Hi, remember me?
I’ve been quiet here for a few weeks—for several reasons, really. I’m under deadline for getting the Unhitching From the Crazy Train edits back to my publisher (Yay, deadlines! Those pesky little things that make you feel like you should be working on the looming project 100% of the time!). My parents are also here for several weeks, so I want to spend as much time with them as possible. Oh, and I’m turning 40 soon, so I have a little bit of middle-aged angst stirring around that’s not quite ready to be expressed.
BUT. The biggest reason for my silence is there are changes coming—huge, life-altering changes, and I’ve been turning inward, not quite ready to make it all public. It’s time, though. Here goes…
We’re moving back to America in December.
Breathe in, breathe out, Jennifer.
Brisbane, Australia has been our home for the last six and a half years. We love this country, snakes and spiders excluded, of course. We love its people who have become our people, our family. We love our kids’ schools and the incredible opportunities they’ve had there. We love our team. We love our church—I could cry just thinking about how much we love it, and how well they love us.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Our kids have basically grown up here. When we landed, they were seven, five, and three. We’ve since added a child, and the four of them are now 14, 11, nine, and four. They don’t remember much about life in America, apart from the times we’ve visited, but let’s face it: visiting America is a holiday, not reality. It’s all Chick-Fil-A and Krispy Kreme and cousin sleepovers and shopping sprees. To my kids, home is gum trees and bush turkeys who dart across traffic and driving on the left side of the road and ba-NAH-nas and to-MAH-toes. Home is rugby and cricket; sticky date pudding and pavlova. It’s Advance Australia Fair sung at the start of each school assembly.
Needless to say, our news was not easy for them to hear. In what will go down as one of our biggest parenting fails ever, we tried to create the right moment to tell them.
“Should we take them out for ice cream?” Brian asked.
“No!” I insisted. “They’re probably going to be upset. We don’t need to do this in public.”
“Maybe we should just have ice cream at our house, something to take the sting out of the news?”
“Okay, I guess…”
So, we put a movie on for Lucy and told the big kids to go downstairs for a family meeting. We brought the ice cream with us and told them to have as much as they wanted.
The oldest was immediately skeptical. “Is this stuff about to expire or something?”
Brian and I, with nervous laughter and sweaty palms: “No! Just go for it! Want some whipped cream? Sprinkles? Hot fudge? A car??”
We all sat down with our ice cream, and Brian jumped right into his speech, beginning with some background on how we reached our decision. Then, the news. Suddenly, no one was hungry. All three kids put their spoons down. They slowly slid their bowls away. The tears began.
Later in the conversation, number two says, “Guys, what is up with the ice cream?! You’re like, ‘Hey kids! We’re moving to the other side of the world! But we have ice cream!’” He said this in his best Melissa McCarthy-impersonating-Sean Spicer voice, by the way.
They will never, ever let us live that down. And they will always and forever be suspicious when we ask if they want dessert. #winning.
This has been one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made. We fought it for a long time, knowing the far-reaching ramifications of the decision either way. Either choice—to stay or to go—held great gain and great loss. Darn you, huge life decisions. But the more we prayed, the more we saw that we were holding too tightly to something we were being asked to let go of—a life we really love.
We’ve been here before.
Six and a half years ago, we walked through the deepest pain we’ve ever experienced when we left life as we knew it behind and headed across the world. “Whoever loves his life will lose it,” Jesus said. “And whoever loses their life for my sake, will find it.” There were days and months that I did not believe this verse was true. The cost felt too high. My life felt lost, and I didn’t know if I would find it again. But I did. Oh, I did. As I was stripped of the familiar, Jesus took me deeper into dependence upon Him. He met me in the desert, again and again. He then blessed us with the richness of community. The joy of seeing our kids thrive. Faithful friends. A more global worldview. The fruit of souls saved. Although our time here has not always been easy, God has given us abundant life, again and again.
And now we’re being asked to lay our lives down again. Even though we’re thrilled that we’ll be close to family and dear friends again and we’re excited about the opportunities ahead, we’re still choosing to start over, again. To say goodbye, again. To hurt with grief and longing, again.
On the night we broke our news, one of our kids said, “Why would you move us over here just to make us move back? Why would you intentionally make us walk through pain?
Oh. And there it is.
I held this child. I cried with them. Why would any of us want to walk towards pain, really? But I remembered these words I quoted in Bringing Lucy Home: “Is life simply about the avoidance of pain, or is it about something else?” We talked about that “something else”—God’s glory, our good. We also talked about altars of remembrance—memorials built by the Israelites when God did something amazing, so they could remember His faithfulness in times of trouble, when they were tempted to doubt. We walked through God’s faithfulness to answer all our fears when we moved to Australia. We talked about how He met all our needs, how He blessed us with more than we could have ever asked or imagined. We agreed that we can look at those altars and know that He’s going to do it again. “Even when we are faithless, He is faithful, because He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).
My head knows this is true—that on the other side of the shaky bridge of transition, there will eventually be stable ground. But can I be honest? My biggest challenge these next six months will be to let myself feel. I’ve felt this pain of leaving before, and it almost crushed me. I do not want to feel it again. But as my sweet William from This Is Us said, “I had to open myself up to the pain of it to feel the joy of it.” My buddy Julie Sparkman reminded me this week that there is only one switch to our emotions. We can’t pick and choose which ones we turn off and which ones stay on. If one is off, they are all off.
I don’t want to miss the joy, so I’ll fight to let myself feel the pain.
So, that’s us. I hear there is a season for everything. Pray for us as our season is changing…as we close one dearly loved chapter and begin another that holds more than a few unknowns.
Oh, and to all my American friends…you have approximately six months to knock Australia off your bucket list with a free place to stay. We’ll leave the light on for you.