forty thousand miles later

So, here’s my question.

How does one sum up a year of life? I mean, really, when you think about all the possibility a year holds – all the lessons & beauty that leak out of everyday, all the smiles & laughter that were made stronger by tears & heartbreak- how do you put it all into words?

And even more, when all of those things play out on a backdrop of 11+ vastly different countries & cultures, how does one begin to explain it all in a way that does it justice?

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I’ve realized in the past six weeks of reunions & storytelling that you really can’t.

Because no matter how many times you ask me what my favorite country is, I’ll want to say a different one every time for different reasons. I’ll eventually settle for Vietnam, but it’s only a piece of the story. And the things that truly made Vietnam (and every other country) beautiful are things that I fear don’t quite make sense to anyone else.

How do you explain the feeling of true, deep freedom coursing through your veins as you speed through the city on the back of a motorbike? How do you detail the childlike joy on a Buddhist’s face as she hears of the unconditional love of Jesus for the first time?

You can’t. I mean, you can try, but there’s a certain depth of beauty in the small moments that can only be experienced by the ones seeing it. That whole “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” thing seems to hold some weight.

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For six weeks, I’ve tried to think up these incredibly poetic answers to the questions I expected my friends & family to ask. I tried to prepare myself with the stories that I wanted to tell and the precious friends I wanted to share, the hilarious unfortunate situations I found myself in all year, the insane ways I saw the Lord… but when questions get asked, I end up replying with an overwhelmed, “I have no idea.”

I’ve tried to figure out a way to sum it all up in writing and offer it back to you, and I’ve found myself having a hard time believing the story that I lived this year. And since being home, my heart has found it hard to adjust from a familiar state of wandering. I’ve spent no more than 5 days in the same place. I’ve jumped from apartment to restaurant to coffee shop to house to fill in the blanks left by only knowing each other through social media this year. I’ve wandered from city to city these past six weeks, and the place that I’ve found home hasn’t changed from where I found it this past year – it’s always been in the person sitting across the table from me.

So in a coffee shop – whether in Vietnam or Alabama, or wandering the streets of Dublin or hanging out in Atlanta, home is there because of who is there, even though I know now my heart will never fully be at home because she’s a forever wanderer.

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Because this world & all of its sunrises and cups of coffee, all of its dirt roads and markets of fresh fruits and veggies, – it was never meant to be home.

It took my feet touching 20 different countries on a 40,000+ mile journey to realize the beauty in that. Once you discover that this world is not our home, but rather a stopping point on our way home to Jesus, it’s a lot easier to see the blanket of stars above you as just that – a blanket, folded up nicely and waiting to welcome you home as you arrive. It’s easy to see the sunsets as the artwork decorating a forever home & the mountains and oceans serving as a backdrop to our favorite moments together.

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My heart (and yours too, Jesus-followers) will search for home until our lives end & we’re welcomed into our eternal homes. Lucky for us though, we get a glimmer of that home in each other’s hearts as we share life together here on earth. Basing it on that alone, I think there’s a lot of beauty to look forward to.

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