One of the surest remedies against discouragement is thankfulness.
So, I’m going to climb out of the past six months’ busyness and sleep deprivation to reflect on a theme of joy that’s been playing in the background: thanksgiving for Rockville, a place I resisted.
When Bryce and I were dating, I was living in a super-cool apartment in the Fan with three amazing women. We had a huge rooftop deck and we threw great parties. The apartment was a stone’s throw from VCU, where I was in grad school at the time. I’d get home from work, change into more comfortable clothes, and walk a few blocks to my writing workshop. My parents came to see the apartment, and my dad said, “Well, I guess this is it for you and Bryce.” Meaning I was obviously going to break up with Bryce so I could live on Grove and Harrison forever.
See, Bryce lived–by choice–in his twenties–in Rockville. In a house with a mortgage. And he had friends who also lived in houses with mortgages in Rockville. I could tell he had no plans to go anywhere.
This became a sort of crisis for me, because I’d always planned to get married and go somewhere new for a while, like the Pacific Northwest. Ya know, rent an apartment in a cool city and find a great church and drink coffee and build relationships.
Not only was Rockville a little too close to where I grew up, it was also very far away from VCU, my running group, coffee within walking distance, and friends who lived in the city.
Despite my resistance, Bryce and I got engaged. Shortly after, Circuit City announced liquidation. I found a new job quickly, but there would be three months until the start date, so I took a leave of absence from grad school to babysit, freelance, and prep Bryce’s house in Rockville for a woman to live there. I mean, there was a turkey in the garage refrigerator that still had feathers on it. The house needed a good cleaning, some colorful paint (okay, the red bathroom was a little impulsive), and furniture that didn’t say “bachelor.”
It’s so fun to look back at these pictures. They’re cute. We were building a life! Also, there are no crayons on the floor. That table is where I’d soon find out it was easier to get grad school work done in Rockville than the city. Because hmmmm yeah, no coffee shops and friends within walking distance.
There was still a lot of angst, though. In all honesty, I think the location was the biggest adjustment of being married. I didn’t like driving everywhere, and I felt bad asking my friends to drive all the way to Rockville to come hang out. Friends who lived in DC or Northern Virginia can’t relate to this dilemma, but we Richmonders are spoiled. A half-hour is a long time!! I complained a lot. Then something happened.
During a phone conversation with my college roommate Amanda, I whined about missing the city. She remarked, “But you like places like Rockville.” She reminded me of how I’d liked driving around the Shenandoah Valley picking up middle school kids for WyldLife events. She reminded me of how I’d enjoyed taking friends hiking along Skyline Drive. “You kinda…like the country. This Rockville thing kind of works.”
Amanda’s comment freed me to own the life I’d been given. I started to notice more and more things I liked about it.
Now that Bryce and I have persevered through those first few awkward (but awesome!) years of being married without children, we’re so much more at home. Bringing Lincoln into the mix marked another turning point in my relationship with where I live. Rockville is a great place to raise a family.
During maternity leave with Lincoln, I met all of our neighbors. A stroller with a baby is a great icebreaker. Then that spring I took him outside as often as I could after work. We’d just roam around and talk with whomever was out until it was time for him to go to bed.
The longing for community I’d felt sharply when I moved away from so many friends was replaced with new acquaintances and fenceless walks. Lincoln has grown up around green grass, tractors, and donkeys.
Our favorite thing to do is walk down to the Lynches’ house. We run across a small field and look through the fence to see if we can spot any cows. Then we head over to the creek in their backyard and throw rocks, sticks, and acorns.
Mr. and Mrs. Lynch often come chat with us, and sometimes their granddaughter, Hannah, plays with Lincoln. She’s eight years older than he is, adorable, and we’re pretty sure Lincoln has a little crush on her. Once he said to me, “Where’s my Hannah?”
Mr. Lynch fascinates Lincoln. He can build furniture and birdhouses, and he’s always busy with something in the community, whether it’s planting trees or selling sweet potatoes. He expresses his devotion to Rockville through acts of service, as deep down we all believe neighbors should.
Mrs. Lynch always seems to be cooking something–pickles or squash or fish someone caught. On our evening walks we notice the Lynches are usually entertaining someone for dinner. We hear 6 o’clock conversation coming from their back porch, and it’s a delightful sound.
When I think about how hard change can be, and then about how God–because He knows us better than we know ourselves–gives us good gifts that reveal their beauty over time, I’m reminded of a passage from Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist:
The world is changing all the time, at every moment. Someone is falling in love right now, and someone is being born. A dream is coming true in some city or small town, and right at the same moment, another dream is crashing and crumbling. A marriage is ending somewhere, and it’s somebody’s wedding day, maybe even right in the same town. It’s all happening.
If you dig in and fight the changes, they will smash you to bits. They’ll hold you under, drag you across the rough sand, scare and confuse you. But if you find it within yourself, in the wildest of seasons, just for a moment, to trust in the goodness of God, who made it all and holds it all together, you’ll find yourself drawn along to a whole new place, and there’s truly nothing sweeter…
It’s nice out here. Come join us one evening.