When I was young, Grandma would tell me stories about growing up in the 1930’s on a farm in the small town of Oskaloosa, Iowa. I was included in a few of the 450-mile trips with Grandma to visit her mother and other relatives in nearby Pella. At least once, I saw the actual farm and cornfields where Grandma was raised. Since becoming an adult, I haven’t visited Oskaloosa, but have been amazed at all the little connections I have had with that town over the years.
At age 18 and newly graduated from high school, I left home for the first time and went to live and work at a Christian campground for the summer, eighty miles from home. I was assigned to a trailer with two other young women. One of them was from Oskaloosa. My Grandma came to visit one day, met my roommate, and they enjoyed a conversation about people and places they knew in common.
When I married my first husband five years later and relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, I randomly stopped at a Supercuts in a strip shopping center in Woodstock. Talking to the hair stylist, it became apparent that we were both “Yankees”. When I asked her where she was from, she replied,
“You’ve probably never heard of it. I’m from Oskaloosa, Iowa.”
A few years later, I found myself living still further away in Shreveport Louisiana. We purchased a home and it was quite a change to live in the heat of Louisiana after growing up in the Midwest. One day I decided to take a little walk and stopped on a corner a few hundred feet away from my house to cross the street. There was a bright red fire hydrant, and I glanced at it. The words Oskaloosa, Iowa were imprinted in metal on fire hydrant. When Grandma visited me in Louisiana, I was able to show her the fire hydrant from her home town.
Years later, my grandmother passed away. Having moved once again, ninety miles from where I grew up, I took my children to visit our local library branch for the first time. While the children were listening to story time, I was browsing. The very first book I picked up was a large children’s picture book which caught my eye. I opened up to a random page near the middle, and the first line was “We moved to Oskaloosa, Iowa.” (The title of the book was The Huckabuck Family)
Finally, this fall I attended my first writer’s conference. I scheduled a short visit with an editor, and we discussed an idea for a book proposal. Can you guess where she had once lived?
When Grandma told me her Oskaloosa stories, I think she was a little bit homesick. I think she missed her mother. Every time I have had an Oskaloosa connection, it came at a time when I was feeling a little homesick too. I don’t think these things are coincidence. I think they are little gifts, blessings from God that have brought me comfort when I was far away from home and missing loved ones. They remind me of my grandma’s faith that brought her through many years of longing for home.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… (Ephesians 2:19 ESV)