26 September 2014

Distance and What We Miss

A great line closes out the screen rendition of Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Sarah had to decide whether she was going to stay in Kansas to marry Jacob (who had advertised in the paper for a wife) and become stepmother to Anna and Caleb. Sarah had come from the East Coast and loved everything about the ocean. At the end of the film, Anna confronts Sarah, saying something like "But you miss the sea!"

Then Sarah answers, "I will always miss the sea, but the truth is, I would miss you more."

The line stayed with me all these years because it burrowed a principle deep into my heart. There is always something to miss. There is loss in every choice. There is distance in every decision.

But Sarah was able to release her longing for the ocean because she recognized the treasures with her. Her perspective saved her from sadness. She chose what her heart would miss more.

There are three things I miss about my home culture:

1. Family
My parents, my grandmother, my brothers, my cousins, and all my extended family live an ocean away.  The Internet is great for keeping up, but I especially miss those holiday get-togethers.

2. Convenience
Once upon a time, I knew the language. Clothes in stores fit me. The products I trust were on every store's shelves. The drivers all followed the same traffic rules I do. That time is not now.

3. Culture
And there's something about fitting in that cannot be replaced. I miss being normal--not being stared at. I miss dancing hula alongside others at birthday parties instead of as a showcase during an international festival.  I miss measuring up to a culture that is embedded in my being.

But there are three things I would miss about living abroad too.

1. Community
Not everyone has this, I know, so I am doubly thankful that our family has community overseas. Connecting through work, through Bible study, and through playdates--we've formed a family with others like us in this big city. Thrown into a foreign situation, we clink together like magnets and wade together through the muddled everyday.

2. Inconvenience
There's nothing like knowing nothing. It challenges us to grow stronger. It stretches us to reach higher. It presses us to endure longer. It encourages us to rely heavier--on God primarily but also on others. It's humbling--and that lowliness gives rise to a better person emerging from the stress.

3. Culture
Being an outsider has its benefits. I can see things as Koreans naturally cannot--just as people visiting Hawaii always noticed things I took for granted. ("There are so many palm trees!" one cousin exclaimed to me when I picked her up from the airport. Before then, I hadn't even seen them. Honestly.) Being abroad in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Far East has taught me so much about people, art, religion, food, language, style, and transportation. I'm learning constantly because I'm living in a foreign culture.

Do you see how the two lists are almost the same? We long for these things no matter where we are, but our needs change based on distance, based on familiarity, and based on maturity. In a way, they are opposites of each other too.

Family is bound to you by blood while friends must choose you.
Convenience is nice, and inconvenience is definitely not.
And being an insider versus and outsider to culture have very different effects on self-awareness, creativity, and influence.

Yes, they are almost the same but rather unalike too. No wonder I miss the place wherever I'm not:
My two worlds can complement, but not replace, each other. 

So as I live in Korea and miss Hawaii, and as I visit Hawaii and miss Korea, I remember the truth taught me by that Hallmark Hall of Fame film years and years ago.

There is always something to miss
There is loss in every choice. 
There is distance in every decision. 

But as long as I can focus on the treasures of my here and now, distance will not destroy me. It will only remind me of the treasures I have had and may have again.


Sarah lived for a few months wavering between two worlds--the sea and the prairie--
but then she chose one and chose joy.

Abide in Him,

Do you also feel the pain of distance? What do you miss while abroad . . . and while home?

To read more about distance, come join the conversation at Velvet Ashes' The Grove

Related articles you may also appreciate:
Missionaries Must Come as Family Not Tourists
Rules...and what our hearts beat
People Are People Everywhere


  1. Oh, there's so much I LOVE about this post. :) First, Sarah, Plain, and Tall was one of my absolute favorites growing up. Vividly remember the scene you describe. I sighed at "holiday get-togethers" and laughed out loud at #2. Convenience, because...yes. And the clinking together like magnets?? Brilliant analogy! So very true of connecting with others living this same life.

    Here's to focusing on treasures and choosing joy!

    1. Thank you, Danielle! I just know we would be friends "in real life," so I'm thankful for Velvet Ashes and the community there. Thanks again for reading this and sending encouragement.


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