When I was only two years old, my parents moved our family into a beautiful one-hundred-year-old farmhouse that they had purchased from the estate of a great uncle and then modernized. That house - and the farm surrounding it - would be my home until I married and moved away, nearly eighteen years later. My siblings and I learned every nook and cranny of that piece of property over the years, and it became, in the truest sense of the word, home. My cousins lived on the adjacent farm, just a ten-minute walk over a wooded ridge. A twenty-minute hike through cow pastures and hay fields got me to my grandparents' house. I started first grade and graduated from high school in the same school system, with pretty much the same classmates for the entire twelve years. I learned to read, got my driver's license, and married my husband, all within an eight mile radius.
Steve began active duty in the US Marine Corps two months after we married, and so began my relationship with moving companies and U-Haul trucks. We bounced from coast to coast to coast, setting up a temporary base of operations in each new location. Each move meant starting life all over again - new church, new friends, new house, new streets, new stores, - and it seemed like about the time we would start to feel like we were finally settling in, a new assignment gave orders to pack everything up and do it all over again.
Now, after twenty-plus years of marriage and over a dozen moves, Steve and I are back in Obion County, just a few miles from the very house I lived in as a child. My parents and siblings and cousins and grandparents no longer live here, but the fields and woodlands still seem very much like home. The roads just "feel right" out here when I have to drive somewhere - even when I take a wrong turn, I never feel really lost, but instead have a comfortable sense of being "almost there." The faces I see when I go grocery shopping look familiar and friendly, and it's not unusual for me to run into someone who has a story to tell about my granddad or who wants to know how my parents are doing.
Yes, I am finally back home. But I find that "home" has changed. Although my feet are now planted on familiar soil, it seems I have left bits and pieces of my heart scattered all across the country. "Home" is Katherine's kitchen, two hours away, and sharing a breakfast of steaming oatmeal and strong, black coffee. "Home" is a ballpark in another county, watching a church-league softball game while I catch up on the news with Jenny and my friend Nancy. "Home" is Carol's recipe for chocolate lava cake and the four o'clocks, planted from her seeds, growing around my porch. "Home" is so many people, so many memories, so many places.
And some of these friends have done the most outrageous thing - they have taken slivers of my heart clean out of this world. Hebrews 12:1 says that we are surounded by "a great cloud of witnesses." Years ago, when I read that passage, I would picture in my mind a great throng of vague, faceless saints - a Paul, a Peter, maybe Job or David, whatever they looked like. But now, when I read that passage, I distinctly see Mary Ann and Alice, my precious friend Carol, my neighbor Bill, and so many other very real people who have laid a small or large claim on my heart by showing me something of the loveliness of Christ while they walked on this earth. Matthew 6:21 says that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also. Each year that passes seems to find more of my treasure, and more of my heart, not in this world but in the next. It's as if God is taking little pieces of my heart and moving them to the other shore, slowly prying my affections from this world and shifting them into the next.
I currently live in a beautiful place - my childhood home - surrounded by rolling hills, lush green fields, and woodlands thick with ancient trees. It is a good place, and I can be content to finish out my days in this place, if God so wills. But, I find this is no longer home, in the truest sense of the word. More and more, my heart longs for my eternal home, to live beyond the constraints of time in the presence of my heavenly Father, my beloved brother Jesus, and my sisters and brothers in Christ.
The Sunday after Carol's funeral, a friend asked me how I was doing. "Okay," I squeaked, my chest tightening under a fresh wave of grief. I blinked back tears, forced a smile, and nodded silently that I was fine, if emotionally weary. After a short pause, my friend looked me in the eyes and gently queried, "You are jealous, aren't you?" All pretense of composure vanished as the dam broke and I scrambled to find a tissue. Jealous? Maybe a little. Jealous? No, not really jealous . . . homesick.
2 months ago