Posts Tagged ‘moving’

My Itinerant Home

all-of-life-is-coming-homeIs home a place? Neither the family I grew up in nor the family I have married into have stayed in one place which makes the idea of “home” a little complicated.

Where I Came From

I grew up and went to school from Kindergarten through 12th grade in Pickerington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. In many ways, I still feel Pickerington is my home. But none of my family lives there anymore.

My parents divorced when I was 14 years old and both stayed in Pickerington until after both of us kids graduated from high school. So, for a while there I had two homes in my hometown–the house where I grew up and lived most of the time with my mom and brother, and the apartment where my dad lived and my brother and I would visit on Dad’s weekends. When it came time for Christmas, my brother and I had two homes to help decorate!

But shortly after I got married, my dad bought himself a house in a neighboring suburb of Columbus. And two years after my wedding, my mother sold our family home to move in with her new husband–about an hour away from Columbus.

My parents are still alive and well and I go and visit them in their new homes when I can.  As time has gone on, I do feel “at home” when I visit my parents in their respective new homes–I know my way around their kitchens, I can find the right light switches in the middle of the night. But the sense of “home” I have about being there with them is disconnected from the places where we actually dwelled together during my younger years.

I haven’t been back to my actual hometown of Pickerington for quite some time. And even when I do go there, I feel a bit like a fish out of water, having no place to lay my head in the town where I grew up.

On the Move

After I finished high school, I went for one year to Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. Then I married my husband and moved to Indiana where he was serving as pastor of his first church. Then began even more moving in my life as a pastor’s wife.

In 18 years of marriage we have lived in 7 different dwellings in 4 different states. We have had 3 major cross-country moves–from Indiana to Florida, from Florida to Ohio, and from Ohio to Texas.

In each place we have lived we have tried to fully enter into the life of each community. It’s important to us to live near the church where my husband serves. We shop local and we frequent the restaurants nearest our home. Everybody knows our names and we like it that way.

We have done our very best to make each place our home. And each community continues to hold a special place in our hearts.

But we don’t have family in any of those places and the actual dwellings we lived in are filled with different people now.

And given the dynamics of pastoral ministry, returning to previous churches has a very different feel as my husband does not want to make things awkward for current pastors. We are clear that we are guests, friends even. But those churches are no longer “ours” as they once were.

We are simply visitors in places we used to live.

Home Now

Home for us now is a small town in Texas. And once again, in the town where my husband pastors, we are doing our usual routine of making this place our home. And truly the steakhouse in our town–JW’s Steakhouse in Carmine, Texas–is the best steakhouse in the whole state.

It is so strange to call this state my home. When I first met my husband and learned he was from Texas, it didn’t even occur to me that I might live there, ever. Even when we got married, I thought we would probably stay in the midwest our whole lives together. Unless, of course, we got sent to the mission field somewhere. Somehow going to a foreign country seemed more likely then moving to the Lone Star State.

But here we are.

And my husband’s family is all over this great state as well. So, he kinda is back home. And as I’ve mentioned before, his family has really made me feel at home among them. I even know my way around his parents’ kitchen and can find the light switches in their house in the middle of the night.

I’m not home at all, and yet I really am. I think, in many ways, the itinerancy of my home has deepened my reliance on the relationships rather than the places of home. In this sense, I can make my home anywhere despite never being able to actually go home in the way that more settled people can.

My Heart All Over

And yet, I still feel the attachments to and longings for my former homes. And sometimes when I think about all the friends I have left behind from moving around so much, my heart hurts. I feel like little pieces of me are all over, but I can never be there enough to have what I once did in those places and with those people.

And I try not to think too much about it because I think I really could wall myself off from the possibilities in my current setting. I mean, it gets more difficult to invest in each new place so deeply. Sometimes it seems easier just to stop forging the new connections.

I don’t want to do that though, I want to keep investing in each place. I want to keep being incarnational with the people where I am. Even if I can’t ever truly go home, I can be fully present wherever it is I find myself. That’s the best I can do and I pray for the love and grace to continue to make my heart a place of welcome for those I meet in each new place.

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This post is my contribution to a monthly Synchroblog that I am joining for the first time. The December topic is Coming Home. The following is a list of other bloggers writing on this topic:

The Blessing of People Who Show Up

November has been a busy month for me and mine. And by that I mean, ridiculously crazy-busy. But I wouldn’t trade any of it–especially the people that have shown up–for all the world.

Here are just a few things about the month so far:

  • I started posting on the blog more often. (Did you notice?) I’ve already been writing everyday, but taking on the task of posting to the blog more often does add to my work load. But I found that once a week was so infrequent that I missed the blog when I was posting so little. Also, I’m trying out some different styles of posts and would love your feedback about that.
  • I did another author interview with my friend and muse Sarah Bessey about her new book Jesus Feminist. This one was tricky because it was over the phone, not in-person like my first author interview. Plus, due to some insane technical difficulties, it took a lot extra editing to make it presentable–which of course added to the busy. (Again, wouldn’t trade it for the world because, well, Sarah Bessey.)
  • I helped plan and lead a women’s retreat for my synod (a regional grouping of churches in my denomination). The retreat was called Soul Sisters and we emphasized the importance of faith and community in our lives as women.
  • We had our final day of homeschool co-op for the season–for which I planned an extra special craft for the arts & crafts class I teach. And we also had our homeschool co-op Christmas pageant & end-of-semester potluck.
  • And, last, but certainly not least, and right on top of all the other busy, we had lots of company this month–all from Ohio, actually. (See photos below.) My dad and brother were the first to come down–driving all the way from the Columbus area just to see us. Then we had double company for part of the time when friends from Ohio made our place a stop on their driving tour of the south. Finally, my mom flew down for the homeschool co-op Christmas program and today is her last full day with us.

I’ve mentioned before that being a pastor’s wife has meant more moving around the country than I ever, ever expected. I’ve also written about how it was hard to leave Ohio to move to Texas last year because of all the family and friends I have up there.

I have been surprised and pleased by the way that my in-laws, who live here in Texas, have really been here for me. And I love staying connected with far-away friends and family by phone and online.

Still, there is something extra special about my peeps coming all this way to show up in-the-flesh at our home. I am deeply, deeply grateful for my lovely Ohioans who have made their way all the way down here to see us.

I look forward to showing up at my in-laws’ home next week for Thanksgiving and being in-the-flesh with them too. These are special times when we get to gather with loved ones.

Showing up for each other truly is a blessing.

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My dad & brother made the drive all the way from Columbus, Ohio just to see us! Who’s who from left to right–Back Row: Dad, Eric (my brother). Front row: Me, my son, David (my husband).

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These friends made us a special stop on their driving tour of the south. Who’s who from left to right–Back row: David (my husband), Kyle; Middle: Me, my 9 yo son, their 10 yo son, Jackie. Front: their 4 yo daughter, their 3 yo daughter.

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My mom flew down from Ohio to be at my son’s homeschool co-op Christmas program. Who’s who from left to right–Back row: Me, Mom; Front: my son.

My Outpost with the In-Laws

20130527-161100.jpgYou don’t just marry your husband, you marry his family!

I suppose some would take exception to this, particularly if the in-law relationship is strained. But for me it is a true and welcome arrangement. Just as my affection for my husband has grown over the past 18 years of marriage, my affection for his family has grown too. Particularly since moving to Texas a year ago, my parents-in-law have nurtured me in ways I never would have expected. Their home has become an outpost for me in my new state.

Our Journey To Texas

My husband and I are from different states. He is (mostly) from Texas and that’s where most of his family still lives. I’m from Ohio and that’s where most of my family still lives. We met in my home state of Ohio when my husband was in seminary. In our early married life we lived a number of years in Indiana, and a short time in Florida. Throughout all that time we always talked about getting back to Ohio–my family was there and my husband had put down roots there as well.

Finally we made it back to Ohio when my son was a toddler. It was everything I thought it would be for getting reconnected with my family. My parents and brother made it to every birthday party for my son, and we got to see each of them at regular intervals in between. I got to go to events for my extended family–weddings, funerals, holidays, family reunions, and more. I was finally home again!

I really thought I would be in Ohio for the rest of my life. When it was time for my husband to find a new congregation to serve as pastor, we tried very hard to find a match in Ohio. Meanwhile, we agreed it would be okay to do some looking in Texas too. I didn’t really take the Texas thing very seriously though. I was sure I was “home” in Ohio, where I belonged and didn’t really want to think about leaving.

The more we talked about it though, my husband made a strong case for getting back to Texas to be near his family. He made a really positive connection with the staff of the synod where we are now serving. Soon after that, this beautiful match came together with our current church in rural Texas. And to top it all off our current church is only 1 1/2 hours away from my husband’s parents.

My Attitude in the Beginning

Objectively, I know this is just part of the price of marrying a Texan–we will never get to live near both of our families at the same time. Naturally, it is only fair that my husband should get a turn living near his family, right?

While I recognize the realities of it, the move to Texas was rather disorienting emotionally. I didn’t take very well to the idea of being uprooted from my home state and my family all over again.

People tried to cheer me up, “Your husband’s family is your family too!”

I have always appreciated my in-laws and enjoyed spending time with them. There have been normal tensions of learning their expectations, but never anything we couldn’t all have a laugh about later. Overall, I’ve had a pretty good relationship with them.

Still, the idea of trading them for my family just didn’t seem like a fair deal. I knew them as well as I could having seen them once or twice a year over the course of almost 20 years of being involved with their son. But I didn’t know them like I knew my own family! And they couldn’t replace my family!

His Family IS My Family

In the interview process we had stayed with my in-laws on two different trips, and when we first moved down we stopped for a couple of nights to stay with them before we completed our journey to our new town. Their hospitality, and their home were familiar things to me in this new state.

After we made the move we seemed to find frequent excuses to make the one-and-a-half hour drive back to Houston to visit with my in-laws. I found that it wasn’t just my husband making excuses to see them, but I was too. I liked being with my in-laws and getting to know them better. Seeing them more frequently meant we could bond more than ever.

I hesitated to say much to my in-laws about the challenges of the move. I didn’t want to “mess with Texas” and I knew they were so excited to have their youngest son back in Texas. But I had become comfortable enough with them that one day I just blurted out a litany of unpacking woes. I shared that I had kind-of stalled out on unpacking having unpacked enough to get by, but not enough to feel really at home.

Without giving it much thought, I rattled off a list of things–mostly kitchen stuff–that I had not yet unpacked that would make life so much easier! The next morning when I came down to breakfast there was a small assembly of exactly the types of things I was missing. My mother-in-law gathered these duplicates from her own kitchen for us to borrow as long as we needed them.

The kitchen stuff was a big help, of course, and I also came to a new appreciation for my in-laws through the whole exchange. It turned out they were not upset by my rant about how hard the move was for me. Beyond that though, they showed that they cared how I was really. Folks for whom I don’t have to pretend to be okay, they’re my people.

So, even though I don’t get to be near the family I grew up with, my husband’s family is my family. I continue to look for excuses to visit them and draw comfort and strength from being with them. I’m feeling more at home in our new town now that we’ve been here for a year, but my in-law’s home is still my outpost where I can go and relax and be myself.

Where are your outposts in life? Who are the people you can be yourself with?