Independence Day – July 4th, 2021, the Tolivers, made final preparations and loaded the last of our belongings in our minivan. We left our family, friends, community, and life for a new opportunity in a new state, Texas. There was something powerful about hitting the open road on our nation’s Independence Day.
After living our lives in California, we finally had hit a threshold of what we were willing to accept in our lives, and sadly we knew that the economic, political, and social climate of California was no longer what it used to be in its former “glory years” and we were literally pushed out of the state. During the last 20 years or so, California has slowly deteriorated. And while we were aware of many social changes, our particular area north of the city of San Diego remained a conservative, family-oriented community.
Sadly, the election of 2020 changed the political landscape and we found ourselves now dealing with homeless encampments, housing shortages, and increasing crime. With COVID protocols strictly enforced, legally and socially, we quickly found ourselves unable to attend Mass and our children kept out of school. Most of our friends in our circle were fighters and we defied nonsense “rules” as the COVID protocols became more absurd. Were it not for our courageous priest and our tightknit community we would of have had no sanity in our lives. The housing crisis was the final impetus of our move. The home we were leasing was going to be sold and equivalent rental homes were around 4k a month to rent. We were at a loss.
Fortunately, we had done some research and decided that Tyler was going to be our new home. We had visited the area in December of 2020, primarily looking for a Cardinal Newman school for our two youngest children, which was Bishop Gorman. It was quite fortuitous when we realized that this was also Bishop Strickland’s diocese. This solidified our decision as we had been following him closely during these tumultuous times. He seemed to be the lone, courageous voice in the dark, and a beacon of light for us. Would that all bishops were as bold as he.
As one might imagine, uprooting and moving halfway across the country is not easy. We needed to discern the move and we prayed the Novena of Surrender to the Will of God. We prayed as a family. We planned, prepared, and packed. We cried. We laughed. We anticipated. We worried. We had faith and drove away on July 4th, which was poetic justice for us – leaving a place of tyranny for a place of freedom on Independence Day!
We had been in several bidding wars; it seemed everyone was moving to Tyler! We arrived on July 6th, 2021 with two teenagers, a cat, and a dog in tow. We signed our escrow papers that afternoon. We had made it and began the process of moving into our new home which needed extensive renovations. We’ve slowly been making the new house our home. We feel incredibly blessed.
Our children have thrived in their new school. Our parish and school community have been amazing. It seems at times, like we’ve always lived here. Yet there are days that I miss my former home – the beach, the mountains, the weather and especially my family. Somehow, though, we see that we are part of something bigger happening here in East Texas.
I see an awakening of our faith with likeminded fellow Catholics, both newcomers and long-time residents. It’s a renewal of sorts. It’s being part of a community where we are free to express our faith, our views, and our values. It’s about not being alone anymore in a sea of secularism.
Our hope and prayer is that we, as laity, continue to be the life of the church, drawn in communion with God and each other, staying true to the teachings of Jesus and ultimately drawing others to Christ in love and charity. God bless the USA and God bless Texas!