When you live in a city for ten years, you hear the names of many churches. Since we had been involved in volunteering at our church, we rarely visited other churches. So, we decided that we would take this opportunity to visit a variety of churches, whether we thought we’d attend long-term or not.
Some Sundays I was out of my comfort zone. Yet, those experiences helped me to be curious about perspectives different than mine. I was also reminded how it feels to not know a soul. Note to self: Remember that feeling when we are settled into a church.
My world view continued to grow through interactions with the international women in my ESL class. A 4-month intensive course called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement also stretched my thinking. Reflecting back is a timely reminder that life is full of nuance and I want to practice listening to glimpse the view that the other person sees.
Journey Church was one church we had heard about. The reputation of their generosity prompted us to visit them first. This small body of co-strugglers in life and faith immediately felt like a great fit for us. Yet, we were still grieving a huge goodbye and wanted to give our hearts space before a new hello.
Journey Church stayed at the top of our list as we visited at least 30 churches. In March 2011, we wearied of always being new, not knowing anyone, and not making lasting connections. Journey Church, which is now called Emmaus Church of Jacksonville, was where we chose to call “home.” They have been a huge blessing.
On another topic, 2011 was filled with running. We watched Gregg’s niece, Julie, place in the high school state cross country meet in Hershey, PA. Julie organized a 5K in Markleysburg, PA, where we were volunteers. We both ran Jacksonville’s Gate River Run 15K, Huntsville’s Liz Hurley Breast Cancer 5K, and finished the year with the Space Coast Half Marathon in Cocoa, FL.
Gregg decided to run a marathon to commemorate his 50th birthday. That’s 26 miles! Marathon training is brutal with months of paying attention to food, hydration, sleep, and taking many early-morning long runs. On his birthday in March, he successfully ran his first marathon, running from our house to downtown Jacksonville and back.
The May Pittsburgh Marathon was Gregg’s goal and “official marathon.” 26 miles of hills and bridges in Pittsburgh was exponentially more difficult than running in flat Florida. His tenacity carried him through, and he finished! I am so proud of him! He earned that medal and checked “marathon” off his bucket list. (And, no, marathon was never on my bucket list, thank you very much.)
We traveled a good bit throughout this year.
On a long weekend in Washington, D.C., we walked miles to explore many “new to us” memorials. We had impactful experiences at the 9-11 Memorial at the Pentagon, the Air Force Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. I love that city! “Patriotism swells in the heart of the American!”
In the summer, we returned to English Camp in Hungary, staying a bit longer to do some sight-seeing in and around Budapest. Again, I loved making special connections with several Hungarian women. Okay, I confess, I also love eating Hungarian foods!
My oldest nephew, Jonathan, was at Auburn University so we met family there for a football game in the fall. Auburn won, so we experienced the “rolling of Toomer’s Corner” celebration. Sadly, the iconic oak trees had been poisoned earlier in the year and did not survive to the next football season. Yes, I shed tears for those beautiful, majestic, old trees.