Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Importance of Place

We are a nomadic family…living perpetually in a temporary state…not by choice, but rather by necessity, moving on with each new change of season.  Described like that, I guess we all are nomads, of sorts.  Life is fluid and changing, and we change with it, whether we want to or not.  As seasons change, so do life-sustaining sources, and we must forge ahead or be left wanting.  We all are nomads, especially as we believe that this world is not our ultimate home and we are only passing through.

This contemplation makes me think of the ancient Israelites passing through Transjordan: Why did 2 ½ tribes (Rueben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh) choose to settle there along the journey and not continue to the Promised Land?  Was it strategic, to conquer more land?  Or were they tired of the nomadic life, and the land looked good for settling?  Numbers 32 seems to indicate the latter.  Did they miss out on God’s planned blessing by not continuing?

The logistics of our nomadic journey at the current stage look something like this: We lived in Buchanan, MI for 3 ½ years while Owen worked on the classwork and legwork of his dissertation (PhD in Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology & Anthropology).  We currently live in Amman, Jordan for 6 months while he continues to research, survey, and write under a fellowship with ACOR (American Center for Oriental Research).  When we leave here, we will live under the generosity of my family for an indefinite, temporary period of time while Owen finalizes his dissertation and defends (hurray!) and applies for jobs (double hurray!)…And then we wait…Trusting that God’s plan for us does indeed include a job for Owen.  At the point in which a job is procured, we will move to wherever in the world God happens to lead us.  In the field of archaeology, jobs are scarce, and first jobs often are not final positions but rather stepping stones—perhaps it’s the same in many professions.  As such, we anticipate a long future of uprooting and moving and re-settling. 

I am a roots-loving girl.  Roots are important for stability and nourishment.  I want my roots planted firmly in one location, and from there to spread deep and wide.  A good, solid, unchanging home seems quintessential to appreciating the rest of the world without feeling lost in it.  (I speak of my own experience; I know many solid, cultured people who had to move a lot in their youth.)  I feel so blessed that my parents were able to give this gift to me, and I still grieve that I will never be able to give this to my own children, geographically speaking.  I kind of love the tendency here in the Middle East for children to never leave home…once married with their own families, they simply add on to the family home rather than moving away.  The nomadic life is diametrically opposed to my inner make-up and preference in living.  There is something deeply comforting—vital, even—about having a place to belong, and where do you belong more than on the same plots of land your ancestors have habituated and toiled over for generations?  Memories radiate from every rock and tree and crevice of those places, from the very soil.  One would zealously do anything to not lose it or have it changed, because the land itself becomes like a part of your very self; it can be ripped away only as easily as your very soul.  It brings a deeper understanding of the tension in the Middle East, does it not?


  1. I know what you mean. It's hard to feel like we're really "grown-ups" when we've never had a home of our own, and we won't for a very long time. I look forward to living somewhere long enough to plant fruit trees and a big vegetable garden and feel like it's mine.

  2. Wise observations about roots and land and the Middle East. I would encourage you that your children will turn out awesome. They are having amazing experiences that will shape the way they view the world and it will be rich. We traveled a lot when I was growing up. I missed out on some things that you get by living where your family has always lived, and part of that is a sense of belonging to a place. But I also gained a great deal in learning about what things are universal among humans and what things are local custom. And perhaps Owen will be one of those rare souls who find a place to work in his field and stay there for 20 years. He is rather extraordinary so you know that could happen. Otherwise, you will just carry home around with you, like my mom learned to do. You would be very good at doing that, I think. Also, I love that you now have a blog.

  3. There's something exciting about change, though, isn't there? Knowing something new is on the horizon but not quite knowing what that is going to be. We're anticipating change and wondering, like yourself, where the Lord is going to lead us. Keep us in your prayers and we will do the same for you as we all seek the Lord's direction for our families in these next chapters of life. There is no greater feeling of contentment than that which comes when following where God leads. I admire your fortitude and am slightly jealous of your adventures. Praying the Lord gives you renewed strength.

  4. Thanks, everyone, for your comments and encouragement! Peggy, you always have such sweet words; and I am happy about the experiences our kids are having and will have (I am hoping Jack remembers this trip!). Mandi, I do agree that change can be exciting...but it's always just a little bit scary too. But you're right, when you know God is leading you, there is peace.

  5. You rock. Way to be brave and plastic even when you feel super brittle. I think our generation has lost the tendency to settle down. You're not weird. So many people I know are not buying houses, even if they stay in the same place. I think you're in the middle of a cultural shift. I think identity and inner locus is going to have to come from something else now. Wonder what that something else will be? I speak with great compassion because (as you know) I am a roots girl too.

    On a sidenote...I didn't know your husband was studying to be an archeologist! So cool! I have a friend who is a field archeologist somewhere in Africa. What is the likelihood of knowing two of them!?! SO cool.

    And yes, it does indeed illumine the Middle East conflict to think about roots and home. So easy to understand and relate to it on that level. (I'm going to link you in my sidebar too!)