Wood Cutting

When you move into a new ministry position, in a small town you become somewhat like a celebrity. Everyone wants to meet you, bring you food, invite you over. The crazy busyness gets compounded ten-fold when you’ve got two extended families who are both supportive, loving and exceedingly curioius about what small rural towns are like. Then, throw a couple of kids who’ve been thrown out of their normal routine and you end up with sheer exhaustion. A mom and dad who would give anything to just crash. Stay in their jammies all day, let the kids watch tv and binge on Netflix (oh wait, no internet means no Netflix). This is where B and I found ourselves 2 weeks into our new adventure. Luckily, we were coming up on a Saturday with no visiting family scheduled and no church events. Sabbath!

Friday, after performing a funeral, unpacking, entertaining a curious visitor and we were getting close to that time of night where you know you’re sort of home free, there’s was only about an hour until bedtime and no one randomly stops by after dark unless it’s an emergency. I was on the phone with my parents, excitedly telling them about our free Saturday when at that exact moment there was a knock on the door…

B answers the door and I froze. (somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking that if they can’t see me maybe they won’t come in). A minute later B comes back inside with the news that tomorrow was no longer a family lazy day but wood chopping day.

What??? In the city you buy pre-chopped wood at the grocery store for you fire pit on the patio, you don’t spend a Saturday chopping wood. Ugh, there goes lazy Saturday.

Bright and early someone pulls up in their pick-up (everyone owns a pick-up) and away B goes. We thought surely he’d be done by noon and at least we could salvage a partial lazy Saturday. But, noon comes and goes, I call his cell and no answer.

Another hour or so goes by and I call again and again and again. Then my paranoia takes over. Where is he? Did he get hurt in some freak wood chopping accident? Literally what house is he even at, I have no idea. What if he bled out? Is there a hospital near him? How long is the average ambulance response time? What if he’s hurt and they didn’t get to him in time? An axe head could’ve flown off and hit him in the head. Surely someone would call me if he was hurt. Wait, I’m new, no one has my cell number. What if they’re too busy trying to get him help to tell me! If he dies where will we live? We’re living in a parsonage right now, we nothing but glorified squatters. I’m going to have to be that widow who tells people my husband died in a wood chopping accident, everyone will either think I’m joking or that my late husband was an idiot. He better not die and leave me to raise to highly energetic boys on my own!

The cycle of freaking out continued until about 6 pm when, thank heaven, the old pick up pulled up in front of our house and a dirt covered B got out of the car. He literally looked like pig pen walking up to the house with clouds of dirt billowing off with each step he took. Apparently there was no cell phone service out on the ranch where they’d been and he hadn’t even considered asking if they had a land line (who uses those anymore).

Oh wood chopping, apparently there are still people who actually need wood to heat their homes not just to roast marshmallows in the back yard or create a picturesque Christmas. And, apparently wood chopping isn’t done with an axe anymore…gas powered chain saws. I don’t know if I’m relieved or more freaked out now, I guess we’ll see next year on wood chopping Saturday, not to be confused with lazy Saturday.

The sweet part of all this was that the younger men of the church knew that one of the 90 year old members had no family around and needed the wood to heat his house. The church became his family, he and his wife would be warm and taken care of all winter because their adopted family would spend a Saturday every year chopping enough wood to heat their home. Community, real community comes together to chop wood.

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A Hay Ride on Halloween

And the adventure began. We had moved into the parsonage just a couple days before Halloween. It would be our first introduction into country life. One of the moms drove up to our house the morning before and invited us to join them on the traditional Halloween hay ride. Fun! This seemed like exactly the kind of thing I pictured country life to involve and so on Halloween we packed up our little ‘Woody’ and ‘Buzz Lightyear’ and headed the 1 minute down the road to meet the hay ride. I had of course packed my purse-ish bag with diapers, wipes, diaper disposal bags, a bottle, two non-spill sippy cups, hand sanitizer, Kleenex packs, healthy snacks and a bazillion other things I didn’t need, all of which was in the way. Oh city mom, don’t you know you don’t need all that junk here in the country…

I loved seeing all the families hanging out together, enjoying each other’s company and watching the ninjas and princesses run around the dirt road. However, I am somewhat introverted, I didn’t start out that way. When my husband and I were dating and first married I was the outgoing one who loved making new friends but sometime after I got sick, I became the introverted one. So the idea of a group of friends sounded amazing to me but when it actually came down to making them…oh the anxiety!

The Ginormous truck and trailer pulled up soon and we loaded up, the moms all sat on hay bales on this giant trailer that one of the families brought from their ranch and the men all piled into the giant extended cab truck bed with their pink cooler and we were off.

30 seconds later we stopped…this is a small town remember. And in a flurry of running children (or a mob) door bells were rung, candy passed out and onto the next house on the block. Then across the street and so forth. I had my little ‘Woody’ on my hip chasing after my fearless ‘buzz’ while daddy sipped his capri sun in the back of the cab. (This is one of those cases where as a wife, you begrudgingly run up and down the street, sweating in the heat and know that as soon as you get home daddy will majorly owe you!)

The kids had fun and we met several of the people around town. Our whole excursion covered maybe 1.5 miles with every other house being abandoned. Buzz almost fell off the side of the trailer, twice. Poor city kid hadn’t ridden without a 5 point harness before much less in an open air trailer bed with a few straws of hay between him and a traumatic brain injury. It was quite the introduction to small town life. My big city, grad school brain had quite a hard time getting a grasp on the accidental patriarchy that had just occurred. But, the kids sure had fun, the guys definitely connected (teasing each other over who had brought the pink cooler) and the other moms (who didn’t have a 2 year old on their hip and weren’t terrified of having to make new friends) socialized too.

I’m afraid I somehow veered off into a negative direction there…I didn’t mean too. We headed home with the kids in a sugar frenzy while everyone else headed off to the High School football game. Which started at 8pm, after bedtime for our kids. Apparently children don’t really have bed times in the country, that or their parents are exceedingly brave, willingly throwing off the holy schedule.

The Beginning

Hmm… Where to start

I’m not a small town girl or really a big city girl. I guess I’m your average suburbia kinda girl.

I grew up, went to college, fell in love, got married, got a chronic disease (more on that later), started graduate school, had kids, finished grad school and then somehow ended up living at a dot on a map. A town that is hardly more than a place for travelers to stop to fill up their tanks with gas as they head on to more exotic or at the very least more vibrant places.

Looking back I wonder how I ended up here. Currently, I am sitting in a starbucks, 45 minutes from where I live while my kids go to preschool since there is no preschool in our dot or starbucks or reasonable internet access for that matter. In fact, I’m listening to itunes radio currently and it feels like a huge luxury…oh, did I forget to mention that there are only 2 radio stations in our town and both play country music from the 70’s.

I’m new to small town life. We moved 3 months ago so my husband could accept a position preaching at the small church in town. The church is incredibly sweet, it’s actually what drew us “city folk” out to the unknown of the country. The families love each other, enjoy being together and are actually honest with each other about their lives. This kind of community is something we had been craving for several years. Before moving my husband, B, was a youth minister. The leadership and staff at the church was great and supportive but there was almost no community there. Being downtown in a big city meant that everyone lived at least 45 minutes from each other. There was little chance of seeing anyone from church anytime except on Sundays. So, try as we might, we had a very difficult time creating meaningful community or participating in it.

So when B and I came out to interview at this small church and spent time with other families who loved being around each other we were drawn to them. We started to think that maybe it was possible for us as ministers to be connected in. We bit the bullet, loaded up our tiny 2 bedroom house and drove to our new adventure in small rural town USA.