Today marks two years.
Two years of living in Pennsylvania.
July 21, 2015: the day we left the West Coast and boarded that plane, without a return ticket.
Today felt especially sad to me. As I sat in the emotion that an anniversary can bring, I realized that part of why it felt so hard is because of an unspoken expectation. Somewhere along the way, I had picked up the idea that I should be over being sad by now.
As if my grief should have hit a cap by the time I was two years in.
But as soon as I named it, I knew that it was okay to still be grieving. Grief doesn’t work within a neat and tidy timeline, as much as I might want it too.
It is okay to still be sad.
It is okay to still be missing my family.
It is okay to still be grieving that I don’t get the dream of my kids growing up near my brothers and sisters and my parents.
Soon after we moved two years ago, I felt like the Lord told me to think of myself as a missionary.
I am living in a place that isn’t my home; a place that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself. I am raising my children away from my family and familiarity. I am doing this because he asked me to. He promised me himself as my home, as he has brought me somewhere new and uncomfortable.
It feels a little funny to confess that this is how I think of myself, when I don’t look like a missionary in much of the traditional sense. I didn’t have to raise financial support or learn a new language or even update my passport. But somehow it feels fitting to accept this mantle from the Lord and see these years in Pennsylvania as such.
I’m here because he brought me here. I’m here because this is the story he’s telling for me.
And as sad as I still am, I am also grateful. Two and half years ago, my husband and I prayed and prayed and prayed, asking for Jesus to direct our steps and show us where to go. We knew that a change was needed, but didn’t know much more beyond that.
At that point, Pennsylvania was our “last resort,” but Jesus slowly shifted it in our hearts to become where the Lord was taking us. I cried when our prayers were answered, when I knew he was asking us to move to Pennsylvania. I didn’t want this to be the answer, even though much I was desperate for the Lord to guide us into the next season. But even in my grief, I was grateful for Jesus showing us what was next; for going there with us.
It is a strange place to be; grateful yet grieving.
Yet, here I am.
Or perhaps, more accurately, still.
Grateful yet grieving.
My eyes brim with tears; my heart aches with longing while also feeling as if it is overflowing from the grace in front of me.
I’m grateful for our kids; our sweet, chubby boy as he learns to roll over and finds his voice and charms us with his gummy smile; our vivacious girl who makes us laugh with forks in her armpits and big hugs “all together” and her big, kind heart praying for those who are hurting; these two who bring such joy to our hearts.
I’m grateful for our home; for picnics on the porch; for space to call our own; for a physical thing to bring redemption to, as we fix the plumbing and mow the yard.
I’m grateful for summer; for fresh vegetables from the farm; for air conditioning and fans; for fireflies and sunsets; for ice cream and strawberries and whipped cream.
I’m grateful for people who love us like family here; for shared meals around the table with our small group; for technology and mail love that connect my heart to ones I love far away.
And I’m grateful for the reminder that July 21 is so much more than an anniversary of this missionary life. It is the day I started dating my husband five years ago. I’m grateful for five years of hand-holding; for my beautiful story with this man that Jesus gave me; for the reminder that Jesus is the one who can be trusted with my story.
Today is so bittersweet for me. I quietly cried as I cut the zucchini and peppers and swiss chard for our dinner; but I didn’t want to only dwell in the pain, as today is both.
Today is joy and grief mingled. Today is both the beauty and the pain.
It wasn’t anything fancy. A gluten free yellow cake out of box and dear neighbor’s mocha frosting recipe. We ate it at our table on the porch, with the frosting dripping off a little, since we were too eager to let the cake cool fully. We told our girl what today meant and how Jesus brought us here. We sang “happy Pennsylvania-versary” (to the tune of “happy birthday”) to ourselves and laughed.
But it felt like an offering, from my heart to the Lord, to say, thank you.
Thank you for this story. Thank you for leading me and our family.
Thank you for the parts I understand and the redemption I get to see.
Thank you for the parts that confuse me and are so hard to make sense of.
Thank you for the gifts of this season and helping us make a home here.
Thank you for being with me when my heart aches and I long to be done with this missionary life.
Thank you for the joy and grief mingled. Thank you for the beauty and the pain together. Thank you for the tears and the laughter.
Thank you for being with us; for being the one I can trust with my story.