When PB & J tastes like manna (and other nomadic thoughts)

I’ve heard lots of words fill in the space after “Home is …” and today, after two long driving journeys in two weeks, my mind is as blank as that space and I have no words to fill it.

It was good to be home–the place where we grew up, made memories, continue to make memories, bump into people we haven’t seen in years, and are welcomed with open arms by family and friends.

And it’s good to be home–the place where our stuff lives, the only house in which our kids remember living, our non-native state that still causes our breath to catch when we first glimpse its mountainous views, the place where good and bad memories duke it out for dominance, our legal address, where we are missed and embraced and yet sometimes still treated like strangers.

We’ve made the 800-mile drive between Illinois and Pennsylvania at least a dozen times and this was the hardest for me.

For starters, I hate the driving. Although I like seeing new places and having adventures, I become anxious about the journey–that in-between state of not being here or there.


The journey is unpredictable. I never know if our daughter is going to be car sick or how many times we’ll have to stop to pee or if we’ll be slowed by construction or an accident or rain or snow.

And it can be dangerous. The car might break down. Or slide on the ice into a concrete median and cross three lanes of traffic, totalling your future in-laws’ car and lengthening your cross-country trip by hours. (Yeah, that happened once.)

It’s tiring. How can riding in a car for so long be so draining? We play car games and answer the kids’ questions and toss food back at them (kind of like feeding zoo animals) and listen to talk radio and read. And it’s exhausting, especially if we try to do it all in one day.

But the journey is worth it if the destination is.

Driving home to Illinois hasn’t always seemed worth it. There have been seasons we’ve needed some separation from our families and the trip felt like duty, more for the kids than for my husband and me. But the two weeks we just spent there were TOTALLY worth it this time around (Read the highlights here.) We missed Christmas with our families so we were extra eager to get there and do whatever it took (we drove through the night on New Year’s Eve).

The return trip home to Pennsylvania has often been a welcome relief. A chance to get back to normal and into the routines that fill our days.

Not so this time around.

We’re stuck in a dead zone of sorts right now. Back to “normal” is nothing exceptional. My husband has a job he likes but it’s not what he wants to be doing with his life and it doesn’t meet our financial needs. We are lacking a level of love and community we’ve experienced at other times and places in our lives. We feel stuck. Neither here nor there with work, ministry, friendships, even our faith.

If you know the story of the Israelites and their desert wanderings, as recorded in Exodus and Numbers, our current state feels a little like that. desert

We are following God’s leading, but we feel like we’re walking in circles.

As I slapped together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches once again for dinner (our kids aren’t complaining!) I thought about God’s provision of manna. How the Israelites complained about needing food to eat in the desert and God provided. And they rejoiced. For a while. Then they complained again and longed for the food they ate as slaves. (Leeks! Onions! Fish! Cucumbers!)

God is giving us daily bread (and meat and fruit and cheese) from a variety of sources, and I thank Him for it.

And I complain because we are needy and dependent and may have to reapply for food stamps because we don’t know how long this season of underemployment will last.

I want to scream “WHERE ARE WE GOING, GOD?” and I’m waiting for the next terrible thing to happen. Life is not as good as it could be right now and the pessimist in me is afraid it will only get worse.

Maybe these are just the tired ramblings of a lost girl.

One thing I know: I am not alone on this journey.

Many are saying,

“Oh, that we might see better times!”

Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.

This is my plea from the desert.