This post comes to you from a restaurant in Dallas Love Field Airport after a whirlwind trip to Baylor University to help my kids settle into their first year at university. This trip culminates a summer of my entire family preparing for this very week in our lives. We have packed our entire house as we prepared to move our children to Texas and the rest of our lives to Bismarck, ND, where God has called my huz to take on a very unique position at the University of Mary. When the boy and I left for the airport on Sunday, we closed the door to our house in Minneapolis for the last time.
Between Worlds by Marilyn Gardner speaks to this time in my life even though I am not moving to another country or from another country. I received this book in the mail a couple of weeks ago and devoured it within days. I honestly could not put it down and dreaded when other things (often very time sensitive and pressing things) got in the way of my reading it. The book is an easy read as it is set up as short essays – many former or reworked blog posts on Marilyn’s wonderful blog (communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com) where she posts almost daily about our need to engage with one another on many levels. The essays are chunked together thematically, so one could choose to read a single essay, an entire section, or the entire book (just over 200 pages) in one sitting.
I have known Marilyn since the days (over a decade ago) when our family lived in Beverly, MA, while the huz attended seminary at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Marilyn and her family served alongside our family in a college ministry at our church, but she also ministered to me in ways that I had no idea I needed. Marilyn has five children – the youngest only a year or two older than my girl. Her oldest babysat for my kiddos, and they loved her. Marilyn taught me that parenting was more than how to do things right – it was about doing things the way the child needed. It was easy to see that through her five children as they spread across various ages, and that was so helpful to me.
Facebook – though often a nemesis – brought Marilyn back into my life a few years ago…and it was Marilyn who encouraged me to start this blog. I read her blog daily, and it was a joy to read her book and see common themes united into chapters. Much of the book focuses on experiences based on her life as a third culture kid due to her family serving on the mission field in Pakistan and then as an adult world traveler; however, the concepts of belonging, home, grief, and identity are universal to all readers. This book is part learning for the reader who desires to learn more about the life of those who serve overseas and part personal soul search.
The beauty of Marilyn’s book is that I feel as though I am sitting on her porch as she talks about difficult struggles that, though different in actual content, sound like some of my struggles. It’s not that we are comparing or trying to one up each other – we are friends talking about our feelings, our circumstances, and our tears. Marilyn is honest about her faith, the hurdles her faith faces, and her commitment to believe in the midst of struggle.
As I have lived this summer in preparation for leaving behind all that I have known and loved for over a decade to start a new, unknown (and, yes, exciting) adventure, I have felt the tension in my life that I often feel in Marilyn’s writing. Joy and sadness as well as excitement and dread have been in constant flux with one another. To admit excitement about the new adventure felt like betrayal to the people I leave behind. To express sadness at the loss of friends in our former location felt like I was being apprehensive of the relationships that already exist and will deepen in the new location. These are the very kinds of emotions that Marilyn explores in her book as she describes experiences such as leaving for boarding school or returning to her passport country from one that had captured her heart.
I posted on Facebook earlier this week that I am spending this week “in between.” I do not know if I would have used that phrase prior to reading Between Worlds, but I am ever so grateful to have it in my vocabulary now. I strongly urge readers of my blog to consider reading Marilyn’s book – alone or with a group (Marilyn has created a wonderful group guide as well!) as I am sure that it will touch your heart as it has mine.
As I drove away from Baylor University today, my heart and mind were seriously between worlds. On one hand, I wanted to turn around, load up the kids, drag them with me, and lock them in a closet so that I did not have to let them go. Doesn’t that sound like love?? On the other hand, my heart swelled with gratitude that they could send me away and turn toward this new and exciting chapter in their lives. I have always wanted them to soar into whatever their future holds for them, and they both believe that Baylor University is where that begins. I cannot and will not stand in the way of that while, at the same time, I will be overjoyed when I see them again (yes, Thanksgiving tickets are purchased…and I may go visit them sooner than that!).
My “between worlds” experience will not end until later this week when I finally sleep in my own bed late on Friday night. Perhaps – now that my children are far away and I recognize that I am someone who flits from place to place on whim as well as on call – this week is just part of a “between worlds” continuum. Perhaps the timing of this book and the way its content has touched me is an awakening…to realize that I may often live between worlds and in the tension as well as the joy of that. Perhaps it is a reminder to be “all in” wherever I am while being open to the “what next.”
Whatever the case may be, I am thankful for fellow travelers who bear their soul and publish their thoughts to remind me that I am not alone. So – thank you, Marilyn, for once again ministering to me when I barely knew that I needed it.
ps: I just wanted to interject for a minute that though this post is being published on Wednesday morning, it was written on Tuesday afternoon.