A New Home

9 04 2012

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“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.”

We just returned yesterday from a short trip to one of my favorite places,Chicago, where we visited with our oldest son, Jeremy, and his beautiful wife Bekah. Even though I’d spent the majority of my life residing in different regions of ‘Small TownAmerica,” I have a certain affection for major cities.  I love seeing the different architectural designs that define each building and its history.  You can eat in a different restaurant every week for years and never repeat the same cuisine twice.  Museums, parks, music, sports all characterize the urban experience and lifestyle.  But I believe my favorite thing about the city is the people.  If you’ve ever had a desire to travel abroad and meet different nations of people but could not, all is not lost.  Take an excursion to Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle and or any number of other metropolitan hubs and you will be overwhelmed by allthe diverse cultures you’ll find living there. Take a walk through the downtown district and on an average day you’ll hear scores of varied dialects being carried on.  No wonderAmericawas nicknamed “The Melting Pot,” such an awesome experience!  Now that I’ve told you all that, here’s a story of a man I met who did not speak with a foreign inflection to his voice, but I still found him to be a rare species to his surroundings.

Sometime back in the 1990s, I was inChicagowith a friend going to see his brother who lived on the north side of the city.  We stopped at a gas station just off the interstate and I went in the store to buy a pack of cigarettes (Heavy smoker back then, smoke free 7½ years now)!  When I came out, there was an elderly man sitting in a lawn chair in front of the station.  “Excuse me friend,” he started, “but could I get a smoke from you?  The station folk know my doctor don’t want me a smokin so they won’t sell me any, could you spare me one, please?”  I gave him a cigarette, lit it and began studying this man carefully; something very familiar in his voice, in his accent.  “Where’s home friend?” I asked him.  “Oh I live just down the block in an apartment there,” he explained motioning with his arm in the direction he spoke of. “No friend,” I said with a slight smile; “I’m meanin’, where’s, Home?”  Now I had his full attention with him looking up at me for the first time.  “Eastern Kentucky.”  I knew it!  Being born inWest Virginia, I can tune in an Appalachian accent in a crowded room.  Sitting down in the chair next to him, I struck up a fuller conversation.  “Now what in the world is aKentuckyboy doing here inChicago?”  Now he was smiling back at me; “I’ll tell ya, but it’ll cost ya another smoke.”  I pulled out a cig, lit it and took the rest of the pack and stuffed it in his shirt pocket; “You have my attention.”  “Well, I came up here in 19 and 46, after the war, looking for work cause there weren’t any work down home and got a job here in a steel mill.”  Fell in love with area and decided to stay, huh?”  “Hell No!” he shot back at my question.  I never been any place like here and didn’t like it one bit!” My plan was to work a year or two, save some money and start some kind of business of my own back home.”  I’d go back every chance I could, had a girl and we wanted to get married, but I didn’t want to bring her back here, was sure she wouldn’t like it in this place.”  A small grin returned to his face; “I showed up at her home one day, she had 2 suitcases packed and sitting in the front room.”  “She looked me square in the eye and said now we can go see the justice of the peace on our way out of town or if you want to save time we’ll just get on the road now, but ya ain’t going back without me, hear?!!  Still smiling he said, “I thought I had a pretty good argument up till then.  Well I made her and myself a promise we would someday go back to the hills, but she passed ‘fore I could keep it. Still, we had a good life together here; raised two children that meant the world to her.”  Again I questioned, “So you never did make it back toKentuckythen?”  “Oh no” he exclaimed, I moved back shortly after I retired a number of years back, bought a small house there in my hometown and made plans to finish out my days there.”  Okay, now I’m a bit baffled.  “But you told me you lived just down the street here.” “Yep, it took me a few short months to realize I made the biggest mistake of my life!  Anywhere I needed to go I had to rely on someone else to get me there, nothing was nearby like here.  Gave my old landlord a call and he said I had a feeling I’d be hearing from you, I still got your apartment, it’s ready for you to move back into.  Here, I’m walking distance to the store, the pharmacy, my doctor, restaurants and most of my friends are here, not back there.  I have good memories ofKentuckyand maybe if I never left it would be different, but that’s not home anymore, this is.  I think the Good Lord put me exactly where He wants me to be and that’s just fine and dandy.”  Looking at me again now, “I suppose you want your smokes back after hearing all the hubbub?”  Laughing out loud I said, “No friend, your story was a worth a carton, but I don’t want to get you or me in trouble, you keep them, and thank you for sharing.”

My Lady and I had every intention of moving back toOhioafter I finished my education inIndiana, we just didn’t realize it was going to take 25 years to accomplish!  But like my friend, as time moved on so did our priorities, what we considered important, and where we were called home.  God had a better plan, a special plan totally contrary to what we thought we would be doing and where we would be doing it; and we thank God for that plan we allowed Him to carry out in us everyday of our lives!  Did our hometown change?  Yes, all places do as time marches on.  But the bigger change, I believe, came in us learning to be happy where we were planted so to speak; home did change but so did we.

C.S. Lewis explains it this way:

“Imagine yourself as a living house.  God comes in to rebuild that house.  At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.  He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.  But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense.  What on earth is He up to?  The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.  He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

For this man and many others, we have learned contentment and happiness where we have found ourselves in life, it’s home, at least for now.  I love where I am and all that’s around me, but there’s a time coming I’ll be making a another move.  Will I miss my old home that means so much to me?  I don’t think so, I’ve got a promise of a place yet to come that the LandLORD has already prepared just for me, and you, Home forever!  (John 14:2-3)

“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home,” Augustine

Blessed week to all. 🙂


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