Lean In

I wrote this post earlier in the fall for another blog, and ended up not publishing it there. But I think it is good stuff, though somewhat similar to another one I wrote this fall.  As our new Kentucky friends could probably attest to, they are still in different aspects of their transition to this place. After all, it took me almost 2 full years to feel as though I had made it through transitioning to this new world that we have found ourselves in.  As we all press on together, it is good to remember to be gentle with one another, as you do not know where one person is on their journey. Everyone hits their “wall” at different points in the transition process, some sooner than others, and it is good to remember our own journeys so that we can show love and empathy towards the others in our lives.

“Lean in.” These are words that held no meaning for me until I moved to this small town in Kentucky with my husband and children. Words that meant nothing until everything I knew, everyone I loved, was 800 miles away, and all I had near me was the man with whom I came here to support in his calling, and two small children. Oh, and did I mention another one on the way?

“Lean in.”  Loneliness. Frustration. Anger. Sadness. A darkness over my soul. I would weep during chapel times, frustrated with the God who led us to this place. Angry with my husband that he was becoming involved in groups and finding his place. Dejected that I could not find a job to support us and scared over how to pay the bills and stretch every dime of student loan money. So very lonely, even surrounded by people. I slowly met people, but my soul ached for a deeper, authentic relationship with others. The kind of relationship that I left back at home.

“Lean in. “  The words were said multiple times over New Student Orientation. During a session about transition, I wiped away the tears as every emotion, every feeling that was talked about reverberated through me. I felt as though my heart had been poured out upon that stage, and everything that I was going through was finally making sense. I locked the words of the speaker, Dr. Marilyn Elliott, away in my soul that day.

“Lean in.”  Slowly, so very slowly, I began to do just that. I went to as many chapels as I could. More often than not, they would make me cry, shake me to my core, and renew in me the faith in the One who brought us here.  I joined a small group, hoping to make friends. As an introvert, I had a hard time finding a group to open my soul to.   I took a spiritual formation class.  I hated it. And then, I loved it. It opened my heart up to experience the love and wonder of God in a new, transforming way. I was able to experience my Maker as a gentle and merciful Father.  I slowly found friends that I could be authentic with, though I still am working on those relationships. After all, it takes five years to have a friend you’ve had for 5 years.

Transition is hard.  It is change. It is moving forward. Or, in some cases, it feels as though moving backwards.  There are only two things that cause humans to change: vision and pain. Either a plan for a brighter future, or a hope to escape a painful existence.  Every person lives in a state of semi-permanent reality. Nothing stays the same forever. Change is inevitable. In the tunnel of chaos that is transition, your world becomes smaller, tighter, darker, until you get to your new normal, and your world reopens and you find your place once again.  I hate to tell you, it takes time. Sometimes a long time. For introverts like me, even a little longer than for others. But you do find your place again. You do make your way through the transition and make a home where you are at.  You do find friends and build those relationships. You do make it. You will make it. If you just “lean in.”

If you would like to hear Marilyn Elliott speak about transition, here is the link to watch a video. Trust me, it is well worth your time!




Whoever it was that coined the phrase “You can’t go home again” was wrong. Wrong. You can, and it can be a beautiful experience. True, once you move away from home, away from friends and family, things change. Life goes on, and people continue to live their lives without you in it. Kids grow up (far too quickly), pregnancies and births happen, illnesses and deaths occur. And yet, if you are very blessed, you can return to those same family and friends that you left and you can be welcomed and loved as though you’d never gone away, greeted with open arms and joyful tears.

We were just back home to Minnesota for a visit at the beginning of the month. We were so very lucky to get a chance to gather with my husband’s family and celebrate his grandmother’s 100th birthday, see most of my immediate family, and gather with friends for a wedding. It was a week filled with laughter, joy, and abundant hospitality towards my family.  We spent part of the week staying with family, and then a few nights at a friend’s home. In both places, it felt like coming home….the invitation to stay and just…..be…..was so wonderful.  There is a special gift that some people have of making others feel warm and welcome in their presence and we experienced that during our travels. The gift of hospitality is so much more than being good at entertaining. It is this very special and unique way of making someone feel loved and welcome, a way of offering yourself to the other with a joyful servant heart, and allowing the guest to be relaxed and unguarded in your home.  We experienced that over our travels and were blessed by it. (And thank you again to my mother in law, and to our sweet friends, the Marble family, for allowing our crazy family to stay in your homes.)

We also experience this “homecoming” at our home church in Mankato. The hugs, the joyful greetings, the surprise on peoples faces as it registered that we were there…that stirred something within my soul. This is what church should be. Loving and caring for one another as family does, even after a few years of separation. Having true hospitality and welcoming the other in the name of Christ.  And it made me ache with missing this place of hope and joy.  Hilltop United Methodist Church, you have a very special place in my heart. You have been a place of healing for me, a place where I really developed a relationship with my Heavenly Father, and a place of friendship and family. No matter where we go on this journey we are on, I feel as though I part of my heart will always be with this church where people truly are the CHURCH.

I know that in our life we will be moving around. More than likely, a lot. Every so many years, we will move to a new charge, settle into a new town, new home, new schools. But I also know that we can go “home” again, that we can find ourselves with those who love and care for us, and find “home” amongst those who have supported us in our journey, those who have been a part of our lives for so many years. That is what a homecoming is really about…finding yourself at home among family and friends. It is never about the place, but always about the people.