When You’re Homesick for a Place or People who are No Longer There

I’ve been reading my way through the “Anne of Green Gables” books and earlier this week I came across a great quote from L.M. Montgomery in “Anne of the Island.”  It was the scene when Anne and one her good friends and roommate from the past three years, Phil, were taking one last walk through their rental to say goodbye to the house. 

Anne wondered if old dreams could haunt rooms – if, when one left forever the room where she had joyed and suffered and laughed and wept, something of her, intangible and invisible, yet nonetheless real, did not remain behind like a voiceful memory. 

“”I think,” said Phil, “that a room where one dreams and grieves and rejoices and lives becomes inseparably connected with those processes and acquires a personality of its own.  I am sure if I came into this room fifity years from now it would say ‘Anne, Anne’ to me.” Montgomery, L.M.. “Anne of the Island.” Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Inc.. 1943. pp. 221-222.

There was something about that house and those rooms and the lives they lived in there that made it seem like their happy little existence would go on living forever, despite empty rooms and absent friends.

I feel the same way about my mom’s house.

Before my mom had passed last September, she told us that she wanted us to sell her house.  There were many reasons why she felt that way, and, at the end of the day, she would let us decide what we would do but she wanted us to know how she felt.  In the end, we did sell it and it sold quickly.

The new owners have been busy making it their own, so our former neighbours and dear friends tell us.  They’ve been tearing out flooring, bathrooms, a chimney, redoing the electrical system, getting rid of all the brick downstairs, and the wooden panelling, converting the kitchen to a mud/laundry room and moving the kitchen back to what used to be our old kitchen before our family renovated the house 24 years ago. 

While I’m sad that the house will have changed so much, I am curious to see the finished results.  I like knowing that new life has been breathed into it.  I’m also relieved.  My mom’s house is no longer the same and forever it will, in my mind at least, be the last place where our family lived and loved and pressed on despite the sorrow that enveloped us.

I can’t go back to her old house.  She’s no longer there.  And the house is no longer the same.  Life has changed.  But there’s a conversation I dream I can hear from the other side of the hedge and fence.  I dream there is laughter and a face full of joy.  I’m homesick but it’s for a place and a person who are no longer there.

As I think about my situation, I’m sure there are others, involved in missions work and or in secular vocations, who can identify with me, as well.  For those serving cross-culturally and preparing to go back to your passport country for the summer or longer, you may be facing the reality that loved ones are no longer in your hometown.  Friends and family may have moved away or, in some cases, have passed away.

So what do you do when you’re homesick like this?  What do you do when you’re homesick for a place and people who are no longer there?

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1. Grieve your loss(es).

There’s so much that could be said on this point that I could write a book.  And maybe I will.  But not today.  For now, I’ll suggest that you give yourself space, time, and self-care as you grieve the loss of your significant people or person and your special but changed places.  Be kind to yourself in this season.    

2. Take time to pause and express thankfulness to God. 

Thank Him for your past, present and future and for the people He’s put into your life and will put into your life.  When I thank God in this way, I’m able to grieve with hope and joy.  Despite what seems like an oxymoron, joy and grief can and do co-exist.

3. Redeem a place with new memories.

The pain of your loss may be overwhelming and paralyzing, at times, and may be heightened when you are back in that place and your person or people are no longer there.  Don’t be afraid to enter those spaces again, but, when you’re ready, begin to make new memories there.  Initiate creating community and new adventures.  Invite friends to meet for a picnic at a park where you used to go for walks with your loved one.  Start a new Christmas tradition, while infusing some of the precious traditions you shared with your loved one.    

4. Create your pile of stones.

In the Bible, God’s people often built or did something to cause them and their descendants to remember a specific act of God.  In the book of Joshua, chapter four, the people of Israel constructed a pile of twelve stones as a testimony of what God had done to bring His people into the promised land.

“And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:2-24, ESV)

There are a lot of ways to remember how God has helped you, provided for you, counselled you and shown his love for you.  You could make a physical object, like a pile of stones, or a painting or sculpture.  You could take a picture of a place, person or event, frame it and place it somewhere in your house where you would take notice of it frequently. The bathroom?  The kitchen near the sink? On your bedside table?  Choose what works for you.  Another way of remembering is through words – journaling or writing a poem or even a book.  Ask the Lord how to show you how to commemorate your loved one or place.

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This list has no time limit and there is no one method for accomplishing each of these steps.  They do not need to be done in chronological order and may even be done simultaneously.   

I suggest that you invite a friend to journey with you in the process.  Find someone who can listen well and love you as you share about your loss(es).  You may find it helpful for them to keep you accountable for some aspect of your journey.  Try journaling as a way to process each step.  I find writing a cathartic experience and I appreciate looking back and seeing how I’ve grown and what I’ve learned along the way.  Maybe you will too.

But most of all, know that you’re not alone in missing someone who is no longer in your life.  You have good company with people who are also grieving various losses.

We may be homesick, and that’s okay.  May it not end there.  Let us look to the future, into Christ’s face.  

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:16, ESV

Five Minute Friday: Secret #FMF

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My almost-five-year-old is still figuring out her groove with the swing.  When do you bend your legs and when do you straighten them?  How do you go higher?  If I make a face like this, will it help?  What is the secret?!

When we’re learning something new, it will take some time to figure out how to do it, how to do it well and how to do it in our own way.  I know I felt like this when I came to the missions field.  I felt pressure to be as extroverted as my teammates but after a few years I discovered something: I had to learn how to serve the Lord in the way that He had created me and gifted me.

Growing as a writer is the same.  How does the Lord want me to communicate what He’s putting on my heart?  How does He want me to use the unique gifts and life circumstances He’s given me to write?  How can I remain true to myself and God as I pursue this new journey?


If you are a writer but you struggle to share your work in a way that feels like you, then you don’t want to miss this:

Emily P. Freeman, co*founder of hope*writers, is hosting a live training for writers called “How to be a Working Writer Without Losing Your Mind.” It will be on Tuesday, May 22nd at 8 pm ET.  

Emily is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author who loves talking to writers about writing.

Click here to save your spot for Tuesday night’s free masterclass!

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These are affiliate links but I promise I won’t ever recommend something unless I’ve tried it before and have determined it to be helpful, inspiring or both. 

Beginning today and throughout the week until Friday, May 25th, Hope*Writers is opening up access to join their writing and learning community.  Sign up for the free webinar to gain insight from Emily about the process of publishing a book, and get a glimpse of what it may be like to be supported by hope*writers in your writing and publishing journey.

See you there!

Where Are You on the Writing Path?

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Over thirteen year ago, I began writing my blog a couple of months before I left to serve cross-culturally in Thailand.  I had wanted a place to share my thoughts, my struggles and my victories while I served in a new culture, language and country.  It’s fun to look back now and remember the situations and people I encountered and how the Lord sustained me through it all.

After a long hiatus from blogging, I made a commitment to began to write again in April and I joined an amazing community of faith-filled writers called Hope*Writers.  Through access to their online learning library, which is updated on a regular basis, and the support of the staff and community of Hope*writers on their Facebook group page, I know where I’m at in my writing journey, and how to get to where I’m dreaming to go.  I am inspired to write again and it feels like fresh air!

I’m excited to think through how the Lord might use me and my journey – my failures and successes – to encourage other women to be involved in serving God and living missionally both cross-culturally and in their own backyard, so to speak.

Hope*Writers only opens up access to join their writing and learning community a couple of times a year and next week (May 21-25) is one of those opportunities to join!

Whether you’ve thought about starting to write a blog (or start writing on it again), have an idea for a book or maybe even have published a book but you’re still interested in learning and growing as a writer, Hope*Writers is for you!

Give this short, fun quiz a try to learn where you are on the writing path and know your next step is.

This is an affiliate link but I promise I won’t ever recommend something unless I’ve tried it before and have determined it to be helpful, inspiring or both.

Looking forward to journeying with you!

Day 26: Change #write31days

I remember after my Dad passed away, twenty-one years ago, that I envisioned our family like a stool.  Initially, our family had four secure legs, but after my Dad died, and after some time to process the loss and grief, I could see our family as a three-legged stool.  It was different.  We had to reposition ourselves.  But after these adjustments (this makes it sound so easy), we would be able to stand.  My Mom, my older sister and me.

Now with my Mom gone, I don’t think that analogy works anymore.  Not because I feel like I can’t stand but because I can (although hurting and missing my Mom something fierce).  My sister and I both have our own families, but beyond blood relatives and married-into-the-family relatives, I feel that we have a stronger sense of the community that is also a part of our family.  If we were still a stool, we’d be one with more than a hundred legs.

We called my Mom’s support group, Team Becky – maybe that’s what we still are even though she’s now gone.

Day 5: Trust #write31days

Mom’s doctor described the palliative floor Mom was in as a house.  She usually went on to say that no one was ever alone, because it was one big house and so no one ever really died alone because other “family” members were always somewhere in the house.

The more I thought about this, the more I saw how there were other family values demonstrated from the doctors, nurses and PSWs.  One of the big things I saw them work on building was trust.  Mom went from not wanting anyone to help her at the beginning of the summer, to needing complete care within a month’s time.  By the time she was at Parkwood Palliative, she needed A LOT of care.  She had to reach out and receive the hands that the nurses offered when they helped her.  She was forced to trust them but, at the same time, they were so lovely in the many ways they cared for her and worked on building that trust and relationship in as much a natural way that you can, when you’re in that sort of environment.

By the end of Mom’s time there, we felt that Mom’s nurses were like family.  We had trusted them with our Mom, but also with our own hearts.

Day 4: Hope #write31days

“I remember after my Dad died,” I told a friend at the Mom’s Bible Fellowship this morning, “that the depression was so bad and it was so hard.  And I’m afraid of that happening again…”

I went on to tell her that I wanted my people back in Thailand to know that we will need support for the days ahead, and I can’t go back without that in place.  When we live in a small village, with few close friends nearby, I barely can think about going back.  But yet I know we have to go back.  And get on with life and live the life we feel called to live there.  And I know Mom would’ve wanted that. But it’s still hard to go back. And I desperately hope that my grief journey is different this time round.

I want to permit myself to feel what I need to feel as I grieve, but I really want to keep the perspective that I KNOW, without any doubt, that my Mom is in heaven rejoicing, is fully healed and is with Jesus for eternity.

Day 3: Create #write31days

My Mom created a community.  It became a combination of puppeteers, musicians, potters, neighbours, friends and family.  She was a calm force in the midst of it and was 100% unaware and unbelieving of how vital and life-giving her presence was in our lives.  She was smart, funny, thoughtful and was such a night owl that I knew I could not only Skype her from Thailand while I ate breakfast, but also while we ate lunch (if we really wanted to).

Sometimes the things we create are done with purpose and sometimes the lives we live creates something special without us actively trying.  Mom’s life did both.  She wanted unity in our family (and especially between my sister and me), but she also opened up pathways for deeper connections between her friends and her daughters that was like a by-product of how she lived her life.

a BIG thanks from the team at The SOLD Project

A HUGE thank you to those of you who read my blog post the other day and responded by helping in a variety of ways: spreading the word about the competition that The SOLD Project was in through Global Giving (The Girl Effect Challenge), and even by donating $10 to help The SOLD Project win the competition.  Not only did they win, but they came in first place!  AND you helped raise over $18,000 for SOLD!  The prize money (at least $30,000) will be ON TOP of what you helped raise during the competition!  That’s a massive contribution to fight against child trafficking in Thailand through prevention, education and empowering a community!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tawee and his teammates here in Thailand were Skyping with their teammates in the USA as soon the Girl Effect Challenge finished on the weekend.  They are all SOOOOO encouraged and grateful by everyone who went out of their way to help them in this competition, thereby helping the kids and families here whom we love dearly.

Thank you.

To keep updated with The SOLD Project, check out their website, or their blog, or their Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter!

opportunity to prevent trafficking, provide education and empower a community

The SOLD Project is the foundation that my husband directs in Thailand. They’re currently in a competition from November 1-30, with Nike’s campaign of The Girl Effect Challenge (through Global Giving). The top 6 organizations with the highest number of unique $10 donors will win! Winning would lead to significant exposure, increased credibility, and enough money to fund the running costs of The SOLD Project for an entire year!

 Please help them out as you’re able: checking out the competition website, donating $10 within the last 24 hours of the competition, and also by spreading the news on Facebook, Twitter, etc. about how you can help prevent trafficking, and help provide opportunities for youth in Northern Thailand to get beyond a grade 9 education.

Thanks for empowering this community!

[For more information on The SOLD Project, stop by their website at http://www.thesoldproject.org or their blog at http://thesoldproject.wordpress.com ]