Standing in our hallway, my daughter looked up at me with her big, brown, tear filled eyes and asked me, ‘Mommy, where is home?’
I paused, took a deep breath and told her that home is wherever we are, that our family is home. Four walls don’t make a home, a country doesn’t make a home, a family does.
“But Mommy,” she protested, “Canada feels like home, but now we are here and we are here for two years and then we only go back for a few months and come back here again. So, it’s like Brazil is home but it’s not, because I don’t feel normal here," a tear left a wet trail down her cheek.
I fought my own tears. It’s a battle I have in my own heart almost daily. I have a heart in two places. As a child, a missionary kid, she’s considered ‘third culture’ a mixture of where she’s from and where she is she isn’t strongly part of either one. It’s a tough place to be in some days.
Yesterday was one of those tough ones.
Faith lay with her head on my lap, tears fell from her eyes and I wiped away each one. She cried for the friends she left behind, for the family she longs to see at holidays, she cried for the way kids make fun of her when she speaks English, she cried for the middle ground she lives in.
I held her and whispered in her ear that some days, Mommy feels exactly the same way.
‘I just want to go home, I just want to feel normal’ she said through tears and a trembling bottom lip.
What I couldn’t bear to whisper in her ear is that the reality is, there is no going home.
Even when we land in Canada a year from now, home will no longer feel the way it did. The comfort of ordered streets that are well paved, clear of litter and stray dogs will be replaced with a feeling of estrangement. It will feel oddly sterile. Friends have made new friends. The landscape has changed.
The puzzle you once fit into with ease, is still there but you, the piece of it that flew away to a far away land, you are no longer the same shape. Try as you might, your shape no longer fits the same way into the void you left behind.
No, I couldn’t tell her that part. She’ll learn that on her own.
Many times, often daily, I have to remind myself that God called not just Phil and I into this adventure, he called our kids too. They aren’t skin tags, along for the ride. They are part of this thing. There is purpose in it for them too.
This week our base leaders took there two youngest daughters to the airport to see them off, back to Canada where one will stay to go to University and the other visit with her sisters before returning to Brazil for her last year of high school. Another missionary family recently took their oldest son back to the U.S. for the same reason. My heart aches for the mothers who now live with thousands of miles between them and the children who have been beside them, working with them, doing life as a family in a way that most don’t get to experience. They have been together for every victory and every tear.
But all that closeness, it comes with a high price tag. One day, if we are still doing this missionary life, we may have to do the same.
My own words ring in my head, ‘home is our family’.
But what happens when your family is now in two places? It’s normal for your kids to grow up and find a life of their own, but normally they move maybe a couple hours away, not a continent.
The gifts in this life, they are enormous. The sacrifices are too.
The daughters of our base leader wrote a children's story for their Mom. About a Momma bird and her four babies and how the Momma bird feels like her heart is flying away with her babies as they leave the nest. In the end, the Momma bird learns that she can learn to sing again, she finds her song.
One of the biggest challenges as parents is letting our kids fly, letting them go and figure out this life. Even if they are still doing it with us. When Faith's heart is breaking for home, I want to fix that hurt, I want to get on a plane and take us back. But that would be robbing her of the richness God has planned for her, that the pain and the struggle are some of the best nuggets in life.
I know in my heart of hearts that the things she is learning here, the character that is being built in her at such a young age will prepare her to fly higher than I ever have or will in my life. And isn't that what we want as parents? For our kids to fly higher, live larger?
If only it didn't hurt so much in the midst of the struggle.