Having an international family is in a word, fantastic. For a girl who lived in the same house from birth to college, the fact that half my family lives across an ocean still blows my mind.
I guess my parents instigated our outward migration nearly ten years ago. For 20+ years, Mom and Dad raised us four kids in the same house near Detroit, at the same church (though thankfully not in the same bedrooms – once the boys moved out there was no way Schwes and I were sharing a room). Dad co-owned a bicycle shop with my uncle, and the furthest relative was 3 hours away. While we’re not particularly lovey-dovey, family was woven into the fabric of our daily lives, and I never imagined it would be any other way.
When I was in junior high, Mom and Dad decided to pursue mission work; it took them several years to choose an area and gather support, but for the last two years they have lived in Germany working as caretakers of an up-and-coming youth camp. I admire them so much for choosing to give their retirement years to others and to the Lord, especially since the grandchildren are starting to pour in, and their presence is sorely missed.
My brother was the next culprit. He married a feisty little Spaniard, and they travel to see her family (many of whom are still in Spain) as often as they can. I wouldn’t be surprised if they moved back some day. She has brought so much life and vitality to our growing family; honestly, if it wasn’t for her I’d be suffering in my ignorance of the heaven that is Spanish cuisine. Especially paella. Oh paella… I’m gonna need to beg some of that off of her soon… YUM.
The most recent addition to our family is my brilliant brother-in-law, Schwes’ husband. He’s Swiss. They live in Switzerland. No biggie. Except it’s SWITZERLAND! Seriously, my sister has known ever since she first traveled to Europe in high school that she wanted to live there someday, and now she’s there with her perfect husband and adorable flat and when she looks out the window she sees mountains. Now that Baby V has come, I am officially related by blood to a European.
The last brother (the oldest) lives in Michigan with his family, which isn’t technically foreign, but it’s so close to Canada it might as well be, right? Besides, it takes 12 hours to drive there from my home and only 9 hours to fly to Germany soooo… yeah. We’re all spread out. Even my niece who’s 4 has been to Spain already.
Being the last single person in a family that has ventured around the world usually means I get questions like:
- “So are you going to marry an Italian?” (Frenchmen are also popular suggestions)
- “When are you moving to Germany/Switzerland?” (because my newlywed sister would just LOVE to have me invading her space. Also,immigration laws)
- “When are you going back?” (I got asked this question literally as I walked off the plane returning from Switzerland on the most recent trip. People… not sure if you know this, but plane rides are expensive).
I have had the amazing privilege of traveling through several countries in Europe on 3 separate occasions in the last seven years, and I’d go back to any of them in a heartbeat. Experiencing a new culture is scary and wonderful and life-changing and I’m so blessed to have all of that.
Today I was discussing with BFF #1 (who just happens to be in Germany with my parents) that with my family and friends scattered around the world, options for the future seem positively limitless. When I eventually finish this master’s degree, I could go anywhere, do anything, and I’d most likely be near at least one of these people I love (unless I move to Asia, or Antarctica… or Australia, I guess). And that is very important to me, because much as I love my little life in my little apartment with my little blog and a good job, loneliness is all too real. I know, I know, I can always make new friends wherever I’m at. I have begun that process in my town here, but it has taken years upon years of love and effort to build trust with my current people – I don’t have the time to build those up again before everyone I love has moved away! My exit rate exceeds my growth rate, and I grow weary of the leaving and the texts and the emails and the skype calls and all the truly joyous proofs of my family’s love that must come virtually over oceans and states. It is exhausting and it aches to love people from thousands of miles away, and I am frightened of creating new relationships to be tested by this trial because everybody leaves.
My mind is spinning in circles looking for solidity and I consider following BFF #1 or BFF #2 to their new places. Perhaps I should move toward a family member. Or, ideally I could get married: husbands are family and friend in one and they aren’t allowed to leave (there’s not even a guy on the horizon, so that plan’s junk). But we all know that nothing is certain in this life , and as broad and limitless as my future seems to be, all of a sudden it only looks bleak.
Until a still small voice whispers in the back of my mind.
“I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” – Hebrews 13:5
But God, everyone else has!
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
What can man do unto me?”
– Hebrews 13:6
But God, it hurts!
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
How, God? How do I make it through day after day, sending pieces of myself all over the globe?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.”
– Proverbs 3:5-6
All right Lord, let’s say I trust You. What happens then?
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” – Isaiah 26:3
A song from my childhood comes to mind, one I haven’t sung in a while:
When life’s burdens get so heavy and it seems I’m all alone,
I cast my care on Jesus and come boldly to His throne.
I find His grace sufficient when His promises I heed;
For His very life He sacrificed, and He lives to intercede.
He is the Lord of Lords, and when He speaks, winds and waves obey.
When Jesus whispers, “Peace, be still,” my night is turned to day.
And as I’m trusting in my Savior’s Word, doubts and fears all cease.
And beneath the shelter of His wings, I’m at rest in perfect peace.
Perfect Peace by Joe Zichterman
God, please forgive my restless spirit. Forgive my faithlessness. You have given above and beyond all I could ever ask or deserve; do not let me take Your gifts and use them to besmirch Your beautiful name.