Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 9:62 ended the selection from Common Prayer on the date we arrived back from a trip to our Wisconsin hometown That.)
Standing in the same church we left about a year-and-a-half ago to sing the same songs, take the same communion, wave at the same people: Visiting our Wisconsin church Sunday was coming home.
But perhaps more than nostalgia drew a tear during a David Crowder song. Love for that church, of course; I still grow with that church, am influenced by its teaching (podcasts feed me) and consider it my place. But it was the sense that the God who met me there is the same God I have in Michigan. Basic, yes, but profound for someone with a little homesickness in her pocket.
And maybe I cried a little, too, because I realized Sunday that I no longer found myself wandering in the desert, but instead with my sights on the promised land. I doubted, but by God’s grace I wasn’t left to die in the desert, you know?
The trip back was short, magical, sunny and warm. My friend’s son made us breakfast; I held babies and hugged people with tears in my eyes; I walked along the lakeside park and hugged a friend and choked out “I’m so happy to be here.” I felt very there, but … on Sunday, as I pulled myself from a seat on a rock on the shore of the lake, I felt Michigan calling.
My senses were full in Wisconsin for two days: the smell of spring blossoms and lemon bars; the sight of my dearest friends’ faces and a beautifully hospitable space to sleep in; the taste of craft cider and rhubarb squares.
“The rhubarb bars!” my friend pointed out. Three years ago, she’d brought me a pan of them after I’d spent a long night in the emergency room at 11 weeks pregnant. I don’t know if that was on her mind, but I love her intensely for her part in our story. My heart was exploding for this rhubarb-flavored moment.
I’d lived 27 years without needing rhubarb, but she changed my life in this way, too, like she and that church did in so many other ways. For late-springs ever after going to that church, I’d made rhubarb jam, quick bread, crisps, custard bars and crumbles. I’d frozen it in bulk, pulling it from the neighbor’s yard for free. Rhubarb is a Wisconsin flavor for me; I eat it thinking of them and there, heavy with nostalgia and pregnant with meaning.
It was one of several holy moments last weekend, eating rhubarb custard bars with them. I should’ve taken off my shoes. I should’ve been barefoot all weekend.
But … As we drove the six or seven hours home in the dark Sunday, Dave and I said little, because there wasn’t much more we could add: “That was incredible. That felt right. That felt like home. But I don’t feel torn anymore.”
Because in Michigan, we had a dinner planned with friends on Tuesday. I had work to be done; a yard with hidden hostas under weeds, just begging to be uncovered. Of a picture I posted of Wisconsin online, half its likes came from Michigan people. There’s good stuff here, if we look.
It’s not home, but it’s something like it.
And Tuesday: Tuesday, I overbaked a lasagna and brought enough grapes to feed two families to a dinner at a friends’. We weren’t done greeting each other when my nose turned to the scent wafting from the oven.
“It’s rhubarb pie,” she said, and I felt my throat react.
Oh, Lord of all good surprises, who made weeds taste like home, thank you.
And she pulled out some stalks from her yard for me to bring home, take off your shoes, Erin, and I made rhubarb custard bars with my Wisconsin recipe, and brought some to our neighbor here. Gosh.
Even though it’s just dessert … Even though rhubarb grows all over the place in late spring and my grocery store sells it … Even though, I see something more. Something divine.
She could’ve made any dessert, you know? But she didn’t.
If we consciously move from “Did we make the right choice,” to “What work do You have for me here?”, and if I happily see a dinner date anchoring us here, and if I praise God for making my Wisconsin friends still feel like family while we’re planting hostas and friendships here …
It’s really quite amazing. It’s really quite abundant.
I feel so homesick for dearest friends there. But how abundant is the space in my heart for both that mess and hope about now and later? Yeah.