We returned to the city a few days ago from a two month visit to Michigan. It was amazing to detox from city life and spend time with family and friends. It was reinvigorating to watch my boys run barefoot and try new things and be silly rambunctious boys, without having to worry about the angry call from the neighbor below. After two years, the initial feelings of giddiness and sense of adventure surrounding our move to NYC had started to wear off. Don’t get me wrong. There is still so much we love about the city, the energy, the food, the diversity of people and perspective, the ability to walk to just about anything, the friendships we have formed. We wouldn’t have decided to stay, otherwise. But the decision to extend our stay made being here so much more real, so much less like an extended vacation, and it crystallized in my mind and my heart all the things I took for granted when we lived in Michigan. So when we came back from our recent visit it felt different. It was harder than I remembered. I felt an emptiness where my family had filled me up just a few short days ago. I wanted to fill that void again, and with physical proximity no longer an option, all I could share was me, deconstructed. My heart open and poured out. So I wrote them a letter.
My Dear Family,
What an amazing summer we all had together! Neil, the boys and I are so blessed to have each of you in our lives. You opened your homes and your hearts (and your beaches) to us. You helped us make memories. You helped us remember ourselves. You helped us unwind, and you helped us to slow down and enjoy the very basics God gives. Blue skies. Green grass. Refreshing water. Cottonball clouds. Full Moons. Starry Skies. Air. Breath. Tears. Smiles. Laughter. LOVE.
When I walked back into our apartment yesterday after our long road trip, I was overcome with emotion. In the past that emotion has been relief. Relief to be back in our own space. Relief that the long trip was over. On this return I felt anger. Anger at the darkness of the room, despite the sun shining brightly outside. Anger at the layer of dust that covered everything. Anger at the windows that no longer offered an easy view of trees or blue sky. Anger at the small rooms that were impassable from the carload of luggage. Anger at Neil for bringing us here. Anger at myself for being angry at him (because Lord knows we were equally in the driver’s seat on this one). Anger at God, despite all of the blessing he has bestowed on me, just because I needed someone to be angry at.
I spent much of our first few hours back here moping, crying, disengaged. Neil was strong for me, and he gave me my space and he let me mourn. As I mourned, I talked to God. I listened to music. And eventually God gave me the strength to get up and move forward. It started with hanging a few shirts. The evening ended with me disassembling and completely disinfecting the interior of our refrigerator. An appropriate way to signify a fresh start for the woman-child who has always sought safety and security through food, don’t you think?
I fell asleep in our king-sized bed, a bed that felt ocean-like after a few months of sharing with my boys (some nights all of them, even the dog!). I slept restlessly and woke apprehensive of what the day would bring. Could I leave this apartment today? Could I be the mom my boys needed me to be? Could I make it with Neil at work and no other family close by?
I spent this summer reading the Psalms at the recommendation of our Associate Pastor. When I finished last week, I decided I was ready for more. I was finally ready to read the Book cover to cover. So a few days before Labor Day I started Genesis. I’ve been taking it slow, and I didn’t read for a few days as we packed and drove home. Despite 11 hours of time to pass in the car, it wasn’t in my heart to continue. But this morning my heart changed. It was aching for God’s word. I opened where I had left off at Genesis 12, which is the beginning of the story of Abraham. As I read verse 1, I lost my breath and tears started to flow.
The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”
And in verse 2, “I will bless you”
And in verse 4, “So Abram left as the Lord had told him”
And in verse 7, “So he built an altar there to the Lord”
And in verse 8, “There he built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord”
Why these words? Why today?