Monday, September 16, 2013

A Look at Clinton, For Posterity's Sake

Clinton, Iowa, could easily be described as one of the least exciting cities in America. But this area is not without its own unique beauty and charm, you just have to be willing to look. When the vast Midwest sky and the golden light of sunset grab you, you know that beauty can be found anywhere, including here.

Since we're getting ready to leave this little town that has been home (a little over a year for Nick and about three years combined for me), I decided to collect some of my favorite photos from my time here. Years from now I want to be able to look back at the good and the beautiful and remember.

The offices of the Clinton Herald, downtown Clinton.
I worked at the Herald for the majority of my time in Clinton, starting out as a reporter
and concluding as a digital content editor.

The Clinton riverfront along the Mississippi.
Decorative lighthouses stand guard along the bank and serve as a reminder
of a time when the river once flooded its banks.

A panoramic of the path along Riverview Drive.
We took many walks along this path, it's a good place to mark out the seasons.

Boats at the Clinton marina.
One thing I never did while living in Clinton: boating on the Mississippi.
Maybe someday...

Sunset over the Clinton County Courthouse.
There have been a lot of pretty sunsets in Clinton, but this has to be one of the best. So glad I could capture it.

Storm clouds over a house near downtown Clinton.
I used to live near this house and never saw it as a photo op until these ominous
clouds loomed overhead. Suddenly it became like the Kansas farmhouse in the
Wizard of Oz, perfectly placed for a story.

Clinton's "South Bridge."
Two bridges connect Iowa and Illinois, the North Bridge and the South
Bridge. I took a walk one day along the river front and snapped this photo.

This was Nick's house, then it became our house after
we got married. It will always be our first home.

Our neighborhood at sunset.
Another thing that makes Clinton beautiful are the trees. Tall, elegant trees, old and beautiful. They shade many
a street, just like a scene out of a book or movie.

More tall trees in Eagle Point Park.
You can see the widest point on the Mississippi River from
the park. At a mile wide it looks more like a lake than a river.
Also in Eagle Point Park, what has been dubbed, "The Castle."
It seems so odd, a piece of medieval structure rising out of
a modern-day park, but if you look just at it, you feel as though
you've been transported to another time and place.

Downtown Clinton on July 3.
Before any patriotic holiday, the city will hang American flags from
downtown light poles.

The little white church in Heritage Canyon.
This is not technically in Clinton, but it isn't too far away, just over the river in Fulton, Ill.
A couple of our friends got married in this church.

Spring in Clinton looks something like this.

Riverview Drive during a whiteout.
This past winter we were hit by what was essentially a blizzard. Nick and I
still took our lunch break and ventured up to the river front to enjoy the
snow. It was amazing to see everything blanked by the storm.
Snowflakes on my windshield.
After leaving work one day I got into my car and noticed the beautiful designs in the flakes that had lightly dusted
my windshield. Another photo op I couldn't let slip by. I think this is one of my favorite winter photos.

Another sunset over the Clinton County Courthouse.
Odd and beautiful.

A marigold outside my parents' house in Clinton.
My parents have lived in the same house since they first moved
to Clinton in 2004. At first it didn't quite feel like home, but
nearly nine years later, it has finally started to.

The Clinton Public Library.
Clinton was once a majestic town, full of wealthy lumber barons and their mansions. Clinton's rich history lives
on in the architecture that has remained through generations. The library is something the people of Clinton have
always sought to maintain and retain, a fixture they will not willingly release.

Downtown Clinton.
My morning commutes to work were always short in Clinton,
I never had to drive more than 10 minutes to get to work. But
I always enjoyed the drive in. Mornings always seem so crisp
and clean and full of potential.

Friends in front of the de Immigrant Windmill.
This authentic Dutch windmill is across the river from Clinton in Fulton, Ill.
It's another piece of local history that has stood the test of time and distance
to remind locals of their roots.

The Clinton County Courthouse.
After graduating from college and moving to Clinton, one
of my earliest memories is of appearing for jury duty at the
courthouse. I volunteered to serve on the panel, citing my
love of John Grisham books and then feeling silly.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Life Right Now: What I'm Learning About Plans and Faith

I decided it's time for a more personal update on our lives as things are and have been changing very quickly and I have been learning a lot about how God works outside of our plans. But first, a bit of the back story.

A few months before our wedding, Nick and I found out his job would be winding down around the end of September. Needless to say, the timing was not the best. As we were planning our own wedding and personally creating many of the details, the added stress of potential unemployment made for a challenging time. I struggled with why this was happening now, of all the possible times it could happen. Why did there need to be stress on top of stress?

We tried our best to trust God with the timing, reminding ourselves that God ultimately works his will through people and circumstances to bring about his plan. Nick diligently searched for jobs and I did my best to put the added stress out of my mind. I told myself that no matter what happened, God would take care of us. That truth has been one of the biggest rocks I've fallen on throughout my life. God has always provided for me and taken care of me.

About a month before the wedding, Nick had a Skype interview with an Evangelical Free Church in Iowa City. We were excited as we've grown to love the E-Free denomination through our attendance at our church in Clinton. And though neither one of us are huge lovers of Iowa, Iowa City is only about an hour and a half away from my family and a much bigger town than Clinton.

Not long after Nick's Skype interview, we had a lunch meeting with some of the church staff and really enjoyed getting to know each one. The church asked if we could come out for a visit over a weekend before the wedding. We were torn, not wanting to turn them down but not knowing how we could manage to lose a whole weekend just weeks before our wedding. We decided that we would ask them to wait until we got back from our honeymoon, knowing that could be a deal breaker, but again, trying to trust God.

After we returned from Jamaica, we were excited to find out that the church wanted us to visit, so we took a trip out to Iowa City a few weeks later at the beginning of August. We knew this trip was key: a time for us to see if we could fit and a time for the church to also decide if we were the right fit. The weekend was packed with meetings, but each one seemed better than the last. Everyone we met immediately put us at ease. We felt so welcomed and so wanted, there was never a moment where we questioned what we were doing or why we were there. At the end of the weekend we both felt very positive about the trip, but we wanted to think, pray and seek God's will.

As we took time to think through the details, we got to see God's hand working once again through circumstances beyond our control. We had told the church in Iowa City that we would give them our decision after we got off work on August 26, a Monday. That day we found out Nick's job would be ending sooner than expected. While we were feeling very positive about the church and knew we were making up our minds, the timing of everything helped to confirm what we were already thinking.

So last week we gave our verbal commitment to take the job in Iowa City. Nick will be working as a youth director in the church's middle and high school program. He will be working primarily with high school, but will also have some cross-over with junior high.

We used the rest of last week to tell those we could, my job and the youth group here in Clinton. It was especially hard to tell the high schoolers, a group we've been bonding with for the past few years. All of the kids are special to us and naturally telling them we would be leaving soon was difficult. It was also hard to face the fact that I was leaving my job. I knew eventually I would, because we weren't planning on living in Clinton forever, but we had hoped for more time. I think my mental image of our lives post-wedding subconsciously included us setting into married life here in Clinton. We'd have time to get the hang of doing life together, invest in the youth group some more (we're the only high school leaders after the youth pastor), and I would get some more time in at my job. But as I keep learning, God works outside of our plans to bring about his.

I'm thankful that though I will be leaving the Herald--my first post-college job as a reporter which turned into a promotion to an editor--I will be able to stay on part time with our corporate company, which I have also been working for over the past year. So I'll still be a digital content editor working in an organization that I appreciate and know, while also having more free time, which I am very, very excited about. With all the big things that are happening/have happened in my life over the past two months, I've felt so burned out and just exhausted. I'm looking forward to being able to get back to some of the things I love and want to do that I've just felt too tired to care about.

While there have been times of hurt, sadness and disappointment, I am more and more excited to see where God is leading us and the ways he has worked to bring us to this point. He has taught me so much about faith in his timing, perseverance in challenging situations, patience and grace in the moments I want to snap, and growth with my husband in our brand new marriage. We wouldn't be in this situation if we didn't have each other, and we couldn't make it through without the safety, support and love of our relationship. I know that God is refining us in these moments and leading us on the journey he has laid out before our feet.

Nick and I are excited to follow Christ, wherever he may lead. We seek your prayers and the support of friendship as we travel this road. So many of you have already offered us words of encouragement and strength and we appreciate you all. To our Clinton family, we will miss each one of you as you have offered us more love and support than we deserve, and we will not forget you. I look forward to keeping in contact and updating you all on our lives and adventures from this point on.

"Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" - Matthew 28:18-20
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