Monday, 30 September 2013

when fear gets in the way

We're in the thick of trying to sort out details for January. My husband has a 1/2 year sabbatical, and we had planned to spend it in Costa Rica. He wants to be in the Spanish-speaking world to get his Spanish skills back so that he can teach in that language. Costa Rica has a seminary in San Jose where there are apartments for families to stay, and Derek would have access to a great library with Spanish resources for his current research projects. We were thinking of a 4 month stay, and even have some university students ready to rent our house.



I'm scared.

And I feel silly about these fears. Because I know lots of people would think that it's silly to be scared of uprooting your family for 4 months.

At the beginning of the school year, Zoe dug in her heels and said, "I don't want to go to Costa Rica! Not for 4 months! I'll go for a month, but not 4!" She loves her teacher (she's in grade 5), loves her class, and she's generally cautious of new experiences. That said, she looks back with fondness on the 4 months we spent in France when she was in grade one, and on the month we spent in Benin this year. On the plane ride back from Benin, she asked, "When do we get to travel again?"

But she seems more flexible now. We watched a library video called "Families of Costa Rica" and after that she said, "Actually, maybe it would be ok to go..."

Derek would be going to Costa Rica with a purpose - to research and write. I would be in charge of our children's education - probably a mix of homeschool/roadschool (a new term I just learned that means educating your kids through travel) + Spanish classes for all 3 of us.

We have a place to stay. Check.

We have people to rent our house while we're gone. Check.

Two big things. So what are my fears all about?

January and February are the summer break at the seminary. So there won't be lots of people milling around. If we homeschool, that doesn't give us access to a group of children for my kids to play with. I fear being isolated.

Other times we've traveled, we've gone to French-speaking countries where I had language skills. My Spanish skills are very limited. I can understand things OKish, but French comes out when I try to respond. So I'd be relying on Derek, who is fluent in Spanish. Who also needs to get his own work done. I fear not being able to get around without the language.

Although I am a teacher, I have never homeschooled my children. I wouldn't even consider the idea here in Canada. There are too many things about the local school that I love. And I loved being a teacher to a group of children who WERE NOT my own kids. But going to Costa Rica for a short term, I don't know if it makes sense to enrol them for just 2 months (March and April, after their summer holidays in Jan-Feb are over). And what do we do for Jan-Feb? In my better moments, I get excited about planning some units around the many things that Costa Rica has to offer - like rainforests, many interesting creatures like monkeys, insects, sloths, leatherback turtles, and volcanoes, etc. etc. Engage in a blogging project together. Take photos. But then I fear losing patience with my kids - I've never been their sole teacher before, and I worry that we would get on each other's nerves. I've also looked into some volunteering experiences - need to spend some more time looking into these options.

Derek doesn't understand these fears. He thinks it's a great opportunity for us to travel and experience something new as a family. We know from our past experiences how travel has brought us new perspectives and made us reliant on each other. We felt more cohesive as a family - not so stretched. And this has been a gift.

So... how to address these fears...

1. isolation: not sure, but we have family members who want to travel to Costa Rica during our time there, so that might help with the feelings of maybe-isolation.

2. language: I have some language CDs that I can listen to at home or in the car to get my ear around hearing Spanish, and responding in Spanish.

3. homeschool/patience issue: Map out some fun learning units for each month, and plan a field trip to do with each one. Research more fully some volunteer options for us as a family. Make a calendar. Plug things in. Plan for visitors. Give ourselves a task each day to explore a little tiny piece of the city. Expect surprises.

I'm open to any other advice you may have for me as I try not to be the stick in the mud for our family.


  1. Bec - Fear is such a powerful influencer. Don't let it stop you. I would suggest not putting pressure on it and allow your time to unfold. You can plan and schedule which is great but just take a sabbatical and just be. Just be mom to your girls - if you are a teacher too - great - but four months of "being' will not destroy your children's educational future. Just be Rebecca - someone we all love and someone who relates well to people. God reminds us to be still and know that he is God. Be still Bec. Cast your fears on God - you don't want to carry them. What an amazing opportunity for you and Derek and the girls. I pray you will be able to "be" and experience it fully as it unfolds.

    1. Lisa, I've been carrying this response in my head for the last 2 days, and it has calmed me. Thank you so much. :)

  2. Fear is so hard! When I got fearful about big decisions I met with my spiritual director and she was so helpful to me (she's also a Jungian type therapist in her former career). She said there is no "right" or "wrong" decision. Either decision you make will have big gains and big regrets.... she said if you choose A: big gains, big regrets. And if you choose B: big gains, big regrets. This alleviated so much strain/pressure for me... I get very afraid if I start to think there is a Right choice out there and a Wrong one and I don't want to make the wrong decision! Don't know if this will resonate with you or not,,, but I really liked it. Melissa

    1. Big gains and big regrets - that's very helpful, Melissa. Maybe you should be a therapist too! Oh wait...

  3. The trip sounds like a great opportunity to me too. Sometimes I think as parents we can view the world from a perspective of desiring to protect. I think mothers often carry a good dose of this DNA. We realize how much good there is in a given context, and therefore how much danger there is in leaving that context. But the places that Jesus is calling us toward seem to be at odds with those safe harbors of life. I think the best advice I can give is that if we are able to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and how we can best glorify him, and not fixate / be distracted by our fears, then we may feel more freedom to wander outside of safe harbors. In the last year my "fear" gene seems to have been turned off big time, so I might not be the most realistic in my responses. Maybe I could use a little more fear to knock some sense into me.

    1. Yes, I can be a fixator sometimes. :) But other times I can get me and my family on a plane to Benin. Guess I need to remember those times when God was close and with me to get through the fearful times.

  4. First of all, you are definitely NOT a stick in the mud. And even if you were, a stick in the mud can be a very useful thing sometimes :) I TOTALLY understand your fears!!! I am always so amazed at your bravery! Regards to teaching your kids and planning units etc. Let it come naturally. Be open to spontaneous learning opportunities. Keep your eyes open, take time to watch. Sure have some structured math and language instruction but the rest will evolve naturally!! Breath. Thank you so very much for sharing these personal thoughts. So very human and full of honesty. A breath of fresh air. Ahhh..... good night friend :)

  5. Rebecca -
    Thank you for sharing your fears. I think what you and your family are doing is quite remarkable.
    Just this morning in our book talks with colleagues we were talking about the fact that true learning involves being uncomfortable.
    It's such a natural instinct to protect ourselves and our families from being uncomfortable or from experiencing pain or sadness - but that is just such a gift to give you and your family. If things aren't perfect, and you get on each other's nerves, and you can't speak the language perfectly, these are all such valuable learning experiences for your family.
    I envy you that. A goal of mine is to ease out of my comfortablity more often, to stretch.
    What Lisa said resonated with me too. Be still and know that God will be with you... especially in the uncomfortable times.
    You are an inspiration to me - and your daughters and husband are too.