November 21, 2015

Counting the cost

Every time we come back to the States and stay for a while, the cost of living in East Asia goes up. This time is no exception. In just a little over a month we will be saying goodbye to the U.S., and this will indeed be the hardest goodbye.

For one thing, our parents are aging. Sorry Mom and Dad and Shari, but you are. My mother-in-law Shari is 70. That seems so weird to me! And my mom just battled Basal Cell Carcinoma again (we praise G0D for a victorious outcome there). And when my dad got tackled at first base by my brother in a friendly game of ball this summer, he went to the ground rather stiffly, and I found myself running from the outfield as if one of my kids had fallen down.

Don't get me wrong, our parents are still kicking. Shari is still dragging the trash can to the curb, uphill. Mom and Dad are still riding their bikes. Still RVing. But in a decade, will they be doing those things? I don't know. Now is when they are doing those things, and now is when we aren't here.

Usually we're here in the summer, and therefore we've never seen what real life in America would look like. Summer isn't real life for anybody. Being here in the Fall, now we see what we have given up, like sports and other activities, but namely our church home. Oh how we love our church home. The children's and youth ministries here are so amazing. I've seen our kids jump and dance and raise their hands, in corporate worship with other children, in their own language, their heart language, in a culture that gets them (or at least, gets them better than the culture in East Asia). I'm so thankful for this time, and yet it makes the thought of leaving that much harder.

Also there's the family farmland. It was homesteaded 8 generations ago by Daniel's forefathers. It includes 160 acres of cedars and a hilltop house overlooking Lee Creek. Up until now it has been there, waiting for us all, decorated for Christmas this time of year with a fresh cut tree on the lower porch. Momo hasn't lived out there since Sue Sue passed away, but it has still been there. The land has been full of deer and the creek full of crawfish. The dirt road combed and the brush mowed for hay. We've always dreamed, Daniel and I, of living out there someday, feeding the humming birds like Sue Sue did, growing giant ferns in hanging baskets, swinging from the porch swing in the evening sun with a glass of sweet tea and a wedge of chocolate pie.

But the years have gone by, as years tend to do, and the fate of the land and the house is unknown. Will it be there, waiting for us all, when we come back next time? There is just no way to tell. And that grieves me, because if we were here, we would...well...we're not here.

We're not here.

I'm fairly certain I write a post like this every furlough, but I promise, this time the cost has gone up so high it is almost unbearable.

And then...

And then I read this today before breakfast, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in a steal" (Matthew 6:19-20).

The truth is, we could move back to the States and move in to the farmhouse, only for it to burn to the ground the next day. We could come back to spend more time with our parents and one of them could die a week later. It happened to my aunt - she went to sleep after a full day, healthy as can be, and never woke up again. In the end, it is all just stuff, and these bodies are wasting away. That is why we hold this life loosely, looking with anticipation instead toward what is to come.

I will have an eternity to play baseball with my dad.

And the promised land is far richer and more beautiful than Daniel's family's homestead.

And when we get there, we will be greeted by people from East Asia who wouldn't be there at all had we decided to stay in the States during these years. And so I echo the words of Paul in Philippians 3:7, "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ."
 Cousins. xoxo