THE RELUCTANT EXPAT (Coming to terms with coming home)

 

I lost my journal for almost two months – misplaced, actually. It’s like an old friend I can confide in. I can sort out my thoughts in written words and somehow things become clearer. When you write, you have to slow your thoughts down in order to wait for the words to catch up with your pen. This was yet another “slow food for the soul” lesson I learned while living in Crete. I first started putting words to paper in Crete as an attempt to chronicle our lives as expats on a Mediterranean island. Hence, Cretan Chronicles was born and grew into a blog.

There were many things that were born and grew in me during those five years abroad. Things that have changed me forever – like deepened patience, tolerance, compassion, quietness, a sense of a bigger picture and a deep conviction that this world is not my home. It’s because of that firm “knowing” I can be content wherever I live.

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As I write this, my good friend is packing up and moving back to the States with her husband and children after living abroad for more years than living Stateside. (Husband works for the military and it is a requirement that after five years abroad you must return to the States for at least two years before requesting to go abroad again.)   They have loved every minute of their lives in Europe and I can imagine her mixed emotions as she sets her sights on a new life in America.

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Moving to Europe was one of the most difficult things I’ve done, but not as difficult as moving back to the States. Packing up all our belongings and navigating through all the details was nothing compared to packing up all my memories and navigating through all my emotions. I remember the feeling of bewilderment when someone said, “You must be so excited about going home!”

Where is home? If “home is where the heart is” then my heart must be in pieces. A little here, a few there, left behind like an intimate goodbye letter left on the mantle.  It’s hard to come home when you’ve been home somewhere else. In time, the leaving gives way to the coming and a measure of peace settles in. That’s when you know you’re home – again. Until the next time and it repeats all over.

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Sometimes the homesickness for Crete settles in so deep that I can taste the yearning and want to run there. Sometimes I feel like I don’t belong here. But truthfully, I don’t belong there either. Sometimes I think if I’d never left here I wouldn’t have to deal with such a mucky mess of emotions.   But, if I had never stretched out my faith and moved into the unknown, I would not be the person I am today – changed forever. And I realize that there are a few lucky ones of us who can say we have many homes – each one has left its imprint on our hearts and influence in our lives. And the pangs of homesickness are a reminder that God has emptied us into the lives of others and vise versa. But mostly, the restlessness and yearning for home is put in our hearts intentionally by God. We may search the world over but there’s no comparison to the belonging and beauty of our place with Him – our true home.