In 10 days it will have been 3 months since our mini van with smudged windows filled with dinosaur stickers and sticky cup holders rolled into town. Into Twin Falls, Idaho. A place my feet had never once walked before. And as the van doors opened, out fell stiff and sore and excited and frazzled and cranky and relieved new residents. Soon to be Idahoans whose Indianan license plate exposed just how far they’d come and just how foreign they were.
To jump right in I’ll just say our entry into town was far from perfect. My (saint of a) mom was driving and I was in the back seat seeking to console a “been over this driving thing for 3 days already” baby. It was like I barely blinked after hearing we made it to town, looked up, and we were at our new house. Wait, did we cross over that huge bridge already? Where was the canyon? What did our street look like? Oh, here we are. There’s our house. A house that did not give a very warm welcome. But it didn’t take long to realize that being on the brink of breakdown was about much more than just the house. Granted, it was a house that I had no earthly idea how it was ever going to feel like my own, but it really was just the tip of the iceberg. It was the culmination of a major life transition. Of leaving a life we had grown to love. It was the physical and emotional and mental fatigue all catching up with me. The disappointment (and the dirt) of a house exposed how much was stuffed inside me during the whirlwind of a 1,752 mile move.
Looking back at those first days I’m reminded of a couple things. One is that downplaying the initial struggles and emotions of life in a new place isn’t helpful or necessary. A newer friend who had also moved out here responded to my hesitation to the question “what did you think of your house?” with an “it’s okay to say you hated it.” He happened to say exactly what I needed to hear. It was okay to simply say that something was hard. Admitting the struggles didn’t mean I did not or would not like it here. And even more importantly, it didn’t mean we weren’t supposed to be here.
The other thing I’m reminded of is that first feelings aren’t everything. I think so often we give moments of life pass or fail grades based off of the expectation our mind had preassigned to it. We think these not-lived-up-to “grand moments” are either a sign that we took a wrong turn or an indicator that the rest of what follows is going to go a certain way. But initial instances aren’t always punishments for the past or predictors for the future. We can acknowledge the ugly parts and call them what they are without assigning to them the final say. Big moments that give birth to something new may not hold the immediate magic we hoped for. But, the millions of small moments that flow out of it just might bring a kind of beauty we never could have imagined. Here is a sort of recap of the moments-of-beauty that have followed. Of the struggles and the sweetness. Or the sweetness in the struggles. Or the struggles in the sweetness. However you look at it, as is often the case, they have been inextricably linked.
Our first months here have been woven with sickness. Our very first Sunday was one of those built up “moments of magic.” It was a day to rightly be excited for. To finally meet everyone from the Bible study that would soon become our church, and we would even get to kick it all off by celebrating Easter Sunday with them. Instead, our family was sick in bed. From there it was like every bug known to mankind took us all (including our new community) out in ruthless rounds. It was non stop for weeks at a time. Then Mother’s Day weekend I was extremely sick with what I thought was the last bout of the bug but but ended up needing gallbladder surgery.
We were so ready to hit the ground running with house work and relationship building and town exploring, but it was as if every time our feet hit the ground another sickness stepped in and blocked our way. It felt like set back after set back in some senses.
But if I’m being honest these times of being sick over our new toilet (ew sorry) or hospitalized in our new town weren’t really the biggest struggles. As a wise friend put it, sometimes it can be easier to trace Gods hand in the big moments. And it was. Even in the midst of the accompanying weariness and exhaustion, we were able to really and deeply rest in God’s unshakable plans which flow out of His gentle and good heart. We were guarded in His peace and protection and aware of his very evident provision.
The harder place to trace His steady hand linked to His kind heart has actually been within the walls of our home. Not because of the house itself, but because of the hearts that now live within it. Changing physical location doesn’t actually change our inward station. No doubt it can be an opportunity to start fresh and establish new patterns. But our failing and fickle human hearts follow us wherever we go. So we are still battling the same daily struggles and sins. We are still figuring out how to function as a family of 5 and prioritize our marriage of 2. We are seeing how clunky it can feel to incorporate old traditions while also seeking to introduce new ones. We are relearning for the 100th time how disciplines don’t just wedge their way into our lives but how we wedge our lives around them. And we’re discovering how long it can take to find daily routines and rhythms and to settle into a new sense of normalcy.
I have witnessed yet again that this is where God meets us. Not just in the dire moments laying in the hospital bed (which I’m so glad He meets us here too!) but in the tantrums (toddler ones or our own) and the nights of tossing and turning and the body aches no one else can see and the marital tension that know one else knows you both feel and the “not so sure this too shall pass” phase that your child is going through. He breaks into the moments where the meal was thankless and the milk was spilt. Again. He dwells in the highest heights yet reaches into the lowest lows. He led us here and will not leave us here. He goes before us and He will stay beside us. Come what may this is what we can bank our lives on- our deeply established or totally uprooted- lives. He stoops low to dwell among us.
The point of following after Jesus isn’t to get the good. Well, we are promised that all things will work out for our true good, but that good can look so far from our human idea of it that we might not recognize it at all. Obedience does not always, or maybe often, result in ease. Walking in faith does not guarantee momentary satisfaction. Not physical health and wealth and not even relational or emotional health and wealth. So while walking in faith led us to Twin Falls, we knew the promise wasn’t that we’d just “love it here” or that it would “be the best fit for us.”But oh how we really do and oh how it really has been. The sweetness has undeniably shown through these months. It has shined so brightly.
We saw it in the familiar faces of friends that had been waiting for us to join them here. In their comforting hugs and their warm house to sleep in that felt like home. We saw it in the hands that were reaching out to meet us for the first time and the same hands that turned around to unload our truckload of moving boxes. We saw it in the soup and flowers and saltines and sprites left at our door step. We saw it in our kids secure smiles and excited eyes. We saw it when we drove around town and it instantly somehow all just made sense for our family. We saw it on our first hike when we breathed in fresh air and breathed out sighs of relief. We saw it from the bottom of the canyon and the top of the waterfall. We saw it, I mean really saw it, in the hospital stay and recovery days. In our genuinely caring nurses. In a really nice and new facility. In pain meds. In amazing surgeons. In our new pastor who came to pray with me in my hospital bed. In text messages checking on us and meals being brought to us and childcare being provided for us. In relationships that were founded uniquely on the opportunity for others to help and us to be helped. We’ve seen it by how naturally we love this place, but mostly by how quickly we feel a part of these people. These people who are both seeking and creating a really special community.
We have seen it in the sweetness of a baby church. A brand new, 16 member, was a Bible study now a constituted and covenanted, church. And by sweetness I don’t mean in an “oh how cute” kind of way but a “wow how powerful” kind of way. Because a church is a church no matter how small. This little church we get to be a part of is an earthly embassy of a heavenly kingdom. A beautiful bride. A bound together, blood bought, body learning to function together as one. A people bearing up each other’s burdens, cheering on each other’s celebrations, and endeavoring together to live and love and share the gospel. An unlikely group gathered around the same Savior, sitting under the same Word, and living in the same Spirit.
All in all, we have seen the sweetness of Christ building His own church. It’s His church and not any of our own. And it’s been sweet, so very sweet, to see it being built from the ground up. Witnessing the church’s very first baptism, partaking of the church’s very first Lords Supper, and reciting our covenant to one another for the very first time.
In both the struggles and the sweetness we are confident that we are right where we’re supposed to be.