on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

Letting Go

100_3838My mind and thoughts are rambling today.

Seven years ago, 2002,  I was single and wondering if I would ever get married again following my divorce in 1996.   I couldn’t find what I was looking for in a life partner.  So, I asked myself the question, “Where do I want to live, what do I want to do with my life?

I knew I loved my work and and decided to stay at the clinic, but I wanted to go for a dream in terms of where I would live.  I had always wanted to live on the water, and since the closest beach was 4-5 hours away, a lake sounded good.

Friends helped me find a vacant lot on Smith Lake in north Alabama, one of the deepest, cleanest lakes in the southeast that is over 35 miles long and covers three counties.  I set out to have a house built in the middle of nowhere.  It was an hour commute to work, but to me it was worth it.  I had never done anything like this and I was scared to death.  I borrowed as much as the bank would allow, found a builder, and off I went.   I ate peanut and jelly sandwiches for weeks after I moved in because of my tight budget.

Sunset from our deckI have come to love this house on a bluff overlooking the lake. Its like a tree house in the summertime and each season is unique and amazing.  I’ve seen owls, hawks, eagles, red fox, rabbits, deer, and wolves to name just a few of the native wild animals.  I smile at the baby calves and foals in the pastures on my way to work.  On a clear night on our deck, I see billions of stars that are invisible in the city, and hear tree frogs and whippoorwills instead of car horns.

But even with all of the above, I was still lonely living by myself.

Six months after I moved in my new home, I fell in love with Mary Sullivan.  Mary is the best thing that ever happened to me in my life.  We eloped 18 months later with Brendan and Kiki, and I lived in NC for three weeks each month and returned to the lake and clinic one week out of the month for a full year until we could figure out the best place for all of us to live together.

After a year, I found myself in the Emergency Room in Chapel Hill believing I was having a heart attack.   The stress of two mortgages and living in two states caught up with me.  Decision time had come.  “Where are you going to live?  What are you going to do?”

I assumed we would sell the lake house and I would move to Chapel Hill and find a job.  Much to our surprise, Brendan and Kiki convinced us they wanted to move and live on the lake in Alabama.  It has been a great place to be family together.  “My house” turned into “our home” with Mary’s help and presence.

Yesterday I was slalom skiing behind our boat on the glass surface that barely has a ripple in it during the week.  I love to ski, along with long boat rides that allow me to see thousands of acres of trees and cliffs without a structure on it.

And now four years later, both kids will be going off to college at the same time and the empty nest brings former questions for both Mary and me “Where do we want to live, what do we want to do in the next chapter of our lives?”

All of this rambling is to say it is time to simplify our lives.   I am aware of a grief deep within my soul as we ponder selling our home on the lake and moving.

The difference this time is the scenario is about “us” and not just about “me.”

And that makes all the difference.


  1. Elizabeth Mangham Lott

    Hi Malcolm,

    Nathan and I are asking those same questions now that we have two children. Now parents to two children, Virginia is feeling awfully far from family in Alabama and Georgia. But what would that mean for vocational identity? Friends and community that have become so dear in this place? And is the dream of moving back more about the romance of what could be than the reality of what would be? Oh, and there’s that small piece about feeling called to a place. Do we feel some sense of nudging or pulling toward some new thing? For now, we just have the questions.


  2. cindy ponder

    So, someone else reviewing and wondering? I wonder, why am I back in grad school getting a second Masters (English as a Second Language) with no increase in pay upon completion and a son in art school. I feel for the immigrant children who don’t speak the language, are thrown in the sink or swim of classrooms, and the whole immigration mess. I leave for Cuba in a few days and wonder what I will learn from this trip about another culture and their community. I wonder if perhaps Jill and I would look at moving across the world and work with people really different than us. We talk, I don’t want to leave my kids, but???? Take care and know I will be praying for this chapter. Love to you and Mary

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