Today marks 2 years since Gabriel and I relocated to VA. Juan had already moved since the previous January and Elise came a month after I did, followed by Daniel and my mom who joined us in September, and Lizette about a year later. It was a time of family separation; a time of tears and goodbyes; so many friends being left behind; so many memories. The weeks leading up to our move were packed and busy and stressful, making arrangements to vacate and sell things and pack vans. Where would the kids stay? How long until I saw them again? I missed my husband, I feared the unknown, I longed for permanence, and I shed many tears and said many prayers.
Then we drove: 1,000 miles north, to start a new life in new surroundings, new climate, new church, new job, and new possibilities. I had a lot more questions than I had answers, and I felt disoriented. We stayed with friends for three months. Even though I knew God was mercifully providing for us and our time with dear TC and Patti was full of grace and love, I constantly felt as if the ground beneath me was shaking and cracking. I longed for the days when our family could be united in a house of our own. Of course, the time came, we moved again, we emptied our storage unit, slept in our own beds and ate from our own dishes. Life was slowly coming together. After 9 months of separation, we were a family again! It felt wonderful. It felt scary too. Inside our house was comfort and stability, but outside were the unfamiliar and the unknown. It seemed like everywhere we turned we were reminded we were not “from around here”. Who knew street names could change every 10 blocks? I had never fathomed that fallen leaves could cover my yard up to my hips! How long would it take for those around us to include us as friends? Outside our four walls, we were just names and faces, without connections or recommendations or people who knew people who knew us. Isolation.
So it’s been two years. And I enter into a self-evaluation kind of mood. How am I feeling? What has God taught me? How is my family doing? Have we grown or benefited from this experience? As I recall my feelings and expectations from two years ago, and I compare them to today, I notice a few things:
- I miss my family and Miami friends just as much, if not more, than I did when I first came. There is a deep sadness for not seeing my nieces’ flamenco dance recitals, and for not being able to visit my uncle who is very sick in the hospital. There is a longing to sit down over coffee or soup with my friends. Phone calls or text messages are not enough to satisfy my need to hug a hurting family member. How I miss those Telefunken Sundays with my loud, Cuban friends, and chicken-dances with my brother. I am so grateful I live in an era of facebook and skype and mobile phones, because I feel like the distance is a little closer than it actually is.
I miss Miami: Just the city and the things I loved about it; even the things I hated about it (well, only sometimes. I definitely do not miss the traffic or the constant road construction.) I never knew I would get so many Pollo Tropical cravings! And there have been days, especially during this last winter, that I ached for humidity and heat and beach and salty air. Yes, I complained many a time of the heat when I lived there, but now I miss it.
I can now find my way to River Rd. without a GPS (and without getting lost.) I have been to Charlottesville, Virginia Beach, Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Jamestown and am falling in love with this state little by little. I appreciate that everything is close! As opposed to Miami which is far from everything and everybody, we are driving distance from many other states. We have mountains, we have water, and who knew I would ever spend the 4th of July in Washington DC? I feel blessed to see new things and walk through such old streets and enter buildings which are rich in history and heritage. And seasons! The falling of leaves and the dusting of snow and the springing of flowers and sudden appearance of leaves making everything yellow-green… these make life exciting. If I hate cold days, I know I’ll eventually have hot ones, REALLY hot ones. No same-ole same-ole. And I have so much to learn and visit! It will take me a while, but I have actually considered that VA could feel like my home, hopefully in the not-so-distant future. Maybe it never will, at least not fully, but if it were to depend on my attitude and disposition towards it, it could happen. Only time will tell.
The church. No matter where I live, I know one thing for certain: Finding believers in Christ means I have found my spiritual family. There is a bond I share with the body of Christ that is different, and in one sense, stronger than that of blood related family (how sweet when both blood and spirit unites me to others). The thought of finding a spiritual family here gave me great hope when I first moved. In fact, it was such a powerful force in my thinking and feeling, that it allowed me to take the step to relocate. And so it has been that God has surrounded us with like-minded people who have served us and loved on us since the first day. I have to admit there were many times when I felt disappointed. Perhaps I had unrealistic dreams about what my bond would be with my new family after I arrived. Relationships did not develop at the pace I had envisioned, which contributed to my sense of isolation. But despite the bumps on the road, God has shown himself faithful in providing for us through his children. He has given encouragement and wisdom and laughter, and even Telefunken friends who embrace the bilingual lingo and all. Deep friendships are being fostered in some cases and started in others, and our family feels accepted and embraced. God is good to us.
I am slow to learn, especially the really important things, such as humility and patience. But God who is great in kindness and mercy towards me, teaches me in little bits and chunks. God has been molding my character and showing me who I really am as people and things have been stripped away. I guess this is a really good thing, even though it doesn’t always feel good. If at the end of my life I trust him as much as I can trust him and love him and rely on him as much as I possibly can, then all this and every other difficult and wonderful experience in life will have been worth going through. I want to be trained by every moment, easy or hard. Like I said, I am slow to learn, so more often than not, it’s in the hard things where I learn the most. I think I may have grown in the past two years. I don’t see the growth, necessarily, but I feel the growing pains, so I must have grown. I continue to grow, still.
We went from a family of 5 to a family of 7! Our house is always (yes, always) full of noise and laughter and fighting (in good, Cuban style), and sitting around the dining room table telling stories and jokes. More often than not, there is an additional teenager, or three or four, hanging around here. We drive a big conversion van spacious enough to fit all of us and our friends, and are now, officially, the dorkiest family in Chesterfield county. The kids are in school, we have jobs, we serve at church, and we meet new people all the time. There are people we consider sweet friends. I work with precious kids, teaching them songs about pigs and spiders, and I feel happy doing so. Despite the difficulties, we are abundantly blessed and loved by God who understands our deepest needs and desires.
So where is home? That is a question I cannot answer. My heart is here. My heart is there. I guess this is what it should always feel like, in regards to God and his kingdom, shouldn’t it? Living as strangers in a foreign land, isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?