Happily Even After
My Week as a Homeless Parent
by Josh Noem
I spent this past week as a homeless person. In fact, our whole family was homeless this past week. To be sure, we were not in the same condition as those who find themselves living on the street, but for the week, our children did not have a place they could call home.
We are smack in the middle of our move to South Bend, Indiana. We had a week or more of saying farewell to the good people of Portland and being abundantly blessed by them before packing up the house and setting out in our car to drive halfway across the continent.
We made stops in Montana, South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin over the course of six days on the road, and got to spend good time with family and friends along the way. The kids did great during our 8 to 10-hour days in the car, and though we followed a serious front of storms at several stages, we arrived with most of our things and all of our children, safe and sound.
Thirty-six hours of driving time offered a lot of space for thinking and talking things over, and Stacey and I capitalized on it. One dominant theme that emerged from our conversations was the concept of home.
Throughout the course of our married lives, we lived in the places we were traveling through–Portland, South Dakota and South Bend–but at this particular moment we belong to none of these places. We are in a liminal space–leaving home, passing through home, heading towards home, yet we are without a place to call home. Everywhere we go, we walk through familiar territory, but as outsiders in some way.
I have faith that a sense of belonging will come in time, though. God has called us here and will see our family through.
It is easy to slip into the fantasy that we get to pick and choose where we will raise our family. It is easy to adopt the language of the American dream, that we are moving upward, choosing our own way, and establishing the life we want for ourselves and our children.
In this line of thinking, we have a number of choices before us. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Portland–we were surrounded by a generous community there, enjoyed great food and beer, and did a lot of hiking. Stacey and I have talked for years about raising our family in South Dakota because I grew up in the Black Hills and most of my extended family is within a day’s drive. And even though she was raised in Florida, Stacey was born in South Bend and she still has family in town; Notre Dame is central to our story as a couple, of course.
In the end, however, we have but one choice–the choice to put the life of our family in God’s hands.
Through the long drive across half the nation, each conversation that Stacey and I shared about home came down to the same thing: God has called us here. Despite what we want for our family, despite what positives and advantages any given location might hold for us, the bottom line is that we are being called to something new in South Bend.
Feeling displaced is rather beside the point. How did Abram feel when God called him into a new land? How did Moses feel when God called him to return to Egypt to confront Pharaoh? How did Simon and Andrew feel when Jesus interrupted their fishing, telling them to follow him? God has called us here and will see our family through.
It would seem that, for us, home is wherever God plants us.
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