The crucifix still hangs around my neck.
A small silver cross purchased once upon a trip to Nepal. A piece of hemp, well worn, just a bit scratchy next to skin.
This is the necklace I have worn since December 14, when a dear friend in Kolkata handed it to me a few hours before we hailed a taxi and snail-snuck through smoggy streets to the airport.
"You can touch it when you feel nervous or afraid, ok?" she said.
I was nervous. I was afraid. The prospect of traveling 35 hours alone was one I had been dreading for weeks. I looped the cross around my neck, and I held on.
I held it in Kolkata, waving goodbye to my teammates as they rode an escalator to a different gate.
I held it in Delhi on the shuttle ride between terminals, gazing out at the darkness, a black blanket thrown over roads and buildings to disguise India as any other country.
I held it in seat 27A across the Atlantic, through the hours of movies and packaged dinner trays and of chasing sleep with a thin red blanket.
I held it in Chicago at the customs desk where a middle-aged man eyed my passport and said, "welcome back," words which made me want to hug the world right then and there.
And in Kansas City, I held it when the exit ramp emptied out into the airport, and I caught sight of my parents, tears in their eyes and in mine.
Tonight it's Christmas Eve. It is the night when He became our flesh. The night when He "made His dwelling among us." I reach up to touch the silver cross. Still there.
I'm in Bolivar tonight, the modest Midwest town where I first met the Man whose cross I wear. I was seven then, and I knew Jesus was good, but I didn't know how good. I didn't know what "Incarnation" meant. Or that in the miles to come, in the following Him into places far and foreign, this knowledge--that He wore my skin and cried my tears--would be the most precious thing I believed.
It is my hope, this truth that Jesus came to us. He came, and He has never left.