I recently discovered that my house is surrounded by azaleas.
I came to this brilliant conclusion because spring arrived (our first in this new home), and the bushes I’d never really noticed turned brilliant pink and flowery almost overnight.
Next to the extravagance of these azaleas the flower beds in the front of our house suddenly looked sparse. There were big empty spots, and I worried about finding time to purchase and plant perennials. My days are overfull as it is just making snacks for children. In the small spaces of time when I am not making snacks, I am trying to get the new vegetable garden planted.
That’s when I noticed the fiddlehead ferns. Well, not the ferns, just the fiddleheads, really. It looked as if bright green violins had begun sprouting all around the azaleas.
I vaguely remembered seeing ferns when we moved in late last summer. I realized I could probably hold off on planting. I could wait and be surprised. Who knew what else might emerge.
Like the dogwood tree. Also, a second dogwood tree. Apparently, I can’t identify most trees unless it’s spring and they are flowering. There’s also a crabapple in the corner I’d never noticed. And roses. So many roses are tucked along the fence line, but I had no idea how many there were until I went around inspecting every square inch for poison ivy.
For me, this first spring is all about surprise. My eyes are wide-open, and I have begun expecting hidden wonders to reveal themselves at every turn.
It has reminded me of the birth of my fourth baby, Elsa Spring. When I first looked at her she felt both familiar and utterly surprising. I loved her, she belonged to me, but I did not know her. She would reveal herself to me only in time. Anticipating that slow revelation carried me through so many heavy, hard newborn days.
I hardly know this place, but it is home. We are planting trees and putting down roots (quite literally), and the horizon of our dreams is farther out than we have ever seen it.
When I imagine teenagers, they are slipping through these bedroom windows to sun themselves on the roof of the porch. When I imagine weddings, I picture them here beneath the avenue of maple trees. When I consider grandchildren, I see them playing beneath the apple trees that are, today, more like apple sticks.
Until this spring, home meant familiar and comfortable. The place you know so well you no longer see it.
I’m discovering that home might be familiar and surprising. Our true home is not the place we no longer see, but the place (or state of mind?) that keeps us wide awake with wonder.
Home is where we expect good things. Home is where we say, with shining eyes and hope in our hearts, What next? What next? Is there more?
And there is always more.
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now … Come further up, come further in!”
– C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
I’ve been thinking over this all morning.
I love living in the city, but as you know, not so much in a condo. I just LONG for a bit of green space. Some flowers, some trees. I find myself torn between wanting to live her in Chicago or running away to the country somewhere. I realize I just want my heart to rest in a place that truly feels like home.
Yes, I can relate to this so well, Brenna. I loved my decade in Chicago, but even then I dreamed of a farmhouse and stretches of grass and room for planting trees. Every March I used to plant wheatgrass seeds in yougurt containers just so I could rest my eyes on something fresh and green. It’s hard. But I think I’m learning that home is something given to us in our minds and hearts – it is rest and it is God’s presence and it is a stillness that comes only from him. Well, it’s so hard to put into words, but I pray that he leads you there, even if it is a lifetime journey (which I think it is for all of us).
I read this through twice. Crying at different lines each time. I really needed this today and especially that home can be both surprising and familiar. Thank you Christie.
You are welcome, Samantha! I’m so glad to hear that this was encouraging for you. I’m feeling compelled to write a lot about home these days, but I’m also finding it difficult to express the complexity of finding a home in a world that isn’t in its final state. It’s another version of the “now but not yet” of God’s kingdom. Your comment inspires me to keep going, to keep telling these stories even when I still have questions. So, thank you.
azaleas are sneaky, aren’t they? so insignificant most of the year, you’d be tempted to clear them out with the other brush if not for that brilliant burst of color every spring reminding you they have totally earned their space. every single april that i lived in north carolina i was surprised over again by how many were hiding out in plain sight -the colors were amazing!
i love this picture of how God works in our lives- how familiar and surprising can exist in the same place.
Exactly! All week I’ve been thinking Must Plant More Azaleas. Not sure if I should resist that urge or not …
This was beautiful,I pray that God finds a permanent home for us. We have been moving place to place and nothing really feels like home. I miss seeing you at CR, hope you and the family are well!
Thank you, Angela! Praying God leads you home …