By Matt Boness
If you had asked me ten years ago where I saw myself today, I would never have said, “Mid-Missouri, working for a mortgage company.” None of that was on my radar as I finished a college History degree at Northern Arizona University, located in the hometown of which I was born and raised. However, in May of 2011, a week post-graduation and returning to a summer job that I had worked at for 4 seasons, I (unknowingly at the time) met my future wife. That encounter changed the trajectory of my life.
As I floated through the next couple of years returning to that same summer job (7 seasons in total), coaching cross country and track at the high school I graduated from, volunteering and then being hired on as the youth leader at the church I grew up in, I had little clear direction for my career except doing things that I enjoyed and to make enough money to support the things I enjoyed more like photography and cycling. My girlfriend, on the other hand, knew she was going to get her PhD in Psychology with or without me. She was independent in that endeavor and would not let a guy stop her from reaching her goals. She applied and was accepted to the University of Missouri in February of 2013. The only thing I knew about the school at the time was they fancied the nickname, Mizzou. Ask me anything else about Mizzou, Columbia or Missouri and I would tell you a story about getting tick checked as a kid when we would visit my uncle who lived in Southern Missouri. That was it. That was the extent of my knowledge of this state.
The decision to follow a girlfriend across the country and uproot the only life I ever knew was coming to a breaking point and if you are reading this, you probably can assume the outcome. She graduated college. I proposed. And we moved to an unknown city in the middle of the country, one I had yet to step foot in, to begin a life together while she pursued that PhD. Our collective thought in August of 2013, as we knew no one and unloaded a too full Uhaul truck of our mismatched possessions by ourselves, was that we’d be here 5 years tops and get out as quickly as possible. But things turned out not quite so cut and dry.
We were married in 2014, not even a full year into our Missouri residency and I had at least 4 different jobs during that time to make ends meet. Usually a change in job title was precipitated by the fact that whatever I was making and whatever her small stipend offered wasn’t enough to cover our expenses. So we cut out all the luxury of our modest living. No eating out. No coffee. Cut cable. Sell one of our cars. And for me, look for yet another job that pays just a little better to close the gap. $7.35, $10.50, $11.13 per hour, slowly getting closer to a livable wage and some financial comfort.
We stumbled across a wonderful church, Redemption’s Hill. We found it soon after we moved here. It was small, only 25 members when we joined. But, they were our age. They were recent college graduates, young professionals, some thinking about finding a spouse soon and others talking about kids. They were in our season of life and we found commonality. On Thursday nights, we would go to our Pastor’s house to join, what our church calls, Missional Community. We’d have a dinner together (which was a huge blessing when we could eat for free once per week) and then talk about our faith in realistic and practical ways even if we didn’t always agree. We’d pray for each other and when the night came to a close, my wife and I would stay for hours longer talking to our pastor and his wife who became our good friends. We are early to bed people, but we’d be there until 11pm or later some nights just talking.
In 2015, I found a wonderful job at Mizzou with a great supervisor doing something I didn’t know I would enjoy until I was in the midst of it. I didn’t intend on leaving. And then we decided to have a kid.
To add daycare to our already thin budget was going to require yet another career change for me. So, that’s what I did and that’s what ultimately led me to Veterans United. I applied for only one job. Event Specialist at VU. I was turned down. I went back to see if we could make the job at Mizzou work while continuing to look for something else. I didn’t truly want to leave anyway, so maybe that was God’s way of saying that I was in the right place. And then VU called back.
I started at VU in February of 2017, just months before my son, Asa would be born. At this point, we were closing in on 4 years in Columbia and I was beginning to see the end of our time in Columbia fast approaching. Fast forward a year and a half of working on the Events team and another 2 years working for Faith and Community (plus one more son born in March 2019) and we are just weeks away from leaving the city we always knew would be temporary so that the PhD dream can finally be realized, fully.
Having both feet firmly planted in your current life situation and firmly planted in the future is not a common place for people to settle in. Generally, as humans we settle into one place because of a job, family or otherwise and stay there until something changes. Never intending to make that life temporary. Always hoping and expecting this move would be the last and the life created would be for good. Even in the circumstance of college, where the understanding is that it will be temporary, most people do not fully invest in their college community or the town or city in which their college resides. Why? Because after graduation, most leave. Even during the 4+ years of being educated, many students don’t become full time residents of the community in which their school resides. You either fully commit to your life without expected change, or keep one foot out knowing your current situation is short lived.
My wife and I are not half-in/half-out people. We engage and are in fully. We volunteered to serve heavily in our church. I play drums in the worship band and have occasionally preached on a Sunday morning. Cassie helps lead the hospitality team and works in the Kid’s classrooms. We have hosted a Missional Community in our house for more than two years every Wednesday night. These people are our family.
I found a job at VU that I never knew I wanted and most people think is crazy to leave. For most, VU is probably the best career they will ever have. Myself included. Why would you voluntarily leave such a good thing?
In 2018, Cassie and I created a local food blog which we leveraged to gain access to some of the smartest and most innovative chefs, bakers, farmers and makers in Mid Missouri. We have become friends with a number of those same people and continue to support them despite the end of the blog when our second son was born.
I genuinely think that I know more people here in Columbia after 7 years than I did after 20+ years in my hometown. We are invested and we have built community for ourselves.
The point of telling you all of this is to bluntly say that it will be hard to leave. It will be difficult to move away to yet another unknown city and begin again. It’s not normal or easy to uproot the life you have created for yourself to begin somewhere else, especially when everything is going so well and we enjoy the life we have. But, we always knew this was temporary.
My encouragement to those in a time of drastic change, is that things work out. We left a comfortable place of life when we moved from Arizona. Our lives are more full and content in Missouri than we ever expected. It is hard to imagine uprooting a life for something unknown, but every single time that we needed a boost, whether financially or spiritually in Columbia, God made a way to fill the void in the exact way we needed. We received more friends, love, enjoyment, contentment and care than we ever imagined. There were times of famine, struggle and heartache, loss and sadness, but if you ask me now if I am better off than I was 7 years ago when we moved here, I would emphatically say ‘YES’.
Trust in the course of your life and take a chance and be uncomfortable. Do something against your nature. Live somewhere not like where you grew up. And then don’t compare them. Try to see everything for what it has to offer not what is different than where you once were.
Here are some of my takeaways from this experience:
- The bible is full of examples of faithful people leaving good situations so that the Kingdom of God could reach further. I do hope that God works through us for that end.
- Columbia is better than I expected. I will forever be a champion of Mid-Missouri despite my ill feelings moving here 7 years ago. This is a wonderful city.
- God will provide. We knew absolutely no one when we moved. I didn’t have a job for the first month. Yet, he has blessed us with people and fulfilling work that we will lament leaving.
- Lament is good. We can grieve and be sad for the things lost and the things left behind. It’s also good to know that a bright future lies ahead and the story isn’t finished.
- We expect to create a similar community where ever we end up because we are determined to.
- We are thankful for every single person, opportunity, invite, experience and moment that we have had here.
As we load another Uhaul to take many of the same mismatched possessions we arrived with to a new state, we begin the story again. Only this time, we will have help and won’t do it alone. Only this time, we have experience knowing great things are waiting for us. Only this time, we have a couple boys to experience it with. Still this time, with confidence in God’s plan.