By Joe Castaneda
On March 20th, 2013, our family began a new chapter in the journey of our lives. Five days earlier we had packed up our home in Oregon, loaded all of our earthly belongings into 40 square feet of trailer space and headed out toward Michigan. On March 20th we arrived at our snowy new home and began a new work at Lake Ann Camp.
If you didn’t catch my wife’s blog on the anniversary of our move, I encourage you to check out. Looking back over the past year, I wanted to share you five lessons I’ve learned while on this crazy journey God has us on.
- Attitude is always a choice: There are no perfect circumstances this side of heaven. Every job will have moments that make you wish for other work. Every relationship has days where you wonder why it’s worth fight for. Every day has high and lows. So while you can’t necessarily control the factors that make things good or bad, you can control how you respond to those factors. Moving was exciting, and hard. Five days on the road was full of fun and exhaustion. Changing jobs was mentally engaging and stimulating as well as emotionally draining. Every moment of life leaves you with a choice: joy or victimhood, forward or backward movement, personal growth or blaming others. And these choices are yours to make, because attitude is always a choice.
- Obedience and joy are linked: Leaving Salem was one of the hardest decisions we have ever made. We left the only church and home our kids had ever known and we left a congregation that we loved (and knew that they loved us, too!). Yet, without a doubt, we knew that this move was orchestrated by God, and obedience to Him is a key link to joy. In Psalm 38:4 David says, “My guilt has overwhelmed me, like a burden to heavy to bear” — disobedience results in self-inflicted suffering. On the other hand, following God’s direction in your life, choosing to do what’s right, leads to joy. That doesn’t mean that the choice will be easy, but God’s ways are always best.
- Snow and sand both have problems: Not everyone knows this, but during the time we were looking at Michigan, Traci and I had been investigating a ministry on one of the small islands of Hawaii. We had actually been investigating that ministry for several years and it appeared that God may have been opening a door that direction. I love Hawaii. I love the heat much more than I love the cold and I’m a big fan of sandy beaches over snowy lakes. It would be easy to look over my shoulder at Hawaii and wonder what would have happened had we moved west instead of east. But a ministry in Hawaii has great challenges, too. And while it may not be the same as trudging through 200” of snow in the winter, the challenges are equally daunting! Salem was an awesome ministry for our family to have been a part of, and I knew that in leaving, I wasn’t going to a better ministry, I was just going to a different one, full of its own problems and opportunities. Big moves might have bigger opportunities only because there are bigger problems to overcome.
- Enjoy the people around you: When we left Salem, Traci and I realized just how blessed we had been with so many great friendships and relationships all around us. We tried not to take our friends for granted (although I’m sure we did at times), but as we settled into our new home, we began to miss those friendships even more. That longing for new connections has challenged us to enjoy the people that are around us, now. We could keep looking back and focusing on friendships in the past, but God has given us a whole batch of new friends and relationships. If we sat around talking about how great the past was, we would never move into the future that God has for us. We spent a lot of nights with weepy children as they shared the hurt of lost friendships (and our parent’s heart ached with them!) and then we encouraged them — while preaching to ourselves — to embrace the new community of people surrounding them.
- Say thank you, often: In a blog I wrote right before our departure, I talked about the importance of saying thank you. Those two little words are so powerful, and I don’t want to be in the middle of a departure having to remember all the people I need to thank because I didn’t take the time to thank them in the moment. We have a child who rarely uses those two words. This child is prone to high demands, critical words when their expectations aren’t met, and rarely offers thanks unless there is something to be gained. We’re working hard to cultivate thanksgiving in their heart, and every time I experience frustration with them…I’m reminded of my own lack of thankfulness at times. Say thank you often. Thank your spouse, your children, your parents, the waitress at the restaurant, the attendant at the hotel and even the police officer that gives you a ticket (read this blog here!)
This last year has been amazing, and we anticipate the next year to be even better. Thanks for sharing in the journey with us and remember….
Life is always better on the water (even if it’s frozen water for 6 months!)…so go ahead and take the plunge!