Tag Archives: roots

I want Roots AND Wings

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Today is one of those days when I literally ACHE to have my own home.  For years and years we have lived as nomads, changing rental locations every few months or years.  This is just the lifestyle of missionaries.  I joke that moving frequently keeps you clean.  When I look at pretty things in stores I resist the urge to buy by thinking about having to sell it or pack it or move it in a few months.  Yuck, suddenly “pretties” lose their attraction.

I really do love my life.  I am doing exactly what I have always wanted to do.  I am proud of us as a family for thriving in another culture.  I am fulfilled and happy in my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I have wings to fly and no weights holding me bound to this earth!

But there are days when wings don’t feel like enough.  There are times when I think I would like roots instead of wings.  When I see friends on Facebook posting pictures of their new houses, I feel jealous.  When I see others making pretty Pintrest crafts to adorn their newly remodeled kids’ bedrooms, I feel jealous.  Then I remind myself that Pintrest is a gateway drug to hoarding, and I shut off the Internet.

baby angelI feel like a 2 year old, spiritually speaking.  “I want what I have AND what you have.”  On these petulant days, I have to be deliberate in my thankfulness or I will start feeling sorry for myself.  I pull myself out of my rumination and look around for something to trigger the avalanche of thankfulness that I am sure is hovering over my head in the spirit realm.  I seize upon the parrots swooping noisily over my yard and I am thankful.  I feel the tropical breeze cooling my rental house and I am thankful that it is 75* and not -10*.  I notice the paint peeling off the side of our house and I am thankful, in a perverse way, because I don’t have the responsibility to scrape and paint that wall.  I watch my children run around our yard, and I know that we are blessed by Costa Rican standards to have such a large yard.  I look at the high wall surrounding our house.  It is topped with electrical fencing and razor wire.  I feel safe living here, and that is something else to be thankful for.

Does the bird complain about the weight of wings?  Never.  She blissfully rises into the sky without a thought of what she might be missing down below.  The bird is content with her fragile, little nest because most of the time she is soaring above the clouds instead of puttering around indoors.

I bend my thoughts to the sky.  I pull my mind out of the dirt where it is trying to suck water from the dry ground.  I stretch my soul towards the heavens and rise on the warm thermal drafts of thankfulness.  Up and up, higher and higher I fly.  I have wings, for what do I need roots?  Today I declare in faith, “I am content to fly.”

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/courosa/5788131697/”>courosa</a&gt; / <a href=”http://foter.com/Kids/”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-SA</a>

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.

“Doctor, heal thyself.”

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Memorial Day in the back yard with family

I was a grown adult squeezed into a child’s school desk.  (You know, those desks with the table part attached to an arm attached to the seat?)  I pretended to examine the names carved into the desk top while I listened uncomfortably to the couple sitting next to me.  We were all there to be “debriefed” upon our reentry into America after serving as missionaries in far off countries.  The couple next to me was serving in China.  As I listened to the husband speak, I felt them shutting down and closing off and retreating into themselves.  His voice crackled with hostility, “I don’t know why we have to reconnect with our friends and family.  We’ve just going to be leaving them again once our budget is raised.  Why go through all that work if it’s just going to be temporary?”  I understood what he was saying- it’s going to hurt to say good bye all over again.  I understood.

In our missions organization, the majority of us are on a 4-year-out-1-year-home cycle.  After a while, it’s easy to forget where your home really is.  That year back in the states is mainly for fund raising for the next 4 years, but nearly everyone comes “home” beaten and battered, worn out and raw emotionally and spiritually.  And no one wants to admit it to anyone outside of our circle of co-workers.  It might look bad to our supporting churches.  We might look weak.  “Doctor, heal thyself,” we fear someone might say to us.

I saw this weakness in me, and I listened to the recommendation of the counselors in the debriefing sessions.  I knew I needed to do the work of reconnecting with my friends and family while I was back home.  But I also knew there was a painful parting up ahead.  I took the plunge anyways.  And I’m glad I did.

Backyard water fight

During our year (and a half thanks to medical issues) home I made several decisions that would guard and heal and refortify my family to let us put down roots again.  First of all, we chose to live close to our relatives (more about that in a minute).  Second of all, we chose to put our kids in the same private school that their cousins went to.  This was an out-of-pocket expense for us, but we felt it was important for our kids to be close to their cousins again.  Frankly, this turned out to be the best decision we could have made for them.  Third of all, I chose not to travel with my husband so much during this fund raising cycle.  In the past, we had traveled as a family all over the Midwest, home schooling along the way.  I decided that we would only travel on the weekends, and only if we could be home for the kids to go to school on Monday mornings. We did not travel midweek at all.  This decision meant that our kids could be involved in age appropriate activities at a home church during the week.  My son got involved in a youth group, my middle daughter joined a Bible Quiz team, and my baby girl made nursery friends at a Mom’s group on Wednesday mornings.  We put down roots, even though we knew they would be pulled up again.

In addition to these roots, I made a concerted effort to “carpe diem” every coffee date and luncheon I could arrange with my old friends.  Knowing the time was short made it all the more urgent and important to get something on the calendar with all the people I love from my past.  Knowing that I was leaving again made it all the more precious to me.  I wanted to listen to their stories of their kids growing up.  I wanted to hear about the changes that have occurred in the last 4 years in my circle of friends.  I wanted to feel a part of a group again.  In turn, they listened to some of my stories, reaffirmed their love towards me, and reconfirmed that I still have a place in their hearts.  Those were some of the healing elements that needed to be applied to my dry, thirsty soul.  My roots could once again draw up life into my soul.

Back yard fun with the cousins

The last rooting measure I took was to fortify my tap root- to reconnect with my family.  I am so glad that we chose to live close by and to get involved in their church because it meant that I saw my parents (and the kids saw their grandparents) weekly.  I remember once my dad mentioned that he was craving baklava.  I went home and whipped up a pan of the heavenly dessert.  I got in the car and drove the 10 minutes to my parents’ house to surprise my dad with a pan of baklava… just because I love him.  It was so worth it to me to live close to them so I could do the little acts of love that we had missed during the last 4 years.  To be able celebrate birthdays and holidays together, to drop in unannounced, and to sit in the back yard together was more soul-nurishing than I would have imagined when we were sitting in those desks back in the reentry debriefing session.  The counselor was right, we ALL needed this.  We all needed to put our roots back into our native soul even though it was just for a season.  We all needed to be healed.