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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Travel Lessons (Guest Post by Sharon R Hoover)

Stephanie Amores

To be human is to long for 2468 Comfort Lane, Fairfield, Virginia 22030

We pulled into the driveway. Familiarity wrapped me like our faded, blue couch blanket. Home.

I'd been in Africa to serve with a mission partner, Every Orphan's Hope.  English is not the first language of the airlines I flew nor the country I visited. Personal greetings, driving on the left side of the road, and even toothbrushing with bottled water required extra effort. Cultural differences forced vigilant watch on my manners. Awkwardness and uncertainties frequently drove me to my knees in prayer.

But now, home.

Tree-filtered light scatters through windows in our home. My coffee mug waits on the second shelf over the sink. The pillows on the couch lay askew. No one aligned them while I was gone. Normal. The hum of the refrigerator soothes. The TV remote control is MIA. That, too, is normal.

At home, the extra diligence of public awareness turns off. I don't need to evaluate my words or actions. It's the nature of home. I can expose my heart. Raw emotions ooze out in conversations. It's a judgment-free zone of flannels and over-sized clothing. It's my comfort zone.

I could stay here forever.

The casual rhythm of my daily tasks, however, produce an unsettling consequence. My recent travels revealed how comfort overshadows reliance on God. At home, His presence is reduced to occasional prayer for sick friends and family. My days lack the fervent prayer of believers in rural Zambia. Without ample food and finances, their prayers more fully reflected a belief in the omnipotent Creator. My faith at home is self-sustained and neatly tucked away for occasional controlled use.

It had happened incrementally. Conversations with the Lord became rote and uninspired. I switched devotional books to seek freshness in my morning devotions. The dryness continued.

I was jealous of my travel self who experienced God's presence in spirit and in truth. New discoveries of his mercies, unhurried journaling, and expectant prayers with fellow believers had filled my days during our ministry outreaches. I longed to pull out my passport and return to those life-giving, faith-filled days. How could I grasp my Zambia mindset while I lived my days at home?

Then it happened. One morning shortly after returning from Africa, things began to change.

I made coffee. I showered. I drove to work. I read my emails. Electricity, internet, and water flowed without interruption. Unremarkable, right? For the majority of the world, however, it is not!

In Zambia, rolling power outages plunged us into hours of darkness with little more than a flicker's warning. Our local hosts took the lack of electricity in stride. With remarkable ease, for example, they reached for candles and altered dinner plans. Re-arranged evenings allowed time for reflection on God's hand in the day's events.

I discovered when I travel to a foreign land, I willingly release my need for predictable days. The unfamiliar created space for God to move. I longed for the same fullness in life at home.

A newness burst inside me! I don't need to travel to embrace the discovery of Christian living. The key is to develop the mindset of a traveler. If I could reframe my approach to the day, I wouldn't need to be 7,500 miles from home to experience the unknowns of each new morning. This new perspective cultivated heightened curiosity in the ordinary. A flexible lifestyle emerged in the midst of routine.

With the awe of a foreign wanderer, I awakened to the marvels around me. The lightning bolt that split my pine tree screams invisible power and brute force. Winter's first snowfall blankets my neighborhood in a quiet beauty unseen during other times of the year. God's hand and the wonders of creation surround me. I need only unpack my curiosity from the suitcase and get busy living.

We gain freedom when we arrive at this place of kingdom awareness. Indeed, this world is not our permanent home. The Bible tells us that we are travelers in a foreign land. Our true citizenship is in the kingdom of God. We embody this role when our daily perspective shifts from being an earthly resident to a Christ-centered traveler.

I'm learning to travel my everyday life with the sensitivity of a divine traveler.

Home has become more than my comfort zone.

sharon-africaSharon R. Hoover serves as the Director of Missions at Centreville Presbyterian Church (Virginia) and loves traveling to all corners of the planet. She writes and speaks about our awkward journey as Christ-followers. Connect with Sharon on Facebook, Twitter and her blog.