By 1990 our whole world had shifted, as we had just previously moved into our dream home (LaDonna's words), after the completion of my Ed.S. with superintendent certification. We were all set to step up our game in the educational arena.
Then there was this conversation in a parking lot with a young and well admired pastor, whose church we had been attending for a couple of years for recovery purposes, but only until we got our life in order after the more jarring departure from the church we had served, supported and in fact helped physically construct during our first years of marriage.
I suddenly began to feel that we were being called back to my hometown. When you can't pray something out of your spirit, you should begin to afford providence access to your thought process. I began to assess my work environment more closely in terms of spiritual impact where we were located, versus in another city as alluded to in my conversations with God (I know it sounds weird to me too!).
As well, I began to consider what closure might look like if I were to leave my role with the school system. I soon realized that window was in fact closing, with lessons learned in my role as an associate to the superintendent in a small school system, as well as leadership training explored for my new credentials, equally applicable and transferable for the responsibilities I was being offered on a large church campus.
I soon retired after twenty years from the public schools at age 42, with a pay cut and no benefits promised, however, I did have health insurance and some minimal retirement available at age 60! Yes, this was a real step of faith.
Three years later we would sell our "dream home" and about half our furnishings, buy a starter home, and uproot our small family of three from the town we had grown to love.
All that time, I am again hearing, "Wherever I send you, seek that city, if not this city, the next; I will give you a city."
The good news, everything we could dream of for this growing church seemed to be awaiting our pursuit. By the end of the first year I had met with almost all the surrounding neighbors, literally house to house, as well as most cabinet level leadership of the adjoining university campus.
I began most mornings by going into the small chapel the church first constructed for launching the campus, turning out the lights and spending time in prayerfully solitude. I was praying for relationships with people of influence and alignment with the much larger and more complex community.
The former chairman of the County Commissioners had begun attending and we soon became friends. Within the second year, we had begun to put together a strategic plan that included senior housing, which resulted in a 3M dollar HUD grant, as well as an expanded off campus preschool in collaboration across multiple denominations. We would eventually launch the first of several self sustaining nonprofits which allowed participation from local foundations and eventually corporations.
Additional land became a necessity as the church sponsored Day School had begun to grow and had achieved accreditation from the state by way of an association formed in alliance with a Catholic Diocese in another county. We would then need to respond to parental pressure for expansion from grades k-5 to include middle school, which would require a three million dollar facilities expansion.
That expansion, along with then shared parking agreements with the university, for it too was growing, would open an opportunity to serve on a municipal planning committee to examine zoning ordinances in places were Institutional growth was occurring within residential areas.
The Unified Development Ordinance was our product and that exposure would strengthen the alignment earlier prayed for, to include relationships with a major hospital, another key economic driver in our city,
These few years would prove to be some of the most exciting years of my life. As to my family, not so sure.
I recall the morning that I saw "that look" in my wife's eyes, as by '94, she had retired from the classroom. We were now into early '96 and she was sitting in the living room of our small home as I prepared to leave for the office. I asked her about what I had seemed to notice.
Her response went something like this: "I have always supported you in every venture, yet my gift is hospitality, and I don't even have a home sufficient for hosting our friends." I knew she was reflecting on gatherings we had hosted at our previous home, that if held in our present required that we remove both vehicles and roll out a piece of carpet in the garage for overflow. I say that because we had been doing just that.
I decided to build her another home and without her knowledge began a prayerful search for our new location. Eventually, I thought of this place we used to travel through in my childhood through on the way to an 1800 acre park called Tanglewood, a small town called Clemmons.
I then discovered a new subdivision, actually a small cul-de-sac under construction. Some of you who have read previous blogs know why I am retelling this.
When I rode by the entry to Village Grove, I heard the "Voice" say, "This is where I need you to live." My response to the brick sidewalked cul-de-sac, with fancy ornamental lamp posts was "God, I wasn't raised like this, and we don't need this."
God response was an immediate, "Yes, but the people in whose lives I need you to be involved, need you to live here!"
I called the Realtor, then nailed up paper hearts and cupids on the trees that February day, then invited my wife to stop by on her way in from out of town to check out a building lot which I had found. She dropped by and in her excitement for my perhaps most romantic deed of our entire marriage, called the local television station who did a Valentine's Day special.
We would move to our present home in Clemmons in August of 1996.
Back to my previous post, and how books seem to find me at just the right moment. My sister-in-law (she and her husband are in for a few days) just shared a paragraph from her morning devotional book, both are pictured above.
These few paragraphs are spot on!