When a Family of 5 Goes Rogue

3/29/17


We write our way into writing, my friend Laura says.

So I trust that if I just start hacking away at these cold keys, something's going to come of it.

It is with great joy, anticipation, and gratitude that my family and I announce we are moving back to Denton, Texas this summer. Making this move to Iowa in 2015 was our third marital attempt at leaving Texas, and danggit if it seems we just can't quit her after all. This whole Midwest experiment has only solidified the importance of Place in my finite understanding of the world, and it's a topic I'll likely write more about in the future. We are Texans at heart, it would seem, and maybe we're more loyal than we gave ourselves credit for.

But even though we both spent most of our lives in Texas, and even though Eric's parents still live there (and I don't have to explain to you the treasure that is grandparent proximity when you have three kids), I don't think we would be returning at this point if we hadn't spent the last 2 years of our Texas days in Denton.

Denton is 30 miles north of Dallas, if you're wondering, and is a smallish town despite the fact that there are two universities there (Eric got his Master's at UNT). My dad maintains that it's the ugliest place on earth, but she's a beaut to us. She's home.

We're returning to the Catholic Worker community in Denton that we loved so deeply during our time there. (You may remember that it was based out of our home for about a year, which holds some of the truly best memories of my life.) When Eric graduated, the option of staying was a tempting one but he couldn't find a full time job in the area and we desperately felt we needed life to be stable for a while. We had been through the ringer as a family and needed a soft place to land. Iowa has more than stepped up to that plate.

Our life here is precious. While it took Eric some time to get into the groove of his job, it's now one he has come to love. In addition to the ministry aspect that fills his cup, it's flexible and accommodating of family life. Alyosha's public school is phenomenal. Our parish is bursting with young families to be friends with. Our priest loves our children, and they can feel it. (The loss of that brings tears to my eyes as I type.) Our nearly 100 year old home suits us perfectly. We walk downtown or to school multiple times a week for much of the year. There's even a Catholic Worker farm outside of town.

It is the closest to a "perfect" life that I've ever pictured for us. And I am convinced that it was the goodness of God that led us here.

But I'm equally as convinced that we're not meant to stay forever.

Do we have the choice? Oh certainly. For the weeks that we prayed fervently about the next year, we felt assured in our spirits that either moving or staying would be good. There was no wrong choice, and we could make beautiful lives for ourselves in either location. But in our heart of hearts, we also sensed that there was a certain fullness of Life for us in Denton that would be very difficult to create here.


In Denton we were folded in to the beauty that had begun there long before our arrival. Community had already been forged between college students, the homeless, the voluntarily poor, the mentally ill, the farmers. Literally all we had to do was jump in. And we did. And who can return to the typical American dream after that? There has been a hole in our hearts here in Iowa that we haven't found a way to fill. No matter what we tried to get involved in here, it wasn't the same. It wasn't our people. It wasn't our home. And maybe, for all our wonderings and wanderings, that is simply how the Lord speaks to us.


This summer our family of 5 is going rogue. We're moving back to the Catholic Worker community, prepared to be the root system that it's needed. Eric is my hero for walking away from a comfortable, satisfying, meaningful full time job and embracing the stigma our culture assigns to a man who offers his family an uncertain future. He and I will both be working part time jobs so that we can BOTH truly invest in the work of hospitality for others, as well as the rearing of our own children.

Speaking of the boys, they have not been overlooked in this decision. Far from it. In addition to getting more time with their dad, they will also be surrounded by their godparents (both official and of the heart) who love them as well as a human being can be loved. They will grow up with people who are living out their faith in radical ways, and that will be their normal. They will be accustomed to things that are still surprising to us: being friends with people who sleep in tents by the river, being given gifts that people find in dumpsters. We will keep them safe, be sure of that, but we aren't orienting our life around safety. We believe that giving them a faith that extends beyond church walls is the best thing we could ever do for them. This kind of faith is the reason we're Catholic. Frankly, it's the reason we're Christian. If we can't impart to them the truth that the image of God is borne in all people, and that the Gospel destroys walls and social hierarchies, then what kind of faith are we teaching?



Will we be poor? Well it depends on your definition of the word but to some extent and by our cultural standards, yes. We are choosing to shed the privilege we were born with and dare to imagine a different kind of world than one of looking out for our own and climbing imaginary ladders. We will share radically, but make no mistake, we will be the recipients of others' sharing too, because sharing is the culture of the community. I have no doubt that we will have everything we need.

What will we do? We're committed to taking it slow. For the first year we will give ourselves room to find our way. We will rejoin the weekly potlucks in the park that a modge podge of people attend. We will soak up the weekly Lectio Divinia prayer times and have daily house prayer too. Our roommate will start a garden, and we will learn from her and hopefully feed people from the wealth of it. We will be a home of welcome to the stranger, to the one in need, especially mothers and children. We simply are looking to BE in the world: to be good neighbors, good friends, to live with arms wide open to those who feel their need acutely, and to be transparent about our own need for others. We will discern as we go what our long-term charism is, and we trust that God will lead us where He wants us to go.

Will I still be writing? You bet. You can't get rid of me that easily. I imagine I'll have a thing or two to say. *wink*

Thank you for traveling with us spiritually. Thank you for your prayers and well-wishes. Thank you to my newsletter subscribers who got the news over the weekend and responded with such joy for our family. It's an honor to walk with you.

Shannon

*I have installed a "donate" button on the sidebar that links straight to my PayPal if you want to make a donation to our work of hospitality. No pressure, ever, but it's there if you're interested.*

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)

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