A Periodic Gross Family Update…with some confessions.

How long has it been since I did one of these? I have no idea. Probably it was before life got weird and 2020 started reading like a dystopian book series. Like most of you, the Gross family has undergone many changes, adaptations, reversals and transformations over the past two years.

The kid/school stuff is exhausting to even think about describing. How to say it–in just two years we’ve gone from two schools and one preschool; to one school virtually from home, Puerto Rico and across the country in a camper; to the pandemic-brick-and-mortar version of that same school which became an academic prison; to emergency end-of-year homeschooling; to applying to a private Christian school for next term. See what I mean? Exhausting.

What’s most exhausting about that, and sobering, is that I’m the one primarily making the decisions on my kids’ behalf, and one of the scariest privileges of being a parent is that God gives YOU, a flawed and sinful human being, the ability and RIGHT to do that for your kids. I take it seriously, hold it humbly, and often second guess myself and fret over whether I’m doing the “right” thing.

Fortunately, I have lived long enough to learn (and have been married to the King of Pivots long enough to know) that most decisions are not set in stone and very few paths are straight. Often it’s possible to change course and do something else, and if you parent with honesty, levity and humility, your kids learn how to pivot gracefully and forgive you readily for your mistakes. We have forced and coached our kids through so many shifts and modifications over the past two years that they have developed this amazing versatility and good humor, and have even taught me how to lighten up. I guess the patterns of our childhoods, the milestones and guideposts really do find their way back into our lives as parents, whether we try to avoid them, imitate them, or incorporate pieces of them into our own families.

What I bring from my childhood and my past into my present adult-parenthood is the adventure, the anticipation of something new that I can share with the people closest to me. If I were to be examined by a psychologist or just gossiped about by other women, they might say that I am afraid of sameness, afraid of being bored and that I’m not content with a simple life. Maybe that’s true. Maybe the constant change, the uprooting and moving and reinventing that I did as an Air Force kid my entire childhood and adolescence–figuring out who I was, who I wanted to be, where I fit in and always being unsure of any of those things fueled this wanderlust and need for excitement.

Or maybe God just had a path for me that branches out in vastly different directions and enables me to observe and recount and identify His love, His creative power, His sovereignty, His plan in so many different scenarios and places and cultures. Because in all the places I’ve lived and traveled, I’ve witnessed this strange dance and balance of differences and sameness in humanity, from complete strangers to my own children. Everyone searching for meaning, for significance, for recognition and achievement and security and LOVE. And when it all leads to the grave with nothing you can carry with you, what is the point of any of it unless there is Someone who can be praised for creating it all, Who has a reward for those who saw His purpose, those who lived for righteousness and holy love that cannot be shaken, that is full of security, steadfast, yet simultaneously exciting and breathtaking and new?

Bryan lost a job two months into COVID, putting him in the same club with so many Americans in our country who found themselves out of work in a struggling economy. But we had also been in that position before and seen the Lord provide, and when you have those Ebenezer stones of remembrance, it’s easy to trust and believe that God will actually provide–to put one foot in front of the other and do the next best thing. And that’s how Ichi was born. We are excited about the prospects and opportunities that Ichi is providing, the people God has brought into our lives through this project that began in Bryan’s head and now occupies our entire basement. However, we hold it loosely, because we know nothing is promised and although things are looking good today, we do have all of our eggs in a loosely woven, bouncy basket, and it could be tomorrow that they all roll out and smash at our feet on the ground.

So we carry them carefully, with a steady step, a loose grip, a heart of reverence and a gaze focused on eternity.

These are the things I’ve pondered this year through a pandemic, political shifts, financial uncertainty, career risks and changes in our family dynamic and schedule–in the walking through uncharted territory with the people God has planted beside me.

Bryan and I are still best friends, lovers, fighters, teammates. Life and work have made it very hard for us to have focused time and conversations, but fortunately we’ve created a pattern of date nights, a week away together each year, and prayer and prayer and prayer, and these things have saved and restored our marriage time and time again. We are passionate and tenacious, in both good ways and bad, but when the sun goes down (as long as B is in town and not traveling for work) we fall asleep holding each other, and I know that no matter what nightmares I have about being alone, as long as we are breathing, I will wake up and see his head on the pillow beside mine.

But my own head is often raging with personal battles–the daily sacrificing of my vanity as I see more spots, more wrinkles, more sagging, on the body and face I have lived with and have babied for years. Whether women will admit it or not, we reach a point where we wish we could go back in time and tell our younger self that she was in fact lovely, to appreciate what she has and not compare herself to other girls, to enjoy her youthful beauty, because when you see it start to fade in your 40s…it can be hard to watch. I fight temptation to pursue temporal, carnal things that are enticing but will inevitably leave me empty, and I constantly thank the Lord for His intervention in my foolishness, His loving diversions and protection. I see the window for attaining personal goals narrowing, and that was the hardest part for me in deciding to bring the kids home to finish the year homeschooling.

I had looked at this year as THE year–that I was going to complete a novel, volunteer, make a difference. And God, in His goodness and wisdom, has reminded me yet again that “many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). Nothing about this year played out the way I planned, and although I can clearly see God’s purpose and ways in the stripping away of my “free” time to accomplish some goals, I also know the learning and growing process He has for me is humbling and exposing, not really that pleasant, but deeply sacrificial and will be meaningful for my children when they are old enough to fully grasp what I did in removing them from their school and bringing them home to finish the year. The novel I had gotten halfway through, that I was determined to finish this year is now inching farther down the list in the recently opened Google Docs, but it’ll keep. It’ll still be in the same spot, waiting on me to pick up where I left off when I come back to it.

Children don’t work like that.

I don’t know if any of what I have typed made sense. I usually try to button up my writing with a catchy summary phrase that will tie everything together, but that’s not the way the last years have gone. There hasn’t been much tidy about them–they’ve been messy, but impactful, nerve-wracking and glorious. Huh. That’s exactly how my favorite Bible stories go, almost like they were organized to go that way by Someone who knows what He’s doing. That’s what I’m going to believe anyway.

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