Friday, November 30, 2007


"I'll be home for Christmas..."
"Oh there's no place like home for the holidays..."

For twenty years, these songs have pained me throughout the holiday season.

It used to be because we couldn't afford to go home for the holidays. But now Minnesota, where I grew up, no longer feels like home. My grandparents have all passed away. My parents still live in the house they've had since my mom was expecting me, but they have remodeled; the neighborhood is different; the town has changed. Stores have closed and different ones have opened. There are new roads, and there is a lot more traffic than there was when I lived in the Minneapolis area. Besides, it is really, really cold there at Christmas time.

I no longer want to move "home" because what used to be home doesn't feel like home anymore.

The sad thing is, Syracuse has never felt like home, either. I used to absolutely despise Syracuse and everything about it. The first seven years we lived here were the most miserable years of my life. I hated the weather, the gray skies, the unending humidity (your woodwork is always sticky and your towels never dry), the fact that there are only Italian restaurants, the scrubby downtowns, the malls with 60% of the stores boarded up, the neighborhoods with no curbs or sidewalks. To me, Syracuse seemed dingy, dirty and depressing all the time. We lived in a house I hated, in a neighborhood I hated, in a city I hated, in a state I hated.

After living in Syracuse for 6-7 years, we bought the house we live in now. It was unquestionably a gift from God. It was outside our price range at the time, but God miraculously worked out the details so that we were able to buy it easily, no financial stretch. At the time we bought this house, I still did not like Syracuse. What I said then was, "I want a house that will keep us until we move out of Syracuse. I do not want to have to move again until we can get out of here."

In truth, I have been happier here. The neighborhood does not depress me. Our house is very pleasant. I love to curl up on the sectional in the family room with the gas fireplace on and read a book or watch a movie with the family. I love the piano in the livingroom, and the way it sounds when the kids are practicing. I am continually thankful for the basement we were able to finish and the bright, cheery colors down there, and my spacious laundry room. We remodeled the kitchen in 2002 (I think that was the year), and I have loved my kitchen since then. I have things I didn't grow up with--a pool and a deck and a master bathroom off my bedroom. All these things I am thankful for. I have seen God provide exceedingly abundantly.

But my heart is still not at home in Syracuse.

Sometimes you don't get your heart's desire. One thing I always wanted, I guess I always assumed I would eventually get, is a baby shower at the church where I grew up. I think I assumed that I would move back to Minnesota and have my last baby, and there would be great rejoicing , and I would celebrate with a huge baby shower at First Baptist Church of Anoka. Well, I had my last baby over 12 years ago, and we did not live in Minnesota, and I did not have a shower. Life goes on. You have to die to some of these things. My kids are healthy and decently dressed. They do not know the difference, whether they had nice church baby showers or not. It doesn't matter.

Sometimes you get things "too late." Like our van. When the kids were little, I had Laura in a car seat, David on one hip, and Shannon holding my hand (which hand? maybe it was the hem of my shirt she was holding), every time we went out to shop for anything. Of course, 75% of the time it was also raining or snowing. And with all this going on, I had to fumble with car keys. By the time I got a car with a key fob and automatic locks, the kids were all self-sufficient (even Jon, who came later), and I had my hands free. I thought, "Why do I need automatic locks now?" I guess my attitude helped me relax when the automatic locks stopped working reliably.

But my topic today is home. I have a pit of homesickness in my guts that I can rarely lose, but as the years go on, it becomes less and less clear what "home" is, what I am longing for.

We could actually use a new house. The boys share a room, and it isn't going well. Also, when we moved in there were mostly empty lots around us, but the area has since built up, and we would feel a little more free with a little more space around us. There is a very real possibility that we will not get a new house, though. Shawn says we WILL move eventually, but the kids are settled here; this is where they have grown up. Do we want to build a house somewhere on a different side of Syracuse, in the country, in a new school district, where there are no memories? We could pack up and leave as soon as the kids are done with high school, but something about that really bothers me. I don't particularly care for Syracuse, but we have a few roots and memories here now. Suppose we pick up and move to, say, Kentucky. If we do it after the kids are grown, what will we have? A more fractured family, it seems to me. A beautiful house in a beautiful country setting, with no memories, and where will we be in relation to our children's families?

If we get a new house at all, it will be too late, like the automatic van door locks. We won't need the extra bedroom, or the music practice studio, or homework nooks. We will be done with this season of life. We are already at the tail end of it.

I wish I could stop feeling sad about this. Micheal Card had a song once, where the voice of God sang to His people,

Though you are homeless
Though you're alone
I will be your home

Whatever's the matter

Whatever's been done
I will be your home

I will be your home

I will be your home
In this fearful fallen place
I will be your home

When time reaches fullness

When I move my hand
I will bring you home

Home to your own place

In a beautiful land
I will bring you home

I will bring you home

I will bring you home
From this fearful fallen place
I will bring you home
I will bring you home

Someday I will know, in my heart and my feelings, that God is my home and that wherever I go He is with me and that is enough, especially because in the end I will be in heaven and none of this stupid stuff will matter, and I will truly be home, and there will be effortless joy. Effortless joy. Doesn't that sound good?

Please bear with me. November and December are very difficult months for me. I usually cheer up in January--there is such a tremendous relief each time I realize that I've survived another holiday season. I hope someone, somewhere, will pray that my children can find joy in Christmas, that God will guard them from my low spirits and me from ruining everything.

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