Injustice of Skype {On Living Away from Family}

by Laura on November 12, 2010

The girls danced today.

Sisters four years apart, they twirled and swayed and choreographed and giggled.

Dramatic faces, pointed toes, hands like birds.

And from my spot on the couch, it was a moment I wanted to freeze. It was a memory of girls whom I wanted to rescue from the inevitable growing-up,

and the subsequent growing-out of impromptu dance recitals at 9:30 on a regular Friday morning.

And the grandparents got to watch with me— from a computer screen not quite big enough to capture the fullness of twirling legs, with a four-second-lag-time, through the technology of Skype.

And while I have told myself a hundred times today that I should be grateful, at least, for that, I still walked away from the dance, saddened.

For them, mostly.

Because we were the ones who chose this road so far away, and they are the ones suffering for it.

We are the ones who get to experience “adventure,” and they are the ones who have to stay, without the grandkids at Thanksgiving or the chance to watch their little girls dance in real-life.  And the holidays are coming; the holidays are coming.  And there’s an ache in my mother’s-soul that wrestles with the reality–

for me, for my kids, for my family back home.

Because I knew that following the Story God is writing for me, as best I know how, means sacrifice; I just didn’t know it would cost the other people on stage so much, too.

Because the leaving is hard, but the being left is just as much of a sacrifice, laid on that altar of obedience.

Those that are left after the grand exit of us don’t get care-packages or encouraging emails from supporters.  Being left may not involve new adventure or exotic scenery. It potentially means more of the same, just quieter, and maybe a little emptier, too.

And what do you do with that? With the natural guilt, with the doubts, with the loss of family holidays and the grave injustice Skype does to the flesh-and-blood dance?

What do you do with the ache from the absence?

You . . .

Become more grateful for Skype. You write more emails and post more videos to YouTube.

You pray more, and you treasure-like-mad the moments when across miles turns into across the room.

But, mostly, utitmately,

you clutch tighter to the belief that this part of their Story is



And even good, too.

Are you leaving or have you been left?  Which do you think is harder?  Thoughts on living away from family?


*pictured above are our two girls, with their two grandmothers

*the idea for this post inspired by an intriguing article I read over at MissionalSpace

*and, for old-time’s sake, here’s the link to a video of our leaving the States

  • Sherri

    Leaving or being left. Which is harder? That is the question and it doesn’t have a single answer for everyone. I am a parent of a missionary (also in Chiang Mai). His obeying God is bittersweet-proud, yet we miss him and his family terribly. They are on furlough and talk about “returning home,” talk about “telling our family back home,” and they mean Thailand. Hm. What to do with that? There are deaths of dreams and visions about this still, even after he has been gone 2 yrs. Now that they have a baby, there are more of those. Deaths such as: having him near when I get ill or aged, his presence at family celebrations, hearing or seeing milestones in grandbabies’ lives, being the involved grandparent (others now fill that role). As young people, they do sacrifice, but they are also living out their God-designed purpose and are happy. So, for me, I would say the answer is-it’s harder being left. But I do thank God for Skype!

    • Laura

      Sherri, i relate to the “bittersweet” and I know my own parents and in-laws could echo your words and your struggle, as the one who SENDS. I agree that in many ways, it is the harder road to walk. One that wasn’t chosen yourself, so perhaps even harder to trust. I keep telling myself this:

      Somehow, in heaven, all the lost time and moments will be made up.

      And I agree, missionaries 50 years ago had it really tough without skype or email or cell phones . . .

      Love, Laura

  • kendal

    oh, laura.

  • Jen

    As someone who has twice moved overseas, I know that the person being left behind is the one that is harder. Sure the one moving has challenges and it isn’t always easy, but overall there is the sense of adventure that offsets some of the challenge.

    My mom once told me that it is harder to be left behind. While I did believe her at the time, I am now experiencing that to a certain degree. We are overseas in a very transient community. Having been here for over 3 years, we have seen many of our friends leave. While there are other people who move in and can help fill the hole, there is still a hole.

    So, while I always seem to be the one moving away, the one left behind feels it the most.

    • Laura

      Jen, yes, I guess even the “missionary” can experience the “being left”– particularly in a transient place where people are in and out. I guess the temptation is to stop pursuing relationship with people because of the fear of the loss of them leaving. That’s a tough tendency to fight against, dontcha think?

      Thanks for serving and sacrificing,

  • Linda Thomas

    I know that pain you and your parents are experiencing. We left our parents and we left our just-out-of-college kids (and grandkids on the way)and moved to Africa for 8 years. Somehow, God does make up for the pain. He does. He does. Be like Habakkuk and watch to see what God will do. He can do something that you would not believe, even if you were told. (Habakkuk 1:5b). May He leave you utterly amazed, even if you have to wait for its coming (2:3).

    Be of good cheer,

    • Laura

      Linda, Thanks for the encouragement. Really, thank you.


  • Jenni Sue


    What a tragically beautiful observation. I know our parents and our 20 year old son are feeling some of that same grief and I too ache sometimes, wondering “What have we done?” But as you know, following God is a sticky, messy narrow road…I am happy to have friends and family on both sides of the globe to walk it with.

    Thank you for your heart, your openness and your friendship.

  • Kelly @ Love Well

    This made my heart hurt for you, friend. I’ve thought about this before. Even moving stateside frequently presents this dilemma, albeit in a less intense way. We are the ones who move. I have no idea what it’s like to be left behind. When I consider it, I get an idea why so many of my friends say they wish they didn’t like me so much.

    We are considering one last move. It will be away from one set of grandparents and to another. It will present its own challenges, if it happens.

  • Tamara

    Oh, Laura. I am thankful that you are even looking at both sides of the coin. But the coin is still a very valuable coin, no matter the side you are on.
    We have been the leave-ers and also the leave-ees. The harder part is the leave-ees and even harder when there are those little ones . . . I’m only just this past couple of months realizing what my mom and dad went through when we didn’t “come home” to live. And the impact it had that I didn’t write or call more . . . .
    So keep up the Skype, keep up the youtube, keep up these posts, keep ya’lls parents ALIVE for your babies, and that helps the leave-ees. Also, for your folks to KNOW – deep down KNOW – that you are actively participating in THE STORY is a huge comfort – really.
    You’re doing a good job! You are.
    Hugs from 18 degrees here –

    • Laura

      Tamara, love the encouragement you give to do the practical things to keep connected across the miles–

      skype, youtube, emails, calls, notes, etc.

      You are right that these things are investing into the relationship and keeping family still an integral part of our lives.

      Important advice, whether you are moving away to college for the first time or moving to another continent . . . .

  • natalie

    as a young woman with a desire to live overseas at some point, I’m thankful to have found your blog. thanks for your service to the girls in Thailand! reading your blog consistently now…

    • Laura

      Natalie, So exciting that you have a heart for the globe. It will be so cool to see where God takes you and who he chooses to let you love . . .

      love from here,

  • Bekah S

    O sweet Laura, how I have felt this. So much.
    There is no easy answer. Each has its own sacrifice and sorrow associated with it.
    Know I will pray for you and the wee ones inn your home for this holiday season coming up.
    You are carrying a cross… walking to your death… and bringing us with you and calling us to do likewise. We are blessed.
    I am blessed.
    Sending love and prayers to your corner of the world today

    • Laura

      Bekah, Girl, I know you KNOW. I know you have tasted the “homesickness” too, and I am praying for you right now, that this holiday season will be FULL and PRECIOUS– even if you don’t have a lot of family around your table, either.

      love, Laura

  • Laura Beth

    On the drive home from our church’s {almost too big} Fall Festival, that feeling rose up in my tummy…almost into my throat and out of my eyes…tomorrow was November. The month of Thanksgiving. The month before Christmas. And there would be no family here to celebrate with us for either holiday. It’s hard–painfully hard.

    Two things I’ve realized in this almost decade long separation from my family–I must make “home” for my kids even if I don’t feel at home here. I have to get past my desire to feel detached from this place and make a home for my kids. Even harder, I must build family for my kids when they don’t have family here. I have to be the one to find “substitute” grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. It requires a lot of vulnerability to step into people’s lives and say “I know you already have four sisters-in-law, but I don’t have any of them. I know you have 12 nieces and nephews, but if my kids aren’t important to you, then how will they ever experience what an extended familiy really is?” Through our need for a church family, God is using us to teach community to people here in a way that they haven’t had to do before. It’s a collective good thing, but it isn’t easy. But we know that things of lasting value are rarely ever easy.

    I’m sorry for your pain, but I rejoice in the preciousness of Jesus to you and to your family!

    • Laura

      LB– I love your encouragement to pursue “substitute family” (though there’s nothing like the “real thing”!) while we are here, and I totally agree that it takes a lot of vulnerability to push into people’s homes–especially on the holidays.

      I think it brings up an interesting encouragement, too, to the “those being left”–to be open and looking for young families/individuals/couples who have left, and are alone, and need that “substitute family”, too.

      Thanks, friend . . ..

      Happy Almost-Holidays,

  • Carrie

    I’ve been thinking about this post since I read it (and I loved it, btw.)

    In terms of which is harder, I think it depends. For example, in my case, I am a single girl who left. And while I am living the adventure (so to speak) my entire family is still in the same place. So, on holidays, I am the only missing link. I tend to feel the most left out because they are all together without me. I know my family misses me, but I don’t think it is the same as if I were married and had a family.


    • Laura

      Yes, I could totally see where being single or being married/with kids could change the answer to that question. Because I do see that there is a bigger “left-out-ness” that must be felt when literally everyone else is having Thanksgiving dinner together, and you are by yourself trying to find something to do. That’s a tough place to be, Carrie. It takes guts to do what you are doing, friend! Hang in there this holiday season.

      • Carrie

        I will actually be home with my family for the holidays – such a blessing!

  • Carin

    I think we take turns having the harder time.
    When we left that April morning for far off lands it was heart wrenching but we were on an adventure to far off lands.
    With all the technology we have now like e-mail, Skype, FB etc we can have bad days and know that life keeps on keeping on at home without us. Or my sister-in-law will have a baby while we are here and we will not meet the new family member for a year….
    So I am not sure that one side has it easier than the other?


    • Laura

      Carin–I hear you, sometimes the possibility of all that technology just puts it in your face exactly what you are missing. I guess it can become a hard piece of the “Leaving” puzzle– to see in pictures and fb statuses that the world does move on, quite nicely usually, without you there.

      Where are you guys right now? Will be checking your link to see . . .

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  • Harold

    Thanks, Laura,  I needed to resad this today. I’m living this myself now. Even though they’re adults, it’s hard leaving kids behind on the other side of the world.

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