From Preston: I am grateful to Krystal for writing several blog posts over the last few years to help us stay connected with folks and to preserve good memories. I asked her to permit me to include a few of my thoughts in this last post, and she agreed :)
I really love a good story. The best stories involve trials, heartaches, mystery, sacrifice, triumphs, and growth. In church this past Sunday, we discussed the importance of interpreting life events in the context of your personal journey; a trial by itself can be a disheartening experience, but a trial that is understood as a necessary step in service of a larger mission can become a valued experience. My family and I recently watched the final Hobbit movie, which stems from the book on which this blog title was based. While no human will face the creatures and perils that Bilbo encounters, I appreciate how he remains a character with whom we can still identify despite the tremendous scale of his adventures. Indeed, the most powerful moments of the story, in my opinion, occur when Bilbo remains true to his simple nature even when confronting overwhelming pressures. The greatest treasure of the Lonely Mountain (the Arkenstone) and fear of execution does not cause Bilbo to lose his affinity for his beloved Bag End nor his desire to assist the dwarves in finding their "own Bag End." Indeed, the story beautifully captures how Bilbo's ability to keep his home close at heart guides his choices, and shapes his own journey (and in his case, the history of Middle Earth :)
What guides your choices and shapes your journey? Krystal and I have learned quite a bit about our own values these past few years. With great emotion, I remember moments in which I felt overcome with gratitude for those involved in this little journey of ours: I remember how members of our church provided us with an unexpected and timely financial gift as we prepared to move up North when all Krystal and I had was an intern's stipend; I think of the excitement that folks like my Grandfather and Krystal's parents showed to hear about living in the big city of Chicago; I think of my brothers and others coming all the way up North just to visit us and see our humble abode; I remember how my professor video chatted with me weekly just to help me complete my dissertation on time; I think of how our church in Chicago quickly adopted us as valued members of the family; I think of our friend taking a ridiculously long train ride from Virginia to Chicago to help us load the moving truck; I remember the incredibly powerful love and joy that the ladies from my department expressed when Krystal and I told them of her pregnancy; and I remember shedding tears with two friends as we lifted up a final prayer together before saying farewell.
Our little journey affirms the wisdom of the ages that life is about relationships, relationships, relationships. While there in Chicago, the new relationships we developed enriched our lives in immeasurable ways. With gratitude and sadness, we closed that chapter. Now that we are back again in Tennessee, we are now writing the introduction to a chapter that we hope will be filled with storylines involving relationships with friends, family, and child(ren)!