“There’s no place like home” – even for expats like me and Adrianne Fitzpatrick, whom I’m pleased to introduce today. Adrianne is a writer and publisher of Books to Treasure, a small independent press producing quality children’s literature, whom I met through the Association of Christian Writers. I love her passion and commitment to all things books. Her contribution to our series on finding home struck a chord in me, for I too cling to the identity of the land of my birth.
When I was four years old, my parents decided to move from New Zealand to Australia (the land of my father’s birth). Even at that tender age, the prospect devastated me. I was, apparently, in love with a boy who was all of six or seven, and I begged him to ask his mother if I could live them instead! Alas, it was not to be; and a few weeks shy of my fifth birthday, I found myself on foreign soil. I was not impressed. To add insult to injury, in New Zealand I would have started school on my birthday (which was in June). In Australia I was required to wait until the following January, when the new academic year began. This was not a good beginning!
I clung desperately to my New Zealand heritage as I grew up. When I felt Australian pronunciations beginning to impinge on the way I talked, I would ask my mother how to say things the New Zealand way. I steadfastly refused to become Australian. As an adult I would still claim my NZ birthright even while acknowledging my Australian upbringing with its cultural influences. Yet despite all that, I never felt any urge to return to New Zealand, even when I was old enough to make that choice. In spite of myself, Australia had become home.
I moved around so much, both as a child and later as wife to a minister, that I became adept at feeling at home wherever I was. (In fifty-odd years I’ve moved thirty-two times. I’ve been in my current house for six and a half years. That’s a record for me!) One thing that struck me after I became a Christian in my teens was the feeling of community that greeted me whenever I went to a new church, whether as part of the ministry team or as a visitor on holiday. One would expect that in your home church, but for me it was always a welcome surprise – and eventually something to look forward to – when going somewhere new. It gave me a sense of continuity, a sense of home, that I appreciated in the midst of so much change and uncertainty.
However, I can’t blame all the moves in my life on other people, because I was the one who chose to come to the UK. I grew up on a diet of British books and, to a lesser extent, British television. My mother’s family are British, with my English grandfather being seconded to the New Zealand navy after the First World War. My great-grandfather, so family history goes, was a shepherd at Stonehenge. I had a longing to see this country, although I never expected to live here. Yet when I arrived here in 2003, I knew immediately that I had come home.
Twelve years later I can still say that the UK is the home of my heart. That’s not to say life has been without its challenges: family, health, finances, even friendships have all suffered at various points. But there has also been healing, restoration and reconciliation on emotional, physical and spiritual levels. God has truly brought me home – at least until he calls me to my permanent home.