This just might work.

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Last week I reminisced about our life in our little house by the river. Today, I share some of the journey to our next nest.

Even before we moved in, we knew we wouldn’t live in the little house by the river forever. It’s university property, after all, and one does not retire in university property.

Not that we are retiring. We’re not even close.

I’m just one year into my journey at Detroit Leadership Academy and have accepted the role of Master Teacher for next year. I will stay in the classroom, teaching English Language Arts to our seniors, working with my colleagues to close the educational equity gap and prepare our students for success in college, trade school, or the work world. This past year has more than affirmed my passion for teaching in Detroit, and I hope for many years of teaching ahead in this next chapter.

Similarly, John is as invested as ever in the students at Concordia. When he moved here eight years ago, he had a sense of what this position held, what his role and responsibilities would be, but now he fully understands how his gifts as an educator, a counselor, and a pastor work together to support college students as they develop into adulthood. He’s part of a strong team of leaders here who are committed to walking with students through both joys and challenges, and he’s excited about continuing in that role.

So why the change? Don’t we love living on campus? We sure do! I’ve written about how much we love it over the years. Even during the pandemic, when the campus was almost vacant, we enjoyed its beauty — the green of summer against the brick structures, the fall leaves beside the peaceful Huron River, the pure white expanses of snow in the open spaces, and always the lilacs, the tulips, and the peonies in the spring. We have loved living and literally walking beside students, faculty, and staff these past years — watching ultimate frisbee from our patio, hearing laughter outside our door, and chatting with members of this community as we move throughout our weeks. We have experienced many unique relationships as a result of living in the little house by the river, and we are sad to be leaving.

Nevertheless, from the beginning, we knew we would one day move out. We weren’t sure when or to where, but from the beginning, we’ve kind of had our eye on Ypsilanti. We love Ann Arbor — its parks, its restaurants, its cool campus scene — but when in Ann Arbor, I’ve always felt a bit like a tourist. I love to explore how beautiful, how smart, how impressive Ann Arbor is — I don’t get tired of it. However, when I visit Ypsilanti, I feel more at home — its edges aren’t polished; it’s not trying to impress anyone. Ypsilanti looks like it’s been through some stuff and lived to tell — and I resonate with that.

So last winter, when we were on month one million of Covid isolation and my husband’s plantar fasciitis got in the way of our long quarantine walks, we started taking drives around Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and their surrounding areas. We talked about what we liked and didn’t like. We discussed our future. We clarified our goals. Then one day, we called our friend who is a realtor and formalized our search.

Over the next few months, we looked at many, many houses. Our realtor’s patience with us allowed us to imagine what we were looking for — what kind of space would suit us in this stage of life and carry us forward into the next. The little house by the river definitely informed that vision. We have been very content in this simple home, and we could picture ourselves in something similar — three bedrooms, perhaps a second bathroom, a garage, and definitely space for a garden. We wanted to be in a community where we could mix with people whose journeys may have been different from ours, where we could build relationships that would challenge and enrich us. Our goal was to stick to a conservative budget so that we could easily pay our mortgage and continue to live our simple life and contribute to causes that matter to us.

This was a tall order in the current real estate market. Interest rates are at an all-time low, and we were not the only ones looking for a house during the pandemic. In fact, the first house we bid on had several other offers, and so did the second house. Buyers right now are offering well over asking price and some are paying fully in cash. In fact, the third house we made an offer on had twenty-six (26!) other offers. The winner paid in cash. We were starting to get discouraged and even said, “It’s fine. Let’s take a break; we don’t need to buy a house right now.”

Then, on a Friday, when I clicked through the latest listings in an email sent by our realtor, I noticed a little three bedroom with a garage in Ypsilanti Township. I pulled it up on Google Maps and thought, “We aren’t going to like it. It’s too close to the highway.” I wasn’t even going to go look, but as I left work that day, I thought, “I’m in the car anyway, and it’s kind of on the way.” I took the exit and drove the path that we had driven to so many others in the area, and then I found myself on a quiet street that was indeed extremely close to the highway, but for some reason didn’t feel like it was. I pulled up in front of a small blue ranch, put the car in park, lowered the windows, and listened.

It was so quiet. Across the street was a playground and what was once an elementary school but is now an alternative education center. The house seemed in good shape, and so did the garage. I drove up and down the street, looking at the other houses on the block.

“Huh,” I thought, “this just might work.”

I texted my husband and our realtor, “I know we just said we were going to take a little break, but I’m sitting in front of this house, and I think it might be worth a look inside.”

Two days later we were standing in the driveway, then we were walking around to the back where we saw the garden — an enormous garden, right at the back of the yard, adjacent to three other yards that also had their gardens right next to the fence. I could immediately see myself leaning on that fence, talking to the neighbors, sharing gardening tips, and passing produce. I saw mature well-cared-for rose bushes and a patio next to the house, where I imagined our Adirondack chairs might fit quite nicely. We walked inside and found a lovely well-lit living room, a small eat-in kitchen, and three small bedrooms on the main floor. Everything had been recently painted, and the flooring had all been replaced. It felt fresh and ready to be lived in. We made our way downstairs to the finished basement where we found a fourth bedroom, a family room, the laundry, and all the makings of a bathroom — toilet, shower, sink — minus the finishing touches of walls and a vanity.

I heard my husband saying, “This might just work”

We guarded our feelings and put in an offer — the fourth offer we had made in a little over a month — and then we waited.

We didn’t have to wait long. By Monday the sellers had accepted our offer, and less than a month later, we have closed on our next nest. We haven’t yet begun to move in, but we’ve already put seeds and seedlings in the garden, and I’ve already leaned on the fence and talked with the neighbors. They like to chat and linger, just like I was hoping they would.

As I’m packing boxes in the little house by the river, I continue to reminisce, but my gaze is starting to move forward. I’m imagining our things living inside their new spaces. I’m picturing us sitting in our living room watching children playing in the park. I’m looking forward to walks in our next neighborhood.

I think this just might work.

You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

Psalm 145:16

My journey

Have you ever plotted your life journey on a map?

I’ve done it a couple of times in the classroom.  My students and I were once reading a book about a girl who had lived all over the country with her job-hopping aunt.  We plotted her life, and then I plotted mine via GoogleMaps to show them the journey.

My St. Louis, Missouri students always thought I was making up the fact that I grew up in St. Louis, Michigan and that I went to St. Louis High School.  So, I always had to prove to them that it did exist.

This morning I was reading about the travels of Paul, Silas, and Timothy.  My Bible study had me combing through Acts to plot a portion of their journey on a Biblical map.  It’s pretty incredible, actually.  Their commitment to share the Gospel had them trekking all over the countryside with no help from Expedia or Hotwire.  And, often, they were chased out of town by a violent mob, or worse, tossed in the slammer for a while.

I wouldn’t say my journey has been that dramatic. I am going to try to share a link to a map I created this morning that shows all the places I have lived in my just under fifty years*.  There are twelve points on the map representing the different towns/cities I have lived in.  Within those cities and towns I have lived in multiple houses.

The point of the Bible study was to look at how God had nudged or shoved each of us through our decisions.  How he had orchestrated my life journey. So, I got a bit introspective.  I got to thinking that any little change along the way could have reconfigured my whole life.  Have you ever thought about that?

What if my parents had not divorced, and we had moved with my dad to Indiana? How might my life be different?

What if I hadn’t transferred from Michigan State to Concordia so long ago?

What if my husband and I had not resigned our positions and moved to be closer to our son?

What if we had chosen to not go to the Seminary with three school-aged children?

What if he had not accepted this call back to Michigan?

So much would be different!  With any of those choices or so many other decisions, the trajectory would have been altered dramatically!

But, God allowed this journey.  He placed me in a loving family that has now stretched from coast to coast. He gave me lifelong friends from each location along the way.  He shaped me through my experiences as a student, a teacher, a mother, a wife. He has led us from one step through the next, all the while shielding and protecting us.

And through all the moves and transitions in my life, I (and you) have been sitting right in the palm of His hand.  It is mind-boggling. I wouldn’t change one step.

Psalm 20:24

A person’s steps are directed by the Lord…


Turning the Page

I really want to get to the next chapter!  However, I want to make sure that I have read every last word in the chapter I’m in, so I don’t miss one little detail.  

Tens years ago we had no idea that this chapter would be ten years long!  We left a pretty great life in lower Michigan with three elementary school-aged children to go to the seminary. It’s a four-year program.  We figured we would be in St. Louis for four years.  Right?   

Well, when the four years were over, my husband received his first call to a congregation right here in St. Louis. So, we bought a house and settled in for the long haul!   We found favorite restaurants, and running spots, and dry cleaners, and grocery stores. Over the past ten years we have made life-long friends.  We have raised our children.  

A year ago, when my husband was offered the position in Ann Arbor, he had to move quickly. They wanted him on campus for the start of school, which was  two weeks away!  The congregation he was serving had a farewell, he had many lunches and coffees with close friends, and he hit the road. Over the year he has made several trips back to St. Louis, often interacting with the people that he has already said goodbye to. 

I have had a very different experience.  I’ve known I am going to leave for almost a year now. I have had the support of my fabulous Monday night small group.  I have had the opportunity to walk with my students through this transition.  I have been able to participate in the hiring of my replacement.  I have been able to set up my medical team in Ann Arbor.  I have been able to clean through the house, getting rid of things that we will no longer need or want in our new place. My staff has said their farewells to me.  I have had countless goodbye lunches with friends.  I have had final visits with my hair stylist and my doctors. I think I am ready. 

But am I?  Every once in a while, a flood of emotion comes to the surface.  This has been a great chapter. It’s had its conflict and resolution. It’s had a mix of characters.  It’s had plot twists.  What if the next chapter is a little boring? Or has no connection to what has been happening in my story?  What if the plot doesn’t build? What if the main character has a crisis? What if she doesn’t know how to handle that crisis?

Be still.  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I know, I know.  Be Still.