With one month exactly until we leave this state, I've been reflecting a lot on our time here.
In August of 2012, we moved to the Cleveland area with a pretty good idea of how long we'd be around. We moved here purely for school, so we'd stay until the summer of 2014, after Carson graduated. Our plan was to pursue more schooling for Carson after John Carroll, and either go to a PhD program afterward, move overseas for some sort of fellowship program or look for a teaching position that was hopefully in a great place. We prayed that our short time here would be meaningful and that we'd make friends and find a good church, but honestly we went into the time here blindly because it didn't matter. We were here for school.
Our time in Ohio has been great. The winters were absolutely terrible and I'm sure that's something I will never forget, but as I think of our time here, that's not what I think about. My biggest prayer for Cleveland was for the relationships we'd make here. I hoped for even just one good friend, and a church experience we could look back on and not hate. My expectations were, clearly, quite low.
We never visited a church outside of Gateway Heights Church. Our initial impression was that the church was going to be "too cool" for us. The people were young, the music was good... but we learned quickly that young people and good music doesn't indicate a church that's shallow (we sound like we're 85 years old). The preaching was solid. The people were SO friendly and welcoming. The music wasn't just good, but the lyrics were worshipful and the style of worship wasn't overdone and too showy or emotional. We joined the church as quickly as we could, and I've never regretted that decision. After attending a community group for the first semester, we were asked to branch off and start our own because the group we were in was overflowing. I hated that we were doing that at first... but as you know, I've been so blessed over and over again by the group that meets in our living room on Mondays.
Cleveland has shown us the beauty of the church. When it was time to make the decision about Florida State, the ONLY thing holding us back was that we wanted to keep Gateway Heights. This is the thing I will miss the most about Cleveland.
Cleveland also provided lots to do. I can't remember what made me do it, but fairly soon after we moved here, I made a bucket list of things to do in the city. That list has continued to grow since we've lived here, and even when people have visited, we haven't been able to get to all the things we wanted to show them because there really is a lot to do. That surprised us, and as we finish these next few weeks, we have several things left to wrap up on the "Cleveland list". We've gone to baseball games, parks, Amish country, ridden roller coasters and driven up to Niagara Falls while living here. With a slightly more disposable income, our weekend trips could have been elaborate, but even for a graduate student's salary the things we've done have been pretty great.
All in all, the twenty-one months we've spent in Cleveland have been great. Our time here has been rich, and it feels like we've lived here much longer than we have because of the relationships we have and the things we've been able to do.