Jul 23 2014

The Contemplative Cottage has moved…to Iowa

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If you had told me 9 months ago I’d be leaving my friends, church, jobs, and city to live in Dubuque, Iowa, I would have laughed. Loudly.

Not because I had anything against Dubuque. In fact, I’d heard over the years very good things about a certain seminary there.

But Iowa? My image of Iowa was of a flat, mountainless expanse, void of trees and salt water,  full of corn, farms, and miles of roads unserviced by public transportation.

And did I mention snow? That cold stuff which Seattle is blessed with infrequently and causes a city-wide celebratory shut-down to sled the Counterbalance (aka Queen Anne Ave)?

Well, Iowa gets a lot of it.

But Dubuque is nothing like I imagined.

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Something happened around October of last year. I woke up and realized that working two jobs–on staff at my church as communications and systems manager, and adjunct teaching at Seattle Pacific University (and continuing to occasionally eke out pages on my dissertation)–was simply unsustainable for much longer. This realization was the crack in my forcefully promised “I will not move again” vow, uttered upon arriving back in Seattle 3 years prior. My friends were gracious in letting me be stubborn, but even I knew that openness to God’s call could not coexist with it. In following Jesus, openness is part of the fine print.

I think God works His best when our own insufficiency and limits brings us to take a deep sigh and timidly open just a bit to what He might have in mind. Into my own wary openness flowed gentle grace and a seed of possibility as He helped me imagine something different.

Exactly what this something different might be, I had no idea–and if an angel had told me the particulars, like Sarah, when told of having Isaac, I would have laughed.

One thing I did know, sadly. It would involve me saying “no” to one of my jobs. I never imagined it would mean saying no to even more, in order to say a bigger yes.

In November, my dissertation advisor, a mentor who has so often encouraged me and kept me on target in the doctoral process, emailed me about an open faculty position and suggested I apply. It was in a huge beautiful city, one I was very familiar with and could imagine moving to, but while I was open, the idea didn’t quite fit. I checked in with my best friend, Kimberlee, and asked her thoughts about applying. It still seemed the right thing to do, in this new openness, so I decided to apply and see what God might be planning.

As I wrote my application two things happened. First, in writing my teaching statement, I realized again how much I love teaching and how I longed to do this work full-time. And immediately after that realization, I had the thought, Why not see what else is out there, beyond Seattle? 

I found a faculty position description which made my heart skip a beat–and I mean that literally. Discipleship. Christian formation. Small seminary. University setting. Loves Jesus.

Then I started looking at the town. Monasteries (two!). Convents (four!).  Old houses. The wide Mississippi running through. Trees. Hills and views. Small.

At the in-person interview, in the middle of snow storms and one of their worst winters, I met a wonderful group of people, people I hoped to have the privilege of working with in this calling to prepare pastors. And when I left Dubuque in February, I prayed that this was the sprouting of the seed God had planted in that little crack of openness months before.

I could handle snow if it meant this. I could leave my home, my community, if it meant this.

In March, I accepted a position as assistant professor in discipleship and christian formation at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. In May, I left my job at Bethany Presbyterian and got on Amtrak for the trip east. Kimberlee came with me for a few days to get me settled (bless her!).

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In two weeks my students arrive and classes begin. It will be a long while (maybe never) before I stop pinching myself.

How is gentle grace flowing into cracks of openness in your life? What seed is God planting?

My hope as I begin this new season is to invest again in the work of this blog and share a little of life and reflections on prayer, theological education and other random odds and ends in following Jesus, and create a little contemplative community on the internet. Be welcome here. Be at peace!

Christ’s grace to you, and peace!

Susan

 

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