While we no longer live in the Pacific Northwest, we still root for at least one of their sports teams. We have been following the adventures of the Eastlake Little League team from Sammamish, WA, in this week’s Little League World Series. Last night they defeated a team from Urbandale, IA, to reach the U.S. semifinals. Since our house backed up to East Sammamish Park where Eastlake LL played their games, the team essentially played in our backyard. In addition, each of our three children played in Eastlake’s baseball and softball programs over the years. So it gives us added interest in rooting the team on to victory. Go Eastlake!
Category Archives: Sammamish
The chapter of our lives titled, “Sammamish, WA,” closed yesterday. I returned briefly from Cerritos, CA, where we have been staying with Carol’s folks to oversee the loading of the moving van and the car transport. I flew in Monday evening, stayed with a good friend, Richard Styles, oversaw the loading yesterday, and flew back to L.A. last night. Tomorrow we start the drive to Chicopee, MA. I have no idea if or when we will return to Seattle.
While waiting for the movers to arrive, I reflected on God’s goodness to us over our 22 years in the Pacific Northwest. I wrote the following in my journal.
We raised our family here and saw our children grow to maturity. We were tested and stretched. We saw fruitful times and ones that taught us to be faithful. We learned success is not always measured by numbers. We endured hardship and criticism. We learned to trust a just judge to settle accounts in his time. We learned to distinguish between acquaintances and friends. We developed a small number of deep, lasting, sustaining, encouraging friendships. We discovered our gifts and learned how and where to use them effectively. We came here broken and God helped us heal. We repeated that cycle many times over, all the while discovering the process was part of God’s plan to grow us up. We experienced his grace and discovered his character in ways we never would have otherwise.
Because of what God did in and through us here, because we believe he has called and led us to Chicopee, MA, we look forward with confidence to what he will do there. He who began a good work will complete it (Philippians 1:6).
Thank you, Lord, for your many good gifts. Continue to shape us and grow us. Help us to learn the new lessons you have for us. May the next phase of our lives be even more fruitful.
Yesterday, Carol and I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with two of our children, Jonathan & Amanda. It turned out to be our usual well rounded, balanced afternoon.
We began with the arts. Ok, we went to see The Bourne Legacy at the Century Stadium 25 Theaters in Anaheim. We all agreed that we were confused by the plot. As Jon, “It ended before I thought it was over. I didn’t realize the movie was done until they started playing the closing music.”
We continued with a sporting event.
Since the Seattle Mariners were in Anaheim playing the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, we decided to root for our hometown nine. It was made more fun when the M’s actually won the game. Manda said it was the first Mariners’ game she went to that they won. When the team scored in the second inning, Carol cheered, and a little girl in front of her turned around and gave her a dirty look. The girl, of course, was decked in Angels’ gear, as was the rest of her family.
As we were leaving the stadium, a car pulled up alongside us and signaled us to roll down our window. The driver shouted, “Eastlake Wolves?” (We have an Eastlake High School license plate frame on our car.) He said again, “Eastlake Wolves?” Jon, in the passenger seat, shouted in response, “Yeah!” The driver shouted back, “Class of 2008!” Jon shouted back, “Class of ’05!” and Manda seated behind him shouted, “Class of ’06!” (Though Caitlin was not with us, she was part of the class of ’08 as well.) Funny that you travel 1200 miles down the west coast and run into a neighbor.
We ended the day with ice cream and fireworks. We found a Cold Stone Creamery across the street from the Disneyland Resort. We ordered our ice cream and sat outside enjoying it. Within a few minutes, the nightly fireworks show at Disneyland began. From our tables, we had a direct view of the show through a break in the trees.
We laughed because the four of us had a similar day last year when we went to see Les Miserables at the Fifth Avenue Theater in Seattle in the afternoon and then took in a Seattle Seahawks football game in the evening.
Who says our family isn’t balanced?
After 22 years in the Seattle area, 20 of which were lived in the same house in Sammamish, we have left the area. We are in transit to a new region (Chicopee, MA) and a new ministry (Senior Pastor at First Central Baptist Church). Before leaving, we preserved some of our memories in a time capsule.
We got the idea from Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings: The employees, businesses, and relationships that all of us have to give up in order to move forward. In one of the final chapters, he told of a business that was closing a branch and demolishing the building. Before that event, the employees gathered together, placed memorial objects in a time capsule, and buried it in the foundation of the old building. It was their way of bringing closure to their time with that company.
Carol and I liked the idea and decided to put together the Wheeler Family Sammamish Time Capsule. We left it behind in a secure location.
Our time capsule contains the following items that remind us of our life and ministry in this place:
- A pair of shoes—reminding us that life is a journey. We are sojourners, temporary residents whose ultimate home is heaven.
- A soccer ball—our family spent many hours playing, watching, and reffing soccer games. Jonathan, Amanda, and Caitlin all played youth soccer; Amanda played on the varsity at Eastlake High School and Caitlin was on the freshman team; Amanda played for Crossfire; Amanda and Caitlin refereed soccer games for the Lake Washington Youth Soccer Association; Mark & Carol watched a boatload of soccer games over the years.
- A can of tennis balls—Jonathan and Mark played hours of tennis together; Jonathan played for Inglewood Jr. High and Eastlake High School, two years on the varsity squad.
- Eastlake High School license plate frame—Jonathan, Amanda, and Caitlin were members of the classes of 2005, 2006, and 2008, respectively.
- Bicycle gloves—Mark rode a 40-year-old 10-speed bicycle year-round through the streets of Sammamish.
- Crossroads Bible Church Impact Spain ’98 t-shirt—well worn with paint, frayed edges and holes. It symbolizes 14 1/2 years of hard work and fruitful ministry while on the staff of CBC. Mark served with singles, adults, missions, and even a stint as acting executive pastor. Carol served in children’s ministry. Together, we cooked for JH Summer Safari, and led short-term missions teams to Spain and Russia. We leave behind a legacy of trained leaders and changed lives.
- United Evangelical Free Church t-shirt—only worn once. It symbolizes 7 1/2 years of hard work, yet with little visible fruit to show for it; leaving us with a feeling of unfulfilled potential.
- A paperback NIV Bible—we came to the Pacific Northwest for the sake of the gospel. We leave here for the same reason. God called us to serve him in Bellevue and Seattle during this season of our lives and he has now called us to leave so we might serve him in a new place during a new season.
While these items don’t capture every memory of the past 22 years, they are visible reminders of what we leave behind. They help us to say goodbye and bring this chapter of our lives to a close.
Thanks be to God.
This is our last week in Sammamish, WA. It is a time to pack up and put everything into storage for a couple of weeks until moving day. We are getting estimates and making decisions on who will do the move. It is a chance to enjoy one last dinner with various friends. It is an opportunity to reflect on what God has done during our 22 years in the Pacific Northwest. It is a time to rejoice in how God answered prayer in taking us from one ministry to the next. It is a time to say goodbye to friends, comrades, and coworkers. It is a week of looking forward while at the same looking backwards. It is a week of rejoicing as well as a week of grieving.
Needless to say, it is a week of mixed emotions. We experience the balancing truths of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, “There is a time to ____ and a time to ____.” During these last days, our emotions run the gamut and cover the waterfront.
We rejoice that God answered prayer in releasing us from a difficult, draining ministry. We grieve that we have to say goodbye to so many close friends who we invested in and who invested in us. We rejoice that God again answered prayer in leading us to a new ministry. We grieve that God led us further away from our parents, siblings, and children. We rejoice that he is taking us to a group of folks who need our gifts and experiences and who want us to join them. We grieve because we leave behind two decades of memories. We rejoice in knowing that God has good plans for our future.
We rejoice in what lies before us. We grieve over what we leave behind. We look forward to what God is going to do there. We grieve over letting go of what he did here.
This recognition of the bundled emotions of joy and grief is part of the process of counting the cost of discipleship that Jesus mentioned in Luke 14:25-33. We know we have to deny ourselves and willingly follow Jesus, and we do so with great joy. But we acknowledge that that denial carries a hefty price tag. We believe the truth of the promise of Matthew 19:29, that if we leave houses or siblings or parents or children for the sake of the gospel we will receive even greater rewards in the kingdom. But at the time, it hurts to leave houses, siblings, parents, and especially children to follow Jesus.
Please don’t misunderstand. Carol and I willingly and joyfully follow Jesus. We said we were and are willing to go wherever he leads. Our move from west coast to east coast, from Washington State to Massachusetts is evidence of our commitment. But we have to acknowledge what this change costs before we can offer it back to Christ as a willing sacrifice. As we learned when we read Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, Necessary Endings, we need to properly grieve over one chapter closing before we can joyfully open the next chapter.
While the process of change is difficult, it is not a bad thing. If nothing else, we are reminded that when we came to Seattle 22 years ago, we hated it and did not want to be here. And yet now it is home and we hate to leave. In time, we will grow to love our new home and ministry in Chicopee, MA. But that joy will first be mixed with grief. It is all part of being human.