I moved out of my parents' house when i was 17, and I went to college. Aside from the summers that I spent back at home in Corpus Christi, I never lived at home again. I moved from Missouri to New Zealand to Tennessee. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I would load up and make the drive to the Dallas-Fort Worth area where all of my family had settled. And then I would go back home to Tennessee and spend the rest of the year missing everyone. In my mind, home was Tennessee. It was where I belonged. And then one day, it wasn't. That's where I was when I got the call.
I wouldn't have been ready for it any other time, but that's how it works, you know. God plants a thought in your mind. He works and moves (or sometimes doesn't move) to get us to the place where we are open to His plan. The night before I got the call, I had a fleeting thought of looking for a teaching job in Texas. It was the first real thought I had about moving back to Texas in almost a decade. And my Tennessee job search was a miserable failure... so I thought maybe Texas. I decided not to tell anyone, especially not family. Not just yet. And then the next morning my dad called. The church that he pastored in Texas was looking for someone to come and take over their children's ministry. And he wanted to know if I was interested. And I definitely was.
A month later, I was on my way. I packed up a Uhaul truck... twice, actually, but that's a different blog for a different time. My brother drove the truck and we towed my little Ford Focus behind it all the way to Texas. I settled into a new home, a new job, a new church. I started small with our little children's ministry, making little changes here and there. I took over our Sunday morning kids church. I taught the kids new songs. I got involved in women's ministry. I joined forces with my mom to teach a Ladies Sunday School class. I started a Thursday night Bible study for pre-teen girls, hoping to instill some truth into them before they hit their teen years and the boy craze hit. By the way, I learned that I was too late. They were boy crazy when I got them. But I taught them nonetheless. We cooked together, worked together, studied together, and prayed together. Satan fought me on those Thursday nights. There was always traffic while going to pick up the girls. I was always more tired on Thursdays than any other day of the week. I got sick multiple times. But we kept going. And girls were saved. And the truth was planted- the truth about God and real beauty and dating and friendship and forgiveness.
That was three years ago. Things have changed. Our church has changed. My pre-teen girls are now teens. I am now married. My extended family has grown. Everything looks different. And Jake and I have just accepted new jobs at a new church so that we can go to church together. In three weeks we will be moving an hour away from where we live now. We are excited, but honestly, after working for my dad for three years and being less than 10 minutes from my parents' house, I am feeling a little sad. I have loved spending my days with my mom, working on Bible studies and newsletters and solving the problems of the world from our church office. With a brother and a dad and a mom all in the same office, I have rarely found myself at a loss for a lunch partner. We occasionally skipped lunch and headed to a local estate sale. Being an O'Dell means that one must love bargains and old things. Estate sales are perfect for both. But most of all, I have spent three years working in an office with some of the most genuine Christians I know. And I know they are family, and I admit they are not perfect, but they are most certainly real. And I will miss them.
I am excited about our new church and our new opportunities. We are moving into a two bedroom apartment, and I am so excited that I could turn cartwheels (and our new apartment affords the room for such things). The friends we have made at the new church are already some of my favorite people. There is so much hope, so much possibility. But I have five more days here. Five more days to be in my same old office doing my same old things. I will go out to lunch, even though I should save the money and bring my lunch. On Thursday I hope to find a good estate sale to visit. And on Sunday, I will spend one last day of worship with the family I already loved and the church family that I have grown to love and, of course, a few church people that I have to force myself to love. Sunday night we will decorate our cars for trunk or treat, and we will pass out candy and hot dogs and we will share the gospel with our community. It will be a perfect ending to a great three years here. Three years of healing and ministry and family. And for all of those things, I am incredibly thankful.
*My kids are not really my kids. They are my nephews, but they were my kids for three whole years and no matter where they live they will always be my kids.