"That would be fun, wouldn't it?" I said, trying to sound upbeat.
"Yeah," he was more somber this time. "Because I'm sad."
He always puts the word "because" in front of his emotion. That's when my heart melts and I know things are serious. That's when we talk the hard stuff.
"Why are you sad, Buddyroo?"
"Because I just want to go to Lita's house and play iPad with her and eat chocolate."
His little almost-three-year-old brain remembers and I fight tears and wish that those thousands of miles were still just five miles and he looks out the window and I try think of the words to explain why that will have to wait for now.
We aren't the only ones who are "sacrificing" here.
In fact, I don't really consider what Richard and I do as much of a sacrifice. It's life and we know the call and we live it and love it and life is new and, even with the challenges, there is reward.
It's our parents, our families. They are the ones sacrificing.
When we left the US six months ago, our lives changed. We jumped right into a new culture and new adventures and new challenges. But our families, they stayed. They learned to live life without us right down the street and no more Sunday afternoon lunches at my mom's house and no more dropping Elliott off at Richard's parents' for a date night and no more "let's go to dinner with the siblings".
Life was new here and busy with having a baby and doing paperwork and meeting new people and planning.
But thousands of miles away it was just a new empty in the everyday.
Yes, there is Skype and Facebook to "watch" the kids grow. And thank goodness for modern travel that makes it just a 24 hour trip to get where we are. But there aren't hugs and kisses and sleepovers and birthday parties and summer swimming and walks in the park and "can you take me to the playground?"
And soon it will be harder. In just ten days we move to the jungle where communication steps back 15 years. Where internet is slooooooow and Skype is a rarity.
Instead of watching the steady growth of the grandkids it will seem like leaps and bounds as the months pass.
They watch from afar as we deal with illness and stress and disappointment and they can only cry with us and pray because no one has figured out how to send a virtual hug and teleportation has yet to be invented and when they close that Skype session or e-mail, life moves on and they can only wait for the next word.
It is hardest for those who didn't choose this path.
The scripture always comes to mind in Luke 14.26:
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple."
That verse used to bother me as a child. Why would a loving God require us to hate those we love most? Doesn't He teach love?
Now I get it. It feels like hate sometimes--unintentional hate. It even looks like hate to the world.
We wish it could be different. That we could have the best of both worlds. That our kids could live down the road from their grandparents and all of the holidays were filled with memories together and Skype was just an obscure word for something unfamiliar and that somehow we could still fulfill this calling and reach these tribes and love them like Christ.
Instead there are goodbyes and we'll talk again soon and maybe see you in October.
That will have to do for now.
But through it all--through it ALL--our families have stood with us. They've supported us every single step on this journey even though their hearts ache and they wish it were different, they know and understand the call because they love this same Jesus.
For that, we're forever grateful.
We're grateful for the sacrifice that they make that is so very real and the tears that they cry because it makes this all a whole lot easier when there isn't bitterness and "why?" Instead there is "we are proud of you" and "we miss you so much and we can't wait to see you" and "I love you and I'm praying for you". There are big hugs and tears of joy when we're reunited instead of guilt trips and "don't go".
So we say "Thank You" to our families. Thanks for believing in us and letting us follow Christ without making it harder than it is. Thank you for praying and giving and loving and encouraging and being there and understanding even when you don't really understand.
Thanks for sacrificing.
And this can be repeated for all the families out there who say goodbye as their children and grandchildren and brothers and sisters and loved ones follow a call that leads to another city or country.
So next time you pray for us or another missionary family, say a prayer for the families who stay behind.
This is their sacrifice, too.
Airport Goodbyes, August 29, 2012
Family Visits, December 2012 and January 2013