How to Stay: a sense of place for the tent-loving nomad

FullSizeRenderIt was a morning in May, and we were having breakfast in the lobby of a Hampton Inn.

We were on our way to Grandma’s funeral, and Toby and I started talking about my grandparents’ house – how the house would be sold soon, which felt heavy to me – he sympathized -- and then he was talking about planting oak trees in the backyard of our North Carolina home for our great-grandchildren – and I felt myself growing weirdly irritable – grumpy that he was thinking so far out and would want to– I don’t know --- “lock us in” to staying in North Carolina (I love North Carolina, by the way) – agitated that he would want to spend himself on something that (duh) won’t be realized because we won’t even be in that house by then…I mean, didn’t we spend our first long drives looking through maps and planning to try it all?

Within minutes, I was in tears over my dry factory-muffin. Clearly, there was trouble in River City.

By the time we were back in the elevator, I knew my problem was this thing called place, and my issue was that I didn’t believe much in “permanency” or “long-term plans” or physical home, and I thought we were on the same page about this, what if we want to try something new in a couple of years, why would we want to just be in this one house forever, how can we possibly know that, and I’m getting claustrophobic …

Sometimes we respond to not having something (home, intact family, spouse, children, talent, "success," looks, money…) by deciding we never wanted it in the first place. We say, “That’s for other people” or “Yeah, it’s just never been important to me.”

But maybe I do believe in roots & permanence. Maybe I’m open to going, but could also enjoy staying, and possibly I raged against it not because I didn’t want it but because I didn’t see the point of wanting it and found it foreign and, frankly, terrifying.

As army brats, we didn’t grow up thinking of home as a particular spot on a map but as us -- wherever we were. We didn’t stay in one house or continue in the same schools or vacation in the same spots. It was a wonderful, love-packed and adventuresome childhood.

When required to list a “permanent address,” it was always the little brick house in Beech Grove, Indiana, owned by Howard & Wilma Rogers, we listed. It was the place – along with Aunt Linda’s house -- we did return to every year except the four years we lived across the ocean. Those years, Grandma & Grandpa & Aunt Linda came to us.

This was the place that my parents and siblings and I kept and was kept for us, with its tiny plot of green and storm door and yellow kitchen and small bedrooms and concrete basement and homegrown green beans and memories of snow. And what I perceived as our one place – the one place we could bring our children “home” to -- was about to be taken away, and there would be no more going back.

Suddenly place mattered very much.

And so it began, my conversation with God about naming my places and stepping into them with my whole self.

boat

I’m not just talking about geography. We can be restless in lots of areas & prone to wanting something new/different/better. We like to live with one foot in, one foot out, with a bag packed "in case." We resist feeling too attached or too dependent or worse, controlled.  Or, on the other hand, we do our thing apologetically, loitering around the edges, because we don't believe we truly belong or are "good enough" to be there.

But these places that have been given to megeographically in my neighborhood and city and the world; relationally in my friendships, family of origin and the hearts of my children and my husband; vocationally in the world of independent music and the world of Christian music; and spiritually in the Church, global and local – are MINE, and in them, I DO BELONG.  

My assignments, like my Dad’s, may in the end be temporary, but I want to try to live in them like a citizen.  Or rather...like a civilian.

Sometimes it's hard to celebrate the uniqueness of our own places and be happy in them.

It's risky to let ourselves feel deeply about things that can be taken away or can take away our sense of freedom. It is.  Even as I write this, I feel a bit of dread and resistance and know there will be many moments when it’s right to say “yes” to uprooting.

But for now, my naturally nomadic spirit is going to try to leave the tent for a house of brick and mortar.  See what comes of it.

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*Decided to include the video for "Everything Moves But You" since this post may have shed new light on the lyric: