I have a giant bowl of peanut butter popcorn in my lap and I’m eating it with the serving spoon. This morning I caught up with my good friend Danielle and she helped me remember how to make popcorn in a pot. Immediately after our chat I decided to conquer peanut-butter popcorn on our gas burners (the open fire seems to burn everything). As soon as the salty, creamy pieces touched my tongue I felt better. Everything is going to be ok.
In the past two weeks I have hit my first wave of culture shock since coming to our new mountain town. The term “culture shock” is a little misleading, because instead of “shock” I am faced more with unexpected anger, frustration, and a sense of isolation that I know is a lie, but still makes me stare blankly out at scenic beauty with a heavy, empty feeling.
I don’t write to complain or to elicit pity. I write because I know that I am in a very normal process of adjustment. A process that has ups and downs, that’s ugly and beautiful all at the same time, and a process in which God is present in every moment into which I invite him.
I write because it makes me feel connected. Understood. Not alone.
I write because I know someone else has been here and done this—snatched the whole bowl of peanut butter or something homey and familiar—and hid away at home to stuff themselves sick and try to wrap their minds around this new home and life they have chosen to “adapt to” for many years to come.
This week my hubby is growing, thriving, coming up with new exciting ideas and sharing them with new friends. This week I am puttering along.
In a world of exquisite mountain beauty and new friends I am disappointed at my own discontentment. My longing for a paved road that would allow me to push my toddler in a stroller, for friends and relatives whose houses are decorated with wreaths and pumpkins, who frequent Starbucks and enjoy the marvel of Pumpkin Spice in this festive season. I long for the day when I would hop in the car with Little Man in the backseat and drive myself through and be home in half an hour. That desire in and of itself is empty and meaningless but, embarrassingly, it’s what I fixate on in my weak moments.
This morning my friend Danielle said something that struck me. “God is so faithful to work in every circumstance of our lives and it’s not always beautiful, but in retrospect you can see all that he’s been doing.” I sat there looking out my sunny window (I spent a year praying for) and thought, Yes, he’s even working in me now, when I’m grumpy.
He’s showing me my self-pity and gently drawing me to hear the heavy heart of my neighbor as we talk each morning. He’s showing me my loneliness and gently drawing me to try a little harder, to make another effort when it feels like becoming friendship cross-culturally moves forward like molasses. He’s showing me the sweet faces of locals that are in my life every day—an absolute gift from Him. He’s showing me others like me who are trying and learning too.
I am not alone.
He’s showing me century-old bungalows and chapels across this mountain side that remind us of lives laid down in this very place, far from the familiar, to see Hope revealed in places never-before reached.
If those men and women could hold on until they felt at “home” one hundred years ago, then so can I. And in a few years we might look back and feel like this beginning, adjusting time was over and done in the blink of an eye. Or maybe we’ll know that life overseas means always adjusting to new seasons, and maybe investment in new friendships never stops. It sure brings out my insecurities and pushes me to make sure my confidence—my value—lies in my Maker.
I’ve stuffed myself silly with peanut-butter popcorn now, but the long walk to school should help even things out. The mountain roads are calling…