It had been a while since I took a driver’s test. I got to feel like a frustrated teenager again at the beginning of summer as I waited for far too long to get in front of a computer and prove I’m worthy enough to keep driving after 19 years.
When my number finally was called, I approached a kindly old lady behind the counter who gave me one freebie answer before I started my test.
“Just know that if you hit someone else’s cow while driving, it’s your fault in Idaho,” she said with a smile. “People tend to get that one wrong.”
I probably would’ve missed that one. Probably because that’s a stupid law and if you aren’t keeping track of your livestock (or your fencing, etc) and old Bessie gets out and dents my Mazda, I kind of think it should be your fault. I digress.
I nailed the test. Killed it. I got 100 percent, actually, thank you very much. And when I passed, I had to surrender my Oregon driver’s license, and was handed a temporary paper copy of my new Idaho ID.
I can remember the first thoughts that were in my head as I handled the astoundingly low-tech paper license.
“Well, I guess we’re staying.”
That wasn’t a lament by any means. It wasn’t sad or resigned or anything negative. It felt like the last exhale in a series of exhales as my family and I have settled into our new life in Boise.
Actually, let me take that back. Today is probably that last exhale.
We’ve lived here a year. Today.
I sit on the back porch of my house, facing East, as my senses are assaulted with vibrant sunshine, the sound of lots of happy birds, and occasionally, the smell of cows. Yeah, that last one isn’t so nice, but it’s OK–I lived in Tillamook once.
I think of what life was like for us on August 20th, 2015, as I climbed into that massive yellow Penske truck, with tears streaming down my face and a hope against hope I was hearing God, trekked 400 miles eastward to our new home.
When the truck pulled into our driveway here on Sea Breeze Way, perhaps it was the first exhale.
“Well, I guess we’re staying.”
To say the last year has been 100 percent perfect would be the stuff of Instagram filters and Facebook fakery. We’ve had moments of intense struggle. One of our children had a really rough year at school. My mother-in-law has lived with us (not bad), and has dealt with a veritable whack-a-mole game with various health issues and symptoms (bad).
At times we’ve missed people. We’ve felt lonely, rudderless, and stressed out.
But we’ve also felt the sun. Yeah, I’m enjoying that right now.
I can’t help but gloat to my Portland friends about the 100 more days of sun we get every year. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a fact or not, but it feels like it is, so I’ll run with that. But really, there’s something about natural light enveloping you. I think it makes people happier.
I’m still caught off guard by people like the lady at the DMV counter, people who don’t just have conversations that are 100 percent rooted in duty or task, but instead genuinely are just friendly. Culturally, I’m challenged and encouraged by this. Boise is growing my heart to reach out to “strangers” again.
I think of the 20-something grocery clerk who could just roll his eyes and sigh and shove my box of salad into a bag while dreaming of playing X-Box, but instead looks me in the eyes and asks what the day holds. I think of a couple in Wal-Mart late at night, dressed to the nines, who carried on a 10 minute conversation in line with me about how nice it is to get away from the kids every once in awhile and go dancing. I think of two shockingly amiable 14-year-old girls who chatted with my son and daughter while waiting to go on a ride at our water park.
There are good people here. There are some jerks–believe me, I drive–but by and large, folks are nice, and unafraid to get to know someone they may never see again.
Or maybe they will see them again. I’ve described Boise as an island. We’re this lone outpost of civilization surrounded by hundreds of miles of (largely) nothing. True enough, Wikipedia tells me Boise is the most remote metropolitan area in the continental U.S.
And as someone who thrives on community, and believes very strongly in it, I’m quite happy to live on an island, thank you very much. (Although I do miss being able to drive two hours to Eugene or three hours to Seattle; those distances seem like NOTHING now!)
After living in the city of Sandy for a decade, and having been so integrated into the community, it was really hard for me to feel completely anonymous for the first month. And the second month. And the third. And it really wasn’t until about six months in did I start to recognize people while out and about (and they’d recognized me, too). To be seen is great; to be seen and known is life-giving.
Perhaps that’s why the first Friday we were in town was so powerful for us. I don’t think we’d even got into our house yet, and we’d called together several other couples we barely knew and had a game night at my friend Kevin’s house.
Feeling shell shocked by the massive change that we were undergoing in this move, it was perhaps the first relaxing exhale that things were going to be OK. We weren’t going to be alone. Fast forward, and that little game group had met once a month the entire school year, growing relationships, sharing lots of laughs, and making intentional space to have a little fun.
There’s still a lot I miss back in Oregon, to be sure. My parents are at the top of that list; their absence can be felt palpably. Things like public transportation, widespread bike lanes (and a bike-friendly culture in general), microbrew selection and Portland’s food scene all are sincerely lacking here. There are countless friends from over the years who are never far from my mind.
Boise isn’t perfect, but it’s home.
We’re part of a church family we love and believe in, and are rubbing our hands together feverishly, dreaming of how now after a year of (mostly) resting, we can dive in. We have good friends. I’ve lost more than 30 pounds (and 11.5 percent of my body fat, thank you very much) as I’ve made irrevocable decisions regarding my health and wellness. I work in a job I enjoy, that offers family-friendly flexibility and something new and unexpected every day–working with a great friend.
We’ve experienced waterparks and winter sledding, a new dog and numerous parks, a full house and fuller hearts.
There are still dreams to be realized. We’re still praying through exactly how God plans to show up in this pursuit of adopting a child. We’re still trying to figure out which relationships to prioritize in our lives and how to do that in a culture that screams at us with busyness. We’re still not entirely sure on a lot of details in our lives, but if the last year has taught us anything, it’s that God is with us. He is good, and He is working.
The memories have outweighed the migraines. The destiny has outshined the doubt. The promises overpower the pain that comes with change.
It’s been quite the story so far. I haven’t really even processed it fully just yet. But sitting here in the glow of the morning sun, I’m left with an overwhelming, overarching feeling of thankfulness for this past year. It was worth it. All is well. And we’re just getting started.
Well, I guess we’re staying.