Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
Not long after the grandchildren came to live with us, a fellow writer asked me how I was going to manage with so many irons in the fire. What would I give up? That’s a tough question. I have devoted much of my life to the care of others, shelving the things I wanted to do with my career and life. He was right, though, something had to go.
First, I dropped the work requiring travel. I worked locally, but, also, traveled to training events in other states. I wasn’t doing a lot of travel at the time, so this one didn’t hurt as much when I took it off my plate. I do miss my travel training family, though.
Over the two years prior to the arrival of our grands, I’d begun speaking at conferences and retreats. These occurred on weekends, so I backed off of them, too. That one did hurt because I’d spent two years developing those connections. My work had just begun to pay off. I will occasionally take a speaking opportunity. I just need to limit the numbers, and they don’t surface on their own, usually. You have to market yourself. That’s really what I stopped doing–marketing myself.
A few months later, I stepped away from our local technical college after fifteen years of developing and conducting training workshops for their continuing education department. This had been my primary source of income, but after changes in management the year before, I went from averaging eighty hours a month with them to less than eight hours. I hated giving that one up, but when you block out dates on your calendar for someone who always cancels on you or gives the work to someone else, it’s time to step away. On a side note, I did return to working for them last November but not at the same volume as before.
You might wonder what I did with my time. I still have several training clients. One of them, an e-training company called Bigger Brains, began to show large increases in business, so it filled the gap while allowing me the freedom I needed with the children. This company pays residuals, so I earned money while I wasn’t in the studio filming, a definite bonus.
God did provide other work for me, too. I began to get referrals from some of my clients, but, yes, I did back off of a lot of work and income. I had to.
Why? When you bring two children into your home, there’s so much to do.
We had to get them enrolled in school. In Amari’s case, I had to find a good daycare for him and get him lined up for testing for learning disabilities with the school district. I looked at nine pre-schools before picking one. God moved in that decision, too. The one I picked, the perfect one for us, had just opened the month before. They didn’t have a sign posted in front of their building or an obvious web presence, so I learned about them from a neighbor. Even then, it took a few days to connect with the owner and visit the facility. It wasn’t the least expensive…or the most expensive, either, but it was the right one for Amari. He still talks about it even though he’s not attended since he started regular school. As for the testing, that took time to set up, to take him to the testing facilities, and to evaluate what he needed. He’s come a long way since then. He has an IEP (Individual Education Plan), and currently is making straight A’s in the second grade.
This change in living arrangements affected the children probably more than us. That meant I had to find a counselor for them, not an easy task when one of them is four. Most counselors wouldn’t take them until they were six. It took a few months, but we found a woman who works with younger children. The kids love her, so even though they’re older now and her office is forty-five minutes from here, we continue to see her.
Don’t forget the legal issues! We had to jump through hoops in another state in order to gain legal custody of the children, a process that took several months, and even then, we only received temporary custody. Meanwhile, we paid out of pocket for medical care. Since Victoria takes an ADHD medication, we spent a lot of money on prescriptions before we received custody . Before you ask, yes, we applied for Medicaid, but they didn’t respond to our application until months after we gained temporary custody. By then, our insurance covered the children.
What else? You name it. There was a lot going on. It took a huge hunk of my time and money.
So, I gave up a lot.
Bruce and I gave up a lot, too. We gave up our plans to go to Africa this year for our anniversary, something we started planning for five years ago. Who would watch the children while we did that? We can’t use our money the way we planned to either. Our retirement plans changed from what they were five years ago.
It’s not what we planned on, but we have two beautiful treasures who need us. They bring life and energy to our home. They’ve introduced us to people we’d never meet otherwise. The circle of people in our lives grows larger, not smaller. Most importantly, they’re getting a chance at a decent life because of us. Victoria makes me laugh. Amari gives me cuddles and winks. We have our rituals, our traditions. It’s far different from what we imagined for ourselves at this point in life.
I have to remind myself that God never promises us an easy life. This world is not our home.
But, if I’m being honest, it’s hard to focus on that when your world shifts on you in such a drastic way. The situation is not dire. It’s just not what we planned.