The Perspective of Returning Home

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I recently looked back at some of my early blog posts, dating back a little over thirteen years ago. I was in the middle of preparing to go to the mission field and, as I read, I was reminded of the many ways that the Lord prepared the way for me. I was single, young, determined, adventurous, and possessed a heart full of faith to follow the Lord where He was calling me. Now, all these years later, I am married with two small children, not as young as I used to be, just as determined, more cautious than adventurous, but still with a heart ready to follow Jesus as He prompts me through His Spirit.

We are heading back “home” to Canada this coming August and I am unsure whether to call it home or not. My mom passed away last year and my dad twenty years before that. My sister and her family live two hours away from where we’ll plant ourselves, and many of my close friends now live scattered across Canada.

Someone asked me recently about what was waiting for us in Canada, assuming we had jobs lined up and a place to live. “Oh,” they replied when my response was negative towards both of those things, “so you’re just waiting on God to see where He’ll lead you?”

The unknowns in my present are just as intimidating as they were when I was anticipating moving to SE Asia. But the difference now is that I have almost thirteen years of experience of walking through unknowns, following the lamp that the Lord’s provided to show the path in front of me, and the regular discipline of reminding myself of what is true.

I know He is El-HaNe’-eman – “faithful God” (Deut. 7:9 ESV). He never changes and, despite circumstances around us being uncertain, He is unwavering in His character.

I know He is Eliezer – “my God is help” (Exodus 18:4 ESV) – and Ebenezer – “stone of help” (1 Samuel 7:12 ESV). I’ve experienced His provisions countless times and often in the most surprising ways. Like Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12, I have set up various stones – some real, some in my journal, and some through a picture or other creative means – in my life as a way to honour the Lord and remember how He has moved to help me and others around me.

I know He is Immanuel – “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14, 8:8, and Matthew 1:23 ESV). This has been the biggest reason why I’ve been able to persevere in serving the Lord. I have never had to tackle any task, assignment, follow-up visit, language and culture lesson, visa trip, immigration question, sickness, home assignment, dangerous road, sermon or annual reunion conference by myself. He has always been with me and will always be with me. Despite Satan’s attempts to convince me otherwise, I was never alone in that village in the wooden house, never forgotten in that mountainous assignment, never left behind when my husband went off to work and I was home alone with our children. His presence has satisfied my soul, calmed my anxieties and empowered my heart.

So, I anticipate returning home with great expectations of the Lord to remain the same. I know He will lead us through new challenges and adventures, He will provide exactly what we need (and sometimes what we may think we want) and when we need it, and He will remind me that He is with us and will continue to be with us through it all.

Home has changed. And I’ve changed too. I don’t know what home even really means anymore except for it to be the place where God invites me to be, too.

If you’re returning home for the summer or for longer, which testimonies of God’s goodness is the Holy Spirit reminding you of so your soul may be strengthened?

Return to Thailand

We (the girls and I) arrived back in Thailand last night.  Those were some long flights with lots of crying (none from me this time, thank goodness!).  I am so glad to have that travel done with for now.  The Lord provided lots of help at just the right time.

The week and a half prior to flying back, my youngest was sick.  We had two visits to pediatric emergency and we’ve had lots of doses of medicine each day (including while we were flying, which proved tricky with considering multiple timezone changes).  
But I have fallen behind in my #write31days challenge.  So, here’s to jet lag and catching up on many things, including sleep (even though they say you can’t actually catch up on sleep).  Let’s hope this next season in life is filled with as much grace as ever and keeping our eyes on Him.  Let’s run with endurance this race marked out for us!

Day 19: Brave #write31days

I kept telling my Mom that she was so brave during her last several months of life.  Her prognosis hadn’t given her much to be brave about and yet she lived her days with grace, kindness and love.  She grappled with God at times (“Beth, I had a debate with God last night about free will… but we’re on good terms still”).  She grappled with us sometimes.  She never retreated.  She only persevered onwards.

She continued to do things that mattered to her – like remembering all the names of her nurses, PSWs, doctors, and even the cleaning staff.  She wanted to hear stories of her granddaughters and the sweet things they’d done or said (“Tell me a cute story about Jesse and Kate, Beth”).  She wanted us to reach out to her friends and keep them updated on how she was doing – she was usually more worried about others than she ever was for herself.

Her bravery was modest, and meek but was strong and loud.

Day 15: Remain #write31days

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

In the last few months of Mom’s life, she wanted and needed to be reminded about who she was in Christ and where she was in relation to Christ.  I would read the above verses to  her often and I’d sing hymns with reminders as well.  

She had to be reassured repeatedly that she remained in Christ, despite her circumstances, despite how she felt, despite the false voices telling her otherwise.  She was a child of God and could have confidence in that relationship and position.

I have needed to remind myself of where I stand and to whom I belong.  This past season has been particularly hard in our family’s lives and it feels sometimes as if the battle around us will cause permanent damage.  And, in a way, I guess it has.  But it cannot and will not change who we are in our Creator and our Saviour.

Day 7: Hold #write31days

“Down, down, down,” my twenty-one month old commands as she reaches up to me from where she’s standing at my feet.  Confused about up and down but knowing it produces one of the two, she clutches her beloved Hippo lovey and soaks up my embrace when I finally lift her up.

She just wanted to be held.

Reading the lyrics to some hymns I had just sung at church that morning, I start to cry and my Mom reaches out for me to be embraced by her.  She had regained some strength those past few days and was able to wrap her arms around me and hug me as I cried.

I was grateful to be held.

She told me she held debates with God at night when she couldn’t sleep.  They ended favourably each time, with amicable feelings continuing to grow.  She was ready for Him to pick her up.  To take her home.  To lead her into her heavenly home.

She was ready to be held.

For eternity.

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.

Five Minute Friday: Accept

There’s a book that a friend photocopied and gave to us that attempts to explain eternity to a child.  It’s about a baby who begins in her mother’s womb, and also an old man who is sick.  They are both in the hospital and they are both expecting a major life change.

There is one page that my four year old kept wanting to return to last night as I read her the story again.  It was the one with two pictures: a doctor with waiting hands on the left, and a figure, like Jesus, on the right, standing there with open arms.  She kept saying it out loud, “It’s Jesus, Mommy!” Just like Grandma had experienced.

She was so happy to know that this was the welcoming committee for her Grandma’s home-coming.

Five Minute Friday: Support

This afternoon, while sitting with my Mom who was just so exhausted, Matthew 11:28-30 came to mind. “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest…”  That’s my Mom.  That’s me.  That’s us all.

I read the verses for Mom and was quiet again.  She sat on the bed, trembling and so unsure of what to do with herself that she couldn’t even lay back on the fluffy pillows behind her and rest.

So I sang.

“Oh gently lay your head, upon my chest, and I will comfort you like a mother while you rest…”

Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest,
And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest
The tide can change so fast, but I will stay
The same through past, the same in future, the same today 

[Chorus: ]
I am constant, I am near
I am peace that shatters all your secret fears
I am holy, I am wise
I’m the only one who knows your hearts desires
Your hearts desires 

Oh weary, tired, and worn
Let out your sighs
And drop that heavy load you hold, ’cause mine is light
I know you through and through
There’s no need to hide
I want to show you love that is deep, and high, and wide 

Oh, gently lay your head upon my chest
And I will comfort you like a mother while you rest 

-Jill Phillips

At some point in the afternoon, Mom said, “This has all been so hard on you, hasn’t it?” This.  Cancer.  The diagnosis.  The prognosis.  The expected death.  The up-coming and anticipated home-coming.

“Yes.”  But I added how if we don’t have hard times in life, we don’t grow.  I added, to reassure her, that our family has supported one another throughout this time.  When one is weak, the strong encourage.  When that person is weak, the once-weak-now-strong-ones do the strengthening.  “And we’ll keep doing that, Mom.”

Five Minute Friday (FMF): Work

It’s been a long, long time since I last wrote on here.  I remember when I first came to the missions field and I had no lack of things to write about.  I also didn’t have children or a husband and did have such a thing as “me time” outside of my work responsibilities.  Somewhere along the way, it became work to carve out time for things I used to enjoy doing.  I guess life is like that.

My Mom has been sick for a while now, although we only found out in June.  It’s a job in itself to be caring for someone else, even when that someone is one whom you dearly love and it is actually a joy and a gift to be able to serve her in these ways.  But that shift from daughter to caregiver is a hard switch.  It’s a flip that is too abrupt and liable to cause whiplash if there was even time to think about it.

Five Minute Friday (FMF): Help

Help late in the evening while on the road for work.  Help with a baby fussy in your arms.  Help with a toddler challenging you at every turn.

The Lord is near.  He is mighty to save.  He is my Helper, my Strength, my Wisdom, my Friend.

On the edge of a village, I feel like I could be on the edge of the world sometimes.  Who can hear my cries for a friend?  Who can hear my cries for help?

I called to the Lord and He heard my cries.  He sets my feet upon a rock.  He gave me firm place to stand.

I lift my eyes up to the mountains, where does my help come from?  My help comes from Him, Maker of Heaven, Creator of the earth.