I sat down to write tonight and began by first by checking in at Pandora, which is a really cool music site that lets you set up your own “radio station” where you designate the artists you want to hear and then they surprise you with some others based on your music genome. I’ve created several stations, but the one I clicked tonight was “Boys with Guitars” and the first song up was one by Paul Simon off of his album Surprise. As I was collecting my thoughts and feelings, I heard him sing,
I figure that once upon a time I was an ocean
But now I’m a mountain range
Something unstoppable set into motion
Nothing is different, but every thing’s changed
I spent my day caught, or maybe pulled, between who I was and who I am. This morning I met with my friend Ann who is in seminary (and also wife of Doug of Red Sox jinx fame) and taking a class on Missions. She asked to interview me for a paper on missionary kids, or MKs for short. She had done a good amount of reading and research getting ready for our time together and the quality of her questions helped me not only to remember things but to feel them as well. We talked about all the places I lived, all the schools I attended, what I remember about moving all the time, what it was like when we came back to the States on leave. I talked so much we ran out of time before she ran out of questions; we’re getting together to finish up the interview tomorrow morning. When I left her house to walk back up to the church for the closing session of Avalanche Ranch, I realized I was all stirred up.
This is the fourth summer I have been the song (and dance) leader for VBC. Many of the kids who have come have been there all four years. They have lived in the same house on the same street in the same little seaside town all that time. I was twelve years old before I knew people like that even existed. We were on leave and living in Fort Worth and I was going to Hubbard Heights Elementary School. I came home from my first day and said to my mother, “I met the weirdest kid today. He’s lived in the same house his entire life.”
“There was a kid like that in my class, too,” my younger brother said; “in fact, there were several of them.”
“I hate to tell you boys,” my mother said, “but I’m afraid we’re the weird ones.”
At least I was twelve before I had to learn that particular piece of reality. I went on to talk with Ann about how home — as a place — is not something I know. (For those of you who have read this blog for awhile, I know this is a recurring theme; here’s hoping it’s not also repetitive.) There’s not an address anywhere I can drive or fly or walk to and say, “I’m home.” The house from which I write tonight is home because of Ginger and the pups, but when we move one day it will slide off somehow like every other place I’ve ever lived. I told Ann I used to think it was because I had never lived anywhere long enough to grow roots, but after spending all but three months of my married life in Massachusetts I think perhaps I don’t have roots to grow. What I know of home is in faces, not places.
I look at the careers that have found me and the one I have chosen and I’ve spent most of my life both searching for and working to create home. Last Sunday, as folks took Communion, I sang,
come home, come home
ye who are weary, come home
earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling
calling, o sinner, come home
That’s what I want church to be: home, which is why the administrative side of pastoring exhausted me. When I taught high school English, I wanted my classroom to feel like that as well, which is why having to give grades ate me alive. I know that’s why I choose to be a chef because cooking makes me feel at home and makes me feel like I can help to create home for others.
Tonight was my first night at the new restaurant. The people are really nice and the other folks in the kitchen were both helpful and friendly. The place is set up and maintained well and everyone seemed to work with a sense of collegiality and intentionality. The only thing that made it difficult for me (other than everything being new) was Chef had called me back after saying I was going to be Sous Chef to say the owner had decided to delay opening for lunch until September, so what I thought was going to be a full-time position is going to be a part-time line cook for awhile. I had planned to dive in and be at work again and I’m going to be prepping and learning and standing on the sidelines for at least a couple of weeks instead.
I don’t get to feel at home just yet.
I’m sad because I got my hopes up. I’m grateful because I have a good job in a good place with good people. I also feel good because he had to do some work to make room for me, which makes me feel like he wants me there. And it’s hard being the new kid in a room where everyone already knows each other. As many times as I’ve been that kid, I can’t say it has ever gotten easier.
When Ginger got home tonight after a meeting, I had dinner ready for her and then we took the pups on a walk to the water. I tried to start unpacking much of what has made it to this page as our Schnauzers dragged us around the block under a starlight sky, anxious to get back home to the couch and the cookies. I suppose my life today feels as different from what I knew growing up as an ocean from a mountain range. In some sense, nothing is different — if home is a place, I’m never going to find it – and, Paul Simon is right: everything has changed; I’m at home tonight because I’m with her.
I have not moved anywhere near as frequently as you have, in fact I lived in only 2 houses before I was 18. I’ve moved around quite a bit since then, but always found community wherever I lived. With all the adages about where home can be found, like where your hat is hung, I believe home is that place where you are loved. The neat thing is…it doesn’t have to be in just one place. I think the change in plans at the restaurant, although a disappointment and surprise to you, might just be a good thing.
Milton – Your post speaks to me – although I lived in only two different houses my growing up years (one from birth to three, the second from three to leaving at almost nineteen for university) neither was a place “where I could lay my head” and be safe. It seems as if most of my adult life has been seeking for that “place to lay my head”. I find that disruption that comes from re-examine my story with another is often what triggers that longing. I am starting to ‘know’ that is a big part of my faith journey; creating and growing places of rest for myself and others to lay their heads. I understand the cooking too. Thanks for writing this, it speaks Holy Spirit to me.
Milton, You have a gift for creating community wherever you find yourself — you’ve done that with your blog, and I’m sure in lots of other contexts. I sense you’re more aware than most of us that we really are sojourners in this world, but we need good traveling companions and comfortable resting places along the way. Thanks for sharing a bit of your “home” with us.
Sorry about the delay in settling into the job, but undoubtedly there will be something rich in the the waiting…
Good writing. Makes me feel restless.
As the grateful recipient of Milton’s memories and reflections over the past two days, I, too, have been mulling over the meaning of home and how our life experiences form that meaning for each one of us. Milton and I focused on the meaning of home as a physical place and how that is compromised with frequent moves, especially between very different cultures. But as many of you have pointed out, we find home in other ways, too: in our relationships and in our vocations to name two. No matter how stable our physical locations have been, however, we all harbor a deep longing for “home” that is difficult to define – call it a state of being where we feel complete, loved, at home. Ronald Rolheiser calls it “the holy longing” for communion with God, the deep, deep missing piece within all humans that comes from being separated from our Source with whom we all hope to reunite at some point. Notice when we speak of folks who have died, many say “they’ve gone home to God.” While we’re here we catch glimpses of what that may be like in loving relationships or in “right livelihood”. But there is an ultimate homecoming, the longing for which gives us all a sense, granted in varying degrees, of rootlessness or restlessness. For now, may be grateful for the fleeting stability we find in our earthly lives and for the people like Milton who can remind us of cultures on the other side of the world that are just as precious as ours and that home lies within our hearts.
This post certainly speaks to me. I’ve thought a lot about what defines “home” in the last three years since moving to Germany. I love what you’ve written. Maybe that’s why I cling to church –it’s a home when I feel rootless–because I meet Jesus there, and my brothers and sisters.
PS. I tagged you for eight random facts. See my blog for details.