My kids request a Charlie Brown book called “Happiness Is.” I open the pages to familiar figures. As Jamal and Chiara snuggle on either side of my expanding baby bump, I read aloud simple antidotes like, “Happiness is a warm puppy,” and “Happiness is three friends playing in a sandbox with no fighting.”
We turn the page to see Linus. The sentence follows, “Happiness is sleeping in your own bed.” I get choked up, every time.
The LORD had said to Abram, "Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you.”
A few months ago, my family and I finally finished our coast-to-coast music tour. I remember standing in front of the sink in our friends’ home in Wisconsin, on what became a pivotal morning. Brushing my teeth turned into prayer.
It went something like this. “Okay, Lord. I’m so excited to be back in the Midwest! I loved our tour, but I’m exhausted and looking forward to normalcy.”
Then I addressed a lingering question. “I’m thinking about my last tour stop, in California. All Saints parish invited me to come back with my family to stay! Really? I don’t feel strongly about this either way. If You want me to let the idea roll past, that would be great. But if I should investigate, please make it clear.”
My “Amen” sounded a lot like toothpaste rushing down the drain.
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
Sitting in daily Mass later that morning, I heard the Old Testament story of Abram (best known as Abraham) being called to set out for a new land where the Lord would bless him. After some singing and a story about Jesus, Bishop Ricken stepped forth to preach to the congregation of mostly school children.
He said, “Moving is hard. But God calls us to move. And He’s calling you to move. Isn’t He?”
What? Maybe I missed something. But no. His Excellency went on to describe the difficulty of picking up and going to an unknown place, especially when we love where we live. He compared it to Abraham’s journey, and then related it to Christ by saying there is a sort of death in leaving one place behind. Yet, he assured us, by staying at the cross through this “death,” we will experience a new joy once we settle into our new land.
“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."
Just like that, I went from savoring a sweet return to the Midwest after 10 months of travel, to investigating the possibilities of becoming an Artist-in-Residence at a Catholic Church in the Bay Area. The steps between then and now have echoed with the same clarity of Bishop Ricken’s homily.
A few months later, boxes of belongings scatter our temporary housing. Meanwhile, our cozy bungalow in Grand Rapids is polished, freshly painted, and completely empty for the renters who will soon occupy it.
Over the next few months, I suppose I’ll keep reading this Charlie Brown book. Our toddlers will welcome their new little sister in September. And then, I'll tearfully tell our kids to embrace their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and we'll transfer these boxes into a moving truck to head out west.
So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him.
Between the parish of All Saints, the Diocese of Oakland, and my husband and me, we still have a few contractual details to work out. But our new home awaits in California. We plan to sign a one-year agreement to commence in November.
Maybe sometime around Thanksgiving, I’ll rest my head on my own pillow, in my own bed, with my little family around me, and the simple assurance that we’re living on in faith. I’ll sense the satisfaction that only comes from taking risks. I’ll discover a new level of happiness that I couldn't have found by staying where life is comfortable.
Maybe. Until then, it’s bittersweet.