October 17, 2014. Yup, that's the last time I sat down and wrote a post for the blog. That's really bad for blog-business, I know, but I've had some other things I've been focused on for the last while. It wasn't long after my last post that we found out that we were expecting our fourth child. My pregnancy wasn't completely trouble-free, but she's here now! And she's about a month old already! Wow. Time flies.
Say “hello” to the Little Miss!
Besides that, we've just been doing life together. It's been quite a ride, as we've dealt with some bigger health issues in our family lately along with some other things, but we're all doing fine now. I'm ready to move on and have a break from doctors for a while, though!
With the birth of our new daughter we've had a run of family visitors. The kids have enjoyed having a grandparent or two here for all but five days out of the last month. Of course this always produces a variety of emotions for me. I love having family here! I hate seeing them leave. It means that what I have on my mind right now is that fact that...
...I have two homes.
My Pennsylvania home is where I grew up. It is where my family is, and where my husband's family is. I know things about that place. I know where to go to find the best fresh produce. I know where to find a good cheesesteak. I know what time church starts. I know who serves the best ice cream, and what time to go there to avoid the worst crowds. I know how the seasons change. I know what the woods smell like, and where to find salamanders, and where to go to take a hike. I know where the mulberry tree grows in my grandparent's back yard. I know the smells of the farms – silage, rich black dirt, tobacco hanging to dry, tomato plants, manure and hay fields. I know what night of the week my family will be gathering together at my parent's house for a meal and to spend time together. And I know that I will not be there.
My Wyoming home is where my kids are growing up. It is where we are building our family. I know things about this place. I know what times of the year are best to go to Yellowstone, and what times to avoid it. I know what sagebrush smells like, and how it the strong odor of it chokes the air after a hail storm. I know the best places to go eat. I know exactly what time I have to leave my house to get to church on time. I know what horses and saddle leather smell like, and I love it. I know how the seasons change. I know where to go for the best views, and where to see wildlife, and where to sit at the rodeo. I know what night of the week I will be inviting my friends over for homemade pizza and popcorn and to spend time together. And I know that none of our relatives will be coming.
It is hard when your heart is in two places. For me that means that I deal with the effects of living far from my family. It means not knowing how to respond when Biker Dude says he wants us to move to Pennsylvania to be close to his grandparents. It means feeling a little left out and kind of sad when I'm looking at pictures or hearing stories about what our friends and relatives across the country have been up to.
So, why don't we move? I'll tell you... we just can't. As many good memories as I have about my childhood in PA, and as much as I miss the farms and fresh produce and Pennsylvania Dutch cooking, and as awful much as I miss being able to see my family, and PJ's family, and our friends we grew up with, and spend time with all of them more often... I know with complete certainty that we are where God has called us to be right now. And I know that is the most important thing. Even if it is hard. (I also know that the PA I grew up in has changed a lot since I left, and I know that there are too many people, and the sky is not big enough... And I know that I feel a little claustrophobic when I go back. I love the mountains, and I love the big sky, and I love the wide open spaces. I love being able to go and take a hike or a horseback ride and not see another person. I love raising my kids in this place. The west just makes my heart happy, even when I'm feeling a little down about missing out on family time.)
You may find yourself in a similar situation as me, juggling the emotions that go along with long-distance relationships, or your heart may be in two places for another reason. While I haven't found that it is really getting any easier with time, I can say that it helps a lot to surround yourself with a good support system. We have friends that have become like family to us – many of whom are also living a significant distance apart from their families. We spend holidays together, and trade off babysitting, and help each other as much as we can. We look out for each other and support one another in the raising of our children. We have a strong homeschool group – a community of parents that support each other in the education of our children. We have a wonderful church family. PJ and I support each other as husband and wife, and we can talk with each other about the hard issues and conflicting emotions that we deal with.
But most of all, we take strength, purpose and confidence in relying on God. He is our rock (Psalm 18: 2). He is our Father (Galatians 3: 26). He has provided us with a helper in the form of the Holy Spirit (John 14: 26). He loves us (Romans 8: 38-39). God the Father gave up everything for us. He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to the cross to die for us. Talk about having a heart in two places! Imagine the agony of God's heart in sending Jesus – His beloved Son, pure and sinless - to be persecuted and abused, beaten and mistreated and killed... Imagine the intensity of love in His heart for you and I, as He sent Jesus to endure those things in order that we could be saved from the ultimate consequence of our sins – death and separation from Him forever. And imagine, at the end of the agony and the victory, the pride with which God must have greeted His Son and said, “Job well done.” And you know what? That's why we do what we do. That's why we've chosen to live in Wyoming, over 2,000 miles away from our family. That's why missionaries go overseas, even farther away from their loved ones than we are – even to countries where they must conceal their true purpose for being there in order for them to continue their work and even to preserve their very lives. It's because everyone deserves to know about God's love for them, and to make their decision for or against Christ. It's because we, as Christians, can't NOT go where we've been called. To live out from under what we know is God's plan and purpose for us would make us miserable. We are compelled to spread the love of God to those around us. And while we do that we will face hard times and conflicting emotions. And it may sometimes seem like it would be easier to quit, and just to live for ourselves... but if we persevere and make disciples and follow God and love Him with all our heart – if we are faithful with what He has entrusted to us - we will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25: 21),” and it will have all been worth it.
That's why. Even though it might not be easy.