Heart and Home

I would imagine that people most often associate the word “familiarity” with comforting images, feelings of “home” and all things warm and fuzzy. After February 16, 2013, familiarity became an intensely painful reminder of everything that I have lost. NEW things felt better than old. After nearly thirty years in a city, every street holds a memory. Add a shared journey with one particular PERSON to most of those memories and revisiting those places becomes excruciating. Honestly, after Chris went Home and we lived those months of Compassionate Leave in San Diego, I never thought I would feel “home” in San Diego again. After all, who wants to LIVE with a dull, aching pain every day?
Last summer, our family returned to California to help Olivia transition from Africa back to the States and get her settled in for her season at esthetician school in Maui, Hawaii and to celebrate the weddings of some people dear to our hearts. It was another hectic time of brief encounters, quick conversations, and little opportunity for deep connection with our “people.” Those times are always exhilarating, exciting, emotional, exhausting, and confusing. I am usually left feeling trapped between two opposing urges. First, I long to spend about a week face-to-face with EVERY person I love and care about. That’s a lot! Then, the other part of me who feels like “Stretch Armstrong” just wants to run away and go back to my predictable, busy life at RVA, far away from the painful reminders of Chris’ physical absence in our lives.
THIS time was different and I HAVE to tell all of you this word of Truth that means healing for every hurting heart and every soul who longs to belong somewhere…
Sunday, the 14th of December, marked a day I will remember as an intense time of God’s presence, confirmation, and healing in my heart and mind. We had planned the visit to the annual Christmas musical for months. It was an expected priority in a really quick trip to spend the holidays with family after having been gone for the previous four years. Of course we would be with our church family on that day! What hit me as I sat there, enveloped by the singing voices of those who have poured into my life, was a God-message that went to my heart and I could not contain. I HAD to communicate it to key people. I HAD to let them know what He had confirmed in me. There were a few people that day who were the recipients of tear-faced, blubbery words of love from me. The thing that was even MORE beautiful was that I RECEIVED the same affirmation from people throughout the day. One person said, “It doesn’t feel like home until you are here.”
I feel the need to share another message from GOD through a brother in Christ, not as a means of boasting, but as a way to show you that it is in our SACRIFICIAL and MESSY love for one another that intimacy and unity in the Body of Christ is nurtured. Again, we see the spiritual paradox of beauty from ashes. This e-mail from a brother in Christ allowed me to see the fruit of my vulnerability in being real with those around me, “I’m writing in an effort to praise God for your healing but also to thank you for sharing your healing, even as it continues to grow and evolve. I realized last night, after we parted, that your outward expressions of healing are as important to everyone else as the actual process is to you. I actually felt refreshed after leaving your presence – even more so than normal. As I pondered this, it occurred to me that, unknowingly, I had not allowed myself to totally heal. As friends, (my wife) and I have hurt for you. You allowing God to heal you has the double blessing of allowing others to be healed. I thank you for sharing that. You’re a wonderful example of a woman of God, who does her best to honor Him and rely on Him.”
Working with kids of missionaries, we throw around a lot of terms that define who we are as cross-cultural citizens. The children of people like us are referred to as Third Culture Kids, but the term really fits all of us who neither belong where they are from OR where they physically live. We are best understood in a “third culture” that is comprised of people who share our “vagabond existence.” Those of us who cross international boundaries and contextualize the way we live multiple times in a lifetime are able to communicate and understand one another without words or explanation. Often, TCK’s feel that they ONLY belong in that third culture context and struggle to build and maintain relationships with others who don’t “get” it.
It was my confused, TCK brain and heart that entered that sanctuary, but as the rich melodies and worshipful anthems about Jesus spoke to my thirsty soul, God was whispering healing to me. Tears came without warning (some of you are tempted to tease me here!) and I had to put pen to paper and WRITE DOWN what I was hearing. I WAS HOME. I’m not saying that the BUILDING was home or the CITY was home, but that those SOULS, those PEOPLE, the Body of Christ in that place, are my spiritual home. No matter where or in what capacity I serve the LORD, I realized that my church family at Clairemont Emmanuel represent “home” to me. They are ETERNAL. We have invested heart-time in one another’s lives. We have seen the birth of our children, watched young people grow and get married, walked through deep valleys of illness and pain, raised up and sent missionaries, and grieved the losses of brothers and sisters who have gone before us. These are the people who knew and loved Chris the most intimately of anyone on earth besides his immediate family. As a community, we haven’t been perfect to one another, but we have gotten in there and LIVED life together, even when it’s been hard. As I listened, and let it soak in, I was profoundly comforted and moved by God’s revelation to me.
I realized that I don’t need to search for a place to call “home.” I am free to follow the Lord wherever He leads me because my home is not a place on earth at all. Now, of course I have known and believed in eternal life and the promise of Heaven, I just needed a revelation of it here on earth in order to be comforted. Oh, the measure of joy it gives me to be reminded that we are not forgotten!
How amazing is our Heavenly Father who knows exactly what we need AND provides it at just the right time?! He is doing a major work in me, friends. He is healing and challenging me to surrender more and more to Him. Oh, I struggle with it at times! How I long for a time of joy again, those fun and full days of wholeness that we enjoyed when we were “normal,” before the reality of the brokenness of the world crashed in on us and we experienced the pain of death personally. However, a new hope swelled in my heart on Sunday.
10734035_10203471456328263_8395195494111387214_nI’m not sure what He’s preparing me for, but He gave me the confirmations that I needed to rest assured that He is working behind the scenes on our behalf. This has planted a fresh excitement in me for a new season of ministry that hasn’t yet taken shape. While I continue to find my purpose and thrive in serving at RVA, I have a new peace that God indeed has all of my “times” figured out. Pray with me as I both strive to focus on my DAILY purpose in Him and seek Him with my unknown future. For now, I will hold the sense of “home” and peace of those hours at Clairemont Emmanuel and allow my heart to rest in that ETERNAL fellowship of the Body of Christ. Joy! Joy! Joy!

3 thoughts on “Heart and Home

  1. So glad to hear your continuing saga of healing. Each step has so many different and new aspects along the way.
    Two different picture of “beauty for ashes” just came together as I was reading your blog.

    Earlier today, I was grading student questions about why farmers may benefit from volcanos. The ashes from the volcanos have many rich nutrients which produce healthy crops.

    Spiritually, we need those ashes of the hurt and pain of our lives to produce healthy lives as our roots grow down deep in the security of His grace. It was just a great picture for me.
    Tonight, as I was cleaning out the ashes from the fireplace, I thought how these ashes were the remains of many warm fires and glowing, yet faded memories of times I cannot reproduce. Time for new memories around the fire.
    These as I’m writing as I’m processing these thoughts, so they may yet I felt inclined somehow to share them. Just

  2. (Started getting sleepy at the end and did not complete my thoughts thoroughly and edit the last few sentences there before I posted them.) Obviously, my thoughts were not complete.
    I love you dearly and think of you often. I have enjoyed seeing your girls & your instagrams throughout the year!

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