She's home! The eaglet has landed! We're so delighted to have Lauren here. Our full house is complete--three of a kind and a pair. Every once in a while I do a mental happy dance: Five plates on the table! Lauren's laugh drifting in from the other room! A full car for road trips! Sibling dance offs and song sharing. I love knowing that all of my chicks are sleeping under our roof. I know it's fleeting and will be increasingly rare so I'm just basking in it as much as possible. My people are humoring me here; truthfully I have to stop myself from shouting out a Walton-style roll call from my bed every night.
It was a long trip. She left from Macon, drove to the Atlanta airport, flew to Dallas and had a six-hour layover there. That plane was late leaving for Australia, which meant she missed her connection in Sydney. And then the long customs process meant that she missed her rescheduled plane, too. Finally, three hours after her scheduled arrival (and after 30+ hours of travel for her!) we were jumping up and down and watching her walk through those glass doors. In fact, we were all so excited to get to Lauren that we completely forgot we were videotaping so there's some initial footage of her coming down the escalator and then a good few minutes of quality footage of the floor and random fabric and shoulders while we welcomed her home, ha!
The growth she's experienced is unmistakable. She's had soul deepening, life changing experiences. It's been a happy time exchanging 18 months worth of stories and experiences and embarrassing/spiritual/learning moments. In the interest of full disclosure though, she's been surprised at how weird and hard these first days have felt. This transition time is no joke! She really loved serving people full time and being a missionary and so she's simultaneously mourning its loss while celebrating its completion. And those habits and rules she abided by are not easy to shake off, particularly the highly scheduled routine and the big no-no rules (e.g., no alone time nor dating, for starters). More than once while doing regular, appropriately "civilian" things she's said, bewildered, "I kind of feel guilty to be doing this!"
Watching Lauren navigate this process I sometimes think of this image: Remember those rides at Lagoon that would speed us through a dim, unfamiliar, herky jerky route filled with twists and turns? Just when we got accustomed to the ride there would be a loud honk and the car would emerge through loud doors into the bright light, suddenly yanking us to a whiplash stop. Blinking in the brightness we would fumble for our seatbelts and stumble out, thrilled, bewildered, and slightly in shock. There can be a similar mission-->home whiplash effect, I think.
Or, better, this: When my kids used to wake up from naps they were not the chirpy, straight-back-to-the-day types. There was a period I always called "hatching from the nap" where they were semi-dazed and seemed like they had one foot still back in their dreams. I would read to them or talk quietly and rub their little backs until they were ready to emerge from the nap world and fully re-engage. That's what this period feels like--sitting with her through a delicious, slightly disoriented time between the memory-rich mission time and the rest of her life.
The rest of her life starts soon. In the next few weeks (probably mid April) she'll be heading back to a new apartment, new to-be-found job, classes, etc. at university. She's weighing different adjustments to her major since she's refined her goals and interests over the last year and a half.
In the meantime, we're lapping up this family time--okay, I'm just shamelessly picking up the bowl and slurping all I can. Life is full of change and adjustment but so, so good.