The final countdown has begun. Our last evening in town was spent better than I could have planned myself. Let me go back a bit…
Yesterday we went back to a clothing store that we had frequented for the past month or so eying a jacket for Oz. After a few visits we finally decided this jacket was ‘the one’ and made the purchase. But, my point isn’t the jacket. It’s that the same girl was helping us each time we went in. I thought she must be so annoyed with us for having teased her with a potential purchase all those times, but it turned out I could not have been more wrong about her.
“I’ve been looking for you guys! I’m so glad you came back!”
(mind you — this is all in Chinese)
We were so surprised,
“Really? Why’s that?”
” I want to invite you to dinner! You’ve been in here a few times and I want to treat you guys to something special!”
The girl is a down-right sweetheart.
Her family owns a restaurant and she wanted to treat us to a special dish specific to her minority group. We knew we only had one night left in town and assumed we would have spent it with our already-friends, but we didn’t want to be rude and refuse her absolutely-sweet offer. So, we made it work. The following night [tonight] we met her after she got off work and we went to her family’s restaurant and felt so welcomed and loved by her hospitality. It blew me away. We had such a fabulous time getting to know our new friend and wish we would have done it sooner. It still boggles my mind that with my miniscule amount of language and my husband bouncing between the roles of person-in-the-conversation and my interpreter, I can still feel like I’m making life-long friends. I adore the openness and genuine kindness of this culture. And I have to put that in writing because sometimes its easy for me to forget the good I’ve experienced when I face the moments when my own culture clashes with this one. In that moment I’m too quick to judge and criticize.
Upon arriving home to our packed-up room, we finished a couple good-bye letters. At this time, I found myself starting to emotionally process the leaving part of the trip. To sit down and really think about the relationships we’ve gained here and in my heart dissect what they’ve meant to us and how grateful we are for them, I burst out in tears and allowed my heart to ache knowing we’re physically leaving them here. I can’t hide our new friends in our bags and sneak them back with us. We’d get in so much trouble and probably accidentally suffocate at least one of them.
I knew this moment would come and this is always the hardest part. It reminds me of when I was sitting on a plane coming back from spending six months in New Zealand. I sat next to one of my friends who six months earlier I knew nothing about. But at some point during my stay in NZ he’d become one of my brothers. He, along with 32 others had become part of my family. I remember weeping so hard in my seat, frustrated that my tears blocked my view to my journal. I couldn’t write anything down for a while, it wouldn’t have even helped. The only appropriate outlet was to cry. And although this go-around is a bit different, the process is so familiar. It is such a unique experience to feel this way. It just shows you how amazingly the Father has designed relationships. People are so special. And we are in great need of them in our lives.
I find myself thinking, “Wait, have we done all we wanted to do? Seen everyone we wanted to see? Said everything we wanted to say to them? Hugged them enough? Encouraged them? Sat down and played cards with them, just one more time?” But I know this summer has played out exactly how the Father has wanted it too. It felt like a perfect fit for our lives every single day. So, I rest in that. I also cry, ache, feel and grieve…but I rest. I am so extremely grateful that I am in this moment. It is so crucial to a healthy transition home.
I have to say goodbye before I can say hello.
I have to be fully here before I can be fully there.
I love the way the Father has designed relationships. Heartache and all, it’s so perfect. And now, because of this summer, I have so many more that I get to take with me for the rest of my days. And one day, I’ll probably get to reunite with many of them. I’ll let Him decide which ones will go deeper, which will be put on pause, and which will perhaps only have been for a season.
There is still a bit of ache in my heart though. I’m not sure when that will fade. But that’s okay. I’d rather have this grieving than be so-over-this-place-get-me-on-that-plane-pronto kind of feeling.
Overall, we have been SO blessed to be here. Not only to experience an amazingly beautiful country and a wonderful people, but to have done it together. I’m not wanting to skip ahead, but I admit, I am SO excited to see in hindsight what all this trip was for us. I know that the Father worked in us more deeply than we can probably see right now. We don’t know what He did in us that we’ll need for the next season of our lives. But I know that He is faithful and perfect in His provision. We will continue to trust Him for whatever comes next.
The more immediate “next” is our last day in L!jiang and our night train to Kunm!ng. Not sure what our internet access will look like after tomorrow, but we’ll keep you posted when we can.
Traveling is always interesting. Hopefully this weekend will be the good kind of interesting.