I used to want to be a suburban soccer mom. I had my whole life planned out. By the time I was a true adult, I would be married, have some kids, and live in a cute suburban town in the South. I would be one of the favorite teachers at the local elementary school and love my job with all my heart. After school, my kids and their friends would come to our house and hangout until we piled them all in the car (not a minivan) and drove them to soccer practice. On weekends I would walk or run with my neighborhood gal pals or go to the local book club. During football season, we would host a barbecue to watch the game because of course my husband would be a diehard football fan. Isn’t this a pretty little picture?
But as I’m sitting here winding down the last month of my first year in a city filled with foreigners, I am realizing that this dream doesn’t appeal to me as much as it used to. Individually, each of these aspects of the future life that I desired are fine. But I think the problem comes when I put them all together. Something seems to be missing. This dream doesn’t encompass the person I have become in this last year.
If I am being honest, one of the things that terrifies me the most about going home this summer is that I will forget who I have become this year. It sounds so cliche to say ‘the person I’ve become while living abroad’. It sounds like those kids who go abroad for a semester and suddenly can only eat Belgian chocolate or drink Spanish coffee upon their return. But it’s true. I am nowhere near the same person I was when I left eight months ago. The funny thing is that it has taken this long to realize that I’ve changed.
As I was waiting to embark on this journey last summer, I knew there was a reason God was sending me to Spain, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint it. And I was ok with that because I knew at the right time He would reveal all. As I’m processing this last year, I’m realizing that one of the reasons God has brought me here is to change me.
Ok, so I keep saying I’ve changed, but how? Honestly, I’m still trying to put a name to it. I can’t exactly explain it. It’s like the world as I knew it disappeared and my eyes were opened to the beauty God has designed for us. Not just the beauty of the land. I mean Spain is beautiful, but I already knew that. He opened my eyes to the beauty of his creation, to the beauty of his people, to the beauty of being alive.
A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s house to celebrate her birthday. She had invited many people from our church. Like Madrid city, our church is a homebase for foreigners. Hardly anyone there is actually from Spain, let alone Madrid. The most beautiful part about this afternoon was that as I looked around the room, I realized that every single person there was from a different country. I was amazed! There were eight different countries represented in a tiny eight by eight living room. I was overwhelmed with the sheer amazement that people from around the globe could gather together as friends so easily. We all looked different, spoke different native languages, and had different past experiences, and yet as I looked around the room I couldn’t help but be in awe of the beauty of our world.
So, I think that is what I am terrified of losing when I come home. And honestly, that’s probably partly why I’m not ready to return to the States for good yet. I’m not ready to get caught up in the quickness of life in the States, to forget to pause and appreciate just being alive. I’m not ready to be surrounded by people all from one country and to only use my native language. I’m not ready to return to a country that hasn’t changed when all I’ve done this year is.
I don’t really have a ‘moral of the story’ or ‘lesson learned’ here. I’m still on the journey of processing how to move forward with the knowledge I’ve learned. But what I know for sure is that God has opened my eyes in this way for a reason, and for that I am forever grateful.