Weird things start to happen when you decide to move to the other side of the world.
Example A: When commercials come on the radio for concerts that won’t happen until after you leave, you start to get teary-eyed because “I wish I could go” even though you have no idea who the band is or if you even like them.
Example B: Everything, absolutely everything, becomes a “last”. This is okay when it’s restricted to significant moments like “last night out with friends” or “last family dinner”. It’s when it gets to “the last time I’ll buy grapes from this store” or “the last time I’ll dust this shelf” that things start to get strange.
Example C: It’s hard to fall asleep at night because of all the goings on in your head, which means you may find yourself crying at two in the morning as you finish your fourth British television show of the week (because Jenny doesn’t love Alec as much as Alec loves Jenny, and that is just so sad because Alec’s a really good guy).
But the weirdest thing of all is the moment when you have to redefine the concept of “home”.
A few weeks ago, I moved home. What I mean by that is I moved into my parents’ house, the house in which I grew up. My room was almost exactly the same as it was in high school – same overstuffed bookshelves, same posters of random musicals, same old art projects hung on the wall. Even the sounds were the same, things like the rustle of leaves on the tree outside my window and the garage door rumbling open as Dad comes home from work.
But I also left home a few weeks ago. Meaning, I left the house I’d been renting a room in for the last three years. I left the dryer that sings at the end of its cycle, two charming (albeit aloof) cats, and the near daily sight of Amazon packages on the doorstep. Mostly, I left the couple who rented me a room in the first place, the people who never failed to ask me about my day and who always seemed to know what I needed to hear.
And then there’s “home” in a broader sense: Las Vegas. A collision of mountains and neon lights, a brutal desert we locals like to pretend is hospitable. I love this city and the people who fill its streets; some call us rude, unfriendly, difficult to get to know, but that’s not how I see it. I see people who are resilient, people who are honest about the dark places they have walked, people who may struggle to trust but are willing to try. I see sunsets that take up a giant sky and temperatures so high you feel the asphalt burning through your flip-flops and casinos that darken their windows just enough so nobody notices the passing of day into night.
One of my favorite places in the world is Red Rock National Park. The 13 miles of windy, one-way road through red-desert-mountains is where I go to relax, think, watch the rain, listen to instrumental music with the windows down, and sometimes cry (yes; my inner emo teenager is alive and well, and I’m completely okay with that).
But one trip to Red Rock stands out above the rest. I was in the middle of deciding whether or not to move to Thailand (no big deal, really) and was having a difficult time with it. One day was so bad and confusing I decided the only solution was to drop what I was doing, jump in my Tracker, and go to Red Rock, so I did. Problem was, I left so fast that I showed up at the trailhead completely unprepared, wearing jeans and cheap sandals with absolutely no arch-support. But I was determined (it’s amazing how focused you get when you’re angry and scared) and started climbing anyway.
A few stumbles and some “man I wish I brought water” mutterings later, I got to my perch, a ledge along the side of a giant boulder I knew well. Leaning against cool sandstone, I let myself take a deep breath. In. Out. In Out. “God,” I said, feeling hot tears roll down my face, “This. This is home. Thailand isn’t my home. How can I leave my home?”
I don’t typically “hear” God like I would an audible voice. When I hear God, it’s more like getting an impression in my mind, and usually I’m skeptical that it’s really him until I compare it to what I know of his character. That day on the ledge, I felt the words “I’m just as beautiful in Thailand as I am here” scroll across my mind, and while it was comforting, my skepticism was in full swing.
“Even if that’s true,” I blurted out, “Teach me what home means, because right now, I think this is it, and I can’t leave home.”
I believe God speaks to us in the ways we need to hear it – in ways we are able to listen – and he is infinitely creative in how he goes about it. Since I wasn’t keen on listening to his voice that day, he used something else to get my attention, specifically an app on my phone that posts random Bible verses every morning (creative and current, as it turns out). When I returned from my poor excuse for a hike, I opened it and found this: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. – John 14:23.”
I blinked. We will come to them and make our home with them. I read it again. We will come to them and make our home with them. And again. We will come to them and make our home with them. Soon, I was kneeling on the floor in front of the kitchen sink, sobbing – not just because of what I read, but because I was seen. And there’s nothing quite as eerie or lovely as being seen.
That was nearly a year ago. Today (as I type this, actually), I’m sitting in seat 28K on an airplane that is about to descend into Chiang Mai, Thailand. Even though I’ve taken this exact flight before, this is the farthest from home I’ve ever felt, because somewhere in the deep corners of my brain I know I’m not going back for a while. And that is a difficult, painful thing to admit.
Until I remember: we will come to them and make our home with them.
I don’t pretend to fully grasp the meaning of those words, but I’m getting closer. Home will always be a two-story house on Island Green Drive, my roommates’ kitchen table, and the heat-weary sidewalks of Las Vegas, that I know for sure. But it is also this new, strange city with street signs I can’t read and food that makes my lips burn and people who smile more than I do. Home is wherever we are seen and known, and when we remember we are seen and known by the One who made us and will never leave us, home is everywhere.
The bell rings and the captain’s voice floats from the speakers; he’s probably saying something like “flight attendants prepare for landing”, but all I hear is: “Welcome home, Kelly. You’re going to be just fine.”
This time, I think I’ll believe him.