Losing Home & Finding It
“God takes away the world, that the heart may cleave more to Him in sincerity.” Thomas Watson
I’ll never forget her innocent question that made my heart swell with pain…
“Is this our new home, mommy?”I picked up my confused 3 year old and looked into her blue eyes…“No sweet pea, this is not our new home.”I looked around the border police shack that my kids and I stood in and wondered…“How on earth could she think this was our home?”
We had crossed over the border in an attempt to renew our visa and allow us to stay a little longer in the Central Asian country that had become home to us. The border police simply told us that we could not get a new visa. That is, he told the kids and me no. My husband’s visa was ok. After about an hour of trying to get back into the country, I had started to let go of fear, trusting God that even if I had to stay behind with the kids, that He would not leave me. I knew my husband would have Spirit-led wisdom and I prayed for favor, which we were eventually granted, but as my 3 year old’s question caught me off guard, sadness replaced fear and I grew weary beyond words.
You see, one border police officer saw how cold we were in the wintery rain and asked if we wanted to huddle around his heater while my husband tried to figure out how to get us back into the country that held all of our possessions. As we stood around the heater another police officer sternly asked why we were there. I felt nervous and unsure how to act. And then came my daughter’s innocent question that perfectly summarized the only lifestyle she has ever known.
“Is this our new home, mommy?”
In her 3 years on earth, we have moved 5 times, lived in 6 different houses, and 4 different countries (including America) in a year and a half.
Think about it…
There have been 3 new currencies to learn. New cultural rules to pick up – we’ve lived places where drugs were taken out in the open, homosexual couples would kiss in front of my children, and nudity is no big deal. And then we’ve lived where women cover their heads and men can be seen kneeling in prayer to Allah on the sidewalks. We have had to learn different languages and new forms of transportation. We have heard the Call to Prayer ring out from mosques in the wee hours of the morning and we have lived in a Canadian apartment were our neighbor’s weed smoking was our nightly cue to close our bedroom windows. Our children have had “safe house” drills in school and have been thrown into national classrooms where no one speaks their mother tongue. We have culture shocked during each transition and have had to say more goodbyes than we can count.
It’s joyful sorrow to learn how to mother children who are living nomadic childhoods that are nothing like the one I lived. My childhood gave me little to glean from, leaving me sometimes drowning with insecurity and anxiety. It’s an emotional roller coaster to mother little ones who have been surprised by nude parades in the West and who have watched a father beat and drag his screaming daughter in Central Asia. Innocence has been stolen earlier than I had anticipated with European sex shops running rampant and things like being in an book store, only to glance down and see a calender of fully nude women for sale at the same height as the curious eyes of my children. They have seen a lot. They are sacrificing much. And none of it is their choice.
After a year in Central Asia, they had grown comfortable to our way of life. Our youngest has no memories of America and was happy in her new culture. Just yesterday, after over a month in our new home in Europe, our 3 year old whispered in my ear “Mommy, when are we going back to our normal life?” You see, she misses Central Asia. That was her “normal.” They thought nothing of sitting on the ground and eating soup with pieces of animal stomach in it at our neighbor’s house. They were used to the sound of our new language and could be overheard saying simple things to their friends. They knew the rhythm of public transportation and they were used to our apartment. If we were able to go to an actual church building on a Sunday, they knew it would take us a couple of hours by train to reach it. They knew the first line of the Call to Prayer that rang out from the Mosque near our home, and they had even grown accustomed to people taking photographs of them and with them since they have blonde hair.
I hadn’t really given that much thought to how different our children were becoming from normal American children until the day my daughter asked me a startling question. When I offered her Goldfish crackers that had been sent to us from America, my 5 year old said “Mommy what are Goldfish crackers?”
“What are Goldfish?” I thought. “My child doesn’t know what Goldfish are?”
Children in America live off Goldfish – and that’s when it dawned on me just how different our children were rapidly becoming. Will I trust God that it is His plan that they be different? Will I trust God as I am realizing that this transient lifestyle produces children and adults alike who don’t really fit in anywhere? Am I ruining them?
It’s been weeks since I have had the heart to write. Perhaps it’s been grief from moving again that has blocked the stories in my heart from flowing or maybe it’s just been the survival mode I have been operating in.
You see, we are no longer in Central Asia. After days of preparation, full of an interesting mixture of grief and hope and fear and excitement, the Lord’s sovereignty relocated us in the first days of December 2014 to Europe. While others boasted of their beautiful Christmas trees and of their Christmas shopping on Facebook, I sat alone in the rooms of my children bagging up all their toys and grieving as we once more gave away many possessions and packed our life up into our orange suitcases. As others were planning on gathering around beautiful dinners with family for the holidays, we were moving to a new country and my heart felt even more displaced from the home I love in Oklahoma.
My childhood trained me that I needed a Christmas tree. My childhood trained me that I need a candlelit Christmas Eve service. My childhood trained me that traditions were of utmost importance. And then my mother died when I was a teenager and my childhood abruptly ended. I spent years desperately trying to continue her traditions but once my father committed suicide, none of it mattered.
But as I became a mother, I gave into the feelings that it all mattered again. In early December, as I carried off their toys and placed them by the dumpster in the street, fully confident that someone would claim them, the Holy Spirit brought a flood of memories to mind as reminders of the gift of a very different childhood my children are having. I had it all growing up, but it hasn’t been until I felt a responsibility to disciple the children the Lord has entrusted to me that I woke up and realized that maybe the perfect Christmas cookies aren’t what make Christmas magical. Maybe it’s something entirely different that will make Christmas, and just childhood in general, magical for my children.
Maybe it’s identifying with our heroes of the Bible who moved often and had seasons of doing without that will make the Scriptures come to life for them. Maybe it’s watching their father share the Gospel in another language while eating soup with pieces of animal stomach floating in it that will teach them how to live the Great Commission. Maybe it’s watching their mother place more importance on obedience to Christ than her Christmas traditions that will teach them how to be true followers. Maybe it’s moving in the month of Christmas to a new country, sleeping on deflated air mattresses on freezing cold tile that will teach them thankfulness, helping them identify with Mary and Joseph on the very first Christmas Eve, who without a shadow of a doubt were not in any circumstances like the magical Christmas scenes seen throughout homes across America. Maybe it will be doing without lights and furniture for a season that will teach them contentment. Maybe it’s watching their mother do without a kitchen instead of producing beautifully festive meals that will teach them trust. Maybe it will be learning how to rely on God’s grace when cultural differences shock us to the core that teach them to radically love the lost without judgement in their hearts. Maybe it’s simply getting up, wiping tears from my eyes, and praising God rather than cursing Him for the inevitable cost of following Christ that will show my children the treasure of savoring Jesus above all earthly comfort.
And so, my heart that still battles the yearning for an earthly location that is “home,” continues to deepen in understanding of what it means to cleave to Christ, allowing the Spirit to penetrate with Light every broken and dark corner within. Jesus is my home and while I may not be giving my children the childhood I expected to give them, I pray that resentment will have no stronghold in their lives and that they will find their homes in Christ as well.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” ~Matthew 16:24-16
Father, may every move, every goodbye, every rejection, every new country teach our children that nothing is more important than following Jesus. Truly nothing is worth more than our souls and the souls of others. Nothing.
Please continue praying for our family. We are living in a European country that is home to millions of our Central Asian people group. We are starting a new work in a new area with another family and ask that He gives us guidance on who to share with and that the Spirit will lead us every step of the way. We are starting language school this week and so we also ask that God will help us not lose the other language we have learned – the heart language of our people group. Due to the people we are working with, we are still considered high security even though we live in a country where it is not illegal to be a missionary. I love your comments – they greatly encourage me – please just remember to never put our names in them! Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement – may He be glorified as we find our satisfaction in Him.