Instead of giving something up for Lent, I decided that each night I would make a list of things I was thankful for that day. Just 3-5 things that I was grateful for each day, things that brought joy, and by the end of Lent I will have close to 200 things I am thankful for. 200 little every-day-average-but-also-amazing blessings. Last night I wrote on my list “my closest friends” and then had the urge to scribble it out and write, “my far away friends”… My close friends? A phrase we use all the time without thinking. I have (like most people) always used it to describe those who are closest to my heart. Right now, however, close is relative and if I were to measure it in distance, my “closest” friends are actually many many many many exhausting kilometers away from me.
It felt weird to write “my closest friends” but at the same time to say “my far away friends” feels sad. The truth is, the people I call close, who have known my heart, who have walked with me, who have encouraged me, loved me, and can understand my thoughts without words are actually very far away in this stage of life. AND there are people who are physically close, roommates and teammates and Uruguayans, who are gaining trust, building me up, encouraging me and creeping into this heart of mine.
Saying goodbye to my people last August was painful. I cried and cried and cried… Leaving K’s wedding reception, I hugged my friends and cried on the steps. I cried on a corner in downtown Minneapolis as we parted ways and got into our separate cars to go home. I sobbed in the parking lot of 1301 as I hugged Hales and finally handed over my keys. I cried in the airport leaving Em and Meg and my family. I cried literally the entire flight from Minneapolis to Dallas, reading and rereading cards filled with love and encouragement from these people, my home team. It was change and it was fear and it was the thought of doing life without my closest friends that hit me the hardest.
And now I’m here. Montevideo, Uruguay, everybody. Seven months in, still with my same close friends. Still with weekly phone calls, constantly praising God for iMessage, and scheduling Skype dates intentionally amidst busy schedules and time differences. I am so thankful for the people I get to call my people in the States. I am so thankful for my home team. And looking back now I can’t believe I was so afraid to leave them. I also can’t believe how blinded I was that I never thought about all of the beauty I would find in the people here. I never could have dreamed up the joy I have found in friendships with Uruguayans. Now I can’t imagine leaving these people behind either. Now no matter where I go or what I do, I will always miss someone. I will always have to figure out how to connect with people over States lines and over oceans. Now, no matter where I go, I will always have far away friends. This makes me happy and sad all at the same time but most of all it makes me thankful. I am oh so thankful for the journey the Lord has given me and for all of the people and friendships He has blessed me with along the way.