I just renewed my visa to stay in the United Kingdom, and as I have filled out the application and gathered all of the materials, I thought about my last fourteen and a half months in the United Kingdom. My life is different than it was fifteen months ago, when I graduated university and moved across the ocean. I am also different. But God? He's the same.
Here are some of the things that I learned:
1. I do not need a room to myself.
But seriously. My whole life, I had my own room. Except for my freshman year at university, I have always had a place where I could shut the door and breathe, where I could block everybody out, and where I and my possessions were safe. I thought that it was necessary for my sanity. I thought that it was my right.
But having my own room is not my right. As I write this, I am in a room with three other girls, all whom I love dearly. I have half a cupboard to my name, and I sleep in a top bunk, and let me tell you, I am just grateful to have a bed.
Even having a bed is not my right.
It is my privilege to be here. It is my privilege to share a room with these three women of God. I learn from them every day, and when I go through hard times, I don't even have to lift my head; they are right there.
Sure, there are times that I want to get away. But I can always run or take a walk or take a shower. Being an introvert and living in community is a challenge, but it has also taught me how to be vulnerable. It has taught me how to live life without hiding from things that overwhelm me. And if I had to guess, I'd say that it's probably preparing me to have a family.
2. I am just as loved when I am struggling as when I am doing well.
Part of living in community means that I am around people all day, every day. I cannot hide my bad days behind a smile and a tight-lipped, "I'm fine." These people that I live with are my family, and they genuinely want to know how I am doing. And when I'm not doing well, they love me just as much as they do when I am good and lovely and caring and giving. In fact, when I am really struggling, they show me love even more clearly. God is a relational God. He created me for a relationship with Him, but also for relationships with others. It is in those relationships that I often see His love for me acted out.
3. Home is not necessarily where you have a bed or a key. Home is where you wake up and know where the breakfast stuff is (and how to work the shower).
By this definition, I have three homes in this YWAM base. And while I do not sleep in all three of our base houses, I know where the breakfast stuff is in all three, and I definitely know how to operate the shower. I also know that, if I knock on the door, I'll be greeted with a hug, coffee, and a lot of love. I think that is really what home is: being greeted at the door with love.
4. Showering is overrated (at the same time, showering is a way to feel sane again).
When we do Notting Hill Carnival, we live in a church and have to walk 20 minutes one way to shower at a sports centre. With all of the preparation and evangelism, there isn't time to shower every day. And during Carnival weekend, we go for four days without showering and with all 90 people living in one church.
It can get pretty gross.
But at the same time, it has taught me that I don't need to shower to be a human. People can rarely tell that I have not showered every day. Showering is another thing that I grew up with and assumed was my right. But showers have not been around for long. Millions of people lived before them, and they seemed to do just fine.
However, I also know that, when things go really wrong, a shower is often what I need to feel sane again. Just the act of cleaning my body helps cleanse my mind and spirit. Which brings me to,
5. Cleaning is a great time to talk to God.
In YWAM, we do this thing called work duties. Basically, the whole team comes together to clean the house. It is a daily activity (when you live in community, you need to clean the house every day), and it is one of the best times that I have with God every day. While my body is busy scrubbing toilets or mopping floors, God has a chance to speak to me without being interrupted. It has gotten to the point where just the thought of washing dishes makes me think about God.
6. You do not need to talk to somebody daily (or weekly) to keep a strong relationship with them.
This was one of my big fears when I joined YWAM. I did not want to end my relationships in the States just because I was moving to England. Everybody says that, with Skype, it's easy to keep in touch, but I think we all know that that's a bit of a lie. It takes a lot of time to Skype people, and to set up Skype dates. With a time difference, there is even more of a challenge. But I have learned that when I finally do get to Skype with the people that I love, it's as if the past fifteen months have only been a month or two. The love and communication is still there.
7. National Holidays are still important, even if you are not in your own country.
Today, we celebrated Chile's Independence. We ate empanadas and danced to traditional songs. At Thanksgiving, I ate three Thanksgiving dinners. The base also celebrated Norway's independence day, and we have Argentinian barbeques several times a year. I love getting tastes of other cultures and seeing the pride that people have for their homeland, even when it has been years since they've lived there. I also appreciate that the people I live with will celebrate days that are important to me, even though they may not understand why it is necessary to sing "I'm proud to be an American" seven or eight times on the Fourth of July. Living in England does not mean that I was not raised in the United States, and it does not mean that my Chilean teacher does not feel pride for her homeland on their special day. It really just means that we have more reasons to celebrate.
And more reasons to fiesta!
8. My value is in who I am, not what I do.
Having a university degree does not make me more valuable. Being able to speak more languages would not make me more valuable, nor would being the best toilet cleaner, or the best email writer. My value is that I am God's creation and daughter. My value is equal with Christ. I have security in that fact alone, not in who loves me or where in the world they are. Certainly not in my bank account. Not in where I sleep or what I do during the day.
I know this seems a bit deep and poetic, but it is a revelation that has taken me 14.5 months to come by. I am valuable. I am just as valuable as I was when I was born, and I cannot lose that value. It does not depend on you. It does not depend on my family here in London, or my family at home. The same is true of you. I do not determine your value. Neither does your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, roommate, boss, or professor. You are worth the life of Jesus. Your value is the same as the son of God. That is exactly what you are.
God loves me (and you) just as much as He loves Jesus.
9. I love the God I serve.
This is not new, but my love only grows as I learn more about my Father.