Illinois Journal–The Beginning

written on 9/15/2002

This is it. This is the last Illinois Journal entry that I will write. It seems appropriate. After all, this weekend is the 3-month anniversary of our being here. We arrived in Peoria on June 14 and unloaded on June 15. Crazy days. I must admit that they are blurs in my memory. I was running on heartache and exhaustion for most of that week, and most of the concrete events are lost to me. Vaguely now, I can put names to the faces that passed through my life during that weekend. Bryan Evans. Scott Price. David Price. Frank Riley. And was Tony Hopp here? I honestly can’t remember. Like I said, it’s all a blur.

But now, life is much calmer. I sent off the last bit of paperwork for my internship on Monday, so school is finished now. The job is going quite well. We’ve settled into the new house. Life is good.

But even better, we are getting to know the land and its people. Peoria no longer seems strange or difficult. Certainly the highway system could use some improvement, but at least now I know where it needs to be improved. And we have friends. We have been spending a lot of time with the younger Prices (in other words, about our age), and we have been enjoying the time spent. (David and Rachel are even learning to play Go! At last! Someone will play with me!) And Saturday night is now roleplaying night, as Ralph Mazza (another Erie expatriate) joins us for Pendragon (roleplaying in the time of King Arthur). It is a comfort to feel like we are no longer alone.

We are still making a decision about which church we will attend. Still, even that decision is proceeding smoothly, and I think that we will have settled on a choice within the next month or two. It will feel good to stop and rest.

Even my writing is beginning to take form. For a while I was having difficulty rediscovering the proper “feel� for my Alyria game. So I wandered off to a Website with free music to download. That’s my usual source from “weird� music. After downloading and listening to some strange ambient style music, I began to recapture the right vibe. So Wednesday I actually got to write, and it was working. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I think that it will proceed smoothly.

Crystal has put up a family website, for those of you who are interested in such things. The URL is http://benezras.0catch.com. (Yes, that’s a zero, NOT an “O�.) There are pictures there, for those who are interested, and we plan on adding more. Of course, she did this in between doing work on the church website (www.providencereformed.com) and being a mother of three young children. No wonder she is sleeping now.

All in all, life has returned to normal.

There was one final shock to deal with, though. Two weeks ago, Gabrielle returned home.

Don’t get me wrong. It was great to see my parents. I know that it helped my mother especially to see where I’m working and where I’m living. And, truth be told, I enjoyed giving them the guided tour. My only disappointment was the river. Sunday night we wandered down to the riverfront to show them the fountain and the park and the bridge. However, I didn’t think about its being Labor Day Weekend. The entire park was packed. Plus, there was a rap concert going on. Not quite the serene vista that I had been hoping to show to my parents. Sigh. Oh well. They still appreciated it.

But then the next day, they left to go home. It was hard enough saying good-bye to my parents, but it was torturous to bid Gabrielle farewell. In a way, we had already left my parents in Erie. But Gabrielle had come with us, and we had never said good-bye to her. For three months she had been part of our family. She hung out with us, helped around the house, changed diapers like the rest of us, and was generally a part of our life. And now she was leaving.

But before she went, we had a surprise going-away party for her. She was completely blindsided. All the preparation went on around her, and she had no idea. Of course, Crystal can be quite sneaky when she puts her mind to it. The party had a Nobilis theme, and we gave her a vase with (silk) flowers and a poem that Crystal had written that explained the symbolism of each flower. (For those of you who didn’t know, there is a fairly intricate symbolism associated with flowers. The roleplaying game Nobilis uses this “flower language� as part of the setting.) We then presented her with her own copy of Nobilis. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s quite a pretty book. She was very happy.

But now she is gone, returned to her home in Erie. For a while she made her home with us, but now she had to return to her place. But her place at the table is empty, and it is really only recently that we have grown used to it.

But I don’t long for Erie any longer. I feel at home here. I feel at peace. Yes, that is a good way to say it. I am at peace with the world around me. I am no longer a stranger in a strange land, a pilgrim and wanderer in search of home. Home is here with me. Some of it we built, some of it was given to us, and all of it was a gift from God above. We are home. Home.

Is this the end? How can it be? There is still more life to be lived, more problems to overcome, more of the goodness of God to experience. Perhaps it is better to say that this is the beginning. Our transition is over, and now we are truly ready to begin our life here in Illinois.

My wind chimes are hanging in the quiet room. I love my quiet room, although I rarely have the opportunity to make use of it. (Gabrielle loved the quiet room.) But it is a place of quiet, of peace, of refuge from the world outside. Leave your troubles at the door and enter. It is just like the garden I was hoping to plant back home, where my wind chimes used to hang. God took that garden from me, but He has given me so much more. And who knows? Perhaps I will have a chance to start another garden. Time will tell.

But for now, I am content with where my wind chimes hang. The quiet room, the house, the city, the job, the church, the people, the friends. My wind chimes hang in a good place, and I am glad that God has brought me here.

The wind dances across the plains of Illinois and touches on my chimes. The shimmering note hangs for a moment in the breeze. It falls on me like rain, like a benediction.

Peace be with you.

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