If you have noticed in many of posts I refer to both home and “home.” The first home is usually where we live. Home for us right now is southwest Russia. This is where we have raised our children so far and is where we do our ministry and is where we are establishing our life as a family. Home is where we strive to establish permanence and our own traditions, and is where we envision our future (for as long as God calls us to be here) and is a place that has captured our hearts. For now it is where I picture my kids growing up and the environment that I picture navigating during the various stages of parenting.
Even though there is no place that we would rather be right now, at times it still can be hard to be “at-home” in the place that we call home. By that I mean simply that as much as we have grown more and more in love with the culture, the people, and the language, we are not Russian. Though we strive to become more and more a part of the culture and community, we know that we will never become 100% Russian. God gave us the upbringing that we had for a reason, and though we strive to fit into the culture here, we still very much value where we came from and it would be a great loss to lose that part of ourselves.
Then there is “home.” “Home” for us is Seattle, Washington. “Home” is where we grew up. It is the culture in which we solidified our worldview and were shaped into the people that we are today. It is where many of our dearly loved family and friends are and is a place that we look back on with fondness and nostalgia. It is a place that we love and miss, and is the setting of most of our “missionary fantasies” (You know what I mean. Things like, “Oh what I wouldn’t give right now to be sitting at ________(insert favorite coffee shop here) drinking a grande cafe vienna with so-and-so, speaking in English and enjoying some quality music that is anything but techno.) But as much as we deeply miss “home,” it also cannot capture all fullness of the meaning of the word.
The reason that I am verbally processing the concept of “home” today is that my heart is filled with the strangest mix of emotions as we look towards our furlough in a few weeks (we will be “home” for about 3-4 months). I am very excited but also a bit sad. The first time that we went “home” I was little other than THRILLED. It was after our first year, a difficult one, and I was ready for a break. Now, 3 years later, I feel so different. I of course am unbelievably excited to spend quality time with family and friends, to enjoy good coffee, to be immersed beautiful Seattle culture and scenery, to see amazing natural beauty of the Northwest, and to be able to speak freely on whatever topic I choose in my own native tongue, etc…..
…but, the strange thing is that I am already feeling homesick for Russia. As I get our place in order for our absence, as I purchase plane tickets, as I pray about this last month and seek God in how to make the best use of my time, I have a sort of sadness in my heart. I know you can probably all relate to this feeling, but one of the greatest challenges for me as a missionary mom is working so hard to establish my home, but having to uproot often either for a period of time, or even to move permanently to a new place. My husband and I lived in 12 different places in the first 5 years of marriage, and oh how I long for permanence as a result! I don’t think that permanence, at least for us, is something that we will be guaranteed anytime in the near future, but the desire is still there.
This is yet another unique tension that we just get used to as missionary moms. As mothers, I think all of us to some degree have the desire to set up a stable and permanent home. As missionaries, we understand that with the joys of the job comes the challenges of travel, extended absences from one home or another, and often times little guarantee that things will stay as they are for more than a year or two (changing needs of the ministry, visa troubles, family needs…..).
So, like we often talk about our children being “third culture kids” who don’t exactly identify with the culture of their parents or with the culture that they are raised in, I am feeling somewhat like a “third culture mom” as I try to figure out what the word home means in my life on this earth. We know of course that our true home is in heaven with God, and that perspective is more clear to me as a result of this lifestyle. There is nothing like feeling “homeless” at times to cause us to focus on eternity in our true home with God. “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 (ESV)
Also, as I have processed this a bit, one verse that stands out in my mind with regards to being at home in this life is Psalm 84:3
“Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.”
I love this verse because it makes me remember how I can make a home anywhere in the world as long as I am in the presence of God. It also reassures me as a mom that no matter where God sends us, there will be a true home not only for me, but for children and for my husband as well, and that building a home has much more to do with building our spiritual home at the altar of God than it does with building a physical home in a house or apartment.
What are your thoughts on the word home/”home?” How have your perspectives changed over time? Which home do you feel is your true home and how have you dealt with the feeling of “homelessness?”