Two and a half years ago, we came for a visit to the States, Judson’s first time in America. We started out in Virginia because we wanted to have him dedicated at our church in DC and spend a few days in the mountains before going to see the rest of our family in Oklahoma and Texas.
We rented an Airbnb place in Alexandria to crash in upon landing, but the location didn’t really register with my sleep-deprived, jet-lagged, new-born mommy brain. I remember this, though.
One afternoon while Judson slept, I walked with Ayla to a playground next to the building where we were staying. It was late February, but the weather must have been pleasant enough to be outside. I don’t know if it was the freedom to walk down the public sidewalk of a well-manicured street, gulping in the fresh American air or enjoying one-on-one time with my oldest, but whatever it was, my heart swallowed a piece of that space. I told John later that I could see living in a little neighborhood like that when we moved back (as opposed to the neighborhood we had lived in before).
Flash forward to yesterday. We’ve been in our little townhouse in Arlington for almost a month, spending our time at the pool, playground and riding bikes in the basketball court behind our house (all those things are behind our house, we’re in an amazing location) or on the neighborhood’s generous sidewalks.
Yesterday, we explored a little further out, riding bikes about half a mile down the road to where Judson will be in preschool a few days a week. After meeting with the school administrator, seeing his classroom and meeting his sweet teachers, they invited us to go play on the playground. We walked out and – you probably guessed this already- it was the same playground from the previous paragraph!
Without even knowing it, we are living in that neighborhood! To be honest, I didn’t even remember the playground or having the desire to live near it until I walked out there yesterday. When I recognized it and remembered wanting to live there, I felt like a sparkler was lit in my heart, like happiness almost physically popping out of me.
In my last blog post, oh those many months ago in June, I talked about the exercise of naming the gifts or graces you find in life. Counting your blessings isn’t for bragging or comparing. It’s for reminding yourself that you’re cared for and provided for and just flat out loved. It’s not a glossing over a life that’s filled with ups and downs. It’s a highlighting of the good things that heal the wounds left by the not-so-good.
I’ve had so many little gifts like this park discovery since moving in. A reunion with a friend that doesn’t feel like a reunion, but just a continuation of a conversation that paused a few years ago. A local restaurant where my kids get the special treatment they got used to in the Middle East. A neighbor I haven’t met yet running to help me get something heavy from the car. An afternoon of tree-climbing and bike-riding (I keep mentioning bike-riding because it’s my kids’ new favorite past-time and I just love watching them do it!) while I sit in the shade (literally what I am doing as I type this!). I could go on and on, but you get the point.
I consider these house-warming gifts from God. In this time of transition, from one country and culture to another, from the stay-at-home years to the go-to-school years (Ayla starts Kindergarten next week! Hold me!), from being extremely dependent in a patriarchal society to finding my independence (and interdependence) again, God is decorating my days with these soul-healing and life-giving moments.
I’m coming from a place, both physically and mentally, where happiness was hard-fought and joy was easy to lose sight of. That season seems to be over and when happiness comes this spontaneously, I’ll take it! Welcome home, indeed!
P.S. At our wedding, our first dance was to Chantal Kreviazuk’s version of Randy Newman’s song, “Feels Like Home.” The chorus has a line that goes, “It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me, It feels like I’m all the way back where I belong.” And I’ve had this song in my head the entire time I’ve been writing this, so now you can have it too!