“I wonder how large those windmills are in person?”
The results of the conversation were an up close view of the giant windmills dotting the Portuguese landscape and a few fun pictures.
“Do you want to come have lunch at my place with a group of the youth from church, followed by a hike?”
One massive lunch and one misty Irish hike resulted in one memorable conversation about life and guys.
“Would you like to join us on Saturday when we go to the westernmost point in continental Europe?”
Saying yes meant the realization that I wasn’t an imposition in others’ schedules; they genuinely desired to include me in their excursions.
“Let’s go to Sintra today.”
Saturday adventures with a dear friend resulted in crazy stories to tell Monday morning at school and a chance to revisit our favorite tourist spots while feeling more like locals and less like tourists.
“Want to go with us to watch the sunrise and a portion of a professional surfing competition?”
An early morning on the beach on the Fourth of July is one of my most precious memories from my time in South Africa.
Serving overseas resulted in a multitude of memories. Adventures from Morocco to Madrid. Crazy stories about Paris and Luxembourg. All of these memories are less about the place and more about the people, people who have shaped who I am today. They extended an invitation. They took the initiative to do something different or new. They cared enough about me to include me in their outings and adventures and experiences. Deep, lasting friendships were formed as I wandered streets and trails and beaches with others.
Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,” comes to mind as I remember the people who invested in my life during my time overseas. Individuals, couples and families who loved and cared about me. Who exposed me to new foods and new places. Who regularly invited me into their homes. Who consumed copious amounts of coffee and pastries with me. Who meandered through foreign cities with me.
The people woven into my countless memories have enriched my life in a multitude of ways. Their encouragement and wisdom helped me grow in my faith and inspired me to keep pressing on, even when life is difficult. They have lived out godly marriages and modeled godly parenting. These people who have shaped my life are regularly in my thoughts and prayers. They are the faces I see when I put on a pair of earrings from Portugal in the morning or set my water glass on a coaster from South Africa. They were some of the first people I texted and emailed when my husband and I began dating seriously and the ones I think about on holidays, wondering if the Christmas bread or chowder tastes as amazing as usual.
Transitioning back to my passport country has meant moving forward and not dwelling in the past, remembering past memories while making new memories, and taking what I learned and experienced and figuring out how to incorporate all of it into life now. Some days it’s answering a co-worker’s question regarding international shipping; other days it’s calmly walking into a situation where I only know a handful of people. On Friday afternoons it’s reminding myself I survived life overseas so I can survive the last few hours of my work week. Most importantly I am regularly reminded to reach out to those around me with kind words and a smile and to faithfully pray for others.
How we live our lives leaves more of an impact on people than the adventures we share with them. I pray this reminder challenges you in your life as much as it challenges me in mine – to faithfully serve the Father and to love others well.
How have the people you’ve created memories with impacted your life?