Archive for the ‘Church hunting’ Category

Believe it or not, this week marks one year since we woke up, put our suitcases and the dog in our cars, and turned our backs on the Rocky Mountains. We arrived in Maryland exactly one year ago today, literally and figuratively in the dark. Twelve months, two states, and two houses later, I still wouldn’t say that we’re totally settled here, but being in our own house seems to have closed the chapter on a year of transition.

I don’t think I anticipated how difficult the first year here would be from a personal standpoint. I knew there would be challenges with fighting traffic, getting lost, finding grocery stores, meeting people, joining a church, and learning my job. But surprisingly, I struggled with feeling like I was wasting my time and lacking purpose in life when we didn’t have any friends or anything we were involved in and just sat around the house looking at real estate listings on the internet all the time. At times, I felt despondent, unmotivated, and a little sad. Bart reminded me that this was not a truthful way to look at this time. It wasn’t time wasted, but it was a season of rest and rejuvenation so we would be ready to begin again with those things when that time came. And, of course, he has been right about that. In due time, things like finding a house, meeting people, and getting involved have fallen into place. We aren’t completely back up to speed, but we’re accelerating in that direction, and it seems like every week we see new opportunities around us.

It never hurts to look back and see that we have actually done a lot in our first year here. You don’t often have such a period free of obligations to explore a new place and have new experiences, so we tried to take advantage of it. Looking back over the last year, here are some of the most notable things we’ve experienced:

  • Visited twelve different states along the Eastern Seaboard and New England. When was the last time I visited twelve states in one year? Probably never.
  • Now that I think about it, we should also include the seven other states we drove through when moving here, and two more we hit on a trip back home in April. That’s an incredible 42% of the United States.
  • Bought a house. This is typically not something you do every day, and given how many months it took us to find this one, it definitely isn’t an insignificant accomplishment.
  • Hosted our first dinner party. That happened this last weekend, in fact.
  • Weathered a presidential inauguration, sequestration, furloughs, shutdowns, and a gubernatorial election in a state where we missed the voter registration deadline by two days. And there have been numerous other little quirks we’ve experienced living in Federal City.
  • Had seventeen separate house guests stay with us, some multiple times. I can think of maybe 10 overnight guests that we had in Colorado the entire eight years I lived there.
  • Waited at the DMV twice. Remind me to never move states or buy a new car or anything else that requires a trip to the DMV ever again.
  • Both of us had jury duty in Montgomery County. And now we’re back at the top of the list in a new one.
  • Driven past or walked on a beach three times. Not something we could accomplish in Colorado or Arkansas.
  • Visited many monuments and museums on a whim that most people have to go on vacation to see.
  • There were also a few things we didn’t do that we expected to do, mostly because finding a house was a real time-sucker for the nicest six months of the year. But we look forward to having time to do these and more now that we’re not in the market for a home. Of course, I hear that home improvement projects take up weekends, too. Good thing we don’t have a list of dozens of things we’d like to do to the house…or something. ;p

  • Go to Gettysburg. I was 100% positive we would do this sometime in our first year, but it never happened. It’s definitely going to, though.
  • Go to Mount Vernon. Granted, we now live about ten miles from it, and we’ve heard it’s awesome during the holidays. I’m motivated to make this happen before the year is out.
  • Go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. We almost did this on our trip to New England over the Fourth of July weekend, but we passed, opting to go during the off season this winter. We like excuses to head to upstate New York.
  • Go to New York City. We ran out of non-house hunting weekends in the summer. Depending on the weather and our travel plans around the holidays and first of the year, this might have to wait until next spring or summer.
  • Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in Shenandoah National Park. This would have been awesome to do three weeks ago, but if you recall, we bought a house three weeks ago. But I hear Shenandoah is beautiful all year round.
  • That’s a quick snapshot of our first year in Washington, DC. I guess we can’t consider ourselves “new” to the area anymore, but I still feel pretty green most of the time. But we’ve still got a lot of living to do here as long as we live here, be in a few years or the rest of our lives. I appreciate your accompanying me on this journey and hope you have enjoyed the blog so far. I intend to keep sharing our adventures with you, both with exploring the DC area and the East Coast as well as fixing up our new house. I hope you’ll continue to join me as we start Year Two in Washington!

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    After months of church hunting and testing the waters, Bart and I finally joined a new church on Sunday.

    I initially began this post with writing all about our church hunting experience up to this point, but a couple of sentences in I remembered that I’d already written verbosely about it before. I’d love for you to read it so you know where I’m coming from here. Today I just wanted to share that the church hunt is officially over and succinctly fill you in on where I left off.


    I believe we first visited this church barely a month after we moved; it was right at the beginning of the Christmas season. We had an overall good impression of it except for one thing…it was big! Not mega-church big, like thousands of people, but

    a couple of services of two to three hundred people big. Our church in Colorado was 150 on a good day, and just like a small town, everyone knew everyone. The idea of being a little lost in the crowd was totally foreign to us. It was also humbling, as we had previously been such a large part of the “stuff” going on at our previous church–not that doing “stuff” matters one heap, but we certainly wore many hats. In a larger church, we wouldn’t be as globally recognized by the entire body, but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be an integral part of some niche in the body. If anything, it’s freeing to not be so busy with “stuff” that we neglect the real important matters of building relationships and serving the kingdom.

    The other negative (or possibly positive) about the church is that it’s located in Arlington, Virginia, just across the river from DC. Since we currently live in Maryland, it’s a bit of a trek for us on Sunday mornings, and it makes it hard to be involved in activities at other times during the week. On the other hand, we’re hoping to move to Virginia when we buy a house, so at that point it’ll actually be more convenient for us. I also think that being centrally located in the metro area is huge from a ministry standpoint. So location really became a non-issue compared to other considerations.

    Initially, we were not convinced that we needed to be in a larger church, so we tried out many different churches through the Christmas season into the New Year. After a good bit of frustration, we FaceTimed with our pastor who gave us some encouragement and some good perspective. At that point, we decided that this church had solid doctrine and vibrant ministries–and that was all we really needed. The vast majority of churches we had visited seemed at least moderately sincere about their faith but felt completely lifeless. Finding our niche and making friends would surely come if those two fundamental requirements were met. So we decided to end our church shopping and start attending regularly.

    However, as you have seen, we aren’t typically just regular attenders; Bart and I believe that the scriptures call for like-minded believers to unite in a spirit of commitment and covenant to support each othe

    r as they go out locally to do ministry and spread the gospel–i.e. church membership. Therefore, we began the process of joining the church, which involved a four-week class and a personal interview with one of the pastors. Since it’s a larger church, they don’t have new members j

    oin as they come, or it would happen just about every week (which is actually a fantastic problem to have). Rather, every few months they have a membership Sunday where everyone is introduced to the church at once. For Bart and me, that was this past Sunday.

    So as of this week, we are now officially members of Cherrydale Baptist

    Church. It still feels strange, because I still feel such a part of East Boulder Baptist Church. But God wouldn’t bring us from there without preparing a ministry for us here. It’ll take time to feel like I really mean it when I call it “my church,” but we’re starting to meet people and make friends, and we can’t wait to get more of it. We’re starved for relationships and interaction. We’ve also had a long rest from the burnout of doing so much before, which we needed. But after nine long months, we’re tired of doing nothing and feeling useless, and we’re itching to get started with some new opportunities. It’s not that we need the auspices of an organization to do “Christian” things. But churches provide encouragement for individuals in their daily lives and ministries and also have the resources to do things as a body that an individual couldn’t do on his own. Unfortunately, our location is still a bit of a roadblock, but we are too restless to let that slow us down anymore. We’re seeking first the kingdom of God and letting all these other things be provided for us eventually (Matthew 6:33).

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    Tomorrow marks the first day of summer. The summer solstice is the “longest day of the year,” meaning we have the most daylight hours relative to total hours in the day. This should be exciting, as most of us like these longer hours, but I can never ignore the fact that this also marks the slow denouement to gradually decreasing daylight hours and the eventual dreariness if winter. Honestly, it doesn’t feel like winter ended all that long ago…

    From the standpoint of a season being a time of year defined by similar weather, I’ve always thought that the beginning of seasons should really be acknowledged midway between the canonical astronomical points in the earth’s orbit around the sun (solstices and equinoxes). These days, such as we will acknowledge tomorrow for the summer solstice, actually mark a turning point or a midpoint in the earth’s yearly cycle. But as far as defining a three month period of the most homogenous weather, I would say that summer actually started midway between today and the vernal equinox in March and will end in about six weeks from now. Nobody asked my opinion, though.

    However, I believe that my feeling about seasons exhibits a very human characteristic of preferring homogenous, uniform circumstances to what ultimately boils down to change. I like to be steady state. I like a routine. I like to know exactly where I’m going and how I’m getting there. I find little need to be hasty.

    However, while we will all have those homogenous seasons, I’ve learned in the past year that life really takes its shape and definition by the turning points. I was in a very long season of life during graduate school, and I grew very accustomed to my circumstances. When I graduated last year, it was a turning point, a place where a new season was beginning. I recognized this and thought I was at peace about this fact and would stoically ride it out, but over the last year and a half I’ve realized that this transition wasn’t just one point–graduating, finding a job, moving, buying a house–but it’s an entire season itself that has lasted longer than I expected. That doesn’t mean that life isn’t good now; on the contrary, I have so much to be thankful for, and I do remember that every day. However, it’s too easy to focus on the fact that this transition time isn’t immediately resolving into a new homogeneity.

    I don’t know how long this season will last. Maybe when we buy a house and finally get settled in a permanent abode? Maybe when we join a church and get involved with relationships and projects and ministries? Maybe I will just wake up one day and realize I’m there.

    I feel like I’m always blogging about the same thing here, a general dissatisfaction with having to be patient or being in flux. But it has been one of the most obvious and expected consequences of our move, and I’m continually amazed at how long it has lasted and how it has affected me, hopefully by molding me into a better, more mature person.

    So now that it’s summer and our terrestrial trajectory has just transitioned, I’m going to embrace what life is now instead of being sad that winter will be coming again, even if its still months away. I’m going to enjoy the current warmth and sunny days instead of only being satisfied with what perceived stability the future will bring.

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    Bombs…..poison….explosions….. last week was very eventful and tragic. This weekend was time to take a deep breath before trying to get back to normalcy as best we can this week.

    Not that my week is totally ordinary. Bart and Murphy, our pup, drove back home this weekend, leaving me to fly solo for a few days before joining them later this week. Coming home with out a wiggly, waggy, whiny dog greeting me at the door or bouncing around every time I move even an inch, just in case I do something incredibly interesting, is a new experience, as he’s rarely ever not at home. Fortunately, he’s in the expert care of my parents while Bart visits with his family, so he’s actually getting a doggy vacay while I’m stuck at home working. That’s okay; I’ll get my vacay on in a few days.

    I kept myself occupied this weekend, though. Saturday, after Bart had left, I thought I might venture out a bit and run some errands. However, when trying to locate my keys to no avail, I called Bart, who was then somewhere near the Virginia/Tennessee border. Sure enough, in some mysterious way we have yet to understand, my keys ended up along for the ride. Thank goodness I have duplicates of everything except my office key here. That took the wind out of my sails, however, so I opted for a quiet day at home working on some projects and watching movies on Netflix.

    Sunday morning I went to church; visiting a place alone was a bit intimidating, but Bart, being the wise man he is, suggested just the right place for me to go alone. Afterward, I (finally) met up with a friend from high school who also lives in the area. We agreed many times on Facebook that we ought to get together sometime, so we finally made it happen! Look at me being all social and everything for two whole weekends in a row.

    So now it’s Monday, and time for a goal of the week, at least for the few days before I head out. Right at this second, I can’t say I’m all that motivated to come up with anything, but there are multiple little things I have on my to-do list. At the very least, I need to return something to the mall and pick up a couple of items for Bart. Sounds like a task for today or tomorrow. And I’d like to paint my nails tonight. I think I’ll count my week as a success if I can manage those.

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    This weekend, we had no earth-shattering plans beyond visiting a new church and buying a lawn mower. Exciting, I know. However, before the weekend was half over, Bart and I found ourselves roasting marshmallows around a fire pit and chilling out at a friend’s house.

    This is an astonishing feat since, as you may recall, we have approximately zero friends here in DC. Of the few million people living in the greater metropolitan DC area, I know about seven. Those are mostly all from work, and Bart averages about zero, as he works from home. We might also recognize two or three people we’ve shaken hands with at various churches during our months of church shopping. So when we casually strolled about one of the area’s many malls on an unassuming Saturday morning, the last thing I would ever have imagined happening was being in the same store at the same time as someone I actually recognized.

    Indeed, it was the girl who has an office right next to mine at work. We don’t work in the same group, but we have chatted a bit since I started, being about the same age and sharing some common interests. Evidently we share a bit of the same fashion sense, too. So a surprise encounter turned into lunch with her and her husband which turned into an invitation to hang out at their place that evening with some friends of theirs. And now I feel confident to finally assert that Bart and I now have approximately two acquaintances that we might be able to call friends living in our general area.

    This was by far the most interesting highlight of our weekend, but we did manage to squeeze in a few more notable activities. Sunday morning we visited a church on Capitol Hill; in fact, here’s the view from a block away from the the church:


    Not too shabby, eh?

    We also hit a few open houses in the area as we learn more about neighborhoods we might like to live when we get ready to purchase. After that, I came home and crashed; I must have been tired from all that excitement. I rested up the rest of Sunday, and now it’s back to work for the week. There’s nothing too earth-shattering planned for this week, either, but hey, evidently things can change!

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    I totally get March snow. In Colorado. I expect blizzards and blizzards of snow there. What on earth is it doing snowing in Washington, D.C.? At least it’s just a snow shower that has no hope of sticking to anything, but still. I guess it’s Monday morning, so what else would you expect? It is absolutely time for spring to make its entrance, which it shall formally do on Wednesday.

    Bart and I had a pretty low-key weekend, probably because we’re saving up our awesome weekend-ness for the coming one. More details on that as it transpires! This weekend, we went to a seminar at a local church, ran a few errands, exercised, poked at our taxes some more, visited yet another new church, relaxed by the fire, and finished a DIY home project we’ve been working on the last few weeks (the details of which should also be forthcoming). All in all, a nice weekend.

    Now it’s time for a new week, and likewise a new Goal of the Week. My first priority for this week is to finish said taxes. I think I finally have the federal part done, so now it’s time for the two state returns, and then I can be rid of this nastiness until next year. I realize many people have much more complicated returns than us, but I did work two jobs in two different states, moved across country, sold a home, and graduated from a degree program this year…I’m just glad it isn’t more complicated than that.

    The second priority for the week is to keep exercising each day for 20-30 minutes. I feel good when I do, and getting stronger and fitter is surely a good thing. I also have it in my head that I’d like to start running again when the weather improves (I confess: I’m a wimp. I hate running in the cold), so indoor training is a great way to keep my endurance from flatlining while I wait to hit the trail. I really need a 5K to train for specifically this spring…

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    Three months

    Today marks three months–three months–since Bart and I arrived at our new doorstep in Maryland. It’s hard to believe that’s one quarter of an entire year instead of just a few weeks, but as I get older it’s my observation that time moves both more quickly and more slowly all at once. In some ways we feel established, yet in many ways we still feel unsettled. It’s hard to say when or if one wakes up some morning to realize that one is finally settled and adjusted, but I assume it will come eventually.

    Likewise, I’ve been at my job just short of three months. Today, my boss said that my name came up when he was talking to the new scientific director, who is a current employee filling in for the one who retired just before Christmas. He didn’t know who I was because we haven’t met yet, so my boss said I should go over and say hi sometime. For a workplace with a smaller number of employees, it’s still easy to miss people since we are spread over a number of buildings on a rather large campus. And since the turnover rate is quite low, one can be the “new kid” for a while. Despite that, I’m slowly feeling less new as far as my position goes; I have more stuff to do and know more about the workings of the group. However, due to the incredibly technical nature of research, I still often have more questions than answers. This will be another slow adjustment; I presume I will also wake up one day and realize that I am finally familiar and fluent with all our projects. It will also help when new projects start and I am involved with those from the beginning.

    Month three brought some significant first-time accomplishments, but there are still always things to do around here.

    Things we have done:

    • Had two sets of house visitors!
    • Crossed the Mason-Dixon line (twice)
    • Learned about the Mason-Dixon line
    • Finally closed our old bank accounts
    • Finally got new tires and an oil change
    • Finally finished the Wheel of Time book series
    • Acquired metro passes
    • Made it from our house to I-495 and I-270 without Google Maps
    • Started completely over again on our church search
    • Visited the Korean market in Rockville
    • Walked around Baltimore
    • Celebrated our eight year engagement anniversary (as of yesterday!)

    Things we still haven’t done:

    • Spend time at national monuments, buildings, and museums (just a few minutes here and there so far)
    • Find a church
    • Make local friends
    • Find a decent Mexican restaurant
    • Receive our dining chairs from West Elm
    • Host a guest from either of our families
    • Call the home warranty place about our leaky fridge
    • Get an emissions test for my car
    • Catch the Bond villains exhibit at the Spy Museum
    • Use our metro passes
    • Visit a Civil War site
    • See the state capital building
    • Remember capital vs. capitol (we looked it up, but I keep forgetting)
    • Yardwork

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    Church shopping

    More than any other of the dozens of adjustments, large and small, that we have faced moving across the country, this is undoubtedly one of the most gigantic we have to deal with.

    It’s no secret that our faith is of primary importance to Bart and me. More than anything we can achieve personally or professionally, individually or together, we strive for the worship of God and the work of the gospel to be accomplished in all we do. The way we are equipped and encouraged to accomplish this work is by partnering with like-minded people around us–that is, a local church. In the church, we also equip and encourage others in their ministries, and we pool our resources to reach places we can’t go alone.

    Bart and I were incredibly involved with our church in Colorado. Most of our closest relationships were there, and we invested a lot of time and energy into various ministries of the church. It certainly wasn’t perfect (no church made up of imperfect humans will ever be!), but it meant a lot to us. It was probably one of the hardest parts about leaving, so much so that it was hard not to wonder if we were even making the right decision to leave it.

    Well, we have never doubted that it was the right decision, even if it was a hard one. The one fact that has sustained us through the toughest, most discouraging times of the move has been knowing that God has to have some reason for wanting us here; something to accomplish within or through us. We obviously don’t have a complete understanding of what that is yet, but we’re pretty certain that being a part of a church will be a significant part of our being here. In fact, until we find a church, we will probably not make any significant, deep relationships until we do. By the way, if you’re keeping track, so far the Taylors have zero close relationships here so far.

    We hit the ground running when we got here, and we’ve been visiting churches each of the eight weeks we’ve been here. Having absolutely no leads here, nobody to ask about churches, we’ve been blindly searching via the internet and cold calling churches that sound reasonable from what we can discern online. During that time, I feel like my thoughts and expectations have changed half a dozen times. I know I’m guilty of assessing each church we visit at a high analytical level–how are they organized? How do they interact with visitors? What’s happening behind the scenes? What ministries do they have? How have they prepared for this service? On the other hand, I am also there ravenously hungry for some basics–who here might be our friends? Where are people our age? Where do we fit in? And, one of the most interesting questions I find myself asking, am I needed or wanted?

    I could make a million observations after eight weeks of church shopping, way more than I can address here. I could probably write an entire book about everything we’ve felt and struggled with as we’ve shared our different experiences at places. Some things we’ve agreed on, but a surprising number of things we haven’t seen eye to eye over. I guess one of the things we struggle with is trust. We gave so much at our previous church, and we expect to give as much again. Since we are dealing with imperfect humans, there’s always the possibility of something bad happening; this has happened before and is bound to happen again. We aren’t trying to protect ourselves from it, just trying to make sure we’re in a place that’s the right fit for us with as much as we anticipate investing into it.

    Another significant issue is location. We visited a number of churches close to us, but they just seemed to be lacking something we were looking for. We expanded our search and found some better places, churches that seemed a bit more vibrant and meaningful, but some of them are a little further away. That could be challenging if we went for something during the week, as evening traffic is a nightmare here. Furthermore, we have no idea where we will permanently locate after we are done renting here. Do we pick a church that’s close now and drive from wherever we land? Do we pick a church regardless of location and either drive later or pick our place of residence to be moderately convenient to both work and church? That’s an answer neither one of us has any idea about.

    In a way I wondered if we would just know the right church when we found it, but so far, even finding a few good ones, this hasn’t been the case yet. At present, there are two churches we’ve liked well enough to visit multiple times, but neither are a for sure slam dunk just yet. We’ve started to carefully get to know them a little better and see if we can tell where God is leading us. We also haven’t ruled out visiting other new churches if we come across them. We don’t want to take it lightly, but we don’t want to way overthink it, either (which we’re both too good at doing). And while we also don’t want to rush the decision, we also are getting tired of making no new relationships and having nothing to be involved with. But we’ll be best off if we are patient and let God show us where He wants us to be.

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