I’m very excited to announce that several of my friends will be contributing this summer to my blog. The theme is “Summer of Yes” and I have asked them to share a little bit about their own experiences saying “yes!” to something and how it changed their lives. This week Sarah Mittelstaedt is sharing (pictured left). Sarah and I were roommates in college, and now she is a campus pastor in Eugene, OR. Sarah has always been a very faithful friend, and I appreciate her wisdom and compassion 🙂 Enjoy!
I honestly never thought I would leave home, home being the “City of Subdued Excitement,” Bellingham, WA. There is an extravagant beauty in the PNW, in general, that tends to bring wide-eyed expressions to visitors from the South and the Midwest parts of the country, where a slight incline is referred to as a hill and a hill is referred to as a mountain. Western Washington has mountains, real mountains that tower above you as you drive north on your way north up I-5.
And if the mountains don’t draw awe, then the ocean certainly will. My happy place is one where I can sit by the ocean (or any particularly large body of water) and just be. Though, if we’re being honest, I fear the ocean and have no desire to be in it, but being at the edge of something so vast and unknowable brings a strange calm to my spirit. I respect it. In Ancient Israel, when the ocean is referenced it is used to invoke the idea primordial chaos. When the “spirit hovered over the deep” in the beginning it was the Word that brought order out of this chaos. This is by no means a theological statement—more of a musing—but sometimes I feel as though when I’m by the ocean I’m able to sense the lingering presence of the Word. God’s voice, that which brought forth order out of the chaotic waters, is especially present to me. The coastline is a boundary made for our good.
I now live further from that boundary line than I ever have in my life. Though according to the “mega-quake” theorists, I’m much safer inland, moving to Eugene, OR was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I am not much of an adventurer and I’ve never had any significant wanderlust. Would I like to travel more and see the world? Of course! However, I would be perfectly content going for a visit and then returning to my home. I wasn’t the kid on the youth group mission trip who, after a week, wanted at least two more weeks and was ready to move there once they turned 18. I was the kid who, after working hard and having fun, was ready to go home.
I’m someone who roots deep. I don’t do things half-way and relationships are not excluded from that. Bellingham was where my community was. I had lived in the area my entire life, went to college there, and completed two years of a college ministry internship there after receiving my degree. When the time rolled around for me to decide what was next, it wouldn’t be too dramatic to say that the mere thought of leaving my home caused what felt like a tearing in my soul. The picture that would come to mind was that of a plant being yanked out of the ground.
In the midst of that process, however, the Lord gave me a new image. When you’re transplanting a plant, you don’t just grab it by the stem and rip it out of the ground. There are some plants that can survive having their root system destroyed (having the ability to regrow it), but many can’t. Instead, you edge around the root ball and take the whole of it. The Lord showed me that in the midst of my experiences and conversations with him, he was edging around the root ball. Each time I submitted to his will, in spite of all my emotions telling me no, he would stick his shovel in the ground and loosen the earth around the roots.
When the time came for me to move, when the Lord “lifted” me from my home, I realized I was okay. I wasn’t going to fall apart, I was intact. And though the transition had its challenges, and even a year later I don’t think I’m done transitioning, I have learned a deeper level of trust in the Lord. Each time I said “yes” and took a step of faith, I chose to trust the Lord and that has had a profound effect on my relationship with him. Psalm 1:2-3 has never made more sense to me than in this season:
Those who… “delight in the law of the Lord,
meditating on it day and night.
They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.”
I still miss Bellingham, I miss the people, the ocean, and the mountains—I probably always will. But if I had the chance to do it over again, though there are some things I would do differently, I would still choose to take the move down to Duck country. This is where the Lord has me in this season and that’s exactly where I’m supposed to be.