(Originally emailed on 8/25/2022)

This “week long” update hasn’t exactly stayed true to the timeline, but that’s ok, I’ll keep at it and get you all filled in. With all of the large transitions for our family this year it feels worthwhile to give it the words it deserves and fully update those who are sincerely concerned and supportive. If you are reading these, that is you. We continue to be so thankful for the care we have been shown by so many. Being transparent and sharing our lives the best we can is one way we feel we can honor that care. Today I’ll get you caught up on our second daughter, Mary Emma. 

Mary Emma, or Memzy as we sometimes call her, is our high school graduate this year. The last I shared about what she was doing, we were planning a trip for some more ballet auditions in April. It took some waiting through ambiguity since then, but she finally has a plan and we have been along for the ride as it has fallen into place. 

At the beginning of June, we honored the end of her high school work with both an open house as well as a Sunday morning service at our sending church. They have a graduation Sunday each year and as homeschoolers we have made that a priority as a simple way to publicly acknowledge our graduate. This year they planned it on June 5, which was the last Sunday of summer staff workshop for us at camp, and the day before Hisability campers arrived. If we were going to be down for a Sunday morning we decided to plan her open house the same day at the church. The weeks before, we prepped food and got as much ready as we could, then brought it all down with us Saturday evening to set up. When I write it all summarized in one sentence like that it sounds almost comically simple! But in fact, a lot of time leading up to it was filled with all of the planning and preparations. On the one hand, it was easier to plan an open house at a location that wasn’t our home, on the other hand it was more difficult to have to plan the logistics of pre-making everything and transporting it all down! It all came together though, and it was really nice to visit with our family, church family, and friends who came to celebrate Mary Emma. She got very practiced at explaining that she still didn’t know where she was headed in the fall, and sharing what her current options were. 

A week after her open house, Mary Emma had her final performance with her dance studio up here in Oscoda, Northeast Academy of Dance. We enjoyed seeing how much she has improved just since December with the intense training she has had since then.

Toward the end of June, Mary Emma left to attend a three week ballet training program in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Ballet was one place she was considering for fall and attending their summer program served as an audition for their year round programs. In the end, she didn’t end up preferring to go there even though it did end up being an option for her. Even with a decision not to attend there in the fall, the three weeks she was there were such a provision for her. She danced everyday in their collegiate level program, but rather than staying with the collegiate dancers on a nearby college campus, she stayed with some friends who live just north of the city. This is a family of one of Grace’s college roommates and bridesmaids, and the provision of Mary Emma staying with them was amazing. They are a vibrant, Christian family with three girls, they were all home for the summer, and they welcomed Mary Emma like one of their own. It was a provision financially of course, since we didn’t have to pay for housing at the University, and they spoiled her the whole time with amazing food. But beyond that it was a provision spiritually as they live such Spirit-filled lives and Mary Emma was able to do life with them for those weeks. We are so thankful for the Lord’s working in her life there, right as she was making a decision for fall and preparing to head away from home for the first time.

One of the few pictures we have from her training in Cincinnati. It has certainly been fun watching her improvement over the last two years!
The Wong family, who Mary Emma stayed with for the three weeks in Cincinnati. They spoiled her and loved her like their own. What a blessing that was for her and for us!

That brings us to what comes next for her! She has chosen to attend Joffrey Ballet School, which is one of the schools we visited in Dallas in April. The original location of the school, however, is in New York City, and that is where Mary Emma has chosen to go. When accepted at the school, a student can choose either location, and can even switch back and forth by the year or by the semester. It is definitely more of a leap of faith since we only visited the Texas location. But after several months of praying and seeking and considering, she was more drawn to the New York location and the opportunities there. It is pretty amazing to us to see how God has opened this path and provided opportunities literally through our move to the woods. Who would’ve thought? It continues to make me smile and shake my head when I think of all that the Lord knows and has under control. Why are we continually surprised when He does amazing things that we simply couldn’t foresee?

Along those same lines is how we must think as we prepare to take her to NYC to live for this year. Right in Manhattan, in the secular arts world, which feels about like the center of worldliness. But we choose to remember how the Lord has surprised us with this path after moving here, and so we trust He goes before her into the city and will keep her set apart for His purposes. During the last week of campers, I enjoyed hearing some messages for high schoolers about Daniel in Babylon. The challenge to campers was to be in the world but not of it; to learn to cooperate with the culture without compromise. That is our prayer for Mary Emma as we take her to what feels a bit like Babylon. We leave this Saturday and will head home next Thursday as she starts classes. Pray for her and for us as we juggle all of this. There are a lot of details to figure out, supplies to gather, miles to drive, and costs involved. We seek to trust the Lord one step at a time!

Rachel, for the Bennetts