The autumn leaves are gone. In a matter of weeks they changed from green to shades of red and orange and yellow. Then they died, turning brown overnight and leaving the trees naked and cold. A strong breeze brought crisp fresh air taking away the lingering warmth of Fall.
It’s January in Missouri.
Though the weather grows cold, this time of year brings a warmth to my soul. Maybe it’s the nostalgia at the smell of cookies baking, the family gatherings, or the lights twinkling from the housetops and through windows. It brings back memories of mystical games in the forest with my cousins and all the sweetness of growing up, before everyone was… grown.
I spent nearly all of Autumn indoors this year. Resting and getting through the morning sickness of my first trimester of pregnancy. I had a lot of time to think while I was off my feet.
Some days the past overwhelms me with a tender sorrow, a longing to be that young girl again traipsing about under a canopy of color, talking of fairies and goblins, creating elaborate scenarios to act out. Present without a care in the world.
Growing Up and Change
Gone are those days of simplicity. Before I knew of hard things, heartbreak, or felt any lack of purpose in my days. I had so few questions then. So few concerns. So few sorrows.
I didn’t wonder as a child where my home was, home was there, right there in the security of ample thanksgiving food, twirling to Christmas music, and outdoor games surrounded by family, who fought as all families do, but they looked past their differences and enjoyed every moment of the holidays.
Had I known how life would change as I grew up I would have cherished those younger years more. I was always so eager for the next thing. I let them slip by as if they would be forever. But, forever ended, far too soon.
It seemed to take only a moment for things to change, for everyone to go their separate ways. Home had changed. My friends were gone, our family became smaller, and holidays became less of a joy. There became less to talk about as each of our lives went on in separate ways.
After several years of hoping things would return to normal and mourning what used to be, I moved on, in a literal sense. I had only ever known my birth country and my group of acquaintances was small. Until 2016 when I left the country.
Following my first month-long trip that spring, travel soon became my life. I was on the road constantly. Back and forth between the US, the Philippines, and Haiti. Roaming the earth using everything I had been given for others.
God had opened my eyes and my mind to living for more than just me. After a while I didn’t miss my old life. It was beautiful and exciting and new.
Searching The World
It was much more fulfilling than just being a stationary figure in the US feeling left behind as everyone I was close to was moving away, in a new stage of life, or growing distant.
Yet, deep down I felt my search for home continue and with even more confusion.
I was born in the US, down South in Louisian. I don’t remember much before moving to Missouri when I was 4. I’ve lived in the same town for 20 years now! Though this has been my physical home for decades, ironically I don’t feel rooted here.
I loved Haiti, it was a slow building love that finally took me over heart and soul. From the start I wanted to be there full time. When in Haiti I didn’t miss America, sure from time to time I wished I could see my family or eat my favorite cheesy food. But, I never longed for my country.
Unable to Settle
Things happened in 2018, horrible and confusing things that started Haiti down a path of destruction. For years, though short-term mission teams pulled out of Haiti, I continued going down to volunteer for three months at time.
Haiti started to feel more and more like home. I had a purpose there, kids that depended on me, a loving fiance, and lots of friends. It was good. I was ready to pull up roots in the US and permanently plant them in Haiti. To move there, marry there, and raise a family there.
Until in 2020 the reality of the situation really hit me.
The time came for my fiance and I to get married when I realized there was no way my family back in the US would be able to fly into Haiti for the wedding. The country was increasingly dangerous with a rising daily kidnapping toll, brutal killings, and targeting of Americans.
We had to forgo any sort of a wedding for those reasons. We went to a courthouse to sign our marriage certificate and that was it. I was sad having to give up my long held desire to wear a white dress (I had already purchased a wedding dress and it was left back in the US) and be surrounded by friends and family as we said our vows.
When we started into the long green card process the following month I was faced with even more sadness. Not only was all of the paperwork a painstaking process, I also had to leave Haiti again because of the insecurity and my new husband was unable to go with me.
My Heart in Two Places
Living apart for months at a time, three years of marriage passed, until finally the green card was approved and we were able to leave Haiti together for the first time in April 2023.
On a short trip in September our grief became even greater when we were caught up in the crossfire of a gang, warring with our neighbors and friends. Leaving Haiti weeks later, I knew it would be the last time I’d set foot there for a while.
Haiti couldn’t be home because I couldn’t be free there. It was either living there with my husband and ministry while closed off to my life back in America, struggling financially, and trapped inside of my house because of the violence in the streets. Always wondering if that day would be the day the gang would return and terrorize our village once again.
Or living here in the US, finally with my husband, while kept apart from our ministry and everything that feels fulfilling and important. Unable to be independent in our own home, constantly having to navigate paperwork, and struggling to fulfill our roles in marriage while the situation forces us to act in reverse.
My heart is in two places. Nowhere is home for me. I long, beyond reality, to be able to merge what is good about the US and Haiti into one and make my home there somewhere in the middle. But it is impossible.
I think I will forever be torn in two. Unable to mend this side of Heaven. Never fully at home no matter where I am.
Jesus Left Home Too
It’s so easy to feel sorry for oneself when in a situation as impossible as ours. But in the midst of my questions and unfulfilled longings. In the midst of searching to no avail for a place to truly settle down and call home, I remember that Jesus left His home too.
What did Jesus leave behind?
- Glory. John 17:5
- A Great View. Genesis 1:1
- A place to lay His head (a house). Luke 9:57-58, Luke 10:6-8
- Perpetual Light. John 1:7, 1 Timothy 6:15-16
- His Country. Hebrews 11:13
- Status and Position. Hebrews 2:9
- Comfort. Colossians 2:14, Galatians 3:1
What He gave up will always be greater than what I have to give up in this life. We don’t all have to leave America, and maybe it is better that you do not hear that call, because once you go, here will never be the same. But, I think we will all experience a season of homelessness at some time in our life.
After all, we are a people who were made to live in our Father’s kingdom, passing through this world on our way back to Him. Jesus is our guide. The God-Man who gave up everything, left behind His home, and came into a world that hated, rejected, and killed Him!
“Jesus wanted us to understand that to follow Him is not to find earthly glory; it is to share in earthly suffering. There was no golden throne awaiting His disciples but only privation and poverty. The King was homeless.gotquestions.org
This is Home
Where is home? For me home may be on the road between Haiti and the US. Never fully settling in one house. For you perhaps you call Missouri home and are content to never live anywhere else. Or maybe you are a missionary who is successfully living in another country full time and plans to be buried there.
Regardless of where you choose to live or what country holds your heart. Remember, as I remind myself, at the start of this new year of navigating ministry in a dangerous third world country and living in the place that I never desired to live, that ultimately Jesus is our home.
Where He is is where we belong. In Him we will find a place to lay our head at last.