Diaries of a Small Town Girl
I just traveled home for the first time in a year and a half.
I grew up in Vail, Colorado. Its a sleepy little ski town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. It’s stunningly beautiful, home to some of the world’s most elite athletes, and for a long time held the title of best ski resort town in the United States. Throw being a pastor’s kid in the midst of that list and I think its fair to say I had a pretty unique childhood.
I don’t even know where to begin when explaining my childhood to you. It was so different from anybody I have met outside of the Vail Valley. We grew up with schools that closed early once a week for ski days, we built snow forts instead of playing on a playground at recess, we went on full moon snow hikes, and when we saw bears we followed them to see what they were up to rather than trying to get away from them. We rolled our windows down and shed our jackets when the temperature was over 30 degrees, and we enjoyed sunshine 300 days a year, even in the freezing cold.
Amongst all of that magic we also experienced extreme loss. People didn’t stay in the Valley for long. Good friends moved away every single year, sometimes every single month. That’s just how it is there, its transitional, everything, including friendships and relationships are based on seasons. We also lost people to icy roads, off limits ski accidents, and ice cold lakes and rivers. It wasn’t all easy.
I was, and am, a pastors kid. Our little church started in my home right after we moved to Vail when I was less than two years old, and the church became my life for the next 20 years after. It grew. Really really grew, and before I can even remember, everyone in the town knew my dad and simultaneously knew me. I lived in a fishbowl. I never went through anything privately, I tried, but it never really seemed to happen. It was a lot of pressure, but it brought me the most loving and loyal community anybody could ever ask for. It was a place where I was known. Where I was loved. Where I knew I could mess up and come back again and it would be ok. I went through a lot in Vail; heartbreak, loss, illness, you name it. But I knew I would make it there because I was loved and I was safe.
Then, at 21 years old my parents rocked the boat when God called them to Santa Barbara, California. I was faced with a decision. Stay in my hometown, keep living my life and doing my thing, or step out in faith into something completely new and different. I chose the second option and followed my family into an entirely new life.
Moving in itself was hard. The goodbyes were brutal, but I don’t think the thought that I wouldn’t come back for a year and half ever even crossed my mind. But that’s how it played out. And that was the hardest thing.
I struggled a lot, not with making friends and finding community, church is great at that, but at feeling secure. I missed familiarity more than I missed anything. I missed knowing the cashiers in the grocery store, I missed knowing the short cuts through packed streets filled with clunky skiers, I missed the change of the seasons that always came no matter what, I missed knowing my way to every location possible without ever having to use GPS. I missed knowing for certain that I could mess up and people would still love me.
Going home reminded me that I still miss those things. Life in Vail felt normal this week, like I had never ever left. But it reminded me of the most important thing I learned when I left, and that is that Jesus has to be my home. I learned that so much of my identity and who I was had been based on a place and it absolutely had to be based on Christ. I learned that we have to live for the approval of Jesus and not for the people around us. I learned that everything on earth changes but Christ does not. I learned that wherever the body of Christ is there is love. I learned how to build a life where nobody knew me. I learned that safe is not always best.
I still miss home. Everyday. But I would rather be here, where God has called me to be right now, than the safest and most familiar place in all the world.
I love, love, love you all!
(Also, side note, Santa Barbara is completely incredible and I love it here, but I think you could be in the most stunning place in all the world with the coolest people ever, and you can still miss the place you first called home.)