When I was 8 years old, my parents took me and my 3 siblings on a family vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I remember how perfect our little rental cabin felt, nestled comfortably in the shade of the towering pines. There was plenty of wilderness to explore, and tourist sights to take in. Every cabin had a picnic table just outside the front door, and it was there that my sister and I perched with our new coloring books and fresh box of crayons, letting the silence introduce the songs of the birds, the whisper of the wind. We colored contentedly while our mother prepared lunches to satisfy rumbling tummies.
I recall distinctly that, as we colored page after page in our Rapunzel books, I couldn't help but notice how absolutely perfect, in every way, my sister's artwork appeared. The saturated colors were bright and rich. She added red to the lips, blue to the eyes and outlined the royalty's regal garments with thick, bold strokes. It was lovely. My pages looked nothing like that.....but I wanted them to, I wanted mine to look as pretty and perfect as hers in every way. Later in the day, without my sister knowing, I snuck off with our books, somewhere where no one would find me, and I copied that perfect page, every color, every stroke exactly the same.
Of course, when my sister discovered my handiwork, she was as angry as any accomplished 9 year old artist would be. Her emboldened words of criticism cut across my conscience like a razor, and I bled shame and regret, but didn't know how to explain to her, nor to myself, why I had done such a thing. Looking back, I know it certainly wasn't the worst of my youthful fouls, and I know my sister would laugh if I recounted the story to her today. But, the memory of it points toward something that is concerning, something I've struggled with for a long time - that is, looking over the fence, admiring the grander green, the seemingly perfect colors and lines of every one else's life.
We thought that three years ago, when we made the decision to move out to the farm where Steve grew up, that this would be our last move, this would be the place that we would always called home, this would be where we would plant roots, deep and wide, settle in and build a life that would last.
That wasn't meant to be.
I must admit, though, that it isn't the economic state of the farm alone that has caused this shift. Concerns for our kids' education and a deep desire for community - something we've struggled to find here - have also kept us up at night. We have found that accompanying the isolation of rural living is the absence of friendship and, in that, a strong presence of loneliness. I can't help but wonder if God has withheld the fulfillment of some of our most basic needs and, as well, our deepest desires in order that we might thirst for something more, something different, for what He truly wants to give us.
When all plans and all resources are exhausted, there is nothing left to do but open our eyes and open our hearts to the possibility of change, of yet another move, and that is where we are right now.
The movers will be here soon. It's time to say good-bye to Gertie (she's been the sweetest little house on the prairie), to all that is familiar, and hello to the new and hopeful adventures that await. No more gazing over the fence, or, rather, at all the lovely in everyone else's story books. My eyes are fixed on my own page, and it's all about looking forward from here.
Wish us luck - and if you pray today, remember our family in your requests, if you would, please.