Brent Curtis and John Eldredge write in their wonderful book, A Sacred Romance, "Life is not a list of propositions, it is a series of dramatic scenes. As Eugene Peterson said, 'We live in narrative, we live in story. Exixtence has a story shape to it. We have a beginning and an end, we have a plot, we have characters.' Story is the language of the heart. Our souls speak not in the naked facts of mathematics or the abstract propositions of systematic theology; they speak the images and emotions of story."
Those of you who blog, keep written and visual journals, and scrapbook inherently understand these words.
I am home now and I will tell you a story.
This is the cover of my journal. It is a phrase that Mary Engelbreit has made famous in her charming illustrations over the years. It is one I have clung to upon making the move we made 3 1/2 years ago to Florida from Minnesota - 1,500 miles away from everything and everyone I knew and loved. A few weeks after moving into our home, I wrote the phrase and posted it on my refrigerator. I wanted so badly to be able to do it. I wanted to believe that we had not made some terrible mistake in coming here. It had already cost us time, money, emotion, and energy just getting here. This move was not one born of necessity. Tired of long, gray winters and with a love of gardening and heat we chose this place after a lovely vacation spent with Paul's mother.
It was not a decision made lightly. Other than my mother-in-law, all of our immediate family was in Minnesota. I am very close with them and it was a heart-wrenching decision to make. In addition to that, I am someone who has longed to put down roots. I have moved a lot my whole life, never having lived in a house longer than five years (to this day!). I had not initially planned on going, because I wanted my children to have a different experience than the one I'd had growing up. But circumstances changed somewhat and the decision was made to go. If we were going, I hoped it would be a long time before we'd move again. Now it had to work.
But my journal is riddled with phrases over the last 3 years like, "I want to feel at home in this place..., " "I want to be known. I am so tired of explaining myself...," "I am tired of feeling like a square peg in a round hole...," "I long for connection...," "I am lonely...," "God, where is my community... I long for community... " and on and on.
I finally shared my disappointment with my husband a few months ago. I told him that I didn't know what to think or expect anymore. I'd kept feeling and hoping and expecting that things would be getting better for me, but they hadn't. I had decided to leave my church and I was kind of just giving up. I wasn't going to try so hard anymore to make it work. I was tired. I just had to be.
I fell into a bit of a funk for about a week. I was dwelling on everything that felt frustrating and wrong to me about living here. The demographics are a challenge for me, with a high retirement population that is catered to, with, for example, waaaaayyyyy more golf courses than parks for children; the income bracket is higher - folks come here to live "the easy life" not to live simply, frugally, or environmentally; and there are other things as well.
One day it dawned on me, though. We weren't planning on moving any time soon. Even if we wanted to, the housing market is in such a slump that it is unlikely that our house would sell quickly or that we'd get a good price for it. I didn't really know, anyway, if this problem was going to be solved, necessarily, by moving again. What good would it do to dwell on the negative? It was simply foolish to wait to be happy until "x, y, or z" happened. I was going to have to choose happiness now.
This was not a new idea. I have heard and read it plenty of times before, but being a generally happy person, I had never really had the need to apply it in my life.
With this new awareness and time spent in prayer, my heart and attitude began to shift. Over the past two months, I have felt a newer lightness of spirit that I was beginning to relish. This trip to Minnesota, though, was weighing on me a bit. I would be going "home." I had been home twice before: once for my sister's wedding and once again for my step-father's memorial service. Each time had brought with it a certain ache and longing for what I'd once known so well - and for those who'd known me. I knew this trip was going to be life-changing. All my travels are in one way or another, but now there would be a new member of our family and I felt I would be tested with this familiar ache and longing.
Imagine my surprise when I found those feelings were no longer there! We visited many, many old haunts of years past, including former homes, so that my older daughter, Maia - 6 1/2 when we'd moved - could take her own trip down "Memory Lane" (Eve was just too young at the time to remember much). I could hardly believe that the longing I felt as I neared the end of my stay was for the things of my new home... and that I could actually think of it as home.
Yesterday morning, when I woke up and knew we were to be heading to the airport, I was practically bouyant! Now, I must say that I know that missing my sweet, sweet, husband, Paul had something to do with it!! But I found myself writing new words in my old journal, "I am looking forward to seeing my honey, Paul, to seeing my pets, to sitting on my lanai with my Teccino (a coffee substitute), to drawing and writing, and thinking and blogging and knitting and reading and hanging out my clothes and just going home."
So. It's been lovely. Truly lovely.
I would, of course, be sorely remiss, if I didn't post a few pictures of my darling, new, little niece, Celia.
Here she is getting her first good look at her Mama.
And here's me, proud Auntie, with this sweet, little, scrumptious bundle.
My trip has been life-changing, but in more ways than I'd even hoped to imagine. I've come home to a new chapter in my life, renewed once again with hope and expectation of the future.
"After supper Anne sat before the fire between Matthew and Marilla, and gave them a full account of her visit.
'I've had a splendid time,' she concluded happily, 'and I feel that it marks an epoch in my life. But the best of it all was the coming home.'"
L. M. Montgomery - Anne of Green Gables