The other night we took a walk as a family around the neighborhood where our new school campus resides. This time of year, as the academic calendar draws to a close and brings with it so much transition and change in our community, it’s hard not to get all reflective and nostalgic and anxious and a little sad. So we went for a walk, which on the outside was just a chance to take a slower, closer look at the new streets we’ll be living in and around for the next several years, and on the inside was a cathartic chance for me to pray over this next chapter, and to place my hands in a sort of way over the place and the needs and to ask for all the grace that we are daily in need of.
To be honest, I really love the new campus. I love the feel of it when I walk in the gate, and the cozy, welcoming atmosphere of the layout and the large trees like sweeping arms embracing us around the perimeter. As Josh says, it’s not perfect and it doesn’t meet all of our wants or needs, but it’s what we’ve been given, and in many ways the perceived “lack” can sometimes be a means to grow in ways that aren’t readily perceived. Sometimes the biggest most beautiful house on the street is also the most empty. So, I’m hopeful and thankful for this new place. But new places are also hard.
To most people, moving a school campus probably doesn’t sound like such a big deal. Churches and schools and businesses move locations all the time, or build new buildings, or expand and change, and often this is exciting and a sign of growth, and doesn’t make us feel like the world has been turned upside down. I’ve been thinking about why moving our school is so life changing for us, and I think it has to do with a sense of home.
As people, there is something innate within us that makes us want to root and plant and grow where we are. If we feel displaced, then those innate senses are blocked and we feel transient and detached, which is unnatural and disconcerting. Anyone who has ever moved has experienced this to some degree. For weeks or months or even years, as you try to settle into a new routine, with new surroundings and places to buy your groceries or take the kids out to play or buy your coffee, you are caught in that tension of wanting to feel at home, rooting around as you wait for that sense of place and belonging to find you once again.
For us, living in a foreign country where all of those experiences are heightened by about a thousand percent, our apartment and our school become very much a place that represents home. The school campus in particular is a gathering place; the place our team meets to begin the morning with prayer, where we labor day in and day out over the needs of the year, where we come together for meals and sometimes parties to celebrate a new baby, or a friend who is leaving, or to have a celebration of thanks with imported turkeys and try to make those who are missing their home country and families feel comforted by candles and a shared meal. It’s where our kids love their teachers, and graduate from Kindergarten, and play basketball on Saturdays, where I’ve cried in the bathroom and had lunch with my kids and hid in Josh’s office and hugged a friend who lost her baby and felt relieved and angry and at home and as far from home as one can feel.
As I walked the halls of the now-in-moving-upheaval of the current campus this week, with the walls bare and the floor gritty from the carpet being pulled up, memories were piling up on me like the boxes stacked against the walls. Some of them were good and some of them were difficult. I was thinking of the people that had walked these halls, the days and sometimes years that Josh and I have asked for provision or strength or mercy in one area or another, and the many ways that God has walked with us through these ups and downs. These halls represent so much to me in the way of trying to be faithful in the face of discouragement and sometimes celebration. They are just walls. But they hold a few years-worth of life in them.
Leaving the old place is both sad and strangely okay for me. Walking the new streets with their promise of new provisions, I was surprised by the measure of peace I felt in knowing that in each place we have settled, the Spirit of God has been with us. This week also happens to be Pentecost Week, a time to remember anew God’s gift of his Spirit and all the ways he gives us grace upon grace—guiding and comforting, revealing and reminding, interceding for us when we don’t have the words, bringing our needs always before the Father and knowing perfectly what is the will of God for us. I’ve been reminded that even though we as creatures are made for place and for people-- as our place and people change, we are made most of all to find our place in God. And to think that He also makes a place within us. Astounding.
As conflicted as it feels to leave one set of walls and familiar streets for new ones, I’m comforted to know God finds a place to dwell in us, and that we walk anew each day, on each tree lined street and strange new building, with Him.