From the Cornfields of Iowa to the Desert of Arizona

Today the ladies involved with the Influence Network are sharing a bit about where we grew up, and where we currently live! Since the Network is “home” to women from all across the globe, this is a fun way to make the world a little smaller. So here’s a bit about where I’m from…

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The beautiful cornfields of Iowa…just seeing this makes my heart sigh a little

I grew up in the eastern rural cornfields (and hog land) of Iowa. I was actually born in Dyersville, Iowa. If there are any fans of baseball movies, that is where “Field of Dreams” was filmed. To this day you can still go to the baseball field and play a pick up game of baseball. My parents were teachers in a small town near Dyersville that didn’t have a hospital…teeny tiny town. I think Cascade was a booming 1200 at that time! I loved growing up in Cascade. We lived in a neighborhood FILLED with children my age & my sisters’ age, so summer nights were spent playing kick the can, going to the river, riding bikes, and any other outdoor game you can think of. It was the quintessential childhood in many ways.

The Field of Dreams field still stands and operates today!

The Field of Dreams field still stands and operates today!

When I was 12, my parents decided that we needed to make a change. So they packed up their four kids (12, 9, 5, & 2) and moved us to Southern Iowa…a totally different world to us. A land that actually had Iowa State Cyclone Fans!!! Booo….Hiss… But it was there that I learned that Cyclone fans are not evil, like many of my Iowa Hawkeye friends had believed! This little farming community was actually not too different from Cascade, except that it was about three times the size (so that would still make it teeny tiny to most people :)) The people were kind and took us under their wings as we adjusted to life in a new community. It was there that I met many of my best friends and where I finally came out of my super shy shell.

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Albia goes all out for Christmas decorations each year!

One of my very best friends Katy...she was in my wedding...and we did EVERYTHING together

One of my very best friends Katy…she was in my wedding…and we did EVERYTHING together

After graduating from high school, I ventured back to North Eastern Iowa. I attended the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in Cedar Falls. CF is still one of my favorite places in the world. I lived there for a total of 8 years. I thought after college I would be headed out into the world, but God had different plans and kept me there a little longer than I would have planned. I lived and worked in Cedar Falls until I met my husband, 4 years after graduation. 8 months after meeting my husband, I was whisked away to a land unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

UNI's campus on the edge of town...it's changed a lot since then but it's still one of the prettiest campuses I've been to

UNI’s campus on the edge of town…it’s changed a lot since then but it’s still one of the prettiest campuses I’ve been to

The River Walk in downtown Cedar Falls. Another favorite spot of mine that I was able to share with Jason

The River Walk in downtown Cedar Falls. Another favorite spot of mine that I was able to share with Jason

The Hot, Dry Desert of Arizona.

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Tucson has been my home now for two and a half years. Those first 8-10 months living here were brutal. I thought it was so ugly because there was no grass, no water, and hardly ever any clouds or weather changes. The weather changes in Tucson are kinda warm, warm, hot and hotter…with a monsoon season thrown in there to give you a little reprieve. I felt like I had moved to a different country! I loved being able to see fields of green and watch the corn grow.

I love the fall football season in the Midwest and I was just confused by it here…it was still pushing 100 near the end of football season! What?! I was also not use to the size of the city! The biggest city I had ever lived in prior to Tucson was 30,000 and Tucson is approximately ONE MILLION! I was accustomed to going to the grocery store and running into countless people I knew or heading to Panera for some alone time and end up staying hours later because an old friend walked in. Nothing was familiar. I knew NO ONE in the entire state of Arizona.. Needless to say, I struggled to transition.

We love hiking the trails in Tucson!

We love hiking the trails in Tucson!

But then God started to do a work in my heart and opened my eyes to the stunning sunsets and sunrises. I began to see the beauty of the desert and now I can freely say that I love living in Tucson…even when the high today will be 110. We love hiking the trails and seeing the mountains every day. I’m not sure if I would be able to say that I love Tucson as much as I do if we hadn’t found our church community. The people that we have met have become an extension of our family and I am truly grateful. Tucson has taught me much more about myself and the world around me.

Driving up to the top of Mt. Lemmon takes less than an hour & it's typically cooler and has gorgeous views of the city

Driving up to the top of Mt. Lemmon takes less than an hour & it’s typically cooler and has gorgeous views of the city

A small town girl moved to a town of one million…and she was forever changed.

 

And I’m actually getting on a plane to fly back to Iowa in two hours! Better go pack!

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Monday Morning Thoughts

I’m back from a whirlwind of a week in Iowa!

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Beautiful Iowa Countryside

Whew! Last week was wonderful, emotional, and BUSY! Props to my mom and dad for living this crazy life of soccer, baseball, show choir, jazz band, and every other imaginable activity with each of their 4 kids! And Congrats in being done with it! I’m sure that this will be quite the transition for them as they say good-bye to their youngest son come this Fall as he heads to college.

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It’s the start of my graduation week…What?!?

And props to my baby brother for graduating with such honors! He is an amazing guy…if you ever meet him you will love him instantly. He’s the most caring 18 year old young man I have ever met. And he’s pretty dang smart! I mean he got a full ride (tuition) to AIB (American Institute of Business)! I think he only slightly understands the importance of not having that debt after college…but soon he will understand and I am THRILLED for him!

This past week, I spent more time on a bench than I have in a long time and my back and hamstrings still throb from it! My mom and I went to three soccer games last week to watch my brother goal keep and my dad coach the Albia Blue Demons (I know..the name is a little much). I was able to go to Parent’s Night and attend the awards night for the soccer team. Watching my dad give his son the Most Valued Defender award was emotional! Seeing my dad choke up as he talked about coaching his son for his whole life was almost too much for my heart. When he shared with the audience “I always tell people that if Gabe wasn’t my son, I would wish that he was”, I could see every other parent head nod their in agreement and my heart about fell apart. Maybe it’s because we are about to become parents that I was so emotional but I think it was because I love my family so much too…

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This is the hard part of living so far away from home. I left home when Gabe was just 8. I didn’t get to see a lot of his development into the man that he is now. I have lots of memories of him being the joyful, carefree little boy that would dance down the aisles of grocery stores and break out in song any chance he had. The funny thing is…he still does that. And I love him so much for it!

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Look at that sweet, smiley boy!

I was also able to hang out with my sisters this weekend and we all worked hard on getting the house ready for Gabe’s graduation party. It was fun to look through pictures with them and remember all of the fun times we spent as a family throughout the years. The cleaning part was okay too… 🙂

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My favorite memory of the weekend would be sitting under the stars with Katie, Mom, Dad, & Jason talking and listening to the frogs croak after the graduation ceremony on Saturday night. We finally were able to relax after a full week of preparation.

My parents are about to embark on a new journey of being kidless & having some other major changes in their lives. I’m excited for what the future holds for them!

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Jason had quite the introduction to small town life this weekend! I didn’t prepare him well for the Senior Awards Night on Friday night…maybe on purpose! The night is to honor and award Seniors with scholarships and accolades for finishing this season of their life. It lasted over 2.5 hours and there are only 75 graduates this year! Everyone in town seems to have a scholarship to award to the graduates. It’s a good thing, but it was a LONG night for a guy who flew all day!

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He’s a high school graduate! Yay!

Gabe spoke at graduation. He was the first and only Gravert to speak at his graduation and he did an amazing job! I had to pinch myself a few times because I still can’t believe this baby brother of mine has grown up!

On Sunday, the church held a special service for the graduates. This was potentially the most emotional service for our family. Gabe was highly involved in the youth program and as we watched him perform his last song with his friends, tears flowed freely. I’m so excited for his future and I know that the best is ahead for him, but all I could see while he sang was the little boy who was a ham in every single church program. And when he started crying as he sang…there was no hope!

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It was a good weekend. It was a hard weekend. And I’m so thankful to have been home during Gabe’s last week as a senior. As I said before, Gabe’s best years are ahead of him.