#TopTenTuesday – Summer

I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday in a long time.  But, seeing as this is the last Tuesday of August and I’ve had a pretty wonderful summer,  I thought it time to share my favorite things of Summer 2016.  It started out where I was a little stressed, a little restless, and a lot sick of cold, but it’s turned out to be a summer where I’ve truly felt loved and blessed.  So here ya go.

Top 10 Favorite Things of Summer 2016:

1.  Fourth of July.  This is always my favorite holiday, spent with my crazy family at my aunt and uncle’s cottage.  This year’s theme for the boat parade was “Anything Goes,” and since my uncle is the Loon Ranger for their lake, this happened.  Oh, and one of the flags fell off the back when my aunt wasn’t paying attention, my cousin-in-law started playing “Taps” on his phone as it sank, and I jumped overboard to pluck it from the mucky bottom of the lake.  Pretty standard times.


2.  This little girl entered our lives!  My parents used to raise Weimaraners when I was a kid, but we’d been without one in the family for far too long.  Ghost is probably going to be a bit spoiled as a result.


3.  My bridal shower.  I hate being the center of attention, but that wasn’t a problem considering we had 19 kids staying.  My mom’s side of the family hadn’t all been together in like 3  years, so I was happy to be the excuse.


4.  I’ve read a lot of amazing books from fellow authors.  I also beta read more than I usually do (meaning I read an advanced copy of a book an author is preparing to release into the world), which was a great opportunity.  You can see some of these books I’ve read here:


5.  I moved to a super cool apartment that is slowly but surely getting filled so it’s less echo-y in here.


6.  The Fiance and I celebrating knowing each other for 2 years.  Honestly the first thing to remind us was Facebook.  He was training for an upcoming Ironman all day, I was working, I went to McDonald’s to get us dinner…  It was “special” but worth noting.


7.  My bridal crew helped me pick out a wedding dress.  Now, I’ve had a deal with my mom since I was 7 years old that I would elope.  However, since the diva groom wants a wedding, that means I had to find a dress.  I didn’t cry when finding the dress, but it meant more to me that these people were there.  (Our little Dutch souls did cry at the great deal I got, though.)


8.  Reviews from authors I respect.  I’ve been slacking on the whole “book promotions” thing, but it’s been wonderful to have occasional kind words come in about my books.  It especially means a lot to me when other authors whose work I LOVE have something nice to say.  Here’s one:


9.  The Haymarsh Benefit Shoot.  For almost 2 decades, our family’s hunt club has hosted a benefit shoot for a local facility that helps families with their needs.  It’s always a time I use to catch up with my many adopted-uncle-types.  It’s also a time when my dad, my brother, and I frantically prep to get things ready.  This year was no different, and it’s nice some things never change.


10.  I found a quiet peace of heaven.  Our apartment doesn’t have a balcony, but there’s this weird private courtyard down the hall that leads to open sun, open air, and astroturf.  It’s the quietest place you can imagine while living downtown, and it’s great for relaxing and unwinding…which means reading.


Living on the Fringes of an Amish Community

Another part of growing up on the Haymarsh was that many of our neighbors were Amish.  I don’t know the history of how they came to settle in the area, but they definitely added a unique flavor to the community.  I respect their devotion to their way of life and faith, even if I don’t find it necessary.  But… There are definitely a few things/stories that stuck in my memory:


I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point my brother and I started calling Amish children omelets.  I think it may have something to do with the fact that often one house will have a dozen children.

In summer, the omelets play outside much like my brother and I used to do, and I imagine there is a similar aspect of their mother wanting them out of the house.  They will always be barefoot, but in this community clothing is never optional.  The omelets will be dressed from head to shins in black doll’s clothes with the cutest (and probably most uncomfortable) straw hats and bonnets you’ve ever seen.  There is always a puppy.  People drive by slowly to see the herd of little omelets playing, and it’s hard to say whose curiosity is more entertained – those in the cars or the children.  But I do know that the puppies always enjoy the children’s attention being diverted, because they always jump at the chance to run for it.

Once, I saw three little omelets standing by their pasture, staring open-mouthed and pointing as a bull had his way with a cow.  That must have been Biology class for the day.

Deer in a Barrel

Not everyone enjoys having Amish neighbors.  Especially around hunting season.  One family went so far in their plans to “outsmart” their Amish neighbors that they built a 25-foot tall fence along their entire property line to keep deer from running off their property onto the Amish property.  It was a wall Nehemiah would have been proud of, even if the motivation was a little different.

When deer season came around, however, the Amish were ready.  They got up at 4:00 a.m. and sat along their side of the fence, waiting.  The deer, probably confused, ended up being funneled by the new fence into the Amish property.  Trapped, the deer ran along the fence like those shooting games at a carnival while the Amish men shot at them for 45 minutes.  Deer tried crawling under the fence to no avail.  Thirteen deer died that days, some so small they still had spots on their little haunches.  As my Dad found out later, “The boys enjoyed some sport.”  By mowing down Bambi’s as they tried to crawl under a fence?  Very sporting indeed.

 The Sunday Morning Game

My family played a game on the way to church every Sunday: Guess Which Way The Amish Went To Church.  You play by swerving around the horse poop in the road, trying to decipher which direction the horse-drawn buggy had been traveling.  Are the poopy trails leading to the Yoders?  Or the Adams?  Then our family car would make that one turn to our church, and we’d see a pile of plop going in the other direction.  Yes, it was the Yoders that Sunday.  (We found odd things to be competitive about in my family, but poop tracking was one of them.)

The Amish Diet

At the local grocery store, I always found it exciting to pull into the parking lot and see a horse and buggy tied to the lamppost.  One day, my mom and I entered to find a young Amish couple (you knew they hadn’t been married long cuz his beard was thin yet) shopping around.  I’m not alone in finding this exciting, because I distinctly remember seeing several other customers also looking in the couple’s cart, wondering what they were buying.  I lost track of them in the store but was fortunate enough to end up right behind them in the checkout line.  What did they pull from their cart? A frozen pizza and eggs.

Two thoughts went through my head:
1.) Shouldn’t they have chickens?
2.) How did they cook the pizza?

 Business Moguls

Oh, they’re crafty, those Amish.  They helped themselves to all the maple syrup they could carry from our woods two years in a row.  We would drive by our land and see the trees reflecting back at us like they all had rear-view windows – the syrup collecting bags were silver.

Not only did they relieve us of the burden of harvesting from our land, but they were also so generous as to plant…special herbal crops on our land. My grandmother was shocked by the DEA one afternoon when they landed a helicopter, knocked on her door, and asked if she was responsible for about 20 marijuana plants on her property.  Honestly, I can’t really blame the DEA – which is more ridiculous, that my grandmother would be growing weed or that the nice Amish boys would be planting weed? (To be fair, the true culprits may have been my aunt and uncle’s employees, but I have my reasons for suspecting the Amish boys. We had always wondered what was in those plastic bags when they would come out of our woods.)

More as a kind way to interact with the Amish boys than as an actually wise business move, my dad decided one summer to buy pigeons from them to hunt on the Hunt Club.  They were delighted (he would later say because they’d known a sucker when they saw one) and sold Dad over 100 pigeons at a time that they caught in their barn.  Now, fun fact about pigeons:  They will return home to roost, even after the betrayal of being sold into a slavery where they’re shot at.  So, by the end of the summer, my dad was pretty sure he’d bought many of the same birds at least three times.

 Riding lessons

By the time I actually had horses of my own, I was over my girlhood horse phase. It didn’t help that our appaloosa was an idiot.  Gorgeous, but an idiot.  “He” (and I use the term loosely, if you know what I mean) needed training desperately so that he would calm down and stop bucking. My grandfather had an old Amish friend who reportedly worked wonders as a horse whisperer, so we took our appaloosa to this exorcist and let him see what he could do.

After looking the horse over and agreeing to keep him for a while, this kind older man turned to me and asked how I liked riding him.  I said, “Fine, but he bucks a lot.” He then gave me the most valuable advice I’ve ever received, and it can extend beyond horse riding to all areas of life, I believe.  He said, “Well, if you’re going to fall, be sure to land on your head so you don’t hurt your ass.”  This was the first time I’d ever heard an Amish person swear.

So, anyway, living on the fringes of an Amish community wasn’t a drastic influence on my life, but it certainly added a unique flavor.  These people are mostly known for buggies, bonnets, beards, and hand-crafted furniture.   They often seem un-relatable.  But they’re faithful, they’re funny, they are not perfect.  At the very least, living so close to them taught me that you really can’t judge a person by their cover.  Or what’s in their shopping cart.

Hunter Princess

“What was once captured through epic voyage, war, quest,
in modern days is found through sport, hunting.
Preparing for battle in blazing orange armor,
man’s ancient blood channels Odysseus, Hector, Arthur.
Sirens pose as pheasants; long-suffering Penelopes wait at home.
Something primal comes off the field
in a faithful beast becoming man’s best god,
in Nimrod’s prized weapons gleaming in sunlight,
in 4-wheel chariots trampling wild terrain.
And then the return to Camelot,
with little to show for the journey
but a story, memory, lesson
and wilted, lifeless sirens for wives to roast.”
Hunting Glory

 Haymarsh Hunt Club motto: “Why pay to have it done right when you can do it yourself?” This is not printed on business cards or anything, but it was commonly uttered under our breaths.  Not that the place is a trashy construction of duct tape and plywood.  Not all of it.  It’s just that Grandpa Bud, the owner, was a cheap Hollander despite his claims that he took pills for it, and he never paid for anything if there was an iota of a chance that we could build it or fix it ourselves.  Despite this fact, the Haymarsh somehow manages to be a beautiful place, probably because nature is the main focus rather than architecture.

I’ve already discussed how the wildness of the land stimulated my childhood, but honestly the land is the biggest part of why I love the Haymarsh.  Not 40 acres as my college roommate once thought, but more like 1400.  I love that even now, after over a decade, I can drive out on trails and honestly get lost, finding myself in a field or forest I swear I’ve never been in before.  The Haymarsh feels open, especially at night when the starry sky stretches from horizon to horizon.  It is still and wild at the same time.  It sometimes feels like the breeze carries air from a simpler time.

The land is amazing, but there is more to why the Haymarsh Hunt Club added a whole dimension to my life.  Because of the Haymarsh, I grew up abnormal…ly.

People often assume that “owning a hunt club” means your family must be loaded. Uh, no. We did have a lot of land, and I guess that means something.  And my founding grandfather was kinda important in the local business sense, I guess.  But I would never call us wealthy.  It’s practically a farm without crops, for crying out loud.  Still, sometimes I used to imagine what it would have been like in olden days.  Then we might have been big shots. However, it was always my secret nightmare that, had I lived during those times, I would have been married off for land acquisition – or a goat – to some equally-affluent family’s hunter son.  The Somervilles do probably have sell-out genes (I think our ancestors sold out for lordships to England), and I know the Gummer side is always looking for a deal.  My grandfather was only half-joking when he once suggested I put up a “Marry Me, Hunt For Free” ad in the Haymarsh clubhouse.  If we’d been in our situation in the 1600s, I wouldn’t have had a say and would’ve been married off kicking and screaming.  So, I’m happy to live in the present, thank you.


There is something very cool about a family that runs a business or two together.  You share in the work, in the stories, in the ups and downs and frustrations and blessings.  My grandma and her friend Dorothy regularly catered meals for the big groups of hunters, and this was always a source of…entertainment.  And leftovers.  Leftovers are good.  It was a treat as a kid on Saturdays to hear that the hunters were done and we could go out to the clubhouse to fill our own plates.  Very communal.  On a daily basis, the Hunt Club was a thing that pulled our family together and kept us active and working together. I learned a lot from the experience of living literally on the workplace with my family. I learned hard work.  I learned physical labor and the pure joy of being completed exhausted from a full day working outdoors.  It was like Little House on the Prairie but without cotton dresses and with a lot more cursing.

Despite not having a lot of cultured civilization around, I always felt like I was a part of a bustling community.  We had people at our house constantly.  It became a kind of game to identify who had arrived by recognizing the truck that had pulled into the driveway.  I could ID over twenty men by what truck they drove.


  • Christian and I once had friends over to watch a movie, and a truck pulled into the parking lot outside. We knew this was nothing to get excited about. Our friends said something like, “A blue truck just pulled in.” Christian and I didn’t even bother looking, but one of us said, “Oh, that’s Tom.”
  • My mom got to a point where she was maybe a little too comfortable with people popping in.  I was once on the phone with her from Grand Rapids, and I heard a knock on the door through the phone.  Mom said, “Tim, can you get that?” My Dad muttered something, and Mom sighed and went to answer the door.  I heard through the phone as the door opened and someone asked if Tim was available.  Mom, without missing a beat, said, “He’ll be right here.  He’s putting pants on.” I started laughing into the phone, and I later found out it was Dan, one of my favorite hunters, who fortunately knew enough about the Gummer craziness not to be disturbed.

My favorite thing about the Haymarsh community:  I have many, many adopted-uncle-types.  My dad has a hard time calling the hunters merely “clients” because he is friends with so many of them (except for that one…), and I know what he means.  Though I was just a girl and they were a bunch of middle-aged hunters, I tend to think of them in a more familial way.  There is a certain amount of comfortableness I feel around hunters that I don’t find anywhere else. To this day, I am most comfortable around men ages 35+, and I prefer them to women of any age, actually.  Who knows how healthy this is, but it’s just something that developed as a result of being in the Haymarsh environment.  (I grew up on a hunting preserve writing science fiction novels – I’ve accepted that I do not relate to most women.)  I remember sitting around with my dad and groups of hunters, listening to stories, jokes, and their easy way of talking about nothing in particular.  My idea of “men” was shaped by hunters, and I saw from a range of lawyers to farmers that there are some qualities common to all which I appreciate.  I love the nostalgic smell that comes from the mix of cologne, jeans, and mud off a field – it’s strange the things I missed when I moved away to college, but this smell was one of them.  In many ways, hunters ruined me for “city boys.”  If I feel like I’m more butch than a guy, I get judgy.  If I know I can do more physical labor than a guy, I get judgy and kinda wanna arm wrestle.  (It’s because of this tomboy attitude that I suppose I earned the nickname “Hunter Princess” from a post-college friend, but whatever.)

I admit I had favorites:

  • Kevin H. is like an uncle to me and is one of the first non-family people I ever remember.  Kevin knew my dad before I was born, and I always thought of him as that cool uncle who cracks jokes and knows the best stories about your parents’ wilder days.
  • Kevin R. was the one responsible for roasting the pigs for the annual Haymarsh Hunt Club Pig Roasts. (He has many other fine qualities, but I have the utmost respect for anyone who cooks me pork.)  One year, after prepping the pig, he somehow tossed the whole pig right over the roaster and onto the ground, after which he muttered “son of a bitch” while my father laughed.  Kevin claimed that it had been like a slippery bar of soap, and I still can’t figure out how a pig is in any way like a bar of soap.
  • Brooks, Dad’s intern for a while, fit in so well that he became like a member of the family to the point where he admitted that he had “caught the crazy.” Poor devil.  (He was also the one who insisted that I name my autobiography “Crouching Chuckar, Hidden Pheasant” if I ever wrote one.)
  • Many of my favorite hunters were my favorites solely because of our give-and-take banter.  Chris H. was often kind enough to remark, “What is that smell?” whenever he saw me in the area.  Despite the jabs, he once really surprised me with kindness when I broke my hand at a Pig Roast – he brought me dessert. I did not check it for spit, come to think of it.
  • “Robin Hood and Little John” weren’t exactly great, but I remember them fondly because of the obvious physical resemblances that led to their nicknames.
  • I had a serious case of hero-worship with Dan B., who saved me multiple times from his uncle trying to fix me up with his cousins.  It’s to the point that years later I’m still automatically happy to see him.
  • I remember the first day Marc S. showed up with no previous experience and thought he’d just try out shooting.  As time went on, he showed up so often that he became “The Customer.”
  • Tom K. lived in town and was always just a good man. Even if he had Labs. And he always brought amazing pie to the annual Pig Roasts. (Gosh, what is it with me and food?)
  • Jake was one of my grandfather’s best friends, and they definitely had a lot in common.  I must say, though, that Jake’s ribbings were never mean in quite the same way, and I guess I think of him as more like an adopted-grandfather, really.

I also had my least favorites.  These sometimes included the downright ignorant because it took so long to “train” them how to shoot.  Sometimes my least favorites were those who thought I didn’t know what I was doing and so took over for me.  More often, however, my least favorites included those who noticed my gender more than the average hunter.  I am not blind; I am not deaf.  You were the ones with earplugs in, not me! It’s not that I am a complete knock-out by any stretch of the imagination; it’s just that I was the only female in the area and therefore the only target – thank God not literally.  It was incredibly obvious whenever one group at Sporting Clays asked me to walk ahead of them.  That group was so bad that Jordan – the other girl trapper – and I refused to take them around, ever.  Most weren’t bad, though.  Every once in a while I would encounter an older hunter who would get that “If I were a younger man” glint in his eye, but most of them behaved themselves.  Sometimes they even tipped better.  (Ah, the subtle power of feminine manipulation.)

Most of my experiences on the Haymarsh blur together because they were all so similar – green foliage, cold snow, hot sun, mosquito bites, Sporting Clays’ orange paint on my hands, pheasant smell, gunshots.  Here are a few standout memories:

  • Helping Kevin H. at a tower shoot and watching a pheasant run away and then right back to us as if it wanted to end it all.
  • Going out in the field with my dad and Dixie, our Weimaraner who could run faster than any dog I ever saw.
  • Numerable occasions when Christian, Lance, and I would sit in the truck, listening to the radio, because it was raining too hard to do Sporting Clays.
  • The time Austin, another Sporting Clays trapper for a while, took a group around during a thunderstorm and came back drenched, only to receive a dollar tip from the man, who apparently thought he was being generous.
  • Bob S., “The GrandMcDaddy” as we called him, coming to Sporting Clays Tuesday mornings with his dog, Shadow, who once chased a clay rabbit I threw.
  • A neighbor guy sometimes showed up to play football during break times, and one time he told my dad, “When you play football, you shouldn’t think.” Lance muttered, “You must play football a lot.”

All in all, being a live-in at the Haymarsh Hunt Club was interesting.  I learned by the age of sixteen how to deal with customers.  I learned how to shrug off sexism and how to handle offensive behavior, though I must stress that this was not the norm.  I learned several colorful acronyms for PETA.  I can hike with the best of them.  I love getting dirty.  I am stronger than I would have been if I had worked at a mall.  The Haymarsh also contributed greatly to my knowledge of things that the ordinary girl did not know, and I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten my foot in the door at a few job interviews by bonding over hunting stories.  I know what a field smells like in winter.  I was a Sporting Clays trapper for ten solid years, and I say with an odd kind of pride that I am damn good at it, even if no one ever knows what I’m talking about.  And on at least one occasion when a guy has tried to impress me that he’s a redneck because he once owned goats, I’ve been able to throw down, “Oh, yeah? Well, we had hundreds of pheasants.”

At Grandpa Bud’s funeral, I really saw how much the Haymarsh people meant to me.  I knew more people in the reception line than most of our family, save Grandma and Dad probably.  It was a wonderful feeling to have this strange little community that was completely separate from the rest of my life, and it meant a lot to me that dozens and dozens of hunters hugged me like we were family.  It was amazing to see in one room the sheer volumes of people my grandfather had touched through their shared love of nature, and I was a part of that legacy.


Spiritual Geography

Kathleen Norris wrote a book called Dakota about how the land where she grew up and the land where she lived had affected her spiritually – not necessarily religiously, but in her spirit. This got me thinking about the oddity of my own spiritual geography.

The question I hate more than “Is that your real name?” is “Where are you from?” because I have no idea what one or two-word answer is accurate.  Technically, I guess you could say that I’m from Grand Rapids because that is where I was born.  Or, you could say I’m from Cedar Springs because that was our address while I was a kid.  Or, you could say I’m from Morley because that is where our address was when I last lived under my parents’ roof.  However, the truth is closest to saying that I’m from a mixture of Algoma Christian School and Lakeview, but try explaining that.

Okay, I will.

My brother and I went to Algoma Christian School while living in Cedar Springs.  I was never connected to the actual city of Cedar Springs because we went to school somewhere else, and the only real interaction we had with Cedar at all was at First Baptist Church…which was educational enough about the Cedar kids that I was perfectly fine keeping my distance, for the most part.  Anyway, despite going to church in Cedar Springs, the only sense of community that I had growing up was from Algoma Christian School.  And although the school’s address is Kent City on Sparta Avenue (which always confused me), the school was in the middle of corn fields so that there was no connection with either Kent City or Sparta.  ACS was its only little bubble world (in more ways than one, but I’ll stick with the issue of geography), so spending so much of my childhood there ended up creating for me a sense of being “from” there.  Even after we moved to Morley, my brother and I continued to go to ACS despite the 50-minute commute.  So, even while living in a land far away, ACS continued to be my home in a daily way — I feel “from” there.

But Lakeview holds ties as well.  My mom grew up in Lakeview, and most of my mom’s family lived three miles down the road when we moved to Morley.  We have always been very close to that side of our family, and I can vividly recall whole chunks of my childhood that were spent at my grandparents’ house, at my aunt and uncle’s house, or at the local church in Sylvester (a bustling village consisting of the church, King’s Trading Post, and a blinking yellow light).  That church specifically holds a special feeling of home for me.  I can remember being very little and looking up during a sermon to stare at the chalk picture of Jesus hanging on the wall, and I can tell you that there are 198 tiles on the sanctuary ceiling.  Even when we lived in Cedar Springs, the church in Sylvester always felt like my home church.  Once we moved to Morley, we joined that church and it became the one place – besides our actual house – that felt like home.  See, because we continued to go to school down at ACS, I had less social connection with the town of Morley than I’d had with Cedar Springs.  I literally can name only one other family in Morley, and that’s only because they go to church in Sylvester.  This disconnection from our surroundings may have been a drawback to our continued ACS education that my parents hadn’t considered – we were isolated by 50 miles from our only friends while living in a community where we knew no one except family.  But, Lakeview is very homey to me for reasons of family — I feel like I’m “from” Lakeview/Morley as well.

So, basically, I feel that I’m “from” an area with a radius of about 30 mile.

What does this have to do with spiritual geography? Every place I’ve ever called home has played a part in how I’ve developed.  This means the lands, the buildings, the quirky cultural aspects, everything.  I have traveled around much of America and I’m sure other geographical locales have influenced my view of existence, but “home” is always a major influence on a kind, and I can see how each geographical home of my life influenced my spiritual development.

When we lived in Cedar Springs, our house was built in the woods.  I grew up surrounded by wild nature – almost literally, because we barely had a yard.  My mom would turn us outside every day during the summer, and I don’t think we ever came inside except to eat or sleep or tell on each other.  I developed a deep appreciation for nature, for color, for animals, and for the way our imagination can take us just about anywhere.  I saw God’s creation every day and loved it.  Because of this, I think I am happier around simple things.  Nature has always been my sanctuary.  I’m a minimalist, a mystic, and a conservationist, and I know that this is cuz of the natural environment I grew up in.

At Algoma Christian School, the building I know affected me.  ACS is what has been referred to as “the pole barn school” and it really did feel like we were cattle sometimes. More to the point, we were isolated.  Whereas I lived in a forest at home, school was plopped down in the middle of fields.  There was no way to escape, and we had to become fairly reclusive because we had no other choice.  When you go to such a small school, being in close quarters with the same people everyday can be dangerous.  (This is the real reason I think cattle stampede.  They’re not easily startled or driven by the herd mentality – they see an excuse to run from each other and make a break for it.  However, we had to cope – the teachers didn’t have lassoes or cattle prods, but they did have detention slips.)  We had to learn how to deal with people because there was nowhere to run.  I think that the ACS building and that place forced me to learn how to be a person in a community.  I’m sure growing up and getting an education helped shape me considerably, but the actual place had an impact too.

Then there’s Morley.  Talk about the middle of nowhere.  Our family’s Haymarsh home is on a hunting preserve, where open land stretches all around for well over a thousand acres. As a kid who loved to run around in nature, this was heaven.  As a kid who needed social development, it was not.  But I was happy.  Kathleen Norris describes the open skies and vast stretches of land in Dakota, but there’s a mystical beauty to the wetlands of Michigan too.  There was something to be discovered in every corner of our Haymarsh.  It was wild land, and it is from the land that I understand the need for conservation.  I also understand, from hours of lying on the star-watching bridge, about being still and knowing that God is God and I am just a piece of…creation.  The Haymarsh showed me openness and gave me a sense of something bigger than me, wilder than me.  Because of the Haymarsh, I go barefoot constantly and am most comfortable when covered in mud after a physically exhausting day outside.

For the college period of my life, I called Grand Rapids home.  Grand Rapids has been coined “GR-usalem” because there are probably more churches here than restaurants – and there are a LOT of restaurants, so that’s saying something about the number of churches.  Grand Rapids has always felt safe and comfortable to me, despite the fact that I’m a country girl at heart.  It’s not too big; not too small.  It’s trying to grow and be artsy, eclectic, and mean something bigger in the world; it also seems to know its strengths and not try to be more than it is.  In these ways, it was a good place to live while experiencing all the change and growth that college brings.  I think that is how Grand Rapids affected me most spiritually – it showed me a gentle alternative to my country reality and made me appreciate potential growth.

My post-college home was Clawson, which is a suburb of Detroit.  I moved there for six months for reasons I’ll get into later, but suffice it to say that Detroit had an impact in my spiritual growth as well.  The Detroit area has a feel unlike anywhere else I’ve lived – talk about opposite extremes, Morley to Detroit.  Detroit is somehow up-tempo and bored at the same time.  My theory is that because the whole area is pretty much one big city, people can spread out and get used to the sprawl rather than congregating in certain hot spots and feeding off of momentary bursts of excitement.  They’re just too used to a multitude of options.  Through my own adventures, I soon found that I could be the kind of person living in Detroit encourages, and this chameleon change in me was affected by the fast-paced, brazen, monotonously sprawling urban-ness around me.  And gosh it was fun – which was exactly what I needed at that point in life.  It was like a great RESET where I remembered that I liked things bigger than the world I’d settled for previously.  But I didn’t like it enough to stay.  I came to the conclusion that maybe, since our souls grow so much from our environment, we’ll never feel “home” in environments that are so absolutely foreign.  Maybe all geographies aren’t meant to change us, but rather strengthen in us the things that are already there, untested.  My spirit could be shaped by Detroit’s environment, but I didn’t want it to be.  I’m not built for clubbing; I like to hear myself think, thank you.  I’m not designed for sales; I am too laid back and low maintenance to push something on people just so I can make a buck.  I’m definitely not capable of faking an affinity for Kid Rock, even if one of my friends did make out with him for her 25th birthday (you know who you are).

So, I moved back to western Michigan.  Although I plopped down in Grand Rapids, I can’t say that this one city itself feels like “home” any more than any one place ever has.  But it’s a good base, and I now know for sure that my 30-mile radius area is where I feel I fit and where I feel fits me – there are things in me that just are that way, and they’re there because of the homes I’m from.   Of Cedar – I don’t require much to entertain myself.  Of ACS – I can deal with people where I’m at if I have to.  Of Morley – I like escaping to the country to roll around in dirt every now and then.  Of Grand Rapids – I like being close to social interaction/options. 

I may not have a good answer for “Where are you from?” but I have a better sense of it than I used to.  Maybe this was all a natural process of maturing that a normal, sane person or even Michael W. Smith would recognize as a process of “finding your place in this world” (I just threw up in my mouth a little bit), but I really feel the geographical/spiritual connection played a part in my conclusion that this is where I am from.  I may never be able to narrow down where I’m from any more than to say I’m from an area with a 30 mile radius, but the wideness of the area pretty well illustrates the wideness of my own personality. I am from here-ish, and no matter where I go next at least I have a solid home base somewhere that I know has shaped me, however difficult it is to explain.

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