Bed-headed kids rushing down the same staircase every Christmas morning. Eager faces pressed against the front door as Papa comes home from work every day. Little ones running and playing in the back yard. Bedrooms that take on the personality of each child over the years. The slow accumulation of memories and family keepsakes in every room.
These are the things that make up a “forever home,” aren’t they?
That place you finally buy, or build, or restore, and you think, “This is where my kids are gonna remember their childhood. This is where those memories will be made.” They’ll bring their own kids some day and tell them about the time they scraped their knee over here and Grandma kissed it. The time Grandpa brought home a dog and Grandma wasn’t so thrilled, but she gave in because of their hopeful faces.
This forever home concept has been on my mind a lot lately. As missionaries on furlough, we’ve been in SO many homes the last couple months. Each family has been a blessing and an example in some way.
Last week, I was talking with one excited young mom who is preparing for her family’s first Christmas in their forever home. She can’t wait to introduce all the traditions that will become a part of her kids’ favorite childhood memories. I loved listening to her ideas and being a part of her anticipation.
But, I have to admit. As I listened, truly joyful for them, I felt a familiar twinge in my heart.
We don’t have a forever home.
Forever Home – Reality or Not?
This is a missionary blog, written by a missionary kid turned missionary wife and mom. This post is not to make you feel sorry for us. (Although I admit that it’s been a sentimental week for me!) But no – this post is simply to inform you on one of the more emotional realities of missionary life.
The idea of a forever home is honestly foreign to me.
Growing up on the mission field, we lived in four different cities in two different countries. We were one of the lucky missionary families who stayed in the same apartment or house in each of those cities.
My own family has only been on the field in L’viv for two and a half years, but we’ve lived in two different houses and will likely move again soon.
Every move comes with a familiar purge of stuff. We get rid of clothes we’ve outgrown, toys we don’t need, books we’ve read, dishes that don’t fit in the new kitchen. I don’t mind getting rid of the things – they’re just things. But those physical items carry almost tangible memories that nearly break my heart when I watch them go. I remember garage sale-ing off wedding presents and packing up my firstborn’s baby clothes.
I hang family pictures everywhere we live. But they don’t often find their way to frames. Usually they’re hanging on our fridge. Or they’re creatively rigged up so we don’t put holes in walls or buy bulky frames that will take up too much space the next time we move. Nora has yet to stay in a home long enough to really give her bedroom her own personality.
This is one of those aspects of missionary life that makes me question at times – is this worth it? Are we asking our kids to sacrifice too much? Will Nora and Titus suffer because they don’t have a forever home to grow up in or a place where they’ll bring their own kids someday?
Forever Home in a Transient Life
A month ago, we had dinner with dear friends who’ve lived in the same home over thirty years. They raised four kids there. Pictures adorn every wall, proudly displaying their children from infants through the awkward teen years. Then come wedding photos and, of course, the grandkids.
There are memories in every crook and cranny. The movie and band posters still hanging in kids’ bedrooms, somehow making time stand still, as if their son or daughter truly left childhood at home and moved on, all grown up. The old fashioned toys that have made it through multiple generations and now are associated with Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
To me, their house is the perfect picture of a forever home. It embodies family, emanates peace and coziness. Every time I walk through their door, I feel at peace. Like I can kick off my shoes, hunker down on the couch and be at home.
When we left dinner that particular night, I asked Josh, “How can we create that secure, peaceable environment in our home?” How can we make a forever home when we don’t have a physical house to call ours?
Josh reflected on our friends and commented, ‘They have a “come what may” attitude. They aren’t stressed about bad things that might happen; they’re at peace with what God allows in their family.’
It made me think: a forever home doesn’t have to be dependent on a physical place. It’s about the atmosphere that we foster wherever we live.
In L’viv, I have often bemoaned the fact that nowhere we’ve lived has felt like home. I’ve prayed and hoped that God would settle us, at least for a few years, in a place that is home.
But I’m realizing that we don’t have to wait for a perfect house in order to be “at home.” It’s up to us to model an attitude of peace, of trust in our God’s providence. A home where we don’t freak out about the trials and fears of life, but we actively put our faith in a loving Father. A home where our kids feel at rest. Where friends come to visit and feel a tangible sense of peace when they walk through our door.
It won’t replace the memories of a physical house, with physical keepsakes that whisper of childhood and family traditions. But it will provide stability for our kids. They can remember growing up in a loving, peaceable home, where they were secure.
And most importantly. We do have a forever home. It’s our responsibility to point our kids to eternity with Christ. To remind them that the sacrifices they are making now are for an eternal purpose. That they will one day worship in the throne room with brothers and sisters from all over the world – and they were a part of that great commission work.
I didn’t grow up in a physical forever home, but I was a rich child for all the cross cultural memories and the personal experiences of God working in the nations. Now we pray that our kids will feel the same. We hope they will be just as grateful for their transient earthly life, as it invests in eternity with Christ.