“Why don’t you come out of that flat thing?”
My boys were staring at the computer screen as we Skyped with my parents for the very first time many, many years ago.
“Grandma, why don’t you come out? Grandpa! Are you stuck in there? I want to HUG you!”
The moment was bittersweet. It was, on the one hand, a precious moment as my parents got to watch our boys open birthday gifts they had carefully selected and mailed across the ocean. It was so cool to see each other, to laugh together, to delight together as the boys catapulted across the room with joy over their new Lego sets. But, the truth of our boys’ words also pierced our hearts.
We adults wished they could come out of the screen, too.
While I am immensely grateful for the amazing technology we have at our fingertips today, there is something about sharing those moments in 2-D that doesn’t quite fill the ache we feel in our hearts. We adults want to hug each other, too.
My husband and I have been at this lifestyle for a long time. When we first came overseas, we paid five DOLLARS a MINUTE to call home. Email was just starting. A few years later, the internet began to develop early versions of Skype – there was no video, but we could call – walkie talkie style – for free. We stuttered and interrupted each other, and lost half of our sentences, but we celebrated. Somehow the distance had shrunk, and we were finding ways to connect our hearts with our loved ones so far away.
And yet. Yet. All the technology in the world doesn’t put my mom here next to me to help me change diapers, to cheer on my boys at their TaeKwonDo tests, to go for a walk and discuss the joys (and pains) of raising teenagers. Technology is wonderful, a true blessing to our generation of overseas workers. But, it doesn’t replace walking through life together in flesh and blood.
Raising our 4 boys thousands of miles from our families has truly been the hardest aspect of our call for me. It is an ache in my heart that simmers quietly through all the years. It is the area of my life that Jesus has gently and persistently asked me to give to Him.
What to do?
- WATCH for God to fulfill Mark 10:29-30 – “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mothers or fathers or children or lands, for my sake and the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time…” While we long for our biological family, we have been blown away by the “family” God has blessed us with in Asia. He has given us immensely more than we could’ve asked or imagined in our “family” overseas – aunts and uncles, cousins, siblings. He’s given us people to walk through life with us. As a mentor used to say, “God gives you battle buddies who link arms with you and walk with you through the fire.” Be ready for God to bless you with MORE “family.”
- CELEBRATE the time you do get with your family in the States. We appreciate each other in a beautiful way and soak in the joy of togetherness in a way we might not otherwise. My parents take them to Chuckie Cheese and laugh their heads off. My oldest son gets up early at my parents’ cottage and sits on the deck with my dad, discussing world events, and whatever new scientific discoveries are in the news. My sister invites my boys over for sleepovers where they go night swimming, bake all kinds of goodies, and stay up as late as they want. We are blessed with an awareness of how precious time together really is…and protected from taking each other for granted.
- REMEMBER the Real Story. Our entire family is learning through the fire of separation that this world truly is just chapter one of the Great Story. While we long to share our days together on this earth, we look forward with incredible joy to the day when we will finally be HOME. All of us. Together. Forever. No more suitcases. No more goodbyes. No more tears. As my mom always says, “We’ll have all of eternity to share cups of coffee.”
- USE TECHNOLOGY. Share your life with your family. Introduce them to people that matter to you. One of my aches is that there are so many dear souls we love in Asia that our families don’t get to know. So, for years now my parents have “chatted” with our Chinese auntie over Skype (through our translation). They smile and laugh and SEE each other. My heart feels bigger – as people we love so very much make even the smallest heart connections of their own.
- Stay in touch, and remember to tell them about the little things in your life as well as the big events. My parents used to love it when our boys were small and they would call them up after a day at Chinese kindergarten and say, “It was long day at school today, Grandma. My ears are really tired.”
- Keep your eyes on the One who is worth it all. Remember that there is never, ever a moment that HE is not with you. HE shares all your memories. HE walks with you in every minute of your kids’ lives. HE is cheering at the TaeKwonDo competition, and laughing with the delight over Legos, and catching all your tears when you cry. HE loves all the people you love – on both sides of the ocean – and promises that there is no road HE won’t walk with you.
And HE is not stuck in a computer screen.
What would you add to the list (or give a hearty “Amen!”)? Come back on Wednesday and you’ll get to hear from my mom!