Thursday, June 20, 2013

Painful Pilgrimage

I knew this summer would be hard. I knew I would struggle with issues I wouldn't foresee. I knew it would be exhausting. I knew I would just have to endure it. But I didn't know how much it would hurt.
C. S. Lewis once said, "We don't doubt that God will do the best for us. We're only wondering how painful the best will turn out to be." I find that's the story of my life. I don't doubt that I'm where I'm supposed to be and going where I'm supposed to go. I just worry how much it will hurt. "Will I pull through? It's gonna be tough. Can I do it without making a mess of things?" Since the beginning of our family's journey away from normality, we've struggled with being okay with being weird. I never was a "normal" kid, but I never owned it until I found others just as weird as me. It was always harder when I was surrounded by "normal" people. The pastor's kid stands out in a small town because no one thinks she's cool. The missionary's kid stands out in a youth group because nobody understands she's just a teenager wanting peer fellowship, not an exotic display item.
But these things I accounted for in my preparation for furlough. I have dealt with them before, and I know they are only side effects of following Jesus for me. Feeling left out occasionally is nothing compared to what He did for me. Neither is heartache, but I wasn't prepared for that one.
I've read books about being a "Third Culture Kid" ("TCK," it means someone who spent much of their developing years in transition between two cultures). I've had friends talk about this very thing. But nothing warned me sufficiently.
I'm homeless. It's not that I don't have a roof over my head; I do, and I'm very grateful for the blessings God has given me. No, I don't have a place to call my home. There is not one place that I can point to and say, "There. There is where I am most comfortable and where I look forward to returning just so I can be there." All my life I have had that. Even when I was in transition between Oregon and Uganda, I considered Uganda to be my home, even though I'd never been there. Once I reached Jinja, when I felt homesick I just decided that Oregon was my home. Wherever I was, the other place was what I missed. I had my heart split two ways and halves on opposite sides of the world. Now no part of my heart can rest on any continent.
Jinja can no longer be my home, because I have packed all my things from there and prepared to move to school. Oregon cannot be my home, for I feel so out of place here it hurts. Kijabe, Kenya (where my school is) cannot possibly be home, for I don't live there yet and it is only temporary anyway. Nothing fits the definition anymore.
I wish I could be normal. I see all my friends and family here, in Oregon, with their houses that have been their singular homes for years. They have all their earthly possessions under one roof. I wish I wasn't always having to think, "Where is that? I know I have it, is it here or there?" I wish I had a church to call my church home. I have attended so many different churches in the past year, I've lost count. I haven't had a chance to settle into any of them. All these things I wish, and each wish cuts a little deeper into my heart, piercing it with the pain of self-pity, for I have none of them. I wallow in the slime of selfishness a while, and then I wake up.
I get on facebook and see what these sacrifices have gained me. I talk to friends on the other side of the world, and I realise that my home does not have to be on this earth. I realise that I don't have to fit in with the "normal" people--there's plenty of weird ones out there just like me. And when I look for them, I can't find a single "normal" person anymore. We are all so weird (aka unique) I can enjoy everyone's company, and it doesn't matter if we understand everything each other says.
I know of one place where I know I am understood. I know there is one place that I will go to and rest. There everyone will understand and no one will say something that makes me hate my ethnicity. Everyone there will share the same love and purpose I desire so fervently to culture in my life. There is one place I can call home and not have any scruples about it.

"I've got a mansion / Just over that hilltop! / In that bright land where / We'll never grow old. / And someday yonder, / We will never more wander, / But walk the streets that are purest gold. // Don't think me more poor / Or deserted or lonely. / I'm just a pilgrim/ That's heaven-bound. / And though I find here/ No permanent dwelling, / I know He'll give me / A harp and a crown!"

("Mansion Over the Hilltop," the hymn my mother sang as my lullaby when I was a baby. Even then, God was preparing me for my life. He is so Awesome!)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Freedom

Have you ever seen a little girl pick up a kitten? She holds it tight and squeezes it, showing her love, or so she thinks.
If you have, then you likely have felt sympathy for the poor kitten. As it squirms and kicks and meows for freedom, it's easy to take the side of the underdog--or cat, as the case may be.
Then a few years later, we have an elementary-school age girl still in love with cats. But when she grabs a kitten, it still squirms. She holds it looser, gentlier and her only goal is to make it purr. Even with these good intentions, the small cat is terrified, not knowing the comfort and love it's being offered, and cries for freedom. When it finally wrenches free, the girl sags her shoulders and sinks to the ground, dejected and hurt. The kitten has its freedom, but is alone once again, never having known what it missed out on.
Seems like a lose-lose situation. But it's one we create everyday, even if we don't ever touch a cat. It may seem a bit far fetched, but I can picture my God as holding me like that girl held the kitten. His desire is to have fellowship with me, to fulfill what He created me for. Rarely do I care what He's trying to do, it's uncomfortable at the moment and I don't know what He's doing! I'm not in control, so I shouldn't be here. When I leap the bounds and leave His arms, the sense of what should be freedom is instead replaced with fear, worry and even depression. The farther we get from what were supposed to be doing, from where were supposed to be, the less freedom we find in our heart of hearts.
It is only when the kitten stops squirming that the girl could pet it. Therefore it is much easier for God to teach, mould and love us when we just hunker down and let Him!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

May 2012

Looking back on 2012 brings to my mind one prominent month: May. What happened in May? My father's heart had arrhythmia trouble. It lasted only a month, but it still affects me today.

I remember waking up on a Saturday morning and thinking I could watch "Justice League" all by myself because the little boys were gone and nobody else would be awake yet. But there dad sat, in his favourite seat on the living room couch, staring out across the orange-tinted yard through the front windows. He told me that his heart was having the same trouble he had had with it in America, and he didn't know what we would do about it. As I sat beside him and placed my head on his chest, all I heard was the horrid rhythm that couldn't stick with the beat. Buhm bummm bmpp BUM bum bum.

The whole next month he couldn't walk across the room without resting, and couldn't sit up long enough to finish a movie with us. As we (us four kids) heard our parents discuss insurance troubles, we began to wonder what it all meant. Would we have to go back to America? If so, how long? If they didn't fix it, daddy couldn't work here. Would that mean moving back to Oregon? I remember one day momma told us kids to pack our bags. When we asked for how many days we needed to pack for, she said she had no idea. When are we leaving? No clue. Where are we going? Not sure yet. It's not easy to pack when you don't know those three things.

Eventually, it all worked out. Daddy and momma went to South Africa and we stayed with our good friends/neighbours. But what amazes me even more than how God healed daddy is how He sustained us throughout the uncertainty of it all. People I have talked to about it say that they couldn't imagine how frightening it must have been for us kids to stay in a foreign country with our parents in another foreign country for serious medical work. I say that's it's a pretty simple matter. We just continued on the same way we did before--with God's help. I believe the only reason us kids didn't freak out or break down crying from stress is the prayers that people sent up on our behalf. In place of those afore mentioned emotions, we instead felt a peace and even close to an excitement. We somehow knew that whatever would happen to us next would be okay, no matter where we or our parents were. They might go to America and leave us here. They might come back soon. And I can't lie; there were a few times I wondered if they would ever return to us. But the busy lives we stepped into for the week our parents were gone kept us focused, and the silent strength and faith of our hosts added to the God-given peace we felt. I think on this and want to thank all of you who prayed for us, and thank our God for blessing us.

To be quite honest, I see the "scary" month of May as a trial I grew through. It taught me to forget what I thought was going to happen and just wait and see what God would do. We were supposed to go to Kenya. We waited, and God sent them to South Africa. The money it cost them to go to South Africa was supposed to toss out my braces. We waited, and God provided the money for both. I will always remember that month--May 2012--and praise my God.