Defining Home

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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?”

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12 Responses to “Defining Home”


  1. 1 Shilo April 6, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    So much fun to learn you are a fellow Washingtonian! 🙂
    One thing I am finding lately…is all those longings for home and permanence and a place where I am understood and loved is that deep down, I am longing for heaven…and my Jesus…
    I’ll be praying for you as you prepare for your home assignment! Blessings!

  2. 2 Jan April 6, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I so completely understand your feelings about home! Now that my kids are getting older (my oldest is 16!), I think even more about this. They also don’t really know what to call home any more. We’ve lived away from NC for six years now. My kids barely have any friends there now. They don’t define their grandparents’ houses as home either. (Which is what the Mexicans would do.) I just had to finally accept that here is home. Wherever my family is is home. Wherever God calls us is home. I do long for that permanence, though. I think as women we have that innate longing. I look forward to my heavenly home and my citizenship being established there for eternity. This will seem but a blink of an eye in that perspective.

  3. 3 Ana D. April 6, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    Good MONDAY!

    My husband and I have been moving a lot since we got married, we´ve been married for over 2 years and have a 9 month old, in such a short period of time we´ve moved 4 times and it´s been hard to finally feel like we´ve settled or like we are “home”… when I think about HOME, it doesn’t feel like such anymore, I feel exactly like the word you used, “homeless”, I agree with Jan in saying that wherever God calls us is HOME and I’ve experience that love that God gives Missionaries for the countries where they work. I must say I LOVE BRAZIL and for now, this is “home”, until God wants it.

    I praise God that we sometimes feel like there’s no place to call home, there’s no place to be attached to, that way is easier for us to hear God’s calling to move and do as He wants.

    God bless you,

    Ana

  4. 4 Gina Marie April 6, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Not long ago I was talking about our home leave and said something about “home”. My daughter looked at me and said, “What home?” I realized that I need to be careful what I call home, because the reality is that the States is not home to them. It’s a fun place we go to sometimes where they keep grandpa and grandma.

    I remember the first time I came back from furlough and thought, “It’s so good to be home!” That was after about 4 years overseas. But in reality, this culture isn’t my home either. But it’s good because it helps me embrace the fact that I’m meant to be a stranger here, and my true citizenship is in heaven.

  5. 5 Ashley L. April 7, 2009 at 3:33 am

    I love all of your thoughts! Amen about making our focus on our true and eternal home in heaven. As difficult as it is to not have the comfort of permanence, how reassuring to know that this feeling is going to be satisfied forever in heaven with God. It is a blessing to be in circumstances that cause us to long for eternity than to get too comfortable here and lose sight of that.

    Oh, and Shilo, where in Washington are you from? What a fun connection!

  6. 6 Sarah April 7, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I enjoyed this post on defining home and reading everyone’s comments. This is something that’s weighing heavily on my mind as well as we too are preparing for a furlough this summer. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

  7. 7 Becka April 8, 2009 at 3:30 am

    Right now, I am typing in the dark (something I am horrible at), while sitting in my bed in a small room that I share with my children.

    This room, in the home of a friend’s house has become what we know of “home”.

    It’s ironic, because less than two miles away sits a 5 bedroom house that we are very much missing. It sits staged as if a family lives there, and yet- none does. It’s an empty shell of a home, for a better effort to sell it. Staged and family-less houses sell the best… and so, for the past month plus a few, our family has been “homeless”.

    I am not sure how to write out my feelings on the issue. They are too complicated for a simple comment post. I have gone from feeling blessed at the generosity of friends and family, to feeling frantic for a place to call my own, and then to resignation at what simply must be.

    Now, I rest simply in a sense of honor. God has called my family out for a special purpose. Soon, I will have a new mountainside home that I will decorate with pictures of my old “home”, and with art work from the locals of my new “home”. I can’t wait.

  8. 8 Bethany April 9, 2009 at 6:02 am

    “Home is where the heart is” right? Well, it sure doesn’t feel like it when you look around your “home” and everything in it is borrowed and has been used by 10 other families before you. It certainly doesn’t feel like home when you are drying your hair in the kitchen, using the microwave as a mirror because you only have one transformer, ha!
    My “home” here in Malawi is not very homey, mostly because it is so very temporary. We leave to go home (USA) in 3 months, but even then, we are moving to a new city, one we have never lived in before. I do have to confess, my thoughts have revolved around what our new home will be like. It is easy to glorify America in your mind, but I know that once we are thousands of miles from our “home” in Malawi, we will be “home sick” for it.
    The grass is always greener. I agree with all of you though who said it is a blessing to always have that feeling of ‘this is not my home, I am stranger here and will be until I meet my Savior in my true home, Heaven.
    Oh, I look forward to that day so much more now than I ever have before!

  9. 9 RebeccaC April 10, 2009 at 5:32 am

    I can relate to each and every comment I’ve read here tonight. Sigh. Home is such a –brb — sorry, had to smack a spider with a death wish — fluid concept for missionaries.

    You know what came to my mind? A line from one of the first Little House on the Prairie episodes. Charles Ingalls is apologizing to Caroline for not building a better house, for moving her away from her home and her family. Caroline stops him with, “Oh, Charles, my home is where you are. You and the girls are my family.” That’s how I feel.

    My home right now is a cement box which sometimes lets spiders and scorpions in. In the winter it’s like an ice chest and in the summer feels a lot like a brick oven. Doug and I worked together for 10 years to build our last house. We fixed it up just the way we wanted, and then we sold it to move here. We may spend 10 years building this place or we may move sooner. Only God knows. But as long as our family is together, we’re home — even if we’re in a tent or a tar-paper shack or an RV or the back of our van.

    IMO, the tweaking of the “home” idea is one of the hardest parts of being a missionary mom. Great post, BTW.

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