Home is Where the Verdant Things Are
With every move, every new home, new city, new church, new neighbor, our hearts split and that little piece gets buried and takes root, and like a very stubborn vine, it can’t be recovered from the tangle of earth it now calls home.Currently we give Waco, Texas the name of home. A thing I never thought I would say, but God has brought us here and has granted us deep joy in this place. Sometimes we wonder how we’ll ever leave. Sometimes we deny the fact entirely, but Cody’s graduate program will eventually come to a close, and we’ll go where the job beckons. It seems cruel, facing this seemingly inevitable heart-splitting move, but then I also have to remember that they were the places before Waco that set the stage for this life right now. Ohio was the home of our childhoods. Michigan was the home of our coming into adulthood, the home of newlyweds and the first year as parents. It was our starter home, if you will. We were seedlings, tended gently by the nearness of family and old friends. And then came time to give us a wider spot of earth in which to let our roots plunge and our weak stems stretch. North Carolina challenged us deeply. Gradually the terror of that space and independence dissipated, and in Germany we finally felt our leaves unfurling. Buds began to form and we basked in the sunlight. We felt the whipping rains and winds, but our stalks were strong enough to take the beating. And now here in Waco, the maturing is happening. Our family has taken on a sturdier shape and the weeds no longer threaten daily to choke us.
Each place has held its heartaches and its charms. We have been deeply loved and have loved deeply in each of these homes, and long often to have all of them back again. Herein lies the real terror in moving yet again.
How can we bear another division? We already groan for our people and our cities so far away.
Our God, our Creator, our Pruner of Vines, knows best when we need to be transplanted to a bigger pot, or moved to a new window. We have been forced to work and rework what it means to be Cody, Mary, Sebastian, Bruno, and Cosmas Strecker. Home first means that no place on earth is our real home. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” But still we live here, for now, in this broken world... so how?
When we lived in Germany (the unfurling, budding, breathing year) we began to realize our deep sense of longing to be outside, crunching leaves under our feet, with wind-whipped hair, and dirt under our fingernails. We were plunged into it, really, with no car, and lovely low-lying mountains surrounding us on all sides. Our Kinderwagon became our trusty companion as we toted our two children all over the city and into nearby ones. We strained our muscles carrying heavy grocery bags, and steadied ourselves and our double stroller for the daily climb up the Schlangeweg, a twisty and very steep path dividing our apartment from the city. We hiked, and Cody rediscovered his love for running as he got lost traversing field after field and up those humble mountains and back down again. Mile after mile we trekked, and our hearts grew to know the healing power of the elements on our skin. Our senses were wide awake.
We lost that understanding a bit when we moved to Waco. We were stunned into lethargy by the lack of walkable space, and crumbling dead-end sidewalks, and were deeply confused when we found the “most beautiful places in Waco” to be anything but.
What we had to realize was that we needed to expand our definition of home.
It just takes a bit of knowing where to look, and fighting for it in whatever way possible. In the past year or so, we’ve gradually found our adventure boots again. Ahhh it feels so good. I started running, first as a way to connect with Cody. Our most fun dates are the ones where we run because being active outside together is really restorative for us, and is my best marriage advice if you and your spouse seem to be stuck in a rut. Now I actually really love running for the sake of running. I feel great during and after (although I’m still working on that before part). We have also realized that being outside is our favorite way to connect as a family. If we have an afternoon or a day off, we fill it with a hike, family run, or some other outdoor scene. We came to the realization of the necessity of this plan when we took into account the fact that 2 of our 3 children do not nap and do not have quiet times. This inevitably means that we all get restless and exhausted in our small apartment, and no one feels at peace or connected. I might try to work out by myself in another room, but I can hear everyone crying mere feet away, and I’m left feeling mentally frazzled. When we get outside, every one of us feels fed and rested and connected, and the result is glorious. As parents, of course we’re tired after hiking for hours with three kids, but that’s not really a new phenomenon, is it?
The expanse of sky above and earth below give us space to continue to unfurl our creative and literal limbs. The wind and rain and sun on our skin remind me that they are the best makeup and hair products anyone could want. And the trees and plants, in their ever changing, ever stationary state remind us that you can have both deep roots and wandering, sun-searching shoots. No matter our location, whether on this side of the globe or the other, we find home under the trees and on the winding paths. It is there that we talk and laugh and play as a little family in the middle of somewhere.
Thanks to Tsh Oxenreider for inspiring me to share with you a little bit about how we define home. She speaks my heart for young families finding adventure in her new book At Home in the World. This book is for those caught between two seemingly disparate worlds. Those of bedtime routines, family life, long days and cleaning toilets on the one hand, and the thirst for adventure, wanderlust, and novelty on the other. Tsh speaks of these and how her family of 5 finds home within 4 walls and without.
And many thanks to my dear friend Holly, who took these beautiful photos of my family in Cameron Park, our little home away from home these days. Psst! You can also see her lovely work when you pick up your copy of At Home in The World. She is responsible for Tsh's amazing headshot!
Did you like this post? You might also be interested in A Letter, When Home Doesn't Feel Like Home.