After a year of turmoil, then peace, then uncertainty, then turmoil, and now peace again, you won’t believe where we’re headed next: Marysville, Ohio. 25 miles from where we started.
That’s right. Conrad has been offered an associate pastor position in a congregation we are already in love with. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind as we went from no job on the horizon, to one phone call that changed everything. We visited the church, Conrad preached a sermon, we had a question and answer time, and by Tuesday afternoon we had accepted the position. The process went quickly, but we feel really good about it. Our kids are excited and we are all looking forward to settling in and putting down some roots. A home! We feel like we can invest in this community for the rest of our lives and, well, we’re just so excited!
The downside of this is that I will be packing my boxes again soon, and I will be saying some hard good-byes. But, knowing that we are going somewhere long-term is making all of this a bit easier.
I probably don’t have to tell you how happy I am to be heading back to where my sister lives. I’ll be able to get to her house in the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee. She can come to my girls’ band concerts. I can watch her boys play basketball. Unspeakable joy. I can hardly believe it!
So, off we go. We are finishing up the school year, collecting boxes, enjoying a few more weeks of my hometown, then heading south to the land we’ll call home.
Our family recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Sarasota, Florida with my mom and her husband, Bill. We had so much fun. We swam, went on long walks, ate delicious food, fed flamingos…
…and went to Disney World. We were up bright and early and the boys were eager to get to Magic Kingdom. We awoke to gray skies and a cool drizzle of rain. But, we put on our sweatshirts and braved the elements like good Yankees do (sorry, Mom). We arrived at the park just in time to see the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show, and Mom and I both were weepy at the end. There is something about those Disney songs that just gets to us. Everyone is just.so.happy. And my boys were happy, too.
Magic Kingdom was everything we hoped for. We rode the rides, drove “racecars” and shot at the evil emperor, Zurg, along with Buzz Lightyear. The boys loved it. It was stressful, however, keeping everyone together. We had three adults and three little boys, but it was still difficult to keep the kids from running off every time they saw something shiny…which was often.
We finally made it to lunch time. My mom and I got lunch for everyone and we ate outside one of the restaurants on a lovely concrete bench. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the hundreds of people that walked by constantly. There were so many excited kids and stressed out parents and it made for great entertainment. As we were finishing our lunch, Greyson announced that he needed to go potty. Jon volunteered to take him so the rest of us could finish eating.
Rylan bounced over to me and announced that he was done eating. I thanked him for finishing his food and went back to people watching. Approximately thirty seconds later, my mom looked at me and asked, “Where’s Rylan?” I snapped my head to the left and to the right only to discover that Rylan, our Silent Ninja, was no where to be found. It was as if he had vanished. I made a conscious effort not to panic while my mom jumped into action mode. She found a Disney staff member (not too difficult, considering they stand approximately 14 feet away from each other. They’re everywhere), and informed her that we were missing our little boy.
Meanwhile, I called Jon with the hope that Rylan had followed him to the restroom. Our conversation went like this:
Me: “Hey – is Rylan with you?”
Jon: “Well, no Rylan isn’t with me. Why would he be?”
Me: “Jon, we can’t find him. Anywhere.”
Jon: “I’m on my way.”
So, I prayed. And breathed deeply. And then I sat down next to Conner and hugged him close because I needed to. Some staff members approached me and asked for a picture of Rylan so they knew who they were looking for — great idea, except I didn’t have any forward facing pictures of him in that day’s clothes. So frustrating! I did the best I could to describe his alligator shirt and then I was told to stay put in case he returned. So, I paced. And I prayed. If you know Rylan well, you know that he would follow a squirrel all the way to California before even noticing he is alone. He’s in his own world a lot of the time. It’s something I absolutely love about him most of the time. Unless I’m at Disney World.
Jon handed Greyson to me and then he left to join my mom and the staff members in their search for our boy. 15 minutes in, I started to cry. I kept picturing worst case scenarios – it was so hard to stay calm. Greyson kept looking up at me and saying, “Mommy, I can’t find Rylan. I can’t find him!” It’s rough when even the 2 year old notices the fear. I needed someone else to share in the panic, so I sent Vicki a text. She called me and we prayed together. And I told myself to hold it together.
Clearly it’s a long story. Finally, about 30 minutes later, a staff member approached me and said, “Ma’m, there’s a security guard walking this way with a boy matching your son’s description. Is that him?”
Me: “Where?! I can’t see him!”
And then, there he was. My sweet, Silent Ninja, holding hands with a kind security guard. He was calm, but his eyes were extra round – he knew something wasn’t right. Rylan ran to me and I wept as if I hadn’t seen him in 3 years, not just 30 minutes. As I hugged him, the security guard spoke into his lapel radio, “Family reunited.” More beautiful words had never been spoken.
I asked Rylan where he had gone. He replied, “I was trying to find Greyson. But, Mommy, I couldn’t find you.” Be still my heart.
Five things that I want to make clear to all of you who may be considering a trip to Disney World with your small children.
1. Take a cattle prod…or a leash for each child. Whichever makes you more comfortable.
2. Take individual pictures of each child right before you enter the park so you have a detailed view of what they’re wearing and how adorable they are.
3. Talk to your kids about what they need to do should you find yourselves separated. Rylan is only 4, but I should have told him to look for an adult wearing one of the park’s nametags so he would know they were safe to approach.
4. Be like my Mom and immediately get help. It’s a waste of time to look on your own. There are simply too many people.
5. If you must find out how awful it is to lose your child, do so at Disney World. We got free ice cream and fastpasses as a result of our nightmare. They’re just so nice there. At one point, I stopped a kind gentleman who was helping in our search and I tearfully asked, “How often do you all have to search for missing children?” He answered calmly, without hesitation, “Approximately 10,000 times every day.” Every team member at Disney has been trained to look for kids like Rylan – even the people serving food. They have the search thing down to a science.
The fastpasses and the fun times we had later in the afternoon almost made up for the trauma of the early afternoon. Well, not really, but we did end up having fun for the rest of the day. I hugged my kids closer and I definitely didn’t feel as irritated with them. It’s amazing the perspective one has on life following an event like that. We were (and continue to be) so very thankful the little guy was back by our sides.
At the end of the day, while we ate our ice cream, I said, “Boy, Rylan…thanks for the free ice cream.”
He gave me a sweet smile, shrugged nonchalantly and replied, “You’re welcome.” God bless him. If he only knew how much that ice cream really cost. We all laughed and then licked our fingers. It was really good ice cream. Thanks, Disney World. For everything.
Well. Here is a post I never thought I’d be writing. After a tremendous amount of stress, sleepless nights, floor pacing, time in a counselor’s office, prayer, and conversation, we have come to the conclusion that we cannot go to Thailand right now. Maybe not ever. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly:
The Good: We’re Not Going to Thailand. When we finally came to the conclusion that we cannot go to Thailand, I was overwhelmed with a sense of relief. I wanted to go to Thailand. I wanted to experience living overseas as a family. I wanted to live a life of radical discipleship and obedience to Jesus Christ, and I thought that included Thailand. But, the process of getting to Thailand was excruciatingly painful for me and I was not handling it well. I kept comparing it to childbirth: The waves of pain just kept coming and coming but, in this case, there was no epidural in sight. Leaving my family behind. Leaving my home behind. Facing financial uncertainty. Facing uncertainty regarding my children’s education. Facing uncertainty regarding my emotional and spiritual health. It was all piling up and the pain was becoming unbearable. So I am relieved that we are not going.
The Bad: We’re Not Going to Thailand. I am overwhelmed with a sense of sadness. We have talked about going to Thailand for a long time. We planned. We studied maps. We developed relationships with our teammates and dreamed about working together. We tried Thai food and practiced Thai phrases. We prayed. We asked for direction. We hoped. And now we are giving up the dream. Laying it down with no intentions of picking it back up anytime soon, if ever. We are grieving the death of this dream. The idea of leaving was painful. The idea of staying also brings pain.
The Ugly: We’re Not Going to Thailand. I am angry. Also, embarrassed. We were deep into the process of getting to Thailand. We raised funds, made promises, led people to believe that we were fully committed to this mission. And we were. To “pull the plug” on this opportunity this late in the process is awful. But, that’s what we’ve done. I feel guilty. I feel inadequate. I feel like I failed at being a faithful, obedient follower of Jesus Christ. Yet, the happy, lighthearted, hopeful feelings are close behind the sad stuff. I’m certain I’ve never experienced such a contrast of emotions.
As you can probably see, I am not going into the details on all that went into this decision. Please, understand that this decision has been an agonizing one to make, and we did not make it lightly. But I am certain that we made the right decision for our family.
What are the next steps? We’re not sure. For now, we remain in my beloved hometown where we’ll stay for awhile as we consider our options. For those of you reading this who are praying people, I would be so grateful if you would pray for my family as we pick up the pieces of this complicated puzzle, and attempt to regain some sense of normal life. We are sad, yet happy. Disappointed, yet hopeful. Most of all, we are learning to trust God for all that we cannot see right now.