itinerating · kids

Domestic Nomads

I think I’m going to coin a new term for pre-field itinerant missionaries, domestic nomads. As we were driving back from a missions conference, Chris looked over at me and said that there is always something a little off about us missionaries. He said that it’s hard to relate sometimes, to share with people what we are doing.

We drive around and tell people about a work we want to be a part of, that we are not yet there, but we really want to go. Then we ask them for money. What’s not awkward about that?

Our kids nap in the car, go to bed in strange places. They often end up in the bed we are (or were) sleeping in, resulting in strange sleeping arrangements, exhaustion and crazy behavior. I was listening to kind words of encouragement from a woman at this last missions conference, while I watched my rambunctious son repeatedly pull up the door stop at the entrance to the sanctuary, much to the chagrin of the greeter handing out bulletins. He finally had enough, and was anxiously looking for someone to claim responsibility for the little imp, when I broke away to scoop him up and apologize repeatedly. Both people were kind and gracious, not wanting my son to pinch his fingers, nor end up with (another) bruise, but of course, I was embarrassed.

There’s no time to explain that he slept in a bed with his sister and I, the time change has made him cranky, hungry, and he’s unusually busy anyways. I can’t reason with a two year old, I can barely hold him when he doesn’t want to be held, let alone explain to him that the fun door is not a toy. He doesn’t understand, and hasn’t quite grasped the cause and effect of discipline. We’re getting there, but slowly. For now, for me, the best option is to remove the temptation from the child, but that means most of my conversations are full of mom Tourrettes and abrupt endings.

As I was laying in this bed, while Avonlea pinned down the blankets, and Oliver tried to take over my pillow, I wondered why God called us to do this. What would our life look like, with kids who go to bed every night at the same time, in the same bed, rarely took long car rides, and always ate dinner at home?  Now for the most part, our life is pretty routine and normal, at least a few days a week. We reset, we eat dinner as a family, read the Jesus storybook bible, give baths, bedtime, prayer, sleep. But then we disrupt. We throw the kids in the car, haul them to strange places, feed them on the road, put them to sleep wherever. This happens a lot.

There was a recent missionary article on the unexpected sacrifices of missionary, and Carter says, ‘Like many things connected to the missionary movement, there is a tinge of romanticism in being labeled a “global nomad”. Yet living a nomadic existence with children, at times, is more like a dark comedy than a romantic fun-filled adventure. Especially on long plane rides.’

So the questions abound about this life. Will our children be any more or less well rounded? Maybe, maybe not. Will they be more or less productive citizens? I don’t know. Will they see God’s hand in their lives and our faith in following this call? I hope so. You can pray for this. We are taking them out of a life of comfort and thrusting them into a very big world.

So all that said, as I lay there, I felt this overwhelming sense of peace. This is a privilege, an honor, a gift to follow this call. These minor inconveniences, are just that, minor. We are so very blessed to do it. To have children we can bring with us. To experience the kind and welcoming hospitality of so many people, churches, and families. ‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.’

But this wonderful call, well, it makes for weird conversations. Since we are itinerating, we live this half normal, half transient existence. Other kids are in soccer practice and ballet, and mine are going from missions conference to Grandma’s to Birthday parties to church, asking if we can move her curtains to Paris. We aren’t even going to Paris. I can’t even think about potty training Oliver, because I’ll be more relaxed  if I know he’s safely wrapped in a diaper for the trip, via plane, train, or automobile. Even after he’s gone on the potty of his own accord multiple times.

So, please forgive us if we sound strange or distance. Or stare at you like we have no idea what you are talking about. We’re sorry. We might not have gotten much sleep last night or watched the evening news, in about, oh, forever.

As a bonus, here is a little snapshot I had to take, even to risk waking them, before I crawled in that same bed last weekend, because, man, we are blessed with some great, resilient, flexible, loving, friendly kids. Avonlea made friends so quickly, that she was excited every time we went back to both churches for their missions conference. What a gift! We are thankful for them and for you. Thank you for loving us, even if we seem kind of off.

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