Very Exciting News about Our Future!

That’s my man!

I’m one proud wife today. After months of thinking, praying and stressing about our futures, Ian has made the courageous decision to accept the job offer of Director of The Big Laurel Learning Center, starting late summer. This means that we will be living and working at our crazy homestead for at least two more years. When we first moved up to this mountain last August we were only committed to living here for eleven months through AmeriCorps. The whirlwind of graduating college, getting married and moving far away from society as we knew it created enough chaos in out lives that it took several months for us to settle down enough to even consider what could be next. There are so many things we love about living in such a rural place, but some things have been hard. Many many hours are logged in the car every week, and dark midwinter evenings can be cold and lonely. Yet, we’ve found ways to adapt along the way. We adopted a lovable rescue dog, filled the old coop with chickens and guinea fowl, and enjoyed every visit from friends and family. And after six months of rural mountain life, we were ready to consider the role that Big Laurel could have in our future.

For the past few years Big Laurel has been preparing for what might be next. Sr. Kathy O”Hagan and Sr. Gretchen Shaffer have done an exceptional job of running programming and hosting groups on the mountain for decades, but as they have aged they are looking to step back from their roles. A board was put together to  search for willing candidates that had a vision of continuing the educational programming at Big Laurel while also expanding it in new directions. Since we moved into the Knob home on the property, Ian and I have been actively watching this search. We were even intimately involved with the process, often invited to board meetings and even taking on the responsibility of editing the job description.

As the time neared for us to make a decision about our immediate future, we had many long conversations where we studied our situation from every angle. Did we both want to do AmeriCorps again? Not really…too little pay and not enough career enhancement. Go to graduate school? Neither of us was absolutely sure what we’d study. Move somewhere else and take different jobs? That would mean giving up on a chapter of our lives we weren’t quite ready to end yet.

Eventually, the idea of Ian applying for the director position dawned on us. A careful study of the job requirements revealed just how qualified he was for the job, and gave us confidence that I would be a help in the areas where he struggles. Within a day of deciding to go for it, almost giddy with the craziness of it all, Ian edited his resume and submitted it to the board.

Things moved very quickly after that. And yesterday, Ian was officially interviewed and offered the position. I bet you can tell from his face what his answer was. 🙂

I’m more proud than I should be that the green sweater I bought Ian for Christmas made it into this iconic picture.


Signing the contract in the presence of board president Sr. Lillian with Sr. Gretchen and Sr. Kathy as witnesses.

So what does this mean for Big Laurel?

  • Ian has officially committed to working as Director for two years. Counting the year we are currently serving with AmeriCorps, this means we will be living and working here for three full years. Next year I will be serving a second AmeriCorps year and hopefully finding a different form of employment for the year after.
  • This position will be a team effort for us. Though Ian is officially the director, I intend to help with fundraising/grant writing, writing newsletters, and general publicity. If you read this blog regularly, it shouldn’t surprise you at all that I am very excited to use my love of writing in some new ways.
  • His main responsibilities as director will be to maintain current programming, including but not limited to operating Big Laurel as a space for high school and college group retreats, substance abuse work retreats and summer ecology camps for local children. However, he will also be looking for ways to expand the programs by making connections with new groups, especially in partnerships with other organizations in our region.
  • One big goal is to increase Big Laurel’s environmental sustainability through renewable energy technologies and expanding the homesteading/ self sufficiency aspects of the property. The two of us have been working hard to make these changes at the Knob house and we would like to expand our efforts throughout the property. This could include mushroom farming, a small goat herd, fruit tree propagation, honeybees, and/or possibly even selling produce at local farmer’s markets.
  • Because we are only committing for two years we intend to make it very easy for someone to come after us and continue the improvements we’ve made. Ian anticipates creating a resource book (likely electronic) that will give a future director contact information, group summaries, and other pertinent information that we are figuring out as we go.

In summary, our adventures here in central Appalachia are only just beginning. We are both so encouraged by the loving and supportive community we have found here, and we can hardly wait to see what we can accomplish for the good of this organization in the next two and a half years. Hope you aren’t too sick of this blog yet, because I think I’ll have a lot of material to write about. 🙂

***There will be a second AmeriCorps position available here next year. If you are at all interested in learning more about it, feel free to message me and I will be happy to give you some information about it.*** 

PS. If you haven’t yet subscribed, now is a great time to do so!

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12 thoughts on “Very Exciting News about Our Future!

  1. Lydia, Congrats to your husband.
    I really enjoy reading your blog about Big Laurel.
    I have learned so much. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment! It’s always nice to hear that someone enjoys reading this blog.

    1. I’m not sure how often he checks this blog, but I’ll be sure to pass on the congrats. 🙂

    1. Thank you! It’s an exciting life step for us. Ian’s first “big boy” job, as I like to tease him.

  2. I have a nephew( Vince) . He works at Wheeling Jesuit University. I believe he is heading up a group of students that will be there this week. If you should see him tell him his Aunt Susan said “Hello”

    1. You are exactly right. Vince is here right now leading a trip from New England. I have passed on your hello to him. 🙂

  3. My heart sings when I read of your commitment. I am confident that you and Ian are perfect for Big Laurel and equally as confident that The Most High God has placed you there. I love Sr. Gretchen and Sr. Kathy and I’m relieved that there is a Director in place to lighten their load. Both ladies have made a huge impact on my life just being in their presence and reveling in their sweet spirits.
    I wish our life here in N. Mississippi would turn us loose long enough for at least a quick trip to the Ridge to meet you and Ian and then, perhaps a longer one later to help.
    May God bless you richly as you continue this adventure.

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