Comforts that Travel Well

One of my favorite moments: when a U.S. customs officer looks up, smiles, and says, "Welcome back." After days (years?) of travel, something inside me heaves a contented sigh.

The past few days, I've been collecting similar moments. Flushing toilet paper. A flight attendant with an American accent, which means neither of us are straining to understand or be understood. Driving a vehicle. Feeling cold (or anything except sweaty). Watching seasons change. Our kids splashing in a bathtub. Thick carpet under tired feet. An engagement ring back on my finger after traveling half way around the world with my parents for repair. Our kids jamming to the radio in the backseat. Silence. Setting up conversations without having to calculate time zone differences. Snuggling under a thick blanket. The joy of children seeing snowflakes again (in May). A fresh breeze of clean air. Sunlight after 6 P.M.

As we find ourselves unexpectedly in the U.S. for medical treatment, we are thankful to experience so many of the comforts we loved first. Comforts that say, "welcome back."

The pandemic is keeping many peoples' happy sighs at arms' length: warm embraces, a table surrounded by loved ones, corporate worship, playground laughter, perusing stores to find gifts, a cup of cocoa and conversation with friends by a fire. We might not get some of these joys this trip, but we have many new ones: a kitchen full of food we didn't buy, a reliable vehicle we never made a payment on, meals we didn't have to cook, comfortable beds, and plenty of games and craft supplies. In enjoying these gifts, we feel God smile on us in the love and generosity of His children.

Living cross-culturally is hard in many ways. Many of the things that bring Americans comfort don't even exist overseas. There are unique joys, but not the ones we came to love when we were young. Certain corners of our hearts sigh most deeply in moments that whisper, "you belong". But wherever we are, we can build habits that create new spaces of comfort within our hearts.

The practice of gratitude requires moving from acknowledging the value of a gift to taking the time to thank the Giver. While the sunny parts of our hearts may shift during travel, our Father of lights does not change with shifting shadows. Every good and perfect gift comes from above. If we have something good, He knew we needed it. And we can thank Him, if we take the time to see He placed us exactly where we belong.


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