When Will and I got married, we bought a dear little three-acre patch of overgrown property in the country. A crumbling-down house stood in one corner of the lot, and most of the rest of the area was covered with trees–a luxury for Kansas.
We cleared out a space in the trees and moved in a small but sturdy house on top of a new basement that Will built with the help of some friends. The other house was carefully scavenged for beautiful old boards, then the rest was burned. In its place grew a lovely meadow where our chickens scratched happily.
As we fixed and tidied up the house, I commented dreamily, “Just think, Will, we can grow old together here! The house is big enough for a family, but small enough for old people to take care of.” I imagined us in our rockers by the woodstove, drinking tea and reading books and talking about new ideas just as we liked to do.
That comment about growing old has come back to haunt me. Because now when I think of growing old, I have no mental picture in my mind of where I will be.
Ten years after moving to our dream spot in the country, we left the fruit trees and goats and chickens and embarked on an adventure with God, because we heard Him calling us out.
Now we are living in our beloved town that holds sweet memories for us, different but just as precious as the ones held by the country house. I think of our book-laden family stepping outside the library at seven o’clock and hearing the church bells ring. I remember the rain slanting over the streetlight as I stood at the window and prayed for the people on my street. I picture myself walking around the lake, and how the curving, tree-lined trail always made me think of my childhood in Pennsylvania.
Most of all, I remember people, so many people, with their stories and idiosyncrasies, who have edged their way into my heart.
I see the things I love, and I wonder how long I’ll have them. I feel possessive of my town and of my street, as if they are old, comforting friends of mine.
Yet I feel an inner dislocation, an uncomfortable stirring, and I know that if God called us out of our homeland once, He could do it again. I don’t know where I will grow old.
Last week I went to hear my aunt speak at a conference, and she spoke of moving to new places and of putting down roots and living in community. Her spirit and her words touched me, and the longing to belong to somewhere for keeps grew so strong I felt pain in my chest. I wanted to have a dream for the future like a cherished book that I could occasionally pull out and lovingly turn its crinkly pages.
As I drove my five children home after the conference, tears seeped past the corners of my eyes. But in my sadness the words came to me, “Your future rests, warm and secure, not on finding a place but in knowing a Presence.”
Where ever I live or die, God is already there, inviting me to the abundance of His house.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
Psalm 36: 7-8 (ESV)
It’s hard, yet freeing, to savor the fragrance of my daily blessings while holding them with an open hand, knowing that God is my refuge (Psalm 46:1). I may not always have my family or my house. But with God, I can live in the tension and uncertainty, knowing that He is my dream and He is my home.
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while life shall last,
And our eternal home.