As I sat at the round dining table, surrounded by Jerry's community group in Baltimore, I felt warmth. I felt love. I felt familiarity, even though this was more his family than mine. People from all walks of life surrounded the table - two couples with children older than both of us, a pastor's wife, a man in his 70's, and two young men about our age - it didn't seem as if we had anything in common at all, but somehow, it fit. We sat around the table laughing and discussing the Bible, and shared about our lives. This had been Jerry's family in Baltimore last year, his first year away from home. And yet, it had become my family in Baltimore too. Every time I visited him, I could always count on seeing these faces at his church and be embraced by all the lovely ladies. I have not met with them all one-on-one, but they know things about me and love me all the same. It felt like family.
As we drove away from the city last night, there were tears in my eyes. I have missed this; this feeling of belonging, of being embraced and genuinely hugged, and of warmth.
I can't say that our search for community has been easy here. The first church we went to felt very exclusive, and there was an incident that still hurts to this day. We have forgiven... but last night just reminded me of how sometimes, it still hurt. When you feel isolated and alone already and people exclude and dismiss you... it just hurts that much more. We have finally found our place at Redeemer Church in Arlington, but the past couple months have not been the easiest.
College community was easy - it was everywhere and easily accessible. Last night, tears rolled down my cheeks because for the first time, I let myself feel how hard it has been and to really process it. I told Jerry how much at home I had finally felt last night, and how much I realized I missed it. He agreed - it has not been easy. Driving through Baltimore reminded me also of how hard last year was in general - Baltimore will always have a special place in his heart, and in mine too. To me, it represents a year of dreams and of so much hope, but also a big loss. We walked the streets, talking about where we might live and how great it would be when I finally moved from Ann Arbor. We talked about the possibility of working with inner city youth and all the hopes we had together.
We never got to live out those dreams in Baltimore. I was reminded of that last night, and for some reason, it made me really sad. It almost felt like we had fallen in love with a place... with a future we dreamed about... and God uprooted us from all of that and we never really had a chance to process it all because it happened so fast.
But as we were driving back to Alexandria, I also realized something else.
God did not allow us to stay in Baltimore, but He gave us a home in Virginia. We have friends here, and we have a church here now. It is not easy and it has not become home quite yet, but it will - home is where your friends and family are, and most importantly, home can be anywhere with God.
As humans, we are resistant to change and we like to be comfortable (I do, at least). But Jerry reminded me - maybe God took us away out of a place we've grown to love because He has a greater purpose for us right now in Alexandria.
I see my purpose here when I look into the faces of my students. Every small success has been worth the hardship and God has been there every step of the way. I did not end up in a job I thought I would, and that has been more than okay. I look back on where my students started in September (and where I started, haha!) and I am in awe of how much they have learned and grown, and I see how much I have grown along with them. God has provided every single day, even on days when I felt like it was just too hard.
I have faith that God has a purpose for us being here, no doubts about it, and I don't know where He is going to take us next. But I do know that we are in very good hands. I understand better now than ever that God created us for community, no matter where we are, and we need to have community. We need support from others and this journey was not meant to be walked alone!
Got something else to share, but I'm going to wait until it's official :) To be continued!