We were young, we were scared and we were insecure. The two of us being together was nothing short of destiny because neither of us thought we deserved the other. Finding each other was like finding two of the same people with polar opposite talents. Travis the artistic musician, me the bossy natural leader with a gift for organization in systems and leadership. Our loyalty and commitment to each others gifts was so strong and passionate that neither of us would have ever listened to a negative word about the other. I’m sure to this day you couldn’t find any person who has heard me speak a bad word about Travis (minus “the incident”) and I know not one person has ever heard Travis speak the slightest negativity about me.
After we faced what felt like suffocating opposition and got married we started a new position in a new town with new people. Our whole year of engagement was a transition, never feeling settled or secure in our lives. We were always waiting for the “next big thing” to happen to us, and with Travis’s new job, we felt like it did. Travis had a better position in our new church, we were more financially secure. We had a lot more freedom as a couple and we didn’t feel the opposition and pressure that we had back home. We began to form as a couple in our new found freedom and alone time that we had in a new city, without the pressure of judgement and opinion we had felt in our home. Saturday nights after church we had this habit of crawling into bed as early as possible and talking about everything we felt the other had missed between the beginning of worship practice and the end of service which always turned into hysterical laughing from some witty anecdote about our bizarre religious upbringing or some unusually Pentecostal parishioner creating some drama that week. We were happy and peaceful when we were together and alone, not under the scrutinization of many who felt the need to carry an opinion of our relationship. The way we were alone felt like we were one person and it felt like there was nothing between us. Sometimes when Travis would fall asleep I would stare at him, touch his eyelashes and wonder how I got so lucky to have him as my partner, my best friend, and soulmate. Though we were happy together, it always seemed we were fighting as a couple against the world publicly. Our home had so much crazy gossip about our relationship and as we moved to a new place we hoped we could be us without any boundaries. Unfortunately, we weren’t fully aware how different our view of marriage and ministry was from the church we joined. We had joined a ministry that employed single members of a family. Travis and I had made the decision when we chose to live our lives together that we were a team and though I didn’t sing, I had gifts to bring to our life of ministry and Travis didn’t want to do ministry without me by his side. From the moment we started in Sheboygan I was just his wife, I was never an equal or someone that had something to offer the church besides possibly nursery of which I was offered placement in the schedule immediately. I felt like I had gifts, I had been a teacher, I led parts of our youth group at home, I went to real bible college, but I can honestly say I felt almost invisible. Life seemed to be taking off for Travis and it was standing still for me. During times of frustration I kept imagining it was my “desert place” and that I just had to work the magic formula of sacrifice, humility and gratitude to make it to “the promised land”. I felt like if I just held on my day would come but truthfully in all that time, I never got there. I continued to live in what I felt like was a transition, never really doing what I was meant to do, what my soul craved. I can’t really put a name on it, but I wanted to change the world. I wanted to see people’s lives turn out better after I met them and I felt like I wasn’t doing it.
I drive through the desert every day on my way to school and I love it. It’s my time of peace, transition, focus for the day. I laugh because I’ve always been scared of the desert place, it’s a punishment for those that complain about eating manna, but now I believe that I was never meant to live long in the promised land, and that’s not how life goes. The desert place is where our life is. Each and every mundane aspect of day to day life is what I’m meant to change the world in.
I used to say I hated teaching and I never wanted to go back. I’m not sure exactly where this idea came into my head because now that I’m back in the classroom I remember how good I am at it. My students had an average score of 70% on a unit test they took the day I started. Today they took another unit test and the average score was 92%. I’ve been here 3 weeks. My students are raised by nannies, waited on hand and foot by servants. It’s a different mentality than I had as a student. When they come into my classroom I don’t do things for them, and I’m not their babysitter. They’re told they are leaders and are held responsible for what they do and what people around them do. I love my students and they get the classic Miss Carmen nurture that is my second nature. I wipe their tears, pat their backs and tell them they’re important, but ultimately I tell them they choose how important they become. I don’t know if what I felt in my 20s was that I needed to be was famous or important or more respected. I’m not sure exactly where I thought I was lacking as Travis’s wife and ministry partner, but I look back and I have no regrets. I realize I was quite successful. We did some amazing things together and I had some amazing opportunities, but while I was in the moment I felt incomplete. I was wrong, I had the utmost of completeness and through it I’ve learned there is no “next big thing”. Rather than waiting for something big to happen I want to live happy in the present. Life is the desert, not the promised land and it’s definitely a beautiful place.