One week since we came home from Italy and here we are turning in an application for the second apartment we looked at, which had everything my faithful mother had prayed we’d find, spending Sunday afternoon at that apartment’s neighborhood library (which happens to have an amazing play ground out front), watching August bond with a little boy named Reese and letting them play together for over an hour because, seriously, where else do we need to be? What else should we be doing?
That’s the gift of moving somewhere: those first couple of months before you become “involved” in living here. In those short few weeks where you unpack and explore, with all the time you never knew you had to be together, all four of you, like anthropologists, learning the way of These People.
But the strange part of this move is the Coming Back, the piece of me that feels like a stranger here and the piece that can’t believe I ever left. It feels so strange to know the way around. It feels wrong, like I don’t deserve to know how to get anywhere. I’m new here, aren’t I?
But also, there’s the wonder of being known here already: Katie having us over for playtime our first afternoon in town, Jared’s huge hug at the church nursery drop off, walking into that room to set Brooksie’s bag in the cubby and finding the heart August had painted for his church teachers when we left San Francisco, still hanging on the nursery bulletin board.
It’s hard to feel separate from this place when your kid already knows exactly where to find the donuts once Sunday School lets out. It hard to feel unknown when two nights in a row friends drop off dinner and stay to eat it with you.
It’s hard to feel like a stranger in a town where you are loved on all sides, when a older woman you admired and shared only two coffees with in those two years of living here sees you on the stairs at church and welcomes you with tears in her eyes.
So many of you have mentioned how you’re praying for me. You’ve expressed genuine compassion as I’ve grieved this move and marked its loss big enough for all of you to see. So, I want you to know that your prayers matter, to me and to my family. Your prayers and God’s good grace have offered us quick transitions, sweet moments of rediscovering places and things August remembers about this city.
I’m learning that grace offers me a gift: the chance to grieve the loss, while I simultaneously “set my face like flint,” as Isaiah so eloquently put it. Maybe it’s the constant moving, or maybe it’s the gift of moving back (as opposed to coming into a completely new place), but I feel like I’m learning to cry, then face forward determined to make a home, to love the people here, to find all the secrets waiting for us.
Oh, I just read Isaiah 50 again. I love Isaiah….
It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me, he says, setting his face like flint. I will not be put to shame, he says.
Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.
Let the Lord wake me morning by morning. Let the Lord open my ears. Let the Lord give me an instructed tongue.
Then I’ll feed the boys yogurt and granola and they’ll dress and we’ll get in the car and find a new park, because what else do we have to do? We’re new here. And we’re anthropologists, explorers, detectives…all at the same time.
And we’ve already been here. Once. Long ago in another life it seems.
Last month it seems.
Forever ago and right now and all the time in between…