In many ways, the past year has been one of the most settled in my adult life. MTW requires that couples stay in the US for at least their first year of marriage. According to the policy manual, “If there have been major life changes, MTW would like at least a year to have passed before attending a screening event so that there is a time of stability before entering the stress of making preparations for the mission field.”
And so, since returning from our respective overseas locations last February, Dean and I have been in the US. Knowing that the point of MTW’s requirement is stability, we have chosen to stay put in Central New York as much as we can and put down some roots here.
We have been blessed by the individuals and churches that support us financially, most of whom have maintained their giving, allowing us to stay put much more than if we had been under the pressure of urgent financial need.
A big part of putting down roots here has been the small house we built. We broke ground in May, and in January, we moved in. For the first time in my adult life, I’ve picked out paint colors, knowing that the walls will be whatever color we want them to be! Funny how exhilarating and overwhelming it felt. For the first time in my adult life, I’ve hung things up on the walls that had been in storage for many years—“until I have a place of my own.”
We built this house so we would have a home to return to on furloughs between our terms overseas. It is exciting to be setting up house in a place we know we will come back to again and again. Before this year, my adult years were spent living in my parents’ home, or in a place I knew I’d only be temporarily, or with a host family in West Africa. I hardly know how to be settled and rooted.
And yet, being geographically rooted can seem quick and easy compared to being relationally rooted. When one is new to any area—foreign or not—it takes time to form and develop local relationships. We have been thankful for the family and church that we have here. But beyond that, it can feel so slow and hard to make new friends. In an age when we are told that place doesn’t matter, when we can virtually “be” almost anywhere, when it is possible to spend all one’s time staying connected with people who are far away—it is tempting not to put in the hard work of forming new relationships here.
And yet, our locale matters. We desire to live locally. For this season, that means investing in this place—Cato and its environs—and developing relationships with others who live here.
That’s challenging even when we strive to do it. “Staying put” is relative! We drive a half hour away to church. In a rural area like this, we have to drive 20 minutes away for many errands. With family scattered across the country—and globe, even—travel is inevitable. Other events over the past year have required us to be absent for days or weeks at a time. We have not had more than four uninterrupted months here in the last year. Trying to settle and put down roots in the midst of that is not easy.
Not to mention the tension of settling here in the short-term while anticipating moving overseas in the not-so-distant future!
Given my fairly “nomadic” recent years, I have grown accustomed to transition, tension. Perhaps to an unhealthy degree. In fact, I find myself at times more comfortable with that than with the hard work of settling and putting down roots. I have learned a lot during this season of forced stability, of imposed grounding. It has been good for me.
There are lessons to be learned from the nomadic life, but there are also lessons to be learned from the settled life—as elusive as it may be.