It all started on Thursday, February 3, 2022, when I got out of my van at the schoolhouse.
On that fateful Thursday morning, I stepped out of my van only to find there was a rock hiding underneath the snow. I stepped down, and my ankle rolled. Ouch! You see, I have weak ankles from years of youth sports injuries, and I roll my ankles all the time. This time, I heard a little pop, but I really didn’t have time to be hurt.
I had 15 minutes before students started to show up for classes. I had to get my babies settled with the nanny, carry my stuff into the schoolhouse and get everything set up. So, I sucked it up and walked it off and laced my snow boots up and tied them as tightly as I could on that ankle.
I should have known that this was merely a foreshadowing event of the weekend to come. My little ankle injury was going to seem like small potatoes by the end of just that day.
So, here was that fateful weekend’s run-down…
That Thursday, Lindsey and I had already called a half-day of school since an ice/snow storm was pending for the afternoon. (Have you met Lindsey? She is amazing and the best co-teacher ever. Click over and read her bio!) We take calling off classes at the schoolhouse very seriously and try to avoid it. But, the weather people thought this storm could be serious, so we wanted to scoot the kids and ourselves home to safety before the ice started up.
About halfway through our art project, Lindsey got a phone call from her husband. Since her daughter had been at the ER the night before, she took the call. Our parent volunteers were busy helping the kiddos finish up colonial crafts and completing Valentine’s Day party prep. I started back to the kitchen to see if Lindsey needed anything. Unfortunately, she came walking out with a look on her face that will stay in my memory forever.
All she said was that her daughter needed to go back down to Children’s Hospital because some blood work they took the night before came back suspicious. We finished our day, but this unknown news hung over our heads.
The ice and snow started
At 12:30 pm, I scooted home with my kids in a slushy rain shower that would soon turn to ice and snow. The next few hours really went fine. Then, around 8 pm, things started to unravel. Hold on to your tea/coffee/hot-chocolate mugs, because I am gone run through this fast!
8 pm Thursday: Power goes out. We get all the blankets to get ready for a cold night.
7 am Friday: We woke up to a pretty cold, dark house and lots of ice and snow.
10:30 am Friday: I walked over to my mom’s house around the corner to check on her. She is fine, but her phone is not working well because of the internet outage. We sit and chat under blankets and at 11:07 I get a text message from Lindsey. “We need lots of prayers. We’re at the ER. They are repeating the blood work. (Daughter’s name)’s white blood cells are blasting, regenerating, and dying at an accelerated rate. Hematology/oncology think it’s because of the COVID infection but cells act this way for leukemia so this is the concern. Please pray that it is just COVID-related and not leukemia.” I felt the world stop spinning a bit for my dear friend.
Oh how I prayed!
5:00 pm Friday: Power was still out, and no word from Lindsey. My husband and I (and my mom) decide to abandon our very cold ship for a sleepover at my sister’s house which still has power. My sister is pretty newly pregnant and is sick as a dog with a Hyperemesis Gravidarum pregnancy. I had HG pregnancies, too, and to say they are the worst is an understatement. In short, even with medicine, it is a non-stop-nausea-and-barf-fest for nine glorious months. For my sister to invite me and our very noisy kids over to her home to “sleep” was a very selfless act.
5:45 am Saturday: My husband stayed back at our house to take care of the dog and to make sure nothing went wrong with the house. We had some trees that were not looking great and there is always a concern with pipes bursting in cold weather. He texted me at 5:45 am saying the power was back on. It has been on and off all night, but he was feeling pretty confident that it was on for good. Thank goodness.
Saturday: I did some grocery shopping for my mom, sister, and me, then packed up my kiddos and my mom and headed back home. We were all pretty exhausted, and we took the rest of the day easy. That afternoon I sat on my bed and cuddled with one of my kids watching a show, and I noticed a text message flash across the top of my phone. All I saw was the word leukemia.
4:33 pm Saturday: “We heard two hours ago. (Daughter’s name) has leukemia.” I called Lindsey immediately, and we both just cried. The world seemed to pause for a minute. My dear friend was hurting so deeply. My co-teacher was obviously going to be out for a while. Her son, one of my students, was sad and mad in only a way a thirteen-year-old big brother can be. A world was turned upside down.
5:21 pm Saturday: I let our schoolhouse family know what was going on in Lindsey’s family. I was overwhelmed by the offers to help.
There was a flood of love and support.
No one asked, “But who is going to teach my child. No one questioned how the schoolhouse would function. Everyone rallied around this family with care. This demonstrated to me the supportive Christian atmosphere of the schoolhouse family. No one was concerned with the denomination, Biblical interpretation or theology in these moments. Everyone was ready to serve, pray and love.
6:00 pm Saturday: I picked up a pizza and headed over to Lindsey’s house to sit with her son and talk. If there is any way to get a thirteen-year-old boy to open up, it is over pizza. We talked, laughed and cried a little. Oh, and their power came back on just as I arrived. Because, of course, they were dealing with a power outage, too.
(And you know what Lindey’s husband was doing when I arrived? Crying in a corner? NO! He was at the neighbor’s fixing a problem that had developed due to the power outage.)
Our parents serve one another and our community when there is a need, even if it is not convenient for them.
Sometime during this whirlwind, I called our faithful substitute. One parent who has been with us since the beginning has become our go-to substitute teacher. At the very first information meeting, even before we had a location for the schoolhouse, this parent (a certified teacher herself) volunteered to substitute teach whenever she was needed.
Well, I called her. I told her about Lindsey’s situation and that I was going to need a substitute teacher for the upcoming week while Lindsey got things settled with her daughter. She did not miss a beat. We cried a little about Lindsey’s devastating news, and she said, “Yes, I can sub!” Two years ago when she volunteered to sub, she had no idea that Lindsey (who was not even hired yet) would need a sub. But, God did and He is in control. (Pictured below, is her adorable son, just for fun!)
Isn’t it amazing that God provided a substitute teacher two years before we knew we would need one? We are thankful for his provision and care in our times of need.
9: 24 am Monday: Camp Agape had warned me that the power could be out for a while due to significant tree damage from the ice storm. They were getting work crews together, but the likelihood of holding classes on Tuesday was not looking good.
I talked to the schoolhouse board, and we started to look at our options. Cancel classes? Find an alternative location? I just didn’t know what to do. I reached out to a couple of parents that have been with us for a long time. Many of the schoolhouse parents have become like family. I poured out my heart to one of these parents; I was having a giving-up kind of moment. In reply, she gave me some of the best advice for our situation. But, at the time, it was not what I wanted to hear.
She spoke truth to me, even when it was hard.
With this advice, I knew I needed to find a place to have classes. The faithful and supportive board as well as another amazing parent went to work. As usual, we needed lots of space, for lots of kids, for just a little bit of money. We walked out in faith, and God provided. A few minutes later, I got a call from a board member with a place in mind and when I hung up with her, another parent called with another venue. The first place even offered to let us use the space free of charge.
We decided to hold classes at Shady Elms Farm, a beautiful little wedding venue farm just down the road from Camp Agape. If you are ever looking for a wedding venue, THIS. IS. THE. PLACE. I could just gush about their service, beauty and hospitality. If they could open their doors to 40 kids, 3 teachers and a handful of volunteers with 12 hours’ notice, think about what they could do for a wedding!
When I gushed with gratitude, they simply said, “Isn’t that what Christians do?”
I was humbled by their outpouring of generosity. I pass their house and farm every day on the way to Camp Agape. Before last week, I thought about how I would love to go to a wedding there someday because it looked so pretty. Now, I think about how they saved the day for 40 resilient children who changed schoolhouse venues without missing a beat. I think of parents who stepped up and volunteered to help out those days. I think of people supporting one another and making the most of a last-minute change.
No one complained. No one was mad. Everyone made due…and we had so much fun! The Shady Elms forest is a magical place. The Shady Elms dogs were definitely the main attraction for many of the kids. And the Shady Elms bride’s room is a great place to practice spelling words and read a story!
You would think that finding a place at Shady Elms might wrap up this adventure, but I could write so much more.
This adventure of a week started with a painful ankle roll on a Thursday, and by the next Thursday, it ended with a Valentine’s Day party and heart decorations everywhere. It made me reflect on the love that was expressed that week. And the heartbreak. And people wrapping their arms around one another and helping to carry heavy burdens.
I could go on forever but here are just a few more things I had to share.
· The schoolhouse parents filled my dining room with gifts, letters and financial donations for Lindsey and her family during this difficult time.
· A sibling of a schoolhouse student emptied her piggy bank and gave all the money to Lindsey’s family. Her mother gave it to me at drop-off with tears in her eyes.
· I got to roll into the hospital, not once, but twice with so many presents for Lindsey and her daughter that I was dropping things along the way. You guys, I had a backpack, rolling suitcase, shopping bags and gift bags. It was a pretty hilarious sight!
· Parents worked together to get a car out of a snow bank and one of the Shady Elms guys used his tractor to help a car get off an icy patch. (It was such a great story I’ll have to share sometime!)