The sun was just dipping below the horizon when we turned into our neighborhood and a white picket fence—OUR white picket fence—came into view. Following the U-Haul trailer that had been my guidepost for the last 1400 miles, I eased my car onto the long driveway, turned off my ignition, and sobbed a deep sigh of relief. We were home.
After months of planning, weeks of packing, and seemingly endless hours of driving, we had officially made it to Cedar Park, Texas. It was the town where we had chosen a house in which to live, a place to call our own. But it didn’t feel like home.
Home was family that loved us and friends that knew us. Home was a church where we felt like we belonged. Home was familiar landmarks and favorite restaurants, it was Disneyland and palm trees, it was views of the mountains and access to the beach. Home was where our memories were built and where pieces of our heart were held. THIS place, which we were now choosing to call home, was none of those things. What were we thinking in coming here? Had we just made a huge mistake?
Slowly, this new place did start to become home. We filled our house with our possessions, putting our stamp on each room and making the space ours. We became involved in our community, attending city activities and library events. We found our favorite restaurants and befriended the employees. We got plugged into a church, started serving on Sunday, and joined community groups. We made friends. We participated in what Emily Freeman calls the “spiritual discipline of touring your hometown” and as we did this, we realized that we were falling in love.
Even as Texas was working its way into my heart, I continued to feel a deep, soulful yearning for all that I had left behind. And now, this longing was accompanied by a new sadness as I realized that even if we were to return to California, this homesickness would not disappear, but merely shift into a longing for this now-home of Texas. I struggled to reconcile these emotions: how could something so good (discovering a new home) bring about such melancholy?
My search for answers led me to my knees. As I prayed for peace, God did not offer the comfort I sought; instead, he showed me that it was okay to feel homesick. . . because homesickness reminds me that there are people and places that I love; because homesickness keeps the memories alive in my heart so that the passage of time cannot dampen their hold on me; and because homesickness points me to the sense of longing we all experience as we mourn the shortcomings of this present life and anticipate the next one.
Madeline L’Engle said, “the great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” The same can be said for places we’ve called home. The houses and cities and states where we’ve lived are an indelible part of who we are. They are woven into the fabric of our story and remain a part of us, long after we’ve said goodbye. We embrace our current home because, for now at least, this is the place where God wants to meet us. But we don’t deny a subtle longing for the places we have lived in the past; we remain grateful to those places, for the role they have played in our formation.
And while we celebrate the past and are content in the future, we look forward to one day walking through Heaven’s gates into the arms of our Father who will welcome us to our Forever HOME.