I drive past their house... the curtains are pulled, no air conditioner hums, all windows are darkened and tightly closed... that never-ending always annoying dust on the terrace is undisturbed.
All this is evidence of a reality that hurts. Their home lies empty. Once full, comforting and inviting, always enticing me to just pop in for a visit, it is now nothing more than an empty shell - and now, like the dust, I'm settling... settling for treasured memories instead of life moments.
My heart feels a little bit empty, too.
And that is a part of this missionary life... life as an expat.
Sometimes the very things you love the most are also the very things that hurt the most; the things that fill your cup and cause it to bubble over can drain most completely.
Hellos are fun - and as I meet and am privileged to call so many, from so many different worlds, friend, I look forward even more to delighting in the next hello opportunity. Choosing and learning to love another, one who is different, who has different priorities and perspectives and can share a whole new store of life experiences grows my heart, stretching me into a better lover of people.
But those goodbyes hurt - oh, do they hurt. Especially when you know that goodbye might be for a very long time... that it might, in fact, be for forever... That place in your heart carved by another person echoes hollow because they are no longer a regular part of your life. Sometimes that empty feels like a longing for a Wendy's Frosty and is filled with the anticipation of some "next time" somewhere in the future; other times it intensifies, becoming an enormous vacuum threatening the collapse of everything around, all that touches it.
Driving past, once again, leaves me wanting...
another shared cup of coffee... or bowl of ice cream,
another laugh over silly kid stories,
another occasion to unite hearts in prayer,
another opportunity to just be we.
...the gift of just a little bit more time, together...
Feeling empty - yet I'm thankful.
It reminds me of the fulfilling presence of precious people I love...
...and all those memories that take the edge off those pangs.