I hail from…
What do these have in common: VW van, igloo, beneath a bridge, tree fort? Surely you guessed it, they’re all dwelling places, shelters, places where people call home. More familiar might be your house, a tent, trailer or condo. We all hail from somewhere. I called the thick green forests of Washington my stomping grounds, raised out on a gravel road with sturdy ferns permeating every inch of the wild overgrowth and rotting cedar nurse logs nurturing new seedlings. My dad, grandfather and uncle built our house from the ground up, settled on a gentle slope overlooking a serene pond. Four acres of huckleberry bushes, devil’s club, shrubs and brush claimed our energy and housed the opossums and raccoons which peacefully lived nearby. Clean wood siding partnered with a quaint old woodstove perfected our country dwelling and I was raised with a love and appreciation of the outdoors.
Fast-forward seven years, my dwelling is now an ancient structure painted a candy-coated sugar pink. It sits squat but erect in its parking lot of over a hundred spaces. Four black security screen doors grace a front porch which is almost as rotted as those old cedar stumps back at my childhood home. A simple green space out front plays at being a lawn, but really stands out like a sore thumb. More so belong the gated parking lot across the street, a funeral home, boarding house and elderly care residence all centered by the backdrop of our Fresno skyline. The heart of downtown, about as opposite from my roots as one could get. It still is an adjustment to have mail delivered to my door, to access major freeways in less than a minute, to walk to my office downtown and be lulled to sleep by trains forcing their whistle through a crisscross of crosswalks.
Why L street God? Devil’s club, that thorny bush that would scratch my legs, was replaced by the Devil’s triangle, better known now as the Lowell neighborhood. The babbling of the brook replaced by the wail of sirens, chirping birds replaced by argumentative neighbors, crisp pine air for polluted smog. I wondered if I could be content here. I questioned if God had purpose for me even where I lived?
Certainly I miss eating fresh-picked salmon berries, running trails, gazing at delicate bleeding heart flowers, but I have found life, beauty and rich taste even in the gridiron of this city. Had I not decided to claim L street as home, I consider what I might have missed.
Jr. would settle himself in our overstuffed, faded denim-blue chairs, enjoy a glass of water and reminisce with stories of Louisiana and Mama. His hair was carefully molded into waves of shiny gray style. Jr. showed me the gift of simplicity, never having much, hardly a place to call home at all and yet a heart of gratitude and faith.
A sunflower planted by little hands from kids in the ‘hood is more beautiful than a whole garden. The jubilee of working in a small slice of warm earth is rewarding double-fold when feet seldom get to feel soft turf, and keen eyes discover a ladybug or two.
Walking the Fulton mall exposed me to people very different from myself. I was given a treasure in the friendship of Josue, one who opened my eyes to the vibrance of Mexican culture.
Who would have given Patty a warm meal, joked with Pops, or provided Joe with a place to stay one cold night? What would have caused me to wrestle with erring on grace instead of withdrawing because of stereotypes? Who would have stretched my compassion, or deepened my capacity to love well? What would have confronted my addiction to convenience, or exposed my guard of self-protection?
No, I have learned the value of being content in whatever place God has called me. It is true that He calls us to a place for a reason. In the Bible a passage speaks to this- Acts 17:26, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” Fascinating, He made us to spread out, that culture would diversify to more fully reflect the nature of God. He determined the length of our life and where we should live. Interestingly verse 27 goes on, “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Amazing! Is it not true that where we live actually influences our search and understanding of God, it affects our relationships, our bodies, our peace of mind, our very spirituality.
I go to my old home and am met by my favorite pear-apple tree, I walk outside now and am met by a graffitied dumpster, and both invoke in me thanks. Because God has destined my dwelling for each point of my life, I will embrace it- that I might “seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.”