who has been married or even dating for any length of time knows that either your other half is working as your other half, or is someone that you don’t want to work with because they’re too different from yourself. Jonathon and I are either on the same page, working and living in tandem, or we aren’t even reading the same stinking book.

And then there were kids. Not just any kids. Kids that have had rough, awful, unfortunate lives from day 1. Kids that need more love, attention, support, and advocacy than others. We have had to learn a lot, really fast about how our marriage works in our few years at Thornwell. Thinking of how overwhelming that has been brings up so many emotions for me. Then I think of that crazy guy who married me. If I’m honest, the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the roller-coaster that our life with children has been, it’s all me. I’ve been all over the place, figuring out who I am, where I’m going, what is happening. And I’ve got The Rock over here playing with kids in the yard, cleaning up every type of bodily fluid, and picking up pizza for dinner.

It is so clear the parallels between Christ’s love and my husband’s love for me. His patience, stability, and sacrificial love allow me to function, just like Jesus. Even on the days that I try so hard to give him a break or help him or appreciate him, I still fail. I’m still crazy or I still get frustrated, and I still make him do the work. Most days I prep statements to him with “I know I make your life miserable but could you please. . .”. Like the stable, calm, controlled person he is, he replies “No you don’t, but yes I can”. I imagine Jesus saying that to me over and over again.

Jonathon, no one ever thought you were so emotional or had so much to say until you met me. Thank you for choosing to love me. You always give me what I want (even on the days I don’t demand it). You will make me laugh until the day I die. Our life wouldn’t work without you in it. Your hard work never goes unnoticed. You’re my part-time lover, full-time friend, Sampson.

Too bad you can’t be my soulmate. You’d have to have a soul first.  Also, I have horrible grammar in this post. So don’t even start.