In a giddy moment of joy and exuberance during the summer of 2013, high on the goodness of God, I gushed to the Lord that I would “take a new assignment.” I can still remember where I was – pulling my two-month old brand-new car into the parking lot of my Little Turtle suburbs apartment building in Columbus, Ohio.
That offer was a big deal for me, although at the time the words seemed to rush up out of me in a whoosh of overflowing excitement for all the good God had wrought in my life and my desire to give back to Him in response. I had fallen so in love with Columbus, Ohio and the surrounding suburbs over the previous 15 years since I had returned to Ohio, my birth state, for the second time. Growing up, I had always felt that staying in Ohio was somehow a death sentence, yet after my return in ‘98 I became thrilled with the warmth of the city along with the family and friends I had there. I felt so in love with the city that I genuinely didn’t know how I could ever leave. Yet, I made that offer that summer night after our weekly Thursday night bible fellowship. Within a few months of that conversation, (that I don’t think I believed would actually lead to anything) my division at my company announced that they would be shutting down at the end of the calendar year. They gave us ninety days notice so that we could hopefully find another position within the company – or elsewhere. But the oddest thing happened for me after I heard the news – my intense love for Columbus, the love that made it feel like I would be losing a limb if I tried to leave, that love, simply dissolved and vanished away!
Although I felt ready to leave so quickly, it actually was almost two years after my offer to God before I actually left. The following February the desire to leave and head west was so intense, I prayed for God to ease the ache, because I couldn’t seem to focus or deal with the details necessary before a cross-country move. He did such a good job in answering my prayer that I actually forgot about going west altogether! When I started looking for where to move later that year and into the next year, I was looking at a town outside of Dayton where the ministry I was associated with had it’s church building. I also was looking at Huntington, West Virginia where I had friends who were seeing explosive church growth. Yet, I couldn’t seem to “settle” in my heart on the exact city to move to.
The fall of 2014 I felt that I would leave the Columbus area sometime the next summer, sometime roughly between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I made a list of people in my home church and next to each name on my list I wrote down things I desired to learn from them in my remaining months, as well as the things I hoped to sow and give back to these people who had loved me so well.
My apartment lease ended after Thanksgiving and in a whole other story for another time, I felt led to walk out of my apartment with only my car packed with suitcases, boxes and a portrait to begin my new life. Seven hours after I left my apartment, the wife of a family in my home church reached out with an invitation for me to stay with them. I moved in with them as I endeavored to determine the next steps in my life.
I recall in January of the year how I saw a mental picture of myself as a hot-house flower that was wilting in the wintry northern climes. Looking back, that picture feels like a prophetic hint! Somewhere in there I also told God I wanted an invitation to my new location. I had been talking to different friends about coming to their city, and I didn’t want to feel like a burden to my friends as I was going through the process of getting set up in a new city. One friend had thrown out the idea that I should go work with a minister who I greatly loved. The idea seemed amazing, but I didn’t feel comfortable inviting myself. Ironically, I have since heard that particular minister say how she often waits for people to ask to serve. So, however it was meant to be – we both were looking to be asked!
In March a dear friend who had moved to Albuquerque a couple years before wrote me an email wondering if I were interested in moving to Albuquerque and rooming with her. We had been emailing and chatting about our journeys with the Lord. The day the email arrived was the day of the monthly Women’s Fellowship I oversaw. I was feeling particularly challenged that day, so for me in my place of need, I looked at the invitation more as a form of love and a confidence booster, and not really as a legitimate consideration. It was also that Albuquerque was truly so unexpected for me. I had never considered New Mexico. I don’t remember quite how the email and following conversation worked it’s way in my heart and brain the following month. It seems that I did consider that this was in fact an invitation like I had prayed for.
There came a day for me where things in my situation seemed especially aggravating to me, almost as if God had lifted off the grace so that a simple, but trying situation, felt more grating. I felt as if God was somehow allowing me to feel more agitation than normal. I’ve since heard a pastor talk about how he’s never had someone come to him for counseling to make changes when they were in comfort. Sometimes when I look at certain events in my life, I think God let the scenario get that bad or feel that bad to help me move on to other things. That day in early April 2015 I was just suddenly done. I said, “It is enough, oh Lord!” and I called my friend in Albuquerque to discuss the possibility of taking her up on her offer.
After more than a year and a half of deliberations, I felt suddenly so ready to move forward that day. Part of me wanted to pack everything in my car and leave that night, but I knew that wasn’t the answer. As I spoke to my friend in New Mexico, I was shocked by how many things in our lives seemed to be at a similar place. We seemed to have many of the same goals at the time. As we continued to plan and move forward in our discussion there was a day where we seemed to begin to butt heads a little in our expectations of each other. My home fellowship coordinators’ had extended an invitation for folks to gather at their house that night. People seemed to be staying in two areas of the house that evening. One group sat at the long kitchen table, while several of the men went into an open den between the dining room and front entryway pulling out their musical instruments and playing music together. Typically I would have stayed at the dining room table engaging in conversation, but that night I chose the den where several of the men were “jamming” on their guitars and instruments together. I sat in the corner chair, forced into silence by the music, as I sorted things out with the Lord in my head and heart. As I deliberated with the Lord, going back and forth in my heart about this Albuquerque decision, I clearly heard Him simply conclude, “Go. Just go,” and my mind was set. Whatever happened, however it was going to go – I was going.
I decided to leave my newer car with high payments in Ohio at a loss and simply start fresh in Albuquerque without a car. My friend and I began to talk about the possibility of me flying out and she said she would check her reward miles to see if she had enough points to get me a flight out. That’s when I remembered that I had bought a one-way plane ticket the year before that I had never used. I had intended to buy a return ticket and attend a women’s conference in Oregon the previous summer. The cost from the ticket was more than sufficient to cover the cost to fly from Columbus to Albuquerque. It certainly felt rather fated to have that one-way ticket that would have expired in another month.
I was so unprepared for how crazy challenging it would feel to relocate to a completely new geographic territory so very unlike the home in Ohio where I had been many years. Not only was it such a different terrain, I had spent all my life in home churches based out of the same group. While I had begun to visit churches, it was always while rooted in my familiar home church “terrain.” Yet here I was attending a completely different church environment with multiple ministries operating under its umbrella. It was exciting and intimidating. I felt thrilled and completely freaked out at the same time by the amount of differences.
I felt so many seeming signs pointing me to stay in Albuquerque, but I also felt overwhelmed and frightened on more levels than I could grasp or conceive fully. So many things weren’t as I’d anticipated them to be. I realize now how rosy I tend to paint things in very unrealistic ways, yet, it was that insane optimism and I don’t know what from the Lord that kept me from quitting!
As was settling into my friend’s apartment I was surprised to find a blank spot on the wall between her wall hangings. I had a painting I felt led to buy in the spring of 2014, however, I had never hung the painting. When I was leaving my apartment in November 2014, God showed me taking the painting with me. The color of the living room wall matched the painting perfectly. I asked my roommate if her previous roommate had a picture in that spot, but my roommate said no, she said the blank spot on the wall had always been there, almost as if it had been waiting for my painting.
One day in that first month as I was doing errands and pouring out my heart and challenges with the Lord, I heard him tell me to go to the hardware store. He told me to get a picture hanging set to hang my picture. What I felt Him say was that once I hung the picture “then I would be home.” I still felt questions about this move, had I made a mistake and this was the Lord reassuring me.
As I pulled in to the store, I decided not to take my purse in with me. I felt clearly to grab only $2 cash out of my wallet before heading into the store. Once I got in the store though, there were so many varieties of nails. I don’t know how long I spent in that long aisle looking at so many different sizes and styles of nails – many costing more than the $2 I had brought in with me. I began to wonder why I had only grabbed $2 and considered returning to the car for my wallet.
The seemingly simple task didn’t feel simple anymore. I reached out to God in my heart about which nail was the right kind to get. I felt Him say it was in the next aisle and that it was a gold color. I saw an employee and asked the young man for his help. He took me straight to a gold colored nail/hanger set for $1.78. Grateful, I happily made my purchase and went home to hang my portrait. I had accepted my new assignment. I was home.