Monday, July 18, 2011

the pieces of my heart

When I was in the 3rd grade, my very best friend Jessica Szymanski moved away to Michigan with her family. I was absolutely devastated. I still remember my mom taking me down to the Best Inn that they were staying in for their last night in Junction City; I can see the hallway I walked down and remember the awkward sad goodbye, before walking back to the car and crying the whole way home.

This was just my first taste of goodbye. With the years to come I would experience many more goodbyes on even deeper levels. I went to Tabor, where I met friends that I will have for the rest of my life, but after two years there God led me to Azusa Pacific University, some friends graduated and moved on, and others stayed at Tabor. The goodbyes were painful, and I often felt I was missing out on the things happening at Tabor. Yet, at APU I would make friends just as meaningful and longlasting. Graduation came and people dispersed and with it more goodbyes.

I lingered in the area and savored some of the friendships. I started dating Lee a few months later, but November 1st came and I boarded a plane for Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was only for a season, but the goodbyes were wrenching. And really, those goodbyes marked the end of a season in my life. When I came back from Argentina, many of those relationships would never be the same again--some for the better, some not.

Though I longed for home (and for Lee) while in Argentina, I made three dear girl friends there, who I would have to say goodbye to, as well.

Throughout my time at APU, while far from my family, and in Buenos Aires, far from everyone I loved, I finally put to words what I had been feeling for so long: pieces of my heart are scattered far and wide across the United States and even some over-seas. No matter where I go all of those pieces will never be in the same place.

This phenomenon only gets worse the more years that I live, because despite the results I continue to love deeply and live openly everywhere I go. No matter how painful the goodbyes may be, I am thankful to be this way. My husband--he's the same way--and I love that about him. (Though occasionally he may be a little too open about some things ;) We are relational people and we deeply enjoy building meaninful relationships quickly wherever we may be for any given time. We are also similar in that we carry the burden of how others may be feeling or what they may be experiencing.

So as we prepare to move to Kansas, our hearts are torn.

And as is my nature, I am going to be very open in this blog.

Lee's family currently lives about 90 minutes from us. All of whom we love very much and will miss very deeply. As one can imagine, they are very sad about this new calling in our lives. And no matter how affirmed we feel as God continues to shine light on the path ahead, we are still burdened by the reality of moving so far away from them. I am very sorry for how our decision to move has affected and will continue to affect all of them.

Our hearts are also burdened for the leaders of the church. I mentioned previously all of the big changes happening at the church and how Lee played a big role in those transitions happening smoothly. I don't understand God's timing. I don't understand God's plan. Yet, at the end of the day, I want to obey Him. I want to follow His leading. I know not everyone can understand this, and I don't expect everyone to. For some people, 'God's callling' to do something is a vague, even unrealistic, thing. For us, however, it is alive and real and we feel its weight as the very most important thing in both of our lives, as individuals and as a couple and as a family. Even as I write this, it doesn't change how us leaving has made things extremely hard on people we care very deeply for. I don't understand it, and in moments I feel upset with God. If this is where He wanted us then why didn't he reveal that months ago? And if this wasn't what we were supposed to do why does it seem He continues to affirm it?

The church was asking us to give a verbal committment months ago, and we did that. We expressed our desire and commitement to another year in Reedley. We stopped looking other places. Stopped applying, stopped seeking it out. We were very open with people in the church that we didn't know when God would open doors elsewhere, but that we would not look for them ourselves or try to open them. Then just as everything is about to wrap up with the church and move forward with the new stuff we get a call with what seems very much like a huge door blowing open. But even in the midst of what seems like God working, pieces of our heart feel broken by the weight of what sometimes feels a lot like guilt. My heart is heavy when I think of the people this hurts and the lives that it burdens. The awkwardness it brings in relationships makes me sad. And the fact that many will not ever truly know our hearts in this as we wrestled and wrestled with this decision makes me sad, too. It wasn't about money. It wasn't about a better deal (no, we are not making more money by going to Tabor instead of staying with the church--we wouldn't make a decision based on that). It wasn't just about Kansas. It wasn't about not being satisfied at the church. It was about what God wanted from us and what was best for our family. But the truth is I just don't even want to think about it anymore to even write about it. Man my heart feels heavy.

Back to the topic of family. . .which doesn't really move away from the heavy feelings.

I have joked lately about a younger couple whose families are from opposite sides of the United States. 'I don't recommend marrying out-of-state' I say, 'It'd be a whole lot easier to keep it local!'
I tease in good fun, but there is a lot of truth to this. I understand that when you get married individuals 'leave their fathers and mothers' and become one with their spouse, as Scripture explains. Nonetheless, when you get married to someone whose family and roots are 1800 miles away from your own, it leaves a big gap to be filled when joining those families. Geographically, it simply cannot be done. Unless you live literally half way in between and give neither side the satisfaction of being lived close to, then one side is always missing out to the same extent. But how miserable would that be?

There is no right answer to any of this. There is no protocol, example, guideline, or sufficient advice on this subject matter. Lee and I didn't have to get married. We each could have married someone from our own respective 'homes'. Maybe this would have been 'easier' on families or easier on us when deciding what jobs to accept or where to live, but this is the realization I have come to:

If being married to Lee were dependent upon me living in California for the rest of my life, I would do it. I would still date him. I would still say yes when he asked me to marry him. I would still have walked down the isle. I would still choose Lee. Even if it meant living away from my family forever, as difficult as that would be, I would still choose him.

And I take comfort in knowing that we both feel the same way about this... that is why our wedding vows said "Where you are, will be my home."

Critics could say it is easy for me to say this all now that I am getting to move to Kansas. I hear a lot about how I am 'finally getting what I want.' It would be a lie to say that I am not ecstatic to live 55 minutes from a good portion of my family. I am thrilled. It has been five years since I have lived in Kansas and I am very excited to be there again. I am not ashamed of how happy I will be to live near my mom and sisters. Still, my excitement does not mean I am not sad to leavel Lee's family. Of course I am.


That is how I feel right now, like I could go round-and-round on this and never make a final point, never make an understandable conclusion.

So I close this blog without a conclusion, and instead leave it as an open-ended expression of our hearts at the current moment. I hope it makes sense, because I am not going to re-read it or edit it.

I am happy. I am joyful. I am extremely grateful. But I am, and always have been, a deep 'feeler'... and occasionally a word-vomitter, too. :)

The next blog will be a very joyful one, because Lydia Jane will be one on Wednesday!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Big changes!

For the past month I have written at least a dozen more blogs in my head, but have not yet had the chance to sit down and actually write them out. There is always SOMETHING that needs to be done, like child care, homework, cleaning . . . you know the list.

But, it's about time we shared our big news!

No, we are not having another baby. Not that we know of. :)

Tuesday, June 7, Rusty Allen called Lee and asked him if he would be interested in being the Director of Enrollment at Tabor College.


Yes, we had previously looked at other options to pursue in a number of places across the United States, but God opened no doors, and we were content to settle in for another year at Reedley--happy to do so. In fact, God was opening doors here for Lee to become the High School youth pastor (he has been the junior high director). We were very excited about this opportunity and didn't understand why right in the middle of such a big transition at the church (Starting a new college ministry, moving Jason to take over that, moving Lee up to high school, and searching for a new jr high guy...) would He open doors for us to go elsewhere?

So... back on track... it is Tuesday and we have been presented with a huge and flattering opportunity for Lee's career. Not to mention, one that has potential for me as well, as my dream is to teach at the college level and I finish my masters the first week of December. Can I get a "woo-hoo"? We had three days to make a decision. Sign the new contract with the church or accept the position at Tabor. Both had short time-lines.

The next 48 hours from being offered this position are some of the most emotional, prayerful days I have had in a while. What did God want us to do? How could we leave all of the people here who have loved us so much? Did Lee really want to be Director of Enrollment?

Every free moment I had was spent, literally, on my knees seeking The Lord. I kept thinking, "God, the church needs us. People will be so angry if we leave them in the midst of all of these changes."

I felt the opposite of what I thought I would feel at the opportunity to be closer to my family... I felt afraid.

Afraid of the unkowns...
the uncertainties...
the questions...
the details...
the response from the church...
the response from Lee's family...

But God had already been answering many of my questions. The Friday before Rusty called about the position, he had called Lee to see if Lee was even interested in a position at Tabor at all. Lee & I both thought he wanted something like an admission's counselor from Lee. We both said that isn't something we would want to do. During this time, I was in Kansas and Lee was back home. I told him we'd talk about it when I got back. Meanwhile, that weekend in Kansas, I said to my sister, "For us to move, it would have to be some kind of director position, and I just don't think they will offer that to Lee."

Well, what do you know, that's exactly what Rusty called to offer Lee on Tuesday morning, less than 12 hours after I had returned to California. Not to mention, the whole contract thing with the church had taken much longer than expected. We had anticipated signing that and closing the deal more than three weeks earlier. Had God post-poned that with His plans in mind?

Then I start thinking about the specifics... and doing laundry Wednesday  morning, I say in conversation with the Lord, "Father, we cannot move to Kansas for anything less than (this amount of money)". Wednesday afternoon, Rusty calls and gives Lee that specific number (which would later be raised the next week).

Thursday Lee & I went to meet with Jason (high school/college pastor/dear friend/pastor who married us/family, etc.) & Dennis (senior pastor, also dear friend and mentor). This was a difficult meeting. We laid everything out there and asked for their wisdom. Then Dennis did something I didn't realize I needed... He freed us to do whatever God called us to do.

Deep sigh.

Moment of Relief.

He also said it sounded like we had done everything we could to open our minds and hearts before the Lord and give him opportunities to speak to us, and that either we may just be getting a choice to do what we really want to do or that God would reveal it to us soon that same day.

I cried a lot at the meeting. I had been crying for 48 hours really. I don't know why I was so emotional--I guess I was just overwhelmed with the decision at hand and the pressure to make it so quickly. The only way to release the pressure was to cry a river I suppose.

Lee and I walked home in silence where we sat on the couch and didn't say a word.
After several minutes of quiet, Lee finally said, "I feel like I Know. . . but I am scared to say it."

"Me, too, just say it."

"I think we're supposed to go."

"Me, too."

This was followed by even more quiet, because even though we felt relief knowing what we were supposed to do, there were still many unknowns and still many people to tell. It wasn't going to be an easy few days. In fact, after notifying leaders at the church it was best for the church to make the announcement that Sunday, so we really only had 1 day to tell people before it was made public at church (because we were going to be gone all day saturday with our 8th graders at the beach). But we told everyone, and we survived a few very difficult days, and we were met with mostly lots of love, understanding, and support. Praise Jesus!

Then on Friday June 17th we made an offer on a house (after my family looked at some for us). By Wed June 22 it was ours.

God flew so many doors wide open and continued, as he still continutes to, affirm our decision.

We leave July 27 and Lee starts his new position at Tabor on Aug 1.

Thank you everyone for your prayers and love and encouragement. We love you all.