Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Little Encouragement for Those Trips Home

I spent a few weeks this summer getting my girls settled in school and visiting friends and family. The few precious moments at home are filled with obligations, wants and needs. There are people to see, doctor's appointments to do and shopping to accomplish. Sorting it all out is like untangling a box of fishing lures. It's exhausting before, during and after the trip. Every expat that I've talked to goes through this, whether missionary, diplomat or other. 

I struggle with finding the correct balance every single time. I've done trips home with specific purpose and other trips where I have a more flexible schedule and freedom to spend time with people. We've lived out of suitcases moving from home to home every few nights, spent a month in a camper, and stayed with friends. Each option has its pros and cons and meets different needs. By far, the best trip home was staying in the camper. It gave us our own space to decompress each day with unlimited freedom to make our own schedule. Each evening we made a bonfire and unwound with a book or conversation and few roasted marshmallows. 

I think Paul from the New Testament was a bit like me. He moved around a lot. A group of friends  traveled with him from time to time, but he didn't seem to have a home to go to. He didn't return to the same place every summer to blow the dust off the cabinets, settle in and enjoy lazy days. His things were scattered across creation, stuck in the corners of friends' homes until he returned to use them again. There were the things he wished he'd brought with him as well–scrolls and cloaks that he needed in his daily life. He had times of loneliness and opposition. In all my travels, I haven't met an expat yet that lives as out of a suitcase as Paul seemed to do. I have it easy, yet I struggle with the returning home aspect that a transient life brings.

I'm also like Paul because I'm a communicator. Paul was always developing relationships, writing letters and encouraging the church. I don't write to churches, sending out encouragement, but just like Paul had his tribe of Priscilla, Aquila, Mark and Titus, I also have my little tribe of friends that I stay in touch with and long to see in my travels.

Since this last trip home, I've thought a lot about Paul's words in his letter to the Romans: "I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong–that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." (1:11-12) 

Paul had a pretty specific goal in wanting to see his friends. It was a little give and take; he needed encouragement and he wanted to give encouragement. I love how honest he is about this. He was ok in saying "I need you, my tribe, to come alongside me and give me a boost of encouragement." He got that his friends needed a boost of encouragement in their lives too. Life is hard. We all have work day in and day out that we do. We encounter situations that are difficult and we have to wrestle through how to react to them. We can't do it alone, we need other Christians along side us to talk to and figure these things out together. We need some cheerleaders on the sidelines screaming "You can do it!" Paul needed to see his friends doing the daily life and choosing to live it God's way. He needed that sort of encouragement so that when people tried to kill him, he knew that he wasn't the only one choosing to live for God. 

This gives me a little focus as I think about home. I know that some relationships are going to fade. I don't live there anymore and I can't hold onto every single one. But how am I choosing the relationships that I do keep? Are they mutually encouraging? Are they a little give and take? Honestly, it's very easy to have the mindset when I'm home of take, take, take. I need rest. I need to talk to you, I need to go to this store... The list of "I needs" is endless. So how can I balance this? 

I would love to hear from you. Whether you moved 100 miles or 10,000 miles, how do you balance needs and relationships when you are home? How do you give and take? Do you return back to your place of living worn out and exhausted or encouraged and rested?

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