April started out right with our third Easter service at Restoration Anglican, our dream church nestled in picturesque Cherrydale, the Arlington suburb where Charming and I envisioned settling down after our summer nuptials. Washington-Lee High, just a stone’s throw from the church, reached out for an interview… but spring brings surprising beginnings, and when we buy our first house together, it will be in Germany, not Cherrydale. No April Fool’s joke here.
Germany wasn’t part of Charming’s epic Prince-posal. With his three-year post at the Pentagon coming to an end this summer, he’d been applying to potential positions throughout the fall months, all located in D.C. like we’d imagined they would be. We’d been engaged a few months when the Charming first mentioned Germany. It would be a three-year post in Stuttgart working for the government, and his credentials made the application a logical choice.
We were at dinner in Old Town when he told me about the job post, and I could feel my pulse quicken. It wasn’t excitement; no, I was stricken with fear. Germany? I didn’t know anything about the place, and it certainly wasn’t on any of my dream travel destination lists. The country’s name even sounded cold as it coughed out of my mouth. This wasn’t the plan. I’d been waiting more than thirty years to finally grow roots somewhere and raise a family, and Restoration Anglican wasn’t in Germany. If Charming took a job in Germany for three years, I’d likely be having my first kid on foreign soil. No, this wasn’t the plan. The threat to my vision of normal resounded in my mind for an hour or so.
Then, it was silenced. Arlington was my ideal, but it would still be there in three years.
I can’t even say I prayed about it, but all I’ll ever be able to do to explain the sudden transformation is that God gifted me with a supernatural peace about moving to a place I’d equated only with war and persecution. I told Charming then, and for the next few months of crickets as he waited for a call that might never come, that if we were supposed to be in Germany, that’s where we’d be, and if not, landing in Arlington was what we’d wanted all along. We’d get an opportunity of a lifetime that would delay settling down, or we’d get our Cherrydale suburban manicured garden. We couldn’t lose.
Mom was the perfect encourager during these months, sharing new ideas almost weekly for what Germany might hold for us in the years to come. So in February, when Charming had interviewed for the position and got an email that he hadn’t been selected, we shifted our focus back stateside. We weren’t supposed to be in Germany, after all, and the quiet lesson too sensitive to blog about was that I was ready to go anywhere Charming goes, and we would trust God to forge the path before us.
As soon as Germany was no longer on the table, I sent out my applications to specifically selected schools in Fairfax County and Arlington. There’s a job fair there this coming weekend, and I put it on my calendar. I’ve heard back from several schools, but I couldn’t follow through with them. Two weeks after their break-up email, Germany hit send on a courting request that would officially launch Charming’s career into relevant orbit in the most incredible, God-ordained, perfectly designed position for him to thrive in meaningful work. I didn’t care about the applications I’d labored on for a week. Everything had changed. We had to make a choice, and in some ways, I feel like that’s Charming’s story to tell, not mine, though now it’s clearly no surprise which one we made.
This Sunday morning as I gazed around the familiar sanctuary, its hardwood floors echoing the usher’s high heels while finding visitors seating in the crowded pews, original artwork of the stations of Christ’s death and resurrection, fragrant spring perennials tickling at my nose, my heart broke a little bit for the first time since we made our choice. The woman beside me had engaged me sufficiently in hushed conversation that I concluded she might have been my new best friend. If I wasn’t moving to Germany.
The perennials are an Easter tradition for Restoration Anglican, and each family in attendance is instructed to pick one to take home with them. I’ve always capitalized on the fact that we’re not married, and the side garden bed I built three years ago now has six plants to surprise and delight next spring, only I won’t be the one to enjoy them. They’ll bless another family, and maybe another. Passing over eggs and bunnies for a symbolic gift is an effective ministry; each spring, these perennials remind us of the resurrection of new life from that which was dead, and there’s layers of applications for me, knee deep in soil and dirt from every aspect of my life.
I was already giving up my home in Hampton to start over, so delaying that manicured garden in Cherrydale a few years isn’t a huge hiccup in the grand scheme of things. The incredible network of family and friends Charming’s shored up over the course of the last few decades will still be waiting for us on the other side of a three year overseas adventure that neither of us could have known to dream of in our existences before now. It was right to grieve in the wooden pew on Sunday, with Charming’s arm around my shoulder, laying to rest a longing to put down roots where I get to see a tree I planted start out as a seedling and mature into a great oak my grandchildren climb someday. It was right to start our spring this way.
That’s the only moment I’ve been sad about this move, really. We’re going to Germany! After binging a dozen hours of YouTube videos and travel blogs, it’s not this foreign, unknown land anymore. I’m going to see every fairy tale castle ever constructed! From February 21st when Charming was offered the position until his installment was official last week, we existed in a holding pattern, restricting Germany chatter to close family and friends. Having prided myself on authenticity in my blog, keeping this close to the vest forced me to peel back some of those layers of soil and dirt I’ve accumulated over time, wrestling with some uglier issues instead. I don’t regret the vow of social media silence; this was our month of processing our new beginning and every implication that comes with it.
Charming and I love Restoration Anglican Church, and I still think it will be our home three summers from now, and I’ll still pray Washington-Lee High School will need another English teacher then. I still have a supernatural peace about this move halfway around the world. The flowers we brought home to plant in my garden remind me of the saying, “Bloom where you’re planted.” God’s planting us in Germany for our first years as a married couple, perhaps even for our first years as parents.
The last of my pink magnolia blooms are falling because they’ve seen the full course of their lives. Charming and I are just reaching our prime, and we’ll bloom in Stuttgart or Cherrydale or Korea as long as we lean into each other and trust God’s forging the path before us.