I am driving my mom’s big-ass Toyota Highlander through a parking lot of traffic west on 285 toward Vinings and my women’s small group from our Atlanta church, and this is ridiculous and remarkable. I don’t live here anymore! Right? I mean, I live in Sydney. But here I am, driving down the right side of the road, searching for a decent XM station on The Mom’s radio, knowing exactly where I’ m going. And when I get there, I open the unlocked door and settle into the empty seat right between two friends, one who always laughs at my jokes and the other whose baby bump is MUCH bigger than the last time I saw it, and I’m hearing teaching and sharing life among familiar voices in a known spot. I live nine thousand miles away, yet I am still home. There, and here.
I am sitting on our couch, assigned the task of going through The Kid’s medical file which is really a medical drawer which is overflowing, and I’m actually throwing things out. There are things we don’t need here. Things he has outgrown. He doesn’t live here anymore, within these pre-surgery scans and PT exercises, and before I toss them (trust me, I didn’t toss that much), I take them to The Husband. “Remember this?” I ask him, as people always said we would–that we’d barely remember so much of this, and marvel at the recollections–and that’s what we do. Marvel over where we were, and where we are. I kept discharge papers, those golden tickets we were handed that were our tickets to freedom after hours and days in the hospital. And I toss them. They are no longer my tickets to freedom.
I am burrowed into a couch in a beautiful home that feels like a second one to me, a place where a party was hosted in my honour to bid me goodbye, and it smells and feels like home, so why isn’t it? It is. I am sharing life not over email this time but in person, and we are nodding and grinning and crying and talking and who knew when I nervously asked her to be my mentor a year ago that she would also be one of my dearest friends?
I am checking into a hotel a couple of hours before the other three arrive, and when they do it’s like no time has passed. No–it’s like ALL the time has passed, because in it have been texts and Skype sessions and stories and laughter and tears, and we are that much closer for the nine thousand miles, and over dinner and drinks we do life together, in person again, and I’m home here. Someone asks the next day if it was fun, and I reply in the affirmative even as I know that word doesn’t begin to describe what is experienced among friends like us. “Life-giving” comes closer and still doesn’t touch it. “This was good for my soul,” one says, and I think that just about nails it.
I am sitting on my family room floor after a Chick-Fil-A lunch and this baby is four months older and bigger now, and my boys are periodically enthralled with her, and I catch her grin and grab her rolls and see, again in person, what a blessing she is. And her mom and I, who have been somehow made stronger through the time and distance (this seems to be a theme among my closest), we share life over fries and children and the kind of vulnerability that is born of trust that is born of the CS Lewis, “You too, I thought it was only me” identification, which is of course born of grace. And a few days later I am sitting on this same floor as three of us women, and three of our men, and six of our kids are wreaking havoc around us. My youngest niece is four months older and she smells like heaven. Her sister, The Niece OG, crushes me with her hug. Our honorary nephews mill about as do my boys and I stop for a second to take it in: the three of us, stumbling our way through college friendship to these six lives and our triplet of marriages, and it’s so hard and wonderful and everything else in between. And I am home.
I am walking toward the front on Sunday, and a knowing glance is paired with the bread and wine, and I am given these gifts at the table and in life: these incalculable mysteries and mundane moments and all of it, scattered across maps and time zones and climates and continents, and it all plays like music I know yet am hearing for the first time. Our vines and fig trees are in two places for now, and we are doubly rich for it, even on the plane in the middle of a sleepless night in the air, even in the getting-to-know-you awkwardness of new friendships, even in the packing-up stress of house reassignment, and especially in this: these reacquaintings that are deep soul reunions that are preserved by grace. All of it blessing, all of it gift, because this is the only language grace speaks, no matter the local dialect.
I am doing my life, among my people–the American subset of them–but all of it points back to this: the one who is I AM, which means, really, Was Already and Will Be and Always Is. No matter where I am.
*Upon further reflection, the author would like to add the following:
I am wishing that I had more time to prepare a talk that I’m giving in two days in front of more than a couple of people.
I am loving my children while gnashing my teeth over their neediness and anxiety, which reflects my own, and over my guilt about leaving them for three days for the first time in awhile.
I am aching for alone time in the midst of wonderful reunions and talks over drinks and other blessings that are exhausting for a tried-and-true, dyed-in-the-wool introvert.
I am constantly realising how insufficient I am for all of this, which is reflected by my constant internal threats to just UP AND LEAVE.
I am wishing I would stop comparing our clock to Sydney’s, which has my older son missing more and more school.
I am trusting…off and on…that the greater I AM is bigger than all of this and swallows it up in love.