I am incredibly excited to add a new Blogger to my rotation. I met Shelby Mathis while our husbands were stationed together in the Azores, and she has also come and worked on our farm! She will be posting on Mondays!
I started a new book recently by founder of Noonday Collection, my fave fair-trade jewelry on the planet, Jessica Honegger (if you haven't heard of Noonday, it was started by an adoptive mom as a fundraiser to help bring her son home from Rwanda and since has flourished as a powerhouse business that has built a marketplace for artisan partners to sell their goods here in the States.) The book is called Imperfect Courage, and it's about pursuing a life of purpose by leaving comfort and going scared.
"Imperfect Courage" has so far been a huge reminder to me that I should appreciate my "why not?" people. They're the ones that don't simply comfort me when I think I have failed -- they asked why I took "no" for an answer. They're the ones that don't let me quit when something gets hard -- they want to know how to help and support me. They're the ones that don't let me worry I will have to go into something risky or scary alone -- they ask how they can pray and when we can have coffee together next. They're the ones that ask that catalytic question that propels me into the unknown. And the unknown is where the magic happens.
Wendi is one of my "why not" people.
I initially met Wendi one Sunday morning in October on the side of the road in Porto Martins in the Azores. I was connected with her just days before through the Lajes Air Base spouses' Facebook group. I was new to the island, and posted a plea for someone -- anyone -- to take me to church with them that Sunday. My husband was on night shift, we didn't have a second car yet, I lived in a little town 10 minutes from base, and I was desperate for connection in this unfamiliar place where I was soon going to be living alone once my husband left for deployment. Wendi was one of the first to offer me a ride to the base chapel that Sunday, and since she lived in my town and said she could make room in her car for me, we planned to meet outside of the cafe at the top of the steep cobblestone road up from the boat dock.
On Sunday morning, I walked the short distance to the possibly sketchy rendezvous location. As the cars she described rounded the corner, I waved to both as Wendi signaled me over to her van. The other carload of people waved to us and rolled away. I said a quick prayer this woman wasn't a serial killer and wondered if she was thinking the same, bringing all those reinforcements to our meeting! I hopped in the passenger seat of her van. I was relieved she had several kids with her, so I assumed I would live through trip.
On the way to base, we exchanged the overseas base meeting usuals, "where'd you come from?", "when did you get here?", "what's your husband's squadron?" I learned the names and ages of all her children -- including Hannah -- born only a month earlier on the exact day I arrived on the island. And that her in-laws had just moved in with them! And that this was their first time back to church as, now, a family of 8. It dawned on me the backup car was so I could fit with them. I'd never felt so welcomed. A stranger asked for a ride, and Wendi and her whole family had said, "why not?"
I know now what Wendi's "why not?" would fan into flame in my life:
The three incredible women who would disciple me to this day, including Wendi.
The group of friends who became like sisters and brothers.
The circle of people that would form a holy home church in Porto Martins.
The place I'd launch from for some of the most important ministries of my life so far.
Lane's second deployment wasn't a long one, but it was a hard one. We hadn't even gotten our household goods shipment when he received the orders. We hadn't gotten our car by the time he left in November.
The deployment was supposed to last only 5 months, and they prepared to come home just about on schedule. They had the date, so I planned to welcome Lane back to this beautiful island I'd grown to love as home. We told our parents we were going to visit Missouri soon on his R&R. But as sure as the sun will set, the plans will change.
About a week before their planned arrival, Lane called to say they were going to be delayed. There was a paperwork mix-up and they would have to stay in Ramstein, Germany for at least five days to get their weapons cleared for travel back to the Azores.
It was less than a week. On one hand, it had been over five months, what's five more days? On the other hand, FIVE MORE DAYS?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
I got the news right before heading over to the Storey's house where our small group met. As I set out the plates and silverware for dinner, I complained to some of the women about the delay, about the change of plans, about the deployment. I was over it, and it felt unfair, but these trusted friends who'd taken me in and walked with me through those five months were a safe place to vent my beef with the Air Force that day, I thought.
"Why don't you just go to Germany?" Wendi asked casually.
It occurred to me this had never occurred to me. I had never once considered myself capable of doing that. I'd never been to Germany! Or mainland Europe for that matter! I instantly thought through the logistics and decided it sounded scary. Could I really just go there? Wouldn't it be super weird since he's in a hotel with lots of other single guys on his team? What if their plans change again? Would I be able to figure out how to get from Frankfurt to Ramstein two hours away? Would I even be able to get on base? Could I navigate from Terceira to Lisbon to Frankfurt on my own?
Wendi suspected my internal dialogue of doubt. "Seriously, Ramstein is super easy to get around. I stork nested there when I had Abigail. You'll love it. Oh, and I'll call my friends who live there and you can probably stay with them."
I'm sure my eyes were bugged. I met her ideas with doubt, and she met mine with generosity and encouragement. My mind was still churning through the "what if's" but the more she talked, she gave me the confidence to try something I'd never tried before, go someplace I'd never been, to do something that was outside of my comfort zone. She made me realize I'd regret not going.
I went to Germany and got to the base just fine. Lane and I had an unceremonious reunion in front of the base gate security guards, and I was granted access. He ended up in his own hotel room, and I got to meet all the guys he'd spent every waking hour with on this tour. We had a wonderful few days exploring small villages, trekking to castles, and growing a sense of confidence that would write many future travels and adventures into our story.
Wendi was right. I would've regretted missing this. And because this trip spurred so much in me for travel and exploration, I wonder what my trajectory would have been if I hadn't gone to Germany.
Would I have gone on that epic England adventure to Devon and London on my own?
Would we have made the three-country backpacking trip on R&R instead of going home to the States?
Would I have said "yes" to that life-altering trip to Israel/Palestine?
Would we have planned on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail?
Would we have gone on that formative climbing roadtrip last summer?
The Trail beckoned us. It promised freedom and quiet and adventure and a dang cool story if we actually finished it. When Lane got out of the Air Force, we were going to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.
Sometime in the spring of 2016, I shared on Facebook my excitement about starting the trail the following year. Wendi said the trail was less than an hour from their farm, and she'd love to plan on meeting us at a trail intersection so they could see us and bless us with food! I thought it would be so awesome to see familiar faces and have some respite in those first few hard weeks of conditioning on the trail. I also wondered if side-tripping for some rest at their farm would be possible because I really wanted to see them and their new life!
In our last few months in Albuquerque and the Air Force, we talked a lot about the trail. Our life pointed us to get on the trail and successfully complete it, but we honestly didn't have a lot of plans for after. We thought we'd move to Austin or Denver, or where ever Lane could get into film school. We had time to figure it out, we thought.
We made it to Missouri to kill some time before training, prepping, and planning for the trail. We'd spend the fall, winter, the holidays, and once the new year rolled around, it would be a countdown to mid-March when we could make our way to Georgia. We hoped living with our parents in Missouri would allow us to save money, take a deer to make food to dehydrate, and spend some time near the family we'd moved away from long before.
I made a visit to Missouri the month before we were scheduled to move. I talked at length with my parents about our arrangement to live with them, where we'd store our household goods, and how we would make this work. Ultimately, it looked like it wouldn't. It was a "no" we weren't expecting, but sometimes that can open better doors anyway.
Lane and I had to start thinking about a place to live and store our stuff. It would have been silly to rent a house and unpack for a few months only to pack again before or after the trail to move somewhere else. Again. We craved freedom, not being locked into contracts in our hometown. Definitely not paying rent. We wanted temporary and flexible, and something a little radical. So I reached out to the woman whose "why not" had gotten me into some pretty great situations before.
"Do you need some farmhands this fall?"
Of course they did, Wendi replied. Our help on the farm would cover room and board. And I could keep freelancing while there. And we could potentially stay the whole fall and winter up until we hit the trail if it was a good fit. If we wanted.
So the following week when the packers came to load our Missouri-bound stuff, I gave the address of my uncle's old diesel shop where we would store our stuff, unpack what little we could get by on, and make a cozy temporary home in the shop until we left for Tennessee.
In September, I'd go to the Kitsteiner Bauernhof and learn more about chicken processing and pig feed than I'd ever planned to learn. By November, I'd be leaving with fewer thoughts about farming and much more about family and parenting and homeschooling and hospitality and church. I had watched Wendi and John live their dream on this farm, and I wondered how we could do the same.
Sometime in those quiet, early nights in mid-October, Lane and I had separated ourselves enough from the military and family life to consider our future. After the farm. After the trail. We ultimately decided we didn't really want to do the AT anymore. We wanted to move to Denver and start school and build my design business and get on with our professional lives earlier than we ever thought. And somehow, that's all ended up being the freedom we desired.
Wendi's "why not?" brought us into her home and carved out space for dreaming. I'm not sure we could've had that same conversation anywhere but that peaceful farm mere miles from the trail we thought we were aiming at for so long.
I've gone scared a lot in my life, and I've found the biggest impact, biggest purpose, biggest joy and life are found right there: in going scared with imperfect courage.
In having the courage to publish, start, move, travel, show, submit, or say something brave and imperfect just to see what it can do.
In not waiting for a sense of fearlessness that's likely never coming.
In just going for it anyway.
Sometimes it just takes a nudge from God found in a book or a friend. Sometimes it takes a "why not?!"
P.S. In addition to encouraging me to go, travel, or move, Wendi's been asking "why not?" about my writing for much longer than I have. So grateful for this little space I've gotten to share with you on your incredible platform. Please never stop asking me to get out of my comfort zone!