I wrote this blog on Sunday as our Southwest flight roared down the runway, giving us split-second glimpses of the mountains and deserts we have grown to know and love in Arizona. I'm pretty sure the truth of this blog stands firm, even as I write it out 2 days later in North Carolina...
I think this is what dying is like...leaving something behind that you love...but by faith believing that something wonderful, but different, awaits you.
Life is full of goodbyes...airports are great reminders of this: lovers enmeshed in one last hug...mothers looking up to the sky and squeezing their children tightly to themselves as they fight back tears, sending their kids off to be with their Dad...waves and smiles and pats on the back...tears and sighs and looks of resignation...and everything in between.
Seated behind me on the plane is a grandmother taking her young granddaughter back to Chicago from a visit with her cousins. As the plane ascended, I heard her ask the little one, "Do you want to go home or stay with your cousins?" With no hesitation whatsoever, "Stay" was the little girl's whispered reply. Turning to her seatmate, the grandmother said, in a tired voice, "Not me. I'm ready to go home! My kids went away for a week while I watched the grandchildren." Ah...
We live in a world of tension. We want to stay. We want to go.
I met yet another grandmother yesterday while we were out shooting Hummingbirds...shooting as with a camera, not a gun! As we sat there together oohing and aahhing over the flashes of orange and red and purple whizzing past our heads, we got to talking. It wasn't long before she opened up and shared that she and her husband had just moved there, leaving behind their beloved home and grandchildren in the Pacific Northwest. Turning to me she confessed, with tears overflowing her eyes, "I didn't know it would be so hard."
I felt her pain and her tender heart, for I knew that I could so easily be in her place. For I, too, have a beloved home and a life full of those I love back east. Like her, I, too, am in love with Arizona and thoughts of packing my life up in North Carolina and moving there flit through my mind endlessly.
But when it comes right down to it I know, with all that is within me, that I love my family and grandchildren more than I could ever love living apart from them in Arizona.
Home is where the heart is. And my heartstrings are tied to the hearts of those I love back east.
Life is full of choices. They come one at a time: to do or not to do...to go or not to go. And each choice leads us to a place from which there is often no return. Every choice we make moves us in a direction we may, or may not be, glad we ended up in. Often, only time will tell.
I speak from experience.
Like you, I have learned many of life's lessons the hard way...made many choices that led to things I later regretted.
At 60, the sand in my hourglass is slowly running out. As time slips away, my vision becomes clearer...my goals more concise. There is a sense of urgency that comes with the passing of the long-held belief that life extends endlessly ahead of you. Death and loss have shattered this delusion. Life is short...too short...and what is most important to me is what I value most. And where I want to invest the rest of my brief time here.
Choices are not always easy. We fight daily against the world, the flesh, and the devil. It can be hard to know where our desires are leading us. Apart from God's mercy and grace and enlightenment, we are all at the mercy of ourselves.
In that moment of realizing that as much as I love Arizona...the Sky Islands and the open vistas and the breath-taking birds that pop over the Mexican border and the Milky Way that illuminates the velvet black of a night sky so dark you lose your breath...as much as I love and enjoy all of this and so much more...my heart lies elsewhere.
I thank God for those moments of sanity when the picture becomes focused and we see...not only with our mind, but our heart...the Holy Spirit gently confirming something that He knows is best for us...even when we're struggling to accept it.
I knew with all that was within me, that it was God speaking through this woman...that He was bending down and whispering into my heart, "This could be you."
And in that moment, I knew He was absolutely right.
So here I am, on a plane at 40,000 feet, saying goodbye. Do I hope to return? Yes! Absolutely Yes! Will I? Only God knows what the future holds. For now, He has given me an armful of memories to hold close to my heart, a heart I know will be heavy in the days ahead.
As the nose of the plane levels out, pointing east, I choose to let go of my dream to move to Arizona.
And while one dream slips away, another dream fills me...hopes of investing in my grandchildren, treasuring each moment I am given with them and the children God has blessed us with...parents, sisters, friends. I have a treasure trunk full of riches awaiting me back east. All gifts from God.
I choose to go home. My heart lies 2,800 miles from here.
And home is where the heart is.
Shine on, dear ones!
photo credit: airlines470 <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/16103393@N05/21783111420">N565WN SEA</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>