Here I am (far right) in the earlier days of life overseas, wearing my infant son, and shopping at the neighborhood market.
It was early 2007, and we'd just celebrated her second birthday. We were living with friends, and most of our earthly possessions sat waiting in their garage, packed in a small pyramid of cardboard boxes.
Our oldest daughter — our only child at the time — was sweetly oblivious to her impending fate. In a matter of days, we'd board a plane and travel 6,000 miles to a new land.
There would be new sights, new smells, new tastes. The unknown weighed heavily in an unfair contest against the known. There was no way to mentally picture our home, our furniture, our neighborhood, because so far, we had none. We were moving to a new culture, and the vagueness that lay before us was palpable.
But sweet Chickpea, she had no idea. Her world was play, eat, nap, play. She chattered, of course, but had no real way to share how she really felt.
As a mother, I struggled with guilt that I was snatching her away from familiarity, and that I couldn't really explain it to her. Eat up, because for all I know, this could be your last snack of Cheerios. No, we can't go to your grandparents' house next week — we'll be half a world away. In fact, the next time you see them, you might be a year older.
But I looked at her and the bravery on her face—however naive it may be—and I was encouraged. She had parents who loved her. She was in good hands. No matter where she was taken, she'd be safe. What is there to fear?
We sat on those uncomfortable airline seats, the three of us, and noshed on our sadness, our excitement, and even a side helping of numbness. I cried off and on for that 23-hour trek, feeling more and more otherworldly with each layover in a new country.
But my daughter, she was fine. She sipped her apple juice, marveled at the bite-sized personal TV screen in front of her, and napped on my shoulder.
One week later, we looked out our new living room window, still void of any furniture. This strange city and its flickering lights, engulfed in different food and different words and different daily habits, lay before us. We couldn't point which was was up if our life depended on it.
My two-year-old, new with words, wrapped her arms around me and said, "Let's go home, Mama." And my tears flowed. She knew something was different, even though she couldn't define country boundaries. What in the world were we doing here?, I thought.
Let's go home. That's what I want, isn't it? To feel at home. I know that won't happen until I reach my true Home. So in the meantime, the homiest place I can find is in the center of His will, where I can choose to delight. That's where I've tried to be these last two and a half years, embracing this culture as our home for this season of life.
My daughter, now nearing five, officially lives a third-culture life. She can successfully navigate the play structure at Chick-Fil-A and the bottlecap-infested, would-be-condemned-if-we-were-in-the-States playgrounds of her host country. And while she misses living near her grandparents, her courage is infectious.
On those days when I want to pick up and leave, I watch her welcome the unknown with stride, which is so prevalent in this culture. So these people speak in words we can't understand. What is there to fear? Sure, we don't know what tomorrow holds, and there's a chance we could be asked to leave this place. But we know Who does hold tomorrow, and He's promised us that He'll nurture us more extravagantly than the birds He feeds every hour of the day. We're not alone here.
My daughter embraces this host culture with a spirit of curiosity. She's content with the unknown. She's courageous. And she encourages me.
How do your children display courage to you?
by TshLeave a Comment
I can relate! I also live overseas and I constantly contemplate the day when I get married and have kids. Will I stay here? Will I move somewhere else for them? I like how you wrote:
the homiest place I can find is in the center of His will, where I can choose to delight.
Soooo true! I agree 100%…no matter where you live, geographically.
Oh Yes. We would be miserable anywhere he isn’t… wondering of without Him. His will is more heart and motive motive than geography
Tsh, it is such a delight to hear your voice this way! A fantastic post, to be sure. My children are constantly surprising me. I underestimate their bounce-back ability on a daily basis. Things I think will surely crush them surprisingly do not. I would be wise to remember that as we walk them to the first day of kindergarten in a mere 4 days 🙂
This is beautiful Tsh! Honestly my kids innocence is what encourages me. It encourages me to try my hardest to teach them right and wrong. To pray for them and with them. To teach them more about our Jesus. They encourage me to be the best mother I can be with the help of Him.
@Maureen — I think most of us living overseas feel that way. There’s this constant “what if?” and “what when?” that’s continually whispering in the back of our mind.
@Emily — Thank you! One of the reasons I’m excited about this gig is a chance to write something usually not seen on Simple Mom.
Mary @ Passionate Perseverance says
“the homiest place I can find is in the center of His will, where I can choose to delight”
Tsh ~ no other words are needed but to say thank you for your gentle reminder of who God is and where He needs us to be. He is HOME. and He wants us there with Him.
Blessings and Grace…
Stephanie (in Chile) says
As a TCK/MK (third culture kid/missionary kid) now grown and raising my own TCK/MK’s, I truly enjoyed your post. Thank you for sharing.
My daughter’s eyes have reflected courage the moment she was born. She was born with a birth defect that required her to have surgery at 2 days old. The doctors gave us no hope for her life. She is still reflecting that daily courage as she now wheels around in a wheelchair and she is so full of life at 2 years old. I know God places our children in our lives for so many reasons,one is definitely so we can have the courage to be like them. You have an amazing story, thank you for sharing.
we will adapt, for better or worse… I ratter be for the better! I can relate, I moved to another country to be with my husband, in my old home I left family, friends, job… I miss everything, but when I look at my children, I just have to keep going.. (and this reminds me of a U2 song: Walk On).
some people call me brave to have done so, but the bravest I feel is when I need to do so for my children.
This made me cry, I’m so choked up right now. (yes, I’m pregnant and hormonal, but still…) I’ve been living abroad for nearly six years (my son was born here) and am aching to get “home” Thank you for a different perspective!
Lovely. I, too, enjoy hearing your voice this way.
melissa @ the inspired room says
Oh, this struck a chord with me as we just moved our son to a foreign land. Well ok it is not really a foreign land but it may as well have been for all the stress it put on me. One state up and a new school for a 2nd grader. On the first day in those first minutes he rolled up in the fetal position in the hallway and wouldn’t go in the class room. I cried for him. He got a little braver and went in the class room and sat behind a bookshelf. I teared up. When I finally left the classroom that morning, quietly wiping my nose with a tissue he was sitting at his desk. He asked to go home many times in those first few weeks. But he was brave. He made friends. I cannot imagine him having to navigate a new life in a new culture too!
Lovely and inspiring post, Tsh!
Jessica Turner @ The Mom Creative says
Tsh, you are so inspiring to me. I feel honored to have met you last year at Blissdom and now to be doing this together! This piece was so beautiful. I am often struck by my son’s innocent view of the world. He doesn’t judge. He doesn’t realize that he lives in a small condo. What he does know is love. And that is enough…
Tsh, you really nailed all the emotions we go through as we move overseas. Thanks. I really enjoyed hearing you speak on faith!
My son was 4 1/2 and daughter was 6 months when we left our home and moved to europe for 2 years. The first two months were tough as we were unpacking and getting settled in. My son did not have the chance to really play or make any buddies. We tried but we were living in a country that spoke many different languages and one was not commonly English. At the first day of school was fine and after a year there I thought he was just amazing how well he adjusted and learned the language. Then the summer came, fun, sun and travel. But that day, oh that day, when he had to start Kindergarten. He knew all the kids. He knew the teacher. He was excited to go. And as we walked up to the class. I saw that look. Fear, real fear and tears welling up in his eyes. I felt for him. He was walking back into an 8 hour day filled with school, learning, and play completely in a different language. He took a deep breath, held on a little bit tighter than normal and walked in. Every time I need a push into the unknown… I think of that day. My heart was breaking but I knew it had to happen. He was great. That day was great and he continues to amaze me with that inner strenght. Now, I just hope/pray that I can show him the same in me.
Now that I am done with my story. I wanted to say that your post was just beautiful.
Jenn - Walk With Me says
It’s amazing what we can learn from children! I posted something similar yesterday about how our definition of LOVE can altered as we grow up…and when we look at our children we can see more clearly how God intended it to be 🙂 Thanks for the post! (www.jenneverswick.com)
Tsh, as I was reading your very moving account of an unconceivable (to me) life transition, it suddenly made complete sense to me why (in spiritual terms) you were enjoying such success with your blog. Because of your isolation from the familiar, you need it more than most of the rest of us–a way to connect with your own culture while you are in a foreign one, and to reach across cultures with the common bond of womanhood, motherhood, and family. If you were blogging here, I’m sure your blog would be just as popular, but I’m guessing it means more to you being where you are. Also, I find your creative and altruistic response to the exceptional lifestyle God has given you to be tremendously courageous.
Thank you for giving us glimpse into such a personal place and for fueling (both practically and spiritually) my inspiration to rise above the complacency of the comfortable, and into a life of Godly productivity not dependent upon circumstances.
renee @ FIMBY says
My kiddos teach me the same thing all the time. Their ability to face adventure and uncertainty -they trust in us to provide the basics for them, as we should trust our Father also, encourages me greatly.
My daughter always inspires me. She was 9 months old in China when she joined our family. We smelled funny, we had big noses, we sounded different, our food was different. We brought her back to our home in Germany. More different people, different sounds *again*, different foods *again*. Then off to America to meet her extended family. Dozens of people crowding in, cooing and oohing over her every move.
And she smiled. And giggled. And laughed, and tried new foods, and explored the corners, and pulled on all those big noses!
When she was in need of comfort, she accepted our hugs and kisses and outpourings of love.
I don’t know anyone braver or more beautiful. We have been blessed.
So good to hear this! I’ve watched my 4yo daughter struggle through a similar transition and the day she crawled into my bed in the wee hours of the morning and asked me to go home left me in tears as well. But she’s resilient. And months later we are truly happy here. The other day on the way to the park she was skipping along talking about how much fun we were going to have at the playground because “every day is fun where we live.” It was music to my ears.
Megan at Simple Kids says
This is lovely, Tsh. So powerful and very moving. I was inspired by my daughter’s courage last week when she started school. I decided to drop her off in the drop-off line because that’s how we would do drop-off every morning. When the attendant closed the door, my daughter stood there for a half-second, smiling back at me with a look that was mostly excitement but just a twinge of uncertainty. Then she the attendant’s hand and bounded into school. I was so proud of her courage!
Thank you for sharing this from your heart. It is so true – as long as we are moving in time with Him, it doesn’t matter so much where our feet are taking us.
Fiona@ A little bit of honesty says
Yes – God is gracious – my kids have handled our move to America from a country far far far away VERY well – i have so much to be grateful for. Next challenge – handling school – accents and all……but I am sure Master 7 will be courageous!
Lori W says
I had the pleasure/ privilege/responsibility/ adventure of teaching and working with third culture kids for 2 years. They are some of the bravest, most loving, most interesting, and most amazing kids I have taught.
They taught me so much and I am blessed that they were and are a part of who I am and my life.
Thank you for sharing this. 🙂
Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience says
“And a little child will lead them”… (Isa. 11:6)
My son tonight humbled himself and apologized to a friend: his tender courage whispered to me…
God so often uses the child to parent the mother. Oh, the ways of the upside down kingdom…
Your writing moves with His Spirit, Tsh…
I look forward to reading more of your heart…
Much love, friend…
I can totally relate to this post as I’m living overseas in a culture so totally different from my own and am 35 weeks pregnant with my second baby (the first is now 1 1/2 and was also born here). I often find myself longing for home and grieving for the things and people I think my kids will miss out on. I needed the reminder that there is no better place to be than the center of His will. Thanks for your words!
All I can say is that I understand the feelings of living overseas in different culture. However, our two oldest children were born in Japan so when we did come back to the States, it was weird to them.
Our six-yr-old sometimes says that she wants to go back to Japan but at the same time she doesn’t want to leave her grandparents.
When Butterfly trusts me implicitly because I am the only thing in her life that she remembers, this is courage and pushes me to trust God as completely. When FigNewTon embraces change with a can-do attitude, as if nothing can get in her way, this is courage and I know with God, I can do the same.
I love that you were able to beautifully articulate in this post EXACTLY what I have been feeling since relocating from the States to Hong Kong with our five children in May. Their sense of adventure and peace as we follow His will INCOURAGE me daily! What a beautiful post!
hi tsh. enjoyed this blog. my husband and i brought our 4 children overseas to a place where we still live (the Philippines) in 1987. we raised them all here and now 5 of our 9 grandkids are growing up here too. we have recently adopted a Filipino baby girl who is now 3. and my comment to you would be…that eventually, rather than longing to “go home”, this becomes home. a safe place that is familiar and comfortable. would love to connect with you by email.
Just a lass hiking with Jesus says
You have written my experience down to even the time it took to get to our host country and empty house. It brought tears to my eyes. We left for the mission field with a 18 month old and a 4 year old and went to the Southern Philippines. This past June, we just transitioned back to the states. 6 years there, so many memories. As we left for the field everyone asked about our safety, since all they hear in the states is that Mindinao is overrun with terrorists, but you are exactly right and I told people the very same thing, “the center of God’s Will is the safest place to be”. Thank you for writing this.
Thank you so much for this post! We are currently praying about moving overseas and one of my hesitations is how our baby girl’s life would be affected. This is a wonderful perspective!
Thank you for sharing this!! We have 2 months to pack and go, have not called a place home for the past 4 years – just moved everywhere. My hubby said: next place we live at – we put the pictures on the wall. very frightened of change, but I know my baby boy, 10 mnths, will love it anywhere – he has his Daddy’s spirit, he loves adventure. I keep on reminding myself: the home is where my Heavenly Father is.
Dear Lord, thank You for being a Father for lv and her family! Please fill their hearts with Your peace. You are the same, yesterday, today and forever, and will never leave or forsake them. I pray that their lives will be filled with the scent of heaven, Your home, their home. In Christ’s Name. Amen.
My prayer request – health issues, marriage issues, sadness, heart heaviness.