The Big Story: Red Jacket Drive

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Jessie and Mr. V, 2006

Our younger selves

(See Part 1 and Part 2 of The Big Story.)

After I stopped working in daycare and actually started making a salary, Mr. V and I knew it was time to think about saving. We didn’t have a car payment, and my parents were paying back my student loans (Mr. V didn’t have any). Our apartment’s rent was reasonable, so other than tithing, utilities, and groceries we really didn’t have a lot of expenses. Our first year or two of marriage we didn’t even have cable, or our Internet was dial-up through NetZero. (Yep. That seems like forever ago!)

Most months we were able to squirrel away $600 – which is a fairly big chunk, I think, considering what we made together. We didn’t go out very much, didn’t travel, and buying clothes was a big treat. We had a lot of wonderful friends through our Sunday School class, and most social time was spent with them, at game nights, bluegrass clubs, or just having dinners together. It was a sweet time in our marriage and life together.

We weren’t quite sure whether we would try to buy a house or not, knowing that we would only be in Nashville for 5 years, the length of Mr. V’s time at Vanderbilt. After he graduated with his PhD, we hoped he’d be able to find a job at a university somewhere on the East Coast, closer to our parents. (By 2006, both sets of parents lived outside Philadelphia, despite the fact that neither of us grew up there!)

I remember many conversations where we talked about the house thing – debating staying in our comfortable apartment for 5 years versus buying a house after 2 years with the intention of at least breaking even. We had a great, large apartment with 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. The dining room was tiny, and we used the linen closet and above the washer and dryer for grocery and appliance storage, but it suited all our needs.

I think the final straw, though, was the people who lived above us. The tenant’s alarm clock would start buzzing in the wee hours of the morning and go off for HOURS, and we could hear it perfectly. Then the tenant acquired a few more people living with her up there, and we could hear loud movies playing and a child’s heavy footsteps pounding back and forth all the time.

Oh, to live somewhere with no one above us! It would be bliss!

Also, I had just been hired as a copy editor at LifeWay, a step up from my current position, with a better salary. I was high on life, finally (after a whole 18 months!) escaping the world of customer service.

It didn’t hurt that we had friends through church connected to the real estate business – one was a mortgage broker and one had a realtor father. In the spring of 2006, we looked at a few houses, but decided to buy a new townhouse in a neighborhood where some friends had already bought just down the street.

Red Jacket kitchen

The place was smaller that our apartment in square footage, but we felt like the space was used wisely. We still had two bedrooms, two full baths, and a half-bath thrown in. It had a big kitchen, a real pantry, and a tiny gated patio. We were assured it would all be built and bought up by 2008, so we shouldn’t have trouble if we wanted to sell after that.

So, just before our second anniversary, we signed on the dotted lines promising payments and loans, 30 years seeming like a laughable number, knowing full well that we’d be wanting to sell our home in less than three years.

We moved into our beautiful townhouse on Red Jacket Drive, content in the path we were taking.

The Big Story: Us

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My husband and I started dating when we were 19 and just-turned-20. We got engaged when I was 20 and I was married two months after my 22nd birthday. For some people, that’s normal. For some, it’s nuts.

When we were planning our post-college life together, my husband knew he wanted to go to graduate school for math. Not that many humans have a passionate love for mathematics, but Mr. V is one of the few. He wanted to get his PhD and teach math at a college.

When he started applying to graduate programs, I also wanted to go on to get a graduate degree – a master of divinity. I’d been involved in the church for so long, from singing in the adult choir with my dad at 6 years old to leading youth worship to being the president of my college’s Baptist Student Union, that I really couldn’t imagine doing anything that wasn’t ministry. When Mr. V went to talk to Vanderbilt, I went along and interviewed at their divinity school.

A few months before graduation, though, I stepped back. Divinity school would take three years. I really wanted to have kids four to five years into our marriage. Would it be worth it to get my degree? Not to mention – someone would pay for Mr. V to go to school, but not for me. And how the heck would we afford that?

I decided not to apply to schools after all, even though all the schools Mr. V had applied to were near divinity schools or also had them. He understood and was probably relieved, to be honest. I felt relieved, too. I didn’t really want to go to school for another three years.

So what WOULD I do once we moved? Mr. V chose Vanderbilt as the place for him, and we planned our move to Nashville – 10 hours by car away from Richmond, Virginia, the place I grew up and went to college and where my parents still lived. Just a little daunting.

We graduated, picked out an apartment in Nashville, got married, moved, and Mr. V started graduate school – all in about 10 weeks. Not to mention my dad’s best friend passed away from cancer two days after our graduation, while I was in Nashville.

With the divinity school dream behind me, I gravitated toward my other strengths. My degree was in English, but I didn’t want to teach. I was in the home of many of the major Christian publishing houses, and I decided to apply to any editing or writing job I found. (And then, once I was working in daycare full-time, ANY job I could find at those places.)

After several months, I got a call from a very Southern lady named Martha. She interviewed me in her cubicle. And that’s how I escaped daycare and found my way to LifeWay as a customer service rep. I wrote – didn’t even type! – my notice letter to the daycare director and was out of that place. On November 1, 2004, three months and one day after our wedding, I started my first “real,” office job.

To be continued. (See Part 1 here.)

The Big Story: Graham Cracker Cereal

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Everyone has hundreds, thousands, who knows how many stories. I think it’s why I am drawn to blogging. More than anything, I love to hear someone’s story. I love to hear how you met and married, when you decided to have kids, how the birth went. I love to hear about how in first grade you stuck a cheezball up your nose. Seriously. I think God loves Story. He created the most magnificent one, full of irony, foreshadowing, valiant characters, tragedy, and the most beautiful redemption of all time. I think He dwells in story.

So we all have stories. But then, we all have THE story, too. Our Big Story. The pit we came through and where we are now. And over the next couple days or weeks, I want to share with you my Big Story.

This is how I eat half a pack of graham crackers.
source: Mike Henderson via Flickr

I’m going to start in a strange place: with graham cracker cereal.

When I was a kid, we ate what my parents called graham cracker cereal. It’s just breaking up a stack of graham crackers in a bowl and pouring milk on top. Yes, I realize this is incredibly caloric. But for me, it was … and is … a comfort food.

I’ve only ever met one other person who knew what graham cracker cereal was, so I am guessing this wasn’t a popular breakfast choice around the country. But my sister and I thought it was SO good!

I made myself a bowl of graham cracker cereal tonight. And you know what? The graham crackers just disintegrate into the milk. It’s basically just high-calorie mush. It’s not very filling. It’s just … there.

Sometimes we can see our own life like graham cracker cereal. We think we have it all figured out, and it’s awesome. Nothing could possibly be better than our plan! But really, what we have before is is graham cracker mush when we could be having bacon, eggs, and homemade biscuits. We’re just not willing to let go of the mush to see what the other options are. That mush seems fine. It seems great! It tastes sweet!

You gotta let go of the mush. And if you won’t, God might have to yank it out of your hands.

To be continued.