Here in Illinois the trees have turned color–gold, auburn, purple, and brown. We’ve been here only three months and, while today’s a gorgeous, sunny, and windy day, we’ve already had some rainy cold nights that put to shame the worst of what we get in the middle of February in California. Which, I suppose, isn’t saying much.
It’s been three months since we packed up the car, trecked across country, and settled ourselves down in Ludwigson Hall here at TEDS. Which means it’s past due for a bit of an update on how McKenna and I are doing.
First off, we want to thank everyone who has been praying along with us for the trip. We’ve felt the support, especially those of you who have reached out to send us little notes, or texts, and messages checking in on us. It’s meant the world. I figured I’d begin the update in the shape of recounting prayers God has answered already.
So, in case you couldn’t tell based on the photos on Facebook and such, we got here safely and have mostly settled into our apartment and general life patterns. There’s still some furniture to purchase, photos to put up, and so forth (I still have about 5 boxes of books that need shelving), but we’re in decent shape. We even have acquired Illinois licenses. No, you can’t see the photos.
Academically, I haven’t failed any classes, yet. True, my first semester isn’t over, but I still count that a win. Also, yes, class is great. I try not to be a fanboy, but sitting in Dr. Vanhoozer’s class really is a bit surreal, even after a couple of months of it. And it’s not only his classes either. All of my professors have been great so far, and it’s been a wonderful experience to be back in the class, discussing Scripture, theology, French, or whatever class I’m in. It’s challenging and stimulating and I still have trouble believing this is my life now. Reading theology for hours a day is my job. I’m supposed to be doing that.
Beyond that, God has been faithful in providing us community here at TEDS–and not just for me. The community here has been stunningly welcoming and loving to us. People I’ve known for less than a week or two, lending us a spare mattress for the first few days we got here, others helping us move in, a friend driving me to the doctor’s when I was car-less, and one dear friend even allowing me to crash on his couch for a week. McKenna’s joined a great ladies’ Bible study and might have closer friends here than I do, already. Of course, we’re still getting to know people, but we’re just surprised at how great everybody’s been.
Following off of that, we found a church. In fact, we just joined this Sunday morning. We are officially members of Grace Presbyterian on the North Shore in Winnetka. We checked it out the first week we came and it felt good right away. We tried a different church the next week, but we ended up feeling like we’d missed church. Grace quickly felt like home, after only two or three weeks. Everybody has been very warm from the get-go and our small group is this wonderful inter-generational group that’s brought us in with open arms. Also, it’s just a solid church. There’s good, Christ-centered preaching. We receive the Lord’s Supper every week. Worship is centered on God. Your pastors know your name. And there’s a surprisingly involved congregation.
Also on that note, we found a job for McKenna—at the church! Yup. It’s funny how that worked out. She must have applied to fifteen or more schools and no dice, and then a spot at church worked out. So, she’s the Executive Assistant, working on organizing volunteers, helping implement systems, and assisting our pastor Marshall. And we’re confident she’s gonna do great. So, as it happens, she works at a church and now I’m the one who works at a school.
Finally, the marriage is still good. We’ve been praying together and have been stretched a ton. But in the middle of that we’ve had to lean on each other in new ways we never would have, were we not living in a completely different state, thousands of miles from home. It’s been hard, but there’s been a lot of joy and laughter in the midst of it.
Finally, because I’m a blogger, I suppose it’s appropriate to note a few learnings from the trip so far.
First, being an adult is hard. I mean, I was an adult before, but moving across country, figuring out things like new health care, and licenses and all that business is just tough. People tell you that, but I don’t think I ever had to face it as full force as I have out here.
Second, the kingdom is big. And international. You know, it’s been funny to talk to people about moving out here because I don’t think we’re getting the typical experience. You’ll get questions like, “How are you adjusting to Midwestern culture? Is it a shock?” And McKenna and I are kind of unsure how to respond because at Trinity we live next to Australians, Koreans, Germans, and people from South Carolina (which is its own wonderful thing, from what I’m gathering). And it’s great. It’s been quite an experience to learn about how different everybody is, while at the same time sharing the main thing in common: the gospel of Jesus Christ. TEDS has a ton of international students looking to learn here, then go back home and serve their people faithfully back home. And meeting them and growing to know them has already been a rich, expanding experience for us.
The Internet is interesting. It probably looks like a really cool wonderland to everybody back home. And in many ways it is. We’ve been to Chicago a few times. I am now a member of the Chicago Art Institute–which instantly made me a patron of the arts. That’s pretty sweet. But let’s be honest, I never update selfies about those times I’ve broken down sobbing at the thought of how much I miss my friends, or my parents, my sister and her husband, their beautiful little babies, or my in-laws, or our old church family at Trinity. But that’s happened. Nor do I constantly post about the horror and dread of figuring out the health care, or paying for our car’s compressor going out, or the half-dozen other stresses that have come up in the last three months. Sure, I call my parents freaking out and they pray me down. Which is good. But I don’t Instagram that, ya know? And not even because I want to hide or deceive, or put on appearances. It just doesn’t feel natural. And that’s fine. But all that to say, I’ve long known the internet to be a bit of a funhouse mirror, but this trip has helped put some perspective on my understanding of even the pictures of others’ internet appearances.
Finally, this one could be said in two different ways: “God is utterly faithful”, or “God is timely in his own time.” God has been coming through for us this whole trip. It has not been easy. It has not been simple. It has not been a perfect little jaunt off to a new life in Chicago-land. All the same, it has been good. God has been utterly and purely good, with no shadow of turning, providing all that we need in the time that he knows we need it–even if that’s a couple of weeks later than we were entirely comfortable with. And that’s fine. He knows what he’s doing.
One of the things Dr. Vanhoozer has said more than a couple of times in his lectures, is that if he really wanted to know what your theology was–what you truly believed about God in Christ–he would have to follow you around with a video camera and watch how you live. How you spend your money. How you spend your time. How you treat your neighbor, your wife, your child, or yourself. For myself, I’ve had to realize that if I really believe that God is my Father in Christ who grants me his Spirit, who will never leave me or forsake me, then I’ll breathe easier. I’ll sleep instead of stress at night. And so that’s been part of my prayer life: Father, you’re sovereign, so I’m going to breathe right now.
For those of you wondering how you can continue to pray, we’d simply ask for a few things.
First, continued prayers for our marriage. After our walk with Jesus, that’s priority number one for us.
Second, school is challenging. Please pray for my focus and discipline. It’s been a few years since I’ve written a paper or taken a test, so there’s some worry there.
Third, McKenna asks for prayer that she do her job well and continue to grow close with the staff and volunteer team. Also, of course, that we continue to plug in and find different ways to serve.
Finally, we miss our family and friends. It was nice having our buddy Matt come out, as well as having McKenna’s parents out here for a few days. All the same, we’re looking forward to seeing everybody at Christmas.
Thanks for listening.
Soli Deo Gloria