This year is one of transition for all of us in our little yellow house. We are all—in many different ways—between one stage of life and another. The nature of LEVN lends itself to being a time of change, exploration, and discernment. No one stays in the service corps forever; everyone comes with 20+ years of unique experiences and challenges, and everyone will, after a year or sometimes two, move on to something new. For many of my housemates this is their first year out of college; I have been out of school and working for a few years, but it’s my first time living somewhere other than Anderson, IN.
A little over a year ago, I was sitting in a movie theatre watching Moana. It was a time in my life when I did not know what the next step was, but I knew that I needed to step into some changes. I had not found out about LEVN yet and I was applying for jobs, beginning to seek out volunteer opportunities in areas that interested me, and looking into graduate schools. I’m definitely a crier at the movies, so no one who knows me would be surprised to hear that this animated Disney feature got me really emotional. Following your calling out into the unknown is a central theme of the film. One scene/song in particular summed up much of what I was feeling, in which, when asked who she is, Moana sings: “I am a girl who loves my island, and the girl who loves the sea, it calls me…” Cue much weeping.
In those moments I didn’t know what was coming but I wanted so badly to move forward; I was more exasperated than sad. Fast-forward to August when I was driving to California and heard the lyrics in a new way: I was scared to leave my friends and family, but I was excited to see what the year had in store for me. Fast-forward AGAIN to hearing the song in the present (I love musicals, so, of course, I’m going to listen to this soundtrack throughout the foreseeable future): I somehow feel both more hopeful than ever in my calling and also incredibly sad at times to be so far away from dear friends and community who I had lived near for many years. I really do love my island. And during this season, it’s a struggle to define what ‘home’ looks like.
“Did you go home for Christmas?” many parishioners at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral asked me during the last few weeks. The seemingly simple question brings up a host of confusion for me. Did I go to Indiana? No. Do I want to continue to think of Indiana as my home when I am not at all certain where I will be living next year? I’m not sure. I feel the same way about the church I grew up in: I find myself referring to it as my “home church” often, even when I don’t intend to, but do I want to continue thinking of it that way when I don’t plan to return after my year in LEVN is up? Especially if I hope to continue church ministry somewhere completely different after LEVN is over?
I haven’t come to any great conclusions, but I think, for now, that I’m just going to have to be OK with home being more explored by my questions than defined by my answers. My task then becomes noticing and grabbing the bits of home I discover along the way. I did go to somebody’s home for Christmas: I tagged along with a housemate to visit family in Washington state, where I found comfort in some of my favorite rejuvenating activities: reading books of my own choosing and going to the movies. I also found home in quality kitty time, being welcomed into a stranger’s home, and a stunning hike in the snow (obviously, a Midwest winter staple that I was missing in California)!
One of the movies I chose to see with Christmas gift money was Lady Bird, a coming-of-age story about a young women’s last year in high school, which takes places in Sacramento. There was something so sacred about experiencing a film about Sacramento in Sacramento with people who “get” Sacramento. Hearing them laugh and sigh and recognize the various landmarks made me feel like I could almost borrow their home for two hours. The way the main character, Christine “Lady Bird,” feels about her hometown reminded me of my own conflicted relationship with Anderson, IN. Take, for example, this conversation Lady Bird has about an essay she has written with one of the administrators at her Catholic high school:
Sister Sarah: You clearly love Sacramento.
Lady Bird: I do?
Sister Sarah: You write about Sacramento so affectionately and with such care.
Lady Bird: I was just describing it.
Sister Sarah: Well it comes across as love.
Lady Bird: Sure, I guess I pay attention.
Sister Sarah: Don’t you think maybe they are the same thing? Love and attention?
This scene struck me on two levels (again, in the form of questions):
The first being, how important is it to define clearly my relationship with my hometown right now?
And the second: in what ways can I love where I live now? Or, if you prefer: how can I better be paying attention?
When most of your close friends are in a three-hour different time zone, it can start to feel like you’re on different planes. It’s hard to find times to talk when everyone (including me) is busy with the kind of time-juggling and emotional roller coasters that so often come with being in one’s mid-twenties on top of the fact that my 7PM is Indiana’s 10PM. The idea of home to me feels similarly fractured right now. Sometimes I try to process it more thoroughly, only to remember that in six months I will almost certainly move and have to start all over again.
I can only strive to follow the oft-quoted advice of the poet, Rainer Maria Rilke: “be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…live the questions.” For me it usually comes down to trust. Do I trust my Midwestern friends to keep me in their minds and hearts even if that looks different now? Do I trust my own ability to ask for what I need and then be grateful for what I have?
Do I trust God to provide?
Even when—especially when—providence doesn’t look like I think it should?
The thing is, I am currently living an abundant life with beautiful humans in a world where we all belong to each other. And I have to remind myself continually that it may not be the season to Define The Relationship with me and Home. Grace abounds when we don’t know whether or not we are dividing our time up correctly and when we are doing our best but it doesn’t seem like enough. Sometimes just moments are powerful enough to carry you when you feel nomadic, whether it’s cuddling up with a housemate to watch a movie or paying your full attention to a parishioner or client.
Moana’s song ends:
“The call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me. It’s like the tide, always falling and rising. I will carry you here in my heart, you’ll remind me, that come what may, I know the way…”
Dear Lord, please cleanse us of our incredible Fear Of Missing Out and replace our need to know with a desire to trust. Amen.
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral