Continuity of Place

I'm sitting in my parents backyard looking out over the valley of Phoenix. The warm dry air surrounds me in a familiar embrace and I remember... I remember fighting with my mom in the kitchen. And crying as we made up in the family room. I remember the surprise of my first car parked in the drive way. Singing into spoons with my friends as we danced around the house. Crying on my eighteenth birthday thinking I was so old and feeling so unsure about the path before me (oh, how little I knew). I remember crying with a broken and hurting heart. Sobbing so hard I couldn't stand. I remember ringing in New Year's with joy. Parties and dancing in the family room. Praying so many prayers. Learning to trust God, and unlearning it again. I remember Thanksgivings with all of my cousins. Gathering around the fire pit in the back yard on Christmas morning. Cooking with my dad while listening to opera. I remember standing in the entry way the first time Bryan said he loved me. I remember wreathing in pain as I brought my children into the world on the floor in front of my parents tub. The pain and the triumph. The tears and the joy.

My parents have lived in this house for more than fifteen years. A lot of my life has happened against this backdrop.

As I sit here today all of that comes flooding back to me and somehow the continuity of place throughout the difficult and the sweet helps me remember...the most important thing... everything is going to be ok.

It gives me perspective for this season, this difficult impasse.

I don't have many places like this. Many tangible places of continuity. Before living in this house my family never lived in the same house for more than about 4 years. In the past nearly 12 years since I left home to go to college the longest I have lived at one residency is 2 years.

I get antsy. I value change in some ways. I tend to be future oriented and looking for that next thing that is going to stretch and challenge me. I had an energy worker tell me once that I had a very nomadic energy and I understand why she'd say that.

But, today I find myself experiencing the value of roots. Of continuity. Of having someplace that reminds you of all the ups and downs of life, reminds you of how much you have already faced, reminds you of how good times always come again following the difficult.

Life is a cycle of growth and change, but there is continuity. When I look out at the Phoenix valley, which from this view looks exactly the same as it did the first time I looked out on it, I feel that continuity. When I look up at the McDowel Mountains towering over the roof of my parents house, and remember the many times I've looked up at them before, I feel that stability.

We need places like this in our lives. Places where we can feel our roots. Places where we can feel the consistency and continuity of life even amidst the changing tides.

Life is an ever fluctuating cycle of hellos and goodbyes, of tears and laughter, of pain and joy. As ecclesiastes says "there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens." All seasons come and go. All seasons change. But, change is not the only constant. There is a consistency of place, of presence, of spirit and essence that feeds the soul and encourages me through every change and possible change. There are places that we can truly call sacred, places that have a presence that stays consistent. They have a continuity of spirit that stands steady and unchanging throughout any upheaval.

My parents house and the walking paths around it have always felt like that to me. They have been for me a "thin place" - to use the celtic term for those physical places where the presence of our consistent God is more easily felt. Those places where the veil between heaven and earth is thinnest.

Being here, under the wide open skies of the valley, makes me feel like I stand in the wide open presence of an expansive God. A God who is all about the AND.

Being here, in the shadow of a vast mountain, makes me feel like I can rest in the shadow of a God who is strong and unchanging.

Being here, in the hot dry air, makes me feel like I bask in the warmth of a loving God who will count and dry every tear.

Being here, in the familiar and familial, makes me feel like I can breathe again deeply, taking the dry beauty of the desert into my soul with every inhale.

Being here, in the place where God has carried me through so much past pain and joy, reminds me that he will carry me through whatever I face in the present and whatever awaits me in the future. Rejoicing in the journey, Bethany Stedman