D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Tag: exotic midwest

on homesickness

There was a moment, just a moment, when the happiness overwhelmed me. I was driving a white minivan through the sun-drenched outer boroughs of Portland, the one where the grass was already dead and brown, where the cars pile high in the front yards, where the hipsters are few and far between. Navigating the streets I know so well, driving on auto-pilot; almost audibly my thoughts came: I'm home. The sweetness inherent in that thought--of being known and wanted and comforted--is quickly swallowed up by the realization: no, I'm not. I don't live here anymore. I am embarrassed, look to my left and my right. But no one is there to see my slip into nostalgia, watch my new life and my old cause confusion in my eyes. It is so cliché, but it must be said: I am homesick, no matter where I am.

One great thing about being married to a counselor is that sometimes they give you free observations about your life. The other day my husband told me that to an outside observer, it might look as though I was compelled to seek out relationships with people who are very, very different from myself. Conversely, he also noted, it appeared that my family and community were consistent sources of comfort for me. These two poles on which I staked my life sometimes seem to be in opposition to each other: what is safe, what is unknown. What is comfortable, what is exhilarating. To pursue one means that naturally, the other falls by the wayside.

Last week, in Portland, I was fed full and watched my daughter play with her cousin, I attended a baby shower for my older sister, I went for long walks with my mother, I made root beer floats with my father. Everywhere we went and ate and played I was looking for others, the worlds hidden between, for the marginalized of our society. They are few and far between in Portland, a city that is supremely silly and somehow never satiated in the desire for acceptance. I walked into a coffee shop where everyone looked so exactly alike that it felt like a slap to me: the calculated outfits and language and coffee drinks totaling up one very exclusive experience, designed more to keep others out than to usher them in. I went to church and cried all during worship, aching at how wonderful it was to see a large group of people together and singing about freedom; I slipped away into myself during the sermon, thinking about all the people who would not be able to step inside these doors. Surrounded by family and friends, I couldn't help but feel a bit homesick for the life I have created in the exotic Midwest, long for my neighborhood and my neighbors

Last week, in Portland, I was driving across town in a white minivan. I was by myself, driving to see very old friends, the ones who first showed me where the upside-down kingdom was. I know every street, have a story for almost each city block. I let myself go down the nostalgic trail of thoughts: I met my husband here. I had my baby here. I went to Bible college here. I met the friends who changed my life here. The other part of me--the one who grew up thinking that those who gave up everything to serve God--quickly pushed these thoughts away. I actively, aggressively chided myself into submission. Geography means nothing to me. My entire childhood was spent moving, every 2-3 years. What was important was family, the new church we were at, the next calling of God on our lives. But somehow I stayed in Portland for nearly 9 years, and the asphalt and the street signs and the brown grass in the summer has burrowed into my bones. I am homesick for a place. And it is completely divorced from any sense of mission within me. I just love it for what it is: my home.

A month or so ago here in the exotic midwest I went to visit a friend who moved into the suburbs. Her and her little family are on their way up, moving out of the cramped and crowded-to-overflowing house in the middle of the city. I am happy for her, even as I am sad at the natural distance that will come at her being 30 miles away. I saw her apartment complex, large and full of similarly placed families, everybody packed tight together, everybody trying to make it. The outside facade so clean, the hallways inside rather grimy. I instantly loved it. As I left, I let my hands trail along the walls, imagining what it would be like to move in there. It was then that I realized that I wanted to live in every apartment building in the city, in the country, in the world.

And even though I know this is not even possible in the slightest, there is a large part of me that wants to try.

The problem is: I have so many homes.













my place in this world

well we drove across the plains and now the future feels like one, all flat and brown and seamless from start to finish. overwhelming in its possibilities, i want to curl up and go to sleep, to burrow into a mountain with grass as silky like velvet, to sleep in this world. but instead i am very much alive, no burrowing allowed, already feeling forgotten in this jam-packed urban space, the world around disorienting in every way.

we made it to the exotic midwest. the apartment set out for us is not . . . available yet. we are hoping it will be by the end of the month. as for now, we are living in a very nice condo supplied by friends of our organization. it is all so nice, but it is so disappointing to continue to live out of suitcases, to not have a spot to make my own. i never knew i was that kind of girl, but it seems to be a desire that grows with my age. when i was young, in YWAM, longing to change the world, i read a book by Loren Cunningham (the founder of YWAM) where he talked about how his wife Darlene could make any place a home with the simplest of touches--a beautiful single flower in a vase, books arranged artfully on a bedside table. I read that so many years ago and scoffed, thinking how archaic, how gender-based this longing for home seemed to be.

now, i crave that skill. but i am still myself, tending towards messy bohemia (o, let me drown in books and throw pillows and quirky art). but this summer of simplifying, of giving most of it away, of living out of a couple of car's worth of stuff has taken its toll. i want a place. i want a place for me and my heart, early in the mornings. i want a place for my baby, to grow and learn and feel safe, a place where she can cry and be comforted, make a mess and help clean up. i want a place to have people over to, for coffee and english lessons and dinner and games and conversations and prayer, prayer into the hours of the night when it becomes the watchful period, where we pray for our dreams to become real. and this desire, my urge to put a flower or two in a vase, doesn't seem so silly anymore. it seems darn right spiritual.

but for now, we wait. we are slowly taking in this new city, and i am having a hard time describing how different it is. maybe the words will come to me, later. all i can say now is this: the majority of people in this neighborhood are so different from me that it strikes fear in my heart. for a truth of human nature is that we gravitate towards people who are just like us, who make us feel good about our decisions and thought processes and life paths. i get the sense that when you choose to live and work with people who are different from you in nearly every way, that loneliness is a very real and ever=present companion.

instead of running from these times (disorientation, grief at saying goodbye to friends/family/church, loneliness, fear), i am taking advice from a friend (the ever wise and lovely Kelley) and i am trying to not busy up my time in order to not feel these things. we are taking some time for the sadness, over here. we are trying to come to terms with our companions, the ones in our hearts and our minds, always calling us away from kingdom-living.


it has only been a couple of days, and we don't know when it will feel like home. but we watch, and we wait. and we pray.

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