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.

To Brazil

There are tickets in my name for some flights tomorrow, to my country of origin.
Tomorrow, I will see my aunt and grandma, meet my new uncle, and hug a whole whole lot of people I’m related to. I’m ecstatic!

To say I’m excited to be going to Brazil again for the first time in 3 years is an understatement.

BUT…{there’s always a but}

I’ve had to battle a TON of fear and anxiety in the last two days.

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My fear grew into anger.

My anxiety was paralyzing.

I say this because God is so cool and He helps me. But you should know I went through this. You should know I go through these things too.

What were my sources for this?

Well, I haven’t been “home” since January 2012. Before that, I hadn’t been home since 2008. Every single time I go back, IĀ  get a huge dose of culture shock. At first I’m all WOW, then I start to have a broken heart for the things I notice that have worsened or changed. Life goes on without me. New songs play, and people sing the lyrics by heart of songs I’ve never even heard before. Family members move and pass away. Each time I go back, I hug everybody so tight, and just pray they’ll still be there the next time I return. I’ve given last hugs not knowing they were last hugs. My godmother won’t be there this time for me to hug, and that hurts again as if she’d just passed away. It’s been almost 2 years.

It’s like I get a newsletter of everything I knew and came from, and I’m detached until I step on Brazilian soil, and it floods back over me. What I had imagined is usually replaced with something completely different. I see a pace of life that is foreign to my own. I’m… a…. tourist…. in my own home.

That anticipation and expectation in itself is overwhelming. I’ve tried not to think about it, to no avail.

Brazil is not the only ever-changing part in the equation. I’m also completely different than the person who was last there in 2011. I am stepping off the plane with red hair, by myself, and single. Brazilian culture clashes with my lifestyle. I have to brace myself for the ‘when you have a man’ talks and the references to my past. The conversations about my future children, which make my heart swell and ache a little. I have to fight for my contentment and my peace in God’s timing, because the pressure there is unreal. But there is an equal and opposing pressure of the good, perfect, and pleasing will of God pushing away the very things that come against me to discourage me. I trust my God.

I have to remind myself that my age is just a number that marks how long I’ve been on the earth, and that I am not at all tethered to a fatalistic mindset, an orphan spirit, or a poverty spirit. I am eternal, and I am seated with Christ in heavenly places. I’ll be a wife and mother someday, and I will not be dismayed.

Moreover, I am AWESOME and get to experience INCREDIBLE things on the daily. My life is so vibrant, full of adventure, travel, and exposure to beauty. People wait whole lifetimes to do the things I’ve done in the past 3 years, consistently, and sometimes getting paid. I can’t forget what God has done for me in my single years. It’s outstanding. I’ve experienced abundant life, not a monotonous settling into the cultural stereotype of what is expected of a woman ‘my age.’

Lastly, the logistics of it all were stressful. I didn’t have a lot of time, and my sleep is still off. There’s a lot to do, and just one Helena. Leaving my normal busy life for 2 weeks is kind of overwhelming. And it’s not even the 2 weeks that I’ll be gone, but rather the week I return, that is pre-stressing me out. Every loose end will be waiting for me. Super. BUT…. again…. this is why I’m writing this. I’m not complaining, but letting you all know that my life is not just easy breezy. You may be so jealous that I get to go to Brazil for 2 weeks, but do take into consideration that it’s been a bumpy preparation for me.

I’ve been taking deep breaths and singing songs to Jesus out loud. Today at Walmart, I was practically belting out “I’M A LOVER OF YOUR PRESENCE, THAT’S WHAT I WANNA BEEEEE!!” because the tightness in my chest was expanding with every minute that I waited for someone to manifest at the electronics department to help me, for goodness sakes, because I needed to leave within 10 minutes, and nobody came. So if you’re trying to buy electronics in Decatur, go to Best Buy.

I’m learning every single day about how to properly stand in the full authority of my Father. Some days, I find myself slouching, dragging my feet, with my head down. Those are the days, like today, when He counts my tears and promises me that tomorrow will be better, much much better. I wipe my face, sniffle, exhale, and I let my heart agree with His. Unspeakable joy is coming for me, I can feel it. I think of my aunt’s laughter filling the room, and my grandma’s hands holding mine, and God’s face nodding at me. It’s gonna be wonderful.

Okay, Papa. Let’s go to Brazil.

On the Brink

I’m two weeks away from my life drastically changing.

I am moving to Atlanta!!! I’m stoked to say I have my housing situation figured out, and my house is ADORABLE! Classes start the week after I move… classes with Holy Spirit-filled, amazing people! Ahhh!!! I’m one of them, AHHH!!! šŸ™‚

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Moving to a new city, starting classes at Bethel, being part of a new church, and meeting a whole new set of people… it’s so so exciting! Or should I say, sozo exciting? Ohh… that’s a Bethel pun, ladies and gents.

I’m taking as many lessons learned as possible moving forward, and I’ve been reflecting on what God’s been doing with me since coming home from the World Race and moving to Gainesville.

-Phylla House started.

-I met friends who are like family through Adventures and through the Church.

-I was mentored and encouraged by giants of the faith.

-The Lord opened up the gifts of healing and prophecy in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

Now I get to walk into a new place with all these changes, and introduce myself as this new creation. Easier blogged than done, yall.

I spent the weekend reflecting on this newness. My friend Micah (a girl named Micah, how cool is that?) and I went to Jacksonville, FL, for a quick ocean get-away. I sat on the beach and felt the warmth of the sun, heard the waves breaking, and did a lot of reflecting/coffee-drinking/eating of awesome food. Had a blast with friends.

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Micah asked me where home was for me. I paused, thought for a while, and the reality is that I don’t exactly have one… yet. I did, but it changed. And changed. And it keeps changing, this ‘home’ thing. I answered confidently that being by the ocean makes me feel a sense of home, of belonging.

I was telling Micah about how it’s such a process to get to know someone, and how we are tempted to just ‘front with the cons’ in our community, where we go ahead and tell someone everything that’s ever been wrong with us right off the bat, maybe out of fear of rejection? And in the ‘world,’ you find the opposite, where people will tell you their highest heights first to impress you, then they slowly work up to the ‘oh yeah, by the way…’ of life.

I want to find that happy place in the middle that isn’t grounded on fear or pride. I want to meet people, look them in the eye, and mean it that I’m new. Not just refurbished, or restored, or redeemed, but new. NEW. To cut off any old thing that follows me around, to stop giving my past so much influence into my future, granted that God’s work in me gets full glory.

I’m relearning my story, because as it is, I’m no longer the same.

My story is awesome, one of victory and surprises. It’s about a girl who learned that she doesn’t have to be strong in her own strength, or wise in her own wisdom. A girl who fights for love but is also fought for. She likes to dance, sing, and laugh, and doesn’t stop choosing joy. She can go alone because she knows she isn’t alone. She is loved, and nothing can stop her, because nothing can stand against the One who is with her.

Anything that doesn’t line up with that new story is old news.

On the brink of this new season, I’m realizing who I’ve been and learning who I now am, and seeing such a stark contrast. It’s both heartbreaking and exciting. Hindsight is 20/20 and I no longer make decisions based on inner vows, fear, or confusion. WOOHOO!!!! Talk about freedom, kids. FREEDOM.

Do I still find myself over-thinking and caring more than I should? Yep. But I am submitting myself daily to the One who knows the proportionate amount of ‘holding on’ and ‘letting go’ that it’ll take to navigate through this life. He is my patient teacher, who calls me NEW. Why should I disagree? I dare not.

I’m on the brink of ‘more’ and ‘yes’ and I was made for such a time as this.

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. [Galatians 5:1, NLT]

 

Places To Visit in 2014

In no particular order, here are some places I want to do my very best to visit, so help me God, in 2014. Yes. Within the next 9 months.

  • BRAZIL. It’s overdue time to visit my amazing family. I’m due to have a new baby cousin super soon, AND there’s talk of wedding bells in my immediate family aka I need to be there. Hoping that I won’t go alone, ay?? Let me take you to Rio, Rio…
  • UGANDA. My yearly visit to see my people I love so so much, visit my church families and friends and the beautiful ladies of Dorcas Widows. Hoping and praying that in July there will be 5 of us going. We have a meeting on the 11th to plan this thing. Prayers appreciated!
  • CALIFORNIA. I’ve been before, but this time I feel a divine appointment to meet a few sisters in Christ and set up Phylla House in a new location in the Fall. Oh and visit my teammate from the Race who just had the cutest baby boy ever aka hopefully I’ll have a daughter and they’ll marry.
  • THE GRAND CANYON. Come on. How have I not seen this before. Let it be this year.
  • NASHVILLE. Never been. My next getaway destination.
  • TEXAS & ALABAMA & MYSTERY LOCATIONS. Visiting the familia, floating the Guadalupe, hey Summertime road trip to see my besties and stuff. šŸ˜‰

We will see…. this is a hopeful list, some is certain, some is still up in the air. I’m excited to see what God makes happen in the meantime, and how He puts it all together. He’s the best Dad ever. He’s still gonna take me all over Europe, to Haiti, to the UAE to see Dubai (world’s largest performing fountain, I will be weeping), to Mozambique (again, weeping), back to Asia, and wherever else He sees fit. I rule nothing out, I just know the journey will be incredible.

ImageWhere do you dream to go? Where will you go?