When You Want More Than a 2-D Relationship

“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?

  1. 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.”
  1. 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.
  1. 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.”
  1. 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!  

Photo Credit: Jaako via Compfight cc


  1. Amanda September 21, 2014

    Oh how I love this. Our situation is very hard because my parents are believers but very much against us being away from family. We see hints very differently. They don’t understand how God would give us a family only to keep us separated. WE see he bigger picture but it is so hard to explain it to them and try to help them understand when they don’t want to.

    but we do all we can to stay connected. Especially now that we have a son. When we first left as overseas workers, we were just the two of us. Things feel so much harder with our little one so involved and connected to everyone.

    One day at a time.

  2. Amanda September 21, 2014

    Things. Not hints.

    I also meant to add we would love prayers that their perspective would change and they could see the bigger picture with us. We would love to celebrate our Victories with them but for now they are not interested in talking about our work.

    1. Renee September 22, 2014

      Amanda,  I, too, have felt the distinct change in things when children were added to the scene. I know what you mean —  Goodbyes somehow seemed tougher to us when we had to peel our kids away from their grandparents.   Joining with you as you ask the Lord of the harvest to give your parents new perspective — asking that He will give them a glimpse of the tremendous, huge story that you guys are a part of…and that they will be able to release their  own desires for the sake of the One who gave up everything for us.

  3. Pam Moeser September 21, 2014

    Thank you Reneee. I teared up at your Mom’s quote, “We’ll have all of eternity to share cups of coffee”. Can’t wait to do that with my parents in eternity!

    1. Renee September 22, 2014

      Hey, Pam.  Yes!  Can you imagine — all of eternity to share ALL of the conversations that we are laying at the feet of Jesus right now… I can’t wait!  Blessings on you guys!   (Your parents also modeled this well.   What a gift that you have their example in your life!)

  4. Anna September 22, 2014

    I loved this, thank you!

    1. Renee September 22, 2014

      Thanks, Anna.  Hope that today you are filled with great vision of the One who is worth it all!

  5. Kim September 22, 2014

    A hearty amen!!!

    1. Renee September 22, 2014

      Thanks, Kim.   May you have moments this week where you are blown away by Him — reminded that He is worth it all.

  6. M'Lynn September 22, 2014

    I love this. The verse you quoted from Mark had always been an encouragement to me and I needed to be reminded if it. I too feel that ever-simmering pain of raising my kids so far from family. Thanks for reminding me to KEEP ON handing it to Jesus.

    1. Renee September 22, 2014

      Hey, M’Lynn.   It has been so true for me — handing my kids and our separation from family to Jesus has to happen again and again and again.  I think it is going to be one of those things that He and I just keep talking about.  But, I  am always encouraged by how gracious and gentle He is with me — He knows that it hurts and is just plain HARD.  Hope you are encouraged by His presence this week!

    1. Renee September 22, 2014

      Oh my word, Sara!   So good to see you on Velvet Ashes!   Wow.


  7. Cecily Willard September 23, 2014

    I don’t have a family with me.  That makes things harder and easier, I guess, all at the same time.  And my family in the States is spread all over from Colorado to Texas to Illinois to Massachusetts.  The thing that I have discovered is that I have to put out the effort to stay in touch.  Perhaps I am the one who needs it the most, because everyone in the States is surrounded by the ones they love, so it is not a priority for them.  So, for me, making SKYPE appointments, staying in touch by email (just communicating the little stuff) and touching base on FB are all things I must stay committed to.

    Don’t know if this adds anything to this conversation, but just wanted to be a part of it!

    1. Shelly September 25, 2014

      Cecily, bravo on reaching out to your sister. May you persevere in making the effort to connect, and may your effort reap a closer bond with her.

      And your comment certainly adds to the conversation because we all belong to families and communities that we want to stay connected with.

      As Renee wrote, WE have to make the effort to stay in touch (as you are doing with your sister), but the others we reach out to also need to reciprocate. My brother doesn’t initiate communication with me, so I start the email thread. Even then, it could be weeks, or months before I got a reply. And those group emails sent to let a whole bunch of your friends know how you are can also get … no … reply. THAT is a hard one for me. It really hurts to make the effort and get absolutely nothing in response.  And then I lose motivation to keep up the emails, the newsletters, etc.

      I would love some of them to initiate. But they do have full lives, too. So I don’t really know how to be fully where I am serving and maintaining relationships elsewhere. It starts to feel like another part-time job to stay connected and it shouldn’t. I certainly don’t want it to feel that way. Maybe I just need to let go of the “demand” that I get a response from others when I send a group email. Maybe I just need to better schedule time for those communications so that they don’t feel so much like “work.”  Maybe …

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