Ten years ago today I stepped off a plane and onto “Ohio Soil” for the first time. I was young, naïve and nervous – all of which ended up being good qualities for the journey I was pursuing. I made my way to baggage claim and was greeted by a friendly looking stranger holding a manila envelope with my name written on it in black sharpie.
I felt a little bit important. Who am I kidding, I was important. (insert young and naïve here)
We gathered my luggage and made the short trip from Dayton to Springfield. Here this friendly stranger would drive me through the metropolis of Springfield and by the church I would interview at the next morning.
In the hours before my arrival the city had been blanketed in some 18 inches of snow. The town was a bustle about the amount of the snow. This Minnesota girl wondered what the big deal was…. 10 years later, I get it. 18 inches of snow in one dumping in central Ohio is like 3 ½ feet in one swoop in Minnesota. That said, I still can’t get over the plethora of cancellations that occur before a weather front even bares its gruesome face.
Anyway, I digress.
The next morning I would put on my Sunday’s best for church, a lunch with the pastor and his wife and an interview. I remember what I wore that day – black pants and a blue striped button up shirt. The funny thing is – the pants I was wearing for that interview were, at one point in my life, my favorite “bar” pants.
And now I was wearing them to interview for a position in a church as director of children and youth ministries.
Jesus happened to me in-between the bar and the interview.
The old was gone and I had been made new…but the pants remained.
I don’t have them anymore….babies and pizza with youth and FRISHES BIG BOY (Minnesota peeps, it’s a hamburger with tarter sauce) happened and well, they shrunk.
The interview went well. I stayed another night at the friendly stranger’s home and then flew back to my stomping grounds.
In the days to come I accepted the job at that church.
Just short of a month after that interview we packed all of my belongings into dad’s pickup truck and my sunbird and drove, the now familiar 742 miles from Minnesota to Ohio – the entire time listening to talk radio as the United States invaded Iraq.
In the weeks and months to come I would become familiar with my job (though I do recall crying in the bathroom of the church), drive the wrong way down a one-way trying to find the post office, and recognize the tenant who lived above me liked to enjoy his ever revolving lady company late into the night….comprende?
I made friends, good friends, who have remained the duration of the decade. However after just 2 years in this city I found myself very cynical of the city and growing weary of growing roots in this city.
In late May of 2005 I stood on my Aunt and Uncles’ lake property for my cousins wedding, surrounded by family. In the hours of that day I decided I would make plans to move back to Minnesota, unless….
Unless the blind date I had penned into my calendar for that next week gave reason for sticking around.
And it did.
Just 10 months later I found myself back at the home of that “friendly stranger,” and now friend, while she did up my hair and makeup for my wedding.
Being married to a native of the city didn’t change my attitude about my surroundings. I felt stuck.
And then somebody called me out on my attitude and beliefs surrounding this city. Asking me “Weren’t you specifically sent here to spread the love of Jesus? Isn’t this city your mission from the Lord? They thought nothing good could come out of Nazareth too.”
I repented for the ill will I had spoken over the city the Lord had placed me in. I prayed for a spirit of love for this city, to see it with the eyes of God.
I clung to that prayer. My attitude began to change, slightly.
In the months surrounding this sorta-shift in my attitude I would endure an extremely political, painful, and anxiety ridden season in my job at the church. Months of meetings surrounding several local churches merging took its toll on me.
I’m sure some good came from those meetings/arguing. Never mind,I’m not sure.
I refused to become jaded. I refused to pick up the excuse of being turned off or hurt by “organized religion.”
We carried on.
By this time we had welcomed 2 sweet babes into our family. While the Lord had birthed the Spirit of adoption in my heart after Noah’s arrival it came better into focus and gained speed in the months after Georgi was born.
Simultaneously, we had found ourselves being knit into a new group of friends. This group we met with week after week would significantly change the direction of our lives. The “Body of Christ” would take on a new meaning in our lives, a tangible, life-giving meaning.
We were suddenly surrounded by a group of people who loved this city, who spoke hope over it and had vision. They spoke of the lost and how we could reach them.
They were excited about our desire to adopt. They asked questions and were cheerleaders.
We said yes to adoption. Not knowing how we would pay for it or what the journey would look like.
And then the 8 plus years of working at the church that brought me to this city came to a quick close.
And it seemed like everything changed.
And it did,but really the Lord was just aligning us more with Him.
The Lord birthed a vision for adoption in our hearts for this city.
I had grown roots in this city.
Somewhere in the course of the last 3 years the Lord answered my prayers for a love for this city. His plan for our mission here unfolded.
And it is good.
It is fascinating. Because that’s what the Lord does, he fascinates.
He writes stories that are beyond our best dreams. It’s up to us to take him up on these stories. It doesn’t at all mean this road isn’t marked with hurt, trials, grief and heartache, it is….BUT (The Lord has the best “BUTS”)He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
I will stand on that promise.
10 years. It may have taken me a decade to find my stride, but I have.
I’ve done things I never imagined I would.
Like adopt and officiate a biker’s funeral in jeans and red stilettos.
I look forward to the next ten years as we chase after God’s vision for our family and this city. As we strive to lay down our comfort and notions about what is “normal” or “American,” and instead go for Glory.