Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Back in Dallas

When we moved to Dallas I was not super enthused about being in Texas. I'd lived here for a year when I was in third grade and had neutral memories, and I was pretty afraid of Dallas Theological Seminary turning my husband into a scary fundamentalist. 

I quickly lost my fear and gained lots of respect for DTS, but I struggled with Dallas. It's not a city like Chicago, it had a pretty tame downtown and I viewed it as endless suburbs with a stereotypical American culture that I couldn't relate to. I struggled to adjust my city self to Dallas life, where I couldn't get around using the train and half the streets didn't even have sidewalks to walk on. I was super negative for a long time about Dallas. I didn't love my job. I was wrestling with my faith and pretty shocked by the Christian culture in the evangelical world around here (in contrast to Chicago, where there was quite a bit of diversity in political opinion within the church). I was lonely but at the same time held relationships at an arms length. It was only with time and walking through life with people here that I came to be rooted, deeply in relationship, and thriving in Dallas. By the time we left I loved my job, we were strongly connected to our community group, and I had discovered that Dallas had a ton of cultural and ethnic diversity (even in north Dallas!) that is usually hiding in strip malls and unassuming neighborhoods. 

And now. It's 11 years since we moved here. We came back on furlough and didn't know where to go. Where is our American home? I had thought that since I didn't super love Dallas, we'd probably make our furlough homes near family. However, almost every member of our family has moved recently or is moving soon. There's no roots put down for us to join in on! Plus we needed to be near our church in Dallas for fundraising purposes. We struggled to find short-term housing, though, so we ended up traipsing across the country for months and just staying here in Dallas for about two months, since that's all we could book and afford with what we found. 

By the time we were finally headed to Dallas, we were longing for it. We know our way around here. We have friends here. Being familiar, knowing what to expect, having our own place to land in, being able to be normal for a while... 

Would we be normal? That was sort of the question. Would it be super weird to hang out in our old lives for two months as if we still belonged when in reality everyone else's lives had moved on and we didn't fit anymore? Would it feel like we were these people hanging out in a megachurch trying to make connections and actually feeling lost? If that's how it felt, we would probably have given up on Dallas except as a short stop to visit friends and supporters. 

Ironically for me, the person that so resisted Dallas, being here has felt like being home. Even if Dallas isn't the coolest city, I know it. I drive around automatically. The familiarity is HUGE for us. People are surprised that we're here when we don't have family here, but oh the friendships are sweet. Old work friends, church friends, friends from wherever. The kind of friends you get together with and just have a good time and do a lot of laughing? Yeah. 

And our church? Yeah, it is huge. But as I've always said, it's like a network of house churches in the midst of a big Sunday gathering? This time around we have the great blessing of having our small group exist almost the same as when we left 4.5 years ago. So we hopped into those small group meetings just the same as before. It was kind of surreal, driving the same roads to the same houses with the same people asking the same questions as if all those years hadn't passed. It was just a place to belong, to be known. And community groups at our church are pretty counter-cultural in the way they work. We ask each other questions like, "Tell us about your last conflict with your spouse?" It would be scary except that it's not anymore, it's SO SO good to talk through hard things about marriage and parenting and finances and everything in the setting of a loving community whose goal it to point towards Jesus and redemption in everything. Saves on counseling, you know, to navigate things with community! Ah, I'm so grateful for it. 

And because of the way our church works, the friendships we have here from before, and even the new people we connect with, there's this common ground that has been built in all of us. Common values, common vision for life and purpose and meaning. It's unlike most of my experiences in trying to build new relationships and support-raising, in this community (despite it being enormous), there is such great commonality and connection and mutual understanding. It's downright enjoyable to sit down and get to know new people and talk about why we moved overseas and what our vision is for it. 

I really like the community of our church. It's not a perfect church by any stretch of the imagination, but oh I am so grateful for it. 

And because of that, yeah, being in Dallas has been unexpectedly like being at home. It has been a place of rest, a place to process, a place to sort through things. I think we'll keep coming back to Dallas as our home base, even though we don't have family here. 

AND this little apartment God brought to us. It's one-bedroom and the kids sleep in the living room but it's such a gift. It's stable. It's furnished. The back door opens to open space and a little playground. I'll treasure the memories of afternoons playing outside. Of going on nature walks and park dates with the kids. Of seeing summer turn to autumn. Of celebrating halloween and autumn and Christmas all at once because soon we'll be back where it's tropical and doesn't feel like holiday weather anyways. 

I'm thankful. 

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