Minnesota and longing for home

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Unless you count the summer I lifeguarded there during college, I have never actually lived in Minnesota. As a result, I sometimes feel silly professing a deep love for it. But I have more strong emotions about that place — a deep heart-tugging, if you will — than any other.

I think it’s because I feel that if I were to belong anywhere, it would be there. My dad’s side moved around a lot. My mom grew up mowing hay and picking rocks out of fields in Hinckley, Minnesota.

Minnesota, where my great-great grandfather, Jan Albert Sikkink, started a farm on a road now known as Sikkink Road. Where my great-grandmother made her screened-in porch and dinner table famous by her hospitality. Where my great-grandfather was the county sheriff. Where he bought the land for Grindstone Lake Bible Camp, which every member of the family thereafter attended and where I and many others first remember wanting to follow Jesus.

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I remember teeter-tottering on my grandparents’ swing set, still to this day one of the oldest-looking swing sets I have every seen, rusty and well-used. I remember playing in my great-grandmother’s playhouse, pulling dishes from the little cabinet, and returning to it one day and realizing how tall I’d grown as I could no longer really fit inside. I remember three-legged races in the woods at my great aunt’s Fourth of July party. I remember fireflies. I remember cold swims in a lake cut deep by a glacier ages ago. I remember horses and fields and cows and pine trees. I remember sledding on ice and snow down into the gravel pit, the same pit that saved dozens of lives during the Great Hinckley Fire.

My grandparents have a sign on their house: “Welcome to Poverty Flats.” How’s that for understated, self-deprecating humor? And the Os! The long, beautiful Os in their words.

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I think the attachment I feel to Minnesota is the closest I can come to feeling, in this modern technological age, what the Bible says the Israelites felt about their land. I’ve been reading Jeremiah and Lamentations, and the ache of exile is haunting me. “Weep not for him who is dead, nor grieve for him, but weep bitterly for him who goes away, for he shall return no more to see his native land.”

I often wonder what life would be like if my mother had not felt the pull of ambition (the same pull I feel) and left Minnesota for college. Would I now live on the same road my mother, grandfather, great-grandfather grew up on? Would we get together every week for cookies and Rook? Would I drop in and see how the cows are doing? Wouldn’t it be some sort of beautiful agrarian ideal? I’m sometimes so envious of people who have everyone they’ve ever known and loved in one place. As my sister once said to me, as best I can remember: “What is this dumb system where people have to grow up and move away from their families?”

But I’m not Minnesotan. I would have made the same choice as my mother. I make it now, by living in Washington, D.C., far from my parents, far from any sort of ancestral home. And as I realized recently, were it not for a chances, risks, decisions, happenstances of the past, my family would also not be Minnesotan. I dug into history a little bit on our most recent trip to Hinckley and found that many of my mother’s ancestors who immigrated (mostly from Holland, but also from France, England, Scotland) first settled in New York, Wisconsin, Iowa. Some of them made their way to Minnesota; some of their children did. But they had no special attachment to the state. They were wanderers. Their families became as spread out as mine. They left native homes with far more personal history and heart-tugs to cross an ocean to come here. More than Minnesotans, they were pilgrims.

Christians (and the Bible) talk often about pilgrimage and home. We are meant to be pilgrims in this world, longing for the better home of heaven. Perhaps God gave me a love for Minnesota so that I can know that longing for a homeland.

And certainly I can ask “What if?” all I want, but if my family had not spread out so much, I probably would not have met my husband, the best gift in my life, who himself came to America as a toddler and has his own sets of questions about home and longing and identity. Perhaps it is best to know I am really only a Christian and a pilgrim, and as Betsy ten Boom said: “There are no ‘What ifs’ in the kingdom of God.”

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So thankful!

Homère and I were in a car accident Wednesday. He was kindly driving me to work when a car turning left hit our front side as we traveled straight through an intersection. My face and knees hit the dash, and I went to the hospital in an ambulance because I was dizzy and nauseated immediately after the crash. But I turned out to be fine, though with a few bruises and some ongoing headaches. And thanks to our good friend Juls, who rescued us from the hospital and the car repair shop, we even made our flight to Minnesota.
And so I am so, so incredibly thankful to be here with family on Thanksgiving Day, introducing them to the best man in the world, listening to toddler squeals and opinions on sports figures I’ve never heard of.
“O My God,Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, my heart admires, adores, loves thee, for my little vessel is as full as it can be, and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.”
– a Puritan prayer, in part

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

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“The future mrs homere”


HOW DID SHE KNOW???? Also, note my defense: “He’s still in college.” BAHAHAHAHA! Life is so unexpected and wonderful.

Also, a smattering of reactions to our engagement:

Brother: “Tell Homère he’s a very lucky man… He’s going to have a great brother-in-law.”

Paige: “Holy Sh…!”

Me: “Juls, I’m getting married!!!!!”
Juls, who knows perfectly well: “To whom?”

Dad: “So when are you getting married? I’m free next Tuesday.”

And many other jumpings and squealings and exclamations of happiness.

A picture from the night of the proposal…

Just in case you weren’t sure, we’re definitely crazy in love.

Teacups, eggs, etc.

Lately…

My family came to visit! Minus my brother, stuck at school. We cruised along the Potomac for our “cherry blossom boat tour” (all the cherry blossoms were sadly gone), had a lovely Sunday picnic, explored Eastern Market, and visited the National Basilica and Annapolis.

They seemed a little more excited to meet “people around” me (veiled reference) than me — ha. But that’s ok; I love time with my family.

In other news, Hannah’s friends Rachel and Susannah gave her a beautiful bridal shower, tea-party style. I was just excited to take pictures because it was so pretty.

And this being my first Easter away from home, I was determined to celebrate Christ’s resurrection with lots of tradition and pomp. As were my roommates. So we plastered the dining room table with newspaper and brought out the eggs and dye and invited people over….

That’s Hannah’s “baby dinosaur hatching out of egg” egg.

James feels the same about egg dying as he feels about running.

Hannah, Sarah and I might have also gotten each other baskets filled to the brim with chocolate, peeps, and jelly beans (coffee and dried fruit for Sarah). YUM.

Being grown up: Uncharted culinary territory edition

Being grown up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You pay bills, you work a lot, if you try to do the splits you break something. But there are a few perks, such as eating whatever you want.

I remember once telling my parents that someday, when I was grown up, I would make popcorn and soak it all in butter, instead of just drizzling it on the top like they did. I don’t live with my parents anymore, but I still haven’t done that. I think I would probably vomit.

However, I have accomplished one culinary mark of adulthood. Hannah and I ordered takeout Chinese. And had it delivered. I’m very grateful I had a childhood without takeout Chinese (thank you, Mother), but ordering it as a real-live adult had its own peculiar thrill.

Why takeout Chinese, you ask? Well, as you know, Hannah and I watch Gilmore Girls, in which the main characters eat takeout Chinese all the time. I realized I’d never had takeout Chinese and should probably add that to my life-experience repertoire.

So…. we called Yum’s. Yes, that’s right: Yum’s. So simple, so succinct! So many good connotations!

Yum’s was inexpensive, had prompt delivery and a friendly person on the phone. However, Yum’s had two shortcomings: 1) It didn’t come in the traditional square-ish paper takeout Chinese box that I’ve always pictured takeout Chinese to come in, and 2) we weren’t quite sure the chicken was really chicken.

 

But I’m up for another thrill. I think next we’ll try New Tong Shing.

Thankful

I am thankful for…

family
a job
spy novels
socks
Korean food
colors…especially fall colors
biking past the Kirby center (reminds me of home)
church
poetry
hot showers
jokes that only close friends would understand
grace
Skype!
fuzzy blankets
Gilmore Girls
the fact that I live with TWO insane redheads
college memories
an eternal hope
the smell of new magazines
the smell of old books
new shoes
the D.C. Metro (no really)
beauty
my skills at staying warm acquired in Michigan
a friend and her family to spend Thanksgiving with
going home for Christmas

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Life lately

Life lately has been a blur. So much has gone on, and I have done so little blogging, that it’s difficult to know where to begin.

So you’ll have to settle for a picture tour….

This is my family. Aren’t they great? I went to visit them two weekends ago. Please note that my brother couldn’t be bothered to put down Hayek for the picture.

My little sister is growing up fast. And since I’m finding it harder and harder to remember what it was like to be 12, I find her very, very cute and interesting and funny. She wants a Kindle for Christmas, and when I teased her about wanting to read electronic books, she replied with this:

“My dear loving sister, Let me explain. As you know I love reading books. I love the smell of the books, the sound of the books’ pages. However, carrying around books on a car trip is not very fun, and takes up space. Also, you can buy books on Amazon for a Kindle for a lot less. Those are my reasons. PLEASE DON’T DISOWN ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Gosh she’s great.

I thought D.C. autumns were supposed to be drab, but our street proved me wrong. Our ginko trees turned a brilliant yellow last week, and a rainstorm blew most of the leaves off in a single night, so that I walked to work on a yellow carpet for several days.

I covered the consecration of the new Episcopalian bishop for the Diocese of Washington last week. It was a very odd ceremony. Parts were beautiful and solemn: The organ and choir echoing in the National Cathedral are heart-stopping. And the pageantry — the hats, the colors, the banners — was gorgeous. But other parts were just strange: The sermon included the word “kickass,” and in addition to African and Native American and Cuban and Gospel music, there was a rather painful piano-guitar rendition of Sufjan Stevens’ arrangement of Come Thou Fount. There were also several awkward points in the ceremony when the audience just erupted in laughter.

Not that I have anything against Episcopalians. I interviewed the bishop-elect one-on-one the day before the ceremony and liked her very much. She’s intelligent and articulate and was patient with me as I bumbled around with my recorder.

My friend Naomi visited last week. This photo is from the Kennedy Center, where we went to see the National Symphony Orchestra. But more on her visit later….

The view out my middle window this afternoon. Two important things to note: 1) The leaves are gone. 2) The air conditioner that used to sit in this window is gone. I removed it myself. Huge gold star for me.

And that’s life, lately. Or at least some of it. Life is so much more than daily events. But more on that later. I’ll leave you with a totally unrelated but provoking thought from Dorothy Sayers, as quoted in our evening sermon at church:

“In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”