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!)