I love where I live. Love it. I love how men hold the doors and kids say, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir.” I love how the piney woods make me feel tucked away and safe. I love how people flock to church on Sunday and how the local Whataburger gets my picky burger order right. I quote the old joke that I wasn’t born here but I got here as fast as I could. And it’s true. Prior to moving to my beloved state, I spent three years dreaming of ways to get here. When I finally made it, I wept with the wonder of it all.
I have been a Texas resident for 19 months now. The time has, as they say, flown by. I have waited expectantly for the promises of the Lord to be fulfilled. The anticipatory hope that filled my first year has long since been sated in some ways, and retreated in others. Those prophetic words about relationship spoken over me one month after I arrived have not come to fruition. I am not married, not dating, not in love or even entertaining thoughts about some strapping bearded Jesus-loving fellow who is supposed to sweep me off my feet and whisk me away to our little cabin in the woods where love and babies and biscuits are made with the same wild abandon and we welcome people into our home and our hearts trying to be like the God we seek. In fact, I have laid all of that aside in recent months. I may never see that dream fulfilled and I have learned to accept that hard, but all too possible, truth for, quite possibly, the first time in my life.
I have not just continued in my career in higher education, but have thrived in my work. I love my kids and their questioning hearts and their ponderings and their wildness. I love how they work diligently at some things, and recklessly at others. I love the new possibilities opening up for me in my field. I love my new grad program and the excitement of adding another hard-earned degree to my wall in just 9 short months.
But if I’m honest, the good things and good gifts and good lessons carved out in these months in the place I hold dear pale dreadfully when sitting alongside the nagging loneliness that persists deep in my soul. It is no secret that I have not managed to establish a community here. I know a handful of good people, but I have made exactly one friend. One. Early on, I used to say that these Texans know how to serve full-metal jackets in slices of pie with smiles on their faces. I didn’t know how true that was until just a few months ago. That backstabbing nonsense left some deep scars. They emerged unscathed and I, with my too-thin skins and too-big heart, did not. Those days made me even more wary to establish connections.
As I told a dear, and far away, friend recently, it is not so much that I want to be praised or validated – words of affirmation do little for me. I simply do not want to be invisible. I don’t want a big group of folks, introvert that I am, but there is literally not one person here that I can call up and say, “Want to go for some coffee and good conversation? And what happens over coffee cups stays over coffee cups?” No, not one.
I drive to work and I drive home and I pore over textbooks and journal exorbitantly and write on this little blog and fret over my family and pray and sing and sometimes cry myself to sleep. I know, as I have known since that life-altering day in 2006, that we were not designed for solitary life. Community is life. The breaking of bread and sharing stories and laughing and crying and hugging and yelling and doting on babies and dreaming dreams together is life.
I’m deep in the heart of Texas and deeper still in my own heart as I try mightily to carve out sacred space for thought and connectivity with fellow travelers. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard.