Lake ripples roll out a lullaby of childhood memories. Full of life, waves sweep me up in their motion. “Shlip, shlip, gulp, shlap” sings the song of my youth. The dinging of the masts in the sleepy marina ring out a melody of memories gone by. Rising and falling softly and gently in my bunk I sneak just one more chapter out of the novel I’ve been glued to before I hear an annoyed, “Beth, turn out the light and go to sleep.”
I wake suddenly to a hard scraping kind of noise, then vruh-shhh-vruh-shhh over my head. Dad wakes early to spray and scrub the bugs sticking to the dewy deck above. Every. Morning.
Shliiiip goes the hatch.
“Can’t that wait until everyone is awake?” Mom chirps groggily up from the cabin.
“Oh, well…ok. Sorry,” Dad says in his high-pitched guilty voice. Surely his hands are raised in surrender.
He never could just sit still. On a sailboat there’s always something to do. Many people wouldn’t find owning a sailboat relaxing, but Dad would go crazy without something to fiddle with. Staining the teak. Washing the deck. Checking the weather forecast on the doppler radio with it’s monotone automated male voice. We would make fun of that voice, the syllables all wrong.
After a hot cup of powdered International Suisse Mocha and a bagel with cream cheese in the cockpit, Mom, my sister and I head to the sandy floored marina showers, shower shoes in hand. A while later, we return to, “Well, there you are! Let’s cast off!”
“Well, there was a line at the showers,” Mom quips. They’re the ladies showers. He should know that.
“Ok, well, let’s go.”
We step onto the ever moving ship, careful not to slip in our wet shower shoes. We discard our “ditty bags” and towels into the cabin and proceed untying the dock lines and pushing off of the pilings as Dad maneuvers the vessel out of the slip, through the marina and into the harbor. It would be a day of cool wind on my face, toes reaching down the side of the boat in hopes to dip them in the water whilst clinging to the lifelines, a “snacky” lunch in the cockpit, and halliard swinging into the bay.
Two days earlier, I was holed up with a book in my room when Mom comes in saying, “Beth, have you started packing yet?”
“Awe, Mom!” my barely teenage self responded in my epic whiney voice. “I don’t want to go to the boat this weekend. I want to go to [so-and-so’s name]’s house for a sleepover.”
“You knew we were going to the boat this weekend, so pack. And I don’t want to hear another word about it,” Mom directs and walks out the door.
I was the only one of my two siblings that ever complained about going to the boat. I thought it was so uncool. I never actually learned how to sail. I just sat with my nose in a book and then pulled a line, or cranked the wench, or whatever it was I was asked by Captain Dad to do – I was just Crew – then grabbed my book again and settled myself at the bow of the boat as it crashed through the fat waves.
I thought all this caused me to miss out on the fun my friends were having on dry land or just at the beach. Why did I have to go out there? On the water? With my dumb siblings? Bite me.
As an adult, I long for those sweet windy summer days, sails full mast, slicing through the water on Lake Michigan (Or Erie, or Huron, or wherever it was my dad’s detailed “spontaneous” itinerary had us going that summer. Printed in duplicate so we could all keep up). How did I not know that sailing the Great Lakes all summer long, every single summer of my childhood was a life of dreams? How did I not get more excited when we took bare boat cruises – just us and a sailboat – through the British Virgin Islands?
When I tell people that’s how I grew up, they respond, “Whoa! That’s so cool!” Now that they’re gone, I want them back. We never realize what we have until it’s gone.
Now I live in Florida. Central Florida. I used to think of Florida how most people who don’t live in Florida think of Florida – Disney World, spring break, beach vacation, fun in the sun. Well. When the sun, plus humidity, minus any kind of breeze at all equals a “feels like” reading of 105°F, I’d hardly call it “fun.”
There’s no beach in Central Florida. That’s at least an hour in either direction.
I don’t go to Disney World every weekend. I briefly worked there for horrible pay when I first moved down. “But you get to go to the parks whenever you want!” Sure, it was fun for a while, but it’s not a career.
There are no seasons – Just warm, hot, and really hot. Mostly just really hot. So, no fall leaves, no thrill of the first snowflake, no skiing or snowshoeing, no joy of the sun on your face as spring peeks into the bleak end of winter, no balmy days running and playing in the summer sun. Just hot.
I sound like a broken record when I complain about Florida. I didn’t want to move here. The truth is, I was extremely broken, sunk into a deep depression, and in order to continue in my full-time ministry job I needed to get off of the field and sit behind a computer for a while. So, I packed up my bags suddenly, and here I arrived. And here I met my husband and we started a family business together, so here we stay. Here I stay.
There are good things about Florida, sure. But it’s not home. Eleven years and I still don’t feel like I’m home. I’m not a Floridian like my husband and son. I’m a Michigander living in Florida.
Maybe this is a small taste of how the Isralites felt as they wandered for forty years before they finally came home. Or how they felt after they were enslaved in Egypt. Maybe this is a small taste of what it’s like waiting for Jesus to return so that those who believe can all rejoice in Heaven.
Maybe, instead of longing for Michigan, I need to adjust my focus to my longing for Heaven.
“When God calls me home” has a different ring to it some days than others. I’ve prayed for God to call my family to the midwest. To the country where the traffic is quiet and all you hear at night is the crickets chirp-chirp-chirping outside your window. The soft breeze whispering sweet nothings through the trees. Where summer nights are cool and winter days are cold and wet and fun.
But that isn’t really home.
Home is where there is no more longing. Home is where you’re always safe and peaceful and content. Home is where you work because you enjoy it and you smile because you mean it and you are surrounded by people whom you love and who love you. You don’t want to go anywhere else. You don’t need to go anywhere else because you are right where you need to be. For eternity.