I have called many places home in my last seven years. Although, I suppose, if my hubby and I ever talk about "home," we're referring to Athens, GA - the place we were raised and where most of our family still lives. But even when we were dating, and in our early months of marriage, we knew we wouldn't be in Athens forever.
All of our "homes" have been transient. For a season. Temporary.
And I have loved this life. I have loved knowing that my family is not called to plant roots in anything (or any place) except the Kingdom. I have reveled in the idea of a new horizon, a new city, a new landscape, a new me.
But the thing about being transient is that it's hard to lay claim to anything. It's difficult to invest in something that is fleeting, you know? I tend to maintain surfacey friendships if I know the person will be leaving me (or vice versa) in the near future. I don't hang pictures on the walls of a house if I have to patch the holes a few months later. I know it's temporary; so I wait. I know it's only for a season; so I watch the seasons change. I don't drop anchor; I just look for the next big wave to carry me away.
That's the safe thing to do, you know. It's easier to never hang pictures than mess with putty when you move. It's easier to leave the boxes upacked than to repack them later. It's easier to love a little than lose a lot.
It wasn't until my seventh month in Korea when I realized how much that mentality permeated every area of my home. My relationships. My life. It's as if the Lord opened my eyes to what I was missing - who I was missing.
I suddenly realized that, with my roots firmly planted in the Kingdom of God, I was free (and required) to love people and places with reckless abandon. It could never be wasted. I might be abandoned by people, but the love that I gave (and lost) would be invested in a far greater place and Person. I committed in those last three months that I would give 100% of myself in those relationships and people. And I have not regretted one moment of that investment.
Fast forward a year (give or take).
It's December 2010.
I'm living in Memphis, my new temporary home. Chick Nite at The Life Church. Minding my own business. Expecting to have some fun. Riding the waves.
Then the speaker began to throw out some random statistics:
"Memphis, TN was recently named the Hungriest City in America."
"26% of people in Memphis could not afford to buy food for their families in the last 12 months."
"83% of people who come to the Food Bank have to choose between paying for food or paying for utilities."
"32% had to choose between food and rent or mortage payments."
I feel like I can't breathe.
"One area of Memphis has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country - nearly twice the national average."
Then she told a story that haunted me - that night, and several nights since then.
For Christmas, our church gave out live Christmas trees (among other things) in one of the most impoverished areas of our city. They came complete with decorations and lights - as any Christmas tree should.
When they arrived at one home, the mother said, "We don't need the lights. We don't have any electricity."
Her little boy turned to her and said, "But Mom, can we please get them anyways? It will make it feel more like Christmas."
That night, it was 12 degrees in Memphis.
And here is a family without heat.
Only 10 miles from my house.
Where I snuggled in a warm bed.
My heater turned on 70 degrees.
My pantry full of food.
Leftovers in the garbage.
My two healthy, happy children deep breathing in their beds.
I wouldn't have known that it was twelve degrees outside if I hadn't looked it up on one of my two laptops.
I didn't sleep at all that night.
I saw the anchor splashing into the waves.
I felt the ground shift beneath my feet as the roots began to creep their way through.
I knew I couldn't live in this place - in this city - without investing.
Fast forward to today...
(come back soon for Part 2)