In honor of the tenth anniversary of Red Tent Living, we are featuring a monthly legacy post written by one of our regular contributors from the past decade. Maureen Gebben was one of the original Red Tent Writers; this post originally appeared in September 2013.
I’ve had a bolus of change in my life with a consistent dosing over the last year that has not always felt beneficial. Typically, the word bolus is used in the medical community by which a doctor orders a large dose of a substance given by injection for the purpose of rapidly achieving the needed therapeutic concentration in the bloodstream in a short amount of time. During this year of transitions, it feels right to articulate the impact of my husband’s executive position being eliminated, the impact of watching as he labored over unearthing his passion and pursuit of a new career, and ultimately what that has looked like for us.
Last year we sold our house in Michigan and moved to Washington state so that Paul could attend school in Seattle. We had lived and breathed all things Michigan, and although we loved to visit the West, we called Michigan home. The idea of moving away from Michigan and living in a new state both pricked our bubble of safety and revved up new possibilities.
Henri Nouwen once said, “All change is loss and all loss must be grieved,” and I feel the truth of those words when I long to see faces of friends and family in Michigan, when I’m confronted with the unfamiliar, when I’m lonely, when I weep. I remember standing in the grocery store down the street from our new home shortly after arriving in Washington; the realization stopped me at the end-cap of potato chips that no one here knew me. No one recognized me. Each face that passed me was new and strange. I wanted someone to say, “Hi Maureen.” I wanted someone to look at my face, really look at me, acknowledge me, and ask me anything. Maybe even, ”Why are you staring at the potato chips?”
I missed being seen. I missed being known.
This loss of being known extended to tasks ordinary and sacred, from taking a walk in our new neighborhood, searching for a place to worship, bringing the dog to the vet for a check up, navigating the complicated public transit system, to applying for a nursing position at an unfamiliar hospital 30 minutes away.
Recently I was jogging around a high school track near our house; it was 5 a.m., the sun had not yet appeared, the temperature was cool, the air misty, and I was listening to Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “Be Still and Know” on my iPhone. I smiled. Suddenly I was right back in my former office, which would have been maybe 364 days earlier, sitting at my desk where I worked as a research nurse. I reminisced that I had once believed my work as a research nurse in urologic oncology was important. I felt I made a difference in patients’ lives by offering clinical trials for their bladder cancer, their prostate cancer, their kidney cancer. While it was important work, sitting there on that day almost 364 days earlier, fueled by months and months of depressively dry and boring paperwork, I experienced my own season of discontent. Without listing all of the reasons for why I felt burned out, I prayed, “How long, Lord? How long do I have to do this?”
I remember hearing or sensing His answer as “Get your office in order.” That’s what I would hear, no more, no less. I considered myself fortunate to sense that much, and yet I wanted to know what was going to happen and when. Was something tragic going to happen? I wanted to control my future, but I couldn’t. I wanted to see into the distance, yet all I was allowed to see was the path directly in front of me.
So I began playing “Be Still and Know” on repeat, over and over and over. Day after day, I’d listen to the lyrics that said He is God; He is Holy. Be still, oh restless soul of mine. Let the noise and clamor cease. He is faithful. Know that He will never change.
And so, on that cool, misty morning while jogging, tears poured from my eyes as I heard the line, “And know that He will never change,” because after months and months of working on empty in that windowless office, after wondering if I would ever enjoy my job again, after listening to “Be Still and Know” on repeat, the Great Physician ordered a bolus of change in our lives. I’m living in that “future” I so desperately wanted to control. I’ve experienced loss; I have grieved and continue to mourn the losses; and I’m giddily thankful the Lord didn’t sit me down and explain what the future held for us. I think He knew I would have explained that I would prefer the changes to come in a slow drip rather than a bolus. I can now see tremendous blessings and new possibilities amidst the cost of change my life.
I continue to long to be known and to be seen. I am more open to starting conversations with people I don’t know. I’m making steps to cultivate friendships here in the Seattle area, in the endoscopy unit where I work as a nurse, at a church we’ve committed to attending, at The Seattle School where Paul is a student, and in the grocery store where I love talking with anyone I meet, including the man stocking the potato chips on the end cap.
Maureen Gebben is grateful for life in the Pacific Northwest after moving there 10 years ago with her husband Paul. Mother of two fabulous children, she has been married for 38 years. She works as a therapeutic endoscopy nurse in Seattle, Washington. She is an introvert in denial and finds rest by cultivating growth in plants and people. Her dream is to ramble around her neighborhood on a John Deere tractor, selling her exceptional garden produce.