It takes a long time to feel at home in a new town. I have spent the majority of my life in four places: Chapel Hill (22 years), Boston (3 years), Schaghticoke, NY (5 years), and Our Nation’s Capital (22 years.)
I know people – usually in military families – who have moved every year for decades. And I know people who have never lived away from home except for their college years, and after college they moved back to the general vicinity where they grew up. There are lots of reasons why people live where they live.
We now live in Chicagoland. It’s really wonderful and I say that as a person who has loved every place I’ve ever lived, including a summer in Guatemala and a year in Europe. I’m very fortunate that way. But it takes a long time to feel at home in a new place.
When my parents were alive, they always called the town of their childhoods “home” as in “we are going home for Christmas” even though they’d lived in Chapel Hill for more time than they’d lived in the towns where they grew up. Home is still – in a profound way – the town of my childhood and the town of my children’s childhoods. I love the overwhelming familiarity of having lived in a place for so long. And I miss my local dry cleaning lady and the staff at the local Caribou. I miss knowing exactly where I can find my favorite salad dressing. I miss the writing table at my favorite sermon-writing place.
But last Sunday, as I was getting coffee at my local coffee shop, the barrista staffing the drive-thru said into the speaker, “Hi, my name is Lucy. What can I get you today?” And I said, “Lucy is one of my favorite names,” and when I drove up to retrieve my Skinny Mocha, she said, “Well now you can call me by name.” I almost burst into tears. “My name is Jan,” I said.
I believe in call. I believe that just as God called Abram from Ur – and everything he’d always known – to Canaan – where he was a stranger – God called me and HH from the East Coast to the Midwest where neither of us had ever lived before. But just because God did it doesn’t mean it’s easy. I totally get why people stay in the same church or the same geographic area for the sake of their families for decades if not for the entirety of their work lives. I would like to have done that too, but it wasn’t our calling – at least for now. I mourn being away from our kids, our friends, that dry cleaning lady. But we are slowly connecting with new friends.
A word for churches calling pastors far from “home” – be patient. We happily moved to serve here and we are so happy we did. But there are layers of grief we are still dealing with after leaving pretty much everything behind.
Thank goodness for Lucy, the barrista I now know by name. She has no idea, but she changed my life last weekend.
Photo of my new downtown.