This week the sky changes as fast and often as a teenage girl’s moods. The weather vacillates between sunshine and rain several times a day, much like our first visit to Ashland four years ago.
Keith had prayed about finding a different church. I liked living in Northwest Iowa near Keith’s family. I enjoyed my church, friends, and job. I hoped Keith was just going through a phase he'd soon grow out of.
God gave clues to our future but I missed them.
Clue #1 – A plaque on my friend’s wall said, “A bend in the road is not the end of the road...unless you fail to make the turn.”
Clue #2 – A spur-of-the-moment trip we took four years ago to Colorado. For years Keith had wanted to visit Glenwood Springs in winter. We took his Christmas bonus and left before his rational “we should fix the roof” side kicked in.
We spent New Year’s Eve (with single digit outside temps) in Glenwood’s ginormous warm pool with two hundred people. I sat in warm, soothing mineral-laced water and marveled that I was doing something I’d never thought to do, but was enjoying myself immensely.
Clue #3 came four months later when Keith and I visited my family in Oregon. One night we rented a delightful room in Manzanita, a small town on the Oregon coast.
For twenty-five years I had lived an hour from the ocean but had never spent the night there. It never occurred to me to want to. We lived so close that going to the ocean had always been a day trip.
Manzanita was wonderful and I listened to rhythmic waves crash on shore and marveled that we were doing something we’d never thought to do, but were enjoying ourselves immensely.
I had never thought about visiting Wisconsin. I had never thought about seeing Lake Superior. There are many places I’d like to see someday but Wisconsin wasn’t on the list.
A Wisconsin church approached us. Keith prayed but didn’t feel led in that direction. We both agreed that we didn’t want to live in Wisconsin. He meant to take Wisconsin off his church-match profile, but forgot.
When our present church contacted us, something in the man’s voice caught Keith’s attention. He found this picture on the church’s website.
It looked so pretty, I wanted to sign up immediately. There are better reasons to choose a church than how it looks from the air so we prayed about it.
As Keith talked to their search committee, I wondered about the trees. Keith was born and raised in Iowa and loves the landscape. He likes Grant Wood pictures. He likes open prairies and seeing for miles and miles in any direction. He loves Iowa sunsets. He hated living in Oregon amongst so many trees.
I suggested a trip to Ashland to see if Keith thought he could live there. Four years ago on Memorial Day weekend, we drove eight hours north for a life-changing trip.
We stayed in a charming Bed and Breakfast. We’d never stayed in one before. It had never occurred to us to want to. I marveled that we had done something we’d never thought to do, but had enjoyed ourselves immensely.
I liked the church and people we met. Lake Superior was inviting. It rained off and on the whole time, which showed us what normal spring weather was like. A beautiful spring day would have been deceptive since Ashland’s springs are usually cold and wet.
I thought Keith wouldn’t like the trees. To my surprise, he said he could live there. Wisconsin has more deciduous trees than Oregon, more open spaces, and the huge lake gave Keith a horizon.
He took the job and we transplanted our family 450 miles north. If we were Lego people, God had just picked up our pieces and moved them to another board.
God answered many prayers. We love it here. We like the church, the area, our house, and the weather. Leaving Iowa was hard and I still miss some things, but I’m thankful we moved.
God knew that this small Wisconsin church on the south shore of Lake Superior would be a good fit for a quirky, bearded bi-vocational pastor/plumber from Iowa.
Five years ago I didn’t know this place existed and I often marvel to be doing something I’d never thought to want to do, and yet am enjoying myself immensely.
Our Glenwood Springs excursion, the Manzanita getaway, and the move to Ashland had in common the element of surprise. Of God doing the unexpected. Of doing something way beyond the realm of our experience. Of being blessed when we least expected it.
This picture hangs in our entry way. It’s the first thing we see when we enter the house. I wish I had my Iowa friend’s “Bend in the Road” plaque to hang under this picture.
I'm linking up with my friend Jennifer at Getting Down With Jesus