I dare you to read today’s contribution to the “There’s No Place Like Home” series without tears streaming down your face. I can’t do it – every time I read Alex’s words, they strike the inside of me. Maybe because so much of our story is similar, and that I too have had to deal with resentment and bitterness over what is home – and especially what is the home of my children. I’m so glad to introduce Alex to you today, for she was part of an answer to prayer back when I first moved to the UK and was friendless. Grab a cup, or glass, of tea (hot or iced) as she shares her search for home.
My husband and I are both from Fife but moved away from Scotland 18 years ago. The moving part was a conscious decision, but the away part wasn’t. Incrementally we have moved further and further, with addresses in England, The Netherlands, Hungary, and now Texas in the USA. The initial move was a result of my husband accepting a job in Surrey; subsequent moves were internal to the company he works with – a mark of a successful career, but with ripple effects for ourselves and our families.
Oddly, despite having lived in five different countries in less than two decades, it was only a year ago that I started having a crisis about what I actually called “home”. At that point we had been living in America for more than a year, and had drawn the conclusion that it made sense to buy a house here in Texas. I was on board at a practical level, but was struggling emotionally and had at least one meltdown during a telephone conversation with my poor, bemused husband.
On reflection, previous moves had never seemed particularly permanent. Even in The Netherlands, where we lived nearly nine years, our expectation had been to be there for two, and the staying was a gradual acceptance. Buying a house in Texas felt like a sudden and huge commitment, not helped by the fact it is so far away from Scotland, with family, a cooler climate and a beautiful landscape beckoning.
It also felt like a betrayal to my parents who had endured a hard six months, during my step-dad being in hospital and the ensuing recovery of illness and being effectively institutionalised. Ironically, I had just completed a Master’s in Gerontology and yet I wasn’t available to support my own family. Failing health also meant they wouldn’t be able to make the journey to visit our new house – in my mind a key requisite of giving it a feeling of home.
The final straw was having to come to an acceptance that this would likely be the last childhood home for our boys, in a place where everything except (and perhaps even) the language is surprisingly alien. As far as the boys were concerned, America, with football (sic), sunshine, swimming, Chick-fil-a, tennis and music every day at school, was exactly the place to spend their childhood days.
At the time my emotions were running high, I was taking part in the first semester of the Life With God (LWG) study with a small group from my church. The study aims to encourage participants to deepen in relationship with God, through personal reflection and group discussion. Participants are challenged to apply biblical knowledge to the heart and soul, and we had reached a point in the study where we were considering Cain and his essential refusal of God’s intervention regarding anger and bitterness (Genesis 4:6,7).
Working through my own personal resentments and disappointments in light of the study, I reached two very clear conclusions. As far as my immediate family were concerned, the only factor that would hold everyone back from settling with Texas as their home would be my reluctance, and even bitterness. As far as God was concerned, I was displaying a lack of faith that, having brought me thus far with many blessings and life lessons on the way, God would continue to work His purpose in my life.
I gradually began to accept Texas would be home for at least the time being, and to take each day as it came. Very soon after all my soul-searching, we found a house that ticked much of our wishlist and, as the months have gone by and neighbours have become friends, it has met wishes and needs we weren’t even aware we had. Thanks to Skype and Facetime, family members unable to travel have become familiar with our surroundings, and my step-dad even presented us with a beautiful water colour of the house, based on photographs.
The boys are incredibly adaptable, doubtless thanks to their international experience, and they have always settled quickly. However, my husband and I, a little more set in our ways perhaps, have been astonished at how settled we have felt in this particular house. The house and its environs are very different from anything we grew up in, but they have quickly become familiar. We both feel we can breathe a sense of relief every time we turn into the estate and approach the house. And it feels right to call it home.
We try to return to Scotland every year and did so last month. Having pondered long and hard over what home means, my senses this visit were sharpened to the sheer beauty and preciousness of the place and the people associated with Aberdour. Despite my current address quickly establishing its place as home in my heart, the village of my childhood, Aberdour, also continues to lay its claim to the title.
On our return to America, two opinions were aired about what we should call home. My son was gently admonished by my uncle for referring to Texas as “home”, rather than Scotland; at Dallas airport, I asked an official which line (queue!) we should take for customs now we have a green card, and his reply: “don’t worry, you’re home now”. Two claims to what we might consider home, at either end of a long journey – both valid. Until another corporate decision shakes us up again, my heart is at rest.
“…if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:9,10)
Alex Ward is a Scot currently living in Flower Mound, Texas, with her husband and two sons, both born in The Netherlands. She has recently completed a Masters in Gerontology (distance learning with Southampton University) and is contemplating how to make use of it now her boys’ days are filled with their own activities. She likes a good cup, or glass, of tea.