Earlier this year I was sitting at my neighbor’s table while she made fried pies. We’re both from Arkansas and although almost 60 years separate us, chatter can pass between us like we graduated high school together. We both moved to the neighborhood in 2012. I asked her that day what brought her to Jefferson City. “To die,” she answered with a small wry smile. I came here to grow up, I told her. But I’ve thought a lot about that moment that brought two drastically different lives to intersect over moving to Stonebridge in 2012 and a desire to eat fried pies.
I also came here to deepen my commitment to authentic community.
I came to see if I would be any good at a job I knew nothing about.
I came to reconnect with the Lord.
I’ve looked back at the last four years and six months and have also realized God moved me here to grow in the area of discipline, carve out a deeply rooted passion for the marginalized, for women who have never been told they are capable of leading, and children in foster care. I’ve wept about three gallons of tears over friends who have moved, struggled with infertility, miscarriages, deaths of husbands, grandparents, brothers, and moms. I’ve exploded with joy over news of dear friends moving to Jefferson City, seen friends get jobs I’ve prayed night and day for, I’ve witnessed my first birth, gotten tested for TB five times, seen a family of two that’s turned into a family of five, prayed over the little body of the first foster child I ever knew, readied a bedroom that welcomed two answers to the fervent prayer for children.
I prayed for roots in Jefferson City; I wanted to belong somewhere.
The problem with that prayer is that God answered above and beyond and the roots have sunk down deep and strong. I’ve stayed awake some nights worried about the kids down the street if they’ll have enough food when school is out. I walk into my hair salon and I could hang out there all day if they would let me. I talk to Lou at the Towne Grill while I sit at the bar and eat bacon and scrambled eggs on Fridays. I can walk across Lincoln University campus and hear someone holler my name. I have over a dozen kids under the age of 9 that have me wrapped around their finger at church. With each root, each blessing, each answer to prayer, comes an equal amount of responsibility. I’m learning over the last few days that part of that responsibility is knowing how to grieve it when God uproots you.
There is very little I know about life but one thing I know to be true is that where God moves is where I need to be.
God has given me the opportunity to again see if I’m any good at a job I’ve never had before. This time, it’s giving support and ‘doing life’ with aged out foster girls in need of a home. This. Is. My. Dream. And I am honored to be a part of what God is doing at this nonprofit. In a few weeks, I uproot all that God has asked me to water and tend to and head south to Rogers. The excitement and the sadness is so present, it catches my breath.
As I’m caught in the craziness of squaring things away at work, looking for housing, packing up my stuff, and being present with the people I do life with here everyday, and thinking about starting new in community again, the weight of responsibility has been heavy. I keep thinking back to Moses prayer in Psalms 90 that says, “Lord, you have always been our home”
It’s grounded the anxiety, leveled the idealized future, and brings me back to the simple calling of just going where God goes. He takes care of the detail.
One particular area of responsibility in the uprooting I feel incredibly unequipped for is knowing how to close a chapter. I don’t know many people who are good with goodbyes but I’m unbelievably bad at them. Angela has asked me how I’m going to do it and I said “I don’t know” and hopped in my car sobbed so deeply I thought I had lost a cornea. Belonging is painful in the best way imaginable and I’m honored to have my heart shattered in this transition.
On my 26 birthday my church threw me a surprise party complete with piles of handmade cards from the dozen of kids under the age of 9 that have me wrapped around their finger, a beautiful homemade cake, and the most precious painting of a dark black winter tree. It takes effort to celebrate people, especially people who aren’t in your biological family, and this gesture to this day, just the thought of it, can melt me into a puddle of hot tears. I do not deserve these people in the least.
Tonight I was organizing a few boxes and came across the handwritten note that accompanied the painting of the winter tree from my birthday, written by my woe and kindred spirit, Angela. These words hit me,
“This painting is my attempt to represent a few things. One, in spite of the fact that this season has been hard and even dark at times, the backdrop of your life has always been the glory of God. He has brought forth color and illuminated your heart time and time again. He will not stop. I also chose a mature tree in winter because you are rooted and established in God. You display maturity and discernment that are rare at any age because your roots are deep; even in winter you do not lose life. Finally, each branch represents the words that were said of you [from each family in my church.] Those things are true and a result of your faith, trust, and roots in God. Never forget.”
Praise God if there is any shred of truth to these words because it’s only through His persistent grace in my life. Angela’s call to never forget His work lands squarely before me this week.
Roots are the thing that bind you to the Author and Perfecter of our faith, that grow so slowly and steadily that you miss when it happened, the thing that you must labor incredibly hard to uproot, the thing that sustain life.
So I labor. I labor with how to say goodbye to little ones you don’t want to traumatize with your tears, to find the words to your coworkers, friends, and students to adequately convey how important they are to you, to turn the key in to the couple that’s lived with you, cried with you, fed you til you popped, laughed until you were sick, and walked across the room to take communion together as a family.
I grieve and I rejoice. If that’s not life in a nutshell, I don’t know what is. I’ve never been more grateful for the bond we have in Christ as I am welcomed with open arms in this new calling and community and close a chapter here in Jefferson City.
I don’t know where exactly home is going to be in Rogers but I know without a shadow of a doubt that it will be more hospitable than it was when I left to move to Jefferson City. I know that it will be filled with new friends and partner’s in the Gospel, that it will house both grief and joy as He continues to work in and through me, and I know it on its walls will hang perfect painting of a winter tree to never forget what He has done.
I Thessalonians 5:24 says, “He who calls you is faithful, and He will surely do it!”
Next stop, Arkansas.