Leaving the “Best City” in America

I’ve settled in to my last afternoon stint at our local coffee shop that sits at the base of the Blue Ridge.

This is my version of Cheers. The days I come when Marsha’s working, she’s started my chai tea latte before I’ve pulled my laptop out of my tote. I begin a zone with the prayer room webstreaming through my headphones until about six fifteen, when the couple, whose names I forgot minutes after they told me them because I’m so unplugged from life here, arrives. We chat about the books they’re reading and the books I’m reading. I know nothing about their lives except for the stories that most engage them.

Today I wonder if the home-made wall plaque the staff here made that reads “Nate’s place” will stay up long after we move. Much like anywhere he goes, Nate has made himself at home in this coffee shop. I hear stories about him when we pass the baton and I rest here while he works from home.

This little coffee shop is one of many places where home has extended beyond our property lines. On my run this morning, I made my typical half-way stop for water at the Dairy Queen. The cashier acts as if he’s manning a marathon water station and thrusts a cup over the counter so I can quickly re-fuel before heading home. All before I can even turn off my ipod and ask. The three retirees who have made a routine of their morning coffee in the corner booth at Dairy Queen aren’t there, for some reason, this morning. They’ve watched me transition from a long-distance runner to a mom who runs to stay sane. My need for water and our subsequent conversations about weather and farming and the headlines of the Daily Progress didn’t change with my mileage. I still don’t know their names, nor do they know mine.

Next week, I’ll make my last stop to Bill’s farm to pick up eggs–that is, of course, if Gloria hasn’t snatched them first for her daughter’s cat. And if she has, we’ll laugh about her footrace victory as I sink into her massage table in her little cottage, tucked even deeper into the Blue Ridge than our coffee shop. She’ll tell me more about her garden, her new nutrition finds, and what God has been whispering to her. I’ll leave pain-free, more hungry for Jesus and probably craving some new kind of superfood like seaweed.

For some reason, leaving these seemingly superficial accessories to life here is impacting me as much as saying goodbye to the friends-like-family we’re leaving. As much as I’m a willing student of adventure, I really crave routine. And here we’ve found both the beauty of a place “where everybody knows your name” and all the regularities that come with it and the community of friends we could speed dial in crisis. This is rare.

People wait their whole lives for the aggregate of what we’ve found in Charlottesville/Crozet. Deep roots and breathtaking foliage. And we’re leaving it all.

I’d be inhuman, even now after we’ve had such confirmation of our move, to not ask what the heck are we doing? We said goodbye the other night to friends who’ve made us the guardians of their children in their will. My weekly running partner for five years now is one of my very best friends (runners reading this understand the significance of finding someone with whom you can both run and share dreams). On Saturday we’ll have the guys (whom Nate has met with every Friday morning for years to wrestle with life-and-faith issues and pray) over with their wives and kids to eat amidst our dust bunnies and boxes.

We have friends like this here. And we’re leaving it all.

A move to Africa or China might feel easier to justify than gallivanting to middle-America so that we can sit in a prayer room which we already have access to via our computer. For all the packing, merging and purging we’re doing, this better be good, I think.

But it doesn’t have to be good. It’s what’s best.

Not for everyone, not as a formula for how to follow God, not as a climb upward on the spiritual ladder. But for us, right now, in this time and season it’s best. Because He’s led us here.

We are leaving a place that many would call their endpoint, because, for us, “the cloud has lifted”. And our God, who we try to follow more than our nostalgic hearts, has seemed to say that it’s time to go.

This is not at all intended to draw attention to some sort of “woe is me” self-sacrifice. If we were moving to Africa or China, that might be more appropriate. There are surely sacrifices involved in this move, but the overture is that the God, who gave us both the deep roots here and the beautiful foliage, has gone before us. And there isn’t one other place I’d want to be on this earth other than the one, that usually makes the map during tornado season, to which He’s called us.

And, let’s be honest–if it totally stinks, we’ve been there, bought the t-shirt. I haven’t forgotten our history of finding Him when all is not well.

The only other thought haunting my analysis of this transition is what if we heard wrong? And even that paradigm is being shaken. For years, I have followed what I thought was a God who was mostly concerned about me getting it right. Both my internal thought life and my external need to justify worked overtime making sure I not only was doing the perfect will of God, but that people around me knew it.

But coloring exactly between the lines, all the time, every time, can very quickly become an end goal that distracts from the best goal. This time I want to see the big picture, not just the lines around it.

God is crazy in love with me, His daughter. He knows that my heart is for Him and my desire is to follow Him, first, before anything else, despite my frequent trip-ups. And should this whole move, costing us thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours, be “wrong” — if we heard wrong — the story isn’t over. It just affords another opportunity for Him to sweep us off our feet with His mercy. The mercy we’ve needed all along, even when our perspective told us we were doing it right.

I trust Him, His promises, and His nature more than I trust my own decision making.

So, next week when our two cars (packed to the gills) roll down our steep driveway and up our even-steeper street for the last time, I am praying that I would be filled with great expectation. God, who has created a haven for us in most-every way here, is going with us. The peculiarities of these Blue Ridge foothills, uniquely matched to our God-given desires, were arranged by Him. And I suspect even more like this awaits us in Missouri.

He loves to woo His bride.