No Place Like Home

Most people don’t stammer as much as I do when asked where they’re from.

Honestly, God has made it plain clear that home is not a “place” for me.

Is my home my place of birth, Brazil? At one point, yes.

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At age 11, I experienced the wonderfully traumatic thing that is immigration. My mother married an American and so we moved to a place that was markedly gray in comparison to my green home. The roads were wide and gray. The sky was wide and gray. The people never got too close, as they pushed their carts along giant, shiny stores, with shelves to the ceiling. More things than anybody could need. “Excuse me,” they would say if they ever came too close, where they had to look us in the eye.

I remember my mother, brother and I would walk hand in hand to the K-mart near our apartments in Dallas. We were so used to walking to the store. This was way before my mother knew how to drive, and we just didn’t understand the concept of staying home when a store was just around the corner. Somedays, I’d get a five dollar Barbie doll. I remember they didn’t sell the Barbie clothes like they did in Brazil, at the fair in the park every weekend. In America, things weren’t that personalized.

I remember crying in frustration when I couldn’t understand the Mickey Mouse Club on the Disney Channel. It’d come on at night, in black and white, and the English was still too complicated for me. I could only watch Blue’s Clues and Bear in the Big Blue House. I also liked the Franklin cartoons, because they were, for the most part, self-explanatory.

I wouldn’t say that Dallas was my home. At one point, yes.

scan0034In the summer of 1999, we moved to Gordonville, TX. Oh the horror. It was both horrible and wonderful. We lived in a haunted house, with a huge yard and a horse apple tree. The horse apples would drop on the ceiling right above my room, the thuds always unexpected. Many t-shirts ruined by the goo from those things, but they were fun to kick around. My favorite chore was mowing the lawn, because I never had one of those before. My brother and I would run with plastic bags, to try to catch dragonflies. In the summer, we couldn’t walk in the grass without being pelted by grasshoppers. Huge ones! We used to collect them in an old fish tank. We had our first dogs, Cookie and Candy. They looked, respectively, like a cookie and a caramel candy. But we knew they wouldn’t taste like that, so we never even considered it. Dogs aren’t dessert.

In that house, I had my first private bedroom. I’d always shared it with my mom and brother, and then in Dallas with just my brother. But this one was all mine. I covered the walls with Avril Lavigne, Eminem, Backstreet Boys, No Doubt, and awkward emo bands. I had Christmas lights all year round, and one of those infamous black lights, duh. I had glow-in-the-dark stars in the ceiling, and I always slept with the radio on the local rock station, The Edge. In that room, I played Barbies and prank-called boys. I rebelled against authority, practiced my bass clarinet, did millions of crunches. I used to sit with the radio and record my favorite songs on a cassette tape. I remember recording “Baby Got Back” and rewinding it until I knew every single inappropriate word in it. Bless my heart.

I endured terrible leadership, yelling, and failing glimpses of parenting from an abusive, mentally unstable step-parent during that time. Now that it’s been 10 years since I left that home, it’s safe to say the best thing that ever could have happened was us packing up that U-haul truck. It took years to fully undo the emotional damage, but just in that next year it was evident that I was gonna be okay. I started my first job, had straight A’s, perfect attendance, and lettered in five different things my Junior year, the year we left. I thrived. Also, that just so happened to have been the year Jesus came into my life. Glory to Him, the ultimate Rescuer of Rebel Teens.

Would I call Gordonville/Whitesboro my home? Nope. At one point, yes.

6211_694876709580_23912664_40127476_2422223_nI went off to big college with funds provided by God Almighty Himself via scholarships and grants. I moved to the University of North Texas, into the dorms at Clark Hall, in the Honors wing, back before the Honors Hall was built, 2 years later. I also got to live at Honors Hall once it was ready. I marched in the band, and I loved every minute of being part of something bigger. I loved being inside the music, and getting to illustrate it in synchrony with others. I knew almost every nook and cranny of that big campus. I knew where to park for free. I spent countless hours in Club Willis aka the library, pulling all-nighters in the computer lab. I’d worked desk for every single Hall, except Legends, and I voted to name Sage Hall… well… Sage Hall. I knew the bus stops, when to go to what cafeteria for the best paninis or the best milkshakes. I loved that place, but would I call Denton home? Nope, but for a little while it was.

I’ve changed, and so has Denton.

I’ve also lived in Temple and Lorena, TX. Neither are home. I prayed for a Wells Fargo and a Chipotle to come to town, and they sure did. Within a year of me living there, Temple had both. I worked at two hospitals in that city. I attended two churches, and got attached. Yet Jesus knew that it wasn’t my home. It was too small. He knew it before I did.

And so He moved me. Around the world.

In 2012, I went on the World Race and I left pieces of my heart in way too many places. I knew the damage was irreparable. That’s when I realized that I might not have a home after all.

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Photo cred: Dura Knight

 

Because my home has a volcano in the backyard, just like in Nicaragua. It has a beach and mountains like Brazil. It has a big yard, like in small-town Texas, where the dragonflies fly wildly and the fireflies dance in the night. My home has my grandma’s singing in the background, and my aunt’s laughter. Home has the red dirt of Uganda, along with the freedom and joy that place holds in my heart. Home wouldn’t be the same without Kenyan afternoon rains. I’d sit on the roof in Honduras and pray and watch the shooting stars, and connect with God like that. Smoothies from Zion Cafe for breakfast, and I’d have coffee from Kathmandu brewing on a constant drip. I’ve been ruined for life, you see. Ruined in the best way. I’ve had too many experiences, and they’re all scattered around. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that this is exactly what God wanted, because now both He and I know that He knows better.

He knows me better than I know myself. He knows my favorite things before I know about them. My knowledge is as limited as my experience, unless I tap into His knowledge.

I keep changing, and so do the places I’ve lived and loved. The only unchanging part of all this is the heart and nature of God. He put all His favorites in one place, and now we’re becoming more and more aware of the STUFF He put in it, and the more aware I become of the stuff all around this globe, the more it all points me back to Him. His presence, therefore, is the only thing that can carry my sense of home. He is all my favorite things combined, my favorite places that I’ve been to so far and the places I’ve yet to go. He knows my favorite color, and it might not be blue. Maybe I’ve yet to see it. Maybe it’s a heavenly color I can’t yet see with these eyes.

stnmtnFor now I live in Atlanta, and I enjoy the sunrises and the skyscraper views. I enjoy the hipster scenes and looking up at night to see the airplanes near the airport. So many, going in different directions, but for that moment they’re all in my sky. I love Bethel Church and the community where I belong. I like the part of life I’m in, that I’m 27 and a young professional with big dreams who sleeps in a hammock. I have mentors and I also mentor others. I fall somewhere in the middle, and I’ve come to realize I hope to always be in that healthy middle, both giving and receiving.

Someday I’ll move again (Cali!) and find my favorite things about a new place. Will I call it home? Probably not. But they say that home is where the heart is, and my heart has been to too many places. The only way to mash it all together is with the One who made it all. His presence is my home, and there’s truly no place like it.

Growing Fonder

It’s funny what happens when I take a break from my regular life for 2 weeks. I’m 27, and as inconsistent as I appear on social media, I’m actually a creature of habit. I love my routine. I’m quirky, and I do repetitive things. I get home, light candles, put on music. I’m methodical when I clean and cook. I’m kinda OCD, not gonna lie. I like things just right. Ask any of past roommates, it’s a little scary.

And here I am, in Brazil, routine aside. I cling to my phone like it’s my little piece of home. You know how silly that looks? To think that a phone can help me be somewhere else? It’s okay to put it down and away. When I check it, I usually didn’t miss too much. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought “Oh I gotta do laundry when I get home, and dust. Oh and I need a new pumpkin spice candle…” haha and I am nowhere near home right now and I can file that in my memo and stop. But does it keep me from planning my routine when I get home? Nope. Not even close.

I realize how NOT lonely I was in Atlanta, and how much I love my Bethel people and my besties. I miss them, and it’s made my day to text, skype, and still get invited to everything even when I’m on a different hemisphere. I miss worship with my church. I miss my coworkers and working. I miss blood and typing numbers really fast. I miss signing my initials.

Am I completely ungrateful? No no no no… I am super thankful. You see, Georgia is where my daily life takes place. Vacation isn’t my normal. I’ve traveled the world and had NO routine for 2012, and came back and look at me. I have normalcy again. I’ve moved and moved, and yet there it is: I love my day-to-day with Jesus.

cropped-atlbaby.jpgI’m grateful to be spending time with my aunt and grandma. It’s been wonderful. I’m enjoying the talks, the laughs, the views, and seeing the streets I walked when I was little. I’m pumped to be part of my aunt’s wedding and it’s gonna be amazing. I’m eating absolutely everything, knowing the jeggings and layers I’ll be wearing when I’m home will be gracious. Pile on the Brazilian sweets, yolo. I’m marathon training anyway, so I’m obediently carb-loading. Twist my arm.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I’m feeling that I’m growing fonder. I’ll be saying goodbye to my family here in 4 days, and as heartbreaking as that is, I’m not going back home to nothing. I have a full life that brings me joy, and my heart is stretching as I realize how many people and places have my love. Papa says to keep my heart open and my eyes on His, and watch what happens. I’ll let you know as it unfolds, but I can already tell it’s good.

This. Just this.

What I have is enough.

This. Just this.

Not enough for tomorrow, but for this moment.

This. Just this.

I don’t need anything else.

This. Just this.

I have access to Your promises.

This. Just this.

I have glimpsed my inheritance.

This. Just this.

I know what You say is true.

This. Just this.

I know my days are like a vapor.

This. Just this.

I know this life is full of affliction.

This. Just this.

I know I have power to bring healing.

This. Just this.

Let me not be found seeking another purpose.

This. Just this.

Today, I’m not a mom, not a wife.

This. Just this.

If You’re okay with this, I’m okay with this.

This. Just this.

I will carry and love what You’ve given me.

This. Just this.

I will honor You with what You’ve entrusted me.

This. Just this.

I will not ask for more today.

This. Just this.

I will set my face like flint and endure.

This. Just this.

You withhold no good thing from me.

This. Just this.

You will release what is mine.

This. Just this.

I find my delight is in You.

This. Just this.

You are the joy and the strength of my heart.

This. Just this.

My portion is You.

This. Only this.