2014: Quite A Year for the Martens Family

First Published December 18, 2014, on Leah's former blog, "Being In Berkeley".

The Martens in Downtown Berkeley: Leah, Elliott, Gwendolyn, Junia, and Jason

The Martens in Downtown Berkeley: Leah, Elliott, Gwendolyn, Junia, and Jason

2014 is wrapping up, and with it, one of the most eventful years for the Martens in memory.  It's hard to believe at this time a year ago we were living in Iowa City, Iowa, braving the beginning of what would be a horrendously fierce winter, and looking ahead toward 2014 with apprehension and hopeful expectation at what it might bring.  Would Jason's job search in California be successful?  Would we be able to sell our house?  Would our goal to move across the country without declaring bankruptcy in the summer of 2014 actually come into fruition?  And would we ever, possibly, someday, somehow gather enough people around us to start a faith community in Berkeley?  

Well, if you have been following our story for any length of time, you know that it's been a wild ride, as crazily this year one piece after another fell into place, and all of those questions were answered in the affirmative.  If you ask me, "miracle" doesn't feel like gratuitous language to use to describe it.  Here's just a recap of 10 big events that took place in the Martens world in 2014.

1. Jason got hired by Nokia. (February)

After only about a month on the job market, Jason was extended two competing offers for jobs in the East Bay.  He accepted the position from HERE, a division of Nokia.

2. We sold our house in a day.  Full price offer. (March)

Really, that was just crazy.  Our realtor was stunned; almost as much as we were.  You can read more about my response to that here.

3. Jason moved to the Bay Area to start work.  He was apart from the family for 2 months. (April)

OK, that separation just totally, completely stunk.  Definitively.  But we've never been so grateful for FaceTime, or the amazing community we had in Iowa City that came around me with meals, help with the kids, and good old moral support.

4. I graduated from seminary with my Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, High Honors. (May)

After six years of studying throughout feedings, during naps, long hours after bed times, as well as between band practices, staff meetings, and the occasional date night, the day finally came that I walked across a stage, wore a silly cap, and felt the most profound relief I have felt in a long time.

5. I was ordained (yay!) and sent off (sniff, sniff...). (June)

Talk about highs and lows at the same time.  At my last Sunday in Iowa City I led worship, and that afternoon, a special service was held to ordain me, and to bless us and send us off to Berkeley so that we could start a church there.  Receiving the blessing of all my dear friends, as well as having to say goodbye to all those we held dear (and still do!) was heart wrenching and beautiful.

Airplane selfie.

Airplane selfie.

6. We moved. (June)

That was surreal.  We closed on our house on Elliott's last day of school.  The next day we boarded a plane to California.  Read a brief reflection on moving day I recently wrote for another blog here.

7. The kids and I spent the summer exploring the area with our Weekly Summer Mystery Trips. (June - August)

We hit an assortment of places from the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, to the cable cars in San Francisco, to the beach and boardwalk in Santa Cruz, and I believe a new family tradition has begun.  Thank goodness there's plenty to do here to keep the trip ideas coming.

8. Elliott started third grade in the Berkeley Unified School District. (August)

He was placed through Berkeley's convoluted lottery system in LeConte Elementary, our lastly ranked choice school, and now that he's there, we couldn't be more happy with it.  His teacher is terrific and he's already made loads of friends.  Plus, the school is transitioning to be a full Spanish-English dual immersion school, and for that reason placement for the younger grades that are all-bilingual is extremely competitive.  Though Elliott is in the English-only program, due to sibling priority, his sisters will be guaranteed spots in the bilingual program.  We're really excited for them, and for the rest of us to learn or (in my case) relearn alongside them.

9. We started a baby church in our home. (September)

Through referrals from other pastors and friends who know me, we began to collect some other friends who had also moved to the Bay Area in 2014 and were looking for community.  When each of them heard the vision we had for the kind of place we wanted to build, they were all for it, and so we started hosting gatherings on Sundays that helped us connect as we began to come together each week for worship, prayer, discussion, Bible Study, teaching, communion, and amazing family-style meals.

10. Our baby church found a name: Haven. (December)
Our first Haven pic.
Our first Haven pic.

Throughout the fall, I affectionately referred to our endeavor as the "baby church", because, as of yet, it did not have a formed identity beyond that.  But as the nine adults who made up the core of our group began to really invest in one another and in each other's stories, we began to have a sense of what this we is, and what name we should give it, so that we can begin to more broadly invite others into this thing we're doing.  The name we chose is "Haven".  The motto we're playing with (at least at this point) is "Safe. Spiritual. Home."  These are three things that the nine of us have found and are finding more and more with one another in this place, and we pray that we'd be a Haven for all the others in Berkeley and beyond that find their way to us.

So, that's the year!  It's been a big one, and honestly, I'd be ok not having one with this many significant events for a while.  We look forward to 2015 being a year of settling in more, deepening roots in this community, inviting more folks into what we're doing, and enjoying the haven we've found here in Berkeley.

Thanks to all of you who have supported us in all kinds of ways this year as we've gone through all of these major transitions.  Whether you are near or far geographically, our stories are intertwined, and they shape who we are and all we are doing.  Wishing you joy, peace, and comfort this Christmas season, and all kinds of blessing in the year to come.