“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” -1 John 4:8
“Home is where the heart is.” Or some would say, ‘home is where you’re from’. I like to think that home is where you put your sweatpants on. But I have never truly understood the meaning of “home” until recently. I honestly believe that home is where the heart is- and currently, my heart is scattered. In the past 5 weeks I have lived in 4 states and 2 countries. I have traveled thousands of miles and slept on at least 5 different beds. (Well, they weren’t even all beds). I’ve been in cars, planes, and boats: Air, land, and sky. And every place I went to, I left a piece of my heart.
It’s weird to talk about. And it’s hard to explain. But until you travel, you won’t understand. I’ve never been a big traveler. I love to go and see new places, but I’m not particularly fond of long road trips or travel days. However, every place I have traveled, I have loved- and I have never regretted going somewhere new. Or old. The point is, I wouldn’t call myself a traveler, but my heart says otherwise. Each place I go, I fall in love with. The people, the culture, the food (most of the time). The colors and the smells. The sounds and the language. Each piece is unique and beautiful. Traveling helps me realize how small I am and how big God is- and always gives me such a wonderful perspective. It’s hard to be ungrateful when you’re surrounded by aspects of God’s artwork that you have never seen before.
Back in April I went to Houston and San Antonio. I had never been to Texas, and it was sucha great experience! It’s similar to Georgia with everyone saying “y’all” and drinking sweet tea with their thick southern accents; yet it’s still entirely different than anything I have experienced. We were in San Antonio during Cinco de Mayo, and being able to experience that culture there was so unique and exciting. I met people that I feel like I’ve known my whole life, and our souls connected instantly. People from churches, prisons, restaurants, and homes. We may have only been there for 2 weeks, but that’s long enough to fall in love. Saying goodbye wasn’t easy, it never is. And even coming home with bugbites, sunburn, blisters, and bruises; I’d do it all over again in a second.
Then, I went back to Georgia to visit my beautiful family and all the incredible friends I’ve grown up with. This trip was bitter-sweet though; knowing that this place was no longer where I lived. I missed it, but I knew I was called to leave it for now. Plus, I have grown so much since being up in PA that everything just seemed so different. I was seeing the same people in the same places- but it was like a new place. It was weird. I was also made aware of the new reality that friends who used to be a major part of my life are no longer really involved in it. And that hit me with a whole new wave of emotions. And on top of being home- I was also trying to process all that happened in Texas. Then I also GRADUATED on May 17; so I had all the feels with the school year ending and my next adventure beginning. Needless to say, it was a bit of an emotional trip. In fact, I’m still processing everything that happened.
And after my little sister graduated High School, we all went on a family trip down to Florida to visit my mom’s aunt and uncle! It was a good get-away, and the area was so beautiful! Then we took a trip to Key West and HAVANA, CUBA!!! And I would be lying if I said we didn’t sing “Havanah, Ooh Na Na” multiple times. But in all seriousness- I fell in love again. The whole country of Cuba was spectacular. They are under Communism so it’s an overall very poor and dirty place; however, the architecture was breathtaking. All the buildings were built around the 17th century, and they drive around old antique cars everywhere. Everything has been kept in its original condition and repainted, so there are still bright colors on all the houses! Dogs and cats roam the streets so of course we loved that. And the culture… I can say it like this- The food is good, the music is loud, and the people are so kind. Everyone we talked to was just so sweet and joyful, even in what may seem like a hopeless and lifeless place. I never would have thought this, but I wanted to stay. Maybe not forever, but one day wasn’t long enough. I wanted to explore the beauty, love on the people, dance in the streets, and soak in the sun a little longer. How long does it take to truly fall in love with a place? Well- I think love at first sight is completely true. I fell in love with one look. Every new city, new horizon, new skyline- Each time I see it I fall in love all over again. I may not have had any time to process all that was going on in life and each new transition I was experiencing; but I had time to fall in love. And I did. Everywhere I went.
I’m now [finally] back in PA! Getting moved in and settled into my new home!! (: It’s beautiful and cozy and everything I could want or need in a house. My roommates are dolls, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Except maybe Texas. Or Florida, or Cuba. I’ve never been much of a traveler and I don’t know if I’ll ever be one. After 5 weeks out on the move- I was ready to come back. Ready to have a routine, and a normal schedule. And sleep in my own bed! All that going and doing literally exhausts me. But the minute I leave, I start to miss it. All of it. I don’t wanna leave, I’m ready to go back. And it happens every single time. No matter where I go or what I do or how long I’m gone, I miss it as soon as I leave. I leave my heart all over the world and it’s kinda hard sometimes. All the people: the names, the faces. I hear them talking, I see them laughing. I miss their smiles and hugs. I’m home; yet I’m not home. Because my home is where my heart is. Which is everywhere. I’ve never known this feeling until now. Just as I’m grieving saying goodbye to a place; I go out and fall in love with another one. You don’t have to be on a long-term mission trip or a crazy travel junkie to fall in love with the world. Even on vacations and short trips, I realized how easy it is to invest myself. I’ve learned to be present. Even though I was missing Pennsylvania or Texas or even missing my home in Georgia- being fully engaged at the place that I was at allowed me to receive all that God had for me there, and to appreciate it. It showed me greater perspective and as a result; made it so easy to be thankful and to love people well.
I am daily reminded of places I’ve left behind. The weather makes me think of Houston, the city makes me think of Havana, and driving down back roads today reminded me of Warner Robins. I’m constantly remembering the people I’ve met and the ones I left. I see faces on the street and do a double take; thinking it is someone I know. Then I remember where I am and get a little sad, wanting to call out the name of an old friend from hundreds of miles away. I love the fact that I now have connections all around the country, and that one day I will be with them all again. But until then- I remember, I think, I smile, and I cry. I pray for them all, and thank God for bringing these beautiful people and places into my life. It isn’t easy, but it’s so worth it. Even now, as my emotions go wild and my mind swirls; I might be a mess but I’m grateful.