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Leaving Utopia
by Tammy McConnell
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Leaving Utopia

The kids have already been through the ringer, but they don’t look at it that way. We’re treating our circumstances like the adventures that they are. Last winter, right before Christmas, we made a move to Missouri. My son had a severe skin condition and the medications had stopped working. His asthma was bad, triggered by the cold, damp Upstate New York climate.

We could have stayed. He was receiving four nebulizer treatments every day to control the asthma. The topical ointments intended to relieve his skin condition, four different kinds, were being applied several times a day and had started waning in effectiveness. The next step was UVB treatments three times a week at a $20 co-pay for each visit to the doctor’s office. Not only was the monetary sacrifice not feasible (although I would have done it if it were my only choice), but taking all five of my children to the doctor’s office three times a week for a 30 second treatment just didn’t sit right with our schedule. We’re a homeschooling family, which is a blessing when life gets in the way. Our schedule is totally flexible.

We could have stayed. My kids had grown up in our suburban home. They knew all the neighbors and were close to quite a few of them. We were active in our church, which was small, but this wasn’t a negative for us. It’s small size allowed relationships to flourish. On the other hand, it was terribly hard to leave it. I’m a “dig your heels in” type of homebody. When we first moved into this perfect neighborhood, I vowed that I would never leave. After 7+ years… it’s still hard to believe that we left it behind.

I still have vivid memories to carry with me, but they don’t weigh anything. They’re not a burden, but a propeller pulling me along the path and reminding me that memories are a continual creation.

I’m not bitter. “Circumstances” have opened a door to a different path for us. I told you that we were active in our church, which doesn’t always equal a close nurturing relationship with the Creator. But, in this case it does. We made our move according to God’s will. I like to equate this endeavor with Abraham, whom God told to move to an unknown distant land and Noah, whom God commanded to build a very large boat in his back yard. Against all odds and at the expense of much comfort and security, we forged ahead. My gut reaction to the idea of uprooting my family and leaving our Utopian existence was not as totally devastating as you might expect. Although I didn’t come through it totally unscathed, my Lord gave me comfort and guidance through it all. And the assurance that He was the “Man with the plan” was enough fuel for me to get there on.

On the up side, our move had many positive results. My son’s skin condition completely disappeared, in the absence of all medication! My oldest daughter met the man that she feels the Lord wants her to spend the rest of her life with. My (homeschooled) children had a wonderful history/geography lesson, and discovered that a “big” church has much to offer smaller children. My husband realized his dream. We lived in “tornado alley” during tornado season. He intends to start a chase tour business someday. The milder climate and the very notion that we CAN go somewhere else in this world, opened several doors, not just for us…but for our children. We were forced to entertain other possibilities that we were previously unaware of. We may have known what our options could be, but were oblivious to the likelihood of them coming to fruition.

Funny how things take a turn, just when you start to become settled. I was once again digging my heels in and settling into the security of our new surroundings. I finally had the furniture arranged in just the right sequence. I knew where to find everything in the kitchen and we had started to find our “routine”. Irony dictates the disallowance of such tranquility. So it should not surprise you when I reveal the next installment of this account…SPIDERS! Brown recluse spiders are dangerous, poisonous and can wreak major havoc with the tissues that form your skin and flesh. They can cause such damage to a person that sometimes amputation or death is the result of a bite. Having five children, four of them under the age of ten, our first priority as parents is their safety and well-being. Maybe if the tally were contained to our shed-dwellers, we might have stayed. Much to our chagrin, they were inside the house too. We found them straggling along the door jams just above our daughters’ bedroom entrance…in broad daylight! We found them in the dishwasher and under a towel tossed carelessly on the bathroom floor. The word recluse in their name indicates that they normally hide. They don’t live where people live. But these did. I think just for good measure, two black widow spiders were thrown in there. We found one crawling on top of the dishes in the sink. A steady stream of straight bleach alleviated my fears for the moment. I later discovered he was probably a male black widow because he had traveled so far away from a web. Male black widows do not bite, according to my internet research. Another surfaced in our basement near the laundry room prompting us to make a decision.

We stayed up very late that night, hashing out all the details, trying to make sure that we made a cautious decision. It would affect all of our children and their friends, my husband’s employer, our church, friends, family members and possibly our son’s health. A lot was at stake. If we made the wrong choice here, someone could suffer.

Our 17 year-old daughter was already employed at a nearby daycare center and had recently completed her high school studies. She had entered into a relationship with a nice young man from our church shortly after we arrived in Kansas City and the word “marriage” had entered our conversations more than once. How could we ask her to leave all that behind? The course of her life was just beginning to take shape.

It was 3:00 am on a weekday. We had finally arrived at what we believed to be the only possible solution to our agonizing predicament. Knowing that she had to rise early for work, we woke our daughter to apprise her of our decision, as it affected her more than the other children. As soon as the next business day dawned, we would make the phone call that would decide once and for all what course of action we should take. I prefer to think of it as confirmation rather than a sign. After careful, prayerful consideration…we decided to move back to New York. The phone call that I just spoke of was to my husband’s previous employer. They would be happy to have him back, even pay for our moving expenses.

“But, what about your son”, I hear you say, “and his skin condition?” “How can you do that to your daughter? She’s just starting out. How can you make her go back to New York now?” Here is where I must tell you that we are the creation of a compassionate God. He knows our hearts and expects our obedience. He does reward obedience, in more ways than one. Obedience requires faith. We had plenty of that…maybe that’s all we had, but it was enough. The 3 am conversation with our daughter was a turning point for our relationship. It was our way of letting her go (grow). I knew this day would have to come eventually. I have four other children. It will come for all of them too. We were moving back without her.

It’s Christmas time again. We have now been in New York for four months; a 45 minute drive from our previous residence here. The house in Missouri hasn’t sold, my son’s skin condition has just recently reared it’s ugly head, and his asthma is back with a vengeance. It would appear to most, that we made the wrong choice. I don’t see it that way. I’m convinced that God wanted us to be here, albeit temporarily, for several reasons. I had no doubt in my mind that a move to milder climates would allow my son to heal completely. The part I had trouble embracing was the “why”. What was his skin reacting to here? Was it something in our home (we moved in when he was three months old)? Was it the weather? Maybe the water was the culprit. Maybe a combination of a few or all of these factors contributed to his condition. Whatever the case, I was not convinced that such a drastic move (five states away from family and lifelong friends) was absolutely necessary. Now I am sure that it was. The Lord knew I needed that confirmation.

Another move is in the future for us. My children look forward to it with awe and excitement. They don’t see the hours of packing and planning that are required. They just know that we’re going to yet another new and mysterious place; another state with different history, landmarks, lakes, rivers, buildings and monuments to explore. I am leaving Utopia for a second time; with the assurance that this IS what the Lord would have us to do…it IS His will. That knowledge makes for an easier pill to swallow. Why do I have to leave Utopia? Because He said so.

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