Texas Pilgrimage – Thoughts on Going Home

“Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.” Donald Miller

It is 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve in Houston, Texas. The air is hot outside – maybe 70 degrees. We are seated around a table, full of empty wine glasses, dirtied plates and candles that have nearly reached their wicks. My sister Lisa and I decide on this night, of all nights, to talk about the obsessive eating habits I have carried around with me for the last fifteen years.

Before going any further, Lisa deserves an introduction. Lisa is our second born sister; she is 5 ft tall and fiercely loyal to the end. She is brave, smart, beautiful, caring, ruthless and powerful. When one is with Lisa you are keenly aware that you are being observed and measured. Lisa was my first friend. We spent the first decade of our my life playing together, the second decade learning how to grow-up together and the last decade learning how to disagree, yet remain together. It is safe to say that ere are few opinions I value as I do Lisa’s.

So, when Lisa admonished my energy to let go of these traits as week and limited I was wrecked.

“I am trying”, I insist, “And I’ve made so much progress in the last few years.” She retorts, “Yes, you have grown but I believe you can be 100% better.” My dear 81-year-old grandmother attempts to relieve the heavy tension by commenting on how different people understand mercy, self-will and compassion.

Lisa and I carry on for another ten minutes, debating about healing. She presents her closing argument, “You have all you need to get better and we all love you and are supporting you.”

Grace enters the room and my mind clears. I see something in a new light, this letting go of my behaviors; it’s not just about me. These habits are not benefiting anyone, namely Lisa and/or our family I love so dearly.

The conversation continues to run through my head during our 11 p.m. Christmas Eve Service. The reading of John’s proclamation of light (John Chpt 1) and the pastor’s offerings on Mary’s journey to the manger are heard through a lens of our conversation.

In all my musing three key concepts stick out: pilgrimage, He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him (John 1.11),  ‘you have all you need.’

Why pilgrimage? Twice a year I pack my life into suitcases, travel 27 hours and arrive ‘home.’ Here I go through the reconciling of ‘grown-up Natalie’ and ‘childhood Natalie.’

Most of the time I am Natalie Finstad, executive director of a fairly successful start-up organization. I am well spoken, attractive enough and as smart as the average girl. However, in the home I grew up in, I am Natalie, the oldest (yet whiniest) of all five sisters. I am oversensitive, bossy and too busy. I am particular to a fault.

I am raw, without accolades or titles to hide my insecurity.

In this state, I am most vulnerable and most approachable.

Perhaps this is why God so ordered the birth of Christ so that it occurred during the national pilgrimage. God knew that in our manufactured words built with shells of accomplishment we could never see the Christ laying in the manger.

“His own people did not accept him.”

Instead we commemorate His birth, year after year, by traveling to the places or people of our own birth so God can meet us in our rawness and we can experience truth anew.

Amen

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