It’s hard to believe it was exactly one year ago today that we boarded a plane bound for a foreign country with one-way tickets in hand. The day was seemed like a chaotic flurry of events and simply getting from the parking lot to the actual airport took almost an hour. Between four suitcases, multiple instruments, a 60 pound dog and his massive crate, I’m sure we looked like a circus trying to maneuver our way through tiny elevators.
As chaotic as it all was, I remember feeling a tangible excitement in the air as we landed. Everything from hearing people speak in a foreign language to ordering a piece of pizza that tasted oddly like a cheeseburger on our way to our new home seemed fascinating and intriguing. The skeptical glances from a neighbor and her granddaughter (a lady we later named “grumpy grandma”) as we walked up the stairs to our apartment, the Latvian cat lounging in our way that slapped my dog in the face when he got too close and the fishy wallpaper on our walls were all clear signs that we were far from home.
I remember it all like it was yesterday, and yet it almost seems like another lifetime ago because so much has happened since then. As if we lived many years in the span of one. Maybe in some ways we did.
As I was reflecting on it today, I realized one thing that stands out to me the most. In every area of our life we have a certain capacity, a limit to how much we can take. We have a certain amount of time, energy, focus, ability, etc. Once we reach our capacity, we are done.
But I have found that there is one area in our lives that has no limit, and that is our capacity to love.
When we make time for one thing, we take away time from another. When we focus our energy on one thing, it removes it from another. But when we learn to love something new, it doesn’t push out something we loved before in the same way that having a second child doesn’t take away the love of your first. Instead, our hearts do something that blows my mind… they grow to fit something or someone new.
I’ve often been surprised when people have described me as being reserved because I tend to see myself as being pretty friendly. But I think what is underneath their assessment of me is my sense of guardedness that came from broken friendships. For years after high school, I was extremely guarded and rarely let anyone in. Even as I got older, I really struggled to take relationships past a surface level.
But when we moved to Latvia, I truly let my guard down because if I didn’t, I would have nothing. I had no old friend to meet up with for coffee, no family around me (besides of course my amazing husband) and no familiar places to find comfort in.
So I let it all in. I dove into the culture as much as I could. I learned how to sing songs in Latvian and took private language lessons so I could talk to people like grumpy grandma (who started to smile!), the rest of my neighbors and the people who worked at the grocery stores. I saw everyone as a new friend to be made. Something I found out is considered very “American” by Europeans the way. And just like the Grinch after the love of Cindy Lou Who, I believe my heart grew three times during that season.
I think it is so easy to focus on everything we may lose when God calls us into something new.
It would have been easy as we boarded the plane a year ago to cry over everyone and everything we were leaving behind. It seemed at the time like God was calling us to lay down those things and offer them to him and we had no idea at the time how long we would be gone.
When you let go, you never know exactly what you are truly letting go of. You simply have to trust that God does.
But the truth is, he never actually took anything away. In fact, what he did was add to what he had already been given. I didn’t lose my love for anyone or anything when I moved to Latvia. But I came back with a deeper love and passion and so much gratefulness towards the people and the place that made that happen.
We have a limitless capacity to love and yet far too often, we stick to what we know, afraid of what we may lose when God calls us to enter something new, or love someone new. Your heart can handle more.
Love radically, love without strings attached, and watch yourself grow continuously as God gives you a heart for new things. Be limitless.
*Disclaimer: When I'm talking about loving someone new, I am NOT referring to romantic relationships if you are married. I believe there is no instance in which God would call you to love someone new romantically when you have a spouse. I am simply referring to loving people the way God calls us to and the way Jesus modeled for us!