When I was growing up on the mission field, we never returned to the same house twice after furloughs. I credit my parents with somehow creating a positive acceptance of this, as I only recall the anticipation of visiting the homes they would find to rent and searching out bedrooms and paint colors and the like. It was always an adventure and one that in my memories was exciting and fun!
It was on the other side (stateside) that we had a place of permanency which played an important part in our sense of security. Grandmom lived in her house for over 40 years and it was the house we grew up in before heading to Chile, and returned to for furloughs and college and in the earliest years of marriage. It was hard for us when she had to let it go.
For our kids, it has been somewhat the opposite. Both sets of grandparents have moved, either since we left for Chile or our last furlough (or both.) Instead, it has been the home we rent in Iquique that remains their constant. There are many times when we feel our growing brood has maxed out its limited capacity and we've even overheard their wishful thinking for broader room assignments. But at the mention of a move our kids unanimously cry, "No way!"
So we remain thankful that the owner has been gracious these eight years and especially for his willingness to allow us to sublet on the years we must return to the States. We left the home with basic furnishings in the hands of a realtor last furlough, and this time God has allowed it to be a temporary landing place for friends in between houses of their own. For the past weeks we have been working diligently as a family to clear out our belongings and prepare for their coming. Today was the big move-in day for them.
I didn't expect it to be such a trigger for a couple of our children, considering it was their own friends moving in. But one tearfully told me that it felt bad to see someone else's belongings in "our" house, and to hear people now referring to it as "theirs." Another had previously expressed multiple times an unwillingness to go on furlough. Today after helping with the move the response changed to, "I just want to leave now."
They have been troopers through a long haul, but they are tired. They have been working hard right alongside us to sort, pack, clean and prepare, but emotional weariness has now set in. Today was a tough day. And tomorrow being Sunday still holds most of the final goodbyes.
Our oldest is having an especially hard time saying goodbye to her faithful companion: our dog, Whittaker. She spent all afternoon with him at our colleagues' house to protect him from the moving fray. Her instructions for him have been carefully relayed to the teenagers who will be living in our home. They have been written down in an e-mail as a reference in case details are forgotten over time. But she hates that she can't communicate with him that she is leaving, and why. Tomorrow is their last walk together, and I am sure more tears will be shed.
We are so grateful for colleagues who have welcomed our kids over several days and many hours to provide a place of distraction and downtime in this final push to the end. Their MK "cousins" will face this very same scenario next year upon our return. It never gets easier, but the various ages and stages of our children cause them to react to the reality differently. We need much wisdom and compassion to place ourselves in their shoes and understand their difficult feelings. Our greatest example is Christ, Who placed Himself in our shoes and left His own home for a time to do the will of His Father. May we learn alongside our children to do the same!