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On Monuments

[Author’s note: I originally wrote this in February during my first chance to process life after the birth of our first child. It also happened to be the one-year anniversary of our move to Nashville. A couple friends recently asked about the emotions of such a transition and whether I had any advice for their own. This feels appropriate to share in light of all of that.]

Thousands of years ago, my ancestors set up monuments for these kinds of moments. Rocks were carried then stacked then ordered, row upon row until a pile was formed. And then it was named. A monument was created to mark a specific place, a specific time, a specific event. We are a forgetful people whether we live in the ancient world or use iCal on our smart phones. I need this monument to mark this moment.

It was a year ago today that we wept like we’ve never wept before. Our final friends stopped by to see us off, the moving truck revved outside due to the subzero temperatures. We were leaving Indiana after nearly a decade of leading church and community development efforts in the post-industrial town of Anderson. A tight-knit community of like-minded folks had developed in that time. We’d laughed. We’d cried. And on this day, we cried once more.

Our friends stopped over, said a quick prayer and a communal sigh was felt. Then they left. As I closed the door, I turned around to face my wife and conduct a final sweep of a now-empty house. We burst into tears. To be honest it was more convulsing than crying. It was an unexpected wave of emotion and a sign of just how seismic the shift was for our lives. After nearly a decade, we were finally done in Indiana.

It’s been one year since we landed in Nashville. One year into a new network of friends, a new lifestyle, a new network of streets and shortcuts. It’s been one of the most difficult years I can ever remember. It’s also become one of the most rewarding.

My wife and I laughed tonight for a long time about our first year in Nashville. I could have cried just as much. A lot has changed, but the emotions remain.

* We dropped our maternity insurance coverage shortly after we moved here because we never planned on having a child soon after landing in a city with so much to do. While I write this, my wife is holding my precious son, Elliot, born nearly a month ago.

* After leaving a network of close friends, we now find ourselves lovingly surrounded on all sides by a new group of wonderful people who have made Nashville feel like home. Weeks of meals met us after coming home from the hospital with Elliot, and we look forward to the continued development of this new community.

* The shift to step into full-time writing has been a rather easy move, and Nashville has been great for business. In fact, the challenge has been figuring out how to pare down on freelance work to carve out personal space to write.

* Plus, I’m pretty sure we saw Pauly Shore at a Chinese restaurant.

The past year has been marked by more ups and downs than any single year that I can remember. Confusion over community, identity, and purpose have dominated our conversations. Yet in key moments, we’ve found ourselves on the receiving end of grace and love and hope at moments when needed it most. There have been several times when I didn’t quite know what to call this monument, this new space upon which we’ve carried, stacked, and ordered once again.

Now I do. It has a name. I call it home.

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