Go

Moving is brutal.

This is not a new revelation for me, as over the last 3 decades, I have switched locales more than the Bedouins.

As an adult, I twice moved from Connecticut to Providence and, once in Rhode Island, moved apartments twice more before finally settling into my first married home. Maine and Michigan were next, and, while in Michigan, I moved from a rental home to a split level, all the while accumulating children and belongings.

Following that came New Hampshire: 2 moves in Henniker, from a cramped dorm space surrounded by hostile party-ers, I mean, college students (they resented the loss of their common room, now occupied by toddlers and pre-schoolers, whose schedules were wildly incompatible with their own), then to a Cape my family and I occupied for only 8 months. I lost the shade to a favorite lamp there and, unwilling to give up the lamp or buy a new shade, I boxed up the lamp and ultimately reunited it with its shade – 2 moves later.

From Henniker, the fam moved into a 5-bedroom in Durham with a deck, a yard, and a pool; a year later, a fire forced us across town to a rental (it had a skating pond! and bears!) while wrangling with our insurance company to repair our gutted original home. When they finally complied, it had been beautifully restored, but had somehow lost a bedroom.

Post-divorce, I was forced to sell this wonderful place – my best friend lived two doors down – and split my time between a tiny 2-bedroom in Raymond and my work/dorm apartment in Canaan.

In the midst of all that, I also chose to live for six months in a tent with a squirmy 10-year-old, a different place every night between Georgia and Maine.

Let’s just say I’ve moved a lot.

And while I realize there are people who do this routinely their whole lives – Coasties, for example, or serial killers – let’s just say I’m ready to stay put for a while.

This past week, I moved yet again, across campus, this time into the first floor of a spacious farm house that my school owns. It looks out across a wide expanse of field and is bordered by woods on one side and a clear mountain stream on the other. There’s storage for my bikes and gear, lots of tall windows, a screened-in porch.

My personal Promised Land.

This last move, however, was the one that almost broke me.

Nothing really prepares you – not even multiple previous moves – for the chaos of switching spaces.

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I enlisted the help of many for the big day: my son and son-in-law, handsome Samsons who can throw couches around like confetti; my brother Rick, the one with the truck; my daughter who, despite being half-way through her first pregnancy, lifted and dragged like a champ; my son-in-law’s two sisters, 11 and 16, sturdy Georgian girls not intimidated by a box of books; my colleague from across the quad; and two of my students and their mom, who were kind enough to show up during their summer vacation in the pouring rain. *

I’d like to say I managed this eclectic group with grace and kindness, but the ugly truth is, I was impatient and snippy and completely overwhelmed.

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Furniture arrived, rain-drenched, before I could decide upon a final resting place. Unlabeled boxes had to be dug through to know where they belonged. The newly-installed rug was christened by traffic, and not in a good way.

Despite being barked at by me, my helpers remained optimistic and energetic, hauling things back and forth and up and down, until at last all that remained in the old apartment were the cats and the litter box.

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Cat, actually. We lost one for a while.

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I am comforted in remembering that the story of God’s people is one of constant movement.

Abraham, faithful father of nations, was told by God: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1)

So he went, not knowing where he was going or what he would find there. But he knew God, knew His heart.

Abraham trusted that God had a purpose in uprooting him, and that the magnitude of the blessing that awaited him would far outweigh any inconvenience.

And so, too, must we trust. We never know where God might move us, but His placement is always secure.

My pastor reminded us this Sunday of the profound goodness of having a roof over our head. 150 million people on planet earth do not have a home, and 1.6 billion live in subpar housing.

What can one person do in the face of such crisis?

A lot, actually.

Sponsor a child.

Help build a home.

Feed the poor.

If all of us do something, even just one thing, we can raise roofs for the needy across the street or across the globe. Be their neighbor.

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I’m happy to be settled into my new place. I’m guessing it will take the rest of the summer to unpack and get things in order, the way I like them.

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I’m hopeful that this long season of moving is over, and I can rest for a while, secure in His placement but willing to go, should He need.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her.
I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope;
She shall sing there,
As in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt. (Hosea 2:14,15)

 

*To Rick, Caleb, Maddy, Hannah, Eden, Trish, Caden, Spencer, Pat, and Owen: thank you and I’m sorry.

 

 

 

 

God’s Isotope

“Living things carry an imprint of their environment recorded in isotopes.” ~Jason Moon

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I love high places.

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I’ve been visiting a few favorites this past week, and also paying calls to some I have not seen in almost a decade.

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On the weekend, while hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail my son and I did in 2010 and knocking off some peaks on The Grid, I binge-listened to a podcast a dear friend suggested.

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Bear Brook by Jason Moon chronicles the mystery of four murder victims discovered in New Hampshire’s Bear Brook State Park beginning in 1985, their eventual identification, and the capture of the serial killer responsible for their deaths.

One of the ways they uncovered the identities of the victims, who were (sorry about this) cut to pieces and shoved into barrels was by examining the isotopes found in their bones.

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Environmental isotopes are naturally occurring atoms that carry the signature of the geographic region where they are found, and they make their way into rocks, plants, animals, and even us, revealing our history with a mark that is as distinct as a fingerprint.

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While I listened and walked, walked and listened, I marveled at the complexity of isotopes and the unique map God creates for all of lives.

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What is in our bones?

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God’s vastness is so incomprehensible, and his thoughts and ways so much higher than ours.

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We are so small.

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The prophet Isaiah once observed: He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. (Isaiah 40:22)

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Jesus, too, was drawn to high places. He frequently slipped away to a mountaintop to pray and spend time with His daddy. I’m sure they had a lot to talk about: bumbling disciples, plotting pharisees, the hurting, the sick, and the dead.

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Jesus needed this time to strengthen Himself, gather courage for the way ahead, listen to His father’s voice.

Things always seem so much better up there.

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Perhaps they even discussed Jesus’s answer to an expert in the law who once tested Him with this question: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?

Jesus didn’t hesitate: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 

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So where do we go to find the map of own lives?

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At times, the way seems so obvious, so well-defined.

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Other times, we come to a crossroad and freeze, hardly knowing which way to turn.

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It’s murky. Unclear.

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We stumble and curse, wishing there were some way to control the swirling chaos and the deep ache inside of us like an imprint in our bones.

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Isaiah reminds us that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Spending time like Jesus did, up high, with our heavenly Daddy gives us a sense of proportion. While there, we also percolate in the immutable character of God, absorbing His most perfect isotope: love.

When we are confident of the Father’s relentless, passionate love for us, things down here seem less awful. We find ways to cope, to fight, to overcome.

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It allows us to weigh Paul’s words against our own experience and see the wisdom in his testimony: for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Whether or not we can see the way, we can be confident that God sees. He is the ultimate map-maker.

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And that is more than enough for me.