I bought my ticket back to the States last night--a round trip ticket, putting me in North Carolina for four weeks and St. Louis for another. I can't even begin to describe how excited I am to be going back, to smelling salt in the air and being with people I know, who know me. And Cheetos, ranch dressing and stuffed crust pizza.
Yesterday I was skyping with a guy who was on the team with us when we went to Romania that first time in 2009. He's on staff now too, in the States, and talking to him reminded me of something that happened in Brasov toward the end of the trip. We were eating lunch in the city center and the waitress who brought me my ice cream put a little American flag in it. And this guy yelled America! when he saw it and I got all awkward and annoyed and told him to hush, that people would know we were Americans. Of course they already did, big group speaking English and wearing tennis shoes. And I was all about being quiet, blending in, that sort of thing. And not that I'm not now, but in a way I never thought I'd be, I feel sort of like my friend shouting out because I am going home, and the US, North Carolina is surely that place.
(Note: this being immediately post hiking on the mountain for two weeks and rolling down a mountain in a minibus, not only was I super tired, super dark and super skinny, all I wanted for lunch was ice cream and soda so that's what I ordered. Sadly you can't see the little flag they gave me.)
The other day it occurred to me that Wilmington is the only place I've ever lived that I didn't get the urge to move on from after a certain amount of time. That's not exactly true, because there was a natural ending, a natural transition into something new. But it's been true of every other place I've lived. After a while I start to get restless and I'm ready for something new. Sometimes I hated the place I was living, sometimes I liked it; it usually didn't make a difference. But in Wilmington--while I still can't see myself going back and settling permanently there--it was home. Coming back to the pines, coming back to a place where there was and is true knowing--other people of you and you of other people.
Something else is true, too, though. I realize while thinking of going back home that if it's not true of this city, then it's true of Romania, that I love this country. This hasn't changed. I've got some big things to pray about this summer, the sort of decision with a clear want but not a clear should, no sure direction. What do I do? (It just occurred to me writing this that it probably sounds like I'm talking about whether or not to stay in Romania... nope, that's not it, not yet anyway.) Anyway, the question remains, one I'm sometimes whispering, sometimes shouting to my Father.
But there is this verse, this constant, steady truth: "But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you." (Psalm 39:7) It's a question, a challenging one, as much as a statement, one sending threads through everything else as I work through this theme of home. That word, that idea, but also something more tangible, more so even than a house or a city or a country.