Which in this case is East Tennessee.
I’m actually a fifth generation Floridian, and there is something comforting about being there. The stars seem properly aligned, and the smells of citrus and salt awaken a primal sense of place. Shrimp fresh off the boat for Christmas dinner, a slice of key lime pie,and a mess of fish with grits—these are comforts that beguile.
But even though Katie and I have lived in Michigan for over 25 years, and even though she was from Michigan in the first place, it is neither Florida or Michigan that feels the most like home.
We have no regrets about the choices we made, at least not when sitting on the porch of our farmhouse on a spring morning sipping tea. (Well, maybe there are some regrets in January.) Michigan is the place we serve and work, and it is good to be called to a place and to be content with what one has to do.
But together, for both of us, Tennessee is unique in its charms. We met there. We married there. For 16 years we lived there. And we feel at home there.
There we found each other and in that sense found ourselves. It is the place of our first date, our first house, our first child. It is the place our dreams began, under the shadow of mountains and the promise of the dogwoods.
We were there this last week. I was traveling for the college where I teach, talking about our programs and lecturing about social media.
And we felt a quiet that belongs only to the soul, and a yearning for afternoons beside a mountain stream, reminding us to seek no continuing city and to find no perfect rest.
Home, and all the longing it evokes, only shadows the wonder of a more permanent place, where all tears will be wiped away and the glory of God will appear unveiled. Even if we could move back to Tennessee it would not be what we our hearts truly long for.
But for a brief afternoon, sitting on a porch beside a mountain lake, we were home again.
And we longed for a better one, like pilgrims do.
See more images here.