Tag Archives: Homesickness

Homesick

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As a missionary, it’s natural to be homesick sometimes.  It’s a human emotion that everyone feels sometimes.  But it’s weird for me to dig my spade in the dirt of my heart and excavate my own roots.  As I dig, I search for the remains of the life I used to lead.  I find bits and scraps and shards of my former life in the States and I marvel at what used to be important to me.  Like an archeologist who reconstructs the daily lives of spectors and ghosts of lost civilizations, I look through the remains of the woman I used to be.

Most of my sifting and sorting of memories begins with “once upon a time”.  We have moved internationally 5 times.  Sometimes I feel like my “carbon footprint” is wide and ample as I leave a wake of clutter behind me with each move I make.  I don’t know how many times I’ve said to myself, “Once upon a time, I used to have a [fill in the blank with the random household item].  What ever happened to that?”  It’s been sold in a garage sale, abandoned in a drawer, or given away to family and friends.  For example, I use to have an apple-peeler-corer.  I have no clue where that thing landed ultimately.

But it’s not the loss of a random garlic press or knick-nack that causes the sore lump in my throat.  It is the uprooted feeling of longing for HOME, whatever and wherever that may be.  Most of the time it’s a vague sense of having lost something.  Sometimes it’s the sharp pang of knowing that my whole family is getting together in my parents’ back yard on a summer night and I’m far, far away.  My roots ache for soil.

Last Christmas we were fortunate enough to be able to go home for 3 weeks.  I wasted no time in pressing my thirsty roots down deep into the soil of home.  I didn’t care that I would transplant again in 3 weeks.  I needed to suck up the nourishment of family and friends.  I spent literally hours and hours reconnecting with old friends over cups of coffee or slices of pizza.  I never looked at my watch, I never counted calories.  I just soaked it all up.

It was a miraculous blessing to me to discover that my friends had not forgotten me, that they were still interested in me.  And for my part, I wanted to hear every detail of the past 2 years of their lives as well.  I wanted to see their kids’ school pictures, to hear the news from their latest job change, to listen to them share about a sermon they heard recently.  I soaked it all up and stored it in my roots for the long, dry summer days ahead.  I was happy that they made room for me in their lives again.  I was so pleased that they made room for me in their schedules.  My roots wiggled happily in the space my friends created for me.

When we finally returned to Costa Rica and the kids and I once again picked up the school books and backpacks, I was exhausted but happy.  Knowing that I was still a part of home, even though I’m far away, was the best cure for a homesick heart.

Longing for the Other Place: Guest Blogger

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This is a reblog of a blog that I personally follow.  As a matter of fact, it was written as a guest blog for Communicating across Boundaries last Sunday.  It is well written and touches on the theme that I will be writing about periodically for the next 2 weeks:  Homesickness and longing for Heaven.  This is Anne Alexander, Third Culture Kid (TCK) from Taiwan.

Yesterday I went to a funeral for a dear friend. It was a true celebration (the most joyful, Christ-honoring I’ve ever attended), but that couldn’t stop the tears, even in worship.

As funerals and farewells often do, this one brought up the pain of losing my brothers in childhood, and all the related pain of leaving relatives and friends on both sides of the ocean time after time after time. It brought up the longing for the ‘other place’, whichever one I wasn’t in, and the people I love around the world.

TCK lives are filled and colored with losses of all kinds.

Some of us stuff feelings really well for a long time (for me, until middle age), but some of us are blessed, unable to do so.

In the long run, the ‘expressers’ are less likely to develop physical or mental aberrations because ‘the truth must out’, and our pain is truth to us.

The angst the world feels because of the God-shaped, Heaven-shaped longings implanted when we were created for Him hums in their experience like an irritatingly loud refrigerator– sometimes softer, sometimes louder, but ultimately ignorable until the margins of our lives are used up.

As TCKs we live with less margin most of our lives, continually pushed into areas of growth, change and challenge. We may disguise the irritation and angst of being  between homes and Home, but we can’t hide it any more than a person with 3 arms can hide it under a 2-armed shirt.

Growing up, we’ve sampled more fulfillment and full-use of our potential, more of and varied pleasures and experiences, more pain and loss, than many of our passport-country friends do in an entire lifetime.

We are accustomed to adrenaline in traffic and true life-threatening experiences, to fox-hole friendships with those we work and worship with, to ‘relatives’ closer in spirit, purpose and faith than any blood relatives we could find in our passport country.

We have lived life without the bubble wrap, warfare without boxing gloves, and the exhilaration of seeing God come through when it really matters.  And we know it’s more than just making the next traffic light green so we can get to work on time.

Is it any wonder that we grieve the distancing from LIFE that sometimes seems to accompany return to our passport country? Is it any wonder that we long for friends and ‘relatives’ like those with whom we grew up, or worked with in our country of adoption?

Thank God for a word like ‘saudade’ that helps us express the inexpressible longing for that remembered world of discovery, friendship, growth and possibilities. We are not alone. And there will at last be a place where all potentials will be realized as they were meant to be.

But until then, my heart will go on singing (even if sometimes the minor key spirituals of hope);
But until then, with joy I’ll carry on (knowing that even if no one else understands, my Creator, Companion and Burden-bearer does)–
Until the day my eyes behold the city,
Until the day God calls me Home. (Until Then chorus by Ray Price)

And in the meantime, that third arm comes in handy for all kinds of tasks, like wiping the tears I sometimes can’t hide, or helping a friend in need.

Kindergarten in Mandarin was TCK Anne Alexander’s introduction to Taiwan, and for 44 years she has called Taiwan home. At present she’s teaching and researching Bible storytelling in Mandarin for a doctorate from Biola’s Cook School of Intercultural Studies.