I am not sure how to write this post.
It seems surreal that we find ourselves in this place.
How did we get here? Well it was peppered with laughing, first experiences, late nights, ridiculous SnapChat videos, frustrating pictures turned videos…disagreements, frustrations, clash of culture, American experiences, traveling, broadening of horizons, eyes open to the mercy and grace of God. It was full of trips to Wal-Mart to buy yet again, another cup with a straw and pit stop to Starbucks on the way home. One can’t forget the rushed morning routine, getting to school with 1 minute to spare and hoping that the side door would still be open! Donut Palace. Trinity Youth Group. It sounded like the beep of a blue-tooth alarm clock connecting to an iPhone. It’s the sound of an alarm sounding on a Saturday morning after she stayed the night with a friend. Music. A beautiful transition from pop music to contemporary Christian. Homecoming with friends. It tastes like fried eggs and pancakes. It’s laced with failed attempts to make Belgian waffles. Trips to Waffle House instead. Running around the neighborhood, trips to Snap Fitness. Factory Connection, JCPenny’s, Rue21, Forever 21. Prom with a new-found love. Cheeseburgers. Loud music with the windows down. World Outreach Church. Sonic Facebook friends discount. Chocolate shakes. Shooting stars. Eyes and heart opened to the mysteries of God. Insecurity turned confidence. An entire blog post could be made with such descriptions.
July 11th, 2015 my husband and I went to Outback Steak House to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary. While there, we discussed the possibilities of welcoming an exchange student into our home for the 2015/2016 school year. Life-changing. Memorable. Gosh those seem like such cliche words to use but it’s absolutely the truth. We knew that we would be exposed to a different thought perspective. We knew that we would see the world through different glasses. We knew we’d help her do the same. What we weren’t prepared for was for our hearts to be knit together as tightly as they have been. We weren’t prepared for the end of the line…the list of “lasts” that we would experience and the small tears in the stitches of our heart that would happen as a result. I was just telling her last night that our agency is really good about telling you about all the GREAT things that will happen but a description of how incredibly excruciating it would be to transition from having a daughter to being without one. How hard the last month would be. All of these “lasts.” We weren’t prepared for the moment when we would be face to face with the realization that in 2 Tuesdays or 2 church services or 1 month down the road of life….it would no longer involve all 6 of us, but only 5 of us. Part of our heart would be getting on a jet plane to go back to her home country. The unknown span of time was quickly approaching between our, “See you later,” and “It’s SOOO good to see you again!” The intense prayers scribbled in my prayer journal that she will stay close to Christ and lean on Him when she is faced with the Babylonian mindset and that she takes tools out of her Survival Kit when she needs them. This past Wednesday evening, we realized it would be the last dinner at church that she would be here for. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and a cheesecake layered desert. Next to dropping her off at the airport, today was one of the most final things that could happen in a homestay experience. The last day of school.
The morning went like most others. Wake up, make breakfast, make lunch, wait for her to get done getting beautiful (even though she could totally get out of bed and take one of those “I woke up like this!” pictures), load up in the car, squeal tires to get to the drop of line by 7:54 so she could get in the door and to the gym by 7:55. What wasn’t the same was the fact that as I turned the last left turn to head to the school, I realized that it would be the last time we would be doing that. The last time to rush around. The last time to say, “Have a good day, Belgian! Make your brain big!” The last time to watch her walking up the sidewalk. The last time to plan my day to get everything done before leaving the house to pick her up at 2:30….wait…I didn’t even have to do THAT today because she was going home with a friend. Yesterday she went home with Derek….that means…Wednesday was the last day for that, too. The whole way home I was in a fog. Could this really be coming to an end? Is this really it? See, in my mind, when we started, the end would never come. That was something that would happen WAAAAaaay in the future…as in…never. Yet, reality set in today. The end is nigh. The end is in 11 days. Wow…
Here’s the crazy part. As much as I am hurting and so sad that this is coming to an end, I realize that there’s two (sometimes three) sides to every story. I realize my pain is someone else’s joy. Partially Audrey’s but whole-heartedly her family’s! They have been waiting 10 months to hold their daughter/sister/niece/granddaughter in their arms. To hold her close. To hear about her day. To share life with her. My selfishness of not wanting to give her back was someone else’s generosity 10 months ago. Her parents supported her decision to pursue a homestay, spent time, money, energy and effort to make sure she had everything she need to be successful. My tight grip was someone else’s loose hand. They took her to the airport and put her on a plane to somewhere they had never been with people they had only skyped with twice.
If I look back on this year, I have to thank God for putting this whole thing in motion when Audrey was just a little girl. I believe all things that happen in life are filtered through our Father’s hands. Do I believe her love for the USA and for the English language happened by chance? Nope. Do I think that she was born into a family where her father speaks English? Nope. Do I think that it’s by chance that she mustered up the courage to apply for and actually follow through with going to a different country when she had never even traveled alone in her life. Not a chance. Do I think that her finding our music interesting was coincidence? Ha! No way! Do I think the stars aligned in such a way that made it possible for for her to placed in our home? Are you Crazy? The only explanation I can find for this last year is that God knew before the creation of this world that this year would take place. That an 18 year old girl from Belgium would need to hear the Gospel. That she would listen and learn for 10 months and then go through a complete life change. I believe he knew that in order for all that to happen, she would need to leave what was comfortable and go to a place where she would be show the love of Christ on a daily basis. Perfect love? No, we are incredibly flawed to say the least. But…a perfectly imperfect love is what we had to offer her. It is amazing to know that I have a daughter which I have carried in my heart this year. She came a stranger and leaves my Sister. Oh Lord, I am so unworthy of this gift. Thank you for bringing her into my life and allowing me to witness a miracle in her life. You really leave me awestruck as I think about this beautiful wanderlust of a young woman. Lord, have your way with her life. To you be the glory. Amen!