Thursday, May 7, 2015

"Welcome Home"

The boarder agent at MSP airport, friends at church, family, and the extremely friendly cashier at Target. This is just a short list of people that said the title of this post to me, "welcome home".

A few weeks ago, we traveled back to the US to celebrate my brother's wedding to his wonderful bride. It was a really great trip filled with meeting new friends, short visits with old ones, and some sweet family time. After two and a half years away, I did not know what to expect coming back to the US. The phrase that caught me the most was "welcome home."

Often my answer in the moment was simply "thank you," but inside I was feeling conflicted. There is a real sense in which Minnesota is "home" to me. I know the streets there better than probably any place and some of my favorite places are in that state. Despite all this, I have not lived in Minnesota for an extended period of time since before I married Bethany. So much in my life is different now, and so many things have changed. 

There are other places that could vie for "home" status. We lived in Chicago both before and right after we got married. This place is very important to me, with great friends and a wonderful church.

I can try to apply pithy phrases as "home is where the heart is" or "home is where my rump rests", but I think living in a foreign culture has changed my definition of home. My apartment here in Austria has become my home. After two weeks of being away from Vienna, it felt great to hear and speak my adopted language again. We have built a life here, and it feels like this is home. But the reality is, I will never speak German as well as Ellie will, and I will never completely understand all the cultural subtleties around me. This place is home, but I will in some ways forever be an outsider.

At this point in life, Vienna is home. We love speaking German, and we love living here. We have relationships here, and we know enough about the culture to navigate some of the obvious pot holes that Americans generally fall into. This doesn't mean that we don't feel a connection to the States or to other places, but we are so blessed to be settled and feel integrated in our host culture.

Home is a tricky concept for those that straddle cultures. In some ways, it feels like no matter where we go, a piece of our heart will be elsewhere. For me, this is because I have given my heart away, and I think that is exceedingly important.