Heading Home

I recently inherited an antique trunk from my grandma. It was carried by my great-great-grandfather from Russia when he and his new wife immigrated to the United States in January of 1903. It was the only thing they carried with them. I’ve often wondered what the original contents were. I think about how they must have felt leaving the only home they had ever known for a land they had only imagined. Full of promise and hope, I wonder if they were terrified, excited, or both. Did they wave as the boat pulled out from the shore or face the vast ocean ahead and vow to never look back?

The trunk holds an old map marked with the starting point of my ancestors' journey to America.

The trunk holds an old map marked with the starting point of my ancestors’ journey to America.

When I left Nebraska at the age of 19, I left the only home I had ever known. I left behind all of my family and friends for the man I would later marry. As we said our goodbyes that chilly day in January, my 5-year-old sister refused to say anything. She wouldn’t even look at me. I’d betrayed her childhood belief that things never change. As we drove away, I couldn’t stop the tears, but I didn’t look back. I knew if I looked back, I wouldn’t have the courage to carry on.

As a military family, we’ve spent the last 15 years as travelers of some sort. Even though our physical address has remained unchanged over these last few years, I must confess that I’m never quite sure if I’m home, heading home, or somewhere between. Along with the trunk, my grandma left these words for me about her time abroad as a military spouse, “Although we worked to establish friendships and roots, it wasn’t really our efforts that made all those strange places home for us. What made each place home was God’s presence with us. Our relationship with God was the key to establishing each of our homes.”

Last January in China, we met our daughter’s foster family at their home. It was the only home she had ever known. When it was time to leave, her older foster brother ran into his room and handed her an oil pastel art set. He didn’t say a single word, but his eyes gave him away. He was giving her something to carry with her, a reminder of where she came from. It was both all he had and his most prized possession. I was prepared for a tearful scene, but our daughter’s foster mom knelt down close and spoke gently to her. We couldn’t understand her words, but her tone conveyed everything. It is time to go and embrace your new life. Do not look back. And with that, our daughter grabbed my husband’s hand and walked straight through the door and into the light. Our brave little girl never once looked back.

Are you home, heading home, or somewhere between? Wherever you find yourself today, may God’s presence give you the courage to embrace your new life and never look back. I wish you a good journey.

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