Every night before prayers, we ask the kids one question, “What are you thankful for today?”
Mostly, they list stuff. Toys, fruit snacks, filled sticker charts from school. Dr. Band Geek and I try to be the ones to list…well…NOT stuff. We prefer events or occasions or people or places much more than stuff.
Per usual, on our last night at the beach, the kids listed their new souvenirs at the top of the thankful list. Dr. Band Geek said he was glad to be heading home the next day. It had been a good trip but he was ready to go home.
It’s not that I don’t love home.
It’s that I love all of the homes and all the nests.
And because, for me, there are more than one, I often find myself stuck in that tension.
The next morning, after the bags were packed and the car loaded, I headed down to the beach for one last walk. I fought back the tears, thinking about our family vacation coming to an end. I began to pray, “Lord, please, protect me from allowing my sadness to overshadow my gratitude. I don’t want my last memories to be of tears and longing but of joy and thankfulness.”
I walked and prayed and sang, “If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.” And I simply wanted to slide into the warm embrace of His love and mercy.
We have lived in Texas now for almost a decade. Native Texans, you know, people physically born in the state, put bumper stickers on their car declaring their native status. They paint entire walls of their homes with the Texas state flag. There are tattoos and pools in the shape of the state. They are epic kinds of serious about Texas.
Good news. I have given birth to two native Texans. But I am hopeful they will not get tattoos of the state. Please, Lord.
Just below Native Texans are those who were not born within the state borders but have become ALL IN adopted Texans. In our rather large metropolitan area, adopted Texans seem to outnumber the natives. (I mean, don’t tell the natives that.) (Shhhhh…) Adopted Texans love to say, “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could.”
And then there’s us.
We love where we live. Honestly. But I’ve lived too many places and loved too many people outside the state lines to ever become a true Texan. Adopted or otherwise.
Instead, I say, “We’re from Alabama and we did not get here as fast as we could.
We took the long way ’round.
Like any true Southerner would do.”
(Direct routes are so boring.)
As I was walking the beach that last morning, God was showing me pictures of all those places I’ve lived and people I’ve loved. Showed me our long way around and how much each one means home to me.
And how much my heart feels that tension of coming home and going home and never really being home.
Just as the sea comes in and goes out but never leaves.
The Tension of Many Nests…
As we drove home Saturday, the interstate backed up…again…with people traveling to and from on the holiday weekend. We got off at the Wetumpka exit, just north of Prattville, and took the winding road of Hwy 31.
There’s nothing like small-town South. Schools look like churches and churches look like city halls and post offices look like regal places of pride as the center of their tiny towns. There is a First Baptist Church three miles down the road from the First United Methodist Church. Generations of families choosing one over the other based on how far they had to walk.
There’s the Patriot Auto Repair with a Revolutionary Solider on the sign. Mae-Mae’s Homemade store and honestly, I couldn’t tell what Mae-Mae made. It could have been anything from peach pies to strawberry jelly to hand-sewn quilts. Or all of them. Texaco stations with picnic tables covered in families eating fried chicken and biscuits. Junkyards filled with rusty cars coated in thick, green kudzu, which, I swear, makes the rusty junk almost picturesque.
We drove through Clanton and Oak Grove and Jemison, a school my high school used to play back in the day. We had almost reached Montevallo when we came around a curve up over a ridge and the beauty of the rolling hills, deep green grass, and 100-year-old oak trees all walled together by an actual white picket fence.
Well. It took my breath away.
My eyes swelled with tears.
I adore home.
But y’all, I could tell the same story of beauty and color and character about St. Simons Island and Brunswick, GA. Someday, I’m sure I will. Because the marsh and brackish water and the Atlantic ocean are worth describing.
Oklahoma too. The world’s largest grid. And I had a front row seat during some incredible years as Oklahoma City grew and developed and became a place of pride by salt-of-the-earth good folk. Not to mention, I might still get teary singing the OU Chant.
And I’m not gonna even touch Auburn where I met Dr. Band Geek. Or my beloved Gulf beaches where we spent Spring Breaks and church youth trips and Father/Daughter work conferences.
Places where we fell in love and married and grew and struggled and thrived and each one feels exactly like home no matter how long it’s been since my feet touched the ground there.
Places we built nests and grew deeper roots in Christ.
But the tension of so many nests spanning so many stages of our lives runs just below the surface of my soul and traveling brings it bubbling to the surface.
Returning to any one of those nests feels like home. Each one distinctive and comfortable and warpped with victories and revelations and prayers like one of Mae-Mae’s hand-sewn quilts on a cool night.
Truly, I will never get over how much joy each of those nests and the years we spent building them bring me.
And I might not ever feel a relief from the tension either.
Coming back to Texas sometimes feels disorienting. It can take me a day or so to get back into a rhythm and cadence that comes close to feeling familiar. But it does. Always.
I am grateful for the comfort and restorative power of our own little family in our own little home. Our biggest, most prayed for, committed nest.
And I am grateful for how God built each of those nests and wove them together into a rich, expansive, deeply rooted life.
But the places, the nests we built in each, are not the only things keeping my soul caught in the tension of coming home and going home and never being fully home.
Those places have people. And those people have Jesus.
So there is more to explore…
Where do you feel you have built nests over the years? Do you still feel a sense of home there? How have you been able to manage the tension? I would love to hear your stories.