The frog in my throat had become a permanent resident, and the knots in my stomach pulled a little bit tighter with each step I took away from my people; my family. Tiff caught my tear filled eyes and did her best to make me smile- by dancing through the airport of course- and naturally, it worked. I waved the goodbye my mouth couldn’t speak, and blew the kisses my lips couldn’t give. I took a deep breath and handed over my boarding pass.
I approached the last security stop before reaching my terminal, and joined the line of people quietly waiting. As I inched closer to the counter my heart sank. I handed my passport over to the officer and felt the sharp glide of a knife through my heart as the ‘THUD’ of the stamp hit the pages of my passport. My exit stamp. It felt like a disconnect. It felt like I was really leaving. I guess that’s when I knew I really was.
I took my time walking towards my terminal. I knew what seeing the combination B16 meant; it meant adios to Espana and all that I was leaving behind. But, the inevitable happened as I arrived at terminal B16. I stood in line to board the plane with tears welling in my eyes and a ribbetting frog in my throat. This was it. It was time to go back to my other home.
Even as I read those words today, four months after I wrote them, reliving the memory of leaving still makes my heart ache. Spain was good to me. I had found home in Mijas; in the people I lived my everyday life with. I found revelation and freedom with and from those people. Growth was constant and raw, life was full and fun. I had no idea what six months in the south of Spain would do to me, and sometimes I still struggle to find the words to explain my time there. But it was so good. My God showed me so much more of His character, His love, and His heart than I ever expected Him to.
I left my little white-washed village without a lot of things I had brought with me; things like legalism and a victim mentality, hurt from old wounds, and judgement towards other people. But I also left Spain with a mind and soul full of new things. I left with some of the sweetest memories, the most incredible friendships, a new place to forever call home. I left with a new-found freedom to do the things I love, to not feel like I had to fit my character and my life into a nicely structured box or pretty little mold. Even through the tears and painful goodbyes, I left Spain full of hope and vision for the life ahead of me.
And now, four months later, I write this as I sit in my beautiful Chicago apartment; yet another new home. I’ve called Chicago home for nearly two months now, and that won’t be changing anytime soon. Life here is good. I’ve got one of my best friends and fellow G42 alum here with me- my Megan (oh, what would I do without you, Megan?). We are slowly building a community here, much like the community we experienced in Spain: a community full of love and acceptance, growth and revelation, joy, laughter, and friends who have become family. Our doors are open, our guest room is cozy, and our huge kitchen table is on its way. Fifteen people have also called our home their own in the past two months, even if only for one night. We are beginning to see the dreams formed in Spain become a reality in our Chicago home.
But creating a welcoming home and community is not the only dream I’m seeing come to fruition in my life. Most people who know me, know that injustice deeply hurts my heart; especially when directed towards children. In Spain I vowed to always serve and worship my God through seeking justice for His children, regardless of my career or home base. And my God is faithful, because injustice hurts his heart, too. I will be teaching kindergarten this fall at a school in which I am required to explore justice with my students. Together, we will study the different injustices of our city, our country, and our world. Together, we will dream up ways to see injustice diminish and freedom win. I have no doubt that I will be teaching the future leaders of our country; leaders who will be world changers.
Megan and I brought a lot with us when we moved to Chicago. We brought a strong friendship, similar dreams, an abundance of hope and faith, and expectant hearts. All that we learned in Mijas, we have carried with us into this next chapter, The freedom we found in Spain is the same freedom that resides in our hearts in Chicago. The God we loved and served in Spain is the God we love and serve in Chicago.
Spain was good to me. In many ways, it felt like a dream. But the reality is, Spain was real. The things learned, the truths discovered, and the relationships formed- they are all real; time doesn’t change that. And while it would be easier on my heart to stay in Mijas and soak up that Andalucian sunshine alongside so many people I love, I know that Chicago is where I am supposed to be right now- where I want to be. I want to see Kingdom come to Chicago, and I want to be a part of it. I want our home to be a part of it. I want my job to be a part of it.
I want every day of my life in this city (and beyond) to be lived to the full, to be poured out for love, and to shine the light of my God, my Christ who brings a hope for glory through me. And I know I’m not alone in this. I see the fire and the excitement, the love and the passion for this city in the eyes of so many. God has begun a great work in Chicago and he will indeed bring it to completion.
So Chicago, just know…you are loved…you are loved, you are loved loved loved.