Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Six Months at Seminary

   Twice a year I 'play catchup' with our photo and videos.  It usually takes a few days to get it all together..  but I put all the videos off my camcorder onto the computer to burn to DVDs, and make sure all of our photos are uploaded to shutterfly to make photo books so I can catch up.  I still need to order one more 2015 book lol, so obviously I'm not all caught up yet, but I'm working on it!
   Yesterday, while I was uploading pics, I came across this picture, and was flooded with memories!!

  I remember taking this like it was yesterday!  I don't like the quality of photos my camera takes.. but then again, I am a photographer at heart so naturally it isn't up to my par..  but even with bad quility, this picture is beautiful.  This is on Black Mountain..  those who aren't familiar with the Blue Ridge, its a mountain that runs between Asheville and the foothills of Western North Carolina.  In my world, it separates where we are now from where we used to live..  and I remember the day I took this photo...
   It was December 21st....  My husbands family was doing their Christmas dinner that day.  I had just gotten out of the hospital four days ago from my gallbladder surgery, and this was the first time I had really gotten out of the house for a long period of time.  The college was closing for Christmas, and Stephen and I wanted to get our apartment key so we could move in the week before classes started.  This was the photo I took on the way back...  but it made me remember that day- those days..  so very well.
   The days he, our youngest and I would travel down here, walk around campus and pray.  The first time we ate at Applebees and wondered if this big of a life change was even possible.  The cold winter day we looked at two apartments and chose our apartment...  while holding our breath and praying hard for God just to make this real for us.  I remember that day well..  we got the key, we wrote a check- and the two of us came to look around our home for the first time since they had gotten the floors redone.  Home.  Two hours away from the only place we had ever lived.  With our four kids..  could  we really do this??
   Well..  we did, lol.  And six months later, we are still here.  We have seen God do some amazing things while we have been here...  he has moved in our lives, in our finances, in our health and in our childrens live while we have been here in ways we could never imagine.  So I thought, its been six months..  and just maybe there's someone out there who is making the same move..  weighing the same options.  Perhaps I should share my experience, and that would help at least one person.  I certainly clung to the wisdom of others who had been in my shoes when we made this move and would not have made it without their encouragement and guidance..  so I'm thankful for them!!

   Some things I have learned while I've been here....
    *God Always had this in mind....
   In 2012, we moved out of the home that my children knew as their home.  We had moved there when they were 1, 3 and 8.  We had only been married for three years at that point, and the kids were so young they didn't remember being anywhere else.  It broke my heart.  I remember standing in the doorway of the house crying and asking God why I couldn't just have that house.  The owner had offered it to us at a very inexpensive price, because she wanted us to have it but needed to sale it.  After we discovered that we were not in a place financially at all to buy a home, she still needed to sale, so we needed to move.  All I wanted was that house.  I cried the whole time I cleaned the house..  I cried when we moved our boxes out.  I cried when I took my babies pictures off the wall.  I cried when we left it for the last time.  It was my favorite place in the world.  I remember moments thinking that I was going to see my grandchildren playing in that bathtub.  We talked about taking out life insurance policies so we could cover the house and leave it to our children.  We planned our future around that house, and when we were turned down..  it broke my heart.  That was three months after my husband had surrendered his call to preach.
   From 2012 to the time we moved here in 2016, we had moved seven more times.  We had experienced a horrible church split in 2014 that absolutely shook us to our core, and moved our best friends and mentors 3 hours away.  We had sought after ministry positions time and time again, just to be left waiting and wanting..  hungry for something that was out of our reach.  My husband told me a few times that we needed to be somewhere else, but I didn't listen.  I just kept finding another house, another life, another beginning.  We had hard times..  we had one house that the furnace was broken in..  we had a baby, and I remember lots of days crying in front of the wood stove because I didn't know how to keep it running all day- and my husband had to work sometime.  I remember living in a house with a huge back deck that scared me so much, I would lay in bed and pray at night that if it was a danger to my children God would remove us from that house..  and a month into living there the pipes all busted, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage and essentially forcing us to move.
   It wasn't all terrible.  We had some wonderful times and wonderful memories in each home we lived in..  but it all pointed to the fact that we were headed in the wrong direction.  Finally we stumbled on a sweet little church in a tiny town where we were living..  and a wonderful man of God took my husband under his wing and gave him the life he had missed since his mentor had left...  and a direction.  He brought him to visit Fruitland in August of 2015.  It scared me so much.  I enrolled my three oldest children in a private schoool the same day he visited, I suppose my last ditch effort to cling to the only place I knew as home..  but God had other plans.  By November, I knew it was time to stop fighting and to give in..  I knew that I couldn't pull my husband away from his calling.  I had no idea how we were going to do it, but I agreed to do it anyway.  It was the hardest thing I've ever done.
   Yet its been the greatest blessing.

   *Sometimes, I believe that God has to remove you from who you were in order to make you who you are.  That is the biggest lesson I've learned from being here.   At first, I just thought that God had brought Stephen here to prepare him for ministry.  What I found was that he brought our entire family here to prepare us for ministry.  Our family unit is stronger than it was before.  We have one another to lean on.  The one thing I took positive from the church split was watching our pastoral family navigate something so painful.  They clung to one another during that time, and were fircely loyal to one another.  I wondered what I would do in the same situation.  Now that I've learned to be 'alone' with my family, I've learned to cling to them even stronger.  I've learned that sometimes, we are all that we are ever going to have, and we have to be strong.  My marriage has grown so much stronger..  and although its not perfect, we know one another on a far deeper level.  We have a stronger understanding of one anothers needs and weaknesses.  I've found solace in allowing myself to be completely vulnerable to my husband- and I think he's at least starting to learn to do the same with me ;-).

   *I have also learned the lesson of seasons.  When I first came here, I remember on New years eve on my instagram, I announced I was taking a complete year away from all social media.  I was allowing God to redefine me, and in doing so, I wanted to remove anything that I allowed to define me in any way.  At one point, I even removed my blog, in attempt to take away anything that stood in the way of my growth, spiritually and emotionally.
   I think honestly that time showed my greatest vulnerability, and some of my hardest flaws.
   Without facebook and instagram, several of my friends didn't contact me.  No emails, no blogger comments, no text messages.  I felt lonely, afraid of missing out.  This kept me jumping back on instagram and google plus..  at least if someone got an email about one of my blog entries they would contact me.  I felt like I had left all of my friends back on the mountain..  and not knowing anyone here- that made me lonely.
   A few weeks ago, I reactivated my facebook account. It was fun at first playing catch up, and I seemed to have all of my friends back..  but I realized that it was making me even more lonely.  I had to stay connected all the time in order not to feel lonely..  you know that poking fun saying, facebook- its where all my friends are?  I felt that way.  If I wasn't on there, I wasn't enjoying time with people who cared about me.  That put distance between those people who really *are* there for me.  Friends who still text a few times a week.  Family who send me pictures and call and spend time with me.  Even friends we are making down here...  being online was making me miss a lot of people who honestly- my friendship was limited to the social network and never truly existed outside of that social sphere.  So I finally cut ties.  It's only been a few weeks, and my husband has facebook now so I've posted a photo here and there occasionally, but I'm trying with everything in me to learn to live without that social network.  Because the truth is, I'm more myself without it.  I'm happier without it.  I'm less lonely without it..  and I have real people in my life whose relationship with me is three dimentional..  and those are the relationships that God has kept in my life, and those are the ones that I need to nurture.
   To every relationship there is a season.  Some are lifetime seasons.  Some are only there for a specific time to fit a specific purpose in your life.  I've learned that from being here, and I'm slowly learning to allow those relationships to fit where they should be.

And here are my best pieces of advice to give to someone..  some I've learned easily, and some I've learned the hard way...

   * Learn to call this place Home.
   It took me a long time to accept that we may never go back to the place we called home for all of those years.  God may call us somewhere completely different.  He may call us back there, and he may lead us back there to await another calling.  Either way, we have to learn during this time to leave all of this in Gods hands...  and all yearning for home does is make you unhappy, and makes the place you are living not feel like home.  Make home where you are living.  Allow God to be in control of where you will go next.  Take this time to teach your children contentment, and allow those changes to fill your heart.

   *Allow yourself to grow spiritually during this time of change
   It's easy to get caught up in life..  but usually when you are in a new place, you have a little extra time on your hands.  We haven't committed to a lot..  sports groups, home school groups..  just small things here and there- so we can spend a lot of time connecting.  With one another and with God.  We have a lot to learn about living so close and not being so busy, and I wanted to give us some time to focus on that.
   I am finally taking time to seek those connections, but not too many.  We have a whole summer to spend with the kids on campus, with our own little family unit.  I want to enjoy this place and time God has brought us too in all its glory, and not to wish it away so soon!

   *Don't be afraid of losing relationships back home that are meant to be.
   I was so afraid when we moved that I wouldn't be as close to my Mom..  my sister..  my friends.  Those who I have been close too I'm still close too.  We still talk, we still visit..  we share our lives still.  Those relationships have not grown weaker.  Actually in a lot of ways the move has improved a lot of our relationships..  when you don't rely on family financially that breaks a hard strain..  when you don't rely on them as primary babysitters it seems time spend with your kids is more rewarding and less obligatory.  It's been a good move for all of us, and on top of that, we are happier..  so we are easier to get along with.

  This six months has been an incredible blessing..  and I can't wait to see what the next six months will bring.  God has been so good to us, and I know he will continue to be.  I'm so thankful for this time, this place, and this opportunity.