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"There are better things ahead than any we leave behind."  -CS Lewis

Quite unintentionally, this quote from Mr. Lewis has become my family's life motto.  The four of us (plus one in utero) have just started a one-year hiatus from living abroad, and we're once again going through our modus operandi of opening cardboard boxes and finding homes for our minimal things.

In our seven years of marriage, my husband and I have lived in seven homes.  The most recent one was for three years, in a foreign country living among people with a very different worldview from ours.

Such is life with a calling like ours, and we are okay with that.  It's not easy at all, mind you, but it is simple.  God calls.  We go.  We trust in faith, and pray a whole heckuva lot.

This current move of ours is temporary.  We are taking one year to deal with some family medical issues, and in the meantime, have our third baby and pray about what's next.  Where we are currently settling will probably not ever be "home."

Though it's hard, my husband and I can handle it.  We ride the bumpy ride called re-entry and reverse culture shock, talk a lot together, and hold hands through the challenges.  Our two-year-old son is happy wherever.  He was born in a foreign country, and the only home he knows is wherever his family is.

For our five-year-old daughter, however, it's different.  One minute, she's thrilled to live near Chick-Fil-A again.  The next minute, she's in tears about not being near her friends living abroad.  She relishes the public library with books in English.  But she misses walking everywhere, and complains from the backseat about logging hours in the booster chair.

For her, home is…  everywhere and nowhere.  She's a third-culture kid — someone who's not quite home in her passport country, but remains a foreigner in her hosted land. 

I don't envy her uncomfortable state.
  I wish, as her mama, that I could make everything all better and wrap her favorite things about each country into one neat package for her to enjoy.  And I hate how lonely my extroverted little girl seems lately.

But in one simple way, I envy her.

Field of flowers

Photo by Nicholas

She experiences daily what we should all intimately understand with our every breath:  This is not our home.  Earth will never be our home.  No matter where we live, in whatever bed we sleep, and regardless of the view out our window, we can never legitimately call our landing pad Home.

Sure, we may own the land we tread, and we may even feel at complete peace where God has planted us.  But it still will never be Home for us.

See, this is because we were made for another land.  Our souls ache for our true Home, and that's why we each have that nagging, unsettled tick in the back of our minds in and out of everyday, when we wish we had that better home, or that nicer body, or that fairytale life.  What we search for isn't ours to have here on Earth.

We are longing for heaven; each of us.  There, and only there, is our true Home.  We can wander the Earth for the rest of our life, and the sweetest paradise we find can only pale in comparison to the place Jesus is preparing for us.

Our Home is in His arms, fully engulfed in His transformed glory.

So in these little words, C.S. Lewis provides me with a healthy reminder of what this life is all about.  I am reminded that God can call me to the darkest of valleys or to those seasons of living in a sweet oasis, because:

"Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind."

by Tsh, SimpleMom

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  1. 1

    …I loved this post!!! Perhaps because I connected with it on so many levels. Our family calling & situation is similar to yours… in just over a decade of marriage we’ve moved 5 times between 3 states and 2 countries (currently in South Africa), and we have two little ones (4 & 2).
    I love how you shifted the feelings you have in your heart towards your daughter- to a challenge for all of us in thinking about home.

  2. 2

    Tsh, I’m sure you are very consumed with settling in again but I would love to chat a bit. My husband and I are just beginning to pursue a calling to have a space in our home for families who serve like you do when they need a time of refreshment as they come back to birth soil from serving overseas. We are looking for input from those who are workers in the field. If you are willing and able leave a note.
    Diane

  3. 3

    I’d not thought about our yearnings for ‘a better whatever’ in terms of it actually being a longing for Heaven so thanks for this post.

  4. 4

    Tsh,
    Thank you for this reminder, it helps keep the right perspective on things of this world.
    Praying you find the home that will be your home for the year.

  5. 5

    I think your daughter’s situation as described in your eloquent prose is exactly the reminder I need, many of us need.
    Thank you.

  6. 6

    Thanks this is how i feel, esp this morning. having moved from city to city in the last 10 years and currently in one in which i know NO-ONE, i was LONGING for the sense of community, you know where everyone knows your name. Your neighbors know you and you establish deep long relationships, it’s not that way anymore, and making me rathe frustated for something familiar, feeling sooo uprooted from everything i knew and really not wanting to move here. So i guess i am just saying thanks, it has taken me years to get settled here and i still am not. perhaps what you said is why, this is not my home. thanks.

  7. 7

    Fabulous post, packed with insight and wisdom. Thanks for sharing your life and load, your light and love.

  8. 8

    Great post. I tend to fall into daydreaming about the home I wish I had, the body I wish I had, the family I wish I had, but all that is just my heart expressing its longing for my true home that I will someday share with the King.

  9. 9

    I love that quote! I am going to post it in my house somewhere and talk about it with my kids…I relate to your daughter because I’m an MK and I’m raising MKs! It is what we’re ‘used to’ and yet we don’t really seem to be ‘at home’ anywhere…it is comforting to think that what is coming will be so much better than anything we will leave behind! Romans 8:18

  10. 10

    Very special post! My family has moved….so many times. My kids (PK’s) have attended 6 different schools.
    Currently we’ve been here 8 years (a lifetime to us). But the need to move on has hit again.
    My hubby left the church he was pastoring 2 years ago this month. We’ve been on “hold” waiting for what it is God wants next. Staying in one place is good….but being obedient to God is BEST!
    Thanks for the reminder.

  11. 11

    Great perspective….that longing in me for a place that feels like home, even when I am in myearthly home, is the piece of me that longs for our reunion with Christ. I have to remind myself a lot that a constant longing…a homesickness of sorts….is part of being a Christian. Longing for what lies on the other side.

  12. 12

    Some days and some nights, I immerse myself in the meditative stance summoning the loving presence of God to wrap his loving essence around me because I am so homesick for heaven. So I know what you mean. Even among the most beautiful scenery and most loving company I feel like a stranger in a strange land. During my time with Him, I find the courage to soldier on; but I do feel like I am not really home.

  13. 13

    It’s like you wrote this post about me, you so perfectly described my life. I talk about living in the “in between.” And it’s taken years to process how to cope with that. My father shared very similar words when I was wrestling with it – he said that it was a gift to feel myself stranded in between countries, cultures and languages – never fully at home anywhere. A gift because it pointed me in the direction of my true home and reminded me never to become too comfortable here on earth.
    I hold onto those wise words. And they comfort and sustain me.
    I bet your daughter will too.

  14. 14
    Christy says:

    I’ve been through several moves in the last few years as well – for ministry. Even though we’re following God’s call it still broke my heart to leave people behind and to uproot our children. One song that I cried to was “This is Home” by Switchfoot. The lyrics remind me of that C. S. Lewis quote.

  15. 15

    Wow! This was a great reminder. It’s so easy to get caught up in day to day life that we forget about He who is waiting for us.

  16. 16

    This is so beautiful. It’s funny, I was just thinking about this last night watching the movie Shadowlands and his quote from Joy that we are in the shadowlands, the greatest joys are yet to come.
    I was raised a third culture kid and married one, too. In our first three years of marriage we moved 14 times, three of those cross-continental. We have been settled now (not where we expected) for the last seven years and I think I still feel like your daughter.
    Last night I started realizing that may not be all that bad.
    Thank you for this. It’s so well said. So lovely.

  17. 17
    Stephanie P says:

    Thank you so so very much for this.
    For almost 10 years of my life I never lived under the same roof for more than 10 months. At one point, I had just settled in Sudan for what I thought would be 2 full years (in the same “profession” as you, it sounds like) only to suffer some intense medical issues and have move back to the U.S. 8 months later.
    Now, after being married for just over a year and living in the same apartment, my heart longs to be overseas again…in the rough places.
    You and your family are on a wonderful journey. Painful, tiring, and yet oh so worth it.
    As I live here in the ‘States it’s difficult to come across very many who know these experiences. Bless you for sharing yours so honestly and tenderly.

  18. 18
    Melitsa says:

    Moving and feeling like you don’t belong is something that I totally relate to with your daughter. Although this feeling is fleeting and changes so frequently.
    I love the memories and wish to wrap up all the great things of what moving has meant to our military family. You put so well that words have failed me to state before.
    I wish you all the best in your new journey and reentry.

  19. 19

    Good luck with the move.
    My husband, seven kids and I all live in the UK, but I am from California. We often talk about moving back, but I worry about how that would effect my children who are old enough to have close friends.

  20. 20

    Great post! I am a military spouse and former military brat (hate that word but hence I live with it) for all my life. It definitely is a lot of adjustment with moving especially from out of country to the states which we experienced. I like your thoughts though that this world is not our home, so don’t get too settled in it. We should be focusing on our eternal home!

  21. 21

    I love your view of the world. Very few people have the prospective you do. Keep writing!

  22. 22

    We are in nearly the exact same boat… after two years living abroad (after 10 years and as many moves), we are headed back “home” to the States for a year… at least… maybe… with our 3 children and heaps of emotional and spiritual luggage. Thank you for this article. Feels like a note from a friend. Something I desperately needed.

  23. 23

    Amen. I too know this feeling and at times try to placate it with “belonging” and being rooted in a place. But a slight discomfort at not fitting in, or feeling that I haven’t quite found the place I belong is a very good reminder that…I haven’t! And won’t! Until I’m really and truly Home.
    Feeling Isolation and Looking for Mommies like Me at FIMBY

  24. 24

    Darn, I hoped that link would work here’s the URL
    http://fimby.tougas.net/feeling-isolation

  25. 25

    Your post was lovely to read, but I do think that we do have a home on Earth. Our family is our home, especially when we are children. When I was a young child, we moved from a home town (Melrose, Massachusetts) that was pretty close to perfect. The night we left, we stayed in a motel. I was miserable. But then I looked around me and I realized that home was where my family was. That is the meaning of home for me. Wherever my husband and three children are, that is home for me.

  26. 26

    This is beautiful. Thank you.

  27. 27

    Tsh, Thank you for sharing this. Simple Mom in all its facets connects me to folks & thoughts I can relate to so well. This post today is so precioius. I thank you for sharing so personally one of the biggest ache’s a family can endure. I moved as a (pk) kid many times, & are in the middle of a move with my own family now. I see the loneliness you mentioned with my 6 year old, the loneliness that I experienced as a kid. I’m optimistic about our future, but it’s still a reminder that our world is flawed/fallen if you will and needs redemption on a level all the art classes & swim lessons can’t fix.
    I work on my perspective daily to keep my kids thoughts directed towards thankfulness for the blessings of each day tangible or spiritual, with an age appropriate focus on our future home.
    As I’m sure many in this world’s economy can relate, I am so blessed by these thoughts today. I’m literally waiting by the phone to know where our family will move in 4 weeks. Waiting with faith & confidence. My expectations are tempered with knowledge like you’ve shared– it may be good, even wonderful, but it won’t be complete until the ultimate reconciliation in heaven, in God’s presence.

  28. 28

    Tsh-Your post stuck with me through the evening… I almost felt, through your words, your pain, discomfort, anxiety for your family, and especially the children. I’m typically not a big blog commenter, however, we lived abroad for 10 years and moved back to the states with a 5 and 2 year old, (and I was 7 mos preggers). I was felling a plethora of emotions. Someone with greater expat experience than I said to me this: where ever you are in the world, there will be so many differences on the outside, different cultures, different schools, different practices and cars and smells, and clothing styles. BUT inside our 4 walls it might have a different paint color, different furniture, but our FAMILY will still be the same. We still will hug the same, and read stories the same, and have our same rules and hugs.
    Wishing you peace, and happiness in this next chapter in your journey.
    Michelle

  29. 29

    Thank you for the inspiration on a beautiful Sunday. starting the day off right.

  30. 30

    My husband and I got married last May, just a week after I graduated from college, and are expecting our first baby in June, so as you can imagine, life has been a whirlwind. We live in an apartment the size of a pea and will be sharing our room with the baby. All of this to say that it has been a struggle to feel settled, and I find myself longing for a “permanent home.” But know that it will not come anytime soon. We have 5-7 years of graduate school between us and anything like that.
    So thank you for your reminder of what is important and that I need not worry about not having a “home.” I’m not used to this lifestyle, but what a great opportunity to remember and learn that no matter what, I’ll never be at home on this earth, and if I am, something needs to change.
    Looking forward to our heavenly home,
    mary

  31. 31

    This is so beautiful and just the reminder I need. Every day I dream about moving, and I’m so glad I am not alone! If you need anything, please let me know.

  32. 32

    This is a beautiful post. I loved reading it. It’s funny, because I am a complete homebody at times, and God has not called me to the vagrant lifestlye of a missionary, but I still remind myself that this world is not my home. When my soul is restless I remember that it is just longing for its true home. Thanks for the reminder.

  33. 33
    Melanie says:

    Great perspective. Wonderfully put!

  34. 34

    Beautiful post. I absolutely love the C.S. Lewis quote. The whole post reminds of the words of a hymn in my church: “For a wise and glorious purpose/Thou hast placed me here on earth…Yet ofttimes a secret something/Whispered ‘You’re a stranger here,’/And I felt that I had wandered/From a more exalted sphere.”

  35. 35

    Inspired by your words and taking them to heart (and to prayer) … as always, my friend …

  36. 36

    Your post reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, my apologies that I don’t know whom to attribute it to.
    “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
    Through meditation, prayer, and acts of unconditional love we can “go home” for a little while. Good luck with getting settled.

  37. 37

    Oh my. After reading all the comments I suddenly don’t feel so alone! I’m also a third culture kid, now with 5 kids of my own. I’m finding myself overcome with longing to return overseas. Where is home? Or perhaps, where is Home? Thanks for your gentle reminder that Home is coming. And when we get There, can we sit down for tea?

  38. 38

    OUCH! seriously? this world is not our home? wow. reading your perspective makes me feel incredibly distressed and even angry. God’s creation is not well served by this attitude! My perspective is that the Kingdom of God will be HERE ON EARTH. So when I feel tired and distraught I pray for courage and solace and I march on. We must work for the change we feel led to embody. Work TOGETHER. In my opinion, the collective shirking of responsibility that I’m seeing on this blog post just really fails the purpose of human beings serving God.
    i am un-bookmarking simplemom today (I’ve been a faithful reader for nearly a year!).

  39. 39

    this reminds me of a sermon taped by a local pastor acquaintance of ours titled “Homesick for Heaven.” i’ve been finding myself more and more in this frame of mind as my maturity in Christ increases.

  40. 40

    thanks for this — thoughtful and lovely.

  41. 41

    Tsh, I will be on my knees for your family in this season you are in… especially for your sweet daughter, and newest little addition.

  42. 42
    Crystal says:

    Thank you for writing this. Just what I needed to hear.

  43. 43
    Melanie says:

    I’m sorry, maybe i’m the only one that didn’t think that was lovely. To me it sounded like you are trying to justify to yourself and make yourself feel better about dragging your poor kid all over the place. Kids like stability and reliability in thier lives. Its fine if you choose to move alot, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that your child is just longing for heaven, she is longing for some permanence in her life!

  44. 44

    I lived in 19 different places in my first 23 years of life (only two since then) including in Asia and Europe so I can identify with your daughter’s situation, but I don’t think it’s necessarily all a bad thing. As you point out, there are positive spiritual applications, but also she’s going to be so much more adaptable and have such a bigger view of the world than do most of her peers. I really credit my parents for always making moving a positive event in our lives, focusing on the benefits and things to look forward to about the new place, reminding us of our blessings, and encouraging us. I also remember my mom ALWAYS unpacked RIGHT away, even if we were only going to be somewhere for a few months – it had to be home in the meantime. My parents did a great job of making home for us wherever we were.

  45. 45

    Thank you for sharing that lovely quote — and those inspiring words. I think I’m going to frame that quote, or at least post in on the fridge, as we have some big unknowns in our life now as well. C.S. Lewis strikes again!

  46. 46

    I could relate with everything you said. My husband and I have been around the world a few times with our kids. We have “stuff” all over the place. A few boxes left in Mongolia. A few boxes in my parents’ shed, etc. I understand third-culture kids, re-entry, culture shock (standing in front of that long aisle of cereal and not being able to choose and finally leaving feeling completely overwhelmed) and the loneliess.
    I blogged a bit about it a few years ago. Here, I’ll share it with you:
    http://gombojav.blogspot.com/2006/12/feeling-lonely.html
    We are currently in our final quarter at Fuller Seminary and praying about what comes next.
    Blessings to you on the birth of your baby and for whatever the Lord has for you next!

  47. 47
    Jennifer says:

    I don’t move around at all but I do agree with the last poster that my family is my home. I love your quote – I have been stuck in past memories and this reminded me that I no longer wish to live in the past. Thank you. I needed this today. God bless you.

  48. 48

    Great post! And in all honesty, I find myself wondering sometimes, “but some things here are so nice and what I know and _______” and Heaven is so ‘unfamiliar’ (even though it’s not, but it is…if that makes sense). That I want the things and ‘comfort’ of this world over Heaven! I know…it’s crazy. But then I read something like this and it reminds me that we’re all strangers and our final place isn’t here.
    It reminds me of a line from a Switchfoot song (even though the entire song is great) but they say “created for a place I’ve never known…” It’s from the song ‘Home’. :)
    Thanks again for this!

  49. 49

    I thank you too for this post. I’m married to an MK and we’re expecting our first child in June. Our plan is to move overseas also to follow God’s calling on our lives. Thanks for the post. I often wonder how our kids are going to handle such an “unsettled” life.

  50. 50

    Good reminder, good post. :-)

  51. 51

    Thanks for this post…we too have been married seven years and have lived in 5 different countries. So tiring at times. We’re back in the US right now, but I just needed to hear that i was not alone. :)

  52. 52

    Good thoughts, Tsh. As a TCK myself, I understand the loneliness and unsettledness that your daughter will go through. It is the price of a mature soul that will see more than others do…and she will thank you for what you have given her someday.
    And you are so right. God is always preparing us for something so much better than what we can imagine!

  53. 53

    i really appreciate this post of yours. i do not know you, but have followed your blog for about six months. this is a great reminder and very timely. thanks.

  54. 54

    Thanks. You speak to that intuitive feeling in the heart.

  55. 55

    My husband and I are both missionary kids and have lived overseas most of our lives. I know what your kids are going through. I was five when my parents first moved overseas and I have younger siblings born overseas. My husband and I are currently living in South America as Missionaries as well. We hope to have children soon born here. Thank you for your insight.

  56. 56
    Jessica Browning says:

    Wow, did I ever need to read this at this very moment. Simply but sincerely, thank you.

  57. 57

    Your words resonate with me and my family so well. We, too, have lived “around” and are currently transitioning towards another move overseas. I have a five year old who is torn between longing for far away friends and wanting to live here “forever” close to his Nana and Papa. What a healing reminder your words (and Mr. Lewis’) have been to rest in what is to come in the ever after. Thanks!

  58. 58

    wow, that just brought tears to my eyes.
    amen. amen. amen.

  59. 59

    Lovely post. My daughter spent her first couple of years in Mozambique, and I loved that – but we’ve been back in the US for over a year now, and how quickly she forgets. I pray that her early experiences somehow influence her in the future, and I’d love to go back sometime…

  60. 60

    thank you for this! in my 8 1/2 years of marriage we’ve lived in three countries and 6 houses – having two children along the way. I have been slowly giving up my ideal home as I realize what may be best for my family.

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