I never know how to answer when people ask where I’m from. Every answer seems somewhat dishonest. I live in Boston, but I’m not from Boston. I spent four years in Atlanta, but I’m not from there either. I’m not from China, though I lived more of my adult life there than anywhere else. I like Auburn, but I only went to college there. I claimed Chattanooga for a long time, but my parents moved from that city fourteen years ago and I have few ties left. I visit them in Birmingham now, but I only lived there the first year of my life. I feel like I should carry around a chart to answer that question.
There was a rose bush in the yard behind the house where my dad grew up in Pelham, Alabama. He doesn’t know when it was planted, but his earliest memories of it’s blooms were when his younger brother was born in 1953 and it was already old by that point. The bush was often cut and shared with friends and family, so it was only natural for my Dad to take a clipping when he and my mother moved into their first house in Alabama. Two years later they took a clipping with them to Crown Point, Indiana. It survived a harsh winter and they took part of it again to Nashville, Tennessee. It bloomed big and bright there for a few years before they took part of it to Sumter, South Carolina, where I have a picture beside it in my white confirmation dress, all skinny arms and legs and braces. They took a clipping when we headed back to Tennessee and I took pictures in front of it’s reddish blooms in my red prom dress. Now it’s thriving back in Alabaster, Alabama just a few miles from where they clipped it over thirty years prior. My dad has shared it with almost everyone he knows. Make a passing comment about it’s beauty or fragrance, and you’ll go home with a clipping and instructions.
Now I’m moving again and I’m wondering if a soul can be like a rose bush. The night I told Maggie, she cried, “I won’t go! I won’t start over! I won’t leave my friends! I won’t leave my house!” I held her and prayed as she tossed and turned and sobbed and finally fell asleep. Then I crawled into my bed and tossed and turned and thought about leaving my friends and starting over and helping my kids through those transitions then I cried myself to sleep. That was the low point. However, things have started to look up. We started keeping a thankful journal and the kids look forward to adding to it at night. We memorized Psalm 46:1-2, “God is a refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” And Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” We’ve been remembering and telling our stories of God’s faithfulness. Much to my surprise (I confess), it’s working. Along with the stress and sorrow and uncertainty, I am also feeling hope and even courage.
Over the course of the next four weeks, we will say good-bye to places and people we love. The tears have already started sneaking up on me as we start to experience “lasts”. Then we will gather up our courage, strengthen feeble knees, and face a lot of “firsts”. But a year from now, we won’t be new any more. My kids will have friends. I will have moved past small talk with some people. I won’t get lost so much. We will be un-packed (hopefully). I will run into people I recognize at the grocery store. Maybe I will I look out at my own bright pinkish red roses that grew from a vine that came from my Grandparents' yard. I used to think we dug up the whole bush and re-planted it. I didn’t realize that we left much of it behind and took part of new growth from the last location with us. I have a feeling this longing for home is part of existence this side of Heaven, many moves or none, and I wouldn’t trade the memories of the places and experiences and, especially, the people I carry around with me if I could.