I’m not athletic, but I grew up at the softball fields cheering on Mars Hill softball teams. I hollered with the best of them when a homer pinged off of a bat. And I joined in the ‘hoorays’ each time a foot hit home base. I witnessed the encouragement when the runners strides looked tired. I saw the team and the crowd carry them forth to add another run to the score board.
Home. Team. Home. Base.
One of our girls asked Michael Joe where home was this week. She said she didn’t know how to introduce herself to people anymore. I could see the ache in his eyes as he relayed the conversation to me. Another daughter started rattling off friends’ names as tears filled her eyes. “I just want to play with them,” she cried. And my heart broke anew. Yet another said she was reluctant to go back to America because she doesn’t know who she is there.
Almost 20 years ago, I met my first group of TCKs (third culture kids). In my mind’s eye, I could hear myself asking my Shanghai kids ‘Where are you from?’ and watching them search for an answer. Should they respond- where they lived the longest, lived most recently, name of a place they grew roots, or just simplify with ‘my passport country is ___”? Those are the kids that led me to love Expats-their treks, their willingness to go, their courage to stay, their ability to impact the world for Him. Expats have grown to hold significant space in my life story.
But now I’m raising TCKs and I’m married to an Expat. One of my gals was so young when she left America that corn dogs and M&Ms are foreign to her-just like Target and Chik-Fil-A. How do we navigate this new life? How do we not just weep in the brokeness but let the tears rain down as to grow roots in a new place? What is the formula to help our family not just survive, but embrace this new home and culture in those moments we just want to run into the embrace of family and friends?
During a January wedding of one of my dearest Shanghai kids, a Henry Nouwen passage was read. It sums up the pain and beauty of this calling so beautifully:
We cannot stay if He leads us on. Just like we cannot go unless He beckons. We have to put down roots wherever we are regardless on how long we are there. We can’t hang back and see or wait until we don’t miss home. We are to dig deep into His Word and be confident in who He is. To trust His character, His promises, His salvation even when our whole hearts are plowed under and roots are yanked up.
I believe there is another way we make it through the rough seasons with homesickness, yearning, and ache. We rely on our home base. Our home team. The team that launched us to this new life-even though it broke them in the process. We have found such strength in the committed prayers, cards, emails, texts, and partnerships. We watch and rewatch videos. We do our best to send mail and videos back. We treasure voice calls and video chats. Each instance reinforces those roots we have branched from. While it can be tricky to navigate old roots and new, Romans 11 echoes in my heart. We don’t have to choose between the roots and branches. Grafting is what makes us who we are. We are purely His with new branches and ever growing roots. We need each of you from our home base to know you are with us here. Your strength and passion keep our roots strong. To those where we are, your branches make us see more beauty in this grafted Expat/TCK life. Keep lifting us up-that we may not shy away from brokenness but instead bear fruit all the more.