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“Yes. And no. I mean..yes. I am glad to be home, but I’m also about a thousand other things,” is the response I have given to most people when approached with “Hey! Are you so glad to be home?”
It’s a hard question to answer, especially since “home” is such a relative term for me right now. I was born in Arlington, Texas, have always lived in Arlington, Texas, have incredible family and community in Arlington, Texas, and favor the smells and sounds of Arlington, Texas. Arlington, Texas has always been…”home”. Don’t get me wrong: I love being back. I love catching up and seeing everyone. I even love getting asked challenging and super vague questions like “how was it?”.
Even though my mind and body are physically here in Arlington, Texas, my heart has found its home in 12 different countries, one 60 liter backpack, and 40 other squad mates whom I have grown to love dearly.
I think that’s why it’s so hard to whole-heartedly, resoundingly proclaim “YES! I am SO GLAD to be home.” I am. My heart is glad. My heart is at peace with being home. My heart is invigorated by all of the catching up and verbal processing (yay for verbal processing!).
But, my heart is also mourning and grieving. Family and friends at “home”: I love you. I am glad to see you. Please understand that just as I had to grieve absence of relationship with you when I left in January, I am now having to grieve absence of relationship on sooooo many levels. My squad. My team. My hosts. My best friends. It’s a strange type of mourning- a type that resonates differently than when I left you. When I left you in January, I knew I would see you again. I knew I would come home 11 months later, go grab coffee, tell you about my year, ask you all about yours, and all would be well. We would be a community again. But my “Race relationships” will most likely run a different course. I will see most of my squad in January but after that I’m not so sure. It’s unlikely I’ll make it back to visit my hosts and friends I made internationally. My best friends and I have clung closely via FaceTime and Facebook messenger since I have been home, but I have found no human relationship that fills my soul in each and every way my squad did this past year.
Y’all, World Race squads are a freakish type of community. Unlike any I have ever had.
We spent every. day. and every. moment. together.
We adventured the exciting and the mundane facets of every country and culture together with absolute wonder.
We cried out of sorrow, desperation, joy, thankfulness, and because of poop stories. So. Many. Poop. Stories.
We prayed and interceded fervently for healing, deliverance, justice, abundance, and Kingdom to come.
We rejoiced at the sight of toilet paper and running water.
We navigated unfamiliar cultural norms and have mastered the Indian head bobble.
My squad mates entered into this experience just as wide-eyed, terrified, and full of wonder as I did.
They made me popcorn and coffee when it was available.
They entertained my adoration for Disney Pixar and organized group games.
They taught me how to prepare meals for 30 people and how to be a “real adult”.
They went hard each time “Everytime We Touch” played on my playlist or as my alarm in the middle of sessions and group prayer.
They held my barf bag on public transit every time I got motion sick.
They taught me how to conquer a squatty potty.
They pet my face and scratched my back and showed me ample physical affection when I was anxious, nervous, sad, and also totally fine.
They held me as I wept when I missed home.
They welcomed expression of grief and emotion as I walked through incredible loss and heartbreak.
They encouraged my spirit in the midst of extreme trial.
They taught me how to overcome darkness and reminded me to never be afraid of it.
They walked alongside me in the throes of healing and deliverance.
They called out my weaknesses and short-comings so that I would be made whole and complete.
They brought life to my strengths and edified them further.
They helped me pinpoint and label pieces of my story that nearly broke me.
They cultivated healthy vulnerability.
They understand obedience, submission, selflessness, and service.
They are loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled.
They do not condemn, yet beautifully and faithfully partner in the process of personal redemption.
They are Kingdom-minded and head-over-heels in love with the Savior.
They beautifully enhanced my World Race experience simply by being part of it.
So, yeah. I miss them. I miss the lifestyle. I miss the food and the people and the culture and the smiles. I miss the cows and the chickens and the mountains and sometimes, I even miss the smells (sometimes.)
The field required pieces of me I may never get back. At times, it required more of me than I was willing or able to give. I’ve been home for 16 days and I am still processing and reflecting on things that happened in my month 1.
The Race shaped, molded, and sculpted me in ways I never anticipated.
It taught me more than I could have dreamed.
It refined my worldview and dialed me in to brokenness and injustice.
It was the best, worst, most wonderful, grossest, smelliest, hardest, most rewarding “thing” I have ever done. I loved it in spite of the parts I hated.
If I seem a little different to you, it’s because I am.
I am more free than I have ever been. I have learned to love and forgive myself as Christ has. I have danced on the grave of my sin and run into glorious, marvelous light.
If I seem a little strange and a little foreign, it too is because I am.
I have lived among poverty and seen skinny ribs. I have grown to hate materialism- even my own. AND I thoroughly enjoy plain food with no seasoning or extra pizazz.
Re-entry has not been perfect or pretty, but it also hasn’t been ugly. Called into a season of faithful waiting, I have sat in my house and…faithfully waited. I have no immediate “next steps” or grand plan. A squad mate of mine recently implored me to “pursue Jesus and keep pursuing Jesus”. So, those are my next steps: to love the Lord my God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. To pursue him every hour, with every breath.
No longer in a tent, hostel, or church basement, the Lord has me in a new “home” for now and the Lord is good.
Therefore, I am glad to be home.