Everyday America….a little town with a great big life.
You will heal. I will help.
I’ll never forget the day I left California for good.
Before my red eye flight home to Minnesota last night, I remembered the day and all those feelings.
Our nanny helped get the girls settled in the car so she could say her final good-bye. As she told them to be good and have fun, my eyes swelled with tears.
I hopped in the front passenger’s seat. We waved good-bye to she and Isaiah, and off we went. I kept my phone put away because I was soaking up every last second adoring the views I loved and learned for so long. As we drove out of our community and out of Tracy, my heart felt broken.
Our flight home was out of Sacramento, so the drive there wasn’t nearly as pretty as it would have been had we chosen San Francisco. But it was okay because by the time we were on the freeway, I just wanted it to be over. My breath and heart felt heavy, and I had so much anxiety about the upcoming hours, days, and maybe even months.
When we got to the airport, Ryan came in to help get us all checked in and to say good-bye as well, since he wouldn’t see us for quite some time.
There is a short escalator that goes up to the security line. He was only allowed to walk with us to that escalator, and by the time it was time for us to head up to security, I was a mess. Amiya was screaming, and I was crying. I noticed a kind woman watching us. She kept giving me that look of, “I don’t know your story, but I feel for you.”
We got through security, and I got the girls something to eat so we had something to do to pass time. Meanwhile, while feeding Maya and helping Samarah, I was in and out of tears. The kind woman found us, came over to me and asked if she could help at all. She said she couldn’t help but watch us, and hoped everything would be okay. I told her it would, “We are just leaving the only home the girl’s have ever known today.”
As the plane took off, my final tear fell. I talked to the girls (while praying Amiya’s screaming would be minimal), and told them when we landed, we would be at their new home.
I remember that night after we landed and before I fell asleep. My whole body just felt exhausted, but I finally took a deep breath of relief.
For better or worse, it was over.
I was in the Bay Area this past week for work. It was lovely. Super lovely.
I enjoyed hiking, the mountains, the weather, palm trees, coworkers, and the food – always the food.
But the weirdest and most bizarre part of the trip is that I felt like I had never lived there.
I have only been gone 4 months, and I felt like just a tourist. Things that should have seemed normal to me, now were foreign.
The week was lovely because it looked a lot like vacation; less like home. Actually, it was the furthest from home I might have ever experienced.
When I woke up yesterday morning, my thoughts were very different than the last time I left the Bay Area for good. This time, I was so excited because this time I was really, truly, actually leaving a place that was just a place with no true attachments to head home.
The day I left California was a heartbreak.
Yesterday was a “see you soon – for another vacation.”
So much growth and change has happened during these 4 months, and today, on the ground in Minnesota (after a red eye flight -yeah, I look super fantastic!), I could not feel more thankful.
p.s. I’ll tell you more about the trip out West when we have a little bone broth for the April recap in a few days. Seriously? It’s April?! Have a beautiful weekend, friends!
On Monday, I sent an email to our old Pastor in California. The subject line was, “Compared to.”
In my email, I told him about the church we attended on Easter Sunday.
I described for him how I’ve been comparing churches to Southwinds, but that everything has come up short. And then, I wrote, “my mom told me I would not be able to compare, as there is nothing in this small town like what we had at Southwinds.” (By the way, that’s not a bad thing. Bad and different are not the same things.)
But I didn’t exactly write to him to complain.
Instead, I waited to write to him until I felt I had that moment in church like the hundreds of moments I had at Southwinds.
Do you want to know the truth? I have gone to church just three times since we moved back to Minnesota. Once was on Christmas Eve with my dad (at the Catholic church), the next was two weekends ago at another local church, and the third was last weekend for the Easter service.
Yes, qualifying me as “that Christian” who goes for the holiday only.
Only it’s not.
I have been so afraid of what we would (or wouldn’t) find at a church here because, well again, compared to Southwinds back in California I didn’t think that anything would even vaguely compare.
I was re-baptized at Southwinds in California very intentionally….because I loved that church so hard. I was literally excited every single Sunday because the church, the people, the Pastors, and the message were there for me when I hit near bottom, as I climbed on out, and everything in between. It was a come-as-you-are church. And the music was incredible!
But this past Sunday, Ryan and I decided to venture out a little. We decided to try a church about 20 minutes from where we live and that (from the looks of it online) had a very similar feel and vibe to that of Southwinds.
From the moment we walked in, it felt like everything we were used to back in California.
We got the kids situated at kid care, and then we sat down, just in time for the band to start.
It was a different service, given that it was Easter and they had about 30 minutes of straight music, but for me, that day, it was exactly what I needed.
I wrote to our old Pastor saying,
As the band played and sang “Resurrecting,” I had tears. I found myself taking this huge sigh of relief because I finally was in a place that made me feel the way Southwinds did and I was able to receive the message and God’s presence more than ever, which I’ve been desperate for during this journey with my dad’s cancer.
The message was fairly short that day, and I’m hoping they aren’t always that way, but it left me thinking to myself, “I can’t wait for church next Sunday.”
I have only ever been in one church where I really felt out of place. Rarely will you find a church that isn’t filled with incredible people and a positive message.
It bothered me that I couldn’t just settle on a church back here in Minnesota. I’ve grappled with the whole idea that “church isn’t about me.” I wanted to just go wherever was most convenient because it is supposed to be about simply praising the Lord. But in the end, Ryan and I couldn’t go to just go, and do the motions of church life because it was something we felt we had to do.
We were looking for a place that would have us constantly seeking that strong desire to learn and know the Lord more because that is the point, not the motions to simply show up.
There is nothing compared to Southwinds, but I am so grateful for what happened on Sunday. On that day, over 3 months since attending a Southwinds service, I was finally present and excited for all that might come at a new church home.
p.s. I still am (likely always will) following the Southwinds messages online. You can, too. They are all HERE.
I mean, who doesn’t love the “smallest things” quote from Pooh?
I thought about the smallest things all weekend.
Ugh. We’ve already been living back in Minnesota over three months, and I’m saying “ugh” in the best way possible. I just love it. My words won’t ever do justice for how much I’ve been loving life back here.
The smallest things have made it all possible, and there were so many small things this past weekend that really added up to something grand.
Easter egg hunts, baking with Samarah, coffee from our local shop, more egg hunts with Ryan’s parents and our nephew, and a night out with my best friends and their husbands on Saturday.
Sleeping in (because the kid’s got a sleepover with grandma and grandpa Hoffman), church (finally! more on that soon), dressing the kids in the most adorable Easter outfits, Easter at my mom and dad’s with yet another egg hunt outside, all the eats, laughing, puppets with grandma Nancy, the return of Auntie Lan from Vietnam, and a final picture of the weekend of Samarah and my dad.
We didn’t plan on some grand weekend, but the smallest things became grand.
And I think that’s the point of this whole love affair with moving back from California to Minnesota.
95% of these small things I never felt in California. And the one I did (church) has been probably the only thing truly missing from my heart. Until yesterday.
A life filled without realizing the smallest things is hard to ever find truly grand.
In California, I lived for the big events – the trips, celebrations, and of course, those flights back to Minnesota.
While big events are exciting, nothing can really compare to the smallest things.
They have taken up my entire heart.
And I want them to forever.
pssst….that priceless, final picture of the weekend of Samarah and my dad? I snapped three. Here is one. Be still, my heart.
This is your special town.
That’s what Samarah says every single time we are driving through downtown Waseca.
When we first moved back, I made that comment to her one day. “Samarah, you know this is mommy’s special town, right?”
She doesn’t skip a beat, and she reminds me of it almost daily.
It is my special town.
On Saturday, the town had a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. We took the kids to a few festivities, then had corned beef and cabbage at my parent’s house, and finally dropped the kids off to spend the night at my in-laws house so Ryan and I could enjoy the night out together. (p.s. Please remember to remind me that I’m not in my 20’s anymore!)
We went to watch my niece (she’s not really, but I call her that) get crowned, “Miss St. Patrick,” and then a band played until late in the night.
There was green everywhere, and it was the perfect small-town celebration I’ve missed all these years.
I saw people I haven’t seen in years. Hugs and kisses from old friends was incredible!
I’ve been thinking about this special town all week, since I’ve been gone in New York.
For years I couldn’t wait to get out of this special town, and now that I travel frequently for work, I can’t wait to get back at the end of each trip.
In California, I had the Palm trees and mountains, but here in small town Minnesota, there is the everyday charm of old buildings without the crowding of big business.
I realized last weekend that some people haven’t changed, for better (those same people still make me wicked laugh) or worse (not everyone is going to like me and that’s okay), and maybe that’s what I love so much about life in a small town….because there aren’t really any surprises. What you see is what you get.
I pray that my children love life and growing up in “mommy’s special town,” too, because while there is a whole world out there filled with big, bright and shiny people, places, and faces, it’s rare to find a place where you really feel belonging and community.
I wouldn’t trade this special town for anything, and I can only hope that Samarah one day says, “Mommy, this is our special town.” (Is she the cutest ever or what?! During this picture, Ryan was chasing Amiya around outside, and Isaiah was in Rochester at the Bean’s volleyball game with Auntie Kimmie.)
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