We will always remember Ellie for her love for others, her creativity, sensitivity, and delight in life! Ellie's light has spread far and wide... may it continue to shine in our hearts.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Change is in the air...

This past month has been rather draining for me for a couple of reasons. Partly, I have been just recovering from the emotional toll that November and December took on me. But the other reason is that we have been grappling with some big decisions. Now that we have settled on a plan, I believe that the time is right to share it.

We have decided to move back to Florida. There is something startling about reading it there in black and white! I've been practicing it, and thinking it, and imagining it... but now that I write it, I feel a bit woosey.

I remember writing to you about our decision to move out to Montana, and later, about our decision to settle in here. I believe that I mentioned that we did not know what God had for our future - whether this would be where we would live long term. We just knew that we needed to come. And plan to stay.

One of the most difficult things for me when we began to talk about the possibility of returning to Florida, was wondering how we could have been so certain that this was where God wanted us, only to go back. I was afraid that it meant that our decision to come was somehow wrong. I really struggled with that. The more that I think about it, the more I know how right it was. As time passes, I feel like I'm emerging from a sort of fog. I look back and realize that our decision to move out here was made during Ellie's treatment, and in the midst of incredible stress. Ellie was our entire reason for being here. I believe with all of my heart that we needed to be here for her. We had no idea how quickly Ellie would die, but once she was gone, we knew that we could not pull up stakes and move. That would not have been good for Ethan or for our whole family. In the midst of our grief, to move would have been unthinkable. So our decision to stay was made during a time of intense emotional pain. We needed to be here for us. I was talking with a friend recently, and she mentioned how the Bible mentions letting a field lie fallow for a year. That is how this past year has felt for our family. It has been a "nothing" year. I can't even tell you how important this year of rest has been for us. It has been a year where nothing has needed to be accomplished. Where putting one foot in front of the other and getting through the day could count as a success. It has been a gift from God.

You know, back in December, I talked about the magical "one-year mark" after a person loses a loved one. I still believe that there is no point in time at which the grief stops or even lessens. But I have come to understand why our culture places (or at least used to place) significance on the one year milestone. I believe that this is the time when the fog begins to roll back. You sort of lift up your head to see that there is a whole world out there. There are other people who exist in this world. There is the rest of your life left to live. This realization brings with it an incredible amount of pain because you feel your loss even deeper. John has told me that he feels "stunned" because he realizes that this is forever. Ellie is never ever coming home. The point when the fog lifts is the moment when you actually see the rest of your life stretched out ahead of you without one of your world's most precious joys. Sometimes what you see out on the horizon is beautiful, and sometimes it's terribly scary. But the point is that you can see. When you live in the fog, there is simply no visibility. Your whole world is confined to a radius of a few feet. There is a certain feeling of safety in that. Unfortunately (big sigh) we were not put on this earth to feel safe.

Now that you know that "what" of our big news, I will explain some of the "why". But first, I'm taking you on a little rabbit trail into my history. I promise, it will connect up to the main thread... eventually. :-) You can just chalk it up to getting one more piece of the complicated puzzle that is me!

I have always had a desire in my life to put down roots. Almost as far back as I can remember, we moved around. Our family moved all over the U.S. in training to become missionaries. When we finally ended up in Panama, we did not stay in one home for long. During those years, I went back and forth between the two dorms (one year here and another year there...), and visited my parents in the tribe during vacation. I learned during those years, that the house didn't matter as much as my "stuff". So I started a habit that has continued to this day. I bring my stuff with me, and set up a "base camp." If the furniture is arranged to my liking, and my things are around me, then it is home. (Some of you may remember the insane amount of set-up I would do with Ellie in the hospital or Ronald McDonald House.) When we got married, we moved about 10 times in the first 10 years. I remember one time when I did the math, I figured out that I had lived in about 30 different houses in as many years. I have jokingly referred to myself as a nomad, but I have to admit that there is a good bit of truth in that statement. Still, I'm a nomad with a desire for roots. Every time we move, I think that it's permanent. I settle in as if it's going to be the home that I will die in. I think, more than planning for the future, for me it's about living in the moment. In the moment, wherever I am, it feels permanent. Does that make sense? (It made sense in my head.)

When Ethan was one, and Ellie was five, we bought a house. We were so excited to own our own home! We had lots of work to do, as the house was built in 1949, and still had it's original (and run down) thimble-sized kitchen. It even came with it's own pink shag carpet which had obviously been oh so chic when it was put down in 1960-something. We were delighted to find the original hardwood floors, waiting for a little TLC, hidden beneath all that faded carpet. With lots of help from family, our little home turned into a beautiful and comfy spot to settle. Among other things, we painted over the bright pink shutters and door (shudder).

When we moved to Montana, we planned on leaving that house behind. We hoped that it would sell, but in the meantime we rented it out. Unfortunately, the market turned and we now owe more on the house than we can sell it for. I know that so many people all over the country are in the same boat. Sadly, we are now in the position where we have only two options open to us... go back to Florida and save the house, or stay here in Montana and let the house foreclose. Given the uncertain nature of the economy these days, we believe that the wisest decision we can make is to return to our house in Florida.

How will this all play out?

John plans on leaving in the middle of February, and driving our car back to Floria. John's dad and brother-in-law have kept the lawn business active, just not up to full capacity. They have enough work to take up about a day and a half of work per week. John will work on getting more properties to maintain so as to work full time. March is a very good time to be there because that is usually when things start growing with a vengeance in Florida, and people begin to look for someone to mow their lawns. Unfortunately, people everywhere are falling on hard times, and it is not likely that finding work will be as easy as it has been in the past. But that is another reason why John wants to get a head start.

The plan is for Ethan and me to stay behind in Montana until Ethan finishes kindergarten in May. This is the most difficult part of the plan. We are really sad that it has to be this way, but every time we re-work the plan, it comes back to this. We just don't believe that it's a good idea to switch schools on Ethan in the middle of this year. Kindergarten is so foundational in the learning process, and while we have a wonderful school for him in Florida, the curriculum is different from the one here. We don't want to risk any gaps in Ethan's first year of learning. We are trying to hold everything loosely at this point, though. If John gets to Florida and we find that this separation is just way too traumatic for Ethan, then we can go to plan B. Staying somewhat settled here in Montana until the summer is also a good idea in case something unforeseen happens that changes our direction and we end up not moving. We don't anticipate that as a real probability, but anything is possible.

This was truly a difficult decision. We were equally torn in both directions, and the thing that tipped the scales was the fact that this seems like the wisest financial decision that we can make. We are asking God to close the doors if we should not move, but for now they all seem to be opening.

We would really appreciate your prayers over these next months. I dread the separation from John, particularly for Ethan. We really hate to do this to Ethan again. We will also be apart on our 15th anniversary - we've never been away from each other on our anniversary. I do know in my head that it's just another day, like any other day. (My heart feels like beating my head up when I talk like that. But my head is pretty tough... she can hold her own in a fight. The heart can be such a whiner at times, but over the years the head has learned to silence her with one stern look. There are rare occasions, however, when the heart sneaks up on her logical twin and clobbers her with a baseball bat. John will tell you that such moments are unpleasant and when they happen, innocent bystanders long for an invisibility cloak. The fallout is not pretty. Sorry, I just snatched you up and took you on a sudden flight of fancy!) John will have a lot of work ahead of him to do all that he wants to do to prepare for our coming in June. He needs to drive out there and buy a truck (ironic that we just sold the truck) and then try to get as much business as possible. He will also be painting the house before we get there. When Ethan is out of school, John will fly out here and pack us up in a U-Haul and drive us back to Florida.

Another cause of some anxiety for me is that I will need to get a full time job once Ethan starts first grade. I haven't worked outside of the home for over ten years, and I'm just not sure what to expect... The whole process is scary for me, but I'm also sort of looking forward to it. I just don't know what's out there. If you know of anyone in the Orlando area who's looking for an artistic free spirit with a high school education who can type 65 WPM and loves Jesus, just let me know! How's that for a unique skill set? I would also love a job where I could dress up a little (you know I really am that vain) but I do realize that beggars can't be choosers. John says that I can say that I've been the general in a small war. (I don't guess I'd need to say that I was a rather meek little general...) It sure would be nice if life experience counted for something. I do have that in spades! In the meantime I will be honing (and perhaps editing) my resume a bit. :-)

Well, that's the scoop. The whole idea of leaving and all of the change that goes along with it has me feeling sad. Decorating the house in my head does help with that, and I'm excited about seeing friends and family in Florida. It's hard feeling like we are in limbo once again. I don't feel like I'm here anymore, but I'm not there either. Mostly I just want to crawl into bed and put the covers over my head. I've felt like that all month. This too shall pass...

Thanks once again for being here. For waiting patiently for me to get my thoughts together. For caring. Will you join us on our next adventure?

In other news... did you know that this post is number 400? I thought that was kind of cool!


At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go get 'em tiger!!!!
You can and will!

At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Jen Johnson said...

Sarah.....I just talked to you, so I am pretty sure that you can type more than 65 wpm! You are an amazing woman with a heart of gold. I hope that you find peace today, having shared your thoughts openly. If not, enjoy the comfort from underneath the covers for just a bit more!
Love ya!

At 1:05 PM, Blogger Amy said...

Wow! I know Tricia will be thrilled. I'll be praying.

At 4:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sarah - For those of us here in Florida we will be so happy to have you here, but I can only imagine how hard it is for you to move again. We keep praying for all of you and will during these upcoming months of transition. Thanks for sharing your heart once again with us as I know it must not always be easy.
we love you all,
Karyn K

At 6:35 PM, Blogger LindaSueBuhl said...

Let's see - life constantly changes - every minute just when you think aha I've got it in my hand - it changes and crawls, slides, flutters or dribbles off in a different direction. Dear Sarah and John and Ethan - you are learning very well - nothing but forever is forever. There I'm done trying to sound as if I had some wisdom to share. I agree with the scariness of it and rejoice in the "feels right" part of it and LOVE the financially sound thinking part of it. Hooray for the Skees family - never ever ever dull.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

I can't tell you just how excited I am that you'll be back here!

You wrote that "It has been a "nothing" year." I remember over last New Year's you hoped you'd have a "boring" year ahead - I prayed that last year would be "boring" for you. :)

I don't know if you know this, but we may be moving to Ray's mom old house, which is about the size of your Florida house - less than half the size of what we're in now & not in the most ideal location. The only part about moving that makes me really excited is the thought of decorating!

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Allison said...

I was so glad to see a new post from you today. I will keep you in our prayers. I know the feeling of having not worked and the thoughts of getting back out into the working world is kind of weird to think about. I have stayed home for the past 6 years and often wonder when my youngest is in kindergarten will I go back. Thanks for the update. I also wanted to tell you that I am the one that won the elephant picture of Ellie's anyways over Christmas, my girls played bingo at grandmas and my oldest daughter won this little statue of an elephant and when we got home she stuck it up on the computer desk right by Ellie's picture. She said "mom doesn't this looks so great right by her picture, it looks just like it. Then she said, she did a really good job drawing that." God Bless and I'll keep praying.

At 11:21 PM, Anonymous Lauren said...

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us all... my prayers are definitely with all of ya'll.


At 8:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the one year thing after one's passing has to do with all the "first time without" that person. While you will never truly be without some sadness the "firsts" have now been put behind you.
Praying for you and your family.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Mollie said...

Wishing you guys all the best as God opens doors (and possibly windows) along your path ahead. Maybe you should add to your skill set being a passionate patient advocate? Thank you for sharing yet again what could not have been easy!

At 6:24 PM, Anonymous themclauclins said...

Sarah & John, I know this was a very tough decision to make. However.. the first thought I had was, "Oh no.. they have to move that couch again!" :D
We will be sad to see you go, as we have enjoyed getting to know you more over the past year. Thankfully we have means of keeping in touch!
Our prayers and thoughts are with you as you navigate another transition from chapter to chapter in your families' adventures.
With much love,
Angela & Derrick and boys

At 5:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, how my heart resonated with your story regarding your decision about whether or not to move and what that means!!
Praying that God will give you peace about this decision and I do know that He will go before you...

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Sarah,
Hope your move goes well - and that God will continue to lead & bless as He leads! :) Maybe you & John can celebrate your 15th twice - once in Montana before you separate - and then in FL when you reunite, as God allows. I'm all about celebrating & 15 is quite an accomplishment! Congratulations to you both! Love to all of you! Tabitha

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Absolutely I am up to following the next adventure!!! I think you follow God's lead and when it changes..you follow...
Wishing you the best...praying for clear direction and open doors! les

At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am praying for you all with the decisions and the action that it will take if God is indeed opening the doors for your family to move.

I am an MK too, but unfortunately I do the opposite of you. If I don't think I will be some place long, I don't bother to set things up. One of the key things for me is putting my husband's photography on the walls. It is the first thing that goes up when I am settling in and the first thing that comes down when we are moving again. I think there is a lot of value in setting up and living in the moment like you do, and I am trying to be more active in doing that myself.

I am praying very specifically for finances for you and Ethan to be able to spend a weekend in FL with John during your anniversary!

Thanks for your sharing and thoughts on the move. You can count on our prayers.


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