Southern Comfort Zone

There is something so special about a California summer, especially a coastal summer. It’s never too hot or too cold – the weather seems to hit the just right balance all the time. The clouds cover the skies just enough to streak the sunsets with vivid purples and oranges and pinks. And the smell of sunblock is our perfume from June through September.

I’m living my 33rd summer. My first, I was too young to remember – only two months old. But at 32, I have more summer memories to count. Beach camps and trips to the ocean and watching my freckles blossom on my cheeks and shoulders after a day at the pool. The metallic smell of sun-warmed skin covered to sunblock. Even the sting and itch and pleasant peel of a burn. The laughter of friends, camp outs for birthdays, sleepovers and over nighters at church. There is such sweetness in these memories, these moments that feel magical to me, even so any years later. California summers have been so dear and kind and tender to me.

But I’ve got a secret. I can’t wait to leave it all behind.

About a year ago, God confirmed that He was calling me to Tennessee. I don’t know the details or the steps or what stands between the now and the then, but I’ve got a feeling in my bones that is impossible to shake.

There is so much in California I will miss — my family and the history that has been created over the last 32 years and the places where I cried and laughed and loved and lived and grew from a child into a woman and where I found God again and where my name is etched into walls and streets I’ve walked so often I could do it with my eyes closed — but there are so many memories I cannot wait to make in Tennessee.

I love California, but my heart burns for Tennessee.

It is the place where I dream of having a man ask for my hand in marriage. It’s the place I envision my babies being born. It’s where I imagine Christmas and Easters, birthdays and anniversaries. I love so much of California but sometimes I feel like it is a holding pattern, a place where I am learning the lessons I will live out in Tennessee.

Please don’t mistake my longing to be in Tennessee as dislike of California or as a desire to escape people here. Sometimes when I stop to think about what leaving California really means, my heart aches. I think about the family God gave me at 18 when I needed it and my I get a knot in my stomach. I think about leaving Charisse behind — my sweet sissy, who I’ve usually seen at least once a week for the last eleven years — that is what makes me question everything about leaving, makes me think I’m crazy for the crazy dreams I have of anywhere else but where she is. The awards ceremonies, the plays, the swim meets, the Saturday morning laughter and the goodnight snuggles — gaining Tennessee means I lose all of those things with her, things I love so much.

But still. The burning in my heart is still there. It’s not stronger than my love for all of the things that tie me to this place, to my California. My California life is irreplaceable. My people here are irreplaceable. I will always come back — to visit, to love, to find comfort in the laughter and safety I have here. Nothing can or ever will change that.

But Tennessee… I long for it. And I can’t wait forever it — whenever, however it happens.

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