Ten years ago when we set off on our missionary journey I was very naive to the struggles that children raised overseas develop in returning to their passport country.
While there are advantages to being a TCK (Third-culture kid), there are many struggles too, and as a mom, watching two of my children, young adults now, struggle, it breaks my heart. Our kids are truly TCK's.
This nomenclature is a mix of advantages and challenges. But in this post I want to honor my children by telling them some things from my momma's heart.
We set foot in Davao as a family of 5. One year and six weeks later our family grew by two.
Years of joys and struggles prevailed. Jerard died in 2012. A grief to my momma's heart.
But in all our joys and journeys, dark times and happy times, God has been faithful. I've seen each of you grow in your relationships with each other, friends, and God in deep, abiding ways.
Be encouraged that no matter what the struggle or trial being walked, God is ever faithful. He will never abandon you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5, Deut. 4:31 and 2 Cor. 4:8-10).
You are His workmanship, created in Him for good works (Ephesians 2:10). And you are cool kids! You've whacked through jungles, fed homeless in the city park, visited squatter areas to pass out Christmas gifts, climbed up and down a volcano, learned a band instrument, flown internationally and domestically many times, killed your own chicken, tried bat, durian, jack fruit, balut. You've visited WWII battle sights, slept under stars, used all sorts of toilets, climbed part of the Banau Rice Terraces, have many international friends. Those are rich experiences.
I know it is hard. I watched you, my heart happy for you and my eyes teary, as you started school and I no longer had you home with me all day for homeschooling. I've seen your moments of hesitation when people are talking about something you don't understand, the puzzled looks on your faces when Dad or I use an American idiom that we need to explain to you. I hear your reservations about going to the USA and living in the USA – life there is a different pace; fashion may be a bit different, it's a big unknown. But together and with God's grace we will work through that transition.
I don't know what it is like for you
I know what it is like to parent a TCK but I do not know what it is like to be a TCK. I have read books and listened to talks and attended seminars but you are forging a path I have not walked. I have your back, lots of Kleenex, and joy in my heart from our shared laughter. I do not know what your particular journey is like but I will hold your hand, fierce, until the very end.
I am sorry for the things this life has taken from you.
The names of all the friends you have said good-bye to are branded in my mind. Grandparents and cousins at your birthday parties and school events. The feeling of belonging to a specific place, house, culture, language. Sports, art, musical and academic activities at which you naturally excel but will never fully experience.
I am thrilled for the things this life has given you.
Adventure and a wide-cracked-open worldview. The opportunity to trust God when nothing around makes sense or when everything around makes sense. Friends all over the world of diverse faith and languages and skin colors and food preferences and economic levels.
Creativity and the intrinsic ability to look outside the box, to see from another person's perspective.
Real gratitude, stemming from an understanding that things are fleeting, gratitude for relationships and for time spent in togetherness. Adaptability. Courage. Courage.
I want to hear from you.
Tell me how hard it is, tell me the things you love, the things you wish were different, the things you would never change. I need to hear from you what it is like, I need you to be honest with me about the goods and the bads and then I need you to let me hold you. And I need you to hold me.
I cry for the choices we have made. And then I defend them with passion.
It is not easy to parent a TCK, or any kid, I have wept tears to fill lakes. It is amazing that our Abba God stores our tears (Psalm 56:8). Sometimes I wonder if we have been crazy or irresponsible. But then I look at you and I cry again, good tears, because you are beautiful and complicated and deep and these choices have been part of forming you into you.
You are strong. You have been through international moves and medical crises and hellos and goodbyes. You have tried new and scary things. You have laughed and cried but I haven’t heard much complaining or fussing.
You have more than embraced life.
You are unique. No one else in the world has your story. And yet, you are part of an amazing community of people with stories similar to yours and stories different from yours, whom you can listen to and learn from.
You have built awesome memories. Remember all the OE trips you've taken? The outreaches you've participated in? Taking items to the flood victims at the church? Walking the Banau Rice Terraces?
You have grief. And that is okay, mom and dad are not afraid of it and we want carry it with you.
You are creative.
You are empathetic.
You are wise.
I love you beyond words and am so blessed by each of you.
The struggles each of us face can ameliorate (make or become better, more bearable, or more satisfactory; improve) as we face the transitions, express the griefs, work through the depression, and embrace a theology of suffering.
As your mom, it's hard to have one of you half a world away. I do give thanks to my Abba who knows each of our needs and struggles, does not break the bruised reed, and is our Abba of hope and encouragement (Hebrews 4: 14 - 16, Isaiah 42:3, Romans 15: 5, 13).
Michael Card, a favorite singer and composer of mine, wrote a song that expresses it well....
"there is a joy in the journey, there's a light we can love on the way. There is a wonder and wildness to life; and freedom for those who obey"
Andrews, L. A. (2004). The family in mission: Understanding and caring for those who serve. Palmer Lake, CO: Mission Training International.
Bowers, J. M. (1998). Raising resilient MK's: Resources for caregivers, parents, and teachers. Colorado Springs, CO: Association of Christian Schools International.
Jones, R. P. http://www.djiboutijones.com/2013/03/1-things-i-want-to-tell-my-third-culture-kids/
Since I've returned to Davao we've had stronger earthquakes than in the past ten years here. Like a puzzle my mind ponders about political events, nations being judged, Christ's returning.
2 Samuel 22: 8 Then the earth reeled and rocked: the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked. (see also Psalm 18:7; 60:2; 68:8)
We had a 4.6 earthquake today here in Davao. It's a bit disconcerting to feel the floor wave up a bit, to hear walls creak and gates rattle. We've had a few aftershocks today.
God is our refuge and strength, a present help in times of trouble. We will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea....though the mountains tremble
As we stood outside this morning during the earthquake the passage in Matthew 24 ran through my head you will hear of wars and rumors of wars...and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains
A teacher at the international school our children attend was near where a shelter fell on a woman and assisted her. A local newspaper snapped this photo.
I chose to rest in His peace. It is disconcerting to feel the earth move under your feet. Our times are in His hand (Psalm 31:15). I have and continue to calm and quiet my soul (Psalm 131:2).
O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace. Help me in all things to rely upon thy holy will. In every hour of the day reveal thy will to me. Bless my dealings with all who surround me.
Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with firm conviction that thy will governs all.
In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings.
In unforeseen events let me not forget that all are sent by thee.
Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.
Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day with all that it shall bring.
Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray thou thyself in me. Amen.
Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow
My daughter's cat, Edmund, has a skin dermatitis he is making worse by licking it so the vet prescribed antibiotics and a cone to heal him up.
It's been interesting to watch Edmond. He lays in a crouch position with his head up, resigned to his cone, but I occasionally hear him grumble and twitch his tail in annoyance with the cone around his neck.
He was obviously discontent today.
As I watched him the verse Lamentations 3: 1- 9 came into my mind: "I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; He has driven and brought me into darkness without any light;...He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;...though I call and cry for help, He shuts out my prayer; He has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; He has made my paths crooked" (Lamentations 3: 1-9)
Edmond doesn't understand the cone he's wearing is to help him heal up. I'm sure he feels it is a cone of shame. He just wants to rid himself of it.
We don't always understand that the dark paths God takes us on are for our healing, to draw us closer to Him.
I think Job had deep confidence of God's love for him and was able to pour out his complaint to Abba God. He understood the road where joy and sorrow meet, he was not silenced (see Job 23:17).
Though our souls are wounded and cry out for help (see Job 24:12), we can rest in His love knowing He does not break a bruised reed (Isaiah 42:3). He gives treasure in the darkness (Isaiah 45:2-4)
Treasure In The Darkness
Treasures in the darkness; healing, though the way is painful.
Character, though the building of it hurts.
Endurance, though the obtaining is through suffering.
Hope, though the way
hope – though the way is so dark is so dark.
God gives treasures in the darkness.
God gives healing in the darkness.
God reveals Himself in the darkness. I walk secure through the darkness in Him. He calls me by name. He knows my name. (Tenacious, 2013).
But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for light, darkness came. Job 30:26
I will give you treasures of darkness....that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name, I call you by your name. Isaiah 45:2-4
Jesus told us we'd have trials in this life (see John 16:33). His word lets us know trials produce character, perseverance, hope. (Romans 5: 1-5)
In the dark trials of life, as I meditate on His love for me just as I am how I am, my soul can say, this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 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)
He Himself is our peace.
Watching Edmond struggle with and resign himself to his collar of healing, I thought about Jerard. I'm working on a book about the path of joy and sorrow and my soul's journey during the time from when we took Jerard and James in to Jerard's death.
A new script is being developed and operating as my paradigm.
I used to think hard times were because God was mad at me and wanted to punish me.
He's not punishing me or abusing me.
He's not mad at me.
Even his own son He says, “it was His desire to crush him” Isaiah 53
As I operate more and more out of mindfulness and giving of thanks in all things
I remember, “the Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of Your hands.” Psalm 138:8
He hasn't forsaken me.
He is searching me, trying me, knowing my thoughts and He is leading me in the way everlasting.
The hard times do make us strong.
Edmond's cone will help his skin heal and fur grow back.
God walls us in (Job 19:8; Lamentations 3:7); He afflicts us (see Isaiah 30:20, 48:10; Psalm 34:19).
But our light and temporary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).
He is teaching us His ways, His ancient paths (Jeremiah 6:16).
Isaiah 30: 19 – 21
He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. ...And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
We do encounter divine goodness in the midst of pain. These struggles of life are God-ordained.
I have the right to come boldly into His throne to receive mercy and grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
I can approach God with boldness, freedom, and confidence. (Ephesians 3:12)
He does love me. He is not ashamed of me. He is not just tolerating me.
He embraces me fully as His own. (Tenacious, 2013).
“Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all”.
Rodegast, Samuel. 1676. Whate'er My God Ordains Is Right
Symanzik, Beth. 2013 Tenacious. Unpublished book.
On any given day, according to http://earthquaketrack.com/, there are over 100 earthquakes registering 1.5 or greater on the Richter scale.
As I type this, the current stats are as follows:
100 earthquakes in the past 24 hours
636 earthquakes in the past 7 days
3,332 earthquakes in the past 30 days
38,969 earthquakes in the past 365 days (http://earthquaketrack.com/)
It truly is amazing to dwell on the fact the earth crust is not this solid, steady, never-moving piece of rock that most of us believe it is.
Which makes me ponder even deeper on my loving Abba's Words -
Psalm 60:2 states, "You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open;"
Psalm 99: 1-3 states, "The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
The Lord is great in Zion;
he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name!
Holy is he!"
There are at least 17 references in the Bible to the mountains and earth quaking in the presence of God.
Do we? Do we stand in awe of Him and His greatness?
Hebrews 12 encourages us in this. The chapter is titled "The Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken". We are to be grateful for receiving His salvation, His Kingdom. We ought not to refuse Him and His leading.
"28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,"
I'm back in Davao now. To be honest, I'm not sure I like being here.
It's hard to leave a daughter in a country half a world away from where I am.
I'm sure some of this unsettledness is the start of the empty nest season as children grow and venture out on their own.
In the USA I felt better physically. I had more energy, my thyroid wasn't swollen, my joints did not ache, I was not hot and sweaty all the time.
I've been in Davao now five days and already I feel hot and sweaty, my thyroid has swelled to the size where it feels like a constant pressure on my esophagus and creates a sensation of choking, my joints ache, and my energy level is way down. Part of that could be because I'm still recovering from jetlag.
The Internet is incredibly slow. The traffic is jammed. Noise is high with dogs barking, chickens crowing, loud jeepneys and motorbikes traveling.
As I state these realities of life in Davao it could sound like complaining. It's not. It's just the way things are here.
And this time of adjusting back to my host country provides yet another context to incorporate the centrality of the Gospel into my life.
He wants me to give thanks in all things (1 Thess. 5:18).
"All problems, personal or social, come from a failure to apply the gospel in a radical way, a failure to get 'in line with the truth of the gospel' (Gal. 2:14)." Tim Keller
I'm finding this path hard at the moment, but Job 23:10 assures me He knows the way I take and when He has tried me I shall come out as gold.
The way forward is in giving thanks in all things, in applying His truth to all of life.
I rest in Him.
So, I call to mind and have hope, knowing the steadfast love of my Abba never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning and His faithfulness is great. He is with Kirsten in the USA, He is with us here in Davao, He is with us in the length of time it takes obtaining of James' US Citizenship and passport.
He is my portion and my soul rests and hopes in Him. (Lamentations 3:21-26)