Traveling Home and Why It’s Important

I can’t fully embrace fall until, well, the weather changes. The boys are back to school but it’s still 100 degrees here in Central Texas. Not just the weather, but something has to shift in my heart too. Right before school started we spent a week in Michigan with our extended families. I think a huge part of my heart is still in that place, hanging on to summer.

My husband and I both have roots in Michigan. He grew up going to his grandfather’s fruit farm and raising havoc with his cousin on motorbikes and snowmobiles. I grew up swimming, water skiing, and boating on Gun Lake where both my grandparents and aunt and uncle lived. Both of us have roots in that state that run deep.

This summer we had the opportunity to bring our kids to the places we visited as kids. It was an extremely special trip. I don’t know that they grasped the significance in the way we hoped they would, but maybe one day.

Because where you are from tells the story of who you were and what’s important to you now.

At my husband’s family farm, Mac and I got a tour of all the crops from Uncle Dave. We got not just a tour, but an education in what was planted, what is growing, and what is not growing and why. We learned about the importance of bees, trends in kinds of apples (Gala is very popular now), who buys the fruit (Welchs and McDonalds), and the temperature at which peach trees don’t yield fruit (-20 degrees). Mac got to pick squash from the ground, and even though he doesn’t like vegetables, I think he had a greater appreciation for how God provides the food, yet we still have to work the land to receive it. My husband got to show us the inside of his grandparent’s farmhouse and barn as he recounted his childhood memories to us.

Then we drove up to Gun Lake to spend the week. My aunt and uncle still live on the kake half of the year. They were generous to share their boats, canoe, kayaks, hot tub, and home with us and my sister’s family. It was the perfect vacation for Mac and his cousins. And I think Nathan too.

Nathan’s Perspective on the Trip

I didn’t know how it would be to bring Nathan, with all of his limitations, to a place that I didn’t think was completely accessible to him. But it was accessible, because come to find out, he loves the boat rides and the cool, freshening northern water, just like his mama. He loved the wind on his face, the white noise of the boat engine in his ears. It made him both happy and sleepy. He went tubing with me and Mac, and swimming in deep water with my husband. And perhaps best of all he played with his youngest cousin so well, I almost took her home with me.

My niece is one of the few people I have seen play with Nathan in a way that he responds to. She is three so that tells you what age he is most appropriately aligned with, but he loved watching her dance around in her Elsa dresses, singing the alphabet to him, and even tried to roar back when she playfully held Simba to his face and growled. He thought she was hilarious; everything she did was funny. When he was blocking her view of the tv, he didn’t really respond to her command to “Sit here!,” but he did smirk.

Our trip showed me that Nathan does have a place with his (younger) peers. We just haven’t found it yet at home. Brother is too big and busy. His classmates are also older and the developmental gap keeps widening each year.

Family is important in so many ways. It was at gift to see the connection between the cousins. And it had been way too long since we visited my aunt and uncles and my grandmother at the lake.

Where are you from?

Such a common question. When people ask me that question, I usually say Michigan (if not, then Chicago because it was the last place we lived before here). You probably have a different place or a different answer to that question. The answer likely serves as a starting point for small, getting-to-know-you conversations. It doesn’t tell the whole story of your childhood to others, but it does to you. How your home shaped what you did as a kid, who you lived with, and why you moved, or didn’t, from that spot where your roots were established.

As a kid, we would spend hours boating around the clover shaped lake. This single most consistent location of my whole life long, the only place I find myself coming back to again and again, was a place where I buried the seeds of hope and prayer for my future. Just like Uncle Dave planted the zucchini and apple seeds. Not all of those seeds came to fruition. But some did after being buried in dark, damp soil for a long while.

What seeds did you bury deep into the ground as a child? Which ones did you sow? When did God produce fruit in season?

Who are you now?

Growing up I moved from house to house. In college and afterward, I moved from state to state and everything has constantly been changing ever since. I was like a transplanted plant. I was uprooted. Change is good and results in growth. Yet there is something very sweet and grounding about sameness.

This big inland lake in Michigan holds a special place in my heart. It reminds me who I was as a child and where I came from. I know that because of my summers on Gun Lake as a kid, I’m not afraid of water. The water connects me to God in prayer. Tall trees make me feel little again in multiple ways. And family lingering around the dinner table sharing stories and laughing is important to me. It reminds me to slow down, because there’s never any rush at the lake. No agenda or strict schedule to follow.

We began the two-day long drive back home. As I watched the temperature slowly rise from the high 70s to the high 90s, I felt the heat of anxiety rise in me too. Not only were we heading back into the inferno that is Texas in the summer, but into real life with all of its challenges and responsibilities. I’m not a kid anymore. I am raising kids. But what a sweet vacation to be reminded that our place of rest and relaxation reminds us who we used to be and who we are now. Who knows, when we can get back to Pure Michigan, as they say, but when we do we’ll remember the place that held us as we grew up in stature and in salvation.

We also were able to stop and see the rest of my husband’s family in Kentucky on our way home. I wish that we could have stayed longer because the cousins were just beginning to re-establish their relationships. So much goodness crammed into one week.

My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!

Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!

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