For those [of us] old enough to remember the classic Warner Bro. Bugs Bunny cartoons, the phrase “Which way did he go? Which way did he go?…” probably sounds really familiar. It was usually said by the less than brilliant hunters who would be trying to catch Bugs Bunny. That’s how I felt for much of this month: only it was my own location I was trying to hunt down. I should say: I knew where I was, but not where I might end up.
There were a few weeks where I thought that I’d end up back in Florida (in case I didn’t find a job/living place in NC). I was willing to consider Florida – if that was what God wanted, but fortunately the sacrifice was not necessary. My apologies to my dear friends in Florida, and those who love Florida, but I absolutely & passionately hate living in Florida. I managed to stay there for 10 years, but only because my mother loved it so much…and I lived in St. Augustine, which is on the coast and in the northern part of the state. I took a great deal of time and effort to move OUT of Florida right after she died (three years ago next Wednesday), so I had no real desire to end up back down there – though I am deeply grateful to my older brother for extending the invitation so that I wouldn’t end up homeless.
I managed to get up to North Carolina, and have never regretted it. It hasn’t been easy financially (monumental understatement), but it has been worth it. It’s good for my emotions and my physical health (even the summer is much easier on my body – but then the summer only lasts three to four months here, not nine to ten months like it did in Florida). I can see hills (- real hills! – almost mountains! -) where I live in the northern part of the Piedmont region. Once I knew I wouldn’t be required by the Lord to go back down to Florida, I started to let myself dream of moving to England. I still haven’t given up on that dream, but it will have to wait for another couple of years… Maybe I can manage a doctoral program at one of the English, Scottish, or Welsh universities; as you can see, I haven’t given up on my dream of a doctorate in History either… but that too needs to wait: I’m aiming for my 55th to 60th birthday – I’m 52 now.
I could have called this post “Dreams of where I want to be”. Right now, though, I am very happy to still be in North Carolina. There are many places that I love in the United States (and Europe), but North Carolina’s northern Piedmont region seems to suit me best. Next Thursday, I’m going to be treating myself to a desperately needed visit to the Outer Banks to restore my soul and recharge my inner batteries. I started planning this trip two months ago, and am in shock that I am within a week of getting there – God willing, and no hurricanes swiping by the Outer Banks! I want to do some research on Ft. Raleigh while I’m there, and get over to Bodie Island Lighthouse while I’m there, but truly I just want to rest and enjoy one of my favorite spots in the world (and I’ve traveled fairly extensively – thanks to my parents and library conferences – so I don’t say that lightly).
So why was I hunting around for places to live? My current “employers” (I’m a live-in care-giver & companion) realized that while we were very fond of each other, we weren’t going to be right for each other for the long-term. We leave on very good terms, and each is grateful for the other, but it was time for a change. Originally I was told that I would need to find a new place by Nov., but recently I was told that I would not have been “kicked out” without them knowing that I had a new place to move to…. as I said: we leave on good terms. I have found a new position – again it’s live-in, and it’s courtesy of dear friends of mine in my church. My current “bosses” have told me that if it doesn’t work out in my new place, that I can come back to them:-) God has been exceptionally gracious in providing for me!!
You see: my main criteria for where to live is where God can use me best. It’s not a “goody-goody; I’m so Holy” type of thing – or it’s certainly not what I intend; I honestly am not happy if I feel that I’m not able to serve God in what I am doing – I hate feeling useless in the world and society… and I had started to feel that way about three months ago. I get depressed when that happens… and I start feeling sorry for myself, which leads to an awful inertia. Once it gets to that, it gets very hard to climb back out of the depression and anxiety.
God has pulled me back out yet again. I have a new sense of being needed and a sense of purpose again. It may last three months; it may last six months; it may last a year… but how often it lasts is not as important as knowing that God always provides. Oh, I’m never going to be financially wealthy or even that well-off, but I do know that the Lord will provide what I most need – physically and emotionally and spiritually. He provides over and over and over, and pulls me out of the pits of despair and frustration whenever I begin to sink in.
This week three years ago, Mom was worrying herself sick over how I would survive once she was gone. I kept assuring her that God didn’t let me learn to trust Him just to “drop me” when I most needed His Help. Tuesday, of the last week that she lived, Mom had me take her out to the ocean one last time – she was even willing to use the cane that she despised, and go out with just her nightgown under her raincoat (and if you knew my mother, you would have never imagined that), so that she could be by the ocean one last time. We got to one of her favorite spots to see the ocean, and sat there holding each other. She leaned her head on my shoulder in contentment. It started raining lightly, so we needed to go back to the car, but she had accomplished it. I was so glad for her. I had asked her a few months before – knowing how bad her hearing was – whether she could still hear the waves, and she smiled and said “yes”. It was one of the reasons she loved the sea so much. The next day, her mind began to go from the cancer reaching her brain. She died just two and 1/2 days later.
The ache and loneliness is still there, though not as intense as it was that week, but God gave me the joy of letting me let mom know how much she was loved – by all three of her children. Mom always worried that she wasn’t a “good [enough] mother”; but my brothers and I had made sure that we reminded her that all three of us loved her, and we all knew that she loved all three of us equally. Nobody could have had a more loving and concerned mother, and Mark, Paul, and I all know it… and all love her with deep gratitude that we had her (and Dad, too!!). So, in memory of Mom – and because I have the same love of the sea (as do my brothers), I will find rest and comfort and strength as I listen to the waves when I’m on the Outer Banks…. and when I return, I will know that God still looks after me as He always had – as my parents taught me to know He will….