Not My Home

Not My HomeA couple of weeks ago, we crammed 5 duffles, 3 sleeping bags, 1 cooler, 2 bags of food, 3 bottles of sunscreen, 3 “keep-busy” bags, 23 dvds, 1 dvd player, and 5 people into our well-travelled Dodge Grand Caravan.

And then we set off on our biyearly trip down east.  We took the 401 all the way through Ontario, then headed straight through Quebec, down through New Brunswick, and across the Confederation Bridge to Prince Edward Island.

The drive is long, and I only brought one book with me.   Of course, reading in a vehicle makes me motion sick, so I had time to watch the world pass by.  I found myself looking for the sudden foothills of the ApFields in Quebecpalachians in Quebec, searching every sign for a word I understood, and scanning the fields for the long, narrow tracts with irrigation ditches between them that are so foreign compared to Ontario’s huge square fields.  I enjoyed interacting with the people that lived in the tiny towns just outside of the main corridor — the ones who tried so hard to understand me, while I struggled to decode their accents.

As we travelled down through New Brunswick, I couldn’t stop looking for more trees.  It seems like they stretch on forever.  We wondered at the hundreds of miles of fencing that seem to only serve the purpose of keeping animals off of the highway, and we mentally calculated the cost of the barriers and the wildlife tunnels that travel underneath the highway at intervals, wondering if it’s for the benefit of the animals or of the humans that such projects had been undertaken.  I watched an RCMP officer order lunch at A&W with interest, wondering how many Due South and Dudley Do-Right jokes she had heard over the years.  We called out the name of each river we crossed and the name of each townAcadian House we passed.

As we turned east and headed towards the ocean, the houses became more traditional, the barns more often covered in cedar shakes, and Acadian stars began to hold a place of prominence on houses, over the garage, beside the front door, or between windows.

As we got closer to the coast, the houses dwindled.  And as we approached The Bridge, the saltConfederation Bridge air became evident.  There is a different quality to that air, something heavier, more fresh, more alive in that air.  And as we crossed Conferederation Bridge, I imagined the red cliffs of the Island coming into view.  I couldn’t actually see them because I was driving and concentrating very hard on not falling off of The Bridge, but I knew those cliffs were there.  And as we made it back onto land, I felt that feeling that I always feel when I step onto Island soil.  A feeling of importance, of belonging, of the ancestral history that defines this Island and my family.

And as we struggled to find our way to warm beds in the dark (because by now, night had come), the roads became more narrow and wound up and down hills.  Well-kept grass lined the shoulder, and rusty mailboxes with names like MacNeil, Blanchard, and Gallant flashed by.

When we finally made it to the mailbox we were looking for, we stepped out of the van and stretched.  We heard the crickets singing their night song, felt the cool salt breeze on our cheeks, and breathed deeply knowing that our travels had been successful, our journey was complete, and that we were where we needed to be.

Laying in bed that night, thinking about the past two days of traveling, I wondered about all of the things I had watched for along the way, all of the things I had discovered about the landscape, the dwellings, the roads.  And I wondered about back home.  Was I as observant at home, in my liGreen Gablesttle town?  Did I notice the comings and goings of people back home as much as the ones I had watched with interest along the way on this journey?  Did I appreciate the natural beauty of the fields around my town, did I notice the ancient landscaping of the hills, the rivers, the valleys?   Did I interact with people the way I had on this trip, with a smile, and extra effort put into not just hearing, but understanding what they were saying?

A song my mom used to teach the Sunday School kids came to mind.  It goes like this:

This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh Lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

I have a loving mother just over in Gloryland
And I don’t expect to stop until I shake her hand
She’s waiting now for me in heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh Lord you know..
Just over in Gloryland we’ll live eternally the saints on every hand are shouting victory
Their songs of sweetest praise drift back from heaven’s shore
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

Hebrews 11:3 says of the faithful ones, that  ” … They acknowledged that they were living as strangers with no permanent home on earth.” (God’s Word Translation).

If we’re members of God’s Family, we’re not home yet.  As much as we settle in and get comfortable here, it’s only for a short while.  This is not our home.

This is not my home.  And if this is not my home, why do I treat it like it is?  Why don’t I watch the landscape, the architecture, the people, instead of distracting myself with a poor representation of those things?  Why don’t I go out of my way to engage a neighbour, a stranger or a child, with a smile and an honest attempt to understand?  Why don’t I take the time to feel each grain of sand between my toes, to touch the prickly starfish, to absorb the history and the stories that an old building holds?

I’m too busy, I tell myself.  There’s too much to do and too little time.  I have the same number of hours as anyone else, but time slips by more quickly in recent years, it seems.   There never seems to be a moment to sit and absorb, to engage, to listen, to understand, to empathize, to encourage.  But then, am I ever really looking for those moments?

When I’m out walking with a group of toddlers, I’ve learned that when they get moving too quickly, when they just want to run ahead and I need them to slow down, calling to them sweetly, explaining from afar how they need to wait for the rest of us doesn’t work.  Instead I say loudly and firmly “Stop!  Wait!”

And I hear my mind’s voice saying the same thing to me on a hot summer afternoon when a child is in her own little world, singing a made-up song while baking cupcakes in the sand.  “Stop.  Wait.”  And so I stop.  I watch.  I listen. And I know that I may never get that chance again.   As a woman approaches me at church while I race the clock to set up our portable Children’s Ministries, I hear it: “Stop.  Wait.”  So I stop in my tracks, still feeling the pull to keep busy, get the to-do list done.  But it will wait.  It always does.  And I listen instead.

Just like our trip that was over in a week, my stay on this earth will be too short.  But while I’m here, I need to watch, listen, feel, and be present.  This is not my home, it’s just the journey home.  But every once in awhile, I need to Stop and Wait, and appreciate the scenery as I make that journey.

Victoria By The Sea, PEI

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