On Living in Tents and Longing for Home

I had become tired of the constant movement, of the unsettledness that was paired with joy and adventure and trust, but at the same time, had been slowly wearing down body and soul. It struck acutely the night I drove through the eerie dark of a lonely road headed into the heart of Florida. Irma was coming, and after the evacuation order, I was the only one naïve enough to be heading south. An hour away from my parents, I cringed when the radio reported that the eye of the storm had shifted to my destination. There was denial and fear and a realization that I couldn’t go back. Gas everywhere had run dry, and I would have to keep heading toward the storm.

I think I saw the sign for Palatka then, but I didn’t give it much thought.


In a whirlwind summer, I had graduated and gone to abroad, moved out of my parents’ just-sold house, and set up camp with friends while the future was a blank page. When I was just about to run out of money, Georgia called. After a few idyllic days in upstate New York eating raspberry chocolate ice cream and exploring trails and laughing my heart out with a best friend, I was sucked into the deep South. My body was in Savannah. My belongings were in Maine. My heart was in another country.

Like so many times in my life, I was in many places at once. And it ached.


On the drive back to Savannah after the storm, I noticed sign after sign for Palatka. In Florida, it was the name of a town, but in Russia, it was the word for tent. And with each sign, I was reminded of the theme that God had been writing into my life since I was 12 years old. Just a few months before, with ecstatic joy, I stood in front of the people who spoke the language I loved and read to them from Hebrews 11. I read that Abraham left to follow the Lord, how he didn’t know where he was going, and that that was how my journey had started too, a journey that had led me to them. Those words had so often shot me with strength as a foreigner. But I was beginning to long for an end to the wandering, an end to the loneliness.

I longed for a place that would feel like home. And as the year went on, this feeling grew, and simultaneously, so did the taunts of guilt.


Being in this new place, this new culture, brought me again to the mountains I had climbed in Russia: loneliness that I struggled through daily and a job that drew on every last reserve. The difference here though was that this was permanent. I imagined year after year stretching out before me in this unsettled, exhausted state, fulfilling my calling, but wilting by the day.


The idea first came in February. My best friend and I were talking on the phone for the thousandth time about how things would be so much better if we were just in the same place. To encourage each other, to support each other in this often perplexing stage of life. And for the first time in years, it struck me as a real possibility.

But as soon as the hope took shape, the guilt that has subtly prodded me for years voiced its thoughts. One of my greatest fears as a Christ-follower is complacency, of becoming so comfortable that I turn inward, cozily ignoring those who need Him while enjoying a life of ease. And my black and white mind reasoned that since the reality I was currently living was anything but comfortable, that staying where I was must be the only way to fulfill my calling. In a mind that is so often uncomfortable with nuance, I had leaned into an almost ascetic viewpoint, the binary being that either I was miserable, lonely, and serving God, or complacent, superficially happy, and ignoring Him.

I longed for a place that felt like home, but I feared that having a home would blur my global vision.

I longed for a family of my own, but the words of Paul haunted me, making me fear that receiving this desire would numb my devotion to Christ.

On one of many nights processing all these thoughts with my Dad, something he said challenged my narrow perspective. “Hope,” he said, “I think you have more freedom in Christ than you realize.”


He was right. Absolutely right.

Following Jesus is so much bigger and freer than the way I was living.

As I prayed, discernment came as to what was self-imposed legalism and what was actually His calling on me in this season. And although I firmly believe that God often calls us to specific places at certain times (#russia!), I sensed from Him a beautiful freedom to take a step toward a place I never thought I’d be.


I recently was reading Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Jerusalem, and I noticed something early in chapter 29 that I never had before. Although the Israelites were in exile, God commanded them to settle down where they were and to live life in the midst of the imperfection: to plant gardens,  to seek the peace and prosperity of the place they were exiled, to get married and to have children. Far from telling them to live in sackcloth for 70 years while they awaited their freedom, God showed care for His people’s physical needs and compassion for their humanness.

Even in tents, even in a body and soul that groan for more, the Lord gives rest and friendship and the Holy Spirit within us. And I am convinced that as I look forward in joy toward this big move, that this joy is from God. This is the first time in longer than I can remember that I have been so full of hope and passion for the unknown callings ahead of me. So in less than a month, I’ll be packing up my tent in Savannah and pitching it in upstate New York. I suspect that this won’t be my last move. Knowing me, I’ll continue to end up in places I never imagined I would be 🙂 But for now, Burnt Hills sounds a lot like home.


Pictures from England

I’m visiting friends in Vladimir right now(!)where I spent the summer of 2012 studying Russian. I have so much to write, but I didn’t want to forget to post pictures of my 10 wonderful days with my parents in England. Since typing from a phone at a snail’s pace is a frustrating way to blog, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Enjoy!

Oxford Castle: almost 1,000 years old. First a castle, then turned into a prison until the mid 90s. I felt like I was in an episode of Robin Hood! (Those of you who know me well will understand how exciting it was ;)…..)




Views from Eynsham, the village in Oxfordshire that we stayed in.

And of course, I would find a samovar in England…

Dad and I before seeing Les Miserables

Best parents ever!

Mom and I


We ate lunch at “The Eagle and Child,” a pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to meet to discuss their writing.

Remembering the Future

Dedicated to my Beloved Grandmother, Marie Ann Tingley, 1935-2013
“She loved.” The past tense is cruelly abrupt. There is no apparent beauty in the transition from the smooth, continuous sounds of the present to the hard stops of the past. “She loves” loses it infinite, unfettered s and replaces it with an uncaring, blunt d. You can’t hold the sound of a d. Try it. It’s impossible.
There is a little house tucked away in a grove of pines, far away from the road. Knick-knacks decorate the wood-walled living room, and there is always hard candy in the colorful porcelain box on the coffee table. We don’t go there very often, but when we do, there are usually lots of sweets and cable TV and relatives I’ve never met. We always go there on Christmas Eve, where we open presents around a fake pine tree with jewel toned glass balls. The living room is toasty, and I feel happy and full. The roaring vent at the foot of the plushy carpeted stairs is my favorite; I like to stand on it and feel it puff up my forest green dress like a hot air balloon. I don’t know her yet, not really.
The past tense is unacceptable. Mom and I walk by her car, and “her tires need air” slows into a little cry at the realization that we have to alter a lifelong grammar. “She is a wonderful- was a wonderful woman.” “She is- was so gentle.”
Grammie lives with us now, and I am nineteen. There is a little thrift store down the road, and it is our tradition to go out on weekends when I’m home, “messin’ around” as she calls it. We love to paw through piles of musty garments, determined to find a hidden treasure. When I’m not there, she likes to fill up her bags at Marshalls in thought of me. One time she brought me home a dress that had been marked down to 89 cents. We both know that that is a great victory. Most of my jewelry comes from her. Whenever I get a compliment on my black and white pearl necklace or on my chunky jeweled pendant, I proudly respond that my Grammie Tingley gave it to me. She has an eye for pretty things.
She complains about getting unwanted attention when we go out on the town. “Do you have guys starin’ at you all the time?” I smile and shake my head. “Well, I’ve got guys starin’ at me all the time! Golly! It’s the red hair…” She feigns annoyance, but I can see past it to the mischief in her light green eyes. When she is at home, in the little in-law apartment connected to our guest room, she plays with her big Persian cat, Caesar. “He’s just an old love bug,” she likes to repeat as she strokes her faithful pet of fifteen years. And when he jumps on the table or lets out the occasional snarl, the loving look remains on her face. “You little donkey!” she says as she wags her finger. In the summer, she sits with us on the deck and tells the story of how her mother had to hide the grapefruits from her father when she was a little girl. He loved grapefruits, and he always ate them up right away. It drove her mother crazy.
“Marie, who was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and friend, will be remembered for her love of gardening, her sparkling green eyes, her flowing red hair and her gentle friendliness. She had a knack for making friends wherever she went. She loved with a generosity that is rare, lavishing gifts, time and kindness on her family and friends without a thought of receiving anything in return. Marie brought beauty and life wherever she went, and her quiet love will never be forgotten by the many people whose lives she touched.”
 The obituary seems obsessed with persuading me that the present reality doesn’t line up with the present tense. The thing is, I wrote part of the obituary, but my own words still haven’t convinced me that my grandmother needs to be shoved into an ending that she is not yet ready for herself.
It is the February of my senior year, and Grammie has just gotten home from three months of cancer treatment. She still puts on vintage jewelry and a coat of red lipstick every morning, even though she is too weak to hang up the dozen dresses she bought in Florida. We talk about graduation, about how nice of a day we hope it will be, about how her arm hurts.
“This stuff, yuck!” She motions towards the potassium powder drink she is reluctantly sipping. “Your mother says I have to drink this stuff to get better, but yuck!” She makes a face. I laugh softly, and I believe her with all my heart.
She lets me go through her closet and I find a flowy, golden dress that is perfect for Gordon Globes. “Doesn’t it just look beautiful on her,” she says to Mom, then reminds us that her arm hurts. Grammie sits on her bed with me as I splay her antique jewelry on the coverlet, and I can’t choose between pearls and a golden pendant. “Why don’t you just wear both?” She suggests. I look in the mirror and see that she’s right.  
Her arm hurts, and we’ve worn her out, and we pack up the jewelry. I hug her goodnight and I am shocked by her sudden frailness. Early Monday morning I go over to her place and give her a quick goodbye. “I love you Grammie. I’ll see you later.” She smiles softly, and I am sure that later will be soon.

The past tense is harsh in its reality, but hope tells me that it is malleable, somehow temporary. Hope urges me to press an ear to the wall and eagerly eavesdrop, waiting for the moment when а new language will flood the senses with an understanding that outshouts the tyranny of time. For now, the phantom pains of losing her strike at the most unexpected moments, in the most unexpected ways, but the understanding that I don’t truly understand gives me a gentle peace. So I will believe that “she loved” can turn to “she loves,” and then finally, to a heavenly form that I can’t yet articulate, but will someday roll off my lips with ease.