It does not take a strong gust of the winds of change to make me cling to the idea of home; a gentle stirring will do. Partly because it’s the natural bent of my “old soul” personality. Partly because in my personal experience, “home” has, in the largest part, been blessedly idyllic. Partly because the places I know and love best have themselves not changed very much in generations; instead, each visit seems to confirm that they will always exist in the same form as in earliest childhood memory. “Home,” however, is not a singular residence or place in time…
“Home” is rooted in a whistle-stop town in northeast Alabama, most well known for sock mills and seminal country musicians and a little bit of Civil War history; where today, in 2018, you half-expect to see Andy and Barney and Opie ambling down Main Street; where no picture does justice to the beauty of the valley running the length of the shadow of the mountain; where the specific community in which I grew up is so small that it still has no stop lights and only one school for all grades and a train track that symbolizes the way the young people can’t wait to get out; where I first learned to love football, and where I first learned to love books at the library that allowed me to check them out ten at a time, and where I first learned to love Jesus at the little white church pastored by my daddy for ten of my earliest years.
“Home” is rooted in the sandy soil and unique drawl of eastern North Carolina, where my daddy comes from and my grandparents have lived pretty much their entire lives; where the interstate does not go and roads are named for family farms; where the expanding borders of a college town have not yet overtaken the endless fields of corn and cotton, tobacco and soybeans.
“Home” is most deeply rooted on a suburban dead-end street in southeast Tennessee, entwined in the roots of pines and magnolias and honeysuckle and grapevines and of the vegetables in the garden that has grown in the same spot every year that I can remember. “Home” is everywhere here, at the address I’ve had the longest; synonymous with all the laughter that echoes in the nooks and crannies of a house that has been in my mama’s family for generations, and in the room I’ve shared with my sister for 16 years, and around the handmade dining table at which we’ve gathered for thousands of meals (coincidentally, my grandfather was born on that table…); synonymous with the solidity that waves in the treetops that are faintly reminiscent of Walton’s Mountain; synonymous with the love that is reflected in the faces of all the dear ones that live here. So much love.
When change looms large, there are many pangs of nostalgia that bring a desire for things to go back to the way they were at a given moment in time; an added consciousness in times of tenderness or revelry or high holiday that makes me pause and look around for a moment, aching for time to stand still; a thirst for “home” that cannot be quenched. As fiercely as I love my loved ones…as fondly as I recall each residence thus far…as gracious as God has been to associate my earthly understanding of “home” with joy and love and security…change reminds me that I’m not Home yet.
I have read many wise and wonderful words lately on change, and the God that does not change, and the promise of my heavenly home, and I would point you to them in lieu of further attempts to make application.
But. To myself, the girl who cried bitterly the day the new neighbor cut the old neighbor’s beautiful hedgerows down, mourning all the change and symbolism thereof: this is your admonition to not look back more than you look forward. To not idolize the gifts instead of worshipping the One who gives and takes away. To thank God for the “already,” but anticipate the “not yet.” To embrace each step and every season of the road Home.
“In every change, He faithful will remain.” (Catharina von Schlegel)