I never guessed, in all my wildest dreams, that I'd find it in Brasilia, Brazil.
In the capital of a country far from Virginia, far from the Blue Ridge Mountain, far from the Japan of my missionary years, and not even registering on my personal "map" until the year 2000. In a place where rain rarely falls. Where the daily humidity during the dry season is sometimes lower than the average humidity of the Sahara Desert. Where supermarkets set out crates of guava, coconuts, pineapples, and nearly unpronounceable jungle fruits. Where hibiscus flowers tangle with passionfruit vines, and trees explode yellow and brilliant pink twice a year. And sparkling curves of sapphire sea roar against sugar-white sands.
Where sun glistens through palm leaves, and it never, ever snows. Where people speak lilting, beautiful Portuguese in throbbing tones, as if singing, and God smiles down on haunting dark eyes and sun-kissed skin - almost too beautiful to look at. Where friends hug and kiss cheeks, and shout and weep in riotous joy over soccer championships and weddings and parties and table-groaning family dinners.
Where who I am is tangled up with who I was, and my Southern roots come face-to-face with old dreams, experiences and blunders that turn me on my head, and new ways of looking at life.
Where are your roots? And how have they held you firm through life's changes?
But don't think for a minute that I live in some tropical paradise, where every day offers pineapples and sunshine. Ha! More often than not it's a challenge for me to hold plugs in the sockets because of bad connections, or worry how I'll take Ethan to the doctor without a car, or shock myself on the bad wiring in the kitchen, or make - for the hundredth time - some silly gaffe in Portuguese that makes everybody turn and stare, or snicker, or correct me. We stumble past endless gang graffiti, and strip off wedding rings and whisper in Portuguese rather than speak English on crowded streets - both of which can and do draw muggers.
You know something? Some days I simply DO NOT WANT TO SPEAK PORTUGUESE! And I wish those loud-mouth soccer commentators would just SHUT UP! There. I've said it.
BUT - in the middle of all the high prices and government scandals and lost career moves (hello, I can't be a journalist in a Portuguese-speaking country!), I've stumbled onto something wonderful: God's amazing grace.
Poured out in moments, in snatches, breathing one word: BEAUTY.
So often, where we least expect it.
Beauty because He made it. He orders our crooked lives. And He takes us to places we'd never have imagined for ourselves in our own comfortable dreams.
If we follow God wherever He calls - to the snowy northern island of Hokkdaido, Japan, or to our neighbor's door, or to that colleague or relative or bank teller we can't stand, or to the dusty plains of Brasilia's dry cerrado cities - I can assure you one thing.
You'll find HOME.