No Home, Home Assignment

This is such a funny concept. Not funny, haha, but funny weird, strange and abnormal. We are on home assignment and yet we are not home. We don’t even have a home for the 7 months we are in the United States. We have places to stay. We have other people’s homes. We have hospitality shown to us in many ways. But we are not home.

For me this is the hardest part about home assignment.

I am a wife, a mother, a homemaker and yet there is no home for me to make. Our space is not our own. We are living each and every day in close community with others. My main job is to take care of my family and yet I am displaced from my kitchen. My grocery shopping consists of picking up snacks for the road and occasional fruits. We have stayed in 14 homes with at least 11 more to go; sometimes staying no more than one night in each place. We are habitual guests.

Already, Little Bear slept in airports, playrooms, kitchens, closets and under tables. His little tent bed is moved from space to space but thankfully he adjusts quite well. At his young age he has traveled more miles, seen more of the United States and visited more countries than I had when I got married!

Each home treated us exceptionally. We are grateful for the hospitality extended to us, the chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones. We love the personal time spent in each home as it gives us the opportunity to connect more closely and go deeper.

Now imagine being a “couch surfer” as a family of three with one on the way for 7 months. Can you imagine it?

Things That Never End

Things that Never End

There is the song of course. I probably don’t have to write out the lyrics for you to picture the little lamb and red curly-haired woman singing…

“This is the song that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend. Some people… started singing it not knowing what it was AND they’ve been singing it F-O-R-ever just because…”

Go ahead just try not to hum a bar. Now good luck getting that out of your head!

Worse than that song running circles in your mind all day, are the goodbyes that are a never-ending cycle for us. A friend once told me that goodbyes just make room for more hellos. What a sweet way to look at it but… in my mind that doesn’t ring true.

Every goodbye I say tears a little piece of my heart. I have to work hard not to let the scar tissue grow tough, callous and indifferent. I have to work hard to allow new people in, to make new friends. My survival instincts tell me to shut people out, to close off and remain aloof.

Our life is one of constant transition. I’ve mentioned that before. Yet, even if we remain in the same country, the same city, our friends are always coming and going; whether for home assignment, another field of service or to their passport country for good. If you add to that our coming and going for home assignment and the flood of goodbyes to family and friends you can see how the cycle is one of continuous grieving.

This year several hard goodbyes are imminent. Some of our closest friends are leaving. I’m conflicted in my emotions. I’m excited for the next chapter in their lives while at the same time extremely sad to see them go. It’s hard to say goodbye to any friend but especially one whose passport country is literally on the other side of the world. However, the tears haven’t come. My grief is silent as I try to look on the positive side of things. And while I know that in time I will make new close friends for now I’m simply missing my old ones and possibly eating a lot of ice cream.

In Response to Garissa

Do not think this is directed at any one person but know that I have probably felt the pull to come “home” at one time or another in search of “safety.” We are not guaranteed safety in the Bible. Not once.

There are 148 students dead at Garissa University in Northern Kenya. If you haven’t yet heard about it start watching world news. It is sad. Tragic. An unthinkable act of terror.

In response someone wrote on a friend’s Facebook wall, “It’s time for you to come home. This could have been [your child].”

WHAT?!

Of course it could’ve been one of us. It could’ve been one of us in Europe or China or Australia or yes, even “home” in America. Terror does not confine itself to Kenya. It doesn’t even confine itself to Africa or the Middle East. It is evil and it is everywhere.

Day-to-day life changes when living under frequent security warnings from our embassy, the Kenyan government and other world leaders. Once again we do not go to shopping malls at night or on the weekends. We avoid large gathering places. We do not travel to certain areas in the country. We listen to advice given and heed warnings about threats.

Yet, this does not define our lives. There are other places to shop or see a movie or go for an ice cream. There are other events to attend and places to vacation. Please do not mistake our carefulness for constant fear. We merely try to be “wise as serpents” while “innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)

This does not make me brave. This is a day-to-day reliance on the goodness and faithfulness of my God. He is in control. Yes, He is in control even when circumstances seem out of control; even when terror comes to my country; even when suffering and sadness happen.

Home Is Where Your Blanket Is (Part Two)

GiraffesA dear friend just reminded me, “All of our homes are just temporary shelters, no matter how big our mortgage. Some of us just get to borrow ours a little longer than others.” Life in general is full of transitions. Since our life seems to have a few more than the average, it’s a good thing my blankets are easily packed, as are a lot of my other decorations (minus the giraffes!) that help turn a house into a home.

While I have mentioned to Bear once or twice that my fabulous couches are going with us wherever we might end up, my goal this year is to collect items I can take on our many journeys without the aid of a shipping container. Light weight items like the beautiful wood signs with quirky sayings and gorgeous artwork I am now collecting or my plain navy blue linen curtains that I love.

PicturesMy pillow covers are fun African fabrics. I’m  working on a bright green, blue and orange table runner that I’ve pieced together from scraps of fabric left over from other projects. A train quilt decorates Little Bear’s wall. Across from it hang canvas animals on wooden frames from Amani Ya Juu. Pictures of family and friends line our walls held up by tiny, little clothes pins.

Wedding QuiltAll these things, while just things, are important. Best of all, they can be packed in a suitcase! Thank you to everyone who helped make us feel at home. Thanks for the extra donation that allowed us to re-cover our well-loved couches. Thanks for the beautiful wedding quilt. Thanks for the gift of teaching me to sew. Thanks for sending us back with beautiful, hand-painted wooden signs. Most of all thanks for the memories that can be printed out in pictures!

Home Is Where Your Blanket Is (Part One)

For us… most of the time anyway, Facebook is a beautiful way to keep up with far away friends.

But. Not. Today.

Today Facebook showed me the house I don’t have. The house I long for every time we discuss moving apartments or going on home assignment or changing countries.

My friend innocently posted pictures of her stunning new house complete with the quaint, white shutters she picked out herself. The kitchen is big and spacious. The fridge dwarfs mine several times over. All the appliances are shiny and new. I’m sure her kitchen sink turns on easily without a constant drip, drip, drip.

There is a fireplace! And a gorgeous mirror hung on what I am sure is a non-concrete wall that she is allowed to put holes in without contacting the landlady who lives in Nigeria because guess what? She OWNS the house.

(Friend, if you’re reading this, because you will no doubt know it is you that I am speaking of, you did absolutely nothing wrong and I can’t wait to visit you in your new home.)

The American dream right? My dream. The dream of knowing I will still be living in the same place, the same house next year because we have a mortgage of all things.

I’d pay to have the stab-you-in-the-tush toilet seat replaced because it’s MY toilet seat. I would nag politely ask my husband to fix the leaky faucet and the doors that stick. I would take out that ridiculous bidet because who actually uses those anyway?! I wouldn’t try to hang pictures with Velcro and heavy duty Command Brand hooks. I’d do all those things because we would OWN the house (at least sort of own it, you know, through the generosity of the bank and all).

Plus I’d actually have a piece of grass that doesn’t belong to the retreat center next door that I can only longingly look at through our kitchen window while wedding guests dance to obnoxiously loud music and wake up my sleeping baby.

I realize most of you probably don’t dream about having a mortgage and those of you with more sense might even try to tell me the evils of having one. But for now I’m lost in wishful thinking that one day after I spend all the time to decorate and make our house our home, I won’t have to give it up in a year. It’s just something I have to work through, knowing that our lease ends in March of next year and since I tend to round up, this year is basically over, which means March is really only 3 months away.

Blankets

Some of my many blankets, given by friends and shipped from the US in my luggage.

If, as the Zambian proverb claims, “Home is where your blanket is,” then it’s a good thing my blankets don’t weigh very much and can travel from the US to Kenya to South Sudan and back again.

Check out “Home is where your blanket is part two.”

Red Curtains

I sit here re-sewing red curtains from my old house to fit the windows in my new house all the while wondering when we will move to the next house. It’s hard to live in the moment when the moment is full of constant change. It’s tiring, this nomadic life, we live.

Just before leaving Kenya to get married I found the exact red material to match my new-to-me bedspread, a second-hand Toi Market find. Excitedly I had my new red curtains made; knowing they would be waiting for us when we returned to what would be OUR home together. Then we decided to move to South Sudan…

Instead of settling down, returning to Kenya was a whirlwind of selling household items and furniture as well as packing away things we might use later, like my red curtains. Thankfully those curtains never made it to South Sudan. If they had, they too would be lost like so many of our things we left behind in Malakal.

However, my red curtains are too short for our new windows. They need to be altered, cut, pieced together, pinned and sewn. Sometimes that’s how I feel; altered time and again. Learn this new language. Adjust to another strange culture. Find your way around this new city. Pushed. Pulled. Stretched. Sometimes scarred. Moved from place to place.

For now, though, my red curtains look fabulous complete with a shiny, brown ribbon to cover the seam. One would never know they didn’t originally belong in the window where they now hang. I hope that I can display the same adaptability (and look just as good!) as we continue to follow where God leads us.

No Place Like Home

Nigeria, Ghana, America, Ivory Coast, Kenya, South Sudan…

“You’re from… Where?” This is a hard question to answer growing up as a missionary kid. Born in one country, mission boarding school in another, college in the US, and now living and working as a missionary in yet another country.

My wife and I are on home assignment and are traveling across the country (from Florida to Washington State) visiting many friends, supporters and churches, sharing about what we have done and where the Lord is leading us. As we drove though the Midwest last week, Michelle exclaimed, “This is more corn than I’ve ever seen in my life!” Her fascination with electricity generating windmills that now dot the fields was also entertaining to see. She is obviously far from home.

As we drove along I reflected on how this sort of feels like home. We are staying in a small town of about four and a half thousand people where my family lived while on home assignments. I also spent a few Christmases and summers here with extended family members during college. My parents live here and I have quite a few friends in the area. The familiarity makes this place kind of feel like home but it’s not where I’m from.

As a missionary, calling one place home is difficult. But for me that makes it easier to remember that my real home is in heaven and that all of us are “just passing through”.