One of my friends asked me recently if I have a list of things I want to do before I leave Kalamazoo. I’ve been thinking about that, but so many of the things that I love here are a part of the fabric of my life. I don’t want to have a decisive “final time” doing them, although sadly, some of those last times may have already happened. Some of my favorites include brunch at Crow’s nest, Saturday morning farmer’s market, road trips to South Haven, Radiant church services, backyard bonfires, spontaneous trips to Nick’s Gyros, walks along the river in Parchment, Art Hop, looking over the city at East Campus, and, above all, spending time with my people.
I’ve lived in Kalamazoo for 10 years now. This city and the people whose lives have crossed mine during my time here have permanently wedged themselves into my heart.
I came to Kalamazoo in 2007, a bright-eyed 21-year-old. I was fresh from a semester in Spain, which I loved for the culture and language, but during which my heart had wandered a bit from God, and from a summer where He brought me back to Him. I moved in having visited the city a total of about 4 times, including my campus visit to Western and the 2002 high school tennis state championships. I was apprehensive about my academic pursuits towards becoming a speech language pathologist but had a single-minded focus towards another goal — finding a church to plant myself in. I knew that my former church-hopping ways, moving around based on rides, friends, and a whim, needed to come to an end.
I dedicatedly visited churches in the area, trying to find the place I would commit to for (what I thought were only) two years of my life. One October Sunday, my roommates and I ventured out to Richland and sat down at Radiant Church (then called Resurrection Life Church). I knew in my spirit that this was it. It felt like home.
I jumped into the grad school life at WMU, making great friends and commiserating over our workload, stress levels, and how we had no idea what we were actually doing. In the meantime, I found myself increasingly connected to the city, loving the small town city feel. I used to walk from our Oakland Drive rental house to East Campus, looking over the city with my heart breaking for the lost.
Radiant was a big place and, at first, I would walk a few laps around the lobby after church and book it to the parking lot if I didn’t see anyone I knew within a few minutes. Soon, I made friends and got involved. The growth in my life that I can now see plainly happened almost without my noticing as I experienced the consistent watering and sunlight of being planted in a spiritual garden.
I had started grad school convinced my career path would lead to working with adults with aphasia and that I would probably move off to Chicago or somewhere equally glamorous in my eyes. Somehow, through my internship in Kalamazoo Public Schools, I changed my mind about working in the schools (I think I said “never will I ever” at some point). I will always treasure my time in KPS. Some of the most dedicated professionals and most lovely children on the planet continue on in those places. And don’t even get me started on my Young Life friends in Kalamazoo.
Now, as I prepare to leave, I have to stop to give thanks for this season of my life, for this city, and for the people who made it special. Kalamazoo is where I learned to be an adult, where I learned to be a speech therapist, and where I learned to be radiant. To all those that helped me along the journey, thank you!