It was winter 2002 and our little family packed up our dog, hamster, two cats, and every tiny bit of our Mississippi charm as we headed out on a crazy 4-year adventure of living high in the Pocono Mountains of NE Pennsylvania.
For me to say that things in our new rustic woodland paradise were a bit different from our beloved Southern comfort would be a hilarious understatement.
Not only was it really (!!) cold up there for one thing, there was also white, slippery stuff all over the place. And people always seemed to be staring at us like we talked funny or something?
Plus we had absolutely NO idea how to drive on those icy mountain roads. And, for some reason, somebody thought it was a great idea to curve them around every giant rock, cliff, and waterfall in sight. This meant that the logical city road grids of our past were banished to just a sweet memory. There was no N/S or E/W roads here. Nope.
This also meant that we spent a lot of our first few months there hopelessly lost. Lost both ways, too, because finding your way back home could be an even bigger problem than finding your way there. GPS & cellphones were useless for obvious reasons, snow squalls could come at any time, and leaving trails of breadcrumbs was pretty pointless because of all the hungry critters roaming around.
And, did I mention there were hungry critters roaming around? Everywhere.
When the deer weren’t staring into our windows like stalkers, they were lying around our yard like Mississippi hound dogs (we actually named a few of them). And sometimes they would even climb up onto our front porch to eat the pumpkins and Indian corn I had placed around ever so artistically. So rude.
The fun continued with opposums and squirrels racing around INSIDE our screened porch, raccoons dying under our concrete front steps, and various mice, birds, bats, and flying squirrels all creating their own special brand of chaos inside our home. Yes, inside.
And let’s not forget the skunks. Not only were they gigantic, they also commanded serious respect, as well. These waddling balls of black and white fluff could cause a whole carful of adults to whimper in fear just by their late-night strolls straight down the double yellow line on those twisty mountain roads.
Believe me, both time and traffic stood still for them with no honking, no passing, and absolutely no inhaling. We just watched, waited, and respected.
From a distance.
Oh, and then there were the bears. Huge black bears that ate everything in sight and randomly popped up out of nowhere just to remind us that we were living in THEIR woods. I think they made a sport out of terrifying me. It got so bad at one point that I began to think I was seeing bears everywhere. Usually it turned out to be just a shadow or a big rock and I would just feel silly.
Until that world-tilting evening when I got it backwards. This time just as I was noticing a huge new rock a few feet away from me, I realized it actually had eyes and was staring at me.
Did you know there’s a huge distinction between seeing a bear in the woods and having a bear see YOU????
Yeah, that moment changed me forever.
My point with all of this is that everything was very different for us there. True, it was a fantastic, memorable experience, but the actual transition from our old life to our new was quite bumpy, at best.
I had a particularly tough time with all of it, which actually surprised me. I had moved around several times as a kid – I thought I knew how it was done. You unpacked, you went out the door, you met people, you got involved. You plugged in.
That’s how you joined a new community. That’s how you made a new life. Easy.
Well, it turned out it wasn’t quite that easy for me. Even though we were now living in the most beautiful place I had ever seen, I really missed what we’d left behind. I missed our family, our friends, our church, our tiny house on the hill, my garden, and our little town. Pretty much our whole life.
We had left our whole life back there.
But what was curiously most difficult for me, was that I missed the sound of my name being called out in a crowd, turning around and spotting a smiling face looking my way. There were none of those in this new place. And it hurt.
I really missed just being known.
It’s interesting the situations that God will place us in to show us these things about ourselves. I have learned that He will systematically strip away every single stronghold we have until we see just how badly we’re absolutely missing the point.
My purpose – my entire sense of belonging and self-worth – had been coming from who I was to the people around me, not from who I was in Him. I had become so comfortable in the familiarity of my old life that I failed to recognize this until He plopped me down smack-dab in the middle of the woods, and forced me to see Him.
Slowly we built a beautiful life in those mountains with all the critters, frigid temperatures, and amazing people we still hold dear today. They made us family at just the right time, and we never let on that we knew how endlessly entertained they were by simply listening to us talk.
We’ve been here in warm, sunny Orlando for eleven years now, but God has continued to show me that I still struggle with this sin of wanting to be known, and I still falter in situations where I’m not. Sometimes these feelings even bubble up and fight for control of my confidence. And occasionally they still win. For a little while.
But then He pulls me up onto His lap, wraps His amazing love around me, and reminds me one more time not just who I am, but exactly WHOSE I am. Praise be.
Thanks for growing with me.
“I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. With whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?” (Isaiah 46:4-5)