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!


Wash Away

During the retreat with 4th grade, it started raining while we were in the chapel. At that time we were almost finished with the few kids brave enough to share a story (or stories) about how they know and feel that they are loved by God. There were some tears by those who talked, and there were also tears from those who simply listened. Though, it was more than just listening. It was feeling and perhaps reliving a story that they didn’t want to or just couldn’t share.

It was a “from the heart and deep within the soul” kind of moment. We’ve had a few retreats before with other grades of varying ages. Some shared more, others have shared less. But what made this particular retreat so different and so very special for me, and perhaps for them, was that it rained.

The rain not only washed away the stuffy heat inside the chapel, but it also washed away some of the hurt, I think. At least, it felt like a cleansing rain. During the brief shower, the kids also had to write something – a short letter to God. I didn’t want to hover or stare while they were writing, so I turned to look outside at the cornfields. I just stared and stared at the landscape and got lost in the view, in my thoughts, in my prayers of thanksgiving for the rain.

Out of nowhere, I started softly humming a song to myself. It was Joe Purdy’s “Wash Away (Reprise)”…

I got troubles oh but not today

Cause they’re gonna wash away, they’re gonna wash away

And I have sins oh but not today

Cause they’re gonna wash away, they’re gonna wash away

With each retreat, I learn something new, something different. For example – that the blood of Christ washed (and washes) away our sins. I have learned that in the pains and the sorrows of this life, we often struggle with our relationships – with our own selves, with family members, even with God. I have also seen that, at least through the stories shared, that even amidst the pains, sorrows, and tremendous hurts, God is there. He is always there, and oh how much He loves us. It’s an incalculable value. However, sometimes we fail to see Him. Sometimes we deliberately turn away.

Whatever the reason, sometimes there are blocks and walls between us and God. Despite our many shortcomings, God knows us well, and in all his infinite wisdom and love, He sent us the Way to wash away those sins, stumbling blocks, and pains.

The blood of Christ alone does the washing, but sometimes, God simply lets the rain do all the work.

(Now go listen to the song in the playlist on the main page!)


Since my first day here, I’ve told the kids repeatedly that I am unable to play fútbol and am terrible. They are so kindly persistent though, and for that, I am actually grateful because it’s forcing me to come out of my comfort zone and shell, to be vulnerable.

As of this writing, I’ve played four games. During each and every game, I’ve passed the ball to the wrong person or to no one at all! Others do victory cheers when they make a goal…I do a victory cheer when I pass the ball to the right person (and especially if I do so shockingly well.) It’s a brief instant of fútbol-playing glory…the kids crack smiles, but I’m pretty sure my cheese-face grin is bigger and my squeals of delight are louder than theirs in those joyful moments, haha.

Each team I’ve been a part of always encourages the players to pass the ball to me. “Pásale a Ashley! Pásale a Ashley!” Passing the ball to me almost always ensures that our team will lose possession of it. Whether it is the group of 9 to 12 year old boys or the teenage/young adult girls, I feel like a part of the team when they shout pass the ball to Ashley. It’s a funny, beautiful thing really, as everyone knows I can’t play to save my life!

It makes my heart soar though.

I also tend to spend more time laughing and running after the ball than actually making any contact with the ball. Seriously though, my face sometimes hurts after games because I spend so much time laughing.

Within minutes of starting my 4th game, I slipped in a puddle and earned my first skinned knee here. Sometime during the game, one of the guys kicked the ball in an attempt to keep it from going out of bounds. One girl and I ran to try and intercept it. The ball soared just over her right shoulder, but I was in the line of fire and had nowhere to go. It felt like I watched the ball move in slow motion in such a short distance, heading straight for my face. BOOM! BAM! One fat lip, a profuse apology, and a solid five minutes of laughter later, we kept playing.

I am learning to love fútbol. It’s awesome. Playing here is great!