Placemakers.

I have left my heart in so many places.

The grief of leaving behind a place you love, even for good reasons, is a complicated grief. In the midst of new beginnings there is the quiet reminder of loss. It can seem as if all the love, time, and effort you invested in a certain place and time, in a certain vision of your future, has become only a story you will tell, like a dream you’re afraid of forgetting. Besides the story, what really remains?

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Four moves in five years (not counting the months we lived abroad) has me thinking a lot about roots. Compared to many, these moves may not have seemed very far or very big. And yet each time felt like a starting over.

Building community takes longer than I thought it would. All my good intentions of planting gardens often turn into simply a few pots of herbs on the porch. I have a bad habit of waiting until things are settled before taking action – such as resisting the purchase of an air conditioner or even a window fan when we moved in the middle of a late-August heat wave, because “autumn was almost here.” I’m really not sure what it means to put down roots and yet be in a season of transition.

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A painting in our home titled “Transitions”

“Many of us long to put down roots in some particular place, but we guard ourselves against heartbreak by waiting for a perfect place,” Christie Purifoy writes in her new book Placemaker “If peace is a state of harmony, if it is a kind of wholeness or completeness, then we will never find it by running away from broken things and messy places…The cultivation of peace will carry us right on out and into the realm of chaos. It will lead us to edges–in the land, in our hearts, in our memories.” 

As I return home after weeks of travel, I realize that I’m still feeling pulled between two “worlds.” I’m still having trouble letting myself love another place that feels like it will be temporary. What does it mean to dream of going, and yet contentedly stay? What does it mean to love a place when you might have to let it go?

“Quite often, the right place is, for a season at least, the place where everything is harder, the place where we feel least at home.

“But I have come to recognize that life without limits is formless…When we pray for guidance, perhaps God’s answer is in every way he hems us in, like a river.” 

The drought drives our roots deeper.

The wilderness teaches us to listen.

Perhaps the better question is, what has been given to me in this season to cultivate? What is my opportunity as a placemaker, here and now?

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The church bells ring and morning sun streams in. I am reminded that here, there is beauty. For now, I need to open my heart to loving this place, however long I am here. For now, I need to plant flowers and smile and neighbors and get to know the barista down the road. I need to accept this in between without hardening my heart to the beauty of here and now.

“Every place made by God is loved by God, and that includes every place where his people dwell. If we are willing to look through the lens of love, then we will see that every place has some particular magic.”

Maybe as I leave a place I haven’t left a part of my heart behind – but taken a piece of it with me. And some day, there will be what Purifoy refers to as jubilee  – a time of returning, retelling, remembering all the places we have helped shape and that have shaped us.

“Go ahead and love,” I whisper to my heart. “It won’t be lost. It won’t be wasted.”

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