Home is Not Places

Final Part of the “Home” series

Just like the source of my blog’s name, this song perfectly pinpoints how I felt when I was making the decision about what to do after college. For the longest time, well ever since my first visit to NPH El Salvador back in 2008, I was pushed and pulled in this direction. To be a volunteer not just within the greater NPH family, but specifically El Salvador. It’s as if God said, “This is your home too. Go.”

So, I went. I came. I am living here in El Salvador.

“Home is Not Places” by The Apache Relay is one of my favorite songs. It came into my life during college, right when my concept of what home was to me began to morph into something bigger than I could have ever imagined. In comparison to the other songs in this series, this song helps me understand and explain the feeling that I had to move, to leave. Rather, it helped me understand that my life was moving forward in a slightly different direction than most of my friends and peers…and that it was okay and perfectly normal. Granted, moving to another country and culture and simultaneously giving up your settled way of life is not something everyone does, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. But it was for me.

Feel it burn in my soul.
Like a wound that is exposed.
I need to run, I need to go.
I took my time, I got no more.
So take me somewhere I don’t know
‘cause home is not places it is love.

There was this indescribable feeling within me. I’m pretty sure the decision had been made long before I was truly conscious of it, if that makes any sense. I knew that in order to be the person that God wants me to be, leaving was part of the deal. Be the person I think I should be, or be the person God calls me to be?

I would be lying if I said that it’s easy to be the God calls us to be. Sometimes that path is easy, but sometimes it is not so much a walk of cake rather that it is more like walking across hot coals (or cement that’s been baking in the sun all day, in my case ha!) However, in this particular point of my life, being the person God wants to me to be, making that step of coming to NPH El Salvador, that was easy. It isn’t often that I have those moments of clarity and know exactly what God asks of me. NPH was and is one of those things that God doesn’t have to hit me on the head to know.

Though I did take my time getting around to doing it, as the song says, I finally had no more time to keep this part of my life at bay. I have been here before, so I had a pretty good idea of what things looked like as a visitor. However, life as a truly entrenched member of this family is something completely different. So instead of coming to a place I didn’t know, in essence, I came to an unknown role.

The one thing I did and do know is that the song is right, home is not a place. It is love. I may not be back in Tennessee or Ohio with my family members and friends, but I feel their love and carry it with me. I am living in a place full of love. At first it was a few buildings and a room that looked nothing like my old apartment or parents’ house. Now, it is my big house. I’ve got a couple hundred people I love and who love me back.

And I, I don’t want no control,
‘cause home is not places it is love.
It is love.
It is love.
It is love.
It is love.

Part of our life’s journey and God’s plan may involve leaving what we think we know and are supposed to do. Take comfort in knowing that a home is not a place. A home is where there is love, where you feel it and give it in return. That can be anywhere in the world!

The time for me to leave NPH is rapidly approaching. I hate it. However, I take comfort in knowing that this will always be my home too. Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos El Salvador has become (well, has been) part of the fabric of my being. It’s not a home or an institution, but rather a place of love.

And so, there is the conclusion to the Home series. I hope it helped you in figuring what home is and means to you!

Don’t forget to go to the main page to check out the song “Home is Not Places” by the ever wonderful The Apache Relay.

Paz y bien.

*Oh! Also! I couldn’t resist the connection as this song is too great to not mention more about my experience with the band. I’ve been lucky enough to see The Apache Relay four times. Not only are they incredibly talented musicians and put on a great show, but they are very humble and wonderful people to talk to. As is my penchant at any concert or for any artist, I like to hang around after shows in the event that I have the wicked cool opportunity to meet them.

I’ve talked to Michael, the lead singer a few times. The first time I met him was after my third time seeing them. Michael gave me this big old bear hug after I told him that I still hadn’t heard them play my favorite song of theirs live, “Home is Not Places.” We then chatted about some other things, and then right before we parted, he gave me a handwritten set list…which is so awesome!

A few days before I saw them in March 2013, I sent out a tweet to the band/Michael, casually but not so subtly asking if they might have tossed Home back into the set list. I realize that any band might get a bit tired of playing certain things, but I still had to see. The evening came. My sister and I drove an hour to see them, ate overpriced Chinese food next to the venue, got front row/stage view standing positions, and the show was awesome. After playing a mix of old and new tunes, the show had ended and Home was not played. Admittedly very bummed, I still was looking forward to the encore. Then Michael came back out on stage by himself with an acoustic guitar. I thought it was odd.

Then he started playing a stripped down version of Home is Not Places, and I almost cried it was so beautiful.

After the show was really over, Ape (my sister) and I hung around. I was fortunate enough to talk to Michael again, and I profusely thanked him for playing Home. “No problem!” he said. He told me that he had seen the tweet I sent, and instead of replying, he thought he’d make a surprise of it and just played it at the end of the show. How cool and sweet and awesome is he? Very. Moral of my concert story – people are awesome.

Now, for real. Paz y bien!

Keep Your Head Up

As I mentioned previously, I was without a working laptop charger for 2 weeks. During that time, a lot happened. The biggest challenge that I faced during those weeks was being ill. What came of that trial was even greater than I expected. I woke up on the fifth day, sick. For a few days after, I thought I was getting better, only to find in the middle of the week that I had seemingly gotten worse.

I fully expected to get sick. That’s completely natural, here or in the United States or wherever I am. This is a completely different environment, so change and adjusting to it is inevitable! I just wasn’t prepared to get so sick, so early on in my time here. I’m also a big baby and don’t like being sick. I did not feel well at all, and I could tell it was affecting my interactions with others, simply for the fact that I wasn’t interacting a lot. Admittedly, I had a few desperate moments, tinged with doubt.

I feel much better now. It is wonderful! I expect I’ll get sick again, that’s just the nature of the beast. But what I discovered during my sick time was that you just have to keep your head up. Keep going forward. As terrible and gross as one may feel, as long as you have the ability to keep functioning, albeit in a somewhat diminished capacity, then go. Be. The world doesn’t stop on your account or mine. Life keeps going!

Admittedly, it took me a while to realize that. Music helped, naturally. One night, trying to wind down, I had the sudden need/urge to listen to Ben Howard. Right away, the song that got my attention was “Keep Your Head Up.” It’s very uplifting, as the title implies. And honestly, it was a song that I needed to hear.

Keep your head up.

Keep your heart strong.

Keep your mind set.

Keep your head on.

You see? He’s a nice lad with some pretty awesome tunes. And in case you were wondering…I have seen him live! The closest he was playing to home was in Washington, DC. So, my sister and I took an 8-9 hour bus ride. We couldn’t stay for the whole show because it started late and we had a bus to catch home…but what we were able to see took my breath away. My jaw dropped and stayed open for pretty much the entire first song, which I had never heard before. Incredible, just incredible seeing him live. What also made it even cooler was that we were 3 feet away from him, haha.

Anyway, I started to round the corner health-wise when a couple from Miami came to visit for a week. They are great people who helped me immensely, and I believe God had their visit timed so that our paths could cross. They also stayed in my room while they were here, and it was an enriching experience talking with them and especially drinking tea with them. (That’s a big deal because I’ve never been a tea drinker, but it’s a habit that I think I’ll keep up!) They left Friday morning, and I was a bit sad to see them go.

These last few weeks have been full of company outside of the children that live here (some friends from Tennessee were here for a week, Fr. Ron came down from Chicago for a few weeks, and Kyle the seminarian was here with me for a few weeks!) It’s been nice to be able to share my experience with others and to share in the lives of these children. NPH is something that needs to be shared. It’s my hope to do that with you all, even if you cannot come down here…though I strongly encourage you to do so.

Even ill, my experience has been one of growth. I found the strength within myself to keep going, through prayer and lots of phone calls home to Mom. In the end, I was able to keep my head up. I firmly believe that we are all capable of doing so, even in the toughest of situations. Sometimes it may take time to come to that point where we believe in ourselves, when we have unfailing trust in God. That day will come, if it hasn’t already. Just remember, keep your head up! Keep your heart strong! Keep your mind set! Keep your head on!

Paz y bien.

Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise

One aspect of this blog that I haven’t explained is the musical component. So much of my life for the last few years has been greatly influenced and even sustained by music. I often struggle with how to describe what I am feeling or how I am affected by life in general. Musicians seem to be able to know, without knowing me of course, what my heart wants so desperately to explain.

So, on the main page (don’t have the time to move things around/experiment just yet) you’ll find “Leaving If Necessary – The Soundtrack.” Cheesy? Probably. It’ll feature (hopefully) a running/current playlist of songs that I mention or are key parts of posts.

Let’s begin, shall we? The first song on the playlist is “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise” by the Avett Brothers. The whole song lyrically is awesome, but the earworm of the days preceding my travels to El Salvador and what is still stuck in my head is:

If you’re loved by someone you’re never rejected. Decide what to be and go be it.

I am able to be here by the grace of God and the love of others. The love of my family, my friends, the parishioners of St. Thomas and from the people that I worked with…all that love has helped bring me to this point. I know that a lot of you wanted me to stay home, to remain with you, but in the same breath you also understood what serving NPH means to me. For that love and understanding, I am forever grateful. The title of the song also lends itself to some feelings I’ve been harboring, but I think that comes with the territory.

Most of the people I know associate me with going to concerts. I’ve gone to a lot of them in the last two years. Going to concerts and being part of a live music atmosphere makes me incredibly happy. In an odd way, it is fulfilling. At times, depending on the song and the gusto behind it, I find it very spiritual or appropriate for what’s going on in my life. I’ve only cried once during a concert…but I’ve almost cried a few times, haha, especially when I finally had the chance to see artists/groups that I absolutely love. A few weeks before I left Knoxville, I was able to finally see Avett Brothers. I’ve been waiting a long long long time to see them. And guess what song started the show? …Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise. God is good, all the time.

I leave you with a song and encourage you to give it a thorough listen. Maybe even look up the lyrics? Whatever your heart desires.

Paz y bien mis amigos. Hasta luego.