The countdown is on. It's almost time. We are packing and getting things ready. Very soon we will head back to The States for homeland assignment, that couple of months that we spend back in our passport country every 2 years or so. It's a time to reconnect with family and friends, with all the people who support us and partner with us, with church, with culture, with all that is 'home' in Texas. It's an exciting time for us, but also a terrifying time. For different reasons. I'll go in to some of them here over the next couple of weeks. The exciting and the terrifying things about going 'home':
Church – Going back to Texas always means we get to go “home” to church. Yes, we go to church all the time in Spain, but there is nothing quite like going back to your home church. Seeing old friends, hearing the organ and the choir, saying the Lord’s Prayer and Apostle’s Creed or singing the Doxology (no – we don’t say any of those in our church – in Spain or in Peru). There is something very meaningful about worshiping in your first language, about not having to think through the cultural nuances of everything that is being said in your second language. It just feels like ‘home’. On more than one occasion, I have been known to shed a few tears standing in church back in the USA as a familiar hymn was played.
Culturally, sometimes it is a little hard to go back to church in The States. There are some things that we have adapted to very deeply after 10 years overseas. Like music, for instance. It is very odd to be standing in our home church and hearing a song in English, and realizing that we no longer can remember the words in English! We have sung it so often in Spanish, that it now sounds really foreign in English! Weird! And most popular contemporary worship songs, anything that has come out in the last 10 years, we actually learned in Spanish and NOT in English – so we don’t even know the words in English.
Another tough one is timing. In both Peru and in Spain, music is the first part of the service and it lasts a good 45 minutes to an hour, at least 8 songs. Then the preaching follows, and it, too, lasts about 45 minutes to an hour. So we are quite accustomed to that pace now. It’s a little bit of a shock to the system to sing one or two songs and then sit down. And to hear a 20 minute sermon. Just when my mind and my body started to get good and engaged, it’s all over! In Spain, when we have been asked to share about some mission work that is going on or a need or an outreach, we are expected to use a minimum of 20 minutes to share. In The States, we are lucky to be given the Minute for Mission spot in any church we go to, and we are warned to not go over 5 minutes. *sigh* If we are asked to preach or teach in Spain, we have at least 45 minutes. Oh, USA… fast and furious is not always warm or relational. It just feels hurried, and frankly, I’ve had enough of ‘hurry’ in my life. I’m concerned with connection and relationship nowadays.
I have missed my home church, the traditions, the church family. I have missed going in to have coffee and a cookie and hug a few necks before and after the service. I’ve missed watching the little ones run down the aisle for the children’s sermon. I’ve missed being a part of our Sunday School class and our small group community. I’ve missed pot luck dinners. Yes, I think I’m ready to go home and be a part of my home congregation again for a while. I’m ready to reconnect.
Food - Oh my gosh! Food! I’m really excited to get to Texas and eat some good ‘home’ food. People ask us all the time about typical foods from home, and it’s a tough question to answer because most of our favorites aren’t really from Texas at all. I miss Mexican food. Contrary to popular belief, Spanish food is NOT the same as Mexican food. Just because both speak Spanish does not mean cultural foods are alike. For one thing, the majority of Spaniards do not like really spicy foods. So you can forget a good jalapeño or habanero salsa. We made salsa last month for a meal we had for a mix of North Americans and Spaniards and all the local friends were fanning their mouths and fussing at me because it was too hot. I happen to be really lucky to have a wonderful Mexican friend who lives here in Spain, and she keeps us from going crazy for lack of Mexican food. And praise Jesus, can that woman cook!!! So, I haven’t died from lack of good enchiladas yet, but I’m still really looking forward to the Beto Plate at La Casita – just sayin’.
Other foods we are ready for – chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes and cream gravy (no kidding, my mouth just gushed), Texas barbeque, hot wings and blue cheese dressing, and, Katy bar the door – get me to some crawfish etouffee and some boudin! And did I mention Blue Bell? DEFINITELY some Blue Bell!
You’ve probably already guessed why I’m terrified to go ‘home’ and visit all my favorite foods. I’m going to gain a gazillion pounds! It’s very common for mission workers on furlough to gain weight. Aside from the fact that we eat all our favorite things, our bodies are no longer used to the North American diet. In Spain, we eat more of a European / Mediterranean diet. And our food hours are vastly different. Lunch is never before 2pm, and dinner is at 9:30pm or so. Lunch is the big, cooked, family meal of the day. Dinner is very small and very late. No going to bed with a heavy stomach. We use exclusively olive oil. Spaniards don’t cook with butter and almost never use it on bread. Lots of chicken and fish and pork, almost never beef. There are very few preservatives in foods. Some preservatives that are used in the USA are actually banned in Europe. And there is little to no fast food in our town. Eating on the go is taboo. There is only one drive-thru here (McDonalds) and it is outside of town. Basically, our entire digestive system gets flip flopped when we hit American soil.
A friend once said, “It tastes real good at the time, but so does sin… and we all know where that leads.” HA! It’s true that if I was a big girl and would control myself when all those yummy foods pass in front of me, then I wouldn’t have a problem. It’s true that I have the option of saying no, or eating healthy. But it’s also true that I only get to go home once every two years… and who wants to say no to Blue Bell Cookie Dough Ice Cream on a hot Texas summer day? And that Beto Plate – it has been calling my name since 2015, the last time I was home.
Maybe duct tape? Or a mask?
I’m so ready to go see my favorite bookstores! And guess what – they will be FULL of books in ENGLISH! And there will be a huge selection. And I won’t have to try to look them up on Amazon and then realize that the title is not being released in Spain, or that it won’t ship outside the USA, or that there isn’t a Kindle version available. Oh, you have no idea how lucky you are to have bookstores full of English books available to you! For the past 10 years, my best bet for finding books has been to shop the airports when I am traveling. Airports have a halfway decent selection of books in English, and by “decent selection” I mean that you can usually find the top ten on the best seller list. But more than ten or so, not so much. And airport bookstores are pricey. So we spend our layover time perusing the shelves and reading the book jackets in ENGLISH (*giddy giggles). If it sounds like a good one, we jot down the info and try to find it on our Kindles. A good stand-in for the lack of bookstores in my country is the lost and found section at hotels or the swap library in hotel lobbies. I have picked up a couple of really decent reads in hotel lobbies and left one behind for someone else. But none of it compares to sitting in a real, honest to goodness bookstore – cup of coffee in hand, no schedule, just wandering and looking and sitting down to a stack of things that looks really interesting. My husband and I used to go on Barnes and Nobel dates (we’re cheap) where we would go in, get a cup of Starbucks from the café, and then roam around the store for hours.
The downside to all of this is the temptation… I will want lots of books(“I NEEEEEEEEEED this one!”), but books are heavy. Like, real heavy. Seasoned travelers and movers know that a couple of books can make or break that weight limit on your baggage at the airport. So, I probably will suffer more than a little grief over books I won’t buy. My Kindle is a lifesaver and is my only source for most reading material overseas, but at heart, I’m a real paper hardcopy book kinda girl. Give me the real thing, with real pages to turn and savor. But, thank you, Kindle, for being an awesome substitute.
A good bookstore date (or 2, or 5)… I’m really excited about that!
*Stay tuned for the next installment... coming soon!
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!