[Image Description: A tree with many branches is in the foreground on a sloping hill. In the background is a road and a beach along Lake Michigan. A red lighthouse is in the distance.]
When I was in Wisconsin last week, I made the occasion to visit a particular tree.
I had already driven down to Racine to have lunch with a friend, which was so enjoyable. It was a long time since I had been in the city, but years ago, I visited often. Some of our closest folks lived there for a number of years. They’ve since moved elsewhere, but since I had the occasion to be in Racine, I was glad to visit some of the special places we used to go, including the Lake Michigan Pathway — a walkway right along the beach. All of this brought back wonderful memories.
Then I decided to walk to a certain tree.
In 2013, I was sitting under this particular tree when I had the initial phone conversation that led to us moving to Ann Arbor. We were visiting our people in Racine when the opportunity arose. I sat under this tree, facing Lake Michigan from the Wisconsin side, and of course, facing the state of Michigan too, though unseen to me. A place called “Lake Michigan Pathway” seemed like the perfect location to have this phone call, because we wanted to move to Ann Arbor very much.
Though we lived in California at the time, I suppose it all started right here in Wisconsin under a tree by a Great Lake. It was good to visit this tree again because I wanted to pause and think of my unfolding sense of calling and belonging in Ann Arbor. I wanted to give thanks for six years in this town, the people I’ve met — at this point, people I can’t imagine not knowing. That’s how it always is in a place… It’s peopled.
I’ve had some serious highs and lows here. I’ve met people who taught me a lot. I’ve had occasions to practice ministry in ways that were totally new to me at the time, and often, are still new to me. We’ve befriended people in multiple congregations. We’ve made memories in a house, our first one. We’ve invited people in in ways that feel like home.
And we’re still going at it.
So here’s to Ann Arbor, the unfolding calling, and the unfolding practice of community-building. And here’s to that tree.