From the North Star State to the Lone Star State…

We are moving!


This time, to Texas.


We’re trading in our snow boots for cowboy boots.

I have started to write this post in my head dozens of times over the past couple of weeks, and there’s just no succinct way to talk about how our family made this decision. So, bear with me.

As many of you know, last fall, we moved to a new house in the suburbs of Minneapolis. Our purchase of this house symbolized our recommitment to Minnesota. We’d been here for 6.5 years at that point, and as a part of our decision to stay in Minnesota, we wanted a larger yard and a smaller mortgage. (We got both.) We enrolled our oldest son in kindergarten in a wonderful Episcopal school. We felt settled.

Shortly after we moved in, my husband, Neil, received a phone call from a church in Houston called Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church. They were interested in interviewing him to be their new rector (head pastor). Neil explained to the search committee that we had just moved to a new house in Minnesota, and that he wasn’t actively looking for a new job. We had lots of reasons to stay here. The committee persisted, and visited us in Minnesota a few times this winter. Neil and I talked about this decision many times before they visited, and throughout the winter. As with every other big decision in our lives, we took each step together, prayerfully considering what might come next for our family. At the time, our youngest son was still calling our home “the new house” instead of home. On the day that Neil received his first phone call from Palmer, I had just stocked up on fleece pajamas and new winter boots for the family. My jaw clenched when Neil told me about that first call, even before he said who had called, because I knew it was one of those Big Moments that we’d remember forever. “And then… I got a phone call … and we need to talk.” This wasn’t going to be a conversation about, “oops, I missed my dental cleaning,” or “the dog’s medicine is ready to be picked up at the vet’s.” This was big, and I knew it. My heart sank and leapt at the same time. To say that this was a big decision, from a practical perspective and also from our whole idea of what our family life was going to be, is putting it lightly.

Over a short period of time, we went from reservedly interested to really excited. We listened to what the committee members had to say about the church, and talked with other people who live in Houston. It became clear to us that this was a real calling, and a real opportunity. After Neil had a long conversation with the Bishop of Texas, I could see the excitement written on his face. I admitted to myself that we couldn’t let the packing and unpacking of some boxes stand between us and a wonderful new opportunity for our family. (I may need to be reminded of this during the packing and unpacking process…)

As the temperatures got colder (and colder, and colder!) in Minnesota, our hearts warmed to the opportunities waiting in Texas. We visited Houston in February, and then again in March. Neil was called to be their new rector, and he joyfully accepted.

This has been a time of discernment for our whole family. I suppose we should always be discerning what our call is in life, but there’s something about a big move like this that really calls for a big inventory of what’s going right, and what could be improved. We are so excited and grateful to be making these big steps together. Neil is thrilled about the opportunities at Palmer, which is a church that is situated between Houston’s Medical Center and Rice University. This beautiful church is a place where people come together to serve God in multitudes of different ways, and we are so looking forward to being a part of that community. Our family is excited about the opportunities to explore a new city, meet new friends, and learn to become Texans.

Like any move, though, it doesn’t come without some sadness about what we’re leaving behind. Our oldest son calls this “happy-sad,” which I think is a great word. f-p for my fellow musicians. Minnesota, and St. Stephen’s in particular, watched us become parents and grow as a family. Winter sometimes seemed like an exercise in survival, but there was a great sense of adventure about it, too. Our church family embraced us when Neil’s dad died in 2008, when we welcomed two new babies into our family, and when we adapted to life as a family of four. St. Stephen’s is also a place where people come together to serve God in multitudes of different ways, and we will miss being a regular part of that community. I’m going to miss my piano students and their families immensely, as well as our bishop and his missioners, who have warmly accepted me as a member of their team through volunteer and employment opportunities. We will miss our children’s teachers, school friends and their families. The friendships we have formed through all of those connections have meant more to us than we ever could have imagined. We will miss our friends here, and will carry you all in our hearts as we move on to our next adventure.

To the people of Palmer Memorial, we cannot wait to meet you and learn more about you. Sometime in the next few weeks, look for a survey here as a way to share your favorite local recommendations – I’m sure we will need some help finding our way around and navigating all of the choices that your city has to offer. Your search committee has treated us so kindly and represented you well. They have considered our entire family at every step in the process, and we are so grateful for that. Their kindness, professionalism, and hospitality are a huge part of why we are excited to join you. We are grateful for them, and we are grateful for their families, who gave up time with them as they worked together.

Minnesota is where this blog was born, and it’s been a great creative outlet for me during the past several years. I hope to continue blogging in Houston. I’ve been saving some seafood recipes for our new location, and legend has it that the grocery stores cannot be beat there. (On one of our visits, I insisted on visiting an H.E.B. store and Central Market. I figure there’s plenty of time to explore museums and parks – I needed to see where I’d be spending most of my time! I’m taking it as a good sign that the committee didn’t think I was too weird for that request, or at least they didn’t let on if they did.) You can expect reviews of those grocery stores, as well as the local farmers’ market scene and maybe even some restaurants here and there.

We will be living in the church’s rectory in the West University neighborhood in Houston. It is ridiculously close to the church, and everything else that we would need. Stay tuned to hear more about the kitchen, and what comes out of it.

We are thrilled, overwhelmed, excited, hopeful, and of course all of that comes with sadness at leaving our community here. We are grateful, both for our time in Minnesota, and for the opportunities waiting for us in Texas.



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14 responses to “From the North Star State to the Lone Star State…

  1. Carrie, I am a friend of Neil’s from YDS. Welcome to Texas! I am in Austin, but hope to see you in Houston. Palmer is where I grew up and where I got married. Loads of memories and friends are there. I so look forward to meeting you and your sons!

    • Mary, believe it or not, your name came up as a “small world” mention with Jim Key and some others during the search process. I can’t wait to meet you! I’ve never been to Austin, but want to visit so badly. Maybe you can make the trek for Neil’s installation or celebration of new ministry or whatever they’re calling it these days. Yay!!

  2. A new adventure! We are so excited to welcome your family to Palmer.

  3. Courtney Tardy

    Welcome to Palmer! I grew up with Mary Keenan and her siblings at Palmer, and I’m still at the church. We live very near to where you will live. We look forward to meeting you, and sharing some seafood recipes with you! You also will need to add Fiesta to your next round of grocery store visits!

  4. Marie Wehrung

    Loved your blog post – so glad to be welcoming a new family, especially with young children. We’ve been working hard to continue to grow our ministries to families and children (of all ages), so are thrilled that you’ll be right here in the midst of things. Very excited to meet all of you! Blessings as you pack and prepare for your transition to Houston and Palmer. I have a 14 year old daughter who would be thrilled to help you with your young ones after you arrive!

  5. Helen L.-Toombs

    Welcome, Willards! When you add Fiesta to the list of stores–and I think that it should be at the top along with the massive Canino Market–add also the 99 Cents Store. Terrific produce. [I’m 3d-generation Palmer. I was reared at Houston’s own St Stephen’s but now call glorious Palmer home. You’ll find me polishing the silver.]

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