We moved to Athena on November 26, 2008. Everything about the move was difficult and uncertain for me. We’re coming up on 10 years here and I’ve been reflecting about God’s provision and my gratitude.
We had been living in Rosalia, Washington for just about 3 years when Chris told me he wanted to leave the company he’d been working at for the last 6 years, accept a new job, and move to his hometown. I’ll not say that I greeted this news with great joy.
Our years in Rosalia were incredibly difficult. The first year we lived there we struggled, mostly alone, through difficulty staying pregnant and fears that we would never be able to have children. Then I got pregnant with Helen. Her birth was a miracle and obviously a huge blessing but it also began probably the most difficult year of my life. I was alone, 9 hours away from my family, with a husband who worked atrociously long hours and a baby who would not be put down, at all, ever. We had no friends and no connections and I was just so alone with the best and most difficult thing constantly in my arms. (I’m sure that the extremely difficult first year of her life guarantees us easy teenage years, right?)
We never really felt very connected there but by the time we decided to leave, we had finally found a church in Colfax that felt like home and about 6 months before we left my sister and her husband had moved into a place just a couple of blocks from our house. I still really didn’t have any friends except for my sister but she was really all I needed. Living down the road from her and her family for that brief period will always be one of the great joys of my life.
On top of the feelings of disconnection, our time in Rosalia was incredibly financially difficult. Chris and I had a conversation about my going back to work not long after Helen was born. I can remember rocking my very small daughter, just begging God to provide and telling Chris (in what I am sure was a very helpful tone) that I didn’t want to go to work, I wanted to stay home with my baby. We muddled through but when we moved here we were very, very broke. I maxed out a credit card filling the car with gas and spent the last $30 in our checking account buying a few groceries the morning after we moved here. Then on the trip here the engine in Chris’s pickup blew and we had to borrow $3000 from my parents to have a new engine put in.
So, we arrived here and things were tense. I was sad about moving away from my sister. I was 5 months pregnant with Patrick and worried about money. I was sore and grouchy from moving and from not enough sleep on the floor of our new house. It was a rough morning. In fact, Chris and I joke now about the fight we had in front of his sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law. It’s a miracle that they still decided to get married after witnessing my stress-filled reaction to disappointment and fear.
Things didn’t get easier right away. The first winter we were here we lived 7 miles out of town and that winter there was enough snow that the road drifted closed for almost a week. I think it might have been January when that happened and I remember wondering what we would do if something happened and I went into labor early, how we would get to medical care. There were things about our place out of town that I loved and that I grew to love even more during the years that we lived there but that first winter was very isolating. I’m not quick to make friends and living so far out of town sometimes made that even more difficult. One day, probably 2 or 3 weeks before Patrick was born I sat on our living room floor and cried because I couldn’t imagine how I could survive a year like the first year of Helen’s life living out in the middle of nowhere. At least in Rosalia I could walk to the library when I needed a sanity break.
But then Patrick was born and his first year was a piece of cake compare to Helen. He let me put him in his crib! It was like a miracle. And I started making friends in town. Amanda Calvert was legitimately a life saver to me. She came over to my house and invited me to hers! We had lunch together, we canned applesauce with our 5 children running around under foot, we talked about things not related to children! Then Angela Schmidtgall invited me to be a substitute in her bunco group and suddenly I was invited to become a regular! Shawna Calvert loved me even before we spoke, I think. She became Auntie Shawna to my kids and practically a second mother to Helen. There are so many other names I could say of people who have been part of the blessings of life in Athena.
Moving here was not what I wanted to do. But now Chris and I both have employment that brings purpose and meaning to our lives. We both have jobs we love and are good at. That happened because we moved here. Our financial situation no longer causes heart ache. We have deep connections in our church and in the community as a whole. Our lucky kids attend excellent schools and they will graduate with the kids that they went to kindergarten with. They have connections both with peers and with adults who love them and are invested in their future success. These are things that have happened because we moved here.
I have been thinking about God’s provision and how to make sense of hard times. I don’t think that times were difficult in Rosalia because we were outside of God’s will when we lived there. In fact, I think God uses the hard times to teach us to trust Him more fully. In a lot of ways, I think that’s what God was teaching us during our years in Rosalia. I’m sorry to say this but Rosalia has become a byword to us for pain and suffering, both because of our hard times there and because Becky died there. But in all of those things God was teaching us to love Him and trust him.
In a funny way, I think He uses the good times that way too. We are in a sweet season right now. It might be about to end (I mean, we are going to have a teenager next year) but I think He’s showing us things in these good times that are meant to help us trust Him more fully and follow Him more faithfully. God’s also teaching me to be grateful. This might sound strange, but I’m so grateful for the hard years in Rosalia. I would not want to go back but I am grateful for the way those years taught me to love God more fully. I’m also grateful for the way those years taught me to love and rely on my husband more fully. Those hard years were full of lessons and love.
Ten years go by in a flash. I couldn’t have imagined anything about our current life situation 10 years ago, I couldn’t have imagined it would be so good and rooted here. Reflecting on these 10 years makes me think about the next 10 years too. I don’t know what to expect but I’m excited to see what’s next.