We have, as you know, been in a new world for the last few months. We both knew we needed to come. I had my reasons and Abby had hers and many of these were the same. I love the South. I have loved it my whole life and that has scared me a little. I can remember leaving for college and trying not to count the years when I could return to the farm that had impressed my life so much. Many want to leave the “small town” they came from and return only for the obligatory check-in with the family. For me, my greatest memories at an impressionable age happened in the woods at our farm – many on horseback and many in hayfields. Why would loving my home scare me?
I think all of us have a desire to know what we are capable of outside of what is familiar and comfortable. Sure I love the farm and thrive on it, but there was a whole part of the world that I didn’t understand – The big city… It has always intimidated me. One of my favorite lines from a John Denver song that I often quote to Abby as we drive through the country is: “…mountain rivers and country livers set my mind at ease”.
There’s something settling about that kind of life. When I think about living in a large city, I wonder, “Where is the outlet for those people?”. They’re not getting on horses and escaping to the woods, and I assure you they aren’t throwing hay in the barn to let off steam. So the question became, “Can I make it in that kind of environment?”. I don’t mean just survive, but really be happy somewhere other than the familiar. Could I learn to enjoy the same outlets that people in a big city enjoy? I think Abby and I both had to know that – or at least she obliged me and agreed. (Abby would put a smiley face right here but I’m not ready to do that yet.)
Seattle has brought with it many challenges for us. The four of us started from scratch in a new town without friends or fellowship, and living in a remarkably shady 1-bedroom apartment. An absolutely perfect setting to engage our questions! This kind of situation takes you back to the basics of your faith and leads you to seek out fellowship and adventure rather than waiting for it to come to you. You have no other choice. That is uncomfortable, and that is what I was looking for.
Before we came out here, I struggled with whether or not I should be doing something in the foreign mission field for this year instead of doing extra training. I think one of the main reasons I struggled with that was because I knew the foreign field would bring out any and all the best in me and my family, as opposed to relaxing in the familiar. It was a hard decision because I really wanted to do spine training but felt that maybe I should do missions–to serve other people who were different than me in a very different place. It wasn’t until we arrived in Seattle and I realized how different it is here and realized that perhaps I had been provided with both the opportunity to train in spine and be in a “foreign” place that brought all the discomfort (and more) I was seeking. That sounds crazy, I know.
It is wonderfully challenging here and sometimes Abby and I remind each other, “Hey we live in Seattle” and then can’t stop laughing. We have seen some of the most magnificent landscape I have ever laid eyes on and have seen mountains and rivers that seem too good to be true. We get in the jeep almost every weekend and head somewhere new to explore and still feel we haven’t put a dent in the wilderness here. I really didn’t think I would ever say this but we have a beautiful view of the city, and I love it. The high rises are down to the left and the bay to the right as we look south and that refreshes you just to look on it. On a clear day, we see Mt Rainier; on a cloudy day, we know it is still there.
The highlight has been the relationships we have made. I haven’t found a lot of people here that I have a lot “in common” with, and I love it. Most of my friends here don’t do the same things with their free time as I do, but I’ve learned we are plenty alike. We were made by the same Creator and we recognize the need for true friendships and that is enough to generate real fellowship. I am learning people are quite alike and really have similar needs and desires regardless of where they live in the world and that is a valuable lesson.
I haven’t learned how to do Blogging cliff notes so this is too long but here is my current thought. We were all made to be challenged and stretched to beyond what we think we might be able to do. I am glad we came to Seattle to experience that. However, most anyone could go to a foreign land, rise to the occasion it takes to survive and possibly even thrive. What I am learning is the remarkable discipline it requires to engage a challenging life in a place that is comfortable and familiar. That requires far more intention and self-discipline and I admire those greatly who have learned how to do this. The fact is, when you are in a foreign land, you are quite aware of your surroundings as your mind perceives all this new material. You also have a tendency to reach out to people because your normal distractions are absent and you aren’t walking around like a zombie to do all your busy tasks. You are forced to engage the challenges that just living brings you and all of a sudden…. lasting memories are made.
It is like a person trying, unsuccessfully, to diet for years. They fail because they are too busy and never really commit to the diet. They somehow get shipwrecked on an uninhabited island and are forced to survive on the sparse healthy foods available in that desolate place. Of course they lose weight – it required no discipline – just survival. But they certainly rose to the occasion to survive and they benefited nonetheless. We are like that person on the island who rises to the occasion of survival and we are far better for it. I love where we are and would choose it again in a second, but eventually even this may become comfortable and familiar. I want us to learn the discipline to live that kind of fulfilling life no matter where we are – to wake up to the challenges to be met and the relationships to be had. I know few people like that, but I admire them greatly.