A year, or has it been five? I remember the giant boxes and our dearest of dears who stood with us in line at the airport. There were no words for the sadness, so we offered up lines about when we would see one another again, maybe in two years or so. It’s the vastness that gets to you. In moments like those I am thankful for technology that allows for email and skyping. But we all know our true community is those we see in our everyday life–at church, at work, at the grocery store. And yet, the Bible reveals something powerful that adds a caveat: our hearts towards one another should not be dependent upon physical proximity. True siblings in the Lord should never, actually, be far apart.
If this sounds like sentimentality, think about Paul the Apostle. When he was in prison, I am sure he ministered to the prison guard, but he did not just minister to him. Yes, God had a specific calling on his life, but when God gives you gems as friends, people who have taught you and molded you in ways that other people could not, there is no letting them go. There is a see you later, and a dang, I will miss you. Jim Elliot said, “Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt whatever situation you believe to be the will of God.” I have clung to that in moments of I do not like this–Delta, take me home.
And yet I know that God brought us to the Lowcountry of South Carolina. It is the land of sweet tea, architectural charm, pimento cheese, and monograms–so many monograms. It is the land where God brought me to our new local church, and through this church family He spoke His goodness over me, He spoke His sufficiency over me. From the first day I walked in the doors of Sangaree Middle School and sat in a metal foldout chair, God reminded me and His people welcomed me.
Charleston is called the Holy City. There are so many lovely, cathedral-type church buildings. Steeples point to the blue sky and pepper a town with continual reminders that the church was once our central place as a society. A city forever haunted by its past and its dependence on the idea that souls could be indentured by a man and his money. But let me tell you, the people of this town love this town.
And all the outlying towns (where I have resided) live out their identity in light of their proximity to Charleston. It’s like Charleston is the cool big sister. Outside of the city you’ll find giant trucks with giant flags and lots of women who wear pink camo (with, of course, their monograms). Forget the bowties and charm bracelets, please. But I think that even they admire and enjoy the offerings of culinary, art, and surf scenes from Charleston.
While I believe the culture here will never be mine, it is enjoyable and intriguing. I am thankful for extended family in Columbia–shared laughter with them encloses the heart’s gash and steadies feet on this new sod. We are no longer extended outside of their close-knit family–we are wrapped inside.
Exploring a new place delights all the senses, if you allow it; there are quirks and corners just waiting to be admired or giggled over. The aroma of Charleston is an eclectic mix of sea salt, creamy seafood goodness, and the ever putrid paper mill. There is a sort of celebrity about true Charlestonians–those of European decent have a Southern drawl that has been mixed with British flair and refinement. Those of an African decent speak in a way that is reminiscent of their Gullah culture, a sing-song accent that runs up and down like a deep spring rolling over boulders.
When I think about Guam, I remember how we always would say, “OOG–Only On Guam.” To be sure, there were many things to which that phrase applies. But when I see the souped up trucks, or watch the ocean waves, or remember the way people have welcomed Eric and me into their lives–whether at church or in our favorite coffee shop–I smile and thank the Lord. Even on the days I click my heals together like Dorothy and say, “There’s no place like Guam,” He gives me reminders that there are remnants of His beauty and grace scattered all over, for this is His world. And I am thankful that He is my Father, wherever I may be.
Keep the Faith,