I’ve been having a rough go, been beating myself up…you probably know the drill, been there before and all that. We all experience ups and downs and in-betweens in life. This time, though, the reason for feeling beaten down is external BS. Now, if you know anything about me, I typically turn a deaf ear to naysayers and malcontents, but recently I allowed some words to ninja kick my brain into a penumbra of uncertainty and self-doubt.
I guess I was prime for abuse. I’ve the proprietary rights to some pretty hefty stresses and my shoulders are fatigued from the holding. I’m vulnerable and woundable. Weakened from strain. And so the devil got in and twisted everything. He rabidly and tempestuously wreaked havoc on my psyche. But, as a faithful Catholic, I found myself at mass on Sunday, and then I found myself in confession, and it is now 27.5 hours later and I’m seeing the light.
Maybe I’m not supposed to share any aspect of confession with y’all, but I’m compelled to inform you that my penance was to think of 10 instances of Grace from God. (This penance, in itself, was Grace!) In other words, things that cannot be traced back to me and my effort. True gifts of grace. I left. No need to sit in the pew, this I could do from anywhere. To give you an idea of where my mind was, I couldn’t think of anything outside my 12 kids and my husband. 13 instances of grace. Done. However, my mind, the source of my emotions, wouldn’t let me off that easy. I pushed. I ruminated all day and all night … literally. Now, just now, I had the epiphany. The source of afflictions was actually one of the jewels of … Grace!
God gave me my children. Grace.
He transposed ideas that I was compelled to follow, notions I had neither encountered nor experienced, nor knew anything about. Grace? I believe so. These tenets, or canons, as I’ve come to view them, were so foreign to me, they could only come from God.
The first was to move across the country to raise our kids in Colorado, the land of adventure, because suddenly I didn’t want my children to be city kids, especially my boys. I wanted them to be raised in the mountains. I was city, it was all I knew. We moved ourselves and 5 kids (in 7 years of marriage) across the great USA, by ourselves. Grace. Trapped we were not.
Then we stumbled upon kayaking. It metamorphosed our lives. Set us up for what was to come. For without the changes that occurred due to paddling, 1) homeschooling 2) departure from school sanctioned sports & activities 3) total emancipation from all popular schools of thought…without these 3 critical & central diversions, our vocations could never have been fulfilled as I believe they were meant to be. Grace!
Then, one day, 11 years after moving to the massifs, Dan called me from work and said, “Let’s get an RV.” An RV, I thought? No way. We aren’t RV people; luxury campers we are not. I even said as much to him. Proof positive God has a sense of humor given the RV we ultimately ended up purchasing! HA!
We called banks and attempted to get a loan. Dan was making good money, had great credit. We were declined, it wasn’t meant to be. Ok, not from God you may be thinking. Except 9 months later, after taking a 20% pay cut, and his credit suffering because of this significant decrease in income, we were approved for a loan! There is no rational explanation for a bank lending us money then, as they did, when only months prior in the height of our financial glory, we were declined. Grace! He was laying the foundation.
We took some short trips in the RV to ID, to WY, to MT and then we embarked on a cross country trip to TN. It wasn’t easy, I was very pregnant, I had 11 kids, 18 & Under, I homeschooled them, and Dan worked remotely. I don’t need to go into the difficulties, parents everywhere can imagine. Rainy days in the East were sheer hell and Springtime in the Southeast is very very wet. It was our first experience of “living” in the RV for an extended amount of time and the learning curve was huge. As difficult as it was, a hectic as it was, as contentious as it was, it was equally stimulating, innovative and enjoyable. On the way home, we all were dejected by the idea it was over. I actually uttered the words, if you know me, you know I was under some Divine glee, “Why don’t we just keep going?” Grace or insanity. I call Grace.
“The Kellogg family of Glenwood, Colo., would like to remind us that “work” and “life” are not the same words. They discovered that simple truth when they were on vacation last year and decided to do something that most of us only dream about: They bid goodbye to car pools and work cubicles, sold their house and bought an RV.
A lot of folks do that when they retire, but Dan and Susie Kellogg still have kids at home. Enough to field a football team.”
Then my favorite lines of the whole piece …
“They left their mountain home with little more than expectations and hope. This is the kind of family who would have been first in line on the Oregon Trail; they would have fit right in with the folks in covered wagons. The Kellogg’s set off for the same reason the pioneers did: Freedom — from ordinary lives.”
Grace! I mean seriously. Who can do this? Most people are ensnared in their jobs, their lives. Bob Dotson saw this. His words were heartfelt. It’s not easy to start anew, but Dan and I, we did it over and over, constantly following what was put in our hearts. To say we were sequacious, is an understatement. Our raison d’etre was to surrender to God. Grace!
As we evolved and embraced the necessary minimalism that must accompany a fulltime RV existence, we shed our dependence on material things and our focus was solely on faith, family and adventure. Grace!
We struggled financially, as all families do at one point or another, but we learned to suffer well, to persevere through trials. Grace!
We fought, we battled, but we learned to communicate in a more moralistic manner. We became exceptionally tight as siblings, spouses … as a family. Grace!
The education provided to us via 7 years of near fulltime travel was far and above anything a classroom could offer. It was not an intellectual, traditional education, it was, rather, education on life. Our kids shed the dependency on things of the world. “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” Proverbs 16:16 – Grace!
Is this the goal of higher education? Or is it to gain prestige? No degree can touch what our family discerned in those years. In fact, one could argue that a degree would counter everything God sought to teach us. A degree puts faith and reliance on man. A degree necessitates great amounts of money. A degree comes with baggage. Baggage like identity politics and political correctness. There is very little education, rational dialogue and reasoned argument. Studies are narrow and biased distortions of liberal, diabolical nonsense. The campus life is morally toxic and aims to corrupt the young. Yet, we as a society continue to beg these institutions to accept our children.
I graduated college with a double major (English and Political Science) and a Minor (Philosophy). Dan went to college but did not see the ROI. We are both products of this mind set. To turn away from it was not of our own thinking. I remember being enraged when, as a young mother of many many kids, I was told no way could we afford “all those kids”. College is expensive. We’d have to be millionaires. Turns out, those scoffing parents of ours were right. No way can anyone in today’s world, with today’s expectations, and today’s costs, afford 12 kids on one income. But for God. Grace!
It’s bewildering, phenomenal really, to look back on all of life, from meeting my soul mate to falling in love, to being open to life and to all the decisions that mark our life. Some easy, some predictable, others so foreign to our way of life, to what we knew as to be preposterous. But when viewed as a whole, it is impossible to disregard the undeniable truth that God Himself was with us and leading us every step of the way. All we had to do was say “Yes”. This overabundance of blessings, this infused Grace saved us from ourselves, really.
So, how many Grace’s was that? 16, and I’m just getting started. For an underachiever, like myself, that’s an unprecedented climax.
And for fun, check this video out!!