By Norris Burkes
Posted May 7, 2017

In 1992, I dragged my family from our California-dreamin’ home to Houston, where I accepted my first job as a hospital chaplain. Within a few short months, changes were afoot when the Baptist denomination asked us to represent them in active military chaplaincy.

In the early interviews, my wife was asked, “Becky, are you willing to follow your husband anywhere the Air Force assigns you?”

Without missing a beat, my wife said, “Well, I followed him to Texas, didn’t I?”

I’m fortunate enough to be married to a woman who follows me, even when we downsized into a dilapidated mobile home two years ago. Since I first wrote about our move to the rougher side of town, many readers continue to ask what it’s been like.

Well, just beyond our park security gates sit commercial neighbors like the Siemen’s Rail Technology plant, an adult continuation school and convenience stores. Not far away are the payday loan stores. The saving grace in the community comes from the winery conveniently available to the communicants of the nearby Catholic Church.

Yet honestly, nothing about our last two years has been difficult, unless you count how our shower sinks a few inches every time I load it with my 185-pound self — so low, it feels like I’ll fall through into the crawlspace.

Sure, we lock the door when we hear the Sacramento police helicopter broadcasting their be-on-the-lookout warnings. Then there is the occasional boom that sounds much like a shotgun, but I’m still hoping it’s just leftover fireworks from the thunderous Chinese New Year celebrations.

Our neighbors are real people — working folks — and very friendly. We talk about gardens, dogs, the weather and, as you might expect, we complain about the park management.

When I ask myself how it is that Becky and I have been so resilient in our moves, I think it’s because we didn’t short ourselves of those things that make our house into our home — besides our beds, art, favorite chairs, family photos, golf clubs and holiday decorations.

Although we couldn’t bring everything, there were some things we never left home without. More than furniture and mementos, we brought a sense of ourselves to every home we’ve had. We brought our adventurous spirit, our consciousness of togetherness and an understanding of what is essential in life. We brought our faith and our family.

Maybe that’s what Proverbs 24:3-4 is referring to when it says, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”

More changes are in the works as we join the check-of-the-month club with pensions from the school district and the military. On July 6, we shed this prefab shell of a home and make the move to Belgium for the summer. We’ll put a few treasures in storage, but we will carry most of what we need in suitcases or backpacks.

By November we’ll be back to California for the holidays. Then, it’s off to South America for a while to help our daughter’s charity that provides children’s libraries to rural Honduras (see Then maybe a two-year move to Ecuador. Not sure of it all yet. Life is an adventure.

But no matter where I go, I’ll promise you I’ll keep writing this column as long as my editors allow me to do so. But mostly, I’m hoping Becky will still be following me.

— Read Norris’ past columns at Write him at or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, Calif., 95759. Twitter @chaplain or call 843-608-9715.