Within the past two weeks, two dear dear friends experienced profound loss, back home in America. One lost her husband to cancer, after a grueling year and a half battle. The other lost her father, suddenly and unexpectedly. Both are unimaginable to me. And both still have young mouths to feed and little hearts to nurture, amidst the grief that must be engulfing them.
And I’m here, across the world.
Unable to attend either funeral. Unable to drop off dinner with a long hug and a look deep into their eyes. Unable to grab their kids and keep them for an afternoon or a night or two to love on them and to give their mamas some time to breathe. Unable to sit with them, cry with them, laugh with them, buy them a coffee, or pray together. Unable to walk next to them, either quietly or actively, over the months to come, or to see with my eyes how these losses shape and change them, because they will.
My friends understand these limitations. My grief about the distance is dwarfed by the grief they are living out right now. And yet this is my first bitter taste of what it means to have your heart rooted squarely in two (opposite) timezones, in two different countries, in two different parts of the world.
Even in the months before we left America, as the preparations heightened, I found myself unable to be as fully engaged as I so badly wanted to be in my friends and family’s lives: in the sticky divorce of one, the depression of another, the joyful first pregnancy of another. Someone responded that this was the sacrifice, and it was starting even before we left.
This is the sacrifice we have chosen, to be far from you, dear friend, dear family. We just didn’t know it quite so well until we got here.
To be far away, knowing that the amount of time to invest in creating a new life in Thailand is immense, necessitating that there is less time to keep up with the details of our loved ones in the States. Less time. There JUST IS. Oh, I thought, I’ll keep up. I’ll systematize it, even, (as I do), to make sure that I check in on our friends, family, and team, let them know we still think of and pray for them and don’t forget anyone. OK, secretively, I’ve not given up on that idea yet, BUT. To be present and integrated and alive in the place one is in requires that one be present and integrated and alive in the place one is in. And we just can’t do that well trying to do it in two places at once. It’s hard enough to do it in just one.
We’ve made the shift before. When we moved to North Carolina one month after getting married, we watched painfully as our Ohio relationships shifted due to time and distance and watched as life moved on with our OH community over those first couple years. They were hard changes to watch. But then we settled more and more in our NC town and over time, we came to accept and love our continuing friendships with our OH peeps. Even though they looked different day-to-day, month-to-month, the ones who lasted over time were (and are) our soul friends, who just aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, even nearly a decade since we’ve lived in the same place.
And now we’re watching it happen to the US community to whom we said farewell. But this time we have a template and so it’s not as scary (though it’s still sad, and really sad at certain moments). We trust that though we all will be changing in the coming years, though our life circumstances, jobs, and locations will change, our family compositions and the heights of our children will change, our physical bodies will change, we’ll still embrace each other (literally–I miss your all’s hugs!) and pick up where we left off and stay connected as well as we can in the meantime.
We will still celebrate when you celebrate and weep when you weep. We will still drop everything at times, to let you know we are here for you, even from here. Because we are, as we know you are for us. It just won’t be in person, and that’s the rub. We’ll miss your weddings, your baby showers, your graduations and potlucks, your funerals and being nearby when Grandma gets a concerning test result back. And just as much, we’ll miss our neighborhood walks with you, meals together in our hot kitchen (hey, we have one of those here!), trips to the library story-time and mornings at the museum, especially in the cool, crisp Autumn air you all are rumored to be having!
More than any other pang, the sacrifice of not doing life with you all, at whatever level we were at or whatever level we were heading toward, however frequently or infrequently we saw each other, is the sad factor I’m feeling these days. Does it mean we want to come home (America-home)? No (well, maybe for a week of some cooler weather and garlic fries at Tyler’s)! I’m just sharing the bittersweetness of being here in Thailand, our dream and our call, and having you send us here and support us in being here, but without your physical presence. Get it?
I once had a friend say, “Wait, I’m going to send in money each month so that you can leave me?!”
I feel ya, babe!
How thankful I am for prayer, this unseen reality, as real as the water we drink and the food that nourishes us, that binds many of us together and keeps our hearts connected. To know that when I can’t comfort you, Nikki and Alissa, sitting next to you on a couch or at our Starbucks, I can pray for you with my whole heart. Any time of the timezones. And that we have a God who is powerful enough and loving enough to hear and listen and have compassion on all of us, as we care for each other through prayer.
Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne, We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts, and our cares.
We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.
When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again.
–from the hymn Blest Be the Tie that Binds by John Fawcett, pub. 1782
October 8, 2015 at 3:48 pm
Just received an e-mail about tigers in Thailand. Apparently 15 years ago two cubs were found with out a mother, near Kanchanaburi, Thailand. They took them to a Budist temple, Wat Pha Luang. People can go and be among these tigers who have multiplied in number and live at this temple. You can have your picture taken with them. They apparently are very tame.
So glad to receive your updates and to see how God is working in your lives. When I receive your post, it reminds me to pray for you and your work. Especially will keep you in mind for missing loved ones and events in their lives. This can be hard but you are correct in knowing that we are a family of believers and will be together with God at some time. A joyful thing to look forward to.
May the Lord bless you and your family abundantly. Love and prayers
October 9, 2015 at 5:40 am
Pat! I google mapped Kanchanaburi and it is about 9 hours away from us. But how neat about the tigers. We have a Night Safari park 10 minutes from our house with all sorts of safari animals, including a lion/tiger show. We went there with our first visitor and it was incredible. So grateful for your prayers and to have reconnected just before we left–that was such a great evening at the Spillmann’s! Prayers and hugs to you and Hans too! xo.
October 8, 2015 at 7:20 pm
Oh Becca! My heart breaks for all of the things you must be missing! I am so appreciative of the sacrifice you all made to follow your calling! A task many may never answer even if they heard the call! Please give those cuties big hugs from all of us at SSA. We will continually lift y’all in prayer! We sure miss you!
PS – somehow I missed signing up for the blog updates, I have corrected that little oversight 😉
October 9, 2015 at 5:37 am
Sweet Erika! Honored to have you following along. Thank you for your words and prayers of encouragement. We sure miss you all at SSA too. That was such a special time to have the kids there, both after Maja was born and then again before we left. xo
October 9, 2015 at 8:41 pm
i totally feel you on this, becca! hang in there.
thanks for articulating this to help all of us understand the cost this is for you. and for us, in a way. 🙂
love you so much, julie
*Julie M. Longacre* 330/464-9194
October 20, 2015 at 1:01 am
Thanks J, as always. much love.
October 11, 2015 at 3:50 pm
Sweet Becca, I found myself thinking about you so much this morning that I came to your blog to catch up on your adventures. I don’t read every post – mostly because it makes me sad to think you’re so far away – but this last one was so fitting to that very topic. I know you miss us (all of your USA peeps) dearly and I’m sorry to hear that some of your loved ones have experienced recent losses. When my parents lived in the Philippines, my mom lost her beloved grandfather and felt helpless to be so far away. Can you imagine doing this without the internet and cell phones?! I love you and miss you so much! Know that you’re in my thoughts and prayers on the daily. 😉 xoxoxox
October 20, 2015 at 8:40 am
Oh Erin, I had to smile b/c I had JUST been thinking about you when you wrote me. I was thinking of all of your birthday bashes (thinking of Liam’s at the art store and then the other one at Duke Park) as we were having to decide on birthday party plans for Emerson’s birthday last week. Sully’s birthday is days away–can you believe we were both overdue and discussing our dilations two years ago already? Thank you for checking in–our hearts are still connected, see? Love you.
October 14, 2015 at 1:25 am
I love this post. Not because I love your sadness or your pain, but because I love your heart and your honesty and openness. This sharing your emotions is real and powerful – and a reminder for those of us back here that WE, too, can pray *with our whole heart* for you and your family across the time zones. Love you B.
October 20, 2015 at 8:42 am
Thanks sweet S. We feel your prayers, keeping us standing. You’ve got ours too, ok? so much love…
October 25, 2015 at 9:06 pm
We knew we should be praying for your family and the mission, but realize with each post how much more we need to be praying for. It’s not just a simple mission to help, it involves so much more, mentally, emotionally and physically. Hang in there. We are all here for you.
October 26, 2015 at 12:40 am
Thanks Mama…it feels so good to have our journey be known, that it’s not all as easy or as glamorous as it sounds.