“God’s plans are always more exciting than our own” – Jen Fulwiler
You may have noticed that the title of this blog is “Life in the Garden.” Now that our bosses officially know our plans, we can tell you, dear internet: We started this blog to chart our journey back home to Garden City.
I moved to Manhattan in August 2004 and spent several years completely enamored with this place. I loved the freedom and the university and the food and the football and the everything. It’s a wonderful place to live and I have been tremendously blessed. This is where I met Steven. This is where I got my first real job and then my first big kid job, and learned how to take care of myself. This is where I got to know Hailey, AKA my sister from another mister, AKA the best friend a girl could ask for. This is where I came to heal after Mom died. This is where I got engaged and married and will welcome my first child. This is where Bill Snyder lives. This is the home of So Long and Varsity Donuts and the Little Grill and Frangelica coffee. This town has taken such good care of us. Steven and I have wonderful jobs and a great apartment and we live happily and simply and comfortably here, in the land of enchantment and growth and change and incredible prosperity. So naturally, we’ve chosen to leave.
It seems impossible now, but we first made this decision three years ago. It was July 2012 and I was finally working in a library after having finished my master’s degree. Steven and I were married, we were in my favorite little apartment, and life was quiet and simple and uncomplicated. Oh, and I was miserable.
After having worked so many years to get to where I was, I was baffled by my misery. Somehow, being career-focused had led me straight into the weeds. My priorities were upside down and I found myself yearning for a different path. For the first time since I left Garden City in 2004, I was homesick. One sunny Saturday afternoon in July, as I sat sobbing on my couch, it came to me, as suddenly and simply as anything: You need to move back to Garden City. It all made sense. Move home. Help with the family. Find a job in a community that needs dedicated, loyal, passionate people. Raise a family. Be part of something bigger than yourself. Give up anonymity and let life get messy again. Instantly, I felt relief. I felt purpose. I laughed out loud because it was just so obvious. When Steven came home later that afternoon I shared my epiphany with him, and he was immediately on board. (Seriously, that man is the best.) Still, even though we were both convinced it was the right thing to do, in the back of my mind I worried that it was just me, trying again to run away from a bad job.
In the last days with Mom, I remember sitting with her, trying desperately to soak up as much of her wisdom as possible. I had just accepted my first big-kid job in Manhattan and I was worried about leaving, about abandoning Dad and Abby and Betsy and running away to where I thought my support system was. She was always so worried about me getting a job, especially one with benefits, and I think she was happy to know that I had succeeded in finding something. Still, her answer was simple. “If it turns out to be the wrong choice, just turn around and try something else.” Simple. Smart. Obvious.
That conversation with Mom took place in June 2008. It took me 4 years to decide that it was time to turn around, but I was still wary. Luckily, timing, as always, was the issue. Steven had just been accepted to a master’s program at K-State and he was planning on taking one class a semester so that he could finish a master’s for free through my employee benefits from working at K-State. So I had to keep working at the university and we were committed to Manhattan for at least 3 years.
Since that conversation in 2012, I’ve been agonizing over this decision. Every trip home to Garden is better than the last and harder to leave. My heart is pulled there in so many different directions. I realized at some point that we also had to make the most of our time here. I didn’t want to waste time in a job that I hated, so I took a new job on campus, one that I love, one that will be hard to leave. We also decided not to wait to start a family. But more important than any of that, once our hearts were open to a future based around family, a funny thing started to happen. Slowly but surely, our hearts were also more open to the Church.
In Easter of 2013, Steven attended his first Vigil mass in Garden City with Betsy and Anna and Matthew and Linda, and I stayed home with Dad and watched Jimmy and Katie. Steven’s heart was transformed that night – something he didn’t tell me about until many months later. Then later that summer, almost a year after the original epiphany, I got an invitation from Father Wesley inviting me to a retreat in Dodge City about Natural Family Planning. For some reason, I asked Steven if he wanted to go. For some reason, he said yes. For all the reasons, we left that retreat, signed Steven up for RCIA and have become increasingly committed to our faith ever since.
Since that retreat, we’ve attended mass regularly and Steven officially joined the church at Easter of 2014. We’ve formed a community at St. Thomas More, led a marriage retreat, and started attending an hour of adoration each week. I figured it would be a good time in this busy season of life to spend an hour in gratitude for all that we’ve been given, and to ask for guidance with all the unknowns still to come. It’s been three long years of discernment and I can look back and say that I am so much happier than I was that day in July. We have better jobs and better relationships. We’re less anxious and slightly healthier, happier, and more honest and less afraid. Life here has improved in every way, and yet my heart still yearns for a future in Garden City with Steven, raising a family and letting things get all messy at Gillespie. It’s taken a lot for me to admit that my heart wants us to be in Garden City, while still fearfully asking that He close those doors to us if they are not his plan for our family. I’m still afraid that I’m running away. But more than any of that, I’m still afraid that it’s another wrong turn.
Steven will finally graduate in December. To make room for Nino, we’ve started moving stuff into storage in Garden City. In the past month, we’ve even started applying for jobs in Garden City. Ideally, we’d be able to ring in 2016 as a family of three in our first Garden City home. That image is so idyllic it hurts. So could you pray for us, too? Could you pray for us to find jobs and a house and a daycare for Nino, if Garden City is where God wants us to be? Could you pray that if that is not his intention for us, that those doors will be closed and that we will be able to see and trust and faithfully walk his path for us? My wants are so often selfish. My actions too often rushed. Throughout it all, I keep thinking that Mom would know what to do. She’d give me the honest answer that I needed to hear, but more than that, whatever she said, I would trust. I don’t know why she was the only one that my stubborn heart always, ALWAYS believed, but it seems like she was. Maybe that’s just the gift of hindsight, or because she’s no longer here to ask, but I feel a bit lost without her grounded wisdom about all things me. So could you pray for me to be rational and courageous? Faithful and smart? Loving and open? Also, if you need someone to work for you, and/or know of someone, please let us know. We’d love to apply.