Sunday, March 31, 2013

Going Home?

Lately we've had several opportunities to "go home." Going home... it's never quite the same as you remember it.

After spending a large portion of the winter in southern parts of the United States we went back to NY where we've been for the last 3.5 weeks. I've always considered New York home. Even when we lived in Tennessee New York was home to me.

The first "home" we went to upon re-entering New York was Syracuse. Syracuse is where we spent the first almost 3 years of medical school. We lived in 3 different apartments and attended 3-ish churches in our almost 3 years there. We spent our first night back in New York at a friend's house in Syracuse after Glenn's RMED finale thing. We returned the next week for Glenn to do some presentations and to be there for Bridge Day and Match Day. We saw some people and locations that we knew. We can find our way around Syracuse just fine and find things to do but, returning there, it didn't feel like home.

We spent our first weekend and the week after the Match up near Lowville. Lowville is where Glenn did his rural rotation, where we lived for 9.5 months. It is the last place that we had a physical place to call home that was larger than our van. Lowville felt a bit more like home maybe because it is the place that we had lived most recently and maybe because we had friends there and actually lived there instead of just survived. Still... it wasn't home. I cooked but it was in a strange kitchen. We all slept in beds but they weren't our beds. We had the chance to hang out with friends but we knew that our stay there was very temporary. Our friends gave us a place to stay for a short time. It was a blessing to us because we actually had our own space but it wasn't really our space, not home.

We've also spent a weekend and this past week in Waterloo, another "home." Waterloo is the town that I grew up in. It is the place where I spent the first 18 years of my life and a total of about 3 years as an adult. The physical places that I lived in are still there: the little apartment where I lived with my parents when I was born and where we lived for 10 months with 4 little ones, the big yellow house where I lived from when I was 2 until I got married, the apartment we lived in that  I still think of as Aunt Alyce's house even though we lived there for almost 2 years, and even Grandma Hansen's house where I spent so many hours while mom was teaching. The physical places are there but different people live in them now, people that I don't know. I can't just go up to the door and walk in and even if I did it wouldn't feel like home. Part of the feeling of home is the people. The people that were "home" for me in my formative years were my parents, my brother and my grandma Hansen. None of them are in Waterloo anymore. Only one of them is at home on this earth. The rest of them are Home. We have enjoyed our time at my grandparents' house with them and it has been nice to spend time with some aunts, uncles and cousins and a couple of friends as well but Waterloo doesn't feel like "home."

A couple of weeks ago, while in Waterloo, I had the chance to go "home" to Seneca Community Church. Seneca Community Church was the church that I grew up in. It is one of the places that God used to grow me up in Him. It was great to see and visit with many people that were so influential to me in my growing up years - Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, parents and grandparents of my friends, friends of my parents. How blessed I am to have grown up surrounded by that godly group of people! I'm thankful for facebook that helps me keep connected in the months and years between visits with them. I am humbled at the many that came up to me and told me that they still pray for us and that they love following us on facebook and through my blog. We don't get out there often but I am always thrilled at the number of people I don't know that God has brought into the church in the years since I attended there and I'm praying that God will direct us to a church with people like them to love and speak truth into my kids for our time in Fort Worth. Visiting SCC was great and though it was home it really isn't any more.

Sometime this past week a friend posted to his blog inviting people to their family's annual Highland Park sunrise service/ breakfast at Mount Hope diner which prompted us to make an early morning, spur of the moment trek to Rochester this morning. Rochester is another place we have called home. We lived in Rochester for two years while Glenn worked at a hospital and we waited for acceptance to medical school. It was home. We loved our church and had great small group experiences. When we left it almost 4 years ago we kind of planned to go back for residency or at least to apply. In Kansas City this summer, after praying about it and researching programs and knowing the kind of training that we really wanted Glenn to have to prepare us for our future, we decided not to apply and, with a few tears, threw away the paperwork for U of R.

Today we went back knowing we will, most likely, never live there again. While at church we got to see a few friends and were encouraged with the hope and joy that Resurrection Sunday brings. We knew we wouldn't see many people we knew showing up unannounced and not knowing which of the 3 services at 2 campuses many of our friends would be at. In actuality, a large number of our friends from there have moved away. I consider Northridge Church, like the church I grew up in, to be a sending church training and giving lay people opportunities to serve in the church so that they can be used of God in other churches where He moves them far away for their jobs or further training. Personal friends from our two years there are in at least seven different states and two different foreign countries. I love going back and recognizing hardly anyone knowing that God is using that church to reach more people in the Rochester area for Christ and to train and challenge people in their spiritual growth just as He used it in our lives.

In a lot of ways our brief trip back to Rochester felt more like a trip down memory lane than a trip home. After church we drove past two of the three places we lived in our time there. We also took a walk around Highland Park which was our yard for much of our time in Rochester. Abigail was young when we left and doesn't remember our time in Rochester so it was fun to show her around a bit and listen to everyone's memories of our time there. We even got to get a picture of the kids in their favorite tree. It doesn't look nearly as big as it did 5 years ago.

 Well... we've visited a lot of "homes" over the past few weeks but none of them have really felt like home. I regret that we didn't get to go "home" to Houghton though I know that wouldn't feel like "home" either. Tomorrow we get to go back up to Lowville, that place that is no longer home, to move our stuff out of a storage unit there into a trailer which will move our stuff to Fort Worth, our next home, where we'll be putting everything we own into another storage unit. I'm not sure if I am ready to go to this new place to call home. I think that I am still in denial of the face that we are moving to Texas. God has called us to move on.  Our roots never have a chance to get too deep. Last week we listed to a sermon on 1 Peter and we were reminded that, as followers of Christ, we are aliens and strangers here on earth and this place should never really feel like home to us. Maybe God has us keep moving to remind us that this world is not our home and to increase our longing for heaven.

As we prepare for the next step in our adventure I want to stop and thank God for the homes that He has so faithfully provided for us over the years and the many relationships that He has brought into our lives. We entrust the location and the timing of finding the next home He has for us to steward to Him, knowing He knows best our needs and that He will provide for us in His perfect timing. He knows our needs physically, spiritually, emotionally and socially and He will provide. I'm looking forward to seeing how He's going to do it.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Remember

Ever since reading the word "remember" this morning that melancholy song from You've Got Mail that plays in the background when she's confessing that she has a store that is closing has been running through my mind.

God's been asking me to remember a lot lately. Last Friday we found out we are moving to Fort Worth, TX for Glenn to start his residency program. It was not our first choice. It was our second (a close second, almost tie for Glenn but for me a kind of distant second... I'm a bit scared of how demanding the program is and therefore how little I may see my husband and... Texas isn't exactly my first choice in places to live in terms of climate - January - maybe, July - not so much.)

Over the last week God has repeatedly reminded me of how He has worked in the past. The first thing was Lowville. I really didn't want to move to Lowville. It wasn't our first choice for an RMED site. God knew better than me though. He provided a great place for us to live and some wonderful friends for the 10 months that we lived there. I couldn't imagine having spent them anywhere else.

The night before last we were playing with some numbers trying to figure out what kind of housing we could afford and discovered that our take home, after taxes, for residency will be about $1000 more than the amount that we have had to live on monthly while in medical school. I then remembered that we have to start paying back on our school loans and in the only repayment option I remember Glenn telling me about we'll be having to pay at least $1000 a month on them. Ugg. There are probably other options for us to pay more or less a month but my first thought was: "There goes that extra $1000 I was looking forward to so we could buy more produce and actually buy meat every now and again." We've never been able to "Dave Ramsey Zero Based Budget" in medical school (thought the nerd in me wants to so badly!) because all of the required minimum expenses equal more than the amount we have to cover them but God always provided for our every need and so many wants as well, often in unexpected ways while we've been in medical school. I was looking forward to getting the the point of having a zero based budget, being able to put some money aside for other expenses, and to living slightly more comfortably in residency but that may not be part of God's plan. He likes us to depend on Him, even when we do start getting a paycheck again after 4 years without one. Ultimately everything we have comes from Him for us to steward, even if there is a hospital's name on the paycheck stubs.

I was still a bit miffed with the fact that the amount of money we have to live on isn't really going to change yesterday when we had a field trip with some other homeschoolers in a 4H group to a green house that a local homeschooling family runs. As I was chatting with one of the moms she noticed my daughter had a Houghton hat on and asked about it. I told her that Glenn had graduated from there and God whispered to me, "Sonja... do you remember Houghton?"

Do I remember Houghton?? Of course I remember Houghton!! Glenn needed to finish his undergrad degree and get his science pre-reqs and Houghton was one of 3 schools that we could find that would take his credits from the college we'd met at that had lost it's accreditation and let him continue and graduate. It was not my first choice because it is in the middle of no where and there was no place for us to work to provide for ourselves. Also there were slim pickings as far as housing was concerned and did I mention that there was no work available for either of us and that we had no idea how we were going to pay for said housing or, you know, food and stuff?? God made it abundantly clear that He wanted us to move to Houghton and every time I asked Him how on earth we were going to be able to afford to live He would say, "Trust Me." Oh, I got so frustrated with that answer!! I wanted to know exactly how He was going to do it. I didn't just want to step out in faith. I really wanted to know how exactly we were going to pay rent, buy food, buy books, buy diapers, pay tuition, etc. God just said, "Trust Me" so we went, trusting Him, knowing that He knew our needs better than we did. We didn't tell anyone before we left that we were pregnant with Lydia, baby #3. Everyone thought we were crazy enough venturing back to college with two kids (including us!) so we let baby number three go unmentioned until after we relocated.

I remember Houghton. Yes, I do.  I think that Houghton is where I truly got my feet wet in my faith. God had asked us to trust Him. We chose to step out in faith, not knowing what He was going to do or how He was going to do it and he proved Himself faithful and over abundantly generous. He provided everything that we needed in our time there. He also grew the faith of many of our friends there by giving them front row seats and giving them a chance to watch God work in our lives. When we went back there to visit before starting medical school they encouraged and reminded us of how faithful our God is and how He took care of us while we were there and they were confident that He was going to do it again.

Today my girls and I went back to the greenhouse because they wanted to help out some more and I had the privilege of listening to several stories of another lady's "remember"s of God's faithfully taking care of her and her family. It was so encouraging and humbling to listen to her tell stories of what God had done for her family over the years. It once again bolstered my faith that He is going to do it for us as well.

I'm so thankful for the challenges to remember that God has brought my way of how His choices are better than mine even if He doesn't give me my first choice. He knows better than me. I am so thankful for the opportunity we had to live in Houghton, Syracuse and Lowville, even though none of them were my first choices. I know that God is going to bless our time in Fort Worth just like He did the time He had us in other places I didn't want to move to.

I'm also thankful for the reminders of His faithfulness to provide for our needs. God provided for us when we were in college, God provided for us during our years of waiting to get into medical school, God has provided for us while we've been going through medical school, He is going to provide for us as we go through residency and beyond. He has and will continue to provide our every need. I can trust Him. Even when He doesn't give me what I think is best. His ways truly are best and I can trust Him.

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
 make known among the nations what he has done. 
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
    tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
    seek his face always. 
Remember the wonders he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
Psalm 105:1-5

“Remember this, keep it in mind,
    take it to heart, you rebels.
Remember the former things, those of long ago;
    I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me.
I make known the end from the beginning,
    from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
    and I will do all that I please.’
Isaiah 46:8-10 

OK, I totally didn't keep the 5 minute rule today but here's the link to FMF if you want to join in the fun on "Remember":
Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday (belated): Home

Home? Such a strange word. We moved out of our home 8 weeks ago. We
got rid of a lot of stuff in preparation for our upcoming move across
the Mississippi, put most of our stuff in storage, stored a few of our
more fragile/ valuable items at the homes of friends, put too much of
our stuff in the van (there are 6 of us and we brought stuff for warm
and cold weather and stuff for camping) and took off.

Over the last 8 weeks our home base has been our van as we've
travelled (though we've only slept in it for one night). As we arrived
back in New York part if me said, "Yay, we're home" but reality is...
we don't have a home and won't for several more weeks.

God has graciously provided for us over the last 8 weeks and we've had
the opportunity to catch up with several friends along the way but we
haven't been home (though this past weekend's visit to Lowville felt
almost like it with our kids going in all different directions for
play dates and sleep overs and the chance to hang out with friends).

One thing that being homeless always reminds me of is the fact that
this world is not my home. We find out the city of our next earthly
home on Friday but, ultimately, we won't be home when we get there
either. It will just be our next temporary residence as we long for
our forever, permanent home in heaven (where we get to be with our
Savior forever and when we'll never have to move again!)

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. (Psalm 3:3-5 NIV)

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Mystery Month Adventures... Pre-Match Mini-Summary

Well... I didn't do that great of a job keeping up with this blog over the first half of our mystery months. Maybe, when I get a few spare hours, I will upload pictures and blog about all of our experiences. Maybe I won't. So much to blog about. So little time.

We will be back in New York tomorrow after 7 weeks away. We have slept in a guest house, a resident apartment, our tents (only one night, unfortunately), our van (only one night, surprisingly), the homes of 9 friends (in 9 states), and 3.5 weeks on a 300' ship on the Calcasieu River. We took second looks at some residencies, visited some interesting historical and natural places, did some volunteer work and some school work, spent time with grandparents, met some young relatives, a future relative, and a couple of friends' babies all for the first time, caught a lot of lizards and a lot of beads, touched the Gulf of Mexico in 3 states and the Atlantic Ocean several places in FL, caught up with friends, were challenged spiritually in many areas, counted down to the Match, unofficially saw a few patients, and so much more.

God has graciously provided for us again and again... places to stay, places to serve, time with our family, time with friends old and new, an abundance of food to eat (much to the relief of Caleb).

We are so blessed.

I am glad to be going home (though we don't actually have a home) to New York tomorrow. I thought I would have a hard time with the lack of green in New York, having already experienced the new life of spring in the south, but, as I looked out the window yesterday just north of Harrisburg, PA at the bare trees, hills, streams, and snow covered ground, I told Glenn that it looked like home and a contented feeling of being almost home filled me. He asked if I was OK and I told him I was fine then burst into tears a minute later. It's home but not home and very soon it won't be home. None of our possible residency locations look anything like this. I am going to be moving far away.

I am going to be moving far away but that is OK. When we were in college many of our friends in the sign language program would sign home with a "d" to mean they were heading to their dorm. Lately we've been signing home with a "v" to mean it was time to go to our van. Home has been our van for much of the last 7 weeks and God has been faithful. When home is another state at least 20 hours from the one I've spent about 31 of my 34 years God will continue to be faithful and provide all that we need in every aspect of our lives - places to live, work and worship, food to enjoy, friends to share life with, and everything else we may need.

This first half of our "mystery months" has been fun, full of adventure and new experiences. It has been kind of nice in the "ignorance is bliss" stage where we can't start making plans for our next location because we don't know yet where that new location is. Computers somewhere are feverishly figuring out our fate (and that of the 20,000 or so other applicants) carefully matching up the rank lists of applicants and programs.

In only 9 days we find out where we match and the second half of our mystery months begin, the part where we still don't know what we are doing but we do know what city we are going to and we get to start making plans for our future. I am exited to see what the Lord has planned for us and so thankful for all the great things He has done so far!

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and rejoice in you;
    I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High.
Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Psalm 9:1-2,10