Travel for me often includes a journey of the soul. I have a tendency to turn introspective and often arrive altered in more than one aspect.
Last week I left LAX with grand hopes of being of great use to my dear friend Ceri, who got married on Saturday. I like being useful. And this is why I arrived four days before the big event. But once there, I encountered something unpleasant and unexpected: life for my friends in Missouri had gone on.
Why is it that while we live and even anticipate change in our own lives, we are so shocked when we encounter it in others' lives, especially those we haven't seen in a while?
I used to be one of Ceri's go-to people, because of our friendship and my proximity. But now I live far away, and once I arrived, most everything was done, and I felt a bit unneeded. We didn't even really have a chance to sit and connect through conversation as I love to do. And given the magnitude of the upcoming day and the fact that her family was in town, it was perfectly reasonable that what I would have loved to do was impossible. Yet without realizing it, I had that unexpressed expectation. And the actual day of her wedding was filled with melancholy for me. Not that I wish my life were different; I am ecstatically content with where God has me right now. But the truth is, another one of my friends has moved on with her life into a place where I cannot follow. Everything has changed.
On the other hand, I got to share special moments with family members. My fraternal grandmother is close to 90 years old, and each time I see her I know it just may be my last chance to share with her. We went to her favorite restaurant to eat their famous fried chicken. She took home everyone's bones to feed the neighborhood cats, just as she always does. My brother took me to lunch, which was a first. I felt so grown up, like we were finally both adults, independent from Mom and Dad. My Papa (mother's side) had his 79th birthday on Sunday, and was overjoyed that I could share the day with him.
My parents now have no children to look after, and it is amazing to see how close they have grown. They've been married for 32 years now, and enjoy each other's company more than ever. My dad has reverted to the goofiness which characterized his childhood and which hardly ever came out during my childhood, when the pressures of living overseas and supporting a family on a missionary salary were weighing him down. And my mom's life is full. She is teaching Spanish at a community adult school and is my dad's companion on all of his trips. While she would love for her children to live a little closer, she has always encouraged us to follow God's calling, whether that takes us next door or halfway across the country. I know she would be supportive if I was convinced that God wanted me to move to the slums of overpopulated India.
I am greatly blessed to have such a family.
But when I flew out of the Tulsa airport on Sunday, I had no idea what to expect from my next destination. There was one more stop in my travel. My friend and mentor, Lori, had just moved to Houston with her family. When in college, their home was a haven and a place of renewal where I went to do laundry, jump on the trampoline, talk out my latest frustrations concerning life as a college student, receive words of wisdom and encouragement, and be prayed for. Especially during the long separation from my family, the Tischlers became my adopted family, and I, the eldest of their daughters.
While different seasons of life require different kinds of people and influences, there also exist those relationships which may change, but never weaken. So it is with the Tischlers.
How can I even begin to describe with words how deeply they are anchored in my heart? And once again, their home was a place of restoration and encouragement. We spoke of change, about the amazing way that God uses even the smallest details in our lives to direct us to places where we will face challenges and have an impact for his kingdom, about the ways we try to force God into our own plans for our lives, about growing up on the mission field, about how sometimes life really stinks--yet God remains faithful. We rejoiced together because of new opportunities and shared the difficulties of moving somewhere completely new--especially the challenges their two teenaged daughters are facing.
After these two incredible days, I feel refreshed and confident. God has meant for this life to be an adventure. So whatever it is, I think I'm ready. Bring it on! (Although, God, please not all at once. And not the really hard things, either...)