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Writer, Retreat Leader, Resource Creator
This has been a whirlwind year.
One year ago today, we were just starting to get the inkling that we might need to move, despite being homeowners for only seven months. We were having trouble getting the resources AJ needs for his autism. We were arguing with the school district about resources provided and with elected officials about the lack of resources and no mandated insurance coverage of autism in Oklahoma. We were starting to feel, despite having felt just seven months before that purchasing our home was the right thing to do, that we were being called to move.
Knowing that the denominational search and call process in both our denominations can take a long time (in our previous experiences, it took about two years of actively searching before the right position was available and we felt God calling us to it), we both started the process, thinking it may take a long time. Within two months, I had two interviews with a congregation in Virginia. I felt very good about it, even felt God was possibly calling us there. But then… nothing. Despite feeling like it was a great interview, getting positive affirmation from the committee and “You’ll be hearing from us very soon,” said by the committee chair, it was six weeks later before I heard anything (after sending two follow-up emails thanking them for the opportunity and letting them know they and their church were in my prayers) and they had called someone else to the position. It was heartbreaking to hear that news, but also assurance that God was not calling us there.
In the meantime, I had a nice mini-vacation in March to visit my college roommate, who had her first child at the end of February. I flew out to California and while only there for five days, we managed to get in a hiking trip in Joshua Tree National Forest with her three-week-old son. She and I have been on many roadtrips, hiking and camping adventures together and it was fun to share this memory of her son’s first hike with her.
It wasn’t long after that my husband began conversations with Bellevue Christian Church in Washington. As I grew up in Alaska and was born in Oregon and went to college there, the Pacific Northwest has always felt like home to me. I had longed to move back there years before–in fact, I had dreamed in seminary of graduating, buying a car and moving back from Boston to the Northwest. And as a youth in Alaska, when I dreamed of moving out of state (as much as I loved living there as a child, and love visiting there now, as a youth, I was so ready to get out of dodge), I dreamed of Seattle. Seattle was where the “cool” people lived.
And as my husband’s process with the church progressed in Bellevue, I had another interview with a congregation in Massachusetts. Of course, Massachusetts is where we had moved from. We have family and friends nearby. But the Northwest seemed to be where God was calling us the whole time. Finally, on the weekend my husband was in Bellevue for his candidate weekend, I received an email from the search committee of Burien Community Church, just south of Seattle. And we both realized that God was indeed calling us to the Northwest.
So in mid-May, JC let his congregation know that we were moving on. We put the house on the market. And while we had moved with everything to Durant, because we had purchased the house and we knew it may not sell (it has still not sold, we are getting ready to rent it now after seven months) we began to sell off some of the things we brought with us. We had brought all of AJ’s baby things because he was only seventeen months when we moved, but now he was almost four. We sold the living room furniture we brought with us, which had still been in good condition when we moved, but after the toddler years was no longer pristine and we were ready to let go of it. We sold lots of “things” that we had, and realized how much we had accumulated in a short time (when we were married seven years ago, we moved into our apartment in a couple of car trips!) We also sold JC’s car, moving down to a one-car family. We gave up a lot. We also sadly said goodbye to our dog, Tobi. We only had her for about ten months, but AJ never liked her. Tobi was a high-energy dog who liked to be in your face, a lot. For us, that was ok, but for AJ, it was unbearable. We often had to keep them in separate rooms, and even when we played with Tobi for hours on end, she would often find a way to get over to AJ and he would scream when she was near him. Fortunately, after a lot of connecting on Facebook and sharing her picture with several local people, we were able to find her a good home in Texas, where she went to live the week before we moved.
We left Durant and took two weeks to travel to the West Coast. Our movers were over a day late, so we didn’t leave Durant as soon as we expected. We traveled the first night just to Wichita Falls, Texas, getting in after midnight. The next day we drove about 850 miles, from Wichita Falls to Flagstaff, Arizona. We had lunch in Amarillo, crossed into New Mexico about two in the afternoon, had dinner in Albuquerque, and late in the evening found our hotel in Flagstaff. We left Wichita Falls about 9am, and it would have been after midnight, save for the fact we crossed two time zones (Arizona does not follow Daylight Savings so it was at the same time as the West Coast). So we got a good night’s sleep.
For my husband’s 40th birthday, we visited the Grand Canyon. Finally, it felt like we could relax. We enjoyed seeing this wonder of nature–what else do you say about the Grand Canyon? It’s big. It’s gorgeous. It’s overwhelmingly enormous. AJ handles about an hour or so of activity in public (you can add another hour if food is involved, which it was at the pizza shop at one of the lodges) so then we drove around the rim drive with him asleep in the car. It was a great day, a relaxing day–a day in which we didn’t eat dinner out but picked up a few things and ate at the hotel.
We drove on from there to visit my college roommate in California for the fourth of July, then drove up the Eastern Sierra mountains. We visited the Bristlecone Pines, the oldest trees in the world. AJ loves trees. Unlike other things, including animals, which rarely capture his attention (unless negatively, like our dog), AJ sees trees and seems to acknowledge each one individually (just this morning, as I write this, he came out to the living room and said “Tree” to our Christmas tree!) At ten thousand feet, we walked among the Bristlecone Pines, this ancient forest (some trees are estimated at four thousand years old), and stood in awe at the diversity and wonder of our created world.
We stayed in Mammoth Lakes that evening, and the next day, drove over the Tioga Pass into Yosemite National Park. Tioga Pass, much above eight thousand feet, is like a mini-world. Snow capped-peaks, little lakes and streams, tall trees–a mini Eden, high above the desert floor we had left hours before. It was a long day of driving from one extreme to the other–desert, high Sierra, then down to the coast and the Bay Area. We enjoyed our weekend in San Francisco–visiting Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, the Aquarium and of course, the Carousel. AJ rode his first Carousel on Pier 39. He was not happy being taken up there at first, placed on a wooden horse–but the minute the carousel started, his eyes grew wide and his smile blossomed on his face. He loved it, going up and down and around–and screamed and cried when the ride was over and I had to take him away. But I had to smile, because so many other children were also sad to leave the carousel. AJ has loved carousel rides ever since, and has gotten better about leaving them behind when the ride is over.
From the bay area we drove north up the California coast to visit the Redwoods. Again, AJ loved the trees. I had visited the Redwoods almost fifteen years before, on a weekend trip with my college roommate, and from here on, the trip felt more like coming home. We visited my alma mater, Linfield College, and family in the area. Stopping by Powell’s Books in Portland, we finally made our way to our temporary home in Lynnwood, Washington, twelve days after we left Durant.
We had to live at a family home in Lynnwood because I had not yet been called to Burien. The Sunday after I arrived was my candidate Sunday, and JC’s first Sunday in Bellevue. I preached, and waited while the congregation voted, and at last was recognized as the called pastor to Burien Community Church, a part-time position, perfect for being able to care for AJ and be back in pastoral ministry again. A further blessing is that Burien had a parsonage, and finally we were able to move in August.
I began my ministry in September, and AJ began at his new school. We still have had some adjustments with getting AJ settled and gaining resources for him, but he is doing well and the resources available are incredible here. We are in the process of redoing his IEP, as we have not only better resources, but also more knowledge about what AJ needs.
So that is the whirlwind year. I had hoped to do more writing–I made a resolution last year to write 120,000 words–ten thousand words a month–but obviously, with the immediate changes after the first of the year in prayer and discernment of where God was calling us, I was not able to accomplish that goal. However, I did get published! I was included in a collection of stories of Baptist women called to ministry: The Modern Magnificat. I hope you will read this wonderful book, as I have been moved by the other women’s stories in this collection and hear so much of my own call by God and desire to fulfill that calling in their stories.
What a year! What an exciting time! What a joy to know when God is calling us and to answer “Yes” to God’s call!
May God bless you as you look back on 2012, and may you find hope going forward for 2013.