A Community Companion: on Influence


We knew when we moved to the apartments that we were signing up to shirk a few expectations laid down for us by our culture, but I had NO IDEA how much this community would be a part of such change in our lives. When I took a break from blogging, I would have laughed my face off to know what I would come back here to share.

The Scene in my Heart: There have always been women in my life who have taken on things like the adoption of older children, multiple childbirths, or an attitude of complete servitude toward their husbands. I want a speck of what they have – but without all the work. These are always the women I wanted to be like in spirit, but I rarely felt “called” to be like them in so much as how they approach the culture. I wanted to live differently than our culture but still acknowledge my place in the culture so I can have relevant conversations with people who have different world-views and so that, GOD FORBID, I won’t ever ever ever have to homeschool my children or give birth so many times that I have to buy a church bus to hall my kids around.

Enter Community (a people tied in a thick knot who seems to take on certain attitudes as a group). These apartments are strange because it is a base for an amazing ministry designed to house and disciple college students through mentorship and intense Bible study. Much more goes into it, but this place mostly draws a certain crowd, though only a few are directly involved with this ministry. To live here is to support the ministry financially.

Enter the desperate feeling that my life is out of control. Moving here has been like buckling my soul into a rollercoaster, white-knuckling at first, and then finally sticking my arms straight into the sky, enjoying the free-fall. Granted, I do freak out from time to time and pitch little fits. I do dearly want to have my life planned out for myself. I usually think my plan is pretty darn good.

Enter Kindergarten, the day that I walked Isaac into a strange room with a bunch of nervous kids and a sweet teacher who gently stepped between me and my son, pulling him away so that we didn’t even hug. Isaac waved goodbye. I cried my way home. I wake my children up in the mornings to take him and wake them up from naps in the afternoon to pick him up. This makes for incredible grumpiness. We would sit like a truck of mad hens for at least an hour a day through traffic, drop-off, and pick-up lines.

Enter the Quiet, Completely Non-Judgmental Women that I watch daily. Their children play outside half the day with their siblings. They learn at home with individual attention to their needs. Their lives are a classroom. They are learning God.

To contrast, Isaac was coming home so exhausted that he would cry, but then he would still beg to play with his friends. If he played with friends, we wouldn’t see him at all. My influence in his life had dwindled to what he would eat through the day.

I did this for two weeks. That’s all it took, and then I remembered that I am a teacher, that I actually love to teach. I decided one evening, and the next day I ordered my curriculum. The next school day, I turned in an “Intent to Homeschool,” and Viola! I became a homeschool mom with not even an ounce of that being a part of my plan.

Oh, how I can’t believe it, and how I never ever ever want anyone here to think that how God is moving me is how you should be moved too. The goal of the women around me is not whatsoever to do with homeschool or community living. I believe, though, that their goal is to magnify God, to desire to see grace poured into the lives of their family members and into the lives of those they influence.

God works it out in different ways, but for now, this is one of the greatest things I’ve learned in this rare place: Christ-centered Community points in one direction, and in that direction, though it scares the poowaddle out of me, is great PEACE and unexplainable freedom.

And yes – surprise – the baby bug has invaded, and I can’t seem to get rid of it. Go figure. 3 plus 1 equals FOUR, probably all boys. Really, Amber? Unbelievable. You can confront me on all this when I start wearing bonnets and/or when TLC asks to follow me around with a camera, but until then, only blessings are in order. I’m too emotional for anything else.

*UPDATE* – I think I wasn’t very clear here in this post, so I just want to clarify that I am NOT pregnant right now that I know of. I simply have the baby bug. There’s not officially a baby bug already growing inside me. Thank you for all the good wishes, though!

amberhaines
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37 Comments

Erin
Reply September 20, 2010

well you have blessings from me. Homeschooling has been one of the greatest blessings for me. And I swore up and down I'd never do it. :)

    Amber
    Reply September 20, 2010

    Thank you, Erin!

    Seriously, it used to be that every time I heard someone say they were going to homeschool, I'd be so disappointed, like I was losing a member of my team. I have already sensed from a few close friends either judgment toward me, "concern," or a shift in their eyes, like an immediate wall went up with the expectation that I was going to judge them for sending their kids to public school. These were the things for which I didn't really prepare. Mostly, though, I'm encouraged, and if Seth thinks I can do it, then I believe that I can.

    He's really been good to me.

Amber
Reply September 20, 2010

PS - I've alluded here to the Duggars, with whom I've had the pleasure to spend a bit of time. Michelle Duggar is one of the greatest women I have ever observed. No matter anyone's opinion about their lifestyle, the spiritual fruit she bears is undeniable, and that's all I have to say about that.

Another thing: I've written about our adoption process for some time now, and I've shared that we canceled our adoption. This journey has been painful and surprising. I don't know that I'm ready to share about it. I do, however, know that we are to care for the orphans and the widows, and we are still in the process of asking God what that means for our family. We are willing, and we are waiting for God's direction and for an appointed time.

Jessica
Reply September 20, 2010

This is beautiful! Homeschooling is such a blessing to our family. I think it makes us a lot closer as a whole. I just had baby #4 & it's been very easy so far! She's only a week old, though.

Karen
Reply September 20, 2010

Congrats!

Joy
Reply September 20, 2010

Hey emotional one...

Just sending a big ole hug through the internets.

You writing this makes me think how I should write 'bout how I ended up in my 'here' that looks somewhat like your 'here'...and how poowaddle and everything, it's been an amazing free-fall ride.

I like you, swore I'd never be 'that' or 'this' and yet I find I am both 'that' and 'this' and it's where God has me landed smack dab right now, much to my abject shock, and yet, joy-

Oh hugs, hugs, hugs, and love to you, dear one. As Ann says, all is grace.

deidra
Reply September 20, 2010

It's all so beautiful. It's amazing what happens in community. Yes, the influence we have on each other. Community matters. It makes a difference. YOU make a difference.

Fiona
Reply September 20, 2010

Woohoo is all I'll say!! :-)

Denise
Reply September 20, 2010

I didn't have a sideways glance, just a lop-sided grin. Since moving to Ireland and getting 'opportunities' to explain what most have never heard of, my new catch phrase is, 'It works for our family.' You can borrow it if you like.

Jo@Mylestones
Reply September 20, 2010

Oh wow, I'm just so glad to *hear* from you. I've been wondering how your heart is holding up, and so very glad to see it spilled here, holding up just fine, even as best-laid-plans are torn to shreds and God spins us 180, until we're disoriented enough that we stop our own standing and just hold on to Him.
Love to you, friend.
Jo

Tammy@If Meadows speak...
Reply September 20, 2010

So great to get an update and what a beautiful one at that.

I wasn't going to homeschool. Nope, note me. Never. My personality couldn't handle it, right? Too undiscplined, too scattered, too social for homey stuff, too many to list. Until it happened. Something in me snapped and I actually desired to homeschool. Then I did and well, the rest is history. Even "worse", I'm actually enjoying it. Albeit some days are better than others, but overall enjoyed. Yes, yes, life is one big classroom when you're homeschooling. No longer am I able to leave it squarely on the school. I am the teacher and we are the class, pupils, teacher. A lifestyle adjustment but one I've grown to appreciate. Not all are called to it, and I for one, would've counted myself out. Blessings on your journey.

Adventures In Babywearing
Reply September 20, 2010

Amber! Hello... remember sweet Ivy? 4th child after 3 boys? You can call, we can talk.

I find it hilarious how I've stumbled on friends on the internet that live somewhere far from me but are basically living a life that mirrors mine painfully so. I am not there yethomeschoolyet but I am getting closer than I ever ever imagined.

Steph

Sara
Reply September 20, 2010

Congrats, Amber! We home school all four of our girls and it is an amazing adventure. Praying abundant blessings on your family!

LoraLynn
Reply September 20, 2010

No words here. Just a hug. And love.

Linda
Reply September 20, 2010

Blessings, multiplied blessings Amber. There is real joy in your words. I am so happy for you - for all of you!

Kelly Langner Sauer
Reply September 20, 2010

I'm with Steph - did you just poeticize a pregnancy announcement in your understated "this is my life" way? and if so - *squeeeaalll!*

I'm blink blink blinking at the screen, seconding everybody else, wishing for original words to say, and mostly, just wanting to give you a hug and see you for myself.

I'm stumbling into homeschooling too... I'm not so good at it, but mine is only three, so I've got lots of room for creativity.

Wow. SO good to hear from you again here...

emily
Reply September 21, 2010

I'm glad Stephanie brought up the pregnancy thing because I'm sitting here reading all the comments about homeschooling (so happy for you, btw - and I send mine to public school - no glancing away here, I promise :) but all I'm itching to find out is if those last few lines mean you're pregnant! Hurt me.

love you.

much.

    Amber
    Reply September 21, 2010

    Shoot! No. No. No. I'm not preggers. That I know. Yet.

    Ha! What is it with me? I can't keep a personal thought to save my life. It would be just like me to write it on my blog before I even tell my own Mama.

    Mama, I am not pregnant, but I do want to be.

Jolyn@Budgets are the New Black
Reply September 21, 2010

Two years ago -- one year ago -- I would have told you I could never homeschool. Now I'm planning to do it after we move cross-country, the exact time to be determined depending on when we sell our house...

I think homeschooling does feel like a better chance not to lose our children, though of course not all parents of public school children lose them... I even intend to start homeschooling my high schooler, who is a freshman now. I doubt myself on a regular basis -- usually when we're butting heads -- and he is less than keen on the idea, but the schools where we're going are so sub-par, I have that excuse to justify my position, when it's really so much more: this boy, is becoming a man, and he is not ready for the Big World. And I don't blame the schools, I blame myself. I left too much up to them, when I was knee-deep in diaper-changing and sleep deprivation with his younger siblings. I'm hoping the two of us will carve a better path for him that the flexibility of home schooling will allow. Where God and learning and teaching are not compartmentalized throughout the day, but seamless in our lives.

Good luck to you! And I, too, really want to know how viral that bug is. ;)

    Amber
    Reply September 21, 2010

    If I find out that I have a little Baby Haines #4, I'll let you guys know asap - right after I tell my Mama.

Jessica
Reply September 21, 2010

I am crying reading this. My little man just got on the bus. He was white as a ghost and said his tummy hurt. This has happened every day. He wants to stay at home with his little brothers. I am sick. I homeschooled my daughter for 2 years and it became a battle ground. I felt peace about sending them this year and now.....

I am so excited for yall Amber. What a journey.....

    Amber
    Reply September 21, 2010

    Jessica, I think the last thing we, our marriages, or our children need is a Mom in the shadow of the guilt cloud. I just want to encourage you to trust God to change your heart, give you a vision. Other than that, please don't beat yourself! Guilt, I think, is too noisy, when we need to be hearing from God. I do absolutely think that homeschool is right for our family right now, but no one could have told me that. It had to be God.

Jessica
Reply September 21, 2010

Jolyn, read Ann Voskamps post on a"" One Piece Life". It will bless you in your new adventure.

Emily
Reply September 21, 2010

It's really amazing how often your blog speaks to my heart about something that I've been needling God about for months. I decided to homeschool my son about 18 months ago, then balked at the last minute and got a job teaching religion at a high school instead. We managed to survive the first year, but after only a few weeks of this second year, I know we need to make a change. I know it...but didn't want to do what it takes to follow through with it. You've given me new resolve and new peace about it, so thank you.

And congrats about wanting to be pregnant again!

Jessica
Reply September 21, 2010

It was the same with me, both times. With beginning to homeschool ( I too, used to say NEVER) and then now sending them to school. They both came from out of nowhere... I am not struggling with guilt. I am struggling with sadness. When I sent my kids to school this year, it was to learn how to be DAUGHTER again. I was exhausting all of myself on mother and wife. I just miss my little man is all. I miss dirt digging and jammies all day.

    Amber
    Reply September 21, 2010

    I totally get that, Jessica. Yeah, I think we'll always miss that stuff. I love you, friend, what I know of you. I love that you're learning DAUGHTER again. We can't pursue anything better than that. I'm glad you said it.

    I really hope to do that, too. Sometimes it's easier to work hard instead, says all the Marthas of the world.

Jessica
Reply September 21, 2010

Thank you, Amber. Really...

To Think Is To Create
Reply September 21, 2010

OH lady. I caught that bug too. Trying not to let it terrify me.

We are in a similar mixed up no clue what God is doing place. It's so hard to put your arms into the air, isn't it? The free fall seems like it will suck you right out of the car and throw you into the deep somewhere.

I love reading you here, I love you. Praying for y'all. <3

We are THAT family
Reply September 21, 2010

Love your journey. Love your heart. Love that YOU'VE been bitten by the baby bug :)

Megan@SortaCrunchy
Reply September 21, 2010

Always, always, it's step by precarious step. It's His leadership and our response. Always, THAT is peace. It is, as Ann wrote at some point in the past few weeks, "This is the way, now walk in it." He has made straight a path for you.

"Christ-centered Community points in one direction, and in that direction . . . .is great PEACE and unexplainable freedom."
Now. THIS you wrote for me. You didn't know it. But you did. I read The Run a Muck through email so I didn't read this until this morning - after my husband I had a quick, standing in the kitchen before he walked out the door to work, sipping coffee and talking about what God had laid on our hearts this morning, and we stumbled into a discussion, an idea, a community gathering of quiet resistance to our culture, that invites the culture of the first century church to take up residence out here on the plains of Oklahoma.

So yes. In that sentence, oh sister of the Vine, you wrote confirmation into my life.

And I thank you for that.

And I wish you ALL the best - HIS best - as you walk with Him in the way.

cate tuten
Reply September 21, 2010

Amber, I love your blog and I love this post!! I feel as if I know you and you could be a "daughter".....I love your beauty and spirit and honesty and your love for the Lord and desire to glorify Him.....Reading this post made my stomach wench as you described Isaac's kindergarten days and your hectic schedule built around it. So, as a reader, I felt happy for the decision you made! Blessings to you as his Mommy and teacher!! In Him, Cate

Ann Voskamp
Reply September 21, 2010

I am smiling...
No, I don't like self- identifying as a homeschooler... though it is integral to who I am, who we are -- and the lifestyle itself allows the one-piece life we long to create, holistic and authentic, without compartmentalization or artifice... but God calls us each to different paths and we are a body of organs and limbs and life -- not a wagon full of identical thumbs.

And I long to be one of the homeschoolers that aren't isolationists or societal escapists -- but missional, embracing all of humanity with the heart and grace of Christ, reaching out to the *world*...

Your life inspires, Amber, and I love you right through, friend. Thank you for the community you create *here*....

All's grace,
Ann

Elizabeth @claritychaos
Reply September 21, 2010

1. I totally thought you were pregnant. In fact, in chatting with Steph I asked her - did you read Amber's blog? She's pregnant! (haha! sorry!)

2. As another public school mama, not looking away either. Each must do what works best for them, and I think it's wonderful that this is working for your family. Enjoy the journey.

3. It's nice to hear from you here again. I've missed your stories and the way you tell them.

misty
Reply September 22, 2010

we just found out we're having a #4.... and i can't decide if i want a 4th boy or a girl to throw us all off balance... well i say that like i have any choice! but we began homeschool this year too (sort of a practice year; my oldest is 4) and i'm so grateful for our own journey--it's been topsy turvy for sure!
my husband thinks i'm nuts that i miss apartment life. but truly, that is where i felt fullest and fed the most.

laura@life overseas
Reply September 23, 2010

hey there. so glad you are writing again. so glad to hear of what you are learning. we have done homeschooling now for several years, and i will say that it is hard. but my daughter has some learning struggles, and it has been so good to be able to meet her needs, right where she is. i have loved that. and i am just now tasting as they are getting older, the real joy from reading and hands-on learning. for us, for now, it is a good thing. i'm not sure i will do it through their entire schooling, but it's a gift during these years at least.

congratulations on baby stuff, too . . . new life is always, always exciting.

Amber2
Reply September 23, 2010

Hoorah! For your little blessing on the way and the big blessings with your move. It always amazes me that it's when life is the craziest that grace even more abounds.

Sara @ It's Good to be Queen
Reply October 2, 2010

wow. good stuff, Amber. I have that yearning for another little face in this house as well.

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