Faith

My Place On The Great Plains

Written by Michelle Derusha

As an unbeliever for more than two decades, I doubt I would have sought God if I’d remained in my home state of Massachusetts. I was too comfortable there, surrounded by my extended family and friends, secure in the job I loved, settled into the familiar routines and rituals of the life I’d carved out for myself. I believe God himself determined Nebraska as the place where, stripped of all my comforts and securities, I would seek him and reach out for him in my loneliness, fear and despair. I believe God chose Nebraska as the place where I would find him.

Written By:  Michelle DeRusha @ Graceful

“What’s your absolute favorite place, Mommy?” he asks, as we sit at the kitchen counter with our toasted bagels and sliced strawberries. When I tell my seven-year-old son that I don’t think I have one absolute favorite place, he’s nothing short of horrified.

“What? Not even the cabin? The cabin’s my absolute favorite place,” says Rowan, referring to our family cabin on the North Shore of Lake Superior. “You need to find your favorite place.”

According to the writer Edward Abbey, Rowan may be on to something:

“Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.” (Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire).

Abbey’s “right place,” his “one true home,” was Moab, Utah, a spot where he spent many years as a ranger.

My husband, Brad, shares his favorite place with Rowan: the icy lake, whispering aspen and thundering Temperance River of Minnesota’s North Shore.

My dad’s place is the Connecticut River, with the osprey nests swaying atop buoy markers, pines and evergreens jutting from the bank, a hint of salt in the air from Long Island Sound two miles downstream.

But my place? My one true home? I’m not sure I know.

A few times a year the kids and I rumble over the gravel roads to Spring Creek Prairie, an Audubon nature preserve about 10 miles outside of Lincoln. As we walk the grassy hills, goldfinches swooping, grasshoppers humming, I sometimes wonder if Nebraska, with its sea of blue stem and low-hanging cumulous clouds, isn’t my one true place after all.

I think about this possibility when I read these verses from Acts:

“…He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live, and move and have our being.”  (Acts 17: 26-28)

As an unbeliever for more than two decades, I doubt I would have sought God if I’d remained in my home state of Massachusetts. I was too comfortable there, surrounded by my extended family and friends, secure in the job I loved, settled into the familiar routines and rituals of the life I’d carved out for myself. I believe God himself determined Nebraska as the place where, stripped of all my comforts and securities, I would seek him and reach out for him in my loneliness, fear and despair.  I believe God chose Nebraska as the place where I would find him.

Nebraska may not be a typical favorite place. There are no sandy beaches here or crashing surf, no sparkling, pristine lakes or roaring glacial rivers. But in Nebraska I discovered my one, true home. Because here on the Great Plains, I found God. 

Have you ever wondered about why you live where you do? Do you ever think God has placed you there for a specific purpose?

photo credit

About the author

Michelle Derusha

A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska a decade ago, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of chickens …and God. She writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at her blog, Graceful, as well as a monthly religion and spirituality column for the Lincoln Journal Star and for a variety of online publications, including The High Calling. She’s mom to two rambunctious, bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and wife to Brad, an English professor. You can also connect with Michelle on Twitter and Facebook.

19 Comments

  • Hello Michelle,

    Welcome, I really enjoyed your article and yes my most favourite place in the world is a small place on the South East coast of South Africa where I grew up. A place where I always felt close to God. But I now live in Nebraska which has become my home and I believe very strongly that God brought us here and that He has a specific reason for wanting us here. I identified with what you said about having to rely on God and reach out to Him; being here away from family and close friends has led me to rely on God and reach out to Him in my bouts of homesickness and loneliness and I believe that I have grown in my faith so much more than what I would have if God hadnt brought us to Nebraska.

    Pauline

  • Pauline, I hear you! I honestly don’t know if I would have come to God if we hadn’ moved here. I was just too comfortable with all my family, friends and securities – it was easty to rely on them and myself.

    Thank you so much for you comment here today!

  • One of my favorite places is Lake Okoboji, IA where we spend many summer weekends at our cabin and life just seems to slow to a refreshingly sloooooow pace, but I was born and raised in Omaha and I still live and work in Omaha and I love it! During college (in small town, rural Wayne, NE) I suffered from a bit of wanderlust, dreaming of Durango, CO, Los Angeles, CA, Washington, DC…places it seemed offered more than boring old Nebraska ever could. But it is here my dreams came true and God has given me reasurrence that this is where I am to be. I met my husband here, am raising my family here, teaching in an urban school and trying to bring the light of God to the lives of those I see on a daily basis. I do love Nebraska, all she has to offer from river to foothills, east to west, vast plains to Sandhills, urban to rural. Thank you for pouring out your heart! I love reading your blog!

  • Oh Michelle DeRusha, you have made me cry this morning!!!! After 4 months and 450 miles from our one true home, my guys & I are packing (back) up and heading for Nebraska later this month. We needed some space & time so the Lord could reveal to us that Nebraska is where He wants us, permanently:) Just yesterday I was telling my son about a Scripture verse from Acts, saying I needed to look it up as it applies to our Nebraska homegoing. And here that Scripture is on your blog! I cannot wait to see Pioneers Park in Lincoln again. Or the Sandhills. Or my friends:) There really is no place like Nebraska.

    • Leigh, Those verses from Acts just about knocked my socks off the first time I read them. I was with my small group, and someone read them aloud, and I literally stopped breathing. That was the second I knew that God had brought me to Nebraska for a very specific reason – to find Him! I still get the chills when I think about it.

      On a more personal note, I am jumping up and down at the thought of you moving back to Nebraska!! You know what this means, right? We get to meet in person — can’t wait!!

  • I totally hear you on the occasional wanderlust urge, Laura. I lived a couple of years in NYC right after college. I thought I wanted the super exciting, fast-paced life. Turned out, I am MUCH better suited to Nebraska than NYC!

    I’ve heard so many good things about Lake Okoboji, but I have yet to get there myself. One of these years maybe…

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts!

  • Your blog reminded me of a comment made by a young girl at a homeless shelter when she was asked if her family had lost their home. “Oh, we have a home. We just don’t have a house for it right now!”

    That cuts to the heart of where we find home, doesn’t it?

    And I love that your writing points us to the place, both physically and spiritually, that God calls us to be.

    Thanks, Michelle, for your transparency!

  • Michelle, as I read this to Don, I could hardly get through it for the lump in my throat and the mist in my eyes. As I read, I remembered you making reference to God bringing you to Nebraska as you sat on our couch that beautiful day we met for the first time. For me, that was a favorite place. For me, my favorite place is anywhere I can touch someone’s heart and be touched with the love of God. As a rover, I remember the individuals I have met and how they have crawled into my heart and they are scattered all over this great land. I long to gather them all in one place and there reside forever. Heaven awaits and grows sweeter with each new friend I make. That will be my favorite one place.

    On the side of smiling, You must take your family to Lake McConahy! There ARE white sandy beaches in Nebraska! Just don’t get stuck in the sand like we did. It will cost you at least $40 to get out. It was a sanctifying experience. (wink wink)

    • I LOVE your take on “home” and “place,” LaVon – that is so incredibly beautiful. What a gift it was to meet you and Don in person in your lovely roving home – that was a highlight of my summer for sure.

      Love you!

  • I loved it and as you know, I feel so much the same! My special spot is a knoll above Black’s beach in La Jolla. I used to run the beaches and end up there at the end of all my runs. I’d also drive over there to sit and think and feel close to God. But after a decade here in Nebraska, it is home. I realized that one evening last spring running with grasshoppers, purple and orange skies and geese flying over head. It was amazing. I am home.

  • My favorite place is the beach. It is not necessarily a building or a house but it is a special place in Oregon on a hill, overlooking the ocean, as I sit on a bench next to a row of three crosses reminding me the the ‘cross of Christ’ is why I have life, and breath and hope. (you can see the crosses on my website)

  • Michelle,

    Thank you so very much for sharing with us today! What an awesome point! You know, I was just thinking this in the last few days! I live in Richmond Virginia, and I can honestly say that it has been here where God has brought about such a life changing transformation in my life! I truly do not know what my favorite place is either, but I know the visions of how my mind reverts to specific scenery in my deepest moments of quiet time withe the Lord. It has been during these times that I wandered why my move to Richmond has been so trying, and a still small voice speaks; “because here you learned to trust me by surrendering your all and it is here that I am preparing you for the rest of your life-a ministry in my service.” Thank you for my confirmation Michelle.

    Love and Prayers,
    Dolores (Dee)

  • Michelle, so glad you are over and I love this piece.
    “Where is Home?”
    We long — too often — for a “different place.” But really, our home is right where God places us. There we can find beauty, and simplicity, friends, a church and an outreach to others.

    Meanwhile, we still we have an ache for a eternal home, a restlessness of the Spirit.