One year ago today, we moved home. We have moved a number of times since we left Birmingham in June of 2000. But this was the only one without any real emotional difficulty. We left a church where I was doing youth ministry and was pretty much paid to leave (severance…thankful for that). In my first few months there I had to fire my secretary and was told the lead pastor – the fundamental reason I felt comfortable accepting a call to that church – was leaving for another position. I’m not bitter.
OK, maybe I’m a little bitter.
We left behind a number of close friends and a city we liked. But there has not been one moment in which we have not been passionately glad to be back in the city where we were raised.
All four seasons have passed through our time here. We have watched them come and go like old friends who we long to see again soon. Though summer can take the long way back and spring should stick around a while longer, we yearn for many more and look forward to watching the seasons turn into years and the years into decades. All here.
Speaking of old friends, we have spent a good bit of time with many. It is incredible that I can now go to lunch with friends who have known me for so long and love me still. What is just as wonderful is all the new friends we now have – so easy to be with, laugh with and rejoice with. We have no money to speak of but are wealthy in friendships to the point of not having the time to spend them all. Our cup runs over daily.
Our family is close. Birthdays are spent with them and our kids can get to know them well. All was out of grasp before. Now, our children beg to spend the day with their grandparents and vice versa.
Only someone from Birmingham will understand. But every turn down a mountain lane and every road climbing out of one of the valleys is a reason for wonder. Right now the trees have burst into the usual colors of Autumn we never really get used to. The morning fog is likely to cut off the tops of the trees and block any hope for a view of the valley below. The air is crisp and bursts with nostalgia.
Those who know me well will understand the salvific and noetic effect of my being able to enjoy all my favorite restaurants. Mr. P’s Deli and New China in Bluff Park, both about 3 minutes from where we live. Jim-N-Nick’s and Surin West on Southside. The Purple Onion at the bottom of the mountain. The Fish Market. These are important landmarks in my life. No really, when not eating there, I am dreaming about them.
I love this place. Nothing could induce me to move again. The desire for Emma, Knox and Dylan to grow up here is strong. I know it may sound crazy for a pastor to say but place seems important right now. Especially this place, this place so crammed like a dusty attic full of memories, good and bad – reminders of God’s grace and reminders of my indwelling sin. It’s impossible to explain. But, well, the desire to stay here forever feels like a gift. We were willing to go anywhere for so long. And did. And so this gladness to be here till buried here feels like a gracious present given by a loving Father.
And we are thankful.