Beginnings

Wow, it’s been a while. Thanks to everyone who has sent such kind messages or inquired how I was doing. The truth is, I’ve been “thinking Jacob” for so long, it’s been hard to know what to write next… where to go with this incredible story, and how to put it to bed. So, I took the easy way out, which was to write nothing at all.

Then, a few weeks ago, a talented writer friend of mine (Heather King) contacted me to say she was starting a new bookstore in my tiny town of New London, Minnesota. She was hosting a “Story Show and Bookraiser” to announce the name, reveal the space, and collect a few used books for the store. She also invited me and a few other local writers to share an original story based on the theme, “Beginnings.” I was incredibly happy to support her in this venture, so I responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes, I’d love to!”

I wrote my story on the day I got back from our annual vacation to Longboat Key, Florida. It’s the place this blog was born… the place I first started writing about a ramshackle beach house named Villa am Meer. That irony was not lost on me as I worked on my new story for Heather’s upcoming event.

As often is the case with my writing, what I thought I was going to write about is not at all what turned up on the page. After a while, the story began to take on a life of its own, and by the time I had finished, I realized how much I had missed writing. The entire process was incredibly revealing and cathartic.

The Story Show took place last Tuesday. By the time I got up to speak, the small coffee shop where the bookstore will be co-located was completely packed with people and donated books. Heather was in her element, surrounded by all her favorite people and things, and I was so completely inspired by her for taking this leap of faith, that she reminded me of myself a few years back… a time when I, myself, had thrown caution to the wind, listened to my heart, and followed my own dream.

I cannot thank Heather King enough for kickstarting my passion again. By the time I had finished writing this little ditty for her Story Show last week, I knew exactly what I needed to do…. I needed to take the leap… one more time… and wait for the net to appear. So, with all that in my head and heart, I submitted my resignation at the hospital where I have worked as a marketing manager for the past four and a half years. I have no idea what’s next, but more than anything, I just want to write. That’s all I really know for now.

Once again (and I can’t say it enough), thanks to all of you who have followed me on this crazy journey over the past seven years. I hope you’ll continue to follow along as I venture off on the next trail.

Beginnings

By Joy Baker

It’s hard to talk about beginnings without first talking about endings. After all, isn’t one the result of the other? Isn’t there a beginning for every ending? An alpha for every omega?

It’s taken me a while to figure out that my alphas and omegas do not always line up in a neat succession. In fact, sometimes I have several alphas going on at the same time, with various betas, deltas, and gammas all mixed in. It’s a Greek alphabet soup, really… and it’s neither linear nor logical.

What I mean is… beginnings are messy. And no matter how much you plan for them, organize them, or put them off for a better time, sometimes God, life, and the universe just kick you right into a new beginning without you having any say in the matter at all.

At least, that’s what happened to me.

Back in 2010, I was dreaming of a new beginning. It was fuzzy and unfocused, and I couldn’t quite make it out… couldn’t quite picture it. But, I could FEEL it… off in the distance. Those feelings came in many forms, including unease, discontent, curiosity, and even anger. So, for a long time, I kept that new beginning at bay, ignoring it or pushing it back with a sensible slew of “No ways” and “Never gonna happens.”

And then, one day, that pesky beginning answered back, “What if?” And, “Why not?”

I realized I had no reply. And so… I began.

I started a blog and wrote about a rundown, ramshackle beach house on Longboat Key, Florida. And while my original intent was to use my blog as a simple tool to keep me writing on a regular basis, something else began to emerge… a voice, and a path. I hadn’t seen it there before… could never have even imagined it, really. But there it was… a path… narrow and tangled. And though it had no directional sign, I knew in my heart it would lead me to the next place.

But, I had a choice to make. Do I venture off on the new path? Or do I continue down the road I’m already on… the one well-traveled and familiar?

I decided to stick with what I knew. So, off I went again on my familiar, well-traveled road, until one day, I passed that narrow, tangled path again. I stopped, suddenly confused. I looked behind me… and then back ahead. What the heck? After all these years, are you telling me my familiar, well-traveled road just goes in a circle?

It was a lot to take in. And so, after a few more loops around the roundabout for old times sake, I veered off… careened off, actually… onto the narrow and tangled path.

I hadn’t been on it very long before the path started to narrow so much that I was worried I had hit a dead end. It was then I met someone along the path… a boy… named Jacob. He introduced himself to me and shared some of his story. We walked along together for a while until the path started to get a little dark and scary. When I noticed a side trail that looked a little wider and better-lit, I decided to take that path instead. Jacob and I said our good-byes at that point and I continued along by myself.

The new trail was fun and exciting, but before too long, I realized it was just a spur off the main trail. I turned around and went back the way I had come.

Jacob was waiting for me again when I got back to the main trail, but still, I wasn’t ready to head down the dark and scary part of the path. Instead, I found another side trail that kept me busy for a while. I went a little further along on this one and picked up some new skills, but again, the trail was a dead end.

I headed back and there was Jacob again, smiling from ear to ear in his bright yellow sweater. “Come on! This way!” he said, darting ahead down the dark and scary trail. I peered after him and he stopped to wait for me. “You can do it,” he said. “Just follow me, plus there are others up ahead to help us. Come on! Let’s go!”

And so… I began. Again.

I followed Jacob into the darkness, and just like he had promised, we met others along the way who helped light the path. Each time we met someone new, that person added to the light so that the path became brighter and easier to navigate.

We continued along this path for years. At times it became so tangled with overgrowth that it was hard to see. Other times, we met trolls along the path who were mean and unhelpful. They sent us down side trails that were even darker and more tangled than the previous ones. Each time that happened, we returned to the main trail scratched and exhausted, vowing not to venture off-path again.

And then, one day… there it was… the end. At first, it seemed so close, we raced ahead, our hearts thumping with exhilaration. But, soon we realized the end was farther away than we thought. It would take time, strength, patience, and willpower to get there. But, with one last burst through the dark and tangled overgrowth… finally, it was over.

We had to let Jacob run ahead at that point. He bolted into the light while the rest of us hung back and waved. And while I had always imagined there would be much joy and happiness when we finally got to the end of this trail, in reality, that wasn’t the case at all. Relief maybe… but not happiness. Never happiness.

And so, here I am now, standing with these other amazing people I met along the path. We are left reeling from that jarring ending and still wondering how to start our next new beginning. It’s hard, because none of this is neat or tidy. It’s messy, and confusing, and often, we feel profoundly sad and lost. But, I know there’s another pesky beginning waiting off in the distance. I can feel it… just like last time. The trick is, to be ready when it pops out of the big messy middle.

24 Comments

  1. Michael Poland |

    Your coverage of Jacob was heart wrenching yet you handled the story so well.

    The story of the Florida home was equally captivating. I would pay to read more of that type of investigative writing!
    Mike Poland
    Michigan
    Former MN resident.

  2. Beautiful …. simply beautiful!

  3. Ron and Jane Brown |

    You are such an incredible writer. Though your writing this horrible journey ended. Like you said it has left us all very sad and sometimes angry. Our hearts hurt for Jacob’s family and friends but through you they have answers not the ones we wanted but answers after all these years.

    We thank you for your gift of writing and the gift you been and are to everyone involved in Jacob’s Hope.
    We will all forever have hope just a different kind of hope.
    May God Bless you and be with you on your new journey.
    Ron and Jane Brown

  4. Joy,

    Beautiful post. There so many unsolved cases in Minnesota that may be worthy of your attention.

    May God Bless you on your new journey.

    Pam

  5. I wonder if there will be a movie or tv show series made about the wetterling case someday? Do you think that would be a good idea to have a show like that?

  6. I’m so excited for you as God sends you on a new journey. Congrats on taking another leap of faith. Thank you for listening as Jacob was leading you to help bring him home. You are a bright light Joy! Keep shining!

  7. Connie Thompson |

    I was so enthralled with following your blog … I worked for the foundation for a while and was very close to this story. I don’t think you got the credit you deserved to get this case solved.. now if we could find out what happened to josh guimond

  8. Sandy Peteler |

    What?? That’s it? This sounds like the beginning of a great story! I want more! There is a story to be told and a book to be written. I will be your biggest fan. You traveled a very interesting road over the years. I want to read it!
    Can’t wait!!
    Sandy

  9. Once upon a time in Minnesota, Pine City, MN to be exact a toddler disappeared. I know it’s a lot to ask Joy but could you please find out what happened to her.

  10. Such beautiful insight…an incredible journey through your writings. Looking forward to the next as it enfolds. Thank you!!

  11. Sue Bissonette |

    Maybe Joy should venture down the path to help find Jodi Huisentruit??

  12. God Bless you Joy! Wherever your next path takes you, I’m sure you will be awesome! Can’t wait for your next blog.

  13. You have a gift and are such a talented writer. I look forward to reading more from you.

  14. Tamara Lacroix |

    Thank you for sharing this with us Joy. I cannot wait to read more, whichever path you decide to take. We will all be here, waiting and reading.

  15. Joy, It’s good to hear from you again, and I think I share the same sentiments as many other people here. Whatever path you choose to take we’ll be here ready to follow along on the adventure with you.

  16. Julie Schmidt |

    Thanks, Joy. Keep writing and sharing with the rest of us!

  17. Kristi Montoya former resident of St. Cloud, MN |

    Thank you for following Jacob. His story touched so many of us, & changed how we live. I look forward to your next endeavor.

  18. Because of your inspired dedication and determination to pursue and bring Jacob’s story to the world, this agonizing case was resolved and a murderous predator at long last apprehended. All best wishes to the Wetterling Family and to you, Joy, as you embark upon the next new chapter in your writing career. A thought might be to look into the somewhat similiar case of Kyron Horman here in the Pacific Northwest, now missing five-plus years.
    We all await your next endeavour. You are truly a shining light, Joy.

  19. Joy, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and talents with us. Just like Jacob and the Wetterlings, you have touched so many people without even knowing it. You have brought your readers joy, tears, anguish and frustration- and, ultimately, greater insight into Jacob’s disappearance and the Paynesville victims. Your words have been thought provoking and made us hungry to learn more until the truth was brought to light. I have no doubt you will be successful in your new beginning. I look forward to reading more of your blog posts in the future.

  20. Patti Granning |

    Wow! I’ve missed your stories. I hope you get back to writing you are so good.

  21. Happy to hear from you again and know that you are emerging, strength restored, and ready to continue your journey. Keep the faith. I look forward to following along. All the best, dear soul.

  22. Joy, I can think of nothing original to say. I have followed Jacob’s story, as I, too, wondered what had happened. You have a gift for writing and I look forward to whatever you write next.

  23. Ms. Joy- I have been meaning to stop in here since Heinrich’s adjudication. As an investigative journalist myself, I have been “in your shoes” a few times. Bringing a cold case to resolution is no easy endeavor and as I see a few others have mentioned- your contribution and its effects on the case don’t receive proper attribution.

    I also know from my experience it likely does not matter to you in the least- the work was to recover Jacob and stop an offender. You helped accomplish that and I would go as far as to say that if it were not for your diligence, Heinrich would not be in jail and Jacob would not have been laid to rest.

    Good show. Godspeed to you in the next case that calls you.

  24. Wow, your story about this case and how you helped to solve it needs to be made into a movie. Albeit heartbreaking, it’s an amazing true story of a blogger’s persistence and curiosity as an amateur sleuth entwined with a family’s worst nightmare come true and the love they have for their beautiful boy. I’m truly amazed at how life unfolds sometimes and that there are other forces out there at work, no coincidences, as everything was meant to happen they way it did.

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