When we first moved here I committed to answering with the beautiful truth, the full answer, the even though it makes me sound like a weirdo answer, to the questions “So how did you end up in Grottoes?” As time has passed, even though the commitment to the decision and the assurance of the direction are as clear as the day we left, the details grow fuzzier and I want to write them down. The events that carried us from Ohio to Virginia were nothing is not ordained and so sweet to experience.
In Washington Court House we had everything we could want. We had family close to us, close enough to see them daily had we wanted to, and often we did. There were many celebrations and dinners with big groups of family and then small times meeting with one member at Frisch’s or another at the outlet mall. My kids had the precious experience of being a daily part of extended family life. It was something I hadn’t had growing up, but Kermit did, and in the comparison, I do cherish that village raising children lifestyle.
I had a job I loved in an organization that I still truly believe in. I had coworkers I admired, respected and loved. I’d worked in a number of places and had experienced growing up, learning the lesson that not everything is an emergency and I can just let go when someone doesn’t refill the coffee pot when it’s finished or tells obnoxious jokes. I had years before walked away from education, feeling that things were too big to change and I was too small to make a difference. There I was working in a position that I felt mattered and doing good work next to others who shared my same passion.
We had friends that it had taken years for us to find and develop into a firm friend group. The kids and I had dug a firepit out back and surrounded it with bricks and stones. We spent all summer with groups of dear friends finding out what would happen if you stuck this or that on a stick over a fire and then ate it. I could find someone any day who would come over or meet up somewhere, McDonald’s playplace or in houses that ranged from small in town lots to sprawling farms. My kids had birthday parties that were phenomenal not because they were Pintrest perfection, but because they had a huge number of friends their age come, good friends they’d spent so much time with. Frank had a best friend he described as his “brother friend.” I can’t tell you that I’d ever before felt a part of a group of friends the way I felt in WCH.
We had a home that I loved. We’d worked for years, slowly updating things, removing wallpaper and painting, planting flowers and bulbs, put our personal touches to the house and the yard. Molly still talks about giving her swing set to a friend when we left and riding their Cozy Coupe down the back hill. They had a special area just for digging and I had my small garden. That last summer we’d worked to renovate the back deck, transporting rocks from a friend’s farm and making a rock wall around the side after I’d returned from my uncle’s celebration of life and seen his rock walls. The trees branched out giving the feeling of this embrace of privacy and peace, our own little oasis. I remember when I was packing things in our bedroom I looked out the back window, seeing the glads breaking through the ground and stretching up their stalks and feeling an ache that we wouldn’t see those each year.
And our church. It was every bit a home to us as was North North St. We found a place that we agreed with the teachings, we loved the pastors, our kids loved the children’s ministry, and we love the people there. I was involved, in the women’s ministry, volunteering with the youth and with VBS, for a period in a small group, in Sunday School and in the Rose Ave ministry at the very end. I never felt pressured to do there, but wanted to be there and felt fulfilled by giving to that church. There has been so much blessing brought to me still just through their making the sermons available online and now through livestreaming the services. Sometimes I contemplate sending a message to friends from there and complimenting their dress or hair which I’ve seen on the videocast, but that feels a little…stalkery.
We were plugged in, at church, with family, in the community. Frank was registered for kindergarten. Molly was registered for pre-k. Kermit was working to finish his degree and I was investigating what I needed to further myself in my job. But there were these frustrations. Kermit went to school and when he started they told him he would be finished in 2.5 years. Then credits wouldn’t transfer or the school calendar would change. After 2 years of full time coursework he was told by his school, you should be finished in 2 years and then you’ll do your student teaching. It was as if he was on a treadmill or in a dream where you are running down a corridor towards a light but get no closer.
He wanted to work for a school system that he really loved and valued, but he never found his place. There he was like a junior high boy pining with unrequited love for this dream girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day. In many ways, we saw others feeling the same way traveling through that system. I know that fondness remains, the sweet memories of his youth and the pride he felt then in being a part of a strong proud tradition. He values all he learned there and the teachers who taught him not just subjects, but how to teach. However, space never came for him.
And as much as we felt like we were growing as our children got bigger, it felt like it was always one thing after another. Car accidents and unexpected bills and holding our breath until the next paycheck and never quite feeling like grown ups. Kermit was running an online auction business, but with so many other auction houses in the area and not the right supply, it was not taking off. He was working and going to school and burning himself out and the fruit just wasn’t coming, no matter how diligently we tended our trees.
There were moments where this sense that we should be looking to Virginia, not as homesickness, where I yearned for some nostalgia in Fairfax or looking to trade the support of one set of familial relations for another in Richmond, but as the song of the Valley called, the land where Kermit and I fell in love, where our story had begun, even though we had very few connections and no in roads to anything there.
In the middle of July in 2013 I went to church. It had been a number of weeks, maybe months where the concept of waiting and listening had been on my heart. That Valley song was coming more and more frequently to me when I slid into the pew. Pastor Bruce delivered a sermon, the first in a series called The Expectation Gap, called Welcome To My Frustration. He’s a gifted sermonizer. What he says, connects. When he gets up there to deliver a sermon, I can’t point to a time that I was in that church and the sermon didn’t deliver. But as good as that sermon was, and it was a phenomenal sermon, the passage he pulled from outspoke him. He talked about how Samuel was frustrated, having backed Saul years before and was now being directed by God to anoint someone new to be king. He was afraid of Saul finding out. He was unhappy that Saul hadn’t panned out, so to speak. It is there that he picked up in the scripture.
1 Samuel 16:1 Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”
The passage continued and so did the sermon, but I’d heard what was being spoken to me. How long will we mourn for what we’d planned and hoped for in WCH? As Samuel had hoped and planned for this godly, glorious reign for Saul, it was not working out that way. God had something different in mind. So get your horn and go. Pick up your stuff and get a move on. The time to move on this is now and I, God, have a plan.
My heart thudded. The sermon talked about the gap between what you expect and what you get. At one point Kermit whispered something to the effect that he really was understanding the point of the sermon. I leaned over towards the end and said something along the lines of, “What would you think of moving to the Valley?” And he responded “I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately.” We continued to talk and the more we talked the more we knew this was right.
But our life was there. And there was nothing in VA for us. We knew one family in Grottoes, like friendly acquaintances, and then on the other end of the Valley we had a couple that was very dear to us (and incidentally related to the family in Grottoes. It was through this couple that we knew the family.) I arranged to go visit the family in Grottoes and spend a week or more looking for a job and looking for a place to live. If those things fell into line, surely it would be evidence, right?
I came. I sat on the deck at their house and stared at the mountains. Every sermon I heard, every page I read, it kept talking about the promises land. There I sat, staring at our promised land. But at the end of my visit I was no closer to a house or a job then when I started. I delayed my return as long as I could, but finally I needed to return to Ohio. I had a birthday party for Molly to throw. I had a talk to give to the youth group. That last day or so, the husband of the Grottoes family said he had a friend who had a house he rented in town, but that it had someone in it at the moment. He drove me past it and it was sweet, just a few blocks from them, with a nice big yard on a dead end road. There on the front porch was the person who was renting it.
When I left VA I prayed and told God “If this is it, if you want us to come, then that’s the house I want. That’s how I’m going to know.” It wasn’t 24 hours before I got a phone call telling me that the person in that house had gone that day and broken the lease. The house was available. He could get me in touch with the owner.
We had a goal, to get there and start Frank in kindergarten. The decision was made. Any time that I would stop and pray to be sure this was God’s will for us, it was so swiftly met with a sermon about the promised land or the word of a friend unknowingly speaking an answer to my fears. We worried in those days how we’d pay for this move. I’d always hated to ask for prayers for money. It struck me as disingenuous. People would say “I asked my bible study to pray that I would have $500 to pay for a plane ticket to Bermuda and then miraculously there was an envelope with $500 in m mailbox! Praise Jesus!” I always added in my head “and praise the people in your small group that you complained to.” So I kept my prayers to myself.
I would think of ways that God could show me his provision during those days. Someone would come in my imagination and thank me for how wonderful I’d been for doing this or that and would hand me an envelope stuffed with cash. Or I’d be packing boxes from some of the amazing storage spaces in our house there and imagine I’d find a box full of cash hidden behind a brick. But time came closer and closer and still not magical miracle money. We had enough to make it there and pay for the house and like ramen for a week. We knew that we were going where we should be going, so we committed to it.
We got our moving van, we loaded it up, climbed in the cab and turned the key. No go. The company sent a man to fix it and after 4 or 5 hours the man said “Well, this isn’t going to be fixed and the other moving van at the same location is also broken.” The company sent another truck from further away, this time with a team of strapping young men to take the stuff off of one truck and put it in the other truck. And then we were on our way. We hadn’t really felt panic or extreme annoyance. Just this feeling that this situation would ultimately be resolved.
I called the company to update them on our situation and the lady on the phone said “Let me see. We’re going to apply a discount for your trouble and that leaves you with a balance of…just a moment, let me see. $30.” I was confused. “$30 what?” I asked, certainly hoping she didn’t mean 30 thousand or 30 hundred, which isn’t really a way to say an amount. “30 dollars,” she replied. Our expenses just dropped by around $1,500. All because our van had been delayed a few hours. That’s a nice chunk of change to fall back into our pockets.
After we’d been here for about a week, with Kermit back in WCH finishing out his contract and finishing cleaning out the house, he came across an old savings bond in the attic he’d been given in his childhood from a company that had been bought out by another company decades before. After a day or so of investigation there was a comfortable nest egg for us and I was able to spend time at home helping the kids transition to their new life and considering jobs instead of grabbing the first thing I could find.
When it was time for Kermit to come he’d put in for a wrestling coaching position in Fort Defiance. He got a call from the athletic director and the conversation was to the effect that there’d been discussion of closing down the wrestling program but that he’d contacted them at just the right time. This AD went to bat for Kermit from day one, going from some great phone conversations and finding a place for him in the daily life of the school, not just after school as a coach.
This is how we came to Grottoes. We were brought here. There was so much in those transitional times that spoke to us that we were supposed to come here and we saw God as a provider in a new light. I can tell story after story of evidence that we made the right move, but this story is so long already. Another day, another post on why we’ve stayed, but for today, this is the story of how we came to be in Grottoes.