At this time next Tuesday I’ll be in a little neighborhood outside of town in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia, surrounded by mountains, but best of all, surrounded by some of my most favorite people in the world, my “peeps”, my “homies”- my family.

It seems hard to believe that it’s been 13 months since I left Bolivia as a young, newly-wed wife of only a week. Now I return, of course, as an oh-so-mature, grown-up wife of a whole whoppin’ year! 🙂 In all seriousness, I do feel like I have grown and learned so very much during this year.

I’ve learned about love on a whole different level through the example of Godly love that my husband has shown me. I’ve learned what it feels like to be the new person in the crowd, to start setting down roots in a whole new place and to learn new names, names of people and of streets. I’ve learned to pump my own gas and to drive myself places, instead of relying on public transportation to get around. I feel braver and hey, my sense of direction has improved a teeny bit! Best of all, I’ve been reminded of the faithfulness of a wonderful, loving and VERY real God that I serve.

In many ways, I’m still the same Laura that stepped onto that BOA airlines plane last year (maybe a few pounds heavier…marriage weight is a real thing, people!), but at the same time, I feel like I have changed in many ways, and while change can be a good thing, it can also be kind of scary, even if the changes are good.

As I started getting things ready to head back to my “llajta”, my homeland, my mother-land (no, not on a mother ship…) and the date to travel got closer and closer, I couldn’t help but feel a little nervousness creeping in alongside the excitement of going back. It was an odd feeling that I couldn’t quite explain and after thinking it through a bit, I realized that my nervousness stemmed from a little dose of fear that perhaps the changes I felt were so huge in my heart and my mind that I had lived in the last year would be too big of a change. What if’s crowded my thoughts.

What if it’s weird? What if I’ve changed too much? What if it feels too different? What if they think I’ve changed (even though I know I have)?

And just like that a new wave of thoughts hit. What if they’ve changed? What if I don’t fit into the new “normal” that has evolved as I have been away?

It’s a strange thought that what used to be my normal, my everyday living has changed now. My routines and the people that I see are completely different now. Sometimes, I have to stop and remind myself that life carried on and continued after I left Bolivia.

My family has had new experiences. My friends have made other friends that I haven’t met yet. That corner on the old road I used to walk may now have become a little weekend market. That empty lot may now be filled by a building.

Change. Change. Change.

But, didn’t I change before? Didn’t those around me change too? Is this the first time a building or road has changed? No. And while I understand that perhaps before I was present for those changes and specific groups of people were present for mine, the changes still took place, experiences were had and shared. Through the ups and the downs, relationships were strengthened and people were present to listen, to witness, to guide and to encourage those changes.

What makes this time any different?

I can’t wait to throw my arms around my parents. To go shopping with my mom. Solve world issues with my dad. To squeeze the life out of my brothers and snicker at inside jokes. To kiss my dear grandma. To laugh and joke with my cousins. To sit at my aunt and uncle’s kitchen table and talk. I can’t wait to see my crazy friends and catch up for hours. To stuff my face with all sorts of delicious, mouth-watering traditional meals and fruit. To ride a trufi (public transportation) and to go to the Cancha (our huge open-air market). And I so can’t wait for Saturday afternoon to feel the rope on my hand once again at the climbing wall for Kids’ Club and to hear the screams of 600 kids saying “Amen”.

As the day draws near to get on that plane and go back to my beloved Bolivia, I have been reminded that yes, things will be different. People and places will have changed. Life has moved on. But the heart and the beauty that lies within all those groups remains very much the same.

Laura VargasGuest author: Laura V. Joppeck is just a born and raised popcorn-loving girl from Bolivia embarking on new adventures with my born and raised (and might I add amazing!) Ohioan husband as we seek to follow the Lord every step of the way. Laura is passionate about Jesus, her husband, people and relationships, teaching and Bolivia! 

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