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Bethlehem

As I walk the five blocks to the bus stop, I pass the glorious red maple tree on the right. And then the poplar, its yellow leaves fluttering over the car parked on Fourth Avenue. It is my third fall in this place, so far from what I have known before.

This place is Bethlehem, named for Jesus’ birthplace by the Moravians in 1741. And though not quite as foreign as first-century Bethlehem, it was foreign enough when I arrived.

We moved here for my husband’s work, traveling through four states on the way to our new home. I’d never lived north of the Mason-Dixon line before.

We bought a row home, close to the quaint downtown and closer to the highway. I’d never lived in a home like this before.

We came alone, leaving friends and family more than eight hours away. And I had done that before, but it was long ago.

I began a new job as well—working from home in my new row home, in my new town.

As the leaves turned and then fell leading into the first winter—that first cold winter—I felt alone. So much change and so few to share it with.

But God was there. God was with me as I unpacked boxes, as I learned the streets, as I bought warmer clothes. And I felt new. God reminded me, in the time and space of alone-ness, of the passion I had before. God gave me peace in the waiting—waiting for friends, for words, for home. In my quiet home while my children were away at school, I remembered myself. God met me there, in the quiet. And he whispered his presence and care for me.

Bethlehem is home after two years. Last night, I chatted with my neighbors—the ones who share my walls—about the fifty-two years they have lived here. About their move here for work, when wages were less than $2 an hour. Last week, I ventured to the university two miles away that boasts one of the most beautiful libraries in the country. And today, I am curled up in a cozy chair, reading and editing from the comfort of my home. There is beauty here. And God is here.

And yet, it is not the same. That first fall, texts from friends I had left behind saved me. To be honest, they save me still. I left behind friends that shared life together, and they haven’t been replaced. One day a huge box arrived on my porch—a Christmas wreath mailed to me from one of those I had left. And not just any wreath—a fresh Fraser fir, handmade by friends who gathered each year in the mountains to cut down trees and to form wreaths. It was a taste of my beloved community. They have not forgotten me. They are a gift of God’s grace.

The beautiful falling leaves are reminders. Their falling reminds me of what I have lost. Their beauty reminds me of what I have gained.

Anna Moseley Gissing

Anna Moseley Gissing is Associate Academic Editor of InterVarsity Press. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild, and her writing has been published in Let us Keep the Feast and Not Alone: A Literary and Spiritual Companion for Those Confronted with Infertility and Miscarriage. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two kids, and she aspires to more reading, more writing, and more patience.

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