“Welcome to Michigan!” the sign says. Welcome words to weary travelers coming home. No matter how fun the trip, no matter how welcome the change, or beautiful the weather there is nothing like coming home. The trees and landscape look familiar, and though our thermostat has gone from 70-something to 30-something we find something within ourselves settling.
We took the path of the monarchs and birds and headed to warmer climes for the coldest months of the year. We traded snow advisories for tornado warnings. Worth it? Every single bit. We found our favorite southern spot away from the crowds that prefer Mickey and friends and joined the white-haired folks who prefer their space and their gulf coast shrimp.
Now, I must say this. We do not vacation. We do life in a different location. If I’m going to vacation, I’m not cooking, cleaning, or doing laundry. Christian won’t be on the phone and we would live a very carefree life. Though we are somewhere else and consider that a HUGE privilege we are just living–warmer.
One day when picking my kids up from swim class (that’s what I call bringing the car down to get them after they have spent an afternoon body boarding oh-so-happily in the ocean) I realized that, though that may seem like a huge, unfair perk to some I consider it a well-deserved advantage for kids who for years have borne the stigmas and remarks from those who don’t understand what homeschool means to us.
Folks tend to think that our decision to homeschool means that we think less of other choices. Nope. This was just something WE were called to do. So we did. And it has changed our lives and afforded us opportunities we never would’ve had. It also has isolated us and our kids in a million ways. To us, that’s a fair price to pay for the advantages. For most, I guess it wouldn’t be or they would do it, too!
So back to my story. We used our Christmas money and a certain amount of cleverness and blessings to procure a great price in a fantastic house from which we could watch pelicans play and dolphins swim and opened it up to folks we loved to join us. Our heart’s desire was to show love as we had been loved and provide a refuge to whomever needed it. In return, we were richly blessed with time with people we love dearly.
In the place that has as many BBQ billboards with pictures of smiling pigs and words like “tasty” as it has confederate flags, life moves at a different pace. Literally. Folks drive 35 when they could be driving 55. And they make turns from complete stops. These are lessons in patience for those of us who would have taken that same turn at 40.
There are lessons in hospitality and service to be learned as well. Though it may take three times as long to have your food brought to you, it will most certainly be brought to you with a huge smile and a generous allowance of time instead of the “Are you done yet?” vibe one may get at a more northern eatery. Can I just tell you that grocery shopping where we were feels like a privilege instead of a chore? I literally went to say good-bye to my new friends at my southern grocery store–the place where they not only bag your groceries with a smile and a warm conversation, but they unload your cart for you onto the belt and insist on bringing it to your car for you.
We stayed in better shape and health there as we could take walks and get daily doses of vitamin D from our beloved sunshine. We enjoyed different foods and culture and scenery.
And yet, as we now view frozen white water covering the ground rather than falling asleep to the sound of the ocean lapping at the sand, our hearts feel grateful to know what is familiar. To know that the beds that we climb into tonight are our very own. To see what God has given us and enjoy what is good. And I can hardly wait to reacquaint myself with my piano and my cello and my kitties and my kitchen. Not everyone gets the chance to do what we have done. We know this very well. But, everyone does have a certain amount of control over their world and its design. It just may require some jumping out of the box.
Come on out! The water’s fine.