Many Moons ago, waaay back when Jim and I had one child and were expecting our second, we made the decision to leave the Army life behind. We had met while both of us were serving in the Army, married while on Leave, and spent our first three years as husband and wife living in Germany, where Jim was stationed. (I left the Army in order to get married.) One reason for our decision was that we wanted to have a family, but we did not want to have to uproot ourselves every few years in order to move around wherever the Army sent us. We wanted to be settled as part of a community.
God has a sense of humor.
We have now been married for 25 years, we have 5 children; three of whom are no longer living at home, and we have made three significant changes of location, (not counting that first move from Germany). Our first home, once we had returned to the United States, was where Jim grew up, but was entirely foreign to me. A Texas city-girl moving to small-town Pennsylvania is not going to feel "at home" for some time. Ten-ish years and four children later we had established relationships, were members of a church and a neighborhood, and had made some special memories with others. It was here that we shared pregnancies and births and the various trials and joys of new parenthood with our friends. Pushing babies on swings, controlling toddlers in the store, skinned knees, learning to ride bikes and swim, learning to read, all of these experiences were shared with our friends who were also in this stage of life. On the day that Nathaniel was hit by a car, and again on the Thanksgiving Day that Jim's father died suddenly in a hospital in Pittsburgh, we knew who to call for help and support.
And then it was time to uproot and move to South Florida.
South Florida being a rather transient area, we were not alone in being new to the community. In fact, there was hardly a community to be found at all until we found a church home. Our first neighborhood in Florida did have a lot of kids and we did make friends around us, but it was at church where we found "family". Like the survivors of a shipwreck, the people at our church clung to one another and created impromptu traditions for the very sake of creating a bond of community. It was in Florida that our children grew into teenage-hood and the first two learned to drive. Jim and I were part of a small group Bible study, and together with these couples we laughed, we cried, and we grew in the Word.
Seven and a half years of living in Florida, and it was time to move again.
We have now lived four and a half years in a community in South/Central/Eastern Pennsylvania, (I'm still not sure exactly where we are) which is home to whole generations of families who have always lived here and will always live here. When we moved, our first priority was finding a church home, which we quickly did. Our church family has been such a blessing to us and has embraced us wholeheartedly from the beginning. We were a bit concerned that entering such a tight-knit community would prove difficult, but were glad to be proven wrong on that point. From the beginning we were drawn in to their fellowship and traditions with sincere love.
What I am observing at this point, therefore, has nothing whatever to do with the intentions of our dear church family. Or, perhaps it might, but in a backwards sort of way.
We are now at the time in our family's life where the milestones we are celebrating have been years in achieving. Only months after our move here Kate graduated from high school, and last summer, Rebekah also graduated. Several of the children of our new friends here have gotten married and are now starting their own families. We've been graciously invited to birthday parties, graduation parties, bridal showers, weddings, and baby showers. While we have sincerely enjoyed these events, those around us have a bond forged by long years which we don't share. Many of the kids in our church who are of marriageable age not only knew one another from nursery age, their parents have known each other that long as well. We have stepped in at our kids' teenage years when our friends around us have known one another from their own teen years- and earlier. A shared history of that depth is such a blessing to a relationship, and we see it all around us here. But we are looking from the outside in.
Just this weekend there was a wedding of one of the daughters of the church. While we are truly so very happy for her, those who knew her as a baby are in orbit for joy- as well they should be! But it's a joy we can only observe, not one in which we can fully participate. When our new friends look at this sweet bride in her wedding gown, they see the baby in diapers, the toddler, the little girl, the teenager, the babysitter, the high school graduate, and more. Their hearts overflow to bursting with joy to see this child, whom they have loved for so long, enter in to this new phase of her life.
God, in His wisdom, has moved us around enough times that we have not had sustained relationships of the sort we now see around us. We are, in fact, coming up on two years of unemployment for Jim, and therefore are wondering if yet another move might be in our near future. Yes, the internet and telephones make the world smaller, but they don't accommodate the familiarity needed for these kinds of lasting relationships. Those who are truly our friends will always be our friends. But the milestones missed and the opportunities lost across the miles can't be made up in an email or a Skype session.
And yet, we are assured in Scripture of One who has been with us from the beginning. One who knows us even better than we know ourselves, and loves us more than we can comprehend. It is He who has ordained when and where we live, that we have moved about as nomads, yet have found members of His family everywhere we have lived. It is He who allows us to participate in the joys of others, giving us a taste of the greater joy that is to come. No joy here on earth is meant to sustain us and fill our hearts as the joy for which He has made us; they are all but dim reflections of the everlasting joy that awaits us in Heaven.
"Preserve me, O God, for in
you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, "You are my
I have no good apart from you."
As for the saints in the land, they
are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight…
The LORD is my chosen portion
and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in
indeed, I have a beautiful
You make known to me the path
in your presence there is
fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures
-Psalm 16:1-3, 5-6, 11
So we look to the Lord for the joy overflowing, the sustaining of purpose, and the pleasures of fellowship with the saints. Our path is laid out and determined by Him, and it is for our good and His glory. This joy is found in Him when our eyes are fixed firmly on Him instead of our circumstances or ourselves. And there will be a wedding someday, where we will join in the fellowship with no lack of joy, for we will be the bride, and our Lord Jesus Christ will be the bridegroom.
"Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
The Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
And give Him the glory,
For the marriage of the Lamb
And His Bride has made