Sitting on the front porch of my family’s homestead in Western North Carolina is the perfect spot to reflect upon the past year. Exactly one year ago today, my husband, dog, and I were packed like sardines in a Penske truck headed from Nashville to Lynchburg, Virginia. The trip normally would take 8.5 hours but with a bogged down horseless buggy, it would take us some 13 hours. My life got flip turned upside down in the matter of a month’s time between when he was approached about the job that moved us back to our Alma Mater and when we actually moved. At the time, I didn’t know what to think. I was sad. I was happy. I was nervous. I was excited. I was dreading leaving the life I had grown to love in Music City. I was looking forward to the next adventure. Simply put, I was a mess. It’s funny where you find yourself a year later. As Providence would have it, we found ourselves headed toward another move (not our own thankfully), yet breaking at the same rest stop we had visited almost one year ago precisely to the day. After a trip to Nashville to gather the remainders of our belongings, we were headed to North Carolina to help my sister and her girls move to Lynchburg as well. One year and a day after my husband drove our own stuff in a moving truck to Virginia, he will be doing the very same thing for my sister.
Not only did we go back to Nashville to pack up the rest of our stuff, but to visit a place we once called home and friends we still hold as family. As we checked on our very first home that we ever bought, we were delighted to see that it looked even better than when we lived in it. The bushes and grass were neatly trimmed, flowers lined the mailbox and tree in the front yard, and lights accented the sidewalk. We drove by the hillside pasture I always passed on the way home from work. During the darkest days of uncertainty in our lives thus far, where we weren’t sure how ends would meet, God sovereignly placed our dwelling spot right by that hill peppered with cows to remind me daily that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and was mighty enough to meet every one of our needs.
But do you know what? There weren’t any cows in that spot anymore. There were rows and rows of cornstalks…as far as our eyes could see. Disappointed, I complained that “my” cows were gone. My husband quipped, “Well, it’s a very fertile spot of land thanks to the cows.” Truth. As I sit here thinking about it, all of it makes perfect sense now.
Like the cows, our lives were pretty to look at in the great city of Nashville. We loved our church family, we had a nice little house in the suburbs, we had so many great experiences and never got bored. But, a lot of “cow patties” if you will were being squeezed out of our lives during the 2.5 years that followed my husband’s layoff. That stank. There were pesky things very much like the flies that accompany a bovine’s gift to the earth that were always swarming us. Yet, we kept on moseying through life with hopes of not being slaughtered.
July 1st of last year, God called us to greener pastures. All the cow patties that we were stepping around turned into soil so fertile and rich that it produced a wealth of harvest. God used all of the unpleasant, unsightly, stinkin’ things that we’d been living with to bring us to a place that not only reaps a harvest in our own lives, but in those of the next generation. Through the mounds of junk that had piled up around us, He turned the land into greener pastures.
Sometimes the fertilizer is just as valuable to the land as the fruit.
I wish that my attitude had been better throughout the past year. It took a good solid year for me to adjust back into small town living, to feel at home, and to truly say that I am happy to live there. Last night, as I was helping my nieces get ready for bed, the oldest, looked at me through her big toothy grin and said, “I can’t wait to live in my new house, Auntie Em! It’s so beautiful. I’m going to keep my room so so so so clean.” To her, geography doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she and her sister can live with their mommy. A couple weeks ago, my youngest niece said to my mom, “When we move to Tennessee…” All she knew was she was going to be living in the same state as Uncle David and Auntie Em. The details weren’t important to her. Oh, how much you can learn through the eyes of a child.
When we went back toward town from our Tennessee home, we passed a different field of cows. As I watched the cattle scattered hills through my car window, I thought of just how far God had brought us since we packed up to move to this wonderful place and back. God’s faithfulness in our lives has been as abundant as the stars that light up the night skies over those pastures.
Friend, once we arrive at greener pastures, we aren’t guaranteed that there won’t be any more fertilizers to accompany them. But we are promised that He’ll turn those piles of mess into fruit-bearing lands.
Do I miss Nashville still? Sure do. Actually, I miss all the places I’ve hung my hat and called home on this green earth. But each time I go back to visit, Heaven grows a little dearer to me. Wherever we may dwell on this planet, we have another piece of home being built in our hearts. As we collect friends along the journey, we’re reminded that this none of the places we kick off our boots upon this globe are our permanent home. We’re just strangers passing through who happen to meet each other along the way. But as we roam from place to place, it becomes all the more clear that those who have been adopted into the same family have the beautiful, hopeful promise that we’ll live once again under the same roof.
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” Hebrews 11: 13 (NIV)