home is wherever i’m with you

Even though I’m sitting here in Portland International Airport, it’s still hard to believe that it’s time to go back. On the one hand, I feel like I just got to America, was just getting used to riding in a huge car without a passenger, just getting used to the enormousness that is Target and just settling back into life and friendships. But on the other hand, I feel like I’ve been away from Laos FOREVER.

In preparing to go back, a weird phenomenon has taken place – I’ve come down with a mild case of identity crisis. I call it the I’m-in-limbo-between-two-places-and-don’t-know-where-I-belong syndrome. People who suffer from I’m-in-limbo-between-two-places-and-don’t-know-where-I-belong syndrome are often nomads, have strong ties to more than one place and enjoy traveling. If you suspect you know someone with I’m-in-limbo-between-two-places-and-don’t-know-where-I-belong syndrome, listen to their speech. Have you ever heard them participate in this conversation…?

Me: “I’m so excited to go home! I mean… Back to Laos!”
Mom: “Yeah! I can’t wait to see Laos. Err, um… Your home!”
Me: “The first thing we’ll do when we get home, or… uh… Laos is see my dog!”
Mom: “I can’t believe you have a dog in Laos! Eh, well… Your home!

In limbo between two places is a difficult place to be. You’re always in a long distance relationship, either with your friends and family from “home” or your friends/teammates/ coworkers/etc. from your “other home.” It’s also emotionally exhausting because you’re constantly saying goodbye to people when you travel between each place. And on top of that, it’s confusing because so much of who we are is developed out of where we come from. My first year at Moody, I resented anyone who referred to Chicago as my home because I had so much pride in being an Oregonian. I never wanted that to be stripped of my identity. And I never wanted to have to choose between the two.

But the Bible teaches us something different about being “home.” All throughout the Book of John, Jesus says abide in ME. Abide is a verb meaning to live so what Jesus is saying is live in me, make your home in me. We aren’t to abide in a single place or a structure, we are to abide in Jesus Christ. That’s good news for a girl who has lived in 10 different places since graduating high school (not to mention the countless couches I’ve surfed on visits home).

See, I don’t abide in Salem, OR or Chicago, IL or even Vientiane, Laos for that matter. I abide in Jesus Christ, and therefore, no matter where I am in this world, I’m always at home.

IMG_4026

Chicago – One of my “homes”

a whole bunch of punch lines

Blame it on reverse culture-shock or jet lag or… an overall terrible memory, but when someone asks me to tell them a story about Laos, my brain turns to mush and I can’t remember anything that ever happened.

Ever.

So, I’ve compiled this list of stories:

The time I held a monk’s hand.
The time I got pooped on by a gecko.
The time there was a gecko in my motorcycle helmet.
The time there was a spider on my neck.
The time I talked about Easter and Christmas at school.
The time I waited 3 hours at the bus station.
The time a monk said I was beautiful.
The time I found a puppy in my classroom.
The time I couldn’t remember the word for “ice”.
The time I said a bad word (in Lao).
The time I said a bad word (in English).
The time I taught my class the word “butt”.
The time a student wrote “spider” as an occupation.
The time I rafted through a waterfall.
The time I taught my class the game spoons.
The time the tailor made my clothes out of Emily’s material.
The time I learned the lyrics to “Get Low” in Lao.
The time I road the bus to Laos from Vietnam.
The time I fed an elephant sugarcane from my mouth.
The time I was told not to eat ice cream.
The time I threw up under the bed.
The time my boss pushed me off of his motorcycle.

So the next time you see me, feel free to ask me to tell you one of these stories.

But beware… I just told you the punchline to most of them.

20130803-134744.jpg

(a not so) welcome home

After a fun, half-day tour in Seoul on my 10-hour layover, I hoped on a plane bound for San Francisco. It was quick, pleasant and I got lots of sleep. When I arrived in San Francisco, I made it through customs and immigration in record time. Now there was just an hour and fifteen minute flight and an hour drive standing in the way of me and home. My plane left SFO on time and landed in PDX early. When I got off the plane, all of my friends were there to greet me. They even made a banner that said Welcome Home Lauren. Once I got my luggage (it was the 3rd one on the conveyer belt), we all drove home and after hanging out for a bit, I fell fast asleep.

This is how I imagined coming home would take place. What actually happened was a little bit different…

After a fun, half-day tour in Seoul on my 10-hour layover, I hoped on a plane bound for San Francisco. From the moment we lifted off until the moment the wheels touched the ground again, we had turbulence. Not a bump here and a bump there.

A bumpity, bump, bump, bump.
Bumpity, bump, bump, bump.
This plane cannot fly.
Bumpity, bump, bump, bump.
Bumpity, bump, bump, bump.
I am going to die.

There was so much turbulence that a few overhead compartments opened up and luggage fell out. I didn’t sleep a wink. Once at SFO, there were more American citizens returning home than visitors so I stood in line at customs and immigration for a very long time. Now there was just an hour and fifteen minute flight and an hour drive standing in the way of me and home. My plane boarded on time and I was one of the first passengers on. After only a third of the plane had boarded, our captain came on the intercom and said, “So I’ve suspended boarding for the moment because there seems to be a problem with the fuel tanks. We’ve got a leak somewhere so the fire department is on their way to come clean up the fuel that overflowed onto the tarmac. As of now, we don’t think it’s too serious of a situation but if it becomes more dangerous we’ll ask you to evacuate.” Oh, good. After about 30 minutes the pilot did indeed ask us to leave the aircraft because they were unable to fix the problem. Our initial delay time was 1 hour. An hour later, we were told it would be at least 3 more hours while we waited for a part to be flown to SFO.

Four hours after our initial departure time, we took off and landed in PDX at 10:30 PM on July 2nd. Forty-three hours, 4 plane rides, a 10-hour layover, a 4-hour delay and 17,540 miles later… I was home. And when I walked out of the secured part of the airport who did I see standing there to greet me? No one. I mean absolutely no one. Not even my ride was there because she was stuck in traffic.

IMG_3884I wasn’t mad. I knew my friends would be there if they could. And I’m not telling you this to make you feel guilty and I don’t want your pity. I’m telling you this because it was a good reminder to myself (and to you) that I’m really not that important.

See, I just spent the last 11 months hearing constant praise from family, friends, and students alike:

You’re an inspiration…

You’re the best teacher I’ve ever had…

I hope my kids grow up to be like you…

You’re a world-changer…

And while I appreciate the compliments, the truth is, I’m just a sinner saved by grace, trying my best to love Him and follow his call on my life. The only difference between me and you is that my calling is in Laos and your calling is in Salem, Oregon or Seattle, Washington or Chicago, Illinois. And you’re MY inspiration, favorite teachers and the people I hope I grow up to be like. And I imagined all of you greeting me at baggage claim, not because I want or love the praise, but because I love you.

So thank you for being my world changers and for encouraging me in Laos, Salem or wherever He may lead.

the run for the roses

After several weeks of sweltering heat and long days in the classroom, our team was in dire need of a pick-me-up.

At first, we were just going to have our team over to the house for dinner. And then the night before, Emily asked me if I’d make derby pie. I said yes (even though I’d never heard of it before) and then suggested we dress up and wear hats. Then our derby-themed dessert and dress-up turned into flower arrangements, horse-themed betting games, virgin mint juleps and pin the jockey on the horse.

Sometimes you just need to throw a themed party, ya know?

IMG_3266

Emily, having gone to school at UK, loves Kentucky, loves the derby and loves Secretariat. Did you know Secretariat still holds the record for the fastest race times at the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes? Did you know that going into the Belmont, Secretariat was featured on the covers of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated? Did you know Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths? I didn’t either.

Until I met Emily.

IMG_3267

One of the games we played was pin the jockey on the horse. It was hysterical to watch!

IMG_3265 IMG_3268

We also played a card game called “horse-race” and used candy chips to bet on the horses with. The horses (represented by the aces in the deck) were named Ben Brush (first horse to win the Kentucky Derby as it’s known today), Regret (first filly to win the race), Secretariat (the greatest racehorse ever) and Verrazano (the favorite to win the 2013 race).

At the end of the night, Christa walked away with the most chips and was crowned the Derby winner. Her prize was a horse-drawn carriage picture frame with (what seemed to be) a photo of Li’l Sebastian inside.

IMG_3272

Happy Derby day! I hope you enjoy “the most exciting two minutes in sports” as much as we did :)