I'm blogging from Starbucks today.
See what happened is I meant to leave church and blog during the middle of my day before going back to plan Lent, but somehow it ended up being 3:30 p.m. and I hadn't eaten lunch yet, so I drove to Panda Express, scarfed down some egg roll and rice, realized they didn't have Wifi, and now here I am. Pretty glamourous stuff.
I walked into Starbucks and the first thing I saw was a little girl giggling on a chair. Immediately I was taken back to one year ago. I walk gingerly into the Starbucks attached to our apartment complex in Walnut Creek, CA, outside San Francisco. Jake is nestled up next to my chest in a baby carrier, and I hold his head as we walk back to meet another mom and her little baby.
That Starbucks is filled with memories of Jake's first year. It was the first place we took him after he was born. We were terrified new parents and slightly on the neurotic side, so it took us a good hour and a half to get ready to make the block-long walk to Starbucks. We had ... the nursing cover, about 18 bibs, 25 diapers, wipes, hand wipes, pacifier wipes, five possible changes of clothes ... We fastened him into the infant carrier just right and clipped it into the stroller. Went back to the apartment a few times for more things. We wanted to do it just right.
I remember I was still sporting that lovely postpartum belly, too, so I read an online tutorial about wearing a scarf as a vest and tied it around my swollen frame. It was quite the outing.
Looking back at that year in California now, I mostly remember the sunshine and the walks. The glorious walks when it never rained or snowed or got below around 50 degrees. Tracing the steps through the neighborhood, past the BART train, up the hill and over the bridge to the park and back. Sometimes I tried jogging a bit -- too much at the beginning -- but it was always me and Jake and figuring out how to be a mom.
I spent too much of that year wishing it away. I knew it was temporary. I was finishing my last year of seminary online and partially in classes at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. My drive to school looped over the hills of Oakland to stunning vistas of the whole Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge, but I spent too much of that drive worrying.
Exactly one year ago yesterday I got the phone call I thought might ruin my life and my whole calling to the ministry. We'd planned most of the year to go to Chicago; Ben would ask to transfer his engineering job and I would get a call and finally - after nine years of trying - we'd both have jobs in the same place.
On February 20 I found out that I had been assigned instead to Region 3: Minnesota and the Dakotas. I prayed about it, decided God was pulling me back to the Twin Cities, to family and friends, and I waited to hear more. Ben fretted about the lack of engineering opportunities there, but we figured it was God's will.
A few days later, one year ago yesterday, I got a phone call from the Region Coordinator who popped my bubble. He didn't know me, didn't care about Ben's career needs, said I was heading to rural Minnesota and I'd better pack my long underwear (in so many words).
After nearly four years of thinking I was specially called, a full ride scholarship to seminary from the ELCA, great relationships at Luther, an incredible internship in Las Vegas at one of the ELCA's most innovative and exciting congregations, I was resigned to being a number. A notch in a line. It didn't matter. I had my marching orders.
On the outside I was all positivity, prayer, and action. I contacted everyone I knew who could possibly help, made tons of phone calls, did what I could to be switched into Chicago or Minneapolis.
Inside I was worried. Did I mishear God's call? Had He called after all? Should I have kept writing about sports? I knew I was good at that. Called even, maybe.
Day after day I took Jake to play groups, went to seminary classes, walked through the beautiful woods, and my mind was mostly swirling about calls, or the lack thereof. I was obsessed with watching my phone for new updates.
A week or two later, everything somehow got worked out. The Chicago Synod agreed to put me up for calls, as did Minneapolis. I'd gone from no metro area at all to the opportunity of two amazing locations. It was still no guarantee. Competition was stiff. One church in Chicago I'd thought God was calling me to wasn't the place after all.
A day later, Ron Branstrom, the chair of the Call Committee at St. Philip Lutheran Church in Glenview, IL, gave me a call. My process went from slow to hyper-speed. We were planning a Skype interview, a trip to Chicago, looking at houses.
Now, a year later, we have just moved into our first place. We bought a townhome near the church and after a long wait, it's finally ready.
When I look back at everything that happened, I feel like it sounds like one of those trite success stories. Like, well everything looked like it wouldn't work out but it just sort of fell into place. And here I am! Trial, no trial. It was all easy as pie (yeah, right).
I have plenty of new things to worry about now. Don't we always?
But as I sat at my new kitchen table yesterday afternoon looking out the window at a beautiful winter sunset, my toddler sitting grinning next to me, too big for the high chair and in a big boy booster seat, I realized that I didn't want these sunsets to be like the California Starbucks and the California walks and the California drive to class.
I want to be more present. In the moment. Doesn't mean I won't worry, because worry produces action, and sometimes God calls us to act to follow God's call.
But I want to soak in all the beauty of life fully. The crisp air. Jake's laugh. The family I dreamt of that is now here, beginning with the deep love and trust that started nine years ago on an old wooden basketball court in Columbia, Missouri.
Future worries will always rush in like a vacuum to fill in any empty space of life. The Comcast hold time; the wait at the post office, that slow computer, daily tasks and new challenges.
But sometimes Jesus went into the wilderness to pray. He was present, right there, with his Father, and his soul was renewed even unto the cross.
This Lent, as Easter approaches and the shadow of the cross momentarily envelops us all, I pray that I may soak in my wilderness. Embrace it. Let it cover me for a moment and be there, with my Father, with my husband, with my son, and with my church.
May you find your Lenten wilderness this spring, and may you pause there in the midst of worries and doubts, being with your Father, your loved ones, and your community of Christ, wherever and whatever that might be. Soak in your life. I'll try to, too.