How I Feel About Going Home (Part 1)

I’ve spent 390 days away from home and have 45 left to go until I find myself back with my family after the longest separation (to date) in my life.

What can I say now?
How do I feel?

I don’t know how to feel.

When I left last year, I couldn’t imagine feeling anything but joy and relief at the prospect of going home when the time finally rolled around.

I remember my last day at home.

Packing everything, spending the entire day ready to throw up, glued to the couch because I also I had no idea what to do or how to feel. Watching re-runs of National Geographic specials featuring Steve Irwin, followed by ‘Africa’s Deadliest Predators’ with Daddy. Charlie clacking around on our wood floors with his ridiculously long toenails. Taking some grapes from the fridge and wondered what it would be to live without a fridge or if they have grapes in Africa.

Night coming, sooner than I was ready. Leaving a note for Christina, and crying myself to sleep, knowing she was doing the same, and hoping she’d forgive me for leaving so quickly. Morning coming and feeling stiff. Riding with my parents and Snugz to the bus stop on the way to Miami… somehow said goodbye to Snugz, trying to grasp the concept that the next time I saw her, she’d be taller, she’s be 16 instead of 14, she’d have be halfway through her high school experience…. And I wouldn’t be there for any of it.

Then the horrible drive across Alligator Alley to Miami, knowing that I was about to be utterly removed from familiarity and “safety” in mere hours. Crying. Staring blankly out the window. Mom’s voice from the front seat feeling like it was reaching for me across a great chasm… why did she feel so far away already?

The airport. The stupid impersonal feeling of waxed floors and business people with briefcases who can’t be bothered with your emotional displays. Trying not to completely lose it and still feeling like vomiting after barely eating for the whole week that I’d known I’d be leaving. Daddy staying strong as he ever has, hugging and encouraging. Mommy encouraging and striving to keep her tears back and ultimately failing.

And then, they were gone. Or I was? Feeling like a giant marionette puppet—not in control of my feet leading me away.

The flights. Endless. Foreign. Sleeping? I’m not sure. Disinterestedly watching ‘Glee’. Wondering if the meat I was eating was chicken or fish. Adorable Asian flight attendants once I hit LA on my way to Tokyo. Thinking about taking the generic brand Xanax I was prescribed less than two weeks before for my anxiety.

Arriving 33 hours later in Singapore. Meeting Charles Lo and Andrew Chay, eating McDonalds, wondering what Milo was and why corn was on the menu. Confusion. Why are we driving on the wrong side of the road? Almost screaming in fear of crashing, but too exhausted to protest at that point.

Arriving at my host home… a precious little Chinese grandma is shuffling around. It’s hot. Why is there no air conditioning? It’s 7 am. Sleep. Sleep? I can’t even breathe. Calling my Mom. It’s 7 pm yesterday in America. Telling her and Dad I cannot do this and it was a mistake. Knocking on the door: “Come for food”. Food? Tofu.

The rest is a blur of discomfort and stress and losing weight. I sound dramatic. I sound like a baby. But the reality is I wasn’t seeking a trip to Africa. It “landed in my lap”, during my apathetic, disillusioned “I just graduated and I’m not as special as everyone lead me to believe/I have no idea what I’m doing with my life” attitude that I couldn’t seem to shake. I had roughly 10 days to collect my life, my thoughts, and just leave. The following two months in Singapore were the hardest and most uncomfortable and loneliest in my entire life, and I honestly thought they would finish me.

I was scared of everything. I looked to returning to America as my salvation. Soon, I comforted myself, soon I will be home. A year isn’t so long as I think.

We have lived in fear,
We have lived in fear
And our fear has betrayed us

The fear, the anxiety followed me to Africa, as it has my entire life ever since I was a little girl.

God, why am I so afraid of so much? I’m afraid to be me. I’m afraid to be too much. I am afraid to be to be too little. I’m afraid of being with someone. I’m afraid of being alone. I’m afraid to live. I’m afraid to die. I’m afraid to be in Africa. I’m afraid to be home. I’m afraid to not try new things. I’m afraid of making mistakes. I’m afraid to go out. I’m afraid to stay in. I’m sick of it… I want to stop being ruled by my fear.

            (My Journal, January 30, 2013)

Nothing is a waste
Nothing is a waste
If you learn from it

There are pages and months and pages and time and moments that pushed me forward to today, exactly 8 months from when I wrote that entry, testifying to my struggles, my warrings, my victories, my defeats.

I don’t have words adequate enough to describe the transformation in my heart, in my thoughts, in me that the Spirit has fostered during this time.

Because as I look back at that Stephanie, she feels like a stranger. She didn’t love herself, She didn’t truly love others. She lived her life as a faithful slave to her master Fear. She believed every bad thing that entered her mind. She knew God as another master to be pleased and held on to the idea that He was going to withhold everything good from her because “it would be more holy and good” that way.

Her longing for home was based on fear of the unknown.

I’ve now paid my dues to Fear. Twice over. Once with years of indentured servitude, needlessly, because before all of that, Christ paid Fear back for all that He required of me.

And my freedom came not from being delivered from dealing with Fear, but walking up to him, hand in hand with Jesus, and saying, “Bring it on.”

We’re scared to see if He’ll hold up under the weight of our darkest secrets… We completely restrict His ability to work to church terms, the “spiritual” realm and the areas that are “worthy” of us to invite Him into.  

“Don’t talk about that.” 
“This is the way it’s always been.” 
“I’ve just learned to live with it.”

This year has required me to face everything, literally everything, I’ve ever feared and I come out, not perfect, not having arrived, but having faced many of my personal demons and found Christ to be more than sufficient. 

See, I think that we all have our own Masters that we’re busy actually serving as we pose at “Born-Again Christians”, atleast in my own experience. Mine was Fear. Maybe yours is different.

Maybe we can’t see that. Or maybe we see it and dare not say it because we’re supposed to “have it together”. Or maybe it’s just me, and every single person in church knew all this already, and was busy enjoying the freedom that comes from allowing Jesus into every area of your life. 

Maybe as per usual, I’m the slowest to pick up on it.

Whatever the case may be, I write this to say that I’m bursting with joy because I am free. Actually, truly, not as a matter of Christianese confession, but experientially and personally, free. I am not afraid anymore. Of coming or going, staying or leaving, singleness or being with someone, living or dying, having lots or having little. I am free from Fear. And I feel, as a result, a bit lost.

When you lose half your personality, and half your motivations for making decisions and for feeling things, it’s hard to reconcile your opinions from before. I no longer am excited to go home because it means an “end to being afraid”. I don’t dread it, either, like I had begun to halfway through the year here, afraid that I’d be the same person or miss out on “what God has for me”. I am not afraid anymore. 

Jesus is once again, sufficient.

Going home feels different now than it ever has. I look towards home with tenderness, as a gift to be enjoyed for whatever time I’m given, and no longer as my savior, my answer, my redemption from the Fear.

For that, I am excited. Truly.
Bwana Asifiwe.

(So concludes Part I of ‘How I Feel About Going Home’) 

I took lyrics from this song:  

P.S. I have to apologize if this sounds dramatic or out of place, when maybe I should be talking about all my emotions about leaving the babies and my ministry here. That will be Part 2 and it’s coming soon. I find my mind full of thoughts of coming back and how I’ve grown while I’ve been here, so I sat in front of my computer, wrote and wept. I process through writing, and so, karibu everyone, to my mostly unedited thoughts about reaching the good, old U.S. of A in a little over a month. Also, anxiety really sucks, so this is a blog of great triumph for me. 🙂

“It’s a funny thing about comin’ home. Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.” 
   – F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


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