I wrapped up homeschool and prepared lunch as the kids got things ready to head over to the MAF school to join classes for the afternoon. My daughter asked what was on the lunch menu, and I answered, “Cheese sandwiches, apples, and Pringles.”
She gasped, “With sliced bread, real mayonnaise, and real cheese?” I nodded yes, and the room erupted with whoops and hollers.
I burst into tears.
What for me, as a child, was a mundane, boring lunch, was for my children the equivalent to a trip to Disneyland. Really. On our island, it is rare to have real cheese, good-tasting mayonnaise, sliced bread, and the right flavor of Pringles—all on the same day. It did not matter that the electricity had been off for the last four hours, or that it would be off for another four. They were thrilled and thought a cheese sandwich was the greatest thing, well, since sliced bread.
I looked at their faces, my precious ones, and saw so many things. I am so thankful for these precious souls that are grateful for the little things. But there is something else too.
Pain. Mine, not theirs.
They do not know what they are missing. They do not know most American kids think cheese sandwiches are mundane at best. They do not know their own culture. So my heart breaks. What about all the little things they will never know?
My mind drifted to the story my MK hubby told of returning to the United States on furlough from Brazil and beginning first grade. He had been given a test of pictures of men who were dressed up. He stared at the paper, confused. He had no idea what they were. The teacher collected the papers, laughed, and said incredulously, “You did not answer the questions. Don’t you know this is a fireman, a policeman, and a baker?” He was crushed and embarrassed, and the memory still stings.
So my sobs began again, for that little boy, and for my own.
They call them “Third-Culture Kids” because they will never fully fit into their home culture and will never fully fit into the country where they live. They are an in-between species, a category unto themselves. What have I done to them?
Sure, there are lots of things they get to do and have seen that others never will. My mind searches as I think through all the blessings of their life: jungle treks, ministry trips, exciting places and foods. Nevertheless, what of the struggles they have had to face and are facing: living away from grandparents, being the entertainment and focus wherever they go, waking up every morning to the sound of the mosque, having so few American friends that really understand, and the constant struggle of communicating in another language? The list goes on and on.
My mama heart cries for what they miss.
The glass as half full, some will say. Yes, I know. On a good day, one without physical pain and with electricity, I could say that too. Today, however, I am stripped bare, and all I can do is cling.
Cling desperately to Him.
Life here, my third-culture life, is a constant cycle: stripping of myself, choosing to cling to Him, rinse, and repeat. The fact is, in reality, I have no other choice—and I am thankful.
Some days, choosing to cling means that all I can do is see the cup that is placed before me. Not the one that could have been, not the one I think I want, but the one that is there, right there, that has been lovingly given to me to drink.
I see the cup that has been placed before me, and I drink. I cling—and, I will bring praise.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
You will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock.
Psalm 103:1; Ephesians 3:20; Psalm 77:13–14; John 15:4; Philippians 4:6
This is my battle song, doing battle with fear and self-pity. Will you join me?
This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides
This is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is faith proved of more worth than gold,
So refine me Lord through the flame
I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here
This is my prayer in the battle
When triumph is still on its way
I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ
So firm on His promise I’ll stand
All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have reason to sing
I have a reason to worship
This is my prayer in the harvest
When favor and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow
from Desert Song, Hillsong United
Questions to consider: What is your cheese-sandwich moment? What is your cup, the one before you?