It has been far too long since we’ve written and as the weeks have gone by it’s been more and more difficult to jump back in as the list of things I’ve wanted to share kept growing. In the past three months we have moved into our new apartment, wrapped up some summer ministry, completed hours of paperwork and visits to government offices (for Arianna’s citizenship and passport as well as registration in the new town where we now reside), prepared our home for our time away, prepared materials for home service, packed for 3 months of travel, traveled to the USA,
traveled within the USA for meetings and presentations, reconnected with supporters, and had some quality time with family. And that’s the short list!
We’ve already been in the USA for 7 weeks! When we arrived I was genuinely disappointed when the customs official didn’t tell me “Welcome Home”. The week before we left Italy was a brutal culture week and we were ready to be in a country and a culture we understood. However, I have since come realize that it’s not as much the home I remembered.
Don’t get me wrong, there are things I LOVE and appreciate now more than ever about the USA and the small town where my family lives. I’ll give you just a couple examples. It’s fantastic to be able to say what I want to say in a way that is understood by the listener rather than stumbling along in broken Italian like a toddler trying to communicate. It’s great to go to a WalMart at 8PM just because I can while in Italy all the stores close by 7:30PM. I enjoy American ice cream almost nightly because gelato just isn’t the same. I enjoy the wide open spaces and the way the sunset reaches far and wide because in Italy the mountains are beautiful but they block my view of a lot of sky. It’s nice to go to cook something according to the instructions on the box and not have to spend a half hour on google translate first to understand what it says. Most of all, I enjoy being near family. We were finally able to introduce Arianna to her great-grandparents and other extended family and friends.
We’ve been able to go on dates while Grandma and Grandpa babysit and we’ve actually been able to attend family birthday parties instead of making a virtual visit via Skype. Those are tangible things but then there are so many subtle things woven into the cultural fabric of America that are comfortable because I just intuitively know them.
I have always heard missionaries say that they don’t really feel at home anywhere and now I understand why. It’s true. As a missionary who has completed my first term I can join the ranks of those who don’t truly feel at home anywhere any more. Life becomes more laborious and uncomfortable as a general rule no matter where you go because you always struggling to understand and adjust to the world around you.
When we are in Italy the difficulty is with the language and culture. Everyday life, especially as it is lived outside our home, is stressful because you can’t fully communicate what you mean and you are constantly uncovering layers of culture you don’t understand. The most comfortable place is inside our home where we incorporate bits of the outside but where we have our own special space that is a haven where we can be ourselves.
When we are in the U.S. it’s difficult because we have a new unique lens we now use to look at the American life and culture. This makes our experience outside a bit more confusing as we try and sift it through our new filter, but perhaps the hardest part is not really having our own home for the months we are here. It’s not that we aren’t incredibly grateful to those who open up their homes to us, especially my parents who allow us to live with them when we aren’t traveling.
It’s just not ideal to be busy traveling to meetings, giving presentations, and maintaining a workload from the field without a place to come home to and call your own.
All of that to say, we’ve been feeling a bit like triangles lately. Why triangles? I recently came across an article that does an excellent job of illustrating what our experience is moving from a world of circles to a world of squares. It may sound elementary but I encourage you to read it, especially the section titled “I Am A Triangle: The Illustration” and check out the pictures in order to get a fuller understanding of why going “home” is hard for us triangles.
This world is truly not our home if we are in Christ (Eph 2:19). Thankfully home is where your heart is when Jesus holds it. I just have to have my now triangular ears attuned to his “Welcome Home” wherever I go and learn to let that be enough.In His grip, Erika