From a fashion standpoint, the footwear of choice was a specific brand of deck shoe, which I had never even seen before entrance into East Grand Rapids Middle School, gracefully perched beside Reeds Lake. Until designer jeans became the rage, straight-leg Levis were the preference. I was the kid from Idaho, wearing Wrangler jeans that were too short, Keds sneakers, and the same shirt to school every day.

Soon after our arrival to Michigan, Dad became engaged and married a young secretary and recent graduate of the Bible college where he served. Carolyn was twenty-one when she became mother to two preschoolers, a grade-schooler, and two teenagers. Carolyn has one of the most gracious spirits I have ever encountered. She is cheerful and caring, and she was a godsend to our family. Little imagination is required, however, to guess that the transition from single secretary to wife and mother of five was a bit rough.

I spent eighth grade trying to regain my balance. By the end of ninth grade, I was beginning to figure things out a bit. I changed shirts with greater regularity, I no longer wore Wranglers, and I had a few friends. I was hopeful that things might work out after all. Then, at the end of ninth grade, Dad informed us that we would be moving to Sacramento, California. I was livid. I couldn't believe I had to start the whole process all over again.

The sequence of transitions was jarring. I had begun seventh grade securely nestled in a small western town where I had spent all my grade school years. Three years, one funeral, one wedding, and two cross-country moves later, I was beginning my sophomore year in Sacramento.

I have often reflected on this season of profound disorientation and chaos. I have also reflected on God's movement and mercy during this difficult time of upheaval and transition. I suspect that this season we endured as a family enlarged my heart for others passing through similar periods of difficult transition. I was in the Land Between.

The Land Between

Tom sits in the silence of his unlit living room. It is after midnight and the kids are asleep. Today was the scheduled closing on a house, and today the closing was canceled. Not postponed, canceled. The deal fell apart. He sits in the darkness repeating the number that robs him of sleep. Three houses, he thinks to himself. I've sold three houses this year. Two years ago I closed on twenty-seven homes, a house every two weeks. How much longer can I do this? How much longer can we continue to drain our retirement account to pay monthly bills? Should I find a second job until things turn around? What if things don't turn around for years? I feel like I'm bleeding cash, pillaging our future to survive the present. And if I get out of real estate sales, what else am I good at? What else could I possibly choose as a new career?

"Three houses," he whispers aloud. This is the Land Between — where life is not as it once was, where the future is in question.


Karen fumbles for the phone in a sleepy haze. The red numerals on the alarm clock read 3:17. In the moment before "Hello," she takes a quick mental inventory: Are all the kids home? She is conscious enough to reason that either someone has dialed a wrong number or the family is about to receive some awful news. "Hello," she mumbles. The room spins as she hears the voice of her sister on the other end: "Karen, there's been an accident."

Tonight Karen will be hurled from her normal routine of work, church, and tennis into the land of all-night hospital vigils, an intensive care unit, and lengthy rehabilitation.

This is the Land Between — where everything normal is interrupted.


For many of us, the journey into the Land Between comes suddenly, like Karen's experience or my own, with a conversation that drops into our lives like an exploding bomb.

"Your position has been eliminated."
"I don't love you anymore."
"The tumor is malignant."
"The church elders are meeting to take a vote of confidence."
"Mom, Dad, I'm pregnant."
"I'm having second thoughts about the wedding."
"Dad, uh . . . I'm at the police station."
"Your mother and I are getting a divorce."
"We're moving."
"We think Mom's had a stroke. How soon can you get to the hospital?"