Saturday, February 15, 2014

Discovering Home: Thoughts on Visiting Maui & Buying a House in Alaska

The soft glow of my light blue vintage-style “Hawaii 50th State” lamp beckons my thoughts back to two weeks ago, when Ken and I visited my family on Maui, where natural light and warmth gently nudged me awake each morning, rather than the multi-purpose lamps I now have scattered throughout our new home. If I pause long enough from typing, I can almost hear the sound of the myna birds and coqui frogs as they bellow their morning song. My senses are suddenly overpowered once again by the fresh scent of Plumeria flowers and my heart draws me back to Maui; the tropical landscape that I’ve called home for all these long years. It’s like I’m there:

Tiny crickets chime in on key with their grand cacophony of whistle-like humming. A sweet yet sticky aroma hangs in the air and the intense moisture from Maui’s humidity clings to my skin—the dryness I experienced in Alaska is now covered in nature’s healing balm. I recognize that in this climate my skin is most comfortable.

Only a few minutes past 6 a.m. and I’m recharged and refreshed from a good night’s sleep—we had the windows open and the fresh, cool trade winds kept us at just the right temperature the whole night. Mashed overripe bananas are the “perfect” accompaniment to the oatmeal muffins I start making for breakfast. Rich, buttery bread encased in a lightly toasted crumb holds the moist banana center in a perfect balance. Ken and I sit down at our family friends’ giant marble slab table and dig in to our local farm-fresh eggs medium-fried alongside freshly-baked organic apple-banana bread, made from bananas my mom picked from trees outside the house I grew up in. This is a slice of Heaven, I think to myself, as the intoxicating blend of bananas and butter smells just like Komoda’s stick doughnuts—my all-time favorite dessert from Makawao town’s local bakery.

But alas, these comforting memories of the place where I grew up and visited recently, remind me that I am not on Maui anymore. I’m here in Alaska, specifically the main city of Anchorage, where temperatures hover above zero degrees this time of year. There are no coqui frogs outside—at least whose song I can recognize, there are instead dogs of varying breeds interspersed throughout our neighborhood, whose frustrated howls replace those friendly morning songs. And the light that now fills my vision is a rather muddled hue, not the welcome daily sun that rises along the Pacific islands.

I find myself reminiscing with joy and fascination at the romantic childhood I was blessed to experience. I am from Maui, and that is a gift. It is something I take with me wherever I go.

My sisters and I grew up in a bucolic setting, among acres of green fields home to spotted cows, Billy goats, and riding horses. Adventures abounded for us as children living in a small town on the slopes of Haleakala. My friends and I fought countless battles involving ripe guavas (and some unfortunately, not ripe enough), and would hide out in those barbed wire fenced fruit lots, climbing trees and watching cars pass. Not a care in the world, except of course how we’d love to climb the social ladder at school or be noticed by our crush. My best friend Katheryn and I would spend hours after school dreaming about our futures and how we both wanted to travel the world. Success in our careers always seemed secondary to the spirit of adventure. I suppose this love for seeing the world and immersing myself in new cultures and climates is a big part of how I am finding satisfaction in places that can feel very foreign at times.

Visiting Maui on this past trip helped me understand how very divided my heart has felt over the past 10 years. When I left for college in 2003, I felt a wave of intense joy and also grief that I carried with me throughout the past decade. It was a combination of mismatched feelings that included wanderlust, the fear of settling down, anxiety over missing out (“FOMO” as my friend Jen calls it), and the hope that there will always be something more beautiful to see in this wide expanse of world—I just need to find it. I suppose that for many people, growing up on Maui (or wherever they are from) already seems like Heaven, so why ever travel or move? That makes sense and yet, it was never my calling—to stay. I believe that God placed these desires to travel and see the splendor of His creation on my heart at a young age and tangibly provided the means to fulfill my dreams in this way.

In the past, I think I’ve shared how at age 14, I traveled to Australia on a crew team competing in the World Canoe Sprints. Then, at age 16, I was given the opportunity to be an exchange student to Okinawa, Japan. Since then, I’ve traveled throughout the United States and Canada and visited all the places in Europe previously scribbled on my Bucket List. God truly met me in allowing me to see the world and learn about people and the places they live. My overwhelming sense of curiosity was tempered through these trips although I always felt a sense of longing to be back on Maui—the only place I truly felt at home. I suppose that I never felt rooted anywhere else. Throughout my travels, the places I slept were never ‘home’, they were just a bed (or a floor) where I could rest my head at night. I always missed my family and the illusive feeling of being settled and safe.

But I think that is starting to change. This visit to Maui, I noticed something. Something small and almost indescribable.

It was something in me that had changed.

While I love Maui and find my heart at home being near my family and the sights, sounds, and tastes of island living, I have a growing awareness that I am safe and at home regardless of my present circumstances or physical location. Home is not a place that I can pinpoint on a map; rather it’s a feeling of being rooted in my faith and my marriage, coupled with the desire to press in and find community wherever God has me. Right now, home is in Alaska where God recently provided Ken and me with our first house that we officially own. Already it feels like home, even though we barely have furniture to fill the space and can find multiple things worth ‘fixing’ or ‘replacing’ or ‘updating.’ Christ is doing something in me and in us, and it’s so exciting. He’s showing me that I’m safe in Him and at home—a place I’ve longed to be my entire life.

Praise God.

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