Verse: "Dear friends, I warn you as 'temporary residents and foreigners' to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world." -1 Peter 2:11-12 NLT
This past week, as we were busy running errands after school, the girls spotted a Halloween costume store that had just opened for business. "If we are good...can we PLEASE go look at the costumes, Mommy?" the girls began to plead. I know there are those who dislike this American holiday. But the Arbuckle gals love it! The costumes. The candy. So. Much. Fun! I confess that I enjoy it as much as my kids. As we walked around the store looking at the colorful costumes, I was reminded of another Halloween, a few years ago, when I missed the Halloween excitement because I was away from home.
It was late October in 2009 and I was thousands of miles away from my cozy life in McKinney, Texas, thoroughly enjoying my time in beautiful Vienna, Austria. I had prayed and prepared for almost a year to be part of this mission team. While I served alongside new friends in Vienna, time seemed to pass quickly. The warm hospitality and friendships that greeted me allowed me to feel right at home in my new surroundings.
Then it happened. My husband lovingly sent a text message with a picture of my daughters, dressed up in their Halloween costumes, and ready for a night of trick or treating without me. All of a sudden, my heart was torn with grief as I contemplated all that I was missing with my kids that night. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I quietly imagined the squeals and laughter of my girls as they scampered up to doors decorated in fall leaves, scarecrows, and Jack-O-Lanterns and yelled, "Trick or Treat!" I pictured my son, Jack, as he pulled a wagon behind them, and collected cans of food for "Scare Away Hunger". I was missing it. All of it. And I desperately longed for home.
The moment passed. I collected myself, wiped my eyes and pressed on to focus on the work that was to be done that day in Vienna. Still, when I look back on my time in Austria, that moment stands out as one of the more defining moments of my trip. While I sat there and gazed at the smiles that looked back at me, I felt like God whispered in my heart, "Sweet child. Don't get too comfortable. This is not your home."
Now, I realize that to some, my story seems insignificant. Perhaps, even trivial. I mean, it IS only one Halloween that I missed in my kids' lives. Now, 2 years later, life has moved on and we will celebrate Halloween as we have in years past. Nothing has changed except the costumes the girls have chosen to wear on that "frightful" night. But I would argue that is not my point. The bigger picture I am trying to illuminate is that sometimes we need to remember...this is not our home.
We must be mindful, each and every day, of the moments that we can never get back. So take in the picture of this world. Consider everything. The good. The bad. And the ugly. Sit down and cry if you must. Then, dry your tears and resolve to get back to the work you have been sent here to do. Embrace your family. Make that phone call. Reach out to that friend who needs you. Take time to make a difference in the lives God has placed around you. Make some memories. And don't get so comfortable that you forget that there is work to be done. Remember...you are not at home.
The picture that brought me to tears and inspired this post.