It hurts. Just thinking about what is to come tomorrow. O, my heart is hurting and my eyes are burning as they fight back tears.
When we first moved to Portugal six years ago, Hodge and I never even considered that we were making a sacrifice. We sold almost everything we owned, we said goodbye to friends and family, and we moved to a foreign country. To us, it wasn’t even scary. We were just so thrilled to see the Lord fulfilling in our lives what He had already called us to do years before.
Of course, we had difficult days. To be honest, the first month of life in Portugal wasn’t too kind to us. We ran into several problems with our apartment, one of the most memorable being that our back door (which was basically a 3ft by 10ft sheet of thick glass) broke off its' hinges right in the middle of rainy season and when we contacted the landlord about it, his response was that he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it until the rainy season ended. Two months we lived with that door propped up and with our best efforts to keep the rain out.
Beyond that, during that first year, I experienced a lot of loneliness as I felt abandoned by friends and family in the States, and the language barrier made it equally difficult to establish and maintain deep and meaningful friendships in Portugal. What’s more, we had a devastating miscarriage six months after we arrived.
Despite all those struggles, I never once questioned that we were supposed to be in Portugal. Because, to be honest, those experiences drew me closer to God. When I experienced pain, I ran to Jesus. I leaned on Him. I read the words written in the Bible, and they helped to heal me and rejuvenate my soul. I grew closer to the Lord in that one year than I had in the previous 24 years of my life. (This is not to say that Hodge wasn’t a great support system, because he really was and he continues to be to this day. I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else because I honestly think his calm and understanding demeanor perfectly complements my crazy and, at times, irrational behavior.) Anyways, that to say, those experiences taught me that Jesus is the ultimate listener, comforter, and healer.
So, sure... we experienced a lot of trials and tribulations that shook us (including eventually being let go by the organization that originally brought us to Portugal), and it’s true that it has never really been easy (even as we have returned to Portugal through self-fundraising). However, I can tell you this… it has always felt right. I know, I know… these feelings of ours can be very misleading sometimes. But I’ve said it and I’ll continue to say it, I do believe that God has brought us to a place where He is using (and shaping) our giftings to reach those around us with the love of Jesus. We were made to live in Portugal, among the Portuguese. It has never felt like a sacrifice.
Until now. Now, we have three little people in our charge who are also being called to make sacrifices. We have three little people who are learning why were are in Portugal and why we can’t always be with family. One little guy in particular who has grown rather fond of his grandparents and who has already expressed his desire to stay and not return to Portugal.
I get that they are not the first kids to live far from their grandparents. And I am thankful that with technology, the distance does seem much shorter. And you know what, I think it is amazing that our kids get to experience a lot of things that many kids their age don’t get to. To name few: All three of them have traveled far more than the average American, they are growing up learning two languages fluently, and they get to spend more quality time as a family than the average person. There are so many advantages and good things to this life we are called to.
But of course, there is ALWAYS a “but”. And that but is…. but it still hurts.
So, as we prepare our bags and our hearts to say “see you later”, we remember why we are going. We are looking forward to getting back to our life, but we know those first days will need to be spent with extra hugs and little adventures to make it easier for those little hearts and minds that can’t yet fully understand why we can’t just go visit the grandparents whenever we want.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12: 1-2