Wow. A year. How can it be so long and so short at the same time? And why am I bringing up the passing of a year in the middle of one? Well, this month marks one year since we began our great westward journey. One year ago, we left our home, our church, our jobs, our friends, much of our family – basically everything that was familiar – and moved ourselves to a new place. A place where we only knew two people, only knew the town from a few brief visits, a place where we had no idea where we would live. I had a job working for and with people that I had only met once, on Skype, working at a school that was as different from my previous school as it could possibly be.
To be honest, this could have been a disaster of epic proportions. To be brutally honest, there were several times, in the first few months, that I asked myself what we had done, and what we had gotten ourselves into. Back East we had great friends, a church we loved, good jobs, and familiar home territory. Out here, we were modern-day castaways, wondering when we were going to make any real connections with the people and the place around us. We went from church to church to church, meeting lots of sweet people, but not finding any place that felt just right. We looked at several cute houses, but struggled with getting a deal in place because the cost of real estate was twice what it was back East, and because of flaky sellers and feisty bankers. The Titanic was looking like it might have been a safer bet.
And then, little by little, it all began clicking into place. We finally found a house to call home. We were finally able to stop living out of suitcases and boxes. On move-in day, we “chanced” to meet a trio of precious older ladies having breakfast at McDonald’s. They struck up a conversation with us, and invited us to visit their church. Since one of our biggest difficulties in finding a church had been the fact that the median age in every church we visited seemed to be about 65 (sweet, but way out of our phase of life), we were a little hesitant, but when we finally visited, we instantly knew that we had found our home and our family. It was exactly the loving, vibrant, diverse community that we had been longing for. At this church we have made so many valuable friendships and have found a support structure that has been critical to our happiness and satisfaction with our new home town. We found our groove and our routine, and soon we were asking ourselves not What have we done? but What if we hadn’t done this?
Fairly quickly, I started to see the many wonderful ways that God was working through the changes in our location and situation. I tried so many new things, either by necessity or because I had already done so many difficult things that I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. I tried doing things I would have never thought to try before because I never would have believed I could do it, especially not well. What I discovered, though, was that I was able to do so much more than I ever thought possible. As my confidence grew, so did my joy and satisfaction. Similarly, my health instantly began to improve in many ways. This was the result of a healthier culture, access to amazing local produce and meats, and the endless availability of outdoor sports which made exercise natural and fun. I biked to work and the grocery story, and skied for hours on end during the winter. I also found a doctor who put together some puzzle pieces in a way that none of my past doctors ever had, and within weeks of beginning a new treatment regimen, I was feeling like a new person. And of course, I can’t imagine a life without the friendships that we have made here. Though there is no way that they could ever replace the precious friends that we left back East (in fact, we have learned a thing or two about maintaining long-distance friendships), we are continually blessed by our new friends.
We love our small town, knowing the shopkeepers and restaurant owners, being able to get anywhere in town in 5 minutes, often by bike. We love the area we live in, with rivers, lakes, mountains and deserts and all the sports and activities that go along with the beautiful natural environment. We can’t imagine anywhere else being Home. We are so excited and proud when friends and family come to visit so that we can show off “our town”. Just as God led the Children of Israel to the Promised Land, He has led us to a good land.
If I’m honest, though, it hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine (though we do get a good deal of both of those here). There have been some deep valleys in our little mountain adventure. Aside from two very short visits, I wasn’t able to be physically there for my dearest friends as they walked through one of the most difficult situations imaginable. I haven’t been able to help my sister-in-law prepare for her first baby. We’ve had to learn how to stay connected through the internet and to plan our vacations around family time, not exotic locales. We’ve learned to do without a lot of the things we took for granted when we were city dwellers. Some of the sacrifices and inconveniences were large, though many have been small. But each of them has stretched us, helped us grow, and changed us for the better.
So there you have it: the Year in Review. I haven’t even scratched the surface of the things I have learned and the ways that I have been changed because we embarked on this journey. What will the next year be like? How will God continue to stretch us and change us? I honestly have no idea. I know that there are more changes ahead, some we have planned, and some we know nothing about. I know without a doubt, though, that it will be exciting, and completely in God’s hands.
What about you? How has God stretched you and taught you over the last year? What big changes have you encountered? Most importantly, how has God made your heart glad in all of life’s changes?