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.
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.
In 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.
I 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.
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.
For 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.