This is a longer version of the devotional I wrote for Northbrook United Methodist Church. Today, Brian and I celebrate 21 years of growing roots together. Happy Anniversary, Love!
After several rentals, Brian and I bought our first house with the intention of it being our only home. A new build, we invested much time and love into paint colors, interior modifications, and our garden. Especially the garden. We created a prairie oasis with spiraling gardens, a pond, and a pergola. Before we were fully unpacked, we planted bushels of daffodils. When spring rolled around, we planted 1500 native prairie plants. We spent more time outside than inside. We met our neighbors. We invested not only in our house, but our community as well. We joined a church and got involved in other community groups. Despite our plans to stay forever, unique circumstances forced us to put our house on the market just six years later.
On one of our last days in that home, I began splitting a few plants to take with me. The amber day lily from my grandmother’s dear friend. Hibiscus from my mother. I couldn’t take them all, but I could bring those that held connections with loved ones. I also wanted to take my favorite prairie plant, the Wild Indigo that was tucked into the corner by our picket fence. As it started to drizzle, I attempted to dig up a section of the enormous plant. The crown of the plant was so dense I could barely get my sharpened spade into the ground. I tried from the side. I tried wedging my shovel underneath. I was able to break apart the top of the plant, but I couldn’t get enough root. The combination of the tug of war with the deeply rooted Wild Indigo and the realization that I couldn’t bring the garden with me hit me all at once. This plant was staying right where it was. I sat down in the mud and sobbed for all that I was losing in the move.
We’ve lived in our second house eight years. The plants that I brought with me have thrived. I’ve added new ones. Here we have mature trees for swings and forts. There is a large Wild Indigo plant in the bed by my front door. I grew it from a start which came from my mother. More talented than I, she had been able to split her Wild Indigo from one that I had given to her as a Mother’s Day gift many years before.
The changes that come from moves are hard, whether we are the ones moving or the ones staying. Like plants, we tend to develop deep roots when we find those native spaces that make our hearts feel at home. Life is never as stable as I would like it to be. I often find myself struggling against change, trying to keep things just as they are. My stubborn nature has me playing emotional tug of war with circumstances beyond my control more often than I care to admit. When I eventually let go, I am able to invest in the new place, finding surprising beauty wherever I land. Like the garden of the home I live in now, where new plants grow and thrive alongside those I was able to bring with me. Eight years later, the Wild Indigo has taken over the flower bed by my front door.
As I reflect upon our moves (Brian and I have had 7 homes in 21 years together), I am reminded of how many Bible stories involve relocating: Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Moses and the Hebrews, the exiles to Babylon, Mary and Joseph, the disciples called from their hometowns, and Jesus Christ himself. In fact, it is hard to find someone in the Bible who isn’t on the move. Though we long to be deeply rooted, human experience is often a migratory one. Like our Bible ancestors, we, too are asked to reinvest ourselves in new places and circumstances. Thankfully, no matter where we go, God’s abundant grace is there, too.
Beautiful thoughts, Christine. My husband and I are still in the house we built soon after we married 30 years ago. However, much has changed. The children are grown and (mostly) out on their own. Sometimes I walk around the backyard and can almost hear their voices and laughter as they played years ago. Their pink wooden playhouse still stands but the wood is starting to rot and it is only used for storage these days. I loved to garden; I have several flower beds and an herb garden with raised beds which my husband built for me for my 40th birthday. Unfortunately, physical problems mean I have to limit my gardening time and the gardens are not in the shape I would wish them to be. Our son will be moving out in the next few weeks and then the house will truly be too large for the two of us. When we retire, the Long Island taxes and the cost of maintaining the house will be too much for us, so now our focus is on getting our home into shape so we can sell it. I guess what I am saying is that, even if you stay in the same place, you can’t escape life’s changes. Either way though, as you say, God is there with us through the changes.
Thank you for sharing your journey with me. You are so right, we cannot escape life’s changes. May the peace of Christ be with you in this season of transition.