Life has a way of bringing things full circle. I am convinced that even the grandest plans we have for ourselves pail in comparison to the future our Father in Heaven has dreamed up for us. We have an idea of how our book will read, but in the end, it is the Author and Finisher of our faith who writes our story.
And here I stand, living out page 1,497 of the book Jesus is writing for me in a chapter titled, "Ogden, Utah".
We have been blessed to live in gorgeous, wonderful, exciting cities and towns in our 12 years of marriage. From our 100-year-old farmhouse on three acres of land and a small apple orchard, to the bustling streets of Baku, Azerbaijan teaming with honking taxis, crowded buses, fruit and vegetable stands, tea houses, and faces seemingly stoic yet masking welcoming and loving hearts, to the quiet and peaceful Wisconsin countryside filled with lush greens, sparkling lakes, rolling hills, John Deer tractors, black bears, and faithful hardworking neighbors, all the way to the grand mountains of Utah. Never have I felt so blessed in all my life to have so many years overflowing with wonderful travel adventures and friends.
As we researched and prayed about moving back to Utah we found that Ogden is one of the fastest growing cities in America. After living here for ten months now I can see why this is! People are moving here at an alarming rate, houses are being built and sold constantly, farmland is being turned into housing developments (sad, but true), businesses are bustling, restaurants are regularly crowded with happy customers, fun local events are always happening, and the family-friendly atmosphere is warm and welcoming.
I decided to post the top five reasons why we love living in Ogden, Utah. Maybe this will convince some of our family and friends to move here as well, or any random google search leading to this blog will secure someone's decision that "this is the place".
1. The mountains
- While looking for houses we wanted to find one as close to the mountains as possible. Even though we didn't get 100% of our desired details for a house, I'm so thankful we checked this one off the list. We can park at my favorite trailhead within ten minutes of leaving our driveway! There are endless possibilities for mountain trails according to difficulty level and various landscape views. Many trailheads have bathrooms and water fountains which can be a dream come true for runners like me! I often pass other runners, hikers, dog owners, and families on the trails which always gives a sense of comradery. Everyone smiles and waves as they walk by and oftentimes I secretly want to inquire, "You love the mountains too? Aren't we so blessed to adventure here any day we want?" Witnessing the colors change from the silent, peaceful, snow-covered winter trails to lush, dark summer greens, then to brilliant autumn reds has caused my heart to soar in ways I've never experienced before. Countless miles have been pounded out on those mountain trails training for races. Every thought, every emotion, every feeling is drenched in peace as I climb those rocks and run those paths. I grew up learning how to ski in the mountains of Utah and I am determined to pass this childhood rite of passage down to my own kids. One doesn't even need to walk through the mountains to experience euphoria. Simply beholding their beauty from afar can give one's heart a sense of peace and awe. My children adore hiking and running in the mountains and my two year old can often be overheard in the back seat of our car exclaiming, "The mountains! The mountains! Let's go up in the mountains!" We take every guest who visits us here in Utah to our favorite trails and we love to proudly show off God's handiwork.
2. The proximity to, well, everything!
- I was talking to my friend on the phone the other day about how spoiled I am to live so close to everything. In Wisconsin, we were blessed to live in the countryside with gorgeous landscapes and peaceful surroundings. But the downside to living there was being so far away from the city life I so dearly love. We would drive nearly an hour to the nearest big city for our different needs, and we became accustomed to the long drive. My homeschooled children would bring their schoolbooks in the car and work diligently as we drove from place to place on our long trips to the city. I would listen to music and drink in the beauty of Wisconsin's rolling hills while processing life during the long drive. But now that we live in the city, I still can't get over the fact that we are merely ten minutes from everything! Ten minutes from church, ten minutes from grandma's house, ten minutes from the mountains, ten minutes to the movie theater, ten minutes from the children's museum, and gasp... FIVE minutes from Wal-Mart and Starbucks! Shut the front door. My life is complete.
3. The many famous national parks and vacation spots within a day's drive
- Sometimes you need a quick get-away with your spouse or family and you dread the thought of countless days spent in a car. The beauty of living in Ogden is there are so many amazing national parks and fun places to visit within a day's drive! Whether you meticulously plan your vacation or decide last-minute to pack your bags and hop in the car, a few great ideas are:
- Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Moab, Arches, Little Wild Horse Canyon, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Flaming Gorge, Goblin Valley, Canyonlands, Kanab, Park City, Snowbird Resort, and Snowbasin Resort
- In no time at all, you can arrive in cities like Las Vegas, Denver, Boise, and Jackson!
- We have traveled and happily lived all over the world in our thirty-something years on earth, but my husband and I have never felt so "at home" as we have in Utah. We may not agree with everyone in our state about politics and faith, but the overwhelming sense of goodness, morality, peace, and love is not lost on us. Anywhere from parks, beaches, and stadiums, you will often see signs posted saying, "No alcohol allowed". This immediately shocked us as we have lived the majority of our married lives in Wisconsin, which many of you may realize is a state well-known for drinking. I am not offended with people drinking around my family, but I have often been angered and disappointed with the behavior and language displayed around my children by those heavily intoxicated. I know it is a free country, and I am proud of that, but many times my heart has been burdened by the lack of sensibility and concern for little eyes and ears. As you can see, we were pleasantly surprised by the public environment our family could enjoy here in Utah.
- I cannot tell you how many tears I have cried out of thankfulness for the many options for my family and children here. Within minutes on social media, you will discover events, carnivals, parties, and special promotions for families with children in our area. So many, in fact, that I sadly can't attend as many as we would like! Businesses, churches, and communities alike plan free or cheap events for families to enjoy on a regular basis.
- As a homeschooling family, our schooling options are as endless as the waves in the sea. I am not even slightly exaggerating when I say this! Between dual enrollment, online classes, co-ops, and one-day public school options, families are sure to find something that fits their child's needs. My children attend a school that is for homeschool families providing a school environment one day a week with teachers, lessons, experiments, and of course, recess! They have field trips and special events throughout the month as well for families to enjoy and connect together. The school even pays for any non-religious curriculum. This school has been the perfect option for our family, and I know when my children's needs change over the years we have the freedom to explore many options.
- Our neighbors. Sigh. I can hardly begin typing these words before the tears start welling up. We have never lived by more generous, kind, caring, and loving neighbors in our entire married lives. We have been welcomed into our neighborhood with open arms with no question at all to our faith or political differences. Our children happily play at the neighbors' houses and we joyfully open our doors for them in return. My neighbors have given us toys, offered to babysit, and have brought us surprise treats. I strive earnestly to serve and love them but I am convinced they bless me more than I ever could bless them.
5. The beautiful melting pot of people who chose to call Ogden home
- After living overseas for a huge portion of our lives, my husband and I have been spoiled rotten by rubbing shoulders with some of the most amazing people on God's green earth. Teachers, doctors, politicians, ambassadors, members of the military, missionaries, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, businessmen and women, and humanitarian workers. When one has shared life with the "cream of the crop" of humanity, it's hard to top that experience. We had no idea moving here that Ogden would mirror that experience of living overseas! Honestly, I don't know how we missed the clues that Ogden was such a melting pot. The kinds of people we have met in Ogden are the type of people we shared life with overseas.
- There are many nationalities represented in Ogden which has fulfilled our "wanderlust" hearts. I welcome the challenge of learning and experiencing different languages, cultures, foods, and customs.
- The military base located in Ogden has provided the opportunity to meet families stationed here hailing from all over. Many businessmen and women have also chosen to move to Ogden for various work opportunities. I love nothing more than listening to our friends share experiences and stories from the many countries and states they have called home. We share a common bond with those who have uprooted their lives, waved goodbye to family and friends, wiped the tears from their eyes, pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and set off for a new and strange land to settle in and call home. It's not easy leaving behind the familiar and starting anew, but the blessings outweigh the hardships one-hundredfold.
- The LDS community in Utah has many people who have served their mission in various places all over the world. It is common to chat with a neighbor or stranger here who has studied a different language and culture on their mission. They have a worldview very similar to my own and that common bond is not easily explained. I love sharing my overseas missionary experiences with my LDS friends and family members and hearing about theirs in return. It's difficult to explain, but everyone who has left their home and lived in another state or country far away from everything familiar shares a similar mindset. It can help one widen their horizons and open their hearts to different ways of life, which can nurture compassion and understanding of one's fellow man. Those who have lived and traveled the world have an easier time accepting the differences of humankind and are not easily offended or guarded when discussing hot topics. Our traveling breed may be sure and steady in our faith and passions, but we easily and eagerly welcome open discussion from others' points of view.