The start of a beautiful relationship (with a place)

 

“We’re home! We live here now!” my 5-year-old said as Dave and a friend hauled our couch into our new living room. Later, Dave read library books to wet-haired girls under blankets on that couch while I sat on the love seat, day-dreaming about the Oreos I was about to eat as soon as they were in bed. Later still, a lamp post outside made black-and-orange striped shadows on the bare walls as I ascended the red-shag-carpeted steps to our attic bedroom.

After midnight, the rain pit-patted above me. “Thank God: I’m home,” I thought.

Home. What’s different about this one, and why does any of this matter? Am I making more of this than necessary? How many Oreos are we talking?

I’ll answer that in reverse order: too many Oreos. I should never have bought that package. Or the second one.

And no, I’m not making too much of this gift of home. Place is important, and I know that not only because I’ve read Sidewalks in the Kingdom and The Wisdom of Stability. This has not been the month for deeply intellectual thoughts: June was a flurry of moving, painting, change-of-address forms, school registration materials, and twice-weekly library trips.

The most intellectual book I’ve read today featured a cat named Splat. I don’t remember the plot.

I know place is important because when we walk the sidewalks and wave at the neighbors, this is the stuff that made my imagination light up. The books merely echoed this longing (the books on stability, not Splat the Cat).

I hope we fiercely love this place, its characters, its history. I hope to share some of what we find with you, here, so you can think about what it means for you, there.

For us, moving from renting to owning, from job-searching to staying, from reading about to doing — all these have changed our questions from “how much of this Slow Church-y stuff is real?” to “How many neighbors can you know here, and how simply can you live here, and how grateful can you be in the very place God’s chosen for you, here?” Here, where your church is. Here, in this particular spot.

This spot where we can bike to church. This spot where our girls stood and yelled “Candy sale! Candy sale!” on Sunday, and lured the neighbors out to meet us and pay too much for wrinkly-wrappered leftover Halloween candy. This spot where God’s already at work, and we’re here merely to join, to watch, and to (learn to) be grateful.

We’ve never done belonging stuff in a neighborhood; we’re doing, and we’re doing it with our kids. That’s what’s new: we’re joining God in something just by calling a place home. And we’re doing this with our church, which just relocated last year to a building. Its rooting begets more rooting; its neighbors are becoming my neighbors.

We’re actually not really sure what that looks like yet, or what it’ll lead to. Maybe nothing (but I doubt it). It’s just — there’s something about committing to stay that seems like a genesis moment for whatever’s next: school, knowing the neighbors, being the church. It’s working: around a campfire a short walk from a Lake Michigan beach last weekend, my mind wandered to missing home, this new one. Homesickness, two weeks in. I’m hopeless.

“It’s good to be home!” Violet sagely said as she slung her water bottle to the counter after our three-hour drive home.

“Yeah, it really is.” We smiled.

 

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