Our car pointed west, we entered the I-80 on ramp and just like that Iowa was a part of our past. Just like that Austin used to be a worship pastor, I used to be a pastor's wife, we used to go to Harvest, we used to have a house, we used to live in Iowa. Just like that, an era ended. Just like that our friends, the normal everyday heart friends, became our friends that we would have to qualify in conversations as our "Iowa friends" even though in our hearts they were still our every-day-shoulder-to-shoulder brothers and sisters. The entirety of a life we had built as a family was no longer our current story. Just like that the life we'd built and surrounded every inch of ourselves with had become our back story, our past.
The closing of that chapter on my heart was heavy but still so hopeful. We had no idea, we were in such ignorant bliss. We thought we'd completely change everything in our life--yea that will be cute. And we will just keep truckin' along.
Now if you promise that you can hear that slant of facetious ridiculousness in my voice, let me just tell you what the Tulloses had in mind for our fabulous Texas life. We planned to make friends easily, it would be no time at all before we found our people. It hadn't worked out to find the right vocational ministry position before we moved so since Austin was taking a break from vocational ministry, we would instantly get plugged in serving at a church. We would be using our gifts and pursuing our passions to build up the Church. Austin would get a job that would earn plenty of money, this was probably the chance that God was giving us to learn how to manage lots and lots of money and be super generous. And with all that extra time we had (because of course the most time consuming job is ministry) we would find opportunities for organic ministry in the life around us. We would live in a quaint, old, little city home, it would be small but Americans really don't need that second living area, first world probs am I right? We'd have less house and more home, we'd love the little weird things about our new old house and after renting for a couple of years we would buy said home.
We seemed to have a decent and reasonable (eye rolls upon eye rolls) idea of what we would do. Austin had some connections for a few job opportunities. We thought after visiting a church on trips to visit family and some on going correspondence, we had found the right church home for our little tribe. We thought we'd live the city life and thrive in our little city home with our three kids (cause that's a thing, you hear all the time right?). We planned as though it would be equal parts change to reward...like it would be wash. We planned for the longing, the missing of everyone we loved, but we didn't plan that all the change would take a toll in and of itself. We didn't plan on the difficulty of doing things in an unorthodox way, and we certainly didn't plan on all the nausea that awaited us. We didn't plan on all the anger or the fear or the anxiety or the depression. We didn't expect for all our plans to be completely and utterly shattered or having to start from scratch.
Reality quickly formed in front of us. Austin sold cars and even though from about day....two he began to question all-the-everything, we still forged ahead with the rest of our plans.
We found a quaint, little, weird, city rental house and called it home. What started as charming and rustic eventually became backwards and strange and overpriced.
Austin had a great first month of selling cars even though he borderline hated it, and then spiraled into easily the darkest season of his life. He loved his coworkers but really struggled with the job. As time went on, the work weeks of 60-70+ hours became more taxing and he was having a harder and harder time facing certain aspects of his job. Most days he didn't feel like himself at all, and I watched him drain himself to empty every day. I know in my heart of hearts that he was facing some serious oppression. He felt lost and depressed and angry. But he pressed on, because he is the best man. He is the best man. This man who DIED to himself every single day because he had us...he had a family to take care of and he nearly killed himself to do it. My heart, my heart just aches thinking about that man doing this thing.
Oh and also, the Lord wasn't waiting to teach us what to do with lots of money, he was teaching us what to do with no money and showing us that we already had lots.
There was one local couple especially who loved us from the day we moved in (you know who you are and you deserve ALL the kimonos for loving us where we were *all the tears*). We started down a great friend making path. And we were incredibly blessed by a small group of Fort Worthians who loved us when we had NOTHING to offer them (cue more typing tears and then save this story for another post). However, what we...what I underestimated and missed from Iowa almost every day was the hole in my heart to be known. KNOWN. All the way known. Relationally it felt like we were constantly on first dates, which are the worst and make me so anxious.
The church we started off with is a great church. We loved it in so many ways, but it just wasn't the right fit for our tribe and thus began the torturous journey of church "shopping." I shutter at the words. And if you are looking for a church home--I'm sorry. It's kind of the worst ever. Being married into ministry from day one, I really had no idea about how horrible it is to start from no where and then find a church home and family. And this lesson I hope I never forget plus a thousand more.
In some ways it felt like there was nothing that God was letting us love, nothing but Him. No. Not in some ways, in every way. No career to love, no church home to love or serve at, no house that we loved, no being known mainly still "getting to know."
Relationally things were off to a great start, but still just a start, not yet feeling settled in.
Financially the outlook was bleak.
Emotionally we were fried, completely and totally fried.
Spiritually we felt so desperate, so hungry, so overwhelmed and confused about decisions we had made.
I think you are getting the picture. It. Was. Rough.
Honestly, I don't even want to proof read this post because I HATE revisiting this time of our life. I know on paper it might not sound that bad. But in real life, we were coming unglued. I wanted to go back in my journals and find these little tidbits from that time to post but it made me so overwhelmingly sad...I couldn't read through it much less post it here. We walked through this time and felt like our kids weren't themselves, I felt like my husband was unrecognizable, and I didn't feel like me at all. Nothing felt good or comfortable. Did we ask ourselves if we had made a mistake? Every day. Every single day. But we never told each other--it was just this felt burden in the air between us always. Always lingering. Always hurting. Always heavy.
I think about that bible verse "pressed but not crushed," and I wonder what is the furthest point at which you are being pressed just shy of being completely crushed? Cause that's where we were, cracking, crumbling, but not quite obliterated.
We couldn't grasp it yet, but we were on the track to understanding such a greater picture of the unseen.
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
And to think, it all started when we accelerated onto the interstate headed west. Just like that.