Just over a year ago, I boarded the first of several planes that would carry me across the ocean to my new home. I'd agreed to come to Lebanon for a year to help the university in administration and see whether God had a plan for me to stay longer. It was also part of my personal journey of reconciling my past as a TCK (third-culture kid) with who I was now. I had longed for 17 years to return and now the opportunity presented itself. So without thinking much, I took it.
Those first few months were difficult as I learned to adapt. I always kept the thought in my mind that after the year was over, I could return to the US. Sure, I wasn't very happy where I'd been working before but I could always look for another job. In the summer, I sat across from my mother at the kitchen table and reassured her that I would be returning in just a few short months.
Then life began to shift in a different direction. Though I'd always felt peace and joy during my time in Lebanon, those feelings were starting to deepen. At the same time, the desire to settle down in a place that felt most like home began to grow stronger. I didn't want to be viewed as a tourist-missionary, even though my roots ran deep. I wanted to shed the foreigner skin and slip into one that was as close to familiar as possible.
So I began to ask how I could stay longer. I filled out paperwork and sent it off in November. It got returned just a few days later to my US address, as the fee waiver was denied. We re-sent it, this time with payment. They cashed the check but by the end of the month another letter came from immigration. This one asked for additional information to support the status I was claiming. As I was traveling to the US in a couple of weeks, I decided to wait to get the letter when I was there so I could easily mail it while stateside.
After several email and phone exchanges with the senior paralegal at the GC, I found myself looking at a letter that seemed to be all wrong for the intents and purposes of the reply I had to send to immigration. I had filed 7 applications for various visa statuses in the past 18 years and I thought I knew what should be submitted. There was more information than seemed necessary, but the paralegal assured me that it was good to send more information. I decided I would have to trust her and God and send the letter in.
Three months to the day of receipt of my initial application, my mother sent me a message through the family chat. Your application has been approved. I stared at the screen, my eyes still blearily trying to focus after a short night. Approved. Three months early.
See when the paralegal was answering my initial questions about the application, she told me that it would take about 6 months to process. I filed everything in plenty of time so I would have an answer by the summertime and know what kind of long-term plans to make. If it was denied, I would likely have to return to the US as I couldn't afford to keep flying back every 5.5 months or so. I wasn't ready to do that, and I reminded God very clearly of how I felt, but I knew it was out of my control.
As the tears came to my eyes, I realized God had given me my very own miracle. I love to hear stories about other people's miracles and I'm always thrilled to see how God is working in their lives, but it's very humbling to see God work so clearly in mine. Somehow it seems that others deserve good things but when God shows up in a God-way in my life, I am amazed at the depth of His care for me.
God knows dates are significant for me. I get nostalgic when a month ends, when my birthday and New Year's come around, and I'd been counting the months til I passed a year here. God also knows that my heart longs to stay and put down roots. I'm tired of living in limbo, being on various visa statuses for so many years. I feel comfortable here. I'm no longer struggling to find joy--it comes naturally. To top it all off, the application that will allow me to stay outside the US for more than the 6 months at a time was approved for an indefinite period of time. It's as if God is saying, Here. You can stay.
Of course I cannot see the future. A month from now I may find myself on another continent, following God's calling. But for now, I'm thankful to know that God has clearly shown me I am in His will and He has a plan for my life. The details may be fuzzy but the intent is sure.
I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. Isaiah 43:19