Day one brings school ministries and lunch meetings and new faces.
Everyday new faces. And trying to remember all the names when most of them are Asian and unusual…I’m getting there.
Day three brings community and new-found family and I knew that very first gathering that I was all in. Happy tears. Grateful tears.
Suddenly I could see how everything had been leading up to this. Because all of my hobbies fall into place here and all of my skills and experience are being called on and this, this is where God has been working to bring me all this time.
It all made sense now.
Suddenly my planner is full and everyday holds new adventures and good food and genuine friendships.
Suddenly meetings are my favorite because when great minds and big hearts get together to dream and plan, amazing things start working themselves out.
I’ve never encountered a community so passionate and creative and infectious.
These people are changing Bali. And it won’t be long before the ripples start reaching other shores. I have no doubt.
Because here the dreams are big and the faith is bigger and impossible situations are simply opportunities for God to step in.
It was incredible coming back five years later to the country that had such an impact on me growing up.
I was raised to have a curious mind, to explore the beauty of language, to love cultures different than my own.
It was in this city that I found Jesus as my best friend, where I learned that family is one of the most important things you can have, where I became convinced that Thai food is undeniably the tastiest food on the planet.
I knew such a huge part of me was wrapped up in this land of traffic thicker than the humidity and blatant stares and friendlier smiles. I remember days when all I wanted was to leave. But you can never run from who you are. Missions runs through my veins and I knew I’d come back. I’d always come back.
This time it felt strangely like…home.
Home is one of those words I always stumbled over.
What is home?
I had moved so many times early in my life and I rebelled mentally about settling in the unexotic Midwest. And it wasn’t until I’d been back to Thailand twice, Kenya, Costa Rica, and finally Greece to realize that this little Midwest city that could hardly be called a city wasn’t such a bad place to come back to.
I fell in love with the smallness, the simplicity, the coffee shops, the culture. Even after my two closest friends moved several states away, I was content.
And for the first time I knew how it felt to be planted – my roots grew a little deeper. Suddenly I realized I had two beautiful places to call mine.
Friends come and go and home isn’t always where all the friends are. My people span too many continents for that.
All at once I realized that home was less about my surroundings and more about my heart. It was about the coffee shop I visited two afternoons a week, where the Americanos are strong and the baristas know my name. It was about my favorite streets and downtown memories and old houses full of character and charm and stories to tell. It was about the library brimming with the worlds and adventures that filled my childhood summers. It was about family and shady trails and quiet creeks.
It was when I became content to call my little Midwest “home” that Bangkok suddenly felt like home as well.
Now I’m packing my suitcases and moving back to Southeast Asia, though a new part for me – a little smaller, a little more beachy, a little less familiar.
I’m less sure than ever about what the future holds and far more excited than I ever hoped to be.
New country, new people, new adventures to be had and memories to be made.
I am so looking forward to adding Indonesia to the places I call home.
These past couple weeks I’ve learned a lot about forgiving people – including myself. I’ve learned how to pray for those who have hurt me.
Praying blessings is powerful – to bless those who curse.
It’ll change the way you think about them, to intercede on their behalf, to plead with the Father for their happiness and well-being, to pray deep faith and abiding peace and overflowing joy over them.
It’ll do things to you – eliminate selfishness and bitterness, change the way you love.
Not for the faint of heart but I highly recommend it if you’re willing to learn a lesson in humility.
That’s where I’m at for the moment.
Humbleness. Prayer. Letting go of the need to be right, to be understood.
Because let’s face it, we’re going to be misunderstood sometimes. People aren’t always going to stick around to hear our side of the story and we’re not always going to get our apology.
And it’s okay. Really.
Their opinion doesn’t define you. It’s how you respond that defines you.
I spent my Thanksgiving holiday on ski slopes and in Winter Park, Colorado with some of my favorite people. It’s a tradition of ours, to escape to the mountains once a year. For those of us whose family spans the globe, we are each others’ family.
Here come the lonely and misunderstood, the chameleon-like. Few have one place to call home, one culture to claim as their own. This is our diversity and our common ground — the pangs of cross-cultural living.
As for me, my heart has leaked trails through those mountains and across African plains, through Thai villages and Latin American cities. I’ve bled wonder in ancient Grecian ruins and spilled love into eyes when language failed us, where small brown hands cupped my face and whispered beautiful in foreign tongue.
My heart will never feel whole on this earth. Home is a strange concept to me, only an innuendo in the company of those I love dearly.
Yet I no longer revolt at returning to this Mid-west city where my family has settled for over a decade. Where the cafes and farmers markets have become a part of me and familiar smiles slip my coffee across the counter. Where church is somewhere I feel alive and there will always be a soul to sing with, a song to dance to.
Friends have come and gone and perhaps this will always be a place of passing through, but for now my roots sink a little deeper here.