My Heart is Sad {The Grove – Home}

I have a lot of stories about “home,” about how my family and I have wrestled with what home means when we live the life that we do.

Just last weekend we went on a three day trip.  When we came back to our home, a house that we are house-sitting for a year, I stepped in the door, and immediately felt an odd sense of “Do we really live here?”

Moments later my daughter came to me with tears in her eyes.  “Mom, for some reason this doesn’t really feel like home. I know heaven is our real home, but I’m starting to feel like we’re never going to have a home on this earth.”

Clearly, home is a complicated issue for us.

I know that you all understand that.  So can we take a moment to share our stories about home? Because when we know that we’re not alone, it makes the journey lighter. Let’s create a space to share, knowing that here we’ll be understood.

When I think of all the stories, of all the conversations I’ve had with my kids about “home,” an experience from three years ago is what stands out in my mind. Here’s a post I wrote back then that we thought we should share for those that need it today.


“Mom, is some other family going to come live in our home?” my nearly six-year-old daughter asked me.

“No, honey, we’re going to Thailand for six weeks, and then we’ll come back.  This is our home,” I said in my most assuring voice as I placed the last items into our carry-on.

I knew she was thinking of  our last home, the one we had left in California five months before.  We had made sure the kids saw our apartment empty, so they knew it wasn’t home anymore.  We told them that another family would come live there.  Our new home was in China.

“But what if they don’t know we’re coming back, and they just come in?” she pressed, obviously not convinced.

I paused in the middle of our get-to-the-airport ordeal to kneel and look into her worried eyes.  “No one will come and take our home.  You don’t need to worry.  We’ll lock the door, and it will be here when we get back.”

“Maybe we should put a sign on our door that says, ‘A family lives here and is coming back,'” she says.  I mentally add this to my list of “Signs your child is a TCK.”  And I picture her telling this story to her counselor someday.

Moments later, we’re in a van pulling away from our building.  My son suddenly starts freaking out in grand three-year-old tantrum style, lashing out at his sister next to him.

I separate/calm/discipline, trying to figure out what had happened. Then he, the kid who never verbalizes his emotions, sobs out, “My heart is sad.”


He thinks we’re moving.  An ache courses through me.  The last time we did suitcases and airports, we left our home and never returned.

“Oh, baby … we’re coming back.  This is our home.  We’re going to Thailand now, but we will come back to your room and your toys.  We are coming back.”

He breathes a stuttered sigh, his body now loose and quiet.  With the back of his hand he wipes at his tears.

I’m the one still reeling.


When you live the life we live, the word will pierce you through.

I try to speak truth to myself.

The truth that heaven is our home.

That home is where we are.

That the purpose is ordained.

That learning the world by sight and taste and smell is better than from a book.

Really, who gets to ride elephants and hold baby tigers and stroll the Great Wall?

We do.

Baby Tiger

Elephant riding

Ellie on Great Wall

It’s joy, breath-taking delight.

But also, there’s all the moments we don’t take pictures of.  You know the ones, the days when this whole life of ours is so, so hard it hurts.

We need to acknowledge those too.

Perhaps you’re like me, quick to pull on the tough girl mask, to brush it all off as “no big deal.”  But layer up all the “no big deals” of our lives, and you end up with a mountain of big deal.

We need to mourn the the pain, the loss, the cost.

Some days, just some days, we need to let ourselves feel it all.

And then to sit and simply say through the tears, “My heart is sad.”


How do you grieve the pain, the loss, the cost of this life?

What are your “no big deals”?

What are your stories about “home”? (We know not all of them are sad, so share the joy-filled ones too!)  


This is The Grove and we want to hear from you! You can link up your blog post, or share your practices, ponderings, wisdom, questions, ideas, and creative expressions with us in the comments below.

Here’s our Instagram collection from this week using #VelvetAshesHome. You can add yours!


  1. Heather February 3, 2017

    I am a M in Europe. Recently, my two daughters and I visited my brother and his family in South East Asia, where they live as Ms. My mother was also there visiting from our small-town hometown in the Midwest USA. I felt so at home in the home my sister-in-law had worked hard to set up…mostly because my mom and my brother were there…people that knew me down deep, with no barriers. But also in my sister-in-law, I found something home-like because she shares so much and digs for connection.

    That’s what I miss in my new home, the country we serve. We haven’t been able to connect deeply with our colleagues. There was another M couple we were beginning to find community with, but they left the field. People come and go and you wonder if it is worth investment, you feel a little jaded. The people we serve can be wonderful, but there are barriers in language and culture and I cannot expect them to understand me. I have felt so home-sick.

    To me, home means a place where you know and are known. It is your community. It’s a place where you’re safe to share and can let down your guard. I am thankful for the house we inhabit, we’ve been able to make a cozy place of rest, but it doesn’t cover the lack of true community in our field of service that has me left feeling homeless.

    1. Joy February 3, 2017

      Heather, just to let you know, you’re not alone. We’ve been on two completely different fields and the comings and goings of colleagues has made me not even want to become close friends with anyone! And being introverts, my husband and I don’t make friends easily, so there’s that pain of making a close friend and then watching them leave (or you leave). Honestly, my closest friends are literally continents away, but we manage to communicate regularly through the internet. Those heart connections are not easily broken. Just to encourage you that you’re understood and I empathize with you!

      1. Heather February 5, 2017

        Thanks! That is a help!

    2. Danielle Wheeler February 3, 2017

      So true that home is tied to people/relationships/community. What a gift that you got to experience home in SE Asia with family. And yes, so hard to taste it and then leave it! The ever-rotating expat community does leave one feeling jaded. We’ve had seasons of isolation that made the homesickness so much more intense. And then we’ve had seasons of the richest and sweetest community we’ve ever known. Praying that there is that kind of season around the corner for you. Also, our spring Connection Groups will be starting soon!

      1. Heather February 5, 2017

        Thanks for the reminder of the temporary-ness. Season is a good word. Has it been a weekly theme yet? I signed up for a CG once, but bad wifi got me down. Maybe its time to try again.

  2. LaRae February 3, 2017

    This caught me off guard and is timely. We have been in transition for just over seven months now. My kids have been troopers. My husband and I have had courage, but now as we are finally in our new country of residence, we are still “homeless” as far as a house that we will live in as ours. We are staying with friends as we work through paperwork, get some things settled, and look for a house. The living with others and out of suitcases is wearing on us. We are asking God for strength to persevere until the right timing is fulfilled. Just the other day my two and a half year old asked about taking something with her back “to my red house.” It took me a bit, but finally I realized she was remembering the color of the room she stayed in her whole life until last June. She wants and is still thinking we will “go home.” Oh dear girlie.
    Just this morning as I sat with this same dear girl as she dealt with vomiting etc, I prayed, “Dear God, please give us our own space. But until then, please keep us faithful and ministering to those around us.” He has heard and already using this space to remind me I am not alone, and others have also walked this road. It will be okay. *tears*

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 3, 2017

      So glad this was timely for you, LaRae! Yes, not having your own space does get wearing!! Here’s a hug of solidarity for you. You’re right you’re not alone!

  3. Michelle February 3, 2017

    I think this subject of “home” is a big one for many (all?) of us living overseas, isn’t it? I still call my home in America home…that’s where my family is, and that’s what has always made home to me, since moves have been frequent all my life. But my country of service has become home to me. A few months ago I spent several weeks helping at a different station, a place where I had lived for several months in the past, so it was very natural to call that “home” while I was there. It would get rather confusing in conversations, as without thinking I’d refer to three different places as home. 🙂 It’s part of the beauty and color and richness of this overseas life. Sometimes I feel forlorn, like nowhere is really home anymore. But then I think of the privilege of having, not one, but two different earthly homes at once, and as if that weren’t enough, a heavenly home to look forward to where I will belong perfectly and never, never have to leave. We’re so blessed!

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 4, 2017

      It really is a privilege. And yes, the longing for heaven, for the place of perfect belonging and permanence becomes so much more real!

    2. LaRae February 5, 2017

      that is a beautiful way of putting it…multiple homes with another amazing one to look forward to! 🙂

  4. Lisa February 3, 2017

    I read this and I just started crying. I don’t know if I can sort out my feelings or explain why this post resonated with me so deeply. We’ve been on the field 18 months and mostly I’m okay. I’ve come to realize that some people are travelers and some people have deeper roots than that. I’m a traveler; home is where my people are, and as long as my husband and my kids are around, I’m okay. But my husband has deeper roots – his family had been in our previous community for 5 generations, and it took a lot of strength to pull that all up. He struggles a lot more than I do with homesickness. But today, we just came home from school. We’re going part-time, so our kids get out of the house occasionally and meet other kids. I had thought it would help with the language, which it has, but nobody is going to get fluent just going to Art, Music, and Dance. Then the Director – whose English isn’t great – came to talk to me, informally. Something about what our future plans are, something about full-time, something about assessing our kids’ language ability (the school teaches in the local language). Nothing is done here “officially” without a translator and meetings and a fair amount of speechifying, so I know I’m over-reacting, but suddenly I’m afraid that my kids will be judged for not knowing the language, for not attending full-time – that maybe we won’t be able to continue at the school. And if we can’t, we’re back to home schooling full-time, which is SO isolating. Anyway, all that uncertainty about something that has come to mean so much to me, that is my main connection to the community, that is what makes me feel “at home.” Suddenly I’m reminded that we’re immigrants and strangers, that we’re still trying to make a place here, to find a home. That’s the connection. Thanks for reading and letting me process.

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 4, 2017

      Wow, five generations! That’s a lot to uproot from. And boy, do I understand the tensions of homeschooling alongside local school and the complexities of language learning for your kids. No answers for you, but loads of compassion and understanding. I’m glad this post resonated, that it gave you a place to process. That’s what we’re here for. 🙂 I love that you landed your processing in a place of grace for yourself. You are right, you are still trying to make your home there. Eighteen months can feel like eons, but really is such a short time to learn a whole new world. Grace for the journey, sister. .

  5. Serena February 3, 2017

    This post definitely made me cry. My husband and I are between fields and training for the next. It’s been a long year of many “homes” with another year up ahead. I worry about the effects in our children and I also picture what they’ll tell their counselor about our lifestyle some day!
    We struggle each time we need to purchase an item. Do we really need it? Is it worth the money? Can it travel with us? Sometimes I just want to run through IKEA and buy all the things I can fit into a cart and not think so hard. I want curtains and big bath towels and throw pillows and a mattress of my choosing. I know home isn’t all about things and I really do enjoy our simplistic life (as my sister fondly calls it) but I get weary some days of always thinking ahead and trusting God with all of it.
    Maybe I can have a large, heavy, unpackable vase for flowers that grow in a garden outside my front door once I retire, right? 🙂

    1. Danielle Wheeler February 4, 2017

      I laughed out loud at “a large, heavy, unpackable vase”! I SO get that desire (and the garden thing too!). Yes, every item you purchase becomes this complex decision. And it gets so tiring!! All those little sacrifices, the scratchy thin bath towels and the crummy mattresses and ugly curtains, I think God sees those. They do not go unnoticed. I think he allows us to grieve those too.

  6. kathy Sturgis February 4, 2017

    My husband and I have been struggling with too much stuff and not a space to do a business he wants to start. I was sweeping the living room when God spoke to my heart, “Tell him you will move.” Wow. Really????
    After I struggled through all the excuses and fears I could imagine, I told God I would obey. I told him a few days later. Now I am thinking of what it would be like to start over in a new place. It has really opened my eyes to what M ‘ s life must be like. My prayers have changed deeply for them.

  7. Michele February 5, 2017

    I’m not sure when exactly I started making every loss a ‘no big deal’,’ but I have been in a season of working through that and letting myself grieve things I didn’t even realize I was sad about. One truth I’m starting to get through this process is that when I actually have let myself feel the pain of a sacrifice, no matter how small, I’ve also been able to experience the joy of that sacrifice- that I had grace to give, that I got to experience a tiny bit of ‘the fellowship of His sufferings’. But when I started shutting it off and making it no big deal, I lost the joy and sweetness of that fellowship too. I’m also learning to receive (which is my oneword for 2017). After ten years in Indonesia, which became home, but was always a very noisy, not-so-private home, three years in a room in a hostel of 125 girls in India, followed by two crazy years of basically living out of a suitcase, God gave me an apartment with big, sunny windows and beautiful views in Kathmandu- four years ago. I bought curtains and a sofa for the first time in my life at the age of 43! And now, four years in, I am beginning to finally receive this gift of a quiet place to sit with He who truly IS my home.

    I just have to say that I’m so thankful for Velvet Ashes, which has, more than once this last year, connected my heart to the places that needed to grieve so I could actually come to life again.

  8. Phyllis February 5, 2017

    Home is a hard word for me, too, but maybe not so much for the traditional M reasons? I know where my earthly home is, and I’m very happy with that. However, when I have expressed my feelings about home, I have been chastised rather soundly by people who didn’t understand or agree with me. What I feel is apparently not acceptable, and that was hard for me to take. But, yes, this is a public place, so I shouldn’t go there.

    Instead I thought I’d share some old blog posts, one about the specific homes we’ve lived in, and another from when we first moved into the home we have been in for more than three years now (we love it!):

  9. Leigha February 8, 2017

    Oh Velvet Ashes, sometimes the weekly theme is one that I know I will need extra time to prepare for in my heart before I can engage, and this is one of them. We left our beloved village home and community of 6 years 18 months ago, and have been living in a hodgepodge of homes (all that belong to someone else) since. We left today for a quick visa run and my young kids say all the things that make my heart cringe with the ache of unsettled-ness we all feel. “Are we going to our blue house?” (no, still not yet.) “Are we going to come back to this house?” (hun, we’re only going to be gone less than two days!) “Do we get to keep our toys?” (oh sweetie, yes; these belong to you and no one’s going to take them when we leave.) They are resilient little creatures but I do worry what this long-term transition is doing to their developing psyche. Trusting the Lord big time with that one. We fortunately ARE going back to the blue house they truly know as home, but it will still be a few months before then. (Gosh, 2 years in the life of a 4 year old? This season practically does feel like a lifetime.) But another strand of grace – where we are now has allowed us to visit a few times in these last 18 months, a sweet/bitter experience for us all. When we were there last fall for a short visit I wrote about the beautiful feeling of belonging we have when we’re there. Linking up now in the Grove, albeit a bit late. ?

    1. Michele February 8, 2017

      Leigha, I just went to your link and loved, loved, loved it! Central Java became home to me from 1997 to 2007 and still feels more like home than anywhere else I find myself. When the plane lands there I let out a deep satisfied breath of satisfaction and comfort. Even almost ten years after a shift to South Asia. Your pictures both made me homesick and made me want to visit your island, which I’ve never been to. On a happy note, this week in my local supermarket in Kathmandu, I was super excited to find, for the first time here- INDOMIE! 🙂

      1. Leigha February 8, 2017

        Aw, Michele thanks! Wow, ten years in a place is certainly an investment, it’s no wonder it feels like home. We’ve spent some seasons on beautiful Java (two of my babies were born in Bandung), but the wildness of Sumatra has my heart. Glad you’ve found a taste of Indo in South Asia – Indomie for the win! Definitely one of our comfort foods.?

  10. Liz February 9, 2017

    Just discovered Velvet ashes today. This post so resonates with my heart. Just want to let all you M. mamas know that your kids will probably turn out ok 😉 I am a 4th generation. I just turned 40 this year and just over the past 2 weeks the Lord has focused my attention on mourning the losses of moving so much, especially leaving my ‘home’ (overseas country) when I was 14. I resisted doing this for so long, because it was such a painful loss. However, the image that keeps coming to me is that of a stained glass window. It is made up of many small fragments – broken pieces of glass. Sharp edges. Seemingly no rhyme or reason to the colours, the shapes… and yet … in the hands of the artist, it all comes together to create such a beautiful picture. This feels like my life. Three months here. Four years there. Sleeping on a hide-a-bed. Dragging my own kids now, around the world. Once we literally had no where to sleep the next day. But – it has created beauty in my life. And I trust Him for my little ones as well.

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