Living Arrangements and a New Car: Lots of Big Changes Lately!

The past couple of weeks have been a blur of packing, moving, settling in, and trying to smoothe out last-minute details from the relocation. But now I have the driver's license to prove it: I'm (once again) an Ohio girl!

It finally feels like the dust is settling, so I wanted to provide a little re-cap of all the ch-ch-changes that have been going on, behind the scenes here:

Now that we are officially in Ohio (and everything with selling our home in Georgia went smoothly and without a hiccup!), we will be living with family for the next couple of months while my husband gets settled into his job. Through the end of the year, he'll have to do a lot of training that will take him away during the week, so waiting to buy will enable me to always have plenty of extra pairs of hands whenever I need them to help out with Claire. (She loves having someone nearby all the time!) And our families have been so generous in accommodating for us, turning bedrooms and basements into complete living areas so that—whatever the address—it all feels like "home."

Plus, even though I grew up here, my husband isn't from Ohio, so we didn't want to have to rush into figuring out where we want to live. We want to take our time figuring out what location works best for us and finding a part of town we could see staying put in for the long haul (because after that cross-country move, I don't want to have to move again if I don't have to!). We think we've found a church to call home in a part of town that's near my husband's work and equidistant between my family and his, so that's what we're thinking but this will give us time to explore and ease into the decision—and shop around for another great deal!

Another big change for us has been that we are no longer a one-car family. We lived with one car for a little more than three years, which was pretty doable and practical for us from a financial standpoint for most of that time. But once we had Claire, it became really hard for me to get out and do much because I had to borrow the car while working around his work schedule as well as Claire's nap schedule—which was a pretty daunting task that made me really start to feel tied down at home.

So, we took some of the money from selling the house and set it aside to buy a sturdy used car that we could pay for with cash. And because my husband really wanted a minivan (seriously), that's what we got this week! I figured that if he was willing to move us up to Ohio, I'd be willing to buy a minivan. (Compromise is the stuff that makes a marriage, right?!) But, after driving one (we opted for the Toyota Sienna, for anyone interested), it has some pretty nice features that I won't complain about. I'm not sure who's more excited to drive it—me or him!

So, as the seasons begin to change, so do things around here, and we're settling—slowly but surely—into this next chapter of ours.

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The Promised Land of Parenting

As I trudge through parenthood, I have to remind myself not to get too focused on the minutiae of it all—things like sleeping through the night or whether my daughter’s getting enough age-appropriate entertainment to keep her on-track developmentally. It’s enough to become consuming, if I let it.

That’s the thing. I have to make sure I don’t let those things become consuming.

Instead, I must remember what the real goal ought to be fore as a mom: To teach my daughter about The Lord and do my best to show Him to her.

I was reminded of this when I was reading through the early chapters of Joshua, as the Israelites are awaiting deliverance to the Promised Land and readying to attack Jericho:

Three days later the Israelite officers went through the camp, giving these instructions to the people: “When you see the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord your God, move out from your positions and follow them. Since you have never traveled this way before, they will guide you. Stay about a half mile behind them, keeping a clear distance between you and the Ark. Make sure you don’t come any closer.” Then Joshua told the people, “Purify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do great wonders among you.” Joshua 3:2-5

“Since you have never traveled this way before,” the text says, the people are to let the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant lead the way. They are to follow the Ark, which will guide them, straight into the Promised Land.

Oh, how that resonates with this life of mine as a new, first-time mom. I have never traveled this way before and oftentimes feel at a loss, unsure of what I’m doing, wondering how much I’m messing things up, how many mistakes I’m making.

But, like the Israelites, I have to remember that it’s okay that I don’t know what I’m doing when I find myself into this unfamiliar territory. It’s okay, because God has led me this far and I have to trust him to lead me the rest of the way—into the Promised Land of parenting.

So long as I continue looking to him, looking to his Word and his promises, he will guide me and deliver me to that place of promise, that place where I can see my daughter flourish because she has found love in him.

That ought to be the Promised Land I’m after. I have to remind myself to let that—rather than everything else—be the mission that guides my steps. It is not getting my daughter to sleep through the night or perfect crawling by six months. It is so much simpler than that: Love God and model him for her in hopes that she will someday follow in those same footsteps.

Like Joshua told that band of vagabonds, looking longingly at their Promised Land off in the distance: When we let him lead us, “the Lord will do great wonders among you.” That’s the kind of Promised Land I’m after!

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Goodbye Georgia, Hello Ohio

It's now been two weeks since we packed all our belongings into the back of a moving truck and drove eight hours from Georgia to Ohio.

We've spent these past two weeks tying up loose ends with turning off all our utilities and closing on the sale of our house (which went off without a hitch last week!), finishing up a couple of writing assignments, setting up our new temporary home with family. My husband started his new job and all the training that entails, and Claire has gotten used to all the attention she gets from having family to play with her practically around the clock! We're looking into getting a second car (to make it easier to get around and visit all that family and friends!)

All that to say, there has been lots going on. Particularly on top of a month spent packing everything into boxes, it's been luxurious to have time to unwind from that, to not have to worry about washing every dish or making every dinner and simply spend time catching my breath.

Of course it has been bittersweet to leave Atlanta behind: That is where my husband and I pretty much started our marriage and found our way—at times, stumbling and shaky—through newlywedhood. It's where we went through the ups and downs of finding jobs and watching God provide for us in unbelievable ways. It's where we found a church family that was there for us and supported us through all the twists and turns that came during those four years. It's where we got to spend holidays with my husband's family and celebrate the birth of our first niece, who's only three years older than Claire and gives us a glimpse into what all is to come. It's where we had our own bundle of joy just six months ago. It's where life grew us for four rich and full and fulfilling years.

I came across this quote from Richard Wright and thought it was fitting for this changing of seasons we're wading through:

I was leaving the South
To fling myself into the unknown...
I was taking a part of the South
To transplant in alien soil,
To see if it could grow differently,
If it could drink of new and cool rains,
Bend in strange winds,
Respond to the warmth of other suns
And, perhaps, to bloom.

Of course, Ohio has always been home to me. But still, those little pieces of the South will be held dearly as we make our way here and recreate our new normal, savor this new season, and celebrate the changes that are and are yet to come.

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The Story of How I Decided to Leave Everything I Knew and Move in Pursuit of God (Part 3)

I'm currently in the midst of relocating from Georgia to Ohio, so I thought it was a fitting time to look back at another time in my life where God moved me across the country: I was 24 and single, and moved from my hometown in Ohio to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I knew one person in the entire state.

Earlier this week, I shared the first part and second part of my story about this leap of faith. If you missed it, click here to read Part 1. And click here to read Part 2. Today I am sharing the last and final bit, Part 3, in my story about how this all unfolded. 

Back in Ohio, I received word that I was invited back for a second interview. I ended up having to reschedule because the original date they wanted me to arrive fell during the week I had already arranged to chaperone a youth group trip. (As it turns out, this was the youth group trip where I got to know the man who would someday become my husband!) Fortunately they were flexible and were able to push the interview back another week.

I remained calm and at peace with the situation—until the night before the interview. At that point I had what I’d probably compare to an anxiety attack although I have nothing to compare it to. My heart was racing, I was short of breath, I was hungry, I was thirsty… I tried to pray through it but nothing worked. I barely slept and the next morning, I was still anxious the whole drive up. Even when I went into the interview, the anxiety was still right there, punching me in the face.

Looking back, I really feel like it was the devil’s one last-ditch effort to psych me out and pull me away from God’s plan. Because at one point, I really just wanted to call them and tell them to cancel the interview. And what was I afraid of? Of getting the job? How ridiculous is that?

It wasn’t until about halfway through the interview that I regained composure and the anxiety left me. By that point, the anxiety had already made me mess up a bit more than I normally would have so I figured that if I was able to get the job even after that–admittedly, not my greatest interview–then I knew God was in on it. I walked out of the interview at peace with whatever would happen.

The next Monday, I received an email offering me the position. Just. Like. That. I couldn’t believe it, that it all had really, actually happened. That God had planted this desire in my heart and arranged everything to come together and then he actually gave it to me.

As I considered all of that, I knew that I had to accept the job, even though by this point my friend had realized she didn’t want to move to Grand Rapids and I’d be doing it alone. Sure, there was uncertainty but I had seen so much of God’s goodness already, how I could expect any less of it in the future? God truly was so powerful in the knitting together of the situation, that I could not deny it. I could not turn away from it, from him.

I wanted this to be one of those times where I heeded and obeyed God, in hopes that doing so would make it easier for me to continue to heed and obey him in the future. Because I didn’t want to look back and say the only time I really knew I was listening to God and God was with me was when I was 24. I didn’t want to turn it down out of fear and run the chance of deadening my heart to listening to him in the future, as well. That would be so disappointing and heartbreaking.

So, with that awareness, I accepted the job.

Looking back over that situation, it is so encouraging to me to see how God guided the whole process, especially given that I was just starting to flourish in my faith. It was one of the first times that I tried to start to listen to him. And he met me in those places! There were many places along the way where I could have doubted more, where I could have ignored God’s still small voice. But I didn’t because he heaped grace upon grace, peace upon peace all around me.

What another testimony of his lavish love for even the least of these.

(If you want to read more about how God continued to provide for me once I did move to Michigan, you can read more about that here. And, a perennial favorite is my series about how my husband and I met and fell in love, Our Love Story.)

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The Story of How I Decided to Leave Everything I Knew and Move in Pursuit of God (Part 2)

I'm currently in the midst of relocating from Georgia to Ohio, so I thought it was a fitting time to look back at another time in my life where God moved me across the country: I was 24 and single, and moved from my hometown in Ohio to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I knew one person in the entire state.

A couple days ago, I shared the first part of my story about this leap of faith I took. If you missed it, click here to read Part 1.
Time was ticking as we got closer to visiting Grand Rapids and I still hadn’t nailed down any job interviews. I emailed a contact I’d made at the smaller publishing house to follow-up about setting up an interview and she suggested some new job postings for me to consider. None of them were in what I originally wanted to pursue (that of an acquisitions editor—the people who are finding the books to publish) but there were some in the publicity and marketing departments.

I pulled together my application and sent it off. Days later, I got an email that I had an interview with the publicity department while I was in town.

Now I had done this sort of informational interview seeking once before, right after I graduated college and thought I wanted to move to New York City. I couldn’t find a job and decided to visit the city and see what I could do. Before going, I lined up as many interviews as I could, at places like Teen People, Cosmogirl, and YM. (Now it seems kind of silly, but at the time I really wanted to work for a teen magazine.)

So my inclination with this Grand Rapids visit was originally to line up as many interviews as possible, but at this point I only had one. But Something told me to pursue this one avenue—to see it through and to trust. So I fought my urge to blanket the city with resumes and pitches and cover letters. I sat still. And waited.

When we visited in June, it was incredible how people reached out to us. Even before the visit, we seemed to be getting signs that there was a community already waiting for us up there, with people eager to open their homes to us and encouraging us to come.

The one, solitary person I knew in the town let us stay with him and his wife and invited friends over so that we could start to meet people. More people kept recommending folks for us to meet. It was amazing to see that all weave together and the semblance of a community start to take shape for us.

The last day we were in town (a Monday) was the day of the interview. Somehow through the whole process, God gave me an insane peace about everything. And you should know, by nature, I’m a worrywort (as we've already established).

But with Grand Rapids, I wasn’t worried or rushed or stressed or anxious. I just trusted: that God would provide a job if he was going to point me in that direction. That I’d figure everything out with my living situation in Ohio. When people asked me if I’d considered this and what I was going to do about that, all I could do is shrug and say I don’t know yet, and be done with it. How glorious and releasing is that?!

So upon going in for my interview, I could not have been more at ease. I walked in and met with the interviewer, and it was like meeting with a friend. We got along great and talked shop but also talked about life and the way God works. She recommended books to read to me and gave me one to take with me and I made recommendations for her. I walked away feeling like this is a woman I could really look up to and respect, not just as far as a job goes but also as far as having as a sort of mentor in my life. To have that as a boss? That’s pretty phenomenal!

So I walked away from the interview with a good feeling brewing in my stomach–as if I already belonged to this place. My friend picked me up and we went to a cute French cafe and met more new friends before hitting the road for the 6-hour return trip to Cincinnati.

Later this week, I will share Part 3, the final post, in my story about how this all unfolded and what God was doing behind-the-scenes as he prepared to move me to this new town which I could tell was starting to feel more and more like home...

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The Story of How I Decided to Leave Everything I Knew and Move in Pursuit of God (Part 1)

I'm currently in the midst of relocating from Georgia to Ohio, so I thought it was a fitting time to look back at another time in my life where God moved me across the country: I was 24 and single, and moved from my hometown in Ohio to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where I knew one person in the entire state. It was undoubtedly a leap of faith for me and one that has guided me (and grown my faith) ever since. Here's a look back at how that all came to be:

In March of 2008, I was at work, doing a job I enjoyed where I worked as an editor for a graphic design magazine. I was taking a break from the daily grind and flipping through some articles online–not about design but about faith and the like.

A light bulb went off in my head that if my job had to do with God, I’d be so great about it because that’s where my passion for learning lies. I enjoy design and appreciate design but I don’t seek it out in the way I do information about God.

Now nothing with this light bulb moment would have really gone anywhere had it not been for the fact that I’d recently become friends with a girl at church who was another volunteer with the youth group girls. She confided that she was trying to figure out where she was headed in life and told me about the two places she was considering: Philadelphia and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

After that conversation, I got inspired and went home and started looking up where some Christian publishing companies were. Lo and behold, there were a handful of publishing houses in that little northern town of Grand Rapids. In fact, it’s deemed the Christian publishing capital of the country.

So the more she and I talked about it, the more right it felt to pursue Grand Rapids and this dream of Christian publishing. We set up a weekend to go visit, but one thing led to another and it kept getting derailed. We weren’t able to visit until a couple of months later, in the middle of June.

Trying to maximize this dream of mine, I put feelers out at a couple of the Christian publishers I’d discovered to see if I could meet with any when I was in town. The original publishing house that I thought I wanted to pursue never called me back.

However, there was this smaller one that I contacted and even when the operator patched me through to someone completely unrelated–everyone was so kind and so helpful to me. To me, that was God opening a door, and I took it by faith.

It was a couple weeks before we headed up to Grand Rapids and I still hadn’t secured any job interviews. But I still believed this is what God wanted. I got together with the youth pastor at our church, who had become a good friend, to get his guidance on the situation.

We talked through the reasons why I wanted to move. He had me create a pros-and-cons list of why I wanted to move to Grand Rapids. (He used a neat illustration to explain his understanding of determining what God's will is for our lives. Read more about that here.)

He asked me what I would do if I didn’t get a job up there, would I just move ahead? I told him that I wouldn’t move until I had a job because I felt like that was the whole purpose God was pointing me up there for in the first place, so I trusted that he would provide that.

Somehow God gave me such peace and clarity through the whole process–I’m still baffled.

After our meeting he told me that he wished he could tell me that I was doing it for the wrong reasons but he couldn’t.

I'll be back in a couple of days to continue with Part 2 and sharing my story about how this all unfolded and what God was doing behind-the-scenes.

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Dear Claire: 5 Month Update

(I've been writing monthly updates to my daughter, Claire, documenting all the changes that come with the passing weeks. You can catch up on past letters here.)

Dear Claire,

We are in the midst of packing everything up to move and make Ohio your new home. It is a crazy time in all our lives, but, like the innocent, wide-eyed baby you are, you seem to take no notice of all the changes or towers of boxes, except that your mama is busier than usual tending to all those towers.

Still, you have been a champ these last couple of weeks, entertaining yourself (which typically consists of gnawing on anything and everything in sight). You’ve got the outlines of your two bottom teeth showing through your gums, so I imagine those will be bursting onto the scene any day now, though you haven’t been fussy, so who knows. Maybe you’ll surprise us and not be phased at all with their emergence? You are such an enigma that would not surprise me one bit!

One of the things that I think has kept you fascinated (and distracted) during your playtime is that you’re on the verge (it appears) of learning to crawl. You can get up on your hands and knees (even your tippy-toes!) and are rocking back and forth. You don’t understand how to pick up your hands and knees to make movement, but instead throw your head forward and push off with your feet so that you scoot, little by little, lurch by lurch. I am not sure you do it quite purposefully yet because you’ll end up in an area with no toys and then cry out for help. But I think you have a hunch that that hands-and-knees thing really might come in useful some day…

You’re still occasionally laughing but you’re still a tough nut to crack when it comes to the giggles! We really have to work at it and even then sometimes all we get is a big smile—but no sound. It’s okay though, you’re free and fancy with the grins so we all stay happy!

One other thing that makes you happy: When I sing to you. And I am not someone who can sing. But you (sweet thing that you are) don’t discriminate. Sometimes if I’m tending to dinner and you’re getting bored, you’ll start to protest; all I have to do is start singing to you and you suddenly go quiet. I feel like one of the sirens from Greek mythology how easily you can be entranced by my singing. I did a Bible study once on the Psalms, and the author made an aside about how she thought that maybe singing is the language of heaven because it’s so powerful. Maybe she’s truly on to something…

Otherwise, this month has been a blur. You’re sleeping much, much better during the day but waking up every three hours at night. Growth spurt? Habit? Who knows. I’ve given up trying to dissect it all and, instead, just go with the flow. I’ve found it’s so true that everything changes so quickly with babies; you’ve always resolved your own issues in your own time, so I trust that some time or other, you’ll finally get into that whole “sleeping through the night” business that I hear so much about. But for now, we’ve got lots of other good things going for us, so I won’t complain.

You really have become such a happy, beautiful, fun-loving baby. We had a rough start there at the beginning, but I’m starting to shake off the scars. Because getting to see you blossom as you have has been so wonderful, so healing to all those tearful days and nights. And you know what? I can’t even remember the last time I cried. How far we’ve come my darling. How very far.

Your Mom

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