Here’s a few things we’ve been thinking about lately….
1. A rare interview with Wendell Berry, so incredibly poignant on the relationship between us, God and the earth, he is likened to a modern-day prophet.
2. Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene, a bone-chilling analysis of the affects of global climate change
3. Nelson Mandela, his inspiring legacy and timeless encouraging words:
Sometimes, it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.
"Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings."
….We are experiencing a birth of some sort.
For most of our adult lives, both Mike and I have been exploring career paths while also striving to cultivate a lifestyle of caring for the poor, advocating justice for the marginalized, celebrating cultural and racial diversity. Sometimes our jobs have allowed us to live out those values through our work, and sometimes our jobs involved simply promoting them. Other times we were just working a J-O-B. From student to speech therapist, sales associate to general manager, social worker to office assistant, recruiter to financial development, these roles have allowed us invaluable experiences discovering our passions and skills.
But through it all, we hadn’t found that sweet spot. That place where our ‘job’ involves us doing what we believe in and value. I like to think of it as when our giftings overlap our passions which overlap our experience. That life-giving work that many call vocation. As I’ve struggled with the zealous desire to positively “change the world”, I’ve often guilted myself for not going into nursing or starting a non-profit against human-trafficking or becoming a teacher educating urban teens Dangerous Minds-style…. and on and on and on. Without considering the value of my own personal experience and skill set, I’ve wanted so badly to believe that if your heart is big enough, anything is possible and you can change the world! Naive, boy do I know it. (Or maybe not?! Have you heard of KissesfromKatie or Jackie Pullinger?) For Mike, he’s struggled with similar tensions along with the cultural pressures to choose work that provides a secure, comfortable lifestyle. (Think white picket fences.) Thankfully, there is a quote that has slowly worked its way through the mess of the “should have’s”, “could be’s” and our zealous, confusing yet necessary twenties. It’s this:
"Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, therein lies your vocation." ~Aristotle
This brings me back to the idea of birth. You see, we are finding a sense of new-ness, the birth of a new path in our lives. With the transition of the move, we have opened ourselves to asking what we really want to do with our lives, what we love, what we DREAM about doing. (If you’re a mom reading this right now, READ THIS on pursuing vocation….like just skip the rest of my blog, it’s worthless compared to this!) Mike began exploring mentoring young dads and all things physical fitness (the dude is a beast in the gym or on the field, I’ll just say it). He was pursuing a certification in personal training (which he passed with flying colors!) when God lead him to the incredible opportunity to be a personal trainer at Rainier Health and Fitness, where they see fitness as the doorway to building community. It has been so freeing for both Mike and I, to see how finding that “sweet spot” can impact every area of your life.
For me, my journey through both pregnancies has completely opened my eyes to the passion I have for empowering women during pregnancy and birth, and as mothers. As I read and researched, then experienced giving birth naturally firsthand, I felt a level of vitality and strength I’ve never known. It was completely life changing. So, in the essence of exploring this thing called vocation, I decided to go through a birth doula training through the Simkin Center at Bastyr University to learn the skills and tools to help other mothers experience a healthy, supported birth. Penny Simkin, the founder of the Simkin Center, is considered the mother of modern childbirth education so I think I chose the right place. (Btw, Bastyr is one of the coolest college campuses I’ve seen, courses in natural medicine, midwifery, permaculture, acupuncture…) I completed the training last weekend, and it was completely intoxicating being in a roomful of so many other women geeked out on birth. I mean, it’s IN-CRED-I-BLE what we women can do for mankind, and maybe bearing witness to birth can make us EVEN STRONGER! I, for one, am eager to find out. So, if you read my last post, this is where the babies part comes in. I’m not having a baby and I’m not even sure I will officially become a professional birth doula. I’m just trusting my passion and experience as my guide to see if my giftings can meet these mother’s needs. But I’m sure excited to think about helping other pregnant mothers welcome their new babies into their family. And who knows, maybe doing this doula thing will lead me to a big announcement sooner than I think. Stay tuned :)
What are your thoughts on vocation? Have you found that “sweet spot”? Or do you even believe in the idea of a “calling”?
It’s official. We are residents of Washington. Got our licenses in the mail last month to prove it.
We currently live in Kirkland, WA which is ‘the Eastside’ of Seattle, or rather, across Lake Washington from Seattle. Kirkland and Bellevue (where Mike grew up) make up the major area of the Eastside, which is a lot like the Buckhead area of Atlanta. A bit fancy, spread out and a lot less grunge/granola-y than Seattle. So needless to say, this does not feel like our final destination. We dig the grunge. But for now, it’s a great place to rest. Mike’s parents, two brothers and their wives all live on this side so it’s wonderful to be around them and have their support, along with all the Nienaber cousins and their families that live in the area. There are so many of them out here! Oh, and there’s some amazing thai food spots within walking distance, so that may keep us around for a while…
We are living in this charming 2-story farmhouse-looking home that was Mike’s grandparent’s house where his dad grew up. The house sits on almost an acre of land lined with trees… directly across from the flagship Costco store. Not quite what you would have expected. We like to describe it as the UP house, from the movie, because that’s basically the story. Development all around one remaining house. That means the neighborhood welcoming crew is a pair of landscape guys coming 5 nights a week at 11pm with blowers fired up to clean their INCREDIBLY LARGE parking lots that surround us. Literally. We have no neighbors, just parking lots and some wetlands. A big change from our Atlanta neighborhood. But if you read my last blog, you can understand why we’re not so mad about not having neighbors. We’re really quite enjoying it, what with being able to romp around the huge backyard in our birthday suits….at least Will is enjoying that. We do still have Costco customers to worry about.
(Our sweet wood-burning stove that keeps us warm these days, since we don’t have central heat. Thankfully, Mike can build a mean fire and he’s teaching me to do the same.)
We have had such a blast checking out many of the parks and beaches surrounding the massive Lake Washington. A family member from Indiana asked if it compares to Lake Wawasee, and I had to laugh a little. More like Lake Michigan. Smaller of course, but it’s still massive. My heart flutters a little bit every time I think about the fact that pretty much wherever we move to in Seattle, we will be close to the water. What a dream! Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the mountains! The Cascade mountain range is to the East and the Olympics are to the West, separating us from the Pacific Ocean. So basically we are surrounded by mountains, like a big mountain hug. Perfect. Mt. Rainier, part of the Cascades, is the big dog mountain that makes everyone go goo-goo ga-ga when it’s out. People sometimes refer to it as a she, like the mountain is Seattle’s fairy godmother, gracing us with her brief appearances to bolster city morale after a few days of clouds. It was a strange culture shift to be honest, talking about a mountain like it was a person, but then I got a clear day driving south on I-405 staring her down, and it was breathtaking, made me feel pretty small, like I was staring down Mother Earth. I think I’m beginning to get it.
(Mt. Rainier from Seward Park, doesn’t even do it justice)
(Our little explorer)
We dream about living in South Seattle someday soon. There is an area down there that has one of the most diverse zip codes in the United States, 98118. That’s where we’d like to be. You drive down Rainier Avenue which is one of the main corridors on the South Side, and it’s lined with East African restaraunts, Halal markets, Pho shops, Thai, Sushi, and Teriyaki spots, Mexican taco trucks. Please and thank you! (Not that we didn’t love the southern-fried-everything down in Atlanta.)
Besides the (delicious) ethnic diversity, part of the reason we love the South side so much is this amazing AMAZING church that we’ve been attending, Emerald City Bible Fellowship. Mike has talked about this church since I first met him, and even though we told ourselves we’d look around just to be sure we both agreed on it, the first Sunday we attended we knew this was it. We both had tears in our eyes, it was that good. This church is such a model of so many of the values we hold dear - celebration of racial and cultural diversity, living in the neighborhood, gender and age equality, social justice, and HUGE influence and impact in the community. Now, I know there is no such thing as the perfect church, but this one feels pretty darn close. The spirit of genuine community is SO apparent you can almost taste it. They even have a testimony time every service where people can stand up and share how God has moved in their life the past week. That is church people, THE CHURCH.
On top of all that, there is also a fitness center the church helped start several years ago called Rainier Health and Fitness. Wouldn’t you know, they just happened to be hiring around the same time Mike was studying to become a personal trainer. So, over about 100+ very qualified applicants, they chose Mike as one of two new personal trainers. And he isn’t even certified yet! How crazy!?! What a gift this job is, the atmosphere of the gym is so unique, unlike any we’ve been a part of before. I’ll have to let Mike write a blog sharing more about it, but I can assure you, I have never seen him so in his element in a job. He is still studying to take the certification test, so please keep us in your prayers. I am starting to feel a little like a single mother these days as he works 9 hours at the gym then heads to the library for another 3-4 hours to study. But it is so worth it, and we both feel God is leading us forward each step of the way as we dream about our future. We are so thankful for this season, and excited about the direction we’re headed.
I will share more about what I’m up to in the next post….let’s just say it involves more babies, but probably not what you think.
LONG overdue post to catch some of you up on our move and the house fire….
So. We moved. Five months ago we said good bye to Atlanta, and hello to the great wide West. We drove for nearly a month all across this gorgeous country, visiting with family, catching up with friends old and new,Airbnb.com-ing it, hiking dusty trails and stopping at tourist sites like The Grand Canyon and Vegas. All with an energetic toddler and hungry infant in tow. What an adventure we had. And we survived! Actually more than survived, we had a blast! So to all those nay-sayers who said we were absolutely crazy to think about road tripping with two little ones, we did it all without hitting our children, getting into an accident, or getting into a fist-fight (with strangers OR each other). That, my friends, is a victory. Eventually, though, we were glad to retire our road warrior days (for the time being) and land on the east side of “The Emerald City”, in Kirkland, home of Costco. This is where we call home now, five minutes from Lake Washington, fifteen from Seattle, an hour from the Pacific Ocean and thousands of miles from Atlanta, the place we began our lives together as a family.
But let’s go back. Back to where the story is a little more heavy before it got a lot more light.
Seven months ago, I birthed our second baby boy in the living room of our first and only home in Atlanta. After having a pretty unexpected c-section with Will, this could not have been a more redeeming experience. It was beautiful, empowering, ILLUMINATING. That moment will live in my heart forever, and our lives and family will be eternally marked by that experience in that house.
Two months later, that house was on fire.
Here’s the way it went - we spent weeks packing all the things inside the house that made it our home, and put them on a Penske truck. On the night of May 30th, Mike began the drive across the country with all our belongings rattling around behind him while I took the boys to a friend’s house in Atlanta for a week while we waited for his return. THIS WAS IT! We did it, everything was on schedule (and that’s huge for this often-disorganized-and-late mama). In a week we would begin our adventure, all four of us, in our car, headed to the next chapter out west. We even had friends lined up to rent our place in Atlanta. They were scheduled to be moving in the next morning.
But that next morning, two hours before our friends moved in, our house caught on fire. At 5 am, the fire department received a call about a small fire under the porch that some passing neighbors stomped out. Firefighters came out, investigated, no damage done. Then around 7am, another call reporting a chair on the porch in flames. The officials said they believed it to be arson. By the time the firefighters arrived that second time, the whole front half of the house was in flames.
It was all a blur in the moment, but when I think back, it is crystal clear. Mike woke me with a phone call telling me the news. He said it was big, really big. I could hear the tightness and fear in his voice as he told me a friend had called to tell him there was a fire in our house and it sounded bad. It was unreal, how do you process your house being on fire? Go-mode switched on, emotions needed to wait. I had to rush to get the boys ready, drop Will off with a friend and go to the house to answer questions for the investigators. The fire was out at this point, the house charred to it’s core. Fire trucks lined our little residential street. Neighbors stood around asking if I was ok, speculating what happened. Someone said they thought Georgia, our dog, got out alive (she had stayed in the house over night to scare away any possible trouble makers). The girls who were going to move in were there, they stayed with me and watched Shepherd, my 3 month old, until every last question was answered. I will never forget their care and kindness in those hours. They were there for me while Mike couldn’t be. We had decided it was best for him to keep driving.
The house was black, the front wall burned down, windows busted out, holes in the roof, front porch demolished, a thick black coat of soot covering the entire upstairs. Just writing this hurts my heart so much as I remember. The home we made there, it was gone. The home we first called ‘ours’. The kitchen I bumbled in night after night trying to figure out how to cook on a 40 year old stove that was missing 2 burners. The bathroom Mike and I prayed in when we took our first pregnancy test. The basement we remodeled to open our home to friends and strangers. The porch we built to welcome neighbors. The living room I birthed our second child in. THE LIVING ROOM.
Here’s the thing, we knew we were moving. We knew we were saying good-bye. In fact, we already had. It was emotional and all, but we had been reminding ourselves that we are not tied to buildings or places, we find our home when and where we follow God’s leading in our lives. And we believed that, and it gave us peace, REAL PEACE, in a time I would normally be a basketcase of emotions and goodbyes and memories and tears.
But to have that place, that home, BURN DOWN? And to suspect it as arson??? It felt like a dream, a really bad dream.
Fast forward fives months later, I’m happy to say now, even through tears remembering that sad day, God has been faithful to us more than we can express. Through friends and neighbors caring for us, through insurance agents going above and beyond, through the relief that the damages were completely covered, through our dog Georgia surviving the fire without a scratch, through none of our important possessions being harmed. All these things have given us hope in the midst of a crazy time. I’ve come to describe it as the best case scenario of a terrible situation. But most overwhelming was the strange feeling that this was indeed the end of our chapter in Atlanta, there is no turning back. And we are really ok with that. We’ve both felt a sense of relief with it all. Like I said, it is strange, and confusing and we still feel hurt by the questions surrounding the start of the fire. But God has given us an incredible peace and assurance that we are headed in the right direction, and the confusion is not for us to fret over. God is not a God of confusion, so we choose to let it lie. Regarding this, our heads and our hearts are clear.
And so what a time to explore the great Pacific Northwest and refresh our souls. Arriving in early July, we had the most incredible sun-drenched summer filled with as many trips to the beach down the street as possible. And now, Washington is wooing us with all it’s rainbow bright, apple-filled autumn beauty. We are resting here, in a big 4 bedroom century-old family home, with anticipation for what this new chapter will hold. But if anything we’ve learned through this, it’s to hold our things loosely, and hug one another closely wherever we go because we never know what can happen overnight.
Stay tuned for part 2, a more detailed update about our new home and what’s happening in our lives!
Friendships with people who are poor or vulnerable can challenge our arrogance in thinking we know how to fix their circumstances. Our sweeping critiques of multinational corporations become more nuanced when friends are grateful for their jobs and proud of their products. Friendships undermine our tendency to locate the problem “out there” and to try to fix it at a distance. And friendship gives an urgency to our work for justice, to our search for ways to affect the decisions of multinationals and governments. Friends who are poor challenge our lifestyles of consumption when they build generous and gracious lives out of very few material resources.
Christopher Heuertz and Christine Pohl
Friendship at the Margins