The Wanderer’s Return

The cherry trees behind our house may be old, but they are scattering yellow leaves like overeager flower girls before a wedding.

It isn’t time yet, I whisper.

But it is time. No matter what the calendar says, it is time. I know because I have seen this once before. On August first, we began our second year at Maplehurst, and this, yellow leaves on green grass, is the first return.

The first year is a surprise. The second is a return.




She is eleven months going on all-grown-up, and I have unpacked some of her older sister’s clothes. Here is the white dress Lily wore in her one-year-old portrait. Here is the rainbow-striped sunhat she wore our first summer in our 48th Street condo.

We no longer live in that city, though it was the first place that ever felt like home to me.

My first baby girl is also lost (replaced by a nearly-ten-year-old whose legs look impossibly long in their roller skates). Of course, she returns in memory, she returns in the soft curve of her baby sister’s chin, and, who knows, maybe she’ll show up again when I unpack this dress for a grandbaby someday.

Nothing good is ever truly lost (which is another way of saying that all is being made new).


Today, I reread my journal. I remember the wandering years. Those drought years when the smoke of Florida wildfires was like a pillar of cloud. Back then, I wrote down the words of Zechariah.

Though I scatter them among the peoples, yet in distant lands they will remember me. They and their children will … return. I will bring them back.

Moving to this place one year ago felt like this return. Once again, we would know the rush of four seasons, the familiarity of a good friend’s face, the comforting rightness of the words this is my home. All this while watching another baby girl grow.

But return is not a one-time thing.

One year in, and I know that life with God is all about return. I am returned. And every day I am returning.

The prophet’s words tell the story of my life. Of my rescue. They also tell the story of the world:

Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence (Hosea 6:1-2).

We die so many deaths, but we are never lost. The son of God gives himself up but is returned to us on the third day. And every day this world is made new.

Something new!

If creation sings, then those are the words to her song. It is a song about birth. It is a song about coming home. It is the song of our God and our world.

I have seen these yellow cherry leaves before, yet I have never seen them before.

They have returned. They are new.


At that time I will gather you; at that time I will bring you home.

Zephaniah 3:20

the road ahead

Home At Last


That’s the name lettered over the door of the small shop. Home At Last. It makes me laugh. Somewhat  bitterly, I’m afraid.

On this day, we are fifteen-years married, and, to celebrate, we wander the streets of this Texas hill-country town, the fruit of our union miles away at Grammie and Granddad’s house.

Sitting down to eat lunch amidst a babbling brook of soft, Texas accents, we talk about home. We may have grown up in this place, but each return only emphasizes how far we’ve fled. We’ve lived away nearly as long as we lived within, and even the memory of Texas as home is fading.

Our waiter asks where we’re from, and I suddenly realize how often we’ve heard this question today. Why? How do they know? Jonathan wrinkles his forehead and says, “Well, we don’t have accents?” Maybe, I say. Then my husband, the one I often imagine to be the less observant in our partnership, states what should have been obvious: “I don’t think we look like Texans. At least not small-town, hill-country Texans.”

My husband sits across from me in skinny cords and a sweater vest, looking unsure, and I laugh because the truth is suddenly so obvious. The men who pass by our window are all dressed as if they’ve just left either a football stadium or a deer blind. They are window shopping with their wives, they are nowhere near a stadium or a deer blind, but they look utterly at home.

Where are we from? We can no longer answer that question. It did take years, but at one time I could say “Chicago” with ease. Now, each time we’re asked, Jonathan says, “We live in Florida,” but we both know that this is not the answer to “where are you from?” or even “where is your home?”

We have a house in Florida, but we only dream about home.

I like to imagine that home is somewhere with snow. The kids tell me it’s a place with room for a dog.

Others tell me that the ache for home is all there is. At least for now. At least on earth.

I don’t believe them.

Home is too good. Too necessary.

We may be souls walking the shadowlands, but these shadows are God-made and God-breathed. The place that feels like home may only be a taste of what’s in store, but it is still good.

And the best part? To find a home is to reach, not an end, but a beginning.


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