Change & Hope
You’re listening to Together by AGCI. I’m Dayn Arnold and I’m Madi Salvati.
[DA] I never intended on buying an RV. I think my past self would probably have found the idea to be absurd. See, for the last four or five months, my wife, three kids, and I have been planning to move from the northwest to the midwest for a multitude of reasons, but mainly because we feel like this is the direction the Lord is taking us. So at the start of 2020 we began what felt like a never-ending slog of home improvement projects. Armed with a rudimentary understanding of a handful of renovation techniques and an over-inflated trust in strangers on YouTube, we began the slow march toward having the house we wished we had had while we actually lived in it so that we could hopefully find a buyer at the beginning of May, and then figure out how to get all our stuff across the country while we flew there in a plane. At that point I had half-joked about driving our stuff across the country with my two sons while she flew with our baby daughter, but my wife and I knew that driving cross-country with a 4 and 6 year old would have been a challenge. I knew it probably wouldn’t have been ideal, but part of me still wanted to do it.
My main job at AGCI is to create our video content, and as I was preparing to move across the US and work remotely I was also working on three really big projects that would take the majority of my work time for the rest of the year. I knew it was going to be a busy time as I visited Colombia, Ethiopia, Thailand and China, but my calendar was streamlined and I was ready to follow my plan to the T. It was maybe the best and most detailed plan I’ve ever made, and I had high hopes for 2020.
Like many of you, at the beginning of the year I started paying loose attention to news stories of a virus in China, but it felt distant and I wasn’t all that concerned. But time went on, and then it arrived in the US and in our STATE, and then in our city, and it started to feel much more serious. Immediately after hearing the first thing about the virus, the trip to China was off the table, of course. Then Thailand was in the thick of it. In March I was a couple days away from taking a week-long trip to Colombia when that was cancelled, and then travel advisories made my trip to Ethiopia impossible. Even the thought of flying to the midwest with the family was suddenly not a great option. My beautifully organized project calendar was pretty much useless, and my personal calendar for moving across the country needed some very serious revision.
As the economy started its erratic behavior, my wife and I started to wonder if waiting until May to sell our house was going to be wise, and after a couple days of thinking and praying about it, we kicked it into high gear to get our house on the market a month ahead of schedule. In a pandemic. By ourselves. With no child care for our three kids. While it feels like most other people we know have been going absolutely stir-crazy in this time, we’ve never felt busier. I hope the kids will forgive us for not giving them the attention they deserved for a month.
Over the last few months we started revisiting the previously insane idea of driving across the country. We looked at every possible angle, but ultimately landed on taking a self-sufficient cross-country road trip in an RV, towing all our Marie Kondo’ed earthly belongings behind us in a small trailer. And that became the new plan.
Two weeks ago we put our house on the market, and it sold in two days. Two days! All the work and concerns we had, and the Lord was still working his miracles behind the scenes. So then we started looking at an RV so we could flee across the country. Last Friday my wife contacted a couple about the RV they had listed on Craigslist. We found out later that they had received nearly 30 inquiries about it, but there was something in our email that prompted them to sneak us to the front of the line so we could check it out before anybody else. It was perfect for us, and there was a tangible connection with the couple selling it. They said we reminded them of their own kids and were so excited to be able to pass their RV along to a new family to start a whole new chapter in the life of that memory-laden vehicle. So, yeah, I just bought an RV, and in two weeks I’m moving my family across the country, and we’re actually really excited about it. This is not at all how we expected this year to go, every plan has changed. With all the change and uncertainty, it seems like I can feel the full range of emotions in the span of an hour, but the overriding sentiment in this time is hope. It’s a crazy time for a road trip, but we have high hopes, and it’s going to be an adventure.
[MS] I never thought it would come to this, but it would appear that desperate times call for desperate measures — over the weekend, I completed something affectionately called a “Backyard Ultra.” I was tired of the occasional jog around my neighborhood. I miss the trails so much. I normally trail run six days a week with a team in Portland, OR, and decided I’d really just go for it and get my mileage in all in one day so I wouldn’t have to endure the zipping cars and noisy streets every single day of the week. It feels rather extreme now and I am still recovering from my efforts. But I found the steepest hill in my neighborhood and gave myself 6 hours to get in as much vertical gain as I could . . . boy, did I underestimate myself. About 20-something miles later and roughly 10,000 feet of gain, here I am. Ridiculous, right?
I am someone who has a difficult time standing still, if you haven’t noticed. I need to move, take action, wage war on feeling stuck, if you will. I love to run, so when all of my races for the season were canceled, I was crushed. But with that, I immediately realized there were bigger issues at hand. My spring and summer plans now feel so small. I’m also someone who has adapted to a lot of change while growing up and nothing ever felt permanent when I was little. I never have been more grateful for that mindset than I am now. I
I am AGCI’s marketing coordinator and I am grateful to work with a team whose creativity and ability to adapt is next level, especially in times like these. I had many expectations for how 2020 would pan out when it came to exciting projects and working closely with my coworkers to put together impactful content. I am often motivated by those around me and their fire for the work we do at AGCI, so to say it’s been an adjustment working from home is an understatement. But I am inspired daily by those I work with to stay hopeful as things change in every aspect of my life whether it’s work or dashed summer plans to run up big mountains. I am finding out in this time that expectation, while healthy to a certain degree, can also be the currency of my disappointed self who is unwilling to pivot and adjust. This is the last way I expected a massive portion of my year to play out, but while it’s been difficult to have hope to recover any plans I had going forward, I am learning to be friends with uncertainty and ask God into my day each morning to help me become more comfortable with the unknown.
[DA] A couple thousand years ago, expectations were challenged, and people felt threatened by change, and most people, especially people in power, were unable to accept a new reality and see hope for a broken world. See, for hundreds upon hundreds of years, the Hebrew people expected the messiah to come as a conquering hero, riding in on a war horse to decimate his foes. Their expectation was that the rulers of their world would be beaten by the might of their God, and they were very much looking forward to winning. They wanted power the way they had always seen it, like the Roman oppressors of the time had.
Then the creator of the galaxy finally arrived… And he came as a helpless baby in a smelly stable, the son of a working-class family. And when he grew up, he chose to surround himself with a crew of laborers, tax collectors and religious zealots, and do miraculous work among the vulnerable and lowly, the ones who were also powerless in their culture.
As the end of Jesus’ time on Earth grew closer, he didn’t take on the form of a conquering warlord riding his war horse victoriously through town like the Romans did. He rode a humble donkey as a sign of peace, and within a few days they had him executed like a common criminal. Christ demonstrated that there is greater power in love than there is in war. To those expecting power through force, the death of someone who claimed to be the messiah was the absolute antithesis. Their expectations were challenged, but they were unable to change their understanding of who God was and the nature of his return.
But… for those who could see past cultural expectations, for those who could change their perspective, for those who could accept a new and better understanding of power, there was earth-shattering, life-altering hope.
[MS] I’ve always seen change as a positive. I think I needed to when I was growing up. I quickly became someone who was often SO FAST to spin something positively — even change that was difficult. Like the loss of a loved one or leaving home to go to college. And even now, in this pandemic, I’ve had the toughest time just sitting in a feeling. Grief has been one of those feelings and one I thought I was well-acquainted with. But of course, it demands to be felt when you least expect it and I have more to learn about this. I think of all the change we are each enduring in our own capacity right this very moment. While it might hurt to some degree, (or maybe you’re like me and are afraid to get up close and personal with it), there’s a purpose behind it. One of the biggest questions I’ve been asking myself in this season is HOW am I going to use these changing times to get better, to be better? I’m sure that question is different for everyone, but the greatest lesson I have learned so far is this: Nothing is a waste. God will use every single bout of change or wrestling match with faith for my good. Our God is good, therefore, how could the change we are facing now be against us — ever? I think there are plenty of ways it could be negative. But the good in all of this starts with recognizing that none of it is a waste of a season or a feeling.
A few weeks ago we asked you all about what your new reality is like. We received one sweet story from a listener about her experience in this pandemic so far. The good in her story is so beautiful. Here’s Misty from Utah:
[Misty] I have a friend who reached out to just a couple of us saying that she learned about this opportunity to write letters and notes of encouragement to senior citizens who are feeling really isolated and retirement homes and assisted living facilities where now they’re not able to get visitors because those populations should be protected. So she got on board cigarettes some notes and sent them to and senior citizens that are accepting notes strangers. So those letters are addressed as dear friend sip of water. She told me about it. I told some people at church about it and from that be made the condition. There’s a man at my church who oversees nine nursing homes. So nearly a thousand residents and Thursday from my one friend telling us about this opportunity this turn into a thing where now we’ve got dozens of Children and Youth at church all signed up now off to write these letters to just read a little bit of love to people with disabilities to make them feel a little bit less alone and to help them remember that right here, and we love them and that they’re not alone
[MS] We would love to hear more stories from you. What are the challenges, as well as the unexpected benefits you’ve experienced during this season? How are you finding the good and accepting the difficult? If you have a couple minutes, can you give us a call and leave us a voicemail about this strange new season of life? We hope to share as many stories as we can in an upcoming episode. Our voicemail number is (503) 395-4595. We’d love to hear from you.
[DA] While we’re on the subject of change, we have a much less life-altering change to tell you all about.
[MS] We have put out eight shows in the last four weeks, but that’s not a sustainable pace for the long term.
[DA] We want to make sure you all know that our plan for now is to have a new show for you to listen to every other week.
[MS] So if there’s nothing new in your podcast feed each week, don’t fret.
[DA] We’ll be back soon with more stories of life-change and hope as we walk through this life with you, side by side, together.