Discovering Grace in the Tension {The Grove: Integration}

I just completed my seventh Trans-Pacific flight for 2018.

I don’t think my “M” heroes would ever write a statement like that! They were the ones who, when they were “called” to a life overseas, packed all of their belongings in a casket as they were sold out to taking the Good News to far off regions of the world. They traveled by ship, often enduring difficult conditions and weeks at sea. In their hearts they knew of the likelihood that they would never return to their homelands or families.

As a TCK myself, my parents were part of the generation where a “furlough” or “home assignment” only took place every 5 years. My parents faithfully wrote handwritten or typed letters home each week. In those days, it took over two weeks for letters to arrive, so, about a month before questions from the last letter were answered. For my parents, it seemed easy to fully integrate into life overseas when news of home was not very accessible.

Today, we have technology that enables instant communication and air travel with relative ease. It is not too difficult to keep one foot in the world back home while living in the country of our overseas life.

But how does one fully engage with one foot in both worlds?

Jim Elliot, one of my heroes from my parent’s generation says, “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” The tension of being integrated in two worlds has been an everyday reality of life for me. The question of being “fully there” is real.

Over the last five years, I have slept most nights with my cell phone next to my bed, just in case there was an urgent issue regarding my elderly Dad. For me, the dilemma of aging parents and how to honor them when I live on the other side of the world has been an ongoing issue as I have physically lived overseas, and yet I found that my heart has been divided between the two places I call home. It has been a challenge to “be all there” in either location.

The Asian culture in which we live, never questioned my trips home to care for my Dad. Rather, the question of my Asian friends was, “Why are you here when your father needs you during this season?”

Two years ago, after the death of my stepmom, my father’s needs became more intense. He had made provision for himself so that my brother and I could carry on the ministry to which God had called us. Still my heart remained conflicted as my desire was to love and honor and advocate for him as his dementia progressed. Sometimes I was able to problem solve for my Dad through emails and phone calls. Other times it required my physical presence.

And yet, even in the tension, I found that God gave me the grace to be “in the moment” with the people in my life.

When I was with my Dad, I was able to be present and engage in his care. When I was in Asia, God also gave the grace and determination to be fully present in the moment with the young woman sharing her heart in my living room.

I learned to accept the things I could not control regarding my father’s care.  (As a nurse myself, that control issue is a big deal!) God provided comfort and assurance through His Word that He is Sovereign and that He cared for my Dad more than I ever could.

Two months ago, I had the privilege to be at my Dad’s bedside and to walk him Home. This faithful servant of the Lord is now truly whole and free at last. I, too, now find that I am experiencing a new-found freedom and a new season of life, even as I grieve.

As I look back, I see how God provided so many little details to allow me to honor my father from a great distance.   It was not an easy season, and yet, it has been a season filled with grace, growth and thankfulness as I have learned more about entrusting my struggling heart to my faithful, loving heavenly Father.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning,

Great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

As I now reintegrate into our life in overseas, there is an air of expectation as I look forward to what is ahead.

I know that God gives grace for each season—including this new season of not having my phone next to my bed!

In your overseas life, how do you respond to the tension of living in two worlds? What have you learned about God and about yourself in the tension?


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  1. Nomad Mom November 8, 2018

    For me, the struggle has been remaining “all here” in my “home” culture that feels so foreign now. I didn’t expect for my passport country to feel so odd to me after living overseas. I thought it would feel comfortable and familiar, but it doesn’t. I wasn’t prepared for that! My body is here but my heart clearly remains overseas.

    1. Julie B November 9, 2018

      Ah Yes! Reintegrating back home is tough. Just wondering are you in your passport country for a “home leave” or is it a permanent move? My husband and I lived overseas for two years early in our marriage in my childhood home overseas. Then we settled back in the States. That was a tough transition for us. A hard season. Our hearts were still overseas and yet God had called us back to the US due to the medical needs of one of our children. It took awhile to fully reintegrate back into life in our passport country. And we did leave such a part of our hearts overseas. These times of transition are hard as we try and find our footing in the new season perhaps that God is calling us to. Thankful for His grace in these hard seasons.

  2. Kathy Vaughan November 9, 2018

    This was timely for me, as just last month I said goodbye to my mom as she stepped into the arms of her Savior. For years I dealt with the tension of wanting to be with her at the end of her life, and wondering if I would be, but I had the privilege of being here in the US to care for her the last 4 1/2 months of her life. Through it all, I see God’s graciousness to me in so many ways. He is so good to me! Thank you for sharing.

    1. Julie B November 9, 2018

      Oh Kathy-those goodbyes are hard. While we rejoice that our parents are finally home – we still grieve and miss them. What a special gift that you were able to be there for your Mom’s last months here. What a sweet gift from the Lord. I celebrate with you as I do understand the honor and privilege of being able to walk a loved one Home. May you feel His grace now as you give yourself permission to grieve this loss….. for now. So bittersweet.

  3. Ulrike Byle November 9, 2018

    Dear Julie,

    thanks for your article your words very much resonated with me, as I am still in this season of wanting to honor and care for my ageing parents in their mid 80ties and yet also being involved full time in my country of service. Thanks for your hope filled writing.

    1. Julie B November 9, 2018

      Thanks Ulrike for your kind words. I have found that there is no “one right way” for honoring and caring for aging parents – There are just so many ways this can happen. One thing is for sure, when we ask for wisdom the Lord gives it. Thankful for grace in the journey.

  4. Beth Ann November 10, 2018

    I ended up back in my passport country when I married and the adjustment was very difficult, especially since my parents and 7 siblings with families remained in their country of service. I mourned that my children only got to see their godly grandparents once a year. I really didn’t want to raise them in the US. But God taught me contentment and acceptance of His will In 2010 when my mom developed colon cancer I began making 4 trips a year to visit. I thanked God that my four children were old enough to care for themselves and each other at home. Though I wasn’t present when my dear Mom went Home, I have no regrets and am so thankful for being able to spend precious time with her. Since 2013 I have continued to make several trips a year to be with my dad who is 90 and still fervent in the Lord’s work. The “tension” is there but I find the Lord’s grace sufficient to transition between cultures and responsibilities. Praise Him.

    1. Julie B November 11, 2018

      Beth Ann-
      So fun to see you here at Velvet Ashes! Our stories carry so many similarities!
      Isn’t it great to not have any regrets? That was one of my wishes which the Lord graciously granted to me as well. Glad you are able to travel back and forth to see your Dad too. Yes, His grace is enough!

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