When I was a Youth Director and students left for college, they returned at Christmas expecting everything to be the same. Their expectations would often be crushed. While to them time did not change, but their community changed. So many things were not like they used to be. Friends had taken different paths, and they had changed.
So it is with my family. When we left California ten months ago, it was in a rush. We flew to New Jersey, got approved for my position. A few days later was ordained, the next day the packers/ movers came to move us. A week on visiting family in Northern California and we were off. More than a dizzying three weeks.
While this huge change was quite exciting, it does leave a sense of longing. Through my first months in Jersey, I have loved my job, but part of me was still about where I was born and raised. For the past few weeks we (our entire family) has come back while I have been on study leave and now a couple weeks vacation. It has been a whirlwind time, seeing friends and family. But like that college student that come back at break, realizing that time has moved on. In many ways it has given us a sense of closure. One that in the craziness and business did not lend time to process and appropiately close our lives to open up new ones. Our children struggled in the realization that they were leaving friends and how to stay close with them. This trip has helped them see that things moved on… not only for them but for myself also. Seeing that even if we had stayed, it was not going to be the “good ol days”. Relationships were different, ministry was different, stores had closed. It was the same in many ways but eerily different.
About a week ago, my daughters came to me and told me they missed home. Not the home that they knew in Southern California, but New Jersey. They (and us) missed our new friends, church, and life that we have there. Finally, we were able to close a chapter of our life that cannot truly be closed until you return. We will continue to long for the way it was, but also know that it is a thing of the past and are excited about where we have been led to.
This week I spent some time in New York for a conference. It was my first trip away from my “home”, otherwise known as the friendly confines on my area. To get there I got a crash course in the Turnpike. First off, why do we have to pay everywhere we go here? For those that do not live near a turnpike, its like a freeway except you have to pay depending on how far you traveling. The other ting is that there are a very limited amount of exits. For instance, I live at exit 4 and exited on exit 11. Well, that was almost sixty miles or so. Weirdly, there are speed limits but everyone just seems to blow through it. I was cruising at 70 or so and huge trucks were blowing by me! Geesh.
Secondly, I encountered something called a toll road. Apparently whenever they feel like it they can set up a toll booth and charge you a buck, then ten miles down the road charge you a buck again. What makes it even worse is that they charge you to exit too! It’s only .35 but who carries that exact change. You only have the choice of the EZ Pass or exact change in some locations. Apparently, on a toll road you have coins (whatever they are), EZ Pass, or cash. When you do not know these things you end up in a coin only line…. since the cash one is on the other side of twelve lanes. Then you stuff a buck into the coin slot and hope that it works. Probably not so…. who knows.
Did I mention that I hate paying for tolls? Learning a new way of life in New Jersey.
Panic and visions of being stuck inside my house for weeks at a time has overwhelmed me at times (not really but overly cautious). Why? Because for some reason (being called by God) to live on the East Coast after spending all my life in California. Where I grew up it maybe snowed once in the 19 years I lived there. For the past 18 years I have lived in Southern California. All we have there is fires, mudslides, and earthquakes. I put on extra layers of clothes when it hit sixty degrees.
You can imagine what was going through my head as the first snowfall hit. What do I do again? Congregation members gave me a good amount of ribbing that made me wonder what I got myself into. Imagining back ice everywhere and cars slamming into one another. My family being short of food and supplies because I was not smart enough to plan ahead. Being stuck inside my car somewhere off the White Horse Pike eating my carpet since I was not smart enough to stock my car with food. Basically a winter armageddon, everything bad that you can think of… I though of.
So here I am with the fear mostly worn off after the first couple of snowfalls. It is different driving to work and watching for the shiny areas on the street that denote black ice. Remembering to wash off the car after the snow melts, to get the snow salt off the can. To dig my car out of the snow you don’t give the shovel to the kids to do, since they would bang and ding the heck out of it. To take it easy when driving in the snow since most lanes are not totally clear of snow. And to remember to add antifreeze into my van (had that problem this week). Basically, I have learned that my great fear is not nearly as bad as I think it will be… just take it slow and listen to those around me.
Church on the left.
One of the areas that I stressed during my different interviews with my APNC was concerns about my family. Where they going to acclimate? Where there kids for them to hang with? What support did the church have for everyone in my family? I am glad in many ways we are not heading into a redevelopment in which my kids would be the only ones. As Jenn and I discerned our path, it was important to us that the call that I would seek would properly have support for everyone.
Sure, I am only fifteen days into my call here, but I am surprised by the genuine nature of the congregation. I was asking my wife the other night if the APNC had spoke to a number of people about our concerns or was this really them. I am totally in the honeymoon stage of my ministry here, but people are very supportive of my family. My kids (the older ones) at first were hesitant about heading into sunday school and youth group. They both found it something they want to be involved in and may actually go to winter camp. That is if the youth can break my girls down enough, no pressure from me! The younger two have definitely taken to being the Pastor’s Kids. The oldest boy is playing catch and tag with anyone that even looks his way and I think people feel obligated to play with him since he will not leave them alone. And the baby… who can’t help but dote over a four month old.
As I sit here in my office, juggling phone calls and emails I can rest assured that the congregation that we have been called to has alleviated all the fears and stress that I had with our family. Now lets see how the first day of school went and if I have to go “red Sean”. Let’s hope not.