we are back where we started.
Right after we married, we lived in a parsonage (a church owned house) in rural Kentucky. I pastored a church in rural Kentucky while I went to school. Gina was a waitress, and was finishing one Master’s degree before she started another. In those days before the internet it was quiet in rural Shelby County. Cable hadn’t made it out that far, and we couldn’t afford a satellite dish. When we went to bed, it was so quiet, you could hear the crickets. After one week with the crickets, we bought a dog. It was Gina and me and Gabriel. And the crickets.
We moved to Louisville to serve another church while I finished my Ph.D. After two months in the new house, Gina was pregnant. We found out every pastor who lived in that house had a baby (File under: Things the Pastor Search Committee doesn’t tell you). Abram came into our lives. The dog moved outside.
Hannah came the same month I graduated with my Ph.D. and Gina finished her second Master’s degree. We were ready to leave Louisville. God wasn’t ready for us to leave Louisville. We stayed two more years. Then Alice Drive said they would like me to serve as their pastor, and twenty years ago, we loaded two kids and two dogs into the mini-van and followed the moving van to South Carolina.
Alice Drive quickly became a challenging place to pastor. God blest us beyond imagination. But no worries; no pastor at Alice Drive ever added a child to their family once they came to Sumter. No one told us this rule. Eighteen months after we arrived, Sarah was born.
We did what all young families do: drove the kids to school, to ball, to dance, to tennis, to band, to cheerleading, to church, to parties, and to play with friends. The original dogs died and we had pet funerals. New dogs were added, puppies were born. We photographed the kids going to their first day of classes every year and stored all those pictures under the bed to be sorted sometime in the future.
All three children accepted Jesus and were baptized. They learned the Bible stories; they went to VBS; they went to camp. Mission trips got further away. Chaperoning became our new summer vacation.
First one, then the next got a driver’s license. Having three drivers made life easier. And scarier. And more expensive. College began to be discussed. SATs were taken, retaken, and retaken. Abram left for Duke. Before I knew it, Hannah left for UNC-Chapel Hill. Sarah had the luxury of being an only child for 9 months each year.
Then Abram came home for a year after graduation. The house felt full for the first time since Hannah left. There were great times of joy when everyone was home. Abram got a dog. Then he got accepted to Columbia University in New York. Hannah graduated and got a job in Durham, NC. Sarah decided on Clemson instead of Florida (and my will is being re-written). Abram realized his dog couldn’t go to New York, so Moo would have to stay with us.
We helped Hannah move into her new apartment in July (remember the column about Hannah’s couch?). Last Friday, we put Abram on a plane for New York. The next day, we moved Sarah into the dorm at Clemson.
When we came home the dogs greeted us, but looked puzzled. “Where was everyone?” their eyes asked. How do you explain children leaving to a dog?
As I lay in bed Saturday night, I heard crickets outside my window, singing their song into the night. That’s when it hit me – we are back where we started: Me, Gina, Socks the beagle, and the Moo the Swissie.
And the crickets.
When we first came to Alice Drive, older people told me to enjoy the years when my children were small. They told me, “It will all go by too fast.”
They were right.