I laughed yesterday morning before I ever climbed out of the sheets.
I woke up 33 yesterday. In a bunk bed. In a room full of stuffed animals and children’s books. This on a birthday where I feel like, for the first time in adulthood, I finally feel my age. Where I look in the mirror and see a mid-30s woman, not a “you still look like you’re 25” girl.
Heather met me in the hallway, teasing me about my accommodations.
“Did you snuggle with the teddy bear I left in there for you?”
Heather is amazing.
She beat me to 33 by only a few months, and she’s in the homestretch of becoming a foster parent. That’s why the bunk beds and the perfectly put together kids’ room overflowing with toys and books and Scripture placards.
I was her first charge on the eve of my birthday. She and several other friends kindly let me stay with them occasionally when I’m in their neck of the woods this year while I’m in transition.
Since 30, I’ve been in transition. At least to a degree.
“Do you ever get tired of living out of a suitcase? Do you ever just want your own bed?”
That’s a good, good question.
Yes. Yes I do.
Over the past few years, I’ve started to feel more like a professional backpacker than a resident of anywhere. My toiletries stay in bags always. I could have a “go” bag ready in seconds. I’ve slept on the ground, in hostels, bathrooms, hotels, tents, planes, trains and airports. I even slept in a Starbucks once.
The adventure girl inside me loves that. I love the packing. I love the traveling. More than anything, I love the people and I love the stories. They light me up.
That part of me I hope will never change.
But eyes of the 33-year-old woman I see staring back at me in the mirror has crow’s feet stretching a bit further these days, and I’m convinced they’re not from the miles but from the goodbyes. From unexpected death that snatches people we love. From circumstances that move us before we’re ready to go. From the thought of breaking yet again from family and friends. From the thought of how my nearly 3-year-old niece jumps up in my arms now when I come through the door … she didn’t know who I was when I first moved back to the States …
“It’s going to be hard to leave again, isn’t it?”
Some people ask that question. Others ask another.
“I bet you can’t wait to get back, can you?”
The answer to both is yes. It’s hard to explain how you can so badly want to be in two places at once. It’s the torn heart, I think, of everyone who packs up their life and moves overseas. We’re not meant to have to say goodbye.
But as I sat at dinner last night with a handful of friends under two massive Mylar balloons in the shape of 3s (thanks, Elizabeth) I just felt gratefulness. Gratefulness for folks who let me stay in their houses and sleep in their bunk beds and offer me friendship that stretches beyond the moments I’m standing on the same soil as them. Grateful for an incredible family who also happens to be good at Skype and emailing and even gets on a plane and crosses the ocean.
Grateful for a God who gives us tangible reminders of His love but also of the fact that we aren’t home yet.
It’s abundantly clear every night, no matter where I sleep, that my desire isn’t really for a bed so much as it is for a permanent home. One that lasts. One not found here. A home where goodbyes and tears end. And all the traveling, the uncertainty in what’s coming next (in addition to the vast privilege of seeing the Father’s hand at work around the world) reminds me that I’m not here for long, just passing through. My feeble heart needs to be able to pack a bag, roll out a sleeping bag and experience that truth tangibly day after day after day. That’s the only way I’ll remember.
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)
I’m ready for that city. Until then, we keep passing through … ambassadors … imploring others to come with us. We pack our bags and go to them. We look to Him for what we need, and we get to know Him a little more every day through prayer, through His Word, through walking with Him to the next place.
“Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.” (Psalm 119:54)
Here’s to another year.