Rooted in the Present through the Past

I tend to hold onto dates in a way that no one else in my family does. I connect them to the key events in our lives (as well as some of the more mundane ones). It’s not uncommon for me to say over dinner, “So this is what we were doing on this day such-and-such years ago…”

My family doesn’t really get it, but they humor me in this.

I also tend to get very reflective around this time of year, as it’s the anniversary of one of the biggest changes in our family’s lives: our immigration to the United States. While July 21, 2016, is the day we officially took hold of the keys to our first apartment here, the story begins 14 months earlier.

Coming to America (the United States of, that is)

In late May 2015, I was offered a job that was going to change our lives because it meant moving to Nashville. Emily and I had been praying and working toward an opportunity like this for a long time. One that would let me grow professionally and do meaningful work that was changing lives in the “here” of North America, as well as around the world. (I wrote about this a great deal when I eventually left last fall.)

And so when I got the call, it was an easy yes. Even if the wait was anything but easy, taking another 12 months to complete. But eventually, on May 27, 2016—our 10th wedding anniversary, no less—I received the news: my visa was approved. “How soon can you start?”

Four weeks later we were on a plane heading to Nashville to look for a place to live. On July 6th, as we sat on the tarmac waiting to take off, we got the answer: we were approved on the apartment!

Saying Goodbye to Canada

After a whirlwind two weeks of goodbyes and preparation, on July 18, we sent the kids to Emily’s parents so that we could be ready for the movers to arrive the next morning, and then we enjoyed our last date night in London, Ontario. On July 19th, after we did our final inspection of our townhome, our home of the prior five years, the only home Hudson had ever known… I couldn’t help but cry a little. It wasn’t home anymore.

And then came the big day: on July 20th, with our folder of life in hand—all of our documents, letters, proof of citizenship, and everything else we could think of—we drove our family van across the border into the United States. The biggest adventure of our lives was actually happening!

Significant Moments over Six Years

Six years later, the United States feels more or less like home. That’s not something I expected, if I’m being perfectly honest. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if we’d still be here after my first visa renewal. But here we are. Tennessee, for better or worse, is about as close to “home” as we’ve ever been. Because, as much as has been challenging about the process of getting and staying here for us, and as weird a place as the United States is right now, there’s been so much good for our family:

  • We’ve been able to get definitive answers and the right treatment plan for Emily. On December 5, 2020, at the end of a five day in-patient study, we learned Emily does not have epilepsy. Her seizures were due to unresolved trauma (therapy has been very helpful for this).
  • On February 23rd of this year, we learned Emily also has ADHD, as do at least two of our children.
  • On August 16, 2020, we signed the paperwork to purchase our first home (yet another thing we didn’t expect to ever do again)
  • On September 12, 2021, I preached at the church our family calls home for the first time

Rooted in the Present Moment

There’s more dates than these that matter, of course. And not just the usual stuff like birthdays and anniversaries. But this post is already too long by far, and it’s easy to lose the plot. So let me get to the point: At least for me, dates really matter.

Dates ground me. I am a longterm thinker. I tend to get lost thinking about 3, 5, or 10 years from now. But dates connect me back to “right now.” They remind me that, unlike God, I am not omnipresent. I cannot be in the past, present and future all at the same time, not the way he is. I am limited, finite. Dates help me remember that, even as they encourage me to reflect on my past. To see where God has brought me, and the unexpected path his plans brought me down. And that makes me want to pay attention to what’s happening around me right now—because what’s happening now, while maybe not significant to anyone else, is a part of what God is doing to complete the work he began in the beginning, the work that will be completed on the day of Christ Jesus.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books including the Big Truths Bible Storybook, Epic Devotions, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty, and Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World. His next book, published by Lexham Press, will release in Spring 2023.