Actually, over a year away. Soon after Christmas '11, my wife and I began thinking seriously of moving out to Northern California to work with my brother-in-law at a unique business he owns, a former stage coach stop turned into a bar/restaurant/hotel and set in one of the prettiest places you could imagine.
It was difficult from the get-go, and soon became apparent this arrangement wasn't going to work for a number of reasons. Christmas season came and there weren't any opportunities to be Santa. Again, the arrangement was a poor one, and the area itself is one of the poorest areas in the state, if not the nation. Real jobs were scarce, and there wasn't a church in the area with a pastoral vacancy.
Last spring was beautiful, but somewhat desperate. I began praying earnestly that some opportunity open up there. By summer I realized that I'd go anywhere God wanted me to go and serve as God wanted. It was in that time that the phone rang. The bishop's office back home in Colorado was wondering if I'd consider a unique call to a special two-point parish that was coming together out on Colorado's Eastern Plains. As we spoke, I could already begin to see this would combine some of my favorite pieces of ministry--chaplaincy, and church-growing.
The final details were put together by early September, then sat on someone's desk for about a month before they went out for my acceptance. We moved in late October and I started this new postion, part-time at a large senior care center, part-time at a small church 30 minutes up the road, on November 1.
It's been great to be back in Colorado. I've been as busy as I've ever been, but that is a very good thing. Now the care center is inviting me to be Santa at one or two events over the next two weeks and I'm thrilled. If that's all I do this season, I'll be happy. It's just so good to be back.