One of the lowest and transformative times of my life was the late summer and fall of 1982. I had just spent the most amazing week in San Antonio Texas at the Lutheran Youth Gathering with 16,000 young Christians and I had been on top of the world. But as soon as I was finished with that amazing week, my family moved from a city in Wisconsin to our new community, a small town in Iowa – population 1600 – a place with two stop signs and no stop lights. SMALL. And new. And lonely.
It was the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. I had left everything behind in Wisconsin – a strong group of girlfriends, a boyfriend, routines and customs and places that I knew intimately and loved dearly. And I had arrived in new town where everyone knew everyone and had known everyone since birth. . . and no one knew me. I was a novelty – a girl from “the city” and “the preacher’s daughter”. I didn’t know what maid-rites were or how to intone words the right way. I had left a place where I had become known and respected for my academic achievements, my ability to sing, my laughter and joy, and my friendship and good counsel. But here, no one knew me; I had no friends, no one to turn to me for counsel, no laughter, no joy, no desire to sing.
Going from the top to the bottom and back out of it again was tough. Really tough. But it shaped me in ways that I still value.
I discovered what it was to be an outsider and I gained compassion for outsiders.
To this day, I seek out those who are new and pour my heart into making them know they are welcomed.
I learned the desolation of loneliness but found my faith grew deeper in that place.
To this day, I know that no matter what the circumstance, I am loved by a Father God who carries me when I am unable to walk on my own.
I learned that to make friends I could reach out to others first and not wait for them to come to me.
To this day, I credit the courage and confidence that I have to those days of high school when I had to make new friends out of nothing at all.
I gained an understanding of my Self and my talents. By having to start all over again with no reputation, I was able to discover that I COULD sing well, that I WAS a strong academic, that I DID love reading and writing and playing piano. I DID believe in God.
To this day I still sing, learn, read, write, play and believe.
I learned to accept gifts from others. It was hard being helpless – not knowing where something was, what the routine was, how to build a friendship, how to do the most basic of things.
But to this day, I realize that I can accept the graciousness of others, so I do not refuse what is offered.
I came to understand that distance does not mean anything but a physical separation; it doesn’t have the power to sever the connection hearts make with one another.
To this day, I have maintained close friendships with people from high school, college, and several cities I have lived in over the years.
I learned that wherever I go, I take family with me.
To this day, my parents and sister are a grounding force to me.
And I learned that sometimes life trials will hit me. And they can hit hard. But I get to decide how I will approach it: with fear or courage, despair or hope.