The past few weeks, I have been thinking about this old blog post that I wrote as we prepared to return to Africa after our last home assignment. The days on the calendar are moving by at an alarming rate - signaling our imminent return home - and away from the family that we love so deeply! This has always been the case, of course. The cost of an international calling always includes the emotional price that comes with goodbyes. At this point, we have been either preparing for, departing for, or involved in overseas work for 14 years and goodbyes have never been easy. But the cost feels like it is deepening - it is increasing and becoming more dear. With the addition of daughters-in-laws, and grandbabies and aging parents (we are all aging!), and kids all in this side of the water, the price seems higher! The joys of an expanding family are incredible - but that comes at a price.
And the cost is not ours alone to bear - it effects the whole family! Missed holidays and celebrations and spontaneous meals and offers to babysit. Missed snuggles with the girls and the joy of knowing that they recognize your voice and face!
So it is a tension that is hard to resolve. When is the cost too high? How do you measure it?
I am not sure I will ever know the answer. But the only way that we can face it is to stay connected with Jesus - to listen for His voice and to seek His face and will. We know that He promised to be with us and to help us bear a pain that he understood - separation from a Father that He loved as well. And to fill in the holes in our hearts! And to live with His Kingdom in mind! And to remember that one day, there will be no more tears - no more sadness!
So if you are the one going, or the one staying - leaving behind family, kids, and grandkids - or sending them across the ocean - may God surround you with an enveloping sense of love, grace and purpose - and remind you that an international calling is NOT just about the ones going - that you are sacrificing as well! May God fill in those spaces left by absent-for-a-time family members! May your times together be rich and full - and overflow to encourage you when you are apart - soaking through your memories with laughter and fun and love. May He give you a glimpse of the Kingdom work that you are a part of - of lives that are impacted because of your sacrifice!
TORN BETWEEN TWO WORLDS (old blog post from 2015)
It has been a surreal few months. The last 10 days especially have been an emotional roller coaster for me. There have been moments of intense joy with the weddings and also intense grief as we said goodbyes. What a ride this summer has been! Watching both of our boys marrying their beautiful brides - 6 weeks apart - has been a gift. Our time in the US - though difficult because we were here because of the Ebola crisis in Guinea - has been an incredible time of being with family, getting to know our daughters-in-law better (so easy to see why these two have captured our boys hearts), hanging out with friends and supporters, and several “professional development” opportunities. Wow - it has been crazy.
And now it is time to go home. Just thinking about it brings SUCH a flood of emotions. Home - where our friends are and our life is. Home in the bush of Africa - where it is hot, and sometimes hard and overwhelming - but also where our “other friends” live- both ex-pats and nationals, where we are graciously swept into their community - where life is messy and amazing and challenging and rewarding and fulfilling and maddening - all at once.
But when I am there, I am not here. Not here to share holidays and meals with our kids and the rest of our families. Not here to say - “Hey, can we run over and take you out for supper?” Not here for our kids to say -“ Hey, can we spend the night tonight?” Not here, near - but so very far away from those lost moments. Not here to share birthdays and to watch our boys grow as men and husbands. Not here to grab time with our parents and siblings. Not here to spend the weekends with our nieces and nephews - stolen moments of hugs and snuggles and I love yous - as they grow up way too fast.
But when I am here, I am not there. Not there to hear - we are naming our baby and we want you to come and celebrate. Not there to help bring life into the world - life that may not have survived without the aid of someone with medical training. Not there to hear - please help my child/husband/wife - they have suffered for so long. Not there to hear - would you please come and help me on my farm. Not there to hear - would you pray with me? Not there to celebrate and laugh and cry with our ex-pat friends - holidays, celebrations, and hard times alike.
So how do I live between two worlds - my heart torn between the two? It is the price you pay, they say, for loving people on both sides of the world. But it is hard - so hard. The intense emotions of joy, and grief, and love, and excitement, and sadness - all mixed up into one confusing mess of emotions.
I know that people wonder about us. Why do you do it? they ask - both in verbal and non-verbal ways. It is hard to explain, unless you have been there. Oh, there is the pat answer — it is what we are “called” to do. But that doesn't explain it totally. Yes, we are “called” - but we are also blessed by that crazy life. No words for it - really.
We had supper the other night with some friends/supporters who just returned from their first trip to Africa. They were gone a month and had only been back for a week. I watched as they struggled to explain what the experience had been like for them - watched as they would make a statement about life there - hesitantly watching us to see if it would surprise or shock us - and we just nodded our heads in agreement to say - yes, that is how it is most days! I could see the signs - as they struggled to put words to their time there - the signs that Africa had “ruined” them - in a good way. That seeing life in a developing, struggling country had changed them and how they look at life. My friend shook her head and said “ I don’t know HOW you do it - living over there all the time. But I can TOTALLY see WHY you do!” For some reason, that was a comfort to me - that someone saw - and understood - after even such a short time. Even when I don’t always understand myself - and certainly struggle to explain it.
So, through the many tears I have shed over the past week, I am reminded how insanely we are blessed by this life we lead. Not many people get the privilege of doing what we do. Not many people have two amazing worlds - full of great relationships and love and friendships. How AWESOME is that! So the tears are worth it and the pain and grief is worth it - because of the intense joy and blessing that is mixed in as well.