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We Moved 850 Miles to Find Life

In Miscellaneous by Caris Adel23 Comments


We’ll build new traditions in place of the old
’cause life without revision will silence our souls

-Sleeping At Last


The tall ceilings and golden wood floors call to me.  It’s a southern brick house with columned front porch, bedrooms in the attic, and transomed windows.  The kind of house that we’ve always said, ‘wouldn’t that be cool’.

And now it’s home.

This move feels like being transplanted from the small plastic container to a soft garden plot.  It’s the gardener’s gentle hold, watering the root system, whispering grow, grow. 

It’s the beginning of transforming the larceny of locusts into meaningful life.

And yet.

People give us a shocked look, an ‘oh wow’ when we tell them the neighborhood we’ve chosen.  It is a generous dose of grace to assume positive intent to these reactions.  I assume they think we are ignorant Yankees.  I hesitate to tell them this was intentional, that I’ve read the city-info, and I know.  Diverse racially.  Check.  Affordable rent.  Check.  Safe(ish) neighborhood.  Check.

One person suggested we buy a gun to live here.


I love my road.  It’s beautiful.  I love watching everyone out walking, riding bikes, playing basketball.  I love that my kids will have more than white neighbor kids to play with.  That verse about pleasant boundaries feels cheesy, but true.

Why Virginia, people asked, and how do you sum up ‘we wanted to create a different kind of life’ in a sentence?

That requires describing the kind of life we were creating and what living in a place does to inform the kind of life people lead.  Which gets dangerously close to the misinterpretation of ‘if it didn’t work for you, you must be judging me,’ which is all sorts of messy, and also not true.

We drove 850 miles to create a different life.

It’s easy to say ‘we were surviving, not thriving,’ but what does that really mean?  Bothered by the whiteness, the middle-classness, frustrated by the apathy, and drained by the economy, we were just tired.

A big yellow truck was our modern-day covered wagon, crossing the fields and the mountains, suffering through rain and a nervous cat.  All our earthly possessions in flammable, crushable containers, prone to wetness.

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.

Leaving for something different.  A start.  Not fresh.  Just transformed.


The walls are blank.  Waiting for art, for photos, for some ooooh-I-saw-that-on-Pinterest-and-now-I-have-the-space-to-do-it beauty.

We walked into the empty house on a rainy afternoon, the space an invitation.

Come, create life inside.

Form yourself around this house, this yard, this community.

Bind my wandering heart to thee.


Tape ripping, cardboard peeling back, revealing life.  Memories wrapped in newspaper, unwrapped.  All the rushrushrush pressure to pack in 4 weeks, only to be undone.  I am undone.

What are we doing here?  Is life really dependant on location?  What are we making with our lives?

What are lives made from, if not the large decisions and small moments?  The habits and values changing as they do, as we change, transform, grow.

What if life wasn’t entirely about the 401k and the size of a house.  What if life was about living into meaning?


We do not merely exist.  We are.  We create a life.  Carved out of the hours, the memories we make, the places we live, we create a way of living that enables people to point at us, maybe even try us in the court of public opinion, and say, this is what they value.

We’re trying to create the kind of life we’re being drawn to, the specific qualities of Jesus that are pulling at us.  I want to create a life of meaning.

Here I raise my Ebenezer.


We moved into tension.  Eventually to seek peace.  We’re trying to slowly break the hold middle-class life has on us (I’m afraid I will not cope well with this come Christmas).  I want to continue being more afraid of the snakes than the people, as God surely intended.  (Virginia has some crazy-ass nature, let me tell you.)

We’re trying to create a life that seeks after justice, community, inclusiveness.

Trying, trying, trying.

Transform.  Change.  Grow.  Create meaning.  Walk humbly.  Seek justice.

We action-verb our way to life.


Why do some artists use watercolors and others oil, while yet others pencil, film, or piano?

Why Virginia, why this neighborhood?

What can I say, except that these are the things of creation.


Linking up with SheLoves for October. #CREATE

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4 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • http://www.twitter.com/teenbug Tina Francis/ @teenbug

    Oh my, Caris. This is exquisite.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      Incredible words, thank you <3

  • http://oshetablogs.wordpress.com/ Osheta Moore

    Caris, this is beautiful. Simply stunning. Thank you for sharing.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      Thanks Osheta :)

  • Scott Emery

    Great stuff. My wife and I are in the midst of figuring some stuff out – a potential move ourselves – and it is nice to hear the intentionality behind the kind of life you are after. This is pretty much exactly what we say now that we have our 3 girls: We want to do life with intentionality.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      yes, having kids makes it so much more different. They’re getting old enough now that I’m really trying to figure out what we’re teaching them and what I want them to really start practicing.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ the Old Adam

    Wishing you and your family a very good life in your new town.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      thanks :) I’m hoping we can really settle in and put down some roots.

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com/ Addie Zierman

    This is so beautiful Caris. I’ve been thinking a lot about this — the theology of place, the spirituality of “suburb.” I loved so much of this, but this bit connected with me in particular: “That requires describing the kind of life we were creating and what living in a place does to inform the kind of life people lead. Which gets dangerously close to the misinterpretation of ‘if it didn’t work for you, you must be judging me,’ which is all sorts of messy, and also not true.” Yes. Thanks for this Caris.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      It’s funny, I wanted to write so bad about where I was during that last month of packing, and couldn’t find any words. Maybe distance really is needed to write about some things.

  • kim

    Love this…your intentionality and humility. I am praying, saying “Help” and “Hey, can You hurry?” in your regard. that you will quickly find all kinds of welcome from neighbors and places and even the south’s crazy-ass nature. Some of it is beautiful, some is deadly. I am glad to have you in the region. I look forward to hearing your perceptions about it. ( The south provides the best material for writers. CRAZY abounds.) As Pat Conroy, says, “You could never make this stuff up.” And that makes it interesting, for a writer, student of human nature. I love your voice, Caris, and what you have to say. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      Nature, ha yeah. Kids found the coolest bug on the garage, and they were going to hold it, and I was like, how about we look it up first, just in case. Turned out to be a wheel bug, which look cool, but holy lord. Incredibly painful bite.

  • Daniel McDonald

    Wonderful story. Appreciate both your decision is not meant to be everybody’s and also appreciate your decision. I tend to be insular and introverted no matter where I live, but moved from suburbia into an older near downtown area where whites, blacks, Native Americans, and other minorities tend to live as well. It is an interesting neighborhood and your blog reminds me that I need to get back to my goal of being part of my neighborhood and not just someone living in a house in the neighborhood.

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      oh that’s such a good point. I’ve been trying to sit out on our porch and say hi to people as they walk by, and it is so awkward and uncomfortable for me. I would love to just stay inside all the time and be a loner, haha.

  • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

    Good gracious, Caris, this is amazing. That last chunk – absolutely beautiful.

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    wishing you fertile soil for your fresh start, friend. xo

  • Rebecca Erwin

    So beautiful. We received a similar response when we applied for an inter-district transfer when our boys entered high school. We chose for them to attend an inner-city school.

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  • http://musingsfromabricolage.wordpress.com/ Emily Heitzman

    This is beautiful. I hope to hear more about your experiences here. Thanks for seeking to live out the Kingdom call on your lives.

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  • http://www.talesofnikki.com/ Nikki Norris

    Wow. i feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit. Thank you for writing this and putting it online for the world to see. I am in the midst of contemplating my own move, and I am grateful to read the thoughts of others on this journey. <3